March 12, 2013

Authority in the Muslim world

A new conversation with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad on Halal Monk's webproject discusses authority within Islam. An interesting read for those interested in the structural and spiritual authority in the Muslim world.

"If you have a religion with ethics, that religion will want its ethics reflected in the laws and of course you can’t have a legal system and courts without having some structural authority. Yet in the early centuries, Islamic law – the sharia – was as decentered as it could possibly be. Each khadi was de facto independent and there was no statutory legislation.

In the nineteen century, however, the Ottomans had to reshape Islamic law into statutory law because in order to create a stable trading environment for their European partners they needed certain treaties and regulations . That led to the establishment of a code called the ‘Mecelle’. Nowadays many Muslims assume that Islamic law has always been statutory, but in fact it‘s a kind of ‘Westernization’. In the age before the state got involved with legislation it was something that grew from the ground up. Even more so, originally, the ulama represented the Muslims against the deprivations of the state. But once statutory law became the norm worldwide, it was impossible for the scholars to remain independent. Nowadays therefore, the ulama is often integrated into the state’s mechanisms. They have a hard job not becoming the state’s representatives, putting forward only those fatwa’s that the state approves. They’ve become a kind of ‘clerisy’ and are often seen as a part of a hypocritical bureaucracy. Hence the crisis of authority the ‘establishment ulama’ finds itself in."

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