Does Islam Have a Hierarchy?
The world is becoming a very intolerant place to live. No matter how civilised or educated you are, a time comes when your rationality and sanity is overpowered by your emotions. Everybody knows ISIS/Daesh is an illegitimate Islamic organisation. It claims to be an Islamic movement; however, they do not follow the Quran or Sharia. They have been renounced, rejected and condemned by different denominations of Islam. Still, every time a terrorist act takes place, the peaceful, modern and liberal Muslims have to pay the price for it. They encounter a severe backlash.
A few days ago, an arson attack was carried out on a mosque and it was set on fire in Toronto. In England, things are getting worse. If you are wearing a Hijab, you are most likely to be targeted.
We are living in a civilised world. Why should somebody who hasn’t committed the crime suffer? Why does every single peaceful Muslim have to be seen as suspicious? This is wrong and it is not fair. I’m really dismayed by the reaction of civilised nations.
You may be surprised to know that Muslims have been the most affected nation; ISIS has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion.
This is a dilemma: ISIS is killing Muslims and others suspect Muslims also.
What should we do as a whole of humanity? What should be our stance and what is the solution? People suggest the idea that Muslim leaders and scholars should come forward and condemn these atrocities.
Many Muslim scholars have condemned this including Al-Azhar University. The reason why it is not helping is because in Islam there is no hierarchy. There used to be one, but it does not exist anymore.
Hierarchy is a system in which different individuals are ranked according to their position; there is a central command and decision is made by the central command, everybody has to accept it and follow it. For example, in Catholicism the head of the hierarchy is the Pope. If the Pope says something, all Catholics will accept it. Similarly, in the Army, the Commander in Chief is the central command; if he releases some instructions, everyone has to follow them.
Now the question is: did Islam at any point in history have a hierarchy? If Islam did have some kind of hierarchy when did it cease to exist and what was it?
After Prophet Mohammad’s time, the four Caliphs (Khulfa-e-Rashideen) were considered as the Islamic hierarchy. The Caliph of the Muslims would give directives, instructions or commands and the entire Muslim Community would accept it and embrace it.
Because Islam is a multi-dimensional religion, there are more than one aspects of the religion: the political, ritualistic aspect and the spiritual aspect of Islam. When these four Caliphs were in power, they served as the hierarchy of Islam.
Is there any instruction in the Quran or in the Traditions of the Prophet (Ahadith) as to how the Muslim community will choose their leader or would he be selected by God? If there was anything like this, they wouldn’t be fighting at the departure of Prophet Mohammad. The First Caliph, Abu Bakr came into power by a public consensus.
The Islamic hierarchy only lasted for four Caliphs and after this there was no hierarchy. Then there was the Abbasid Caliphate, Ottoman Empire and Mughal Empire, but they cannot be declared as hierarchy in Islam. They were Muslims, but the [directives of the] Abbasid Caliphate would only cover their empire. What they had to say did not necessarily have to be accepted by the Mughal or Ottoman Empires.
The Western world for some reason understands that Saudi Arabia is the hierarchy for Islam. But Islam has been divided into more than 73 different sects and denominations.
As a whole, there is no concept of a Grand Muslim Nation (Ummah). The Muslim Nation has been divided into Muslim communities of different sects.
Islam itself does not have a hierarchy. However there are many different denominations within Islam, some of which have their own respective hierarchies.
For example, Wahhabis and Shiites: if a command comes from the Wahhabi hierarchy, no Shiite will obey it. Only Wahhabis will obey and follow it. Similarly, if Shiite have a hierarchy within themselves and any directive comes from the head of their sect, only the Shiites will follow and obey the directives.
Even if different Muslim clerics and scholars have condemned the Paris Attacks or any other terrorist activity, people who do not belong to their sect will not listen to this.
People who are being radicalised by ISIS, Daesh, Wahhabis, etc., and followers of the Wahhabi sect feel obliged to morally support any organisation which has Wahhabi roots.
Wahhabis will never condemn any Wahhabi organisation; they will never condemn ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban or Saudi religious people.
For example, if you ask a Sunni scholar to condemn these terrorist activities and he condemns publicly, it is not going to influence followers of a different sect. because as a whole, Islam does not have a hierarchy. Every sect will listen to their respective leaders only.
Even if people from different mosques and different schools of thoughts condemn this act, this condemnation will not change the mind of those who are being radicalised by Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS. Therefore, if the media wants somebody to condemn these attacks from among Muslims, they should find a Wahhabi leader and make him condemn it.