Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour
Question: Is exaggerating in lauding the scholars with different titles before their name allowed in Islam?
Answer: Some scholars have warned against using a name that has a pronouncement of one’s integrity (tazkiyatul nafs) . This is taken from the verse in Sura al Najm which states, “then do not pronounce your own integrity” [Quran 53:32]. Scholars such, as Imam Nawawi, disliked using names such as “Muhiy al Deen” (The One Who gives life to the religion) and he disliked it when people would call him using that title. There are other scholars who have allowed such names and one can find a list of some scholars with such names in the book of Imam Zarnugi entitled Taleemul Mutallim.
Historical Examples of Honorific Titles
Imam Abu Hanifa is referred to by scholars as “Imam al Adham” (The Greatest Imam) and Imam Malik is referred to as “Imam Dar al Hijrah” (The Imam of the Abode of Immigration). We also find that the scholars of have referred to such luminaries as Imam al Ghazzali as “Hujjatul Islam” (The Proof of Islam) and there are many other examples where honorific titles are given to great scholars. So, as long as the title does not exceed the limits of the Sharia, there is no harm in using such titles to honor a scholar.
Some Warnings about Honorific Titles
In the Book Kashhaf al-Qina`, the author says, “One should be careful of boasting about the integrity on one’s teacher as that could be a trick of the self to try to boast it’s integrity by default.” By this he means that a person is essentially trying to say, “My shaykh is great and I am his student so that makes me great.” So, although we should speak highly of our teachers, we should be careful that we are not doing it so out of boastful pride (fakhr).