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Yusuf Ibn Adam

Which Marja Do Most Western Reverts Follow?

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what is the Protestant approach?

Read, read, read, read, read, read and make our own personal judgement based on all the information we have at our disposal.

Its the idea of making a religion a private matter thus the responsibility for what we can and can't do in a religious sense falls on the shoulders of the individual, thus pulls away the possibility of clergy exploiting their role as givers of legal advice.

That is the basic cornerstone of the Protestant reformation, the decentralisation of the religion away from clergy and onto lay people, and the father (being the head of the house hold) taking on the responsibility of being the teacher to the family of religious matters.

There are some books on the matter I'm sure in libraries; the benefit to Islam with that approach, clergy could no longer exploit their position, and sectarianism would become a thing of the past because there would be no 'groups', just families and individuals within the larger Muslim community practising Islam.

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Read, read, read, read, read, read and make our own personal judgement based on all the information we have at our disposal.

Its the idea of making a religion a private matter thus the responsibility for what we can and can't do in a religious sense falls on the shoulders of the individual, thus pulls away the possibility of clergy exploiting their role as givers of legal advice.

Right.

The position of the marja's as "givers of legal advice" is hardly exploitation. If I ask my marja' how to say my daily salaat, or about the rules of fasting, or about the specifics of other religious laws, he is not "exploiting" me. He is telling me his deduction from studying the religious sources. He can share those sources with me so that I can understand his logic if I ask.

That is the basic cornerstone of the Protestant reformation, the decentralisation of the religion away from clergy and onto lay people, and the father (being the head of the house hold) taking on the responsibility of being the teacher to the family of religious matters.

Christianity is a different matter. Christianity does not have the same basis of a legal code the same way Islam does - or Orthodox Judaism, for example.

I would much rather consult a person who has dedicated his life to the study of religion with my religious questions than leave it to a "father" or "husband". Talk about male superiority...

approach, clergy could no longer exploit their position, and sectarianism would become a thing of the past because there would be no 'groups', just families and individuals within the larger Muslim community practising Islam.

One of the strengths of Shi'a Islam IS the marja' system. It unites people, not separates people. It gives them access to a lot of religious guidance and sociopolitical unity. That is why it is one of the systems most under attack by outsiders.

Have you heard of the "tobacco fatwa" in the early 1900's where a famous scholar, concerned about the colonialization of his country and the exploitation of the tobacco industry, told the people to stop smoking. It wasn't a political verdict; it couldn't be enforced; but - despite the addictive nature of tobacco - people stopped using it en masse, and the colonial forces were forced to retreat from that industry.

Turning us into "families and individuals" is essentially crippling us.

In response to the question, most Muslims in the West that I know (regardless of origin) follow Ayatullah Seestani, probably due to the large amount and availability of English information he has published. I think, second most prominent is Ayatullah Khamenei (due to English language material and due to the fact that some people follow him for ideological reasons). And I think third most prominent is Ayatullah Fadhlullah due to his re-evaluation of many issues in light of modern society and attention to the situation in the West. Of course, this is an unofficial guess but just my own sense based on observation.

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We must resist the temptation to correlate Muslims and their progress/evolution to that of what the Christians experienced. This is the same trend and matching Shias and Catholics and Sunnis and Protestants, and it doesn't make much sense. There may be similarities, but there are certainly many more differences. We are not Christians and we must do what is right as per our own sources and situations.

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One of the strengths of Shi'a Islam IS the marja' system. It unites people, not separates people. It gives them access to a lot of religious guidance and sociopolitical unity. That is why it is one of the systems most under attack by outsiders.

Another reason is that if you can divorce the religious leaders from their followers you can then replace them with leaders who are more sympathetic to your own goals.

One of the obvious techniques to do this is to say that 'why follow the rulings of someone else (which may be uncomfortable anyway) when you can make up your own stuff and which is likely to make for an easier life'.

This idea is variously sold under the notion of using your own aql/freewill/intelligence and thus panders to peoples' ego.

Another obvious route that I have commented on before is to attack the concept of khums, this appeals to the tight-fisted.

Different methods of attack, different appeals to the basest human desires.

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Another reason is that if you can divorce the religious leaders from their followers you can then replace them with leaders who are more sympathetic to your own goals.

One of the obvious techniques to do this is to say that 'why follow the rulings of someone else (which may be uncomfortable anyway) when you can make up your own stuff and which is likely to make for an easier life'.

This idea is variously sold under the notion of using your own aql/freewill/intelligence and thus panders to peoples' ego.

