Advice from Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari –

Upon seeing a particular scholar/Shaykh involved in a practice deemed Islamically unlawful, disliked, or inappropriate, it is a mistake to make conclusions and start thinking that the practice or act is justified – merely because so-and-so Shaykh was doing it. The scholar in question may have a perfectly legitimate reason or excuse for being involved in the practice, and thus just because we witness him doing it does not make the act automatically legitimate.
Let me give you a couple of examples. A brother emailed me saying he was always of the understanding that growing a beard to a fistful length was Wajib according to the tradition/school he was following. However, he recently saw a prominent Shaykh of the same school ‘shortening’ his beard, which led him to believe that the Shaykh’s opinion on the matter had changed and that it was now fine to trim the beard very short. I suggested to the brother to seek direct clarification from the Shaykh, and upon enquiring he was told that the Shaykh was diagnosed with alopecia and that his hair had been falling off for the past year or so!
Another example is of a very prominent scholar almost always offering his fard prayers at home and not with congregation in the Mosque. Some people began to feel that it was absolutely fine to continually offer prayers at home, since this great Shaykh was doing so! Upon enquiring, they found that the Shaykh was suffering from purity issues and chorionic urine discharge, which did not allow him to pray at the Mosque.
I could mention many more examples, but I’ll suffice with the above two. The basic message is to avoid arriving at ‘religious’ conclusions upon seeing scholar involved in a wrongful act; he may have a genuine excuse. If there is a need to find out (because scholars after all are role models), verify and ascertain directly with him. And Allah knows best.

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