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August 17, 2017

Ulema In Islam, Meaning & Definition

Ulema In Islam, Meaning & Definition

Literally “those who have knowledge” or “those who know” (singular alim, plural ulama_). The term is most widely used to refer to the scholarly class of Muslim societies, whose main occupation is the study of the texts that make up the Islamic Tradition (religious sciences such as Quran, hadith, Quranic commentary, jurisprudence, and theology, but also the applied sciences such as medicine, biology, astronomy, and mathematics). Members of the ulema class have also been called upon to act as advisors to rulers, or as qadis (judges) implementing the law (sharia) within Muslim societies. The authority of the ulema class in defining doctrine and right practice within Islam has been immense in Muslim history.

Historical Background

In the early period (7th–9th centuries C.E.), a separate class of scholars concerned with the elaboration of knowledge (ilm) took some time to develop. Most historians date the emergence of a scholarly class to the early years of the Umayyad period, when Islamic doctrine was much debated. Debates concerning the constituent elements of faith (iman), or predestination (qadr), as well as the transmission of hadith (from the Prophet or other notable figures) and legal doctrine (fiqh) were the principal intellectual concerns of the emerging scholarly class. Many of the ulema also, it appears, participated in the opposition movements to the Umayyad caliphate.
Some viewed them as deviating from true Islam in their leadership of the Muslim empire, and wished to put forward a more sophisticated religio-intellectual criticism of the Umayyad’s. It was, however, in the Abbasid period that the ulema began to gain both political influence and popular respect, as Abbasid caliphs and their wazirs sponsored institutional schools in which scholars could develop the intellectual foundations of Islam. It was early in this period that the ulema, with the support of some caliphs, became interested in the Greek tradition of philosophy and science, and works in languages other than Arabic began to be translated. These translations mark the beginnings of the incorporation of the applied sciences into the curriculum of learning, to complement the religious sciences, in which the ulema were already considered expert.

Ulema Class & Muslim World

Once established, the ulema class became a fundamental element of Muslim societies. The expansion of the Muslim world, incorporating many different cultures and traditions, did not obviate the need for a scholarly class whose primary functions were to maintain the intellectual tradition and provide religious and scientific guidance to the population. Their fortunes waxed and waned depending on the receptivity of the dynasties to religious influence, but the vast majority of Muslim societies, both past and present, have included a class of scholars, usually given the generic name ulema.
The authority of the ulema in matters of doctrine and law has been definitive. The ulema themselves, though, have been divided on many issues, and hence should not be viewed as a unified group with common aims and intentions. An example of this division can be seen in the famous Inquisition, (mihna) from 829 onwards, when one group of scholars (the Mutazilis) persuaded the Abbasid caliph to persecute (and declare as heretics) scholars who did not adhere to the doctrine of “the created Quran.”

Taqlid & Muqallids

The authority and respect demanded by the ulema has usually been justified on the simple basis of a practical division of labor. Not all members of society have the time, the skills, or the inclination to dedicate their lives to the study necessary to determine right doctrine and practice. Hence, it is argued, a class of society that dedicates itself to this task should be instituted, and since these matters affect each individual’s fate (both in this world and in the afterlife), the guidance of this class is of paramount importance. In the area of legal matters, this attitude was enshrined in the theory of taqlid, whereby the Muslim community is divided between scholars and those who follow the rulings of the scholars (typically called the muqallids).
Apart from this practical justification for the ulema’s authority, scholars also turned to the Quran. Q. 4:59 states “Obey God, the Prophet and those in authority amongst you.” Many Sunni scholars argued that “those in authority” probably refers to the ulema (some also included the political rulers in the category). Similarly, Q. 16:43: “Ask the people of remembrance if you do not know” was interpreted by Sunni scholars as exhorting the people to submit in matters of knowledge to the ulema. There were also convenient hadiths, traced back to the prophet Muhammad, which could be used to establish the ulema’s status. For example, the well-known words attributed to the Prophet, “The ulema are the inheritors of the Prophets,” was interpreted as implying that in religious authority, the ulema were given the responsibility of announcing the message of Islam to the community. Although there were many scholars whose individual charismatic power is well attested, their authority was ultimately based on learning. The ulema deserved this respect, not because of lineage, or familial connections, or even because of individual piety and religiosity. Rather, the ulema were due respect because of they had undergone a particular type of training and education that elevated their understanding of religious matters above the ordinary populace. It was on this basis that the institution of the ulema became an indispensable part of Muslim culture.
In Muslim history, however, the respect due to the ulema did not translate into political power. Most scholars who wrote on the relationship between political power and religious authority accepted that the ulema were advisors who aided the ruler in the maintenance of the religion.