Another obvious route that I have commented on before is to attack the concept of khums, this appeals to the tight-fisted.

Different methods of attack, different appeals to the basest human desires.

This is your view, and it has strong grounds; but, let us also assume the best for argument's sake. I have never understood the Quran or Islam to really 'promote' clergy, rather it realizes the creation of God as being heterogeneous--not everyone is the same. The Quran says let those inclined towards gaining wisdom and knowledge of religion/science step forward ('a group of you') to master these sciences and teaching them to the rest. Therefore, it seems to recognize the inherent reality of the nature of humanity; but, depending on how you look at it, it either supports clergy or merely accepts it as the natural trend.

Let's say if somehow the clerical institution was destroyed, well there would still naturally exist men and women inclined towards matters religious and spiritual and they would still seek this kind of knowledge. If say the universities, colleges and institutes had religious/spiritual sciences departments. Then, there would develop a new kind of clergy of those so inclined and proficient.

However, one argument can be: Is the nature of the clergy rigid? I would say no, it is inevitably in flux. One factor is the chains of mastership/apprenticeship since the times of the Holy Infallibles (as) and even before. On the other hand, it also cannot be denied that many scholars based mainly in the universities, east and west, are engaging in new kinds of research and new angles of analysis that may not have been so much expounded upon by the traditional seminary-based scholars. The interesting thing here, of course, is that these 'new scholars' are also scrutinizing the works of the 'old scholars' and original texts and historical reports.

Thus, I believe that the nature of humanity demands that there will always be a sort of clergy, but I do not believe that it necessarily be rigid and confined to the historical, traditional and orthodox. This, of course, necessitates an atmosphere of mutual respect, cooperation, and of course agreeing to disagree.

Edited by Cyan_Garamond

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On the other hand, it also cannot be denied that many scholars based mainly in the universities, east and west, are engaging in new kinds of research and new angles of analysis that may not have been so much expounded upon by the traditional seminary-based scholars. The interesting thing here, of course, is that these 'new scholars' are also scrutinizing the works of the 'old scholars' and original texts and historical reports.

Thus, I believe that the nature of humanity demands that there will always be a sort of clergy, but I do not believe that it necessarily be rigid and confined to the historical, traditional and orthodox. This, of course, necessitates an atmosphere of mutual respect, cooperation, and of course agreeing to disagree.

My understanding of the institution of the mar'je is that you have a form of 'peer evaluation and recognition'.

And to my admittedly limited knowledge it appears to be more 'rigorous' than that found in secular universities.

By rigorous I mean that not only are the intellectual credentials of the individuals tested, but also their moral and religious ones as well and moreover a position of leadership only comes after years of having demonstrated these credentials.

The university route on the other hand is far more easy going IMHO when it comes to the moral/spiritual/religious adherence issues. And to that end I'll read what these people have to say, but cannot attach as much credibility to what these people have to say as I do to the traditional ulema.

Religion, in my opinion, is different to other intellectual endeavours in the sense that personal practice is an important aspect of the overall individual and I think the example of the Shia Imams (a.s.) is an important exemplar.

I get the impression that there is a movement to encourage secular university study of religion as a means of providing an alternative intellectual basis for religious thought (and guidance?).

And to that extent I wonder about the motivations of the people who promote this and whether their goal is to undermine a source of leadership and one that has been a challenge to corrupt leaders over many centuries.

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You are right to say that to become a master at the hawza requires far more work and labor than in the 'secular' universities. However, I would say that any human institution has its limitations, even the marja'iyyah. The nature of a clerical order is conservatism, traditionalism and stagnation. Of course, I do not suggest that all of our clergy are like that, and some of the best research, or most, is done by them.

When you mention the ethical and religious tradition, adab, of the hawza and its relative absence in the universities, you are absolutely right. The clergy are relatively successful in living the teachings and traditions whereas it definitely seems the university intellectuals have not done as well in this regard. However, this again has its positive and negative effects. The adab itself may lead to stagnation of the instituation, which will be particularly harmful if it prevents criticism and review of wrong doctrines, or it will lead to the superb defense of the truth.

I don't think there is a 'movement' behind the university research of matters religious, as it is a natural consequence of their ethos of free thought, study and inquiry. However, it may be a consequence of this that less look to the clergy for guidance; but, I do not think it will reach the level where maraje lose their importance. Rather, in a hopefully dynamic dialog, each institution will be mutually benefited and strengthened.

Wondering about motivations... how many ills have we fallen into due to this so innocent pondering? Anyway, it should not be a competition for power, but it may turn out like that and it would be unfortunate. What is certain, however, is that the study of matters religious and spiritual at the universities will only grow. If the clergy are smart, they will join this and take part in it, and this is what many of them have done.

