How much knowledge does one need before they can gain the title of being an Alim or Alima? Or do they just need to be interested in Islam and study the deen?

  • oops, @Zohal, an appropriate answer to this important question would be so helpful for users. Since as we know, there are many persons who are famous as Alims... Consequently it can help them (us) to figure out who is Alim (Alimah) or not. God Bless You. Oct 17, 2015 at 18:36

4 Answers 4



How much knowledge does one need before they can gain the title of being an Alim or Alima?

A muslim is some-one who believes in the Islamic faith; this however does not make them an alim. Similarly someone who believes in Christianity believes in Jesus and the Christian faith but this does not make them a theologian. Finally some-one who believes in science in getting true knowledge about this world is not neccessarily a scientist who is trained to do so.

An alim, plural ulema and feminine Alimah means essentially an Islamic Scholar. In its narrow sense it refers to scholars of Islamic Jurispudence (fiqh); they are known as mufti (interpretation of sharia), qadi (*enforcement of sharia), or faqih. in the broader sense it refers to those who have studied a broad range of essentially islamic disciplines for several years, for example the hadith for example the muhaddith.

They represent the Ijmah, or Islamic consensus of the Ummah on religous issues; this does not mean that there can be no disputes - far from it - but they should be aware of what counts as the main consensual opinion, of other dissenting views and their objections.

The Ulema in its broadest sense are seen what in the Western world are called intellectuals. In the early Islam, similar intellectuals were known as mufessir, muhaddis and mutekellim; It was only with the rise of the Ottoman Empire that the term ulema (derived from the ilm - knowledge) become widely adopted. It was

applied as a common term for those scholars who completed their madrasa training, gained an icazet (graduation degree), and took responsibilities in law, education, primary religious services and occasionally in bureaucracy or devoted themselves personally to community services in the Ottoman polity.


Or do they just need to be interested in Islam and study the deen?

Its not enough to be interested in Islam - for example there are Scholars and historians who are interested in Islam but are remain attached to their own faith - for example Henry Corbin, who was a Catholic but who was admired for his knowledge and understanding of Islam by the Islamic Philosopher, Seyyid Nasr.

There is a tradition of Ulema that are self-taught; and thus this is also possible; and to be encouraged.

  • Nice, answer, but for a broader perspective, one might add the philosophers, sufis and arifin to the class of ulama. Allameh is also a distinct title reserved for a small minority of scholars who have obtained authoritative knowledge and mastery of all branches of transmitted or naqli sciences (such as hadith and fiqh) and intellectual or aqli sciences (such as kalam, philosophy and irfan).
    – infatuated
    Jun 12, 2014 at 6:08
  • @infatuated: for sure; I was struggling to think of the broader perspective :) Jun 12, 2014 at 6:17
  • The feminine of 'alim عالِمٌ is 'alimah عالِمَةٌ, and its plural is 'alimaat عالِمَاتٌ!
    – Medi1Saif
    Jan 4, 2017 at 18:38

In the Arabic language, an Alim is someone who has knowledge about a certain matter.

It doesn't mean scholar in English nor does a person need to be an expert in any field in order to be called an Alim in the Arabic language.

A person who has some knowledge about mechanics is an Alim of mechanics, a person who has knowledge about medicine is an Alim of medicine etc... It can be applied to anyone linguistically.

Now when it comes to Islam, Allah clearly tells us who's an Alim. In Surah Fatir 35:28, Allah says =

"...Indeed those (who) fear Allah from among His slaves have knowledge (ulema)..."

Notice Allah doesn't say Ulema fear Allah. He said "indeed those (who) fear Allah..." Innamaa yakhshaAllaha

Ulema is the plural of Alim. So Allah is saying that in order to be from the Ulema, we have to =

1) Fear Allah 2) Be from his servants.

Whoever has fulfilled these two criteria are from the knowledgeable or Ulema.

It makes no difference how much Quran you have memorized or how many hadiths you know. In Islam, fear of Allah is what matters.

There's no such thing as an Alim course nor should we go around calling people Alim.

Only Allah knows who truly are Ulema because fear of Allah is in the heart.

  • 2
    I disagree! Because one first has to have knowledge of Allah to then fear him! Or he will be very likely to only fear his own illusions. And a bright faith in Allah comes only after much thinking and reflection on teachings of religion.
    – infatuated
    Jun 12, 2014 at 4:05
  • How did you come to that conclusion? Please show some proof. Opinions aren't Islam.
    – Sayyid
    Jun 13, 2014 at 18:26
  • It's very simple. If we don't have correct knowledge of Allah the how can we know who and what we are fearing?
    – infatuated
    Jun 13, 2014 at 18:57
  • It's called fitrah. Everyone is born upon it.
    – Sayyid
    Jun 13, 2014 at 21:00
  • That's irrelevant! No one is born with a knowledge of Allah! Fitra doesn't automatically produce knowledge! The theory of fitra only suggests that the teachings of religion are in conformity with one's creation.
    – infatuated
    Jun 14, 2014 at 7:55

An excellent question with some excellent answers. I only want to address the implication that the claim of being Alim/Alima from self-education rather than a more "peer-reviewed" setting such as an accredited university of course can be of equal value. As with any knowledge, peer review is an essential component in verifying the quality of one's knowledge. To add this element to one who is self-taught, it's important to share and discuss one's knowledge and ideas with others who also have knowledge in order to confirm its value and contribution.

If, for example, a Muslim studied the Quran every day but without discussing this with anyone, especially without a deep understanding of the Arabic language, his knowledge would not qualify him as an Alim. It is rather the sharing and discussion of what he has learned or thought, hopefully refining what he learned on his own, that could help him reach the point of being an Alim. And this is a perennially ongoing process. From Surat Yusuf 12:76: "We raise in degrees whom We will, but over every possessor of knowledge is one [more] knowledgeable."

(The last relevant part of the aya only quoted.)

Most true Muslim scholars, out of humility and reverence for Allah and deen al-Islam, do not claim to be Alim(a) as a title, knowing how much knowledge they have yet to obtain.


An alim one should fear of Allah ,follow the quaranic verses and hadees as how much he is possible, and one important thing teach the people to make good deeds and deny the people from doing wrong deeds. In this manner he has to face some problems he has to patience for the sake of Allah.

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