Al Ghazali & his theory about Sultan

Al-Ghazali (d. 1111), for example, argued that the sultan should “exercise coercive power and have authority because the sultan is the representative of God,” whereas the ulema were appointed by the sultan and given the responsibility of enacting the law.
This theory of the dependence of the ulema upon the ruler for their practical authority in society reflected the relationship of the Sunni ulema with political power in historical terms. During the Ottoman Empire the ulema became an increasingly structured class of society, headed by the mufti, who advised the sultan on both religious and political issues, headed the judiciary, and controlled the religious education system in the empire. The situation was not dissimilar in the Indian Mogul Empire.
Al-Ghazali’s influential formulation of the sultan-ulema relationship can be informatively contrasted with the views of Shi_ite groups. Some Shi_ite groups, particularly the Isma_ilis in the medieval period, saw religious authority and political power conjoined in an individual, who was given the title imam. The need for a class of religious scholars who advised the imam was reduced, since the imam was, himself, blessed in a mystical manner with knowledge of doctrinal and legal matters. Twelver Shi_ites also placed an imam at the apex of the ideal political system, but believed that the imam had gone into hiding (ghayba). Since there was no ideal political leader other than this missing imam, Twelver Shi_ites were greatly concerned with the issue of community authority. A theory of “delegation” (niyaba) was therefore needed. The Twelver Shi_ites recognized a succession of Twelve Imams after the death of the Prophet. Only the first of these, Imam _Ali, had succeeded in gaining political power, and the last ofthese had gone into hiding. Reports from a number of these Twelve Imams were interpreted to indicate that the imams had delegated leadership of the community to the ulema in the absence of the Imam.
In works of fiqh, one sees a gradual expansion of the ulema’s role in areas that, in early Twelver Shi_ism, were seen as the prerogative of the Imam. This position faced a serious challenge when the Safavid mystical order came to power in Iran in 1501. The first Safavid Shah, Isma_il, declared Twelver Shi_ism to be the state religion. Jurists either devised means whereby the shah might be considered a legitimate ruler, despite the absence of the true ruler (the imam) or they rejected association with the Safavids and maintained the ultimate authority of the ulema.
The debate over the role of the ulema in the life of the Muslim community has become more acute in the modern period. In Twelver Shi_ism, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini argued that the ulema should rule the Muslim community until the return of the Hidden Imam, a theory he had the opportunity to put into practice following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. In the modern Sunni Muslim world, on the other hand, one can recognize a variety of trends. Many Sunni Muslim governments have used members of the ulema to brand their government as religious in a manner reminiscent of the medieval period. In the revivalist movements, however, one sees a reaction against the ulema, who often are characterized as obscurantist and pedantic, worrying about matters of religious technicalities, rather than the more important issues of preserving Muslim identity in the face of non-Muslim imperialism. The popularist commentaries on the Qur_an of, for example, Sayyid Qutb or Abu l-A_la_ Maududi, represent a rejection of the ulemas and an exhortation to “the people” to approach the divine text without the encumbrance of the scholarly tradition of learning.
This rejection of the ulema’s authority in matters of religion is likely to increase as literacy and the availability of foundational texts of Islam become more widespread in the Muslim world. In some Muslim countries, however, one sees the re-emergence of the ulema as active political agents, working for change. Two examples of this are Saudi Arabia and Morocco. In the recent past, Saudi ulema have challenged the concentration of power in the person of the king and his royal family. Attempts continue to be made to diffuse this power to a larger body, within which the ulema would play a larger role. In Morocco, legal scholars such as Muhammad _Allal al-Fasi have been at the forefront of the modernization of Islamic law. Al-Fasi and others are responsible for the production of an intellectual movement in which the shari_a is considered more responsive to the needs of a society changing under the influence of new technology and science.
The ulema have, then, at different times been loathed and loved by the political establishment. However, their participation in the institutions of power remains an essential component of any Muslim political system wishing to call itself “Islamic.”