Edited by Cyan_Garamond

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You are right to say that to become a master at the hawza requires far more work and labor than in the 'secular' universities. However, I would say that any human institution has its limitations, even the marja'iyyah. The nature of a clerical order is conservatism, traditionalism and stagnation. Of course, I do not suggest that all of our clergy are like that, and some of the best research, or most, is done by them.

When you mention the ethical and religious tradition, adab, of the hawza and its relative absence in the universities, you are absolutely right. The clergy are relatively successful in living the teachings and traditions whereas it definitely seems the university intellectuals have not done as well in this regard. However, this again has its positive and negative effects. The adab itself may lead to stagnation of the instituation, which will be particularly harmful if it prevents criticism and review of wrong doctrines, or it will lead to the superb defense of the truth.

Well this is the key issue isn't it?

Who decides what the wrong doctrines are?

I posted this on another Shiachat forum earlier this year:

I was reading the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion last night, specifically an article called, 'Islamic Feminism in Iran' 22.2 (2006) 33–53 by Fereshteh Ahmadi, when I came across this, I should point out that I am posting it here for discussion and don't agree with it:

Soroush’s main thesis has been that there are essentials (zati) in Islam that cannot be changed. Essentials of Islam are elements without which Islam is not Islam. There are yet others, which he calls “accidentals” (arazi), that are the results of the special time and place when Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, was born and socialized.21 In a 1996 interview with British Muslim weekly Q-News

International, he asserted that “all history is contingent, including the history of Islam. My criterion for separating the essentials and accidentals of religion is the knowledge that things could have been otherwise. Things that could have happened otherwise are accidentals. For example, tawheed (oneness of God) is an essential because it could not have been otherwise.”22 According to Soroush, it was an accidental of history that the prophet was born in Arabia and therefore the language of Islam is Arabic, something that according to Soroush significantly shaped the conceptual framework of the Qur’an.23

http://www.shiachat.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=234938282

If Soroush is not getting clearance for his ideas from the mar'je, then to my mind this is nothing short of saying to a group of people (women), 'the existing power structure 'disadvantages' you, we have an alternative set of principles, couched in philosophical language. Follow us instead'.

For all their self-promotion in terms of 'new thinking' - these people are followers, except they follow an agenda developed in the West.

Ultimately what these people will do is to promote whatever the latest socio-economic-political fashion is in the West amongst Muslims and dress it up as 'modernising Islam'.

And the people who are promoting these people are the same ones who, in a previous period promoted Ba'haism, Ahmedism, Wahhabism and Ismailism.

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This is your view, and it has strong grounds; but, let us also assume the best for argument's sake. I have never understood the Quran or Islam to really 'promote' clergy, rather it realizes the creation of God as being heterogeneous--not everyone is the same. The Quran says let those inclined towards gaining wisdom and knowledge of religion/science step forward ('a group of you') to master these sciences and teaching them to the rest. Therefore, it seems to recognize the inherent reality of the nature of humanity; but, depending on how you look at it, it either supports clergy or merely accepts it as the natural trend.

Let's say if somehow the clerical institution was destroyed, well there would still naturally exist men and women inclined towards matters religious and spiritual and they would still seek this kind of knowledge. If say the universities, colleges and institutes had religious/spiritual sciences departments. Then, there would develop a new kind of clergy of those so inclined and proficient.

However, one argument can be: Is the nature of the clergy rigid? I would say no, it is inevitably in flux. One factor is the chains of mastership/apprenticeship since the times of the Holy Infallibles (as) and even before. On the other hand, it also cannot be denied that many scholars based mainly in the universities, east and west, are engaging in new kinds of research and new angles of analysis that may not have been so much expounded upon by the traditional seminary-based scholars. The interesting thing here, of course, is that these 'new scholars' are also scrutinizing the works of the 'old scholars' and original texts and historical reports.

Thus, I believe that the nature of humanity demands that there will always be a sort of clergy, but I do not believe that it necessarily be rigid and confined to the historical, traditional and orthodox. This, of course, necessitates an atmosphere of mutual respect, cooperation, and of course agreeing to disagree.

Agreed. But the thing is, I never advocated the removal of clergy; what I am saying is this; we need to have an educated class; the Catholics have Jesuit's, Jews have Rabbi's, and we have Clergy - but at the same time, we need to take their advice as being nothing more than advice from a human. A very well educated human, but nothing more than that. To go around, like I see some here do, and claim that these people are some how infallible, I can't think of a more flagrant example of idolatry (or shirk if one were to push the limit) if I ever saw one.

