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Candela

Muslim/islam Vs Social Class

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(salam)

I was wondering what your observations are when it comes to the correlation between religiousness and what social layer someone belongs to? The term religiousness is pretty fuzzy here I admitt, but what I mean is more of the outward characteristics that you'd be able to "measure". Eg. my observations have been that in my particular community, the bulk of practising Muslims are mostly from the lower social classes (less educated, socioeconomic status weaker etc.) whereas among people I meet in uni/medical collegues and proffessionals etc. mostly are secular (there were some genuinely interested in Islam and it's practise, but I still felt they probably differ in their view of Islam as those few were very knowledgeable and progressive at the same time). This is an extremely limited observation from my part, so it says absolutely nothing and I'm fully aware. But I couldn't help feeling like Islam looked a bit different among the different social classes somehow (from the little I have seen, I have to stress little). What are your observations?

Edited by Candela

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I made the same observations but reached different conclusions.

I think the level of personal piety is equally distributed but the "religious crowds" are dominated by less educated/working class people. This goes back to the quality of the clergy - they used to be the most educated 100 years ago, but they are among the least educated today and most of them don't have the ability to speak in a way that's appealing to people from academic backgrounds (e.g. alot of supersticioun, supernatural stories, emotions, etc).

There are some exceptions to the rule, but this is the general image.

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I made the same observations but reached different conclusions.

I think the level of personal piety is equally distributed but the "religious crowds" are dominated by less educated/working class people. This goes back to the quality of the clergy - they used to be the most educated 100 years ago, but they are among the least educated today and most of them don't have the ability to speak in a way that's appealing to people from academic backgrounds (e.g. alot of supersticioun, supernatural stories, emotions, etc).

There are some exceptions to the rule, but this is the general image.

Are we talking about the Najaf/Qom educated clerics, or the run of the mill cleric?

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Anyone in marketing can tell you that it's the lower class, less educated that are typically found to be more religious and adherent to their faith (regardless to how 'logical' their particular faith is or not). I'm not at home, otherwise I'd provide some academic references. Just take a closer look at commercials though and try to determine who their target audience is - typically the ones that are more familial, religious, and nationalistic are meant for the lower class/less educated.

But, to my great surprise, the majority of Shias that I've met since reverting tend to be very educated and knowledgable, which to me indicates that Shiism appeals to our logic and works in synthesis with our brains and intellect, and not against it, unlike many other religions (a HUGE reason why I reverted).

Edited by sukaina_08

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Are we talking about the Najaf/Qom educated clerics, or the run of the mill cleric?

I don't know what run of the mill cleric is? I'm talking about clerics that have undergone formal education in a theological seminary, not villagers who assume the role of a spiritual leader.

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I don't know what run of the mill cleric is? I'm talking about clerics that have undergone formal education in a theological seminary, not villagers who assume the role of a spiritual leader.

By run of the mill cleric, I mean one that has been educated in the seminaries that have been funded by certain interest groups with the intent of producing clerics that have motives other than spiritual (ie, cultural, or preserving class divisions).

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I think there are several things going on:

* the aftereffects of colonialism

* the cultural impact of Western media for those who can have afford a more consumeristic lifestyle

* the fact that, for the past couple centuries, many Muslims did do backwards things in the name of Islam. For instance, not educating women, denying women choices in their own lives, using religion to promote social injustice or the advantage of one group/class, etc. Of course, someone who is educated about what Islam really says knows this is wrong. But some people perhaps recognized that these thigns were wrong and that they did need to progress socially, educate their daughters, etc, but they did not how to do it in the context of religion so they turned to secularism instead

* the universities are usually run by secularly minded people, so they encourage the students to be secular; it is a self perpetuating system

* critical thinking and questioning about religion has been discouraged

I agree about the lack of scholarship as well although of course we have some notable exceptions and some scholars who were very outstanding over this past century who really moved us forward. And I think in general there is a good tradition of Shia scholarship and we can find many rational Shia scholars who can at least defend our belief, most likely b/c if nothign else they have to 'prove' it against Sunnism. But perhaps they were not always communicating with the public well and just repeated the same simple things over and over again which discourages people from listening to them because it's like 'I've already heard this before a milion times

Anyway you look at a lot of people who are of Muslim descent and who are Muslim by name but who have become 'secularized'... are they at peace with themselves or happy? Almost all of the ones I have met are not; they have seemed lost and confused and like they are trying different things to find their way in life, sometimes involving alcohol, sometimes 'new age spirituality', sometimes different relationships, sometimes materialism. It is really sad.

