What is the answer to those who say that only Allah Almigfhty is Maulana, and it is not permissible to call anyone Maulana?
The word “Mawlana” literally means our master. It is a word of honour and respect normally used in the Indo/Pak for a person who has graduated from a traditional religious institute (Dar al-Uloom). The words Alim, Mawlavi and Fadhil are also used for the same person.
It is also used in the Arab world (out of regard) for a respectable person, not necessarily a religious scholar. During my stay in Syria, many times I heard the Arabs say: “Ya Mawlana” (O our master) or “Ya Sayyidi” (O our leader).
It is clear from the above that there is nothing wrong in calling someone Mawlana. It is merely a word used to respect someone you have regard for, such as a religious scholar.
Those who object to this, say that the real “Mawla” (master) is only Allah Almighty, and therefore to grant somebody the name of Allah is not permissible.
This however, is incorrect, as many words and titles used for Allah Almighty are also used for his servants. The great commentator of the Holy Qur’an, Imam Ibn Kathir (Allah have mercy on him) states in his Tafsir:
“There are certain names of Allah that are used (as names) for other than Allah, and certain names of Allah are exclusive for Him alone, such as: Allah, al-Rahman (Merciful), al-Khaliq (Creator), al-Raziq (Sustainer) and so forth” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 1/42).
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was described as “Rahim” in the Qur’an, which is also a name of Allah Almighty. Similarly, the term “Rabb” is used repeatedly in the Arabic language (in connection with another word). The books of Fiqh are full of this. The head of a house is called Rabb al-Bayt, even though, the word Rabb is used for Allah Most High in the very first verse of the Qur’an. The word ‘Mawla’ itself is used in the Arabic language for a master of a servant or slave.
In conclusion, it is totally permissible to call a person “Mawlana” out of respect. One should always remember that these are trivial matters, and one should avoid arguments with regards to it. The Muslim Ummah is in need of more important matters to be solved.
And Allah Knows Best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK