According to the Quran, ULEMA are knowledgeable people. The Quran has even explained this fact so there is no confusion:
“Do you not see that God sends down water from the sky, thus We produce with it fruits of various colors? And of the mountains are peaks that are white, red, or some other color and intense black. And from the people, and the animals, and the livestock, are various colors. Those concerned with God from among His servants are the most knowledgeable (ULEMA). God is Noble, Forgiving. (35/27-28)
These two verses deal with different parts of the universe, different branches of nature, and different fields of science. Physics, botany, zoology, and the humanities are all touched upon. The knowledgeable persons are awestruck because their insight has convinced them of His power and Wisdom in controlling the universe perfectly. The Quran has referred to those people as ulema, and in modern terminology they are called scientists. These are the people who study nature and after observation and consistent experimentation, conquer the forces of nature. God has put the forces of nature under our control, but only those who know the laws can manipulate these forces. The only way to become one of the ulema is to acquire this knowledge.
THE CURRENT ULEMAS/MULLAHS
After learning the Quranic definition of ulema, it is an interesting exercise to compare our current ulema with it. They do not know the fundamentals of natural sciences, and their knowledge is limited to theoretical discussions and verbal corrections. These discussions are mostly related to issues that have no bearing on the universe or the practical life of people. The curriculum of religious schools is spread over ten years during which students study logic, philosophy, rhetoric, grammar, literature, etc, most of which is outdated. They also learn about astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic, which are also outdated. It is curious to note that the study of the Quran is not included in the curriculum. A certain exegesis is taught that consists of only synonyms of the Quranic words. In the last year of study an exegesis of the second chapter of the Quran is taught. This is the education upon completion of which they receive certification for becoming an Aalim (knowledgeable person).