The Term ‘Moulana’

Is it okay to use the term Moulana?

There is no harm in it. Moulana has more than one meaning. It is an element of which can be used for Allah and an element which can be used for human beings also.

The word is used in the Noble Qur'an:

You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people."[1]

Say, "Never will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us; He is our protector. And upon Allah let the believers rely."[2]

However in Surah Tahreem, the same word with the third person pronoun is used in relation to Jibra'eel and the pious believers as well. Allah Ta’ala says:

“And if you two oppose him, then Allah, Jibraeel and the pious believers will be his companions.”[3]

When Allah the Almighty Himself uses the word “Moula” for human beings, what prevents them from using it as well in reference to their fellow brothers?

Umar ibn al Khattab (رضى الله عنه) had mentioned that, referring to Abu Bakar (رضى الله عنه), that he was Moulana and he has freed Moulana Bilal (رضى الله عنه) i.e both elements of society. Moulana was used in reference to somebody who was from a high as well as low level of society, person who accepts Islam and does not have any family, then is considered as Moula of particular tribe or family. It could mean servant, or could mean servants as well

Nabi (ﷺ) himself used the word for a companion of his. Once when addressing Zaid ibn Haritha (رضى الله عنه), he said,

“Anta Akhoonaa wa moulana” i.e. “You are our brother and companion.” [4]

The Hans Wehr Arabic Dictionary has also given similar meanings. It states that ‘Moula’ means master, lord, protector, patron, client, charge, friend, companion, and associate. It also states that ‘Al-Moula’ is used to say the Lord, God and the words Moulaya (‘ya’ means ‘my’ in Arabic) and Moulana are forms of address to a sovereign. Similarly in the book ‘Mujam-Al-Mustalahaat-Ad-Deeniyah (a dictionary of religious terms) written by Dr. Abdullah Ibn Ashy Al-Maliki and Dr. Abdul Lateef Sheikh Ibrahim, it is mentioned that ‘Moula’ means ‘a protector’, ‘a guardian’.

While narrating the sanad (chain of narrators) for different Ahadith, Imams Bukhari, Muslim and all scholars of hadeeth, referred to certain narrators as the ‘Moula’ of others. For example, sometimes Imam Bukhari would introduce Kuraib as the ‘Moula’ of Ibn Abbas. He would also introduce Nafi as the ‘Moula’ of Ibn Umar and would refer to Humran as the ‘Moula’ of Uthmaan (رضى الله عنه). There are hundreds of such examples in the books of hadeeth.

References:

[1] [Qur’an 2:286]

[2] [Qur’an 9:51]

[3] [Qur’an 66:4]

[4] [Tafseer Rawai ul Bayaan]

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