We get advice, we look at all the evidence, we simmer all the evidence down till we have what ever is left. Then it is up to us to take that conclusion and either follow it or ignore it.

As for 'changing' - sorry, religions change, morph and evolve. To some how think that Islam hasn't changed in 1400 - that is a pretty big claim to make. I'm sure even the most conservative person wouldn't be so stupid as to claim Islam hasn't evolved from a small egalitarian group of people finding the truth to what we see today, a giant monolithic juggernaut with various factions claiming to have the truth and decry anyone outside their click as being heresy or 'innovators' (if I ever hear a fellow Muslim use that term, I'll scream, I truly will).

Edited by Jalal

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Agreed. But the thing is, I never advocated the removal of clergy; what I am saying is this; we need to have an educated class; the Catholics have Jesuit's, Jews have Rabbi's, and we have Clergy - but at the same time, we need to take their advice as being nothing more than advice from a human. A very well educated human, but nothing more than that. To go around, like I see some here do, and claim that these people are some how infallible, I can't think of a more flagrant example of idolatry (or shirk if one were to push the limit) if I ever saw one.

I don't think anyone is saying the ulama are infallible. I acknowledge completely that my marja' is a human being. However, I also acknowledge that he knows a whole ton more about religion than I do.

There is a saying - the more you know, the more you realize you don't now. Reading a few books is not the same as dedicating your life to studying religion in depth. There is a vast quantity of Islamic scholarship out there that higher scholars have studied.

It's like someone who has a PhD in physics versus a high school student who's just read a few popular books about it - who knows more about it?

Like I said, I would never hesitate to ask a scholar the reason WHY he (or she) was saying something. It's not an issue of automatically we must trust them because of some position. But, in the case of the marja' I follow, I do have confidence that he is educated enough in his field (much more than I am, even though I do know a fair amount about my religion and its history and development) to give me the best answers.

It's like going to a doctor - we may know some things about health, but we trust their judgement due to their education.

Additionally, within Islam, we have a lot of hadith warning us not to make guesses about religion and to consult people with knowledge. ("Ulama", I suppose, is a vague word, because it means "knowledgable people", not necessarily "professional clergymen", although nowdays it has come to mean both) For instance, the Prophet condemned people who interpret the Qur'an according to their own whims. We are always advised not to guess but to learn things from people who have knowlege about them. Indeed, this is the basis of the Shi'a distinction - we referred our questions to the Imams after the Prophet because they had this level of knowledge and were able to offer guidance. In the absence of the Imams, we consult people who have a high level of education in the teachings of the Imams.

You mentioned the book "La yahduruhu al faqeeh". What does "La yahduruhu al faqeeh" mean, after all? It is the book for someone who does not have an expert in religion next to him and therefore requires guidance. So we are supossed to seek knowledge from sound sources, not make our own guesses. This is a principle of our religion.

As for 'changing' - sorry, religions change, morph and evolve. To some how think that Islam hasn't changed in 1400 - that is a pretty big claim to make. I'm sure even the most conservative person wouldn't be so stupid as to claim Islam hasn't evolved from a small egalitarian group of people finding the truth to what we see today, a giant monolithic juggernaut with various factions claiming to have the truth and decry anyone outside their click as being heresy or 'innovators' (if I ever hear a fellow Muslim use that term, I'll scream, I truly will).

It depends on what you define "Islam" as.

"Islam" as a sociocultural phenomenon has definitely changed and evolved. When Islam is discussed by non-Muslims, it's usually discussed in a cultural context - with pictures of camels, Arabic script, certain styles of clothing, foods commonly eaten in the Islamic world, Eid celebration customs, architecture, maybe the Taj Mahal and famous mosques, etc.

That's the human version of Islam.

Islamic scholarship and thought has also developed - particularly in response to contemporary challenges over the centuries - and in response to meeting new ideologies. In that regard, you can say that our understanding of our our application of religious principles has changed.

However, the essential basis of Islam has not changed. The Holy Qur'an has not changed. What the Prophet and Imams said is what they said. The principles and the message are still the same. A hadith (that I saw cited recently here somewhere) says: "The children of Adam are like the teeth of a comb. They are the same and will be the same till the Day of Judgement." Meaning, while human society changes, human nature doesn't. We can read ancient literature from any culture and see ourselves in it. The essence of the human being has not changed. And, therefore, the essence of the message has not changed.