Riba in Islam

Riba in Islam

Of all the economic proscriptions in the Quran, the most controversial has been the ban on riba, the pre-Islamic lending practice held responsible for pushing destitute Arab borrowers into enslavement. According to some early Muslims, this ban was meant to cover all interest, regardless of form, context, or magnitude; for others, the ban’s intended scope was limited to exorbitant interest charges. Although the restrictive definition triumphed, as a matter of practice the giving and taking of interest continued, at times through the use of legal ruses (hiyal), often more or less openly. The latest chapter of this old controversy was ignited in the 1940s by the emergence of “Islamic economics,” a school of thought that aims to purge interest from all economic operations. The accomplishments of this school include the establishment of Islamic banks in over seventy countries and the banning of interest in three of them: Pakistan, Iran, and the Sudan. Islamic banks claim that they avoid giving or taking interest, but they have found it impractical to obey their own charters. Interest is disguised under a variety of charges.

Various critics of Islamic economics, including secular economists and Islamic modernists, believe that the goal of eradicating interest is both misguided and unfeasible. Distinguishing between riba and ordinary interest, these critics hold that interest is indispensable to any complex economy, that competitive financial markets limit interest charges, and that bankruptcy laws now exist to protect borrowers against the horrors once produced by riba.

Qiyas Analogical Deduction in Islam in Light of Quranic Texts

Juristic Deduction/ Analogy/ Qiyas

Definition of Analogy
All the four schools of jurisprudence agree that, in matters which have not been provided for by a Quranic or traditionally text, nor determined by consensus of opinion the law may be deduced from what has been laid down by any of these three authorities, by the use of Qiyas, which is generally translated as analogy.
The root meaning of the word Qiyas is measuring, accord, equality. As a source of laws it is defined by the Hanafis as an extension of law from the original text to which the process is applied to a particular case by means of a common illat or effective cause, which cannot be ascertained merely by interpretation of the language of the text, by the Malikis as the accord of a deduction with the original text in respect of the illat or effective cause of its law and by the Shafis as the accored of a known thing with a known thing by reason of the equality of the one with the other in respect of the effective cause of its law.
In plain language Qiyas is a process of deduction by which the law of a text is applied to cases which, though not covered by the language are governed by the reason of the text. The reason of the text, which is technically called illat or effective cause is the rukn i.e. constituent of analogy and the extension of the law of the text to which the process is applied is its legal effect.
Analogy as a source of laws being subordinate and subsidiary to the Quran the tradition and the Ijma, these latter in the language of Muhammadan lawyers are called its authorities (asl) or texts (nass).

Arguments against Analogy/ Qiyas

The Zahiris, some Hanbalis and Ibn Hazm deny the authority of analogy as a valid source of laws, except in matters which are the rights of men and are ascertainable by the exercise of our senses and reason. They contend, “that any other view of analogy would virtually amount to making laws which is the sole privilege of God.
In support of their contention they rely upon the following texts;

  • We (that is God speaking through the Prophet) have send down the Book as authority for you.
  • There is nothing fresh nor dry, but is to be found (that is the rule in every matter is laid down) in the revealed book, say, God has not by his revelations made anything unlawful to man except a dead body or the flowing blood of an animal.
  • Say, whatever is not found to be forbidden in the Book of God is lawful to men.
  • The affairs of the Israelites were in proper order, until those born of slave girls increased in numbers, and began to deduce from what had been laid down things which had never been laid down, and thus they themselves went astray and led others astray.

