I think absolute statements like the foregoing can sometimes be problematic:
“Normalize asking public speakers on Islam: “who are your teachers? what did you study?” We should be personally done with YouTube influencer-speaker-followers on social media Islam”
This statement for example can be dismantled with Qur’an that was revealed through an unlettered prophet [ﷺ] and tells a famous story in Surah Kahf where Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) is taught lessons of wisdom through a guide that Allah sends to him.
“And they found a servant from among Our servants to whom we had given mercy from us and had taught him from Us a [certain] knowledge.” [Qur’an 18:65]
Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was chucked in a well and left for dead by his own brothers, then “saved” and enslaved by a caravan passing by, then sexually harassed by his masters, then imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Finally, Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) is freed from prison and is appointed by the King of Egypt to take full charge of the finances of the land. Did he do a doctorate in PPE [politics, philosophy and economics] whilst he was in prison or something? Countless stories from the Qur’an can be recounted to dismantle the intellectual superiority, snobbery and elitism that people claim.
Are you going to keep the absolutism in the aforementioned statement in light of the Qur’an or are you going to have some humility to the fact that Allah alone knows who is rightly guided and bestows knowledge, guidance and wisdom upon whom He chooses?
You can find good in people who are unlettered in equal measure to the good you can find in lettered people. As well, you can find scores of harm among people who are unlettered and scores of harm among people who are lettered; both usually due to the disease of arrogance. I have benefited from the knowledge and wisdom of lettered and unlettered people alike and I have also experienced oppression and deceit from lettered and unlettered people alike.
For me, personally, if someone has the letters ACA or PhD after their name, this doesn’t instruct me on whether they are any good at what they have earned a qualification in. There are plenty of people who “slip through the net” in every profession and the clergy is no exception. I do look into a person’s history and explore what is publicly available about them but equally if there is little qualification from a person but they have self studied, I do not think it is wise to discredit them because I think that if I am capable of doing that and relying on worldly qualifications alone then I worry that I may have been among those to refuse following the last prophet [ﷺ] on account of his being unlettered.
In my recent study of the tafsir of Surah Baqarah that I have been undertaking through self study on the Bayyinah BTV app, in ayahs 8-20, Allah talks about the group of munafiq; those who trade guidance for misguidance [2:16]. At the time of revelation there were many types of people who fit this category of people; of them, one group were the Arabs who prided themselves on their language. Pre-revelation Arabia had little to pride itself on; the Roman empire to one side and the Persian empire to the other side; Arabia was not on the world map. They hadn’t yet discovered oil and Islam had not yet arrived but they did have one thing that they prided themselves on. Language. Poetry. They were masters of their language. So when an orphaned man [ﷺ] came along clearly speaking a speech that did not belong to him but was revealed by Allah through him, they were jealous. They couldn’t accept that this man [ﷺ] from amidst themselves and worse still, from a competing tribe had been bestowed this miraculous language and speech. It was clear that the language and speech he uttered from Allah was distinguished even from his own speech but they couldn’t accept him [ﷺ].
Allah guides mankind to reason. One should always put the light of Qur’an upon what one sees, reads and hears. Do not blindly accept everything that you see, read and hear unless what it suggests to you can be a vessel of illumination inspired by Allah’s guidance.
I appreciate the point that was being made in the statement above and how it was targeting “YouTube influencer-speaker-followers on social media Islam” and there is merit in warning people to reflect on what they follow and digest online but I do not find it wise to cast absolute aspersions in this manner. Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and Asiya (رضی اللہ عنھا) lived in the palace of Firaun and yet even amidst such tyranny, guidance did not escape them. Those who are rightly guided will not become sucked in by the wrong kind of “YouTube influencer-speaker-followers on social media Islam” and even those that do get sucked into falsehoods may still find their way out.
I would rather counsel people to make this du’ā [supplication to God]:
اَللّٰهُمَّ أَرِنَا اْلحَقَّ حَقًّا وَّارْزُقْنَا اتِّبَاعَه، وَأَرِنَا اْلبَاطِلَ بَاطِلًا وَّارْزُقْنَا اجْتِنَابَهْ
O Allah, enable me to see the truth as truth and give me the ability to follow it, and enable me to see the falsehood as false and give me the ability to refrain from it.
Qur’an has taught me to reason and humble myself to the reality that Allah alone knows best who is rightly guided [16:125]. I can see revelation [ayah means signs not verse] in a tree, in the sky, in a child, in a disbeliever, in a hypocrite, in a mother, in a father, in a son, in a daughter, in a sister, in a brother, in a trader, in a politician, in an olive, in an ant, in an ear of corn, in a farmer, in a leader. Do you get the picture?
Cast the light of Qur’an upon everything you see, hear and read.
Reason politely not absolutely.