Edited by BintAlHoda

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Read, read, read, read, read, read and make our own personal judgement based on all the information we have at our disposal.

Its the idea of making a religion a private matter thus the responsibility for what we can and can't do in a religious sense falls on the shoulders of the individual, thus pulls away the possibility of clergy exploiting their role as givers of legal advice.

That is the basic cornerstone of the Protestant reformation, the decentralisation of the religion away from clergy and onto lay people, and the father (being the head of the house hold) taking on the responsibility of being the teacher to the family of religious matters.

There are some books on the matter I'm sure in libraries; the benefit to Islam with that approach, clergy could no longer exploit their position, and sectarianism would become a thing of the past because there would be no 'groups', just families and individuals within the larger Muslim community practising Islam.

DISCLAIMER: i'm not 100% taqlid kinda guy, more like a 80%-90% ;p

hmm...why not doing that for your own medical affairs? don't give your health to doctors, just read & decide! :)

imho, that's why we have specialists, because it's not possible for you to know everything

but if you find your marja made some strange fatwa & you begin to question his ijtihad method, you can:

- change marja (analogy: change doctor if you're not confident with your current one)

- if you fulfill the qualifications, derive the law by yourself (analogy: be the doctor if you can)

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It is a good question. Maybe you should make a poll.

My assumption is that most reverts would prefer the most liberal Marja'. In that case most would

follow Fadlullah, Saanei or Jannaati.

http://english.bayynat.org.lb/

http://www.saanei.org/index.php?lang=en

http://www.jannaati.com/eng/index.php

There have been discussions here about Tab'eed. Ease of rulings is indeed a valid criteria of taqleed when the most knowledgeable Marja' is not known or knowable.

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It is a good question. Maybe you should make a poll.

My assumption is that most reverts would prefer the most liberal Marja'. In that case most would

follow Fadlullah, Saanei or Jannaati.

http://english.bayynat.org.lb/

http://www.saanei.org/index.php?lang=en

http://www.jannaati.com/eng/index.php

There have been discussions here about Tab'eed. Ease of rulings is indeed a valid criteria of taqleed when the most knowledgeable Marja' is not known or knowable.

Yeah, whether he is ultimately the best or not, I don't know, but I would probably recommend to any convert (sorry, that term revert really gets on my nerves) I met to at least start off with Fadlallah. On the fundamentals, his judgements are more or less the same, but his attention to contemporary issues and his experience within the multi-denominational environment of Lebanon makes him a little easier probably for new Muslims to connect to. If the person then wants to follow someone more conservative later, he or she can do so.

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Guest fatima2003

so who are the conservative choices.....

i find these peopel extremely liberal and do not know any other choices......

(you can all say this makes me strange....lol... I know i am, but i am exceedingly conservative)

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Guest fatima2003

i dont think it would require a statistical database to answer my quesiotn sister... i am asking those who have perhaps had some experience with another choice that they found to be more conservative....

lol.. there , i disagreed with you.... :o

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Dayem

My post wasn't directed at you. It was directed at the Original Poster. The response to the original question requires a statistical database. Even the Maraj'e kiraam themselves are not aware who all follow them, let alone how many among the followers are reverts.

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most first generation muslims initially choose a marja' based on the ability to access that marja's teachings in a language that they are fluent in. so if they speak english it is unlikely they would choose saanei or jannati.

secondary factors are usually who everyone else follow around them and ideological reasons (such as wilayat al faqih or sayed fadhlullah's stances)

if they are concerned about being "liberal", they probably won't bother to follow a marja' at all.

i imagine some people would find it insulting that a certain group of people would chose a "liberal" person while others would not - no offense intended to the specified ayatullahs

if someone is seriously interested in this question (for some reason) it is better not to make assumptions and just to ask someone.

It is a good question. Maybe you should make a poll.

My assumption is that most reverts would prefer the most liberal Marja'. In that case most would

follow Fadlullah, Saanei or Jannaati.

http://english.bayynat.org.lb/

http://www.saanei.org/index.php?lang=en

http://www.jannaati.com/eng/index.php

There have been discussions here about Tab'eed. Ease of rulings is indeed a valid criteria of taqleed when the most knowledgeable Marja' is not known or knowable.

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perhaps we should define liberal and conservative.

by liberal i simply mean easier to follow. for example some marja's say that kafirs are najis.

living in a non-muslim country this is very difficult. imagine living in India and riding a crowded bus while

believing all hindus are najis. pretty tough wouldn't you say? it is like trying to run in the rain and not get wet.

are you saying you'd prefer to follow a marja' with harder ruling? why would anyone want that?

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