Advantages and disadvantages of a central authority(16 Posts)
OK I'm going to show huge ignorance here OP. You said that there are no splits into sects but what about Shia?
I was intrigued by this discussion, as a complete "outsider".
Personally, I think that both positions have their good points and their drawbacks. A central figure such as the pope for Catholics does give you an authority to turn to, a point of reference, a final say on what doctrine is, perhaps helps to build a cohesive community. It also facilitates change, as the pope can dictate change, as with the Second Vatican Council. It means that everyone isn't deciding on their own interpretation, everyone has the same set of beliefs, there can be no doubt as to what something is supposed to mean.
On the other hand, it could result in inflexibility, which may turn believers away. It is, as crescentmoon says, undemocratic (is democracy necessary in religion? Perhaps this is another point entirely!). I am unsure whether or not it stifles free speech - I think not in today's world, although certainly so in the past, with blacklisted authors, etc. Although the pope can facilitate change, he may also stifle it and prevent it from taking place.
Very interesting to think about.
I am curious about one thing - the reference to the limited number of sects in Islam. I know little about it. I thought it was much like Christianity, where there are three main branches - Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. The Protestant branch has a large number of subdivisions. There are other groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, which are not accepted as Christians by most of the others (obviously they would disagree).
I had a little search to see what I could find out about Islam. It seems a similar set up, with Sunni and Shia being the main branches, and various subdivisions of those, with Ahmadiya Islam being at times accepted and at times not by other Muslims. I even found an article saying that there were 73 divisions in Islam. This seems to contradict what crescent moon has said, although I appreciate that such articles may be misleading.
Thankyou for your clarifications, crescentmoon.
I think that what is viewed as a strength and what as a weakness can vary according to perspective. You have said in your post above that an imam needs to have no formal training. Obviously, there are a lot of variations in what people believe constitutes appropriate training in other faiths, as far as I am aware, for example, Catholic priests study for longer than most others in Christianity.
On the one hand, the fact that anyone (including women?) can become an imam sounds good. Very democratic, very inclusive. It means that many opinions can be voiced. Perhaps you see this as a great strength. On the other hand, it does mean that there is no guarantee that people will have properly understood the text they are preaching about, and it does open the way for extremist interpretations to easily be given a platform. I am not sure whether or not it is a strength for many, possibly ill-informed, opinions to be heard over doctrine and interpretation. I tend towards the opinion that it is better for people to study first, have a deep and clear understanding, and then preach.
Someone on another thread told me that the Quran states that it is a "clear book" or a "clear text". If this is indeed the case, then perhaps this has coloured the Muslim perspective - why would you need to spend a long time studying something that is so clear? And perhaps it was clearer in its early days, but as time moved on, language moved on, etc, the need for study and interpretation emerged, but Muslim thinking stayed rooted.
Incidentally, on the matter of the enormous number of Christian sects you quoted, I am no expert, but I expect that a large number of those are just congregations. Many Christians do not affiliate themselves with one of the main groups, but just set up a church and see themselves just as Christian. I doubt they would see themselves as separate sects. Just to clarify, however, I am not a Christian, this is just what I think is most likely.
I would also like to ask you about one point in your list of the central tenets, or pillars, of Islam. (not directly on the topic of the thread, sorry, I know!) You said that one is the hajj pilgrimage. Is there any recognised timeframe that this is supposed to take place in? Or can it be at any time? And is there any dispensation for poorer Muslims who cannot afford to make the trip?
And what do you mean by "divine destiny"?
With regards to your questions about hajj do you mean timeframe in the year or time frame in your life?
There is a specific time of the year in which people perform the hajj. It is in the first 9 days of the Islamic month Dhul Hijjah. If you make the pilgrimage at any other time of year it is not considered 'Hajj' so you havent fulfilled that pillar but it is considered a minor pilgrimage (called umrah) which you are still rewarded for.
There is no specific time in your life that you should perform hajj. Many muslims tend to leave the performance of the hajj until they are much older but obviously you can not gurantee how long you will live for so if you have the money to go on hajj you really should do it as soon as you can. Another thing is if you leave the hajj until you are older sometimes it can be more difficult for you to perform because of the physical demands of performing the rituals. For example my husband, my mum and I went last year and at times you are walking relatively long distances (not marathons but lets say sometimes you can be walking for an hour or even longer) which can be a lot harder for somebody older (we saw a few elderly people struggling) then it is for someone in their prime. Dealing with the crowds can also be more distressing for those who are weaker due to age, health or general frailty.
In general all muslim scholars agree that those who are too poor or too sick to perform hajj are exempted from the obligation of performing it. Sometimes wealthy muslims will 'sponsor' the hajj of poorer muslims where they pay for them to go and cover all their costs/needs. In this way they share the reward without detracting from the person performing hajj but you really should have performed the hajj first (as it is an obligation on you first) before you start sending other people on hajj. Some people also believe you can appoint somebody to perform the hajj on your behalf (there is a difference of opnion on this point I think) but again that person needs to have completed the hajj for themselves first. All muslims are obligated to go on hajj at least once after that you can go as many times as you like or never again if you like. I met one woman when I went on hajj who had been on hajj nine times consecutively. The amazing thing was that she was in her 70s and had travelled on her own (with a tour group but without any family or friends from home). She was quite tough. I think she had been able to go so many times because she had several kids who each took turns to pay for their mum to go on hajj every year. It was really sweet actually.
Divine destiny is basically your destiny or fate. We believe that certain things about your life are decided before you are even born for example when and how you will die, whether you will be rich or poor, happy or sad, who you will marry, whether you will have kids etc. The good and the bad things in life are both controlled by and destined for you by God.
*appoint somebody to perform the hajj for you if you are too sick to go
I thought it was unacceptable as she should have led women only in prayer, but i guess she wanted to cause controversy, so there u have it.
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