Almighty Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ has said:
یٰۤاَیُّهَا الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْۤا اِذَا قِیْلَ لَكُمْ تَفَسَّحُوْا فِی الْمَجٰلِسِ فَافْسَحُوْا یَفْسَحِ اللّٰهُ لَكُمْۚ-وَ اِذَا قِیْلَ انْشُزُوْا فَانْشُزُوْا یَرْفَعِ اللّٰهُ الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا مِنْكُمْۙ-وَ الَّذِیْنَ اُوْتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجٰتٍؕ-وَ اللّٰهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُوْنَ خَبِیْرٌ(۱۱)
O believers! When you are told to make space (for your brothers to sit) in gatherings, so make space, Allah will give you space (by giving you respect and prosperity); and when it is said, ‘Stand up (for Salah or Jihad),’ then stand up, Allah will raise the ranks of the (excellent) believers amongst you and those who have been given knowledge. And Allah is Aware of your deeds.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 28, Surah Al-Mujadalah, Ayah 11)
Holy reason of revelation
The Beloved and Blessed Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would treat those blessed companions رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُم with great respect who participated in the battle of Badr. One day, some of these companions رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُم came to attend his gathering at such a time when there was no sufficient space. Standing in front of the Greatest Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, they said Salam. The Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم replied. They then said Salam to attendees who also replied. These arriving companions رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُم continued to stand waiting for space to be made for them in the gathering but no one made space. The Revered and Renowned Rasool صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم disliked it and made space for them by asking those sitting near him to stand up. They stood up but felt uncomfortable. So, the above Ayah was revealed, declaring, ‘O believers! Make space in gatherings when you are asked to do. Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ will bless you with vast space in Paradise. If you are asked to stand up for the purpose of making space, then you should stand up. By virtue of this obedience to Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ and His Beloved Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ will raise the ranks of believers amongst you and of those who have been given knowledge. And Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ is aware of your deeds.’ (Tafseer Khaazin, part 28, Al-Mujadalah, Taht-al-Ayah: 11, vol. 4, pp. 240)
The holy reason of revelation of this Ayah shows that it is not only permissible but also Sunnah to make space for the righteous and to treat them with respect. They will be respected even in a Masjid. Respect for religious leaders and teachers has been commanded in a blessed Hadees. The Prophet of mankind, the Peace of our heart and mind, the most Generous and Kind صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said, ‘Show humility to those whom you gain knowledge from and also show humility to those whom you teach knowledge to and do not become a defiant scholar.’ (Al-Jami’-ul-Akhlaq, pp. 230, Hadees 802) Treating the pious with respect and caring for the old are among the deeds liked very much by Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ. The Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, ‘Revering an elderly Muslim and revering such a believer of Quran who acts upon its commandments without exceeding the limit regarding Quran as well as revering a just king are included in revering Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ.’ (Abu Dawood, vol. 4, pp. 344, Hadees 4843) Fortunate are those who treat Islamic scholars, saints and pious people with respect and unfortunate are those who ridicule Islamic scholars and religious people in the name of freedom, destroying their own afterlife.
Mentioned here are now the manners of attending a gathering. The person who has already come and has seated himself in a gathering should not be made to stand up from his place unless really needed. Seats may also be reserved for VIPs, as is usually done in a religious and social gathering in which seats are reserved for important individuals on the stage or they are made to sit ahead of all. Anyway, mature and sensible people should sit closer to the speaker for listening to him. The Beloved and Blessed Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, ‘Those who are adult and wise among you should stand near me.’ (Abu Dawood, vol. 1, pp. 267, Hadees 674) Sayyidatuna ‘Aishah رَضِیَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهَا narrated that the Greatest and Noblest Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, ‘Make people sit according to their status and rank.’ (Abu Dawood, vol. 4, pp. 343, Hadees 4842)
However, those who have superiority and high status should not themselves make anyone stand and sit in his place. This has been forbidden by the Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم in many Ahadees. He صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, ‘No one should make anyone stand up from a gathering and sit in his place.’ (Sahih Muslim, pp. 923, Hadees 5683)
Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah Bin ‘Umar رَضِیَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُمَا also narrated that the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰەُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has forbidden from having anyone stand up and then sitting in his place. However, (one should) make adequate space for others. (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 179, Hadees 6269)
The above Ayah and narrations have shown that our religion teaches us not only beliefs and acts of worship but also the manners of social life. A truthful Muslim is a courteous, polite, good-natured and well-mannered person.
The last part of the Ayah states that Almighty Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ has raised the ranks of Islamic scholars in the world as well as in the Hereafter. Having recited the same Ayah, Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah Bin Mas’ood رَضِىَ اللّٰەُ عَنْهُ said, ‘O people! Understand this Ayah and get interested in acquiring knowledge because Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ has said that He عَزَّوَجَلَّ will bestow greater ranks upon the Mu`min who is an Islamic scholar compared to the Mu`min who is not an Islamic scholar.’ (Tafseer Khaazin, part 28, Al-Mujadalah, Taht-al-Ayah: 11, vol. 4, pp. 241)
In connection with our topic, fifteen narrations have been mentioned here, describing the virtues of knowledge and Islamic scholars:
1 Acquiring knowledge for a short period of time is better than performing Qiyam throughout the night. (Musnad-ul-Firdaus, vol. 2, pp. 441, Hadees 3917)
2 Knowledge is superior to worship. (Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 58, Hadees 28653)
3 Knowledge is the lifeblood of Islam and is a pillar of religion. (Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 59, Hadees 28657)
4 Islamic scholars are the lamps of the earth and the heirs of blessed Prophets عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَام. (Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 59, Hadees 28673)
5 Knowledge continues to benefit man even after his death. (Sahih Muslim, pp. 684, Hadees 4223)
6 An Islamic jurist is heavier on Satan than one thousand worshippers. (Tirmizi, vol. 4, pp. 312, Hadees 2691)
7 Gatherings of knowledge are the gardens of Paradise. (Al-Mu’jam-ul-Kabeer, vol. 11, pp. 78, Hadees 11158)
8 Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ makes path to Paradise easy for the one who walks on any path, seeking knowledge. (Tirmizi, vol. 4, pp. 312, Hadees 2691)
9 On the Day of Judgement, the ink of Islamic scholars and the blood of martyrs will be weighed. So, their ink will dominate the blood of martyrs. (Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 61, Hadees 28711)
10 Everything seeks forgiveness for an Islamic scholar. Even fishes in the sea pray for forgiveness. (Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 63, Hadees 28733)
11 To sit in the companionship of Islamic scholars is an act of worship. (Musnad-ul-Firdaus, vol. 4, pp. 156, Hadees 6486)
12 Revere [i.e. respect] Islamic scholars as they are the heirs of Blessed Prophets عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَام. (Tareekh Ibn ‘Asakir, vol. 37, pp. 104)
13 The dwellers of Paradise will need Islamic scholars in Paradise. (Tareekh Ibn ‘Asakir, vol. 51, pp. 50)
14 Islamic scholars are like stars in the sky by means of which the way is found in the darknesses of land and waters. (Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 65, Hadees 28765)
15 On the Day of Judgement, after blessed Prophets عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَام, Islamic scholars will make intercession. (Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 65, Hadees 28766)
Those who acquire Islamic knowledge and revere and honour Islamic scholars gain these blessings. And those who have no Islamic knowledge and show disrespect for Islamic scholars are deprived of Divine mercy.