Arguments in Support of Analogy

It is admitted by the Sunni Jurists with reference to the first two of above texts that the law for guidance of Muslims in every matter is to be found in the Quran but they point out that the law on some questions alone has been laid down in express terms, and as regards the rest, the Quran merely affords indications from which inferences have to be drawn.
As to the warning contained in the last mentioned text against the example of the Israelites, that was called for by the ignorance and prejudice of those addressed but no such charge can be made against Muhammadan Jurists as a body. The principle underlying the text which lays down that nothing that has bot been declared unlawful by God can be made lawful, is fully admitted; but it is not claimed that analogy can be used for such a purpose.
The Sunnis on the other hand rely upon the authority of the following texts in support of analogy;
Did you think they would get away? They thought that their forts would protect them, but his punishment reached them from the quarter they had not anticipated. The inspired fear in their hearts, and they pulled down their houses with their own hands, and so did the Muslims. So ye who have judgment take warning.

Example of Prophet Muhammad which support Qiyas

When the Prophet sent Muhdh to Yemen as Governor he said to him; how are you going to decide cases; Muadh Answered; by the light of what is in the book of God. The Prophet next asked; And if you do not find anything in the Quran to guide you?, I will decide in the way the Prophet has been doing. But inquired the Prophet; if you do not find any precedent from me what then? I will do my best by exercising my judgment. The Prophet there upon exclaimed “Praise be to God who ahs so disposed the delegate of his Prophet as to be able to satisfy him.

Ijma in Islam | Importance of Ijma in Jurisprudence

Definition of Ijma

Ijma is defined as agreement of the jurists among the followers of Muhammad in a particular age on a question of law. Its authority as a source of laws is founded on certain Quranic and traditional texts. The principle underlying these texts is expressed in especially apt terms in one of them which says;
“Whatever the Muslims hold to be good is good before God”

Quranic Texts in Favor of Ijma

  • My followers will never agree upon what is wrong.
  • It is incumbent upon you to follow the most numerous body.
  • The (protecting) hand of God is over the entire body and no account will be taken of those who separate themselves.
  • Whoever separates himself (from the main body) will go to hell.
  • He who opposes the people to the extent of a span will die the death of men who died in the days of ignorance.
  • God does not allow the people to go astray after He has shown them the right path.
  • Obey God and obey the Prophet and those amongst you who have authority.
  • If you yourself do not know then question those who do.

Ijma in Sunni Jurisprudence

The four Sunni Schools of law hold Ijma to be a valid source of laws not only upon the authority of the above texts, but also on the unanimity of opinion to that effect among the Companions.
The Shafis and Malikis recognize the authority of Ijma not merely in the matters of law and religion but also in other matters such as organization of the army, preparations for war and other questions of executive administration. Ijma is an essential and characteristic principle of Sunni Jurisprudence, one upon which the Muhammadan community acted as soon as they were left to their won resources an were called upon to solve the first and most important constitutional problem that arose on the prophhet’s death, namely the selection of the spiritual and executive head of the community.
The election of Abu Bakr to the Caliphate by the votes of the people was based, as is well-known on the principle of Ijma.

Ijma in Shia Jurisprudence

Some Shiahs, Kharijis and Nazzam do not recognize this sourc of law. Among the Shiahs some jurist hold that questions relationg to the Shariat cannot be authoritatively determined by mere consensus of opinion, while other Shiah jurists, though admitting the authority of Imja, base it on a presumption that, when the Mujtahids agree in a certain view, they voice the opinion of the invisible Imam. Nazzam and some among the Kharijis also dispute the validity of the doctrine.

Ismaili Khoja Community | History of Khojas

Ismaili Khojas/ Khoja

Khoja’s are basically Hindus converted to Mohammedanism and taught Shiah of Ismaili faith. As a rule Khojas have no mosque or Masjid. The Jamat Khana is their prayer house where they recite gnan (Knowledge) which is a free composition in verse of some parts of Koran and Hindu Mythology.
Their accepted scripture is “Dashavatar” conversion of Khojas to the Shiah Imami Ismaili sect is not a case of individual conversions but a mass or community conversion.
The Agha Khan is the spiritual head of the Ismaili Khojas and he was once regarded as having the sole right of determining who shall or shall not remain a member of the community but this right has been curtailed later by an act.

His Highness Prince Aga Khan pic

Athna Asharias or Ithna Ashariyyah | Sub Sects of Shia Islam

Athna Asharias/ Ithna Ashariyyah/Shia Sub-sects
The Shias are mainly divided into three main sub-sects, namely, the Athna-Asharias or ithna ashariyya, the Ismailyas and the Zaidyas. Most of the Shias are Athna-Asharias so the resumption is that a Shia is governed by the Athna-Asharia exposition of the law.
Ithna Ashariyyah are also known as The Twelver because they believe on 12 Imams. They also believe that Imam Mahdi will be none other than the returned Twelfh Iman. 85 percent of Shias are Athna Asharia are majority lives in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.

Types of Sunnah in Islam | 3 Types of Sunnat

Types of Sunnah
The Sunnah means the actions and precepts of Holy Prophet (SAW). Sunnah is the second source of Islamic Law. Literal meaning of Sunnah is ‘a clear and well trodden path”. It denotes the practice of Muhammad (PBUH) that he taught and practically instituted as teacher of Shariah.
Followings are the types of Sunnah

  • Sunnat-ul-Qual: all words, counsels or precepts of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)
  • Sunnat-ul-Fieel: his action, works and daily practices
  • Sunnat-ul-Taqrir: his silence implying a tacit approbation on his part of any individual act committed by his disciples

Marriage to Non-Muslim Women | Quranic View

Status of previous marriage of non-Muslim women when non-Muslim Women married with Muslim
Requirement of “Fiqah” is that if a married non-Muslis woman embraces Islam she must inform her husband of the conversion. The husband either embraces Islam within the period of Iddat, in which case the marriage continues, or he remains a non-Muslim even after expiry of Iddat Period, in which case the marriage would stand dissolved. The Iddat is imposed in order to provide opportunity to the non-Muslim husband to consider whether he wishes to embrace Islam and also as a matter of public policy in order to ascertain whether the woman is pregnant by earlier husband so as to avoid confusion of parentage.
Quranic View about marriage of non-Muslim women with Muslim
In Surat Baqra it is stated that by conversion to Islam, a non-Muslim lady’s earlier marriage with a non-Muslim man is dissolved an on account of her subsequent marriage with a Muslim, she is not guilty of any offence.

Types of Hadith in Islam | Different Types of Hadis

Types of Hadith/ Types of Hadis
A Hadith is saying or an act or approval or disapproval of Holy Prophet (PBUH). It is very important source of Islamic law and Islamic Jurisprudence. All the Hadis collectively can further be classified into three categories from the point of view of their inter se priority. The order of their priority is as follows;
There are those traditions which have received universal publicity and acceptance in each one of the three periods namely, the period of the ‘Companions who were more righteous and had often shared the counsel of the Holy Prophet, the period of the successors of the “Companions” known as Tabieen and the period of their  successors known as Tabi Tabieen.
There are those traditions which though known publicly by a great majority of people, do not possess the character of universal fame. They carry conviction of genuineness but are reported by a limited number of Companions and thereafter in the two successive periods aforesaid.
There are those traditions which depend on isolated individuals

Change of Sect in Islam | Can Muslim Change his Sect ?

Change of Sect in Islam

Can a Muslim of one sect change to another Sect?
A Muhammadan male of female who has attained the age of puberty, may renounce the doctrines of the sect or sub-sect to which he or she belongs and adopt the tenets of the other sects or any other sub-sect, and he or she will thenceforth be subject to the law of the new sect of subs-sect.
It is important to be a Muslim and there is not restriction on changing of sect in Islam. One must fulfill the original requirements to be a Muslim while remaining in any sect. There are some sects which not fulfill the requirement of Muslim and conversion to such sect made one apostle hence the essential point in this question to retain the basic requirements of Muslim.
In your previous article we have discussed the Definition of Muslim, you can read it by clicking on the given link.