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(salam)

I was wondering what your observations are when it comes to the correlation between religiousness and what social layer someone belongs to? The term religiousness is pretty fuzzy here I admitt, but what I mean is more of the outward characteristics that you'd be able to "measure". Eg. my observations have been that in my particular community, the bulk of practising Muslims are mostly from the lower social classes (less educated, socioeconomic status weaker etc.) whereas among people I meet in uni/medical collegues and proffessionals etc. mostly are secular (there were some genuinely interested in Islam and it's practise, but I still felt they probably differ in their view of Islam as those few were very knowledgeable and progressive at the same time). This is an extremely limited observation from my part, so it says absolutely nothing and I'm fully aware. But I couldn't help feeling like Islam looked a bit different among the different social classes somehow (from the little I have seen, I have to stress little). What are your observations?

Most muslims come from countries in which the lower classes vastly outnumber the middle and upper classes and when coming to the west, that difference - though often tempered, usually still exists. So even if the middle-higher classes had a greater proportion of religious people, the weight of the majority lower classes would likely skew your perceptions. IMO, the difference is there (with the lower classes being more religious) but probably not as great as might seem prima facie.

Education is probably the most important factor in this. A rigorous education forces a person to challange their views and become much more critical about ideas presented to them. They also have a much more plauralistic exposure to ideas and beliefs, and this tempers their convictions. Conversely, those not receiving a strong education will have less resistance to accepting superstitious ideas, or ideas with less evidence or weaker foundations. Tied closely with this, is social interaction. The lower classes tend to be ghotto-ised, sealing themselves off from the other, and consequently adding to their monochromic view of the world. It is much easier to accept cultural or religious dogma when it is the accepted norm in your community, and much harder to challange it also.

The above is the reason why here in the UK people talk about education and social integration (ie breaking down ghetto-ised communities) as a means to combat religious extremism.

I think Waiting touches an important point also - that modern clerics on the whole don't speak to the middle/upper classes enough. To do so, there probably needs to be a disruptive change in clerical training, in order to cope with the different profile of the modern muslim. It probably is the case that an occidental education should proceed seminary education so that clerics are familar with the level of rigour expected of them. In my personal experience, I have found that the most effective religious authorities - lpeople ike Sheikh Mohammad Bahmanpour (who studied at the LSE) and Tim Winter (a Sunni at Cambridge University) are the ones who have this dual experience and are on the same wavelength as the rest of us. The problem is, that change usually comes very slowly in ancient institutions like religious seminaries, and is always met with undue resistance.

In the case of religion - whether for better or worse - the gullibility of the masses makes them receptive. Believing in angels, devils, people walking on water and raising the dead, should be met with the same degree of skeptisim as cinderella's pumpkin turnining into a horse-drawn carriage. If the case is not presented strongly enough to them, that's when the middle/higher classes rebel against it - because they don't have the time to do their own research - they expect it to be given to them on a plate.

The people on this website are a non-respresentative group - they have taken a particular interest in religion and typically, have spent a great deal of time investigating the arguments for it and thinking about it. So on here, you'll probably find a large proportion of highly educated people who have gone to the effort of justifying their beliefs.

Also, my personal experiecne is different to yours. My group of friends are all higly educated middle-higher class young professional and (ostensibly) religious, sunni and shia, and multi-ethnic.

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Most muslims come from countries in which the lower classes vastly outnumber the middle and upper classes and when coming to the west, that difference - though often tempered, usually still exists.

Exactly, I was thinking the same way- and in my particular community this factor skews things, of course it doesn't hold in general or anything but can be more or less accentuated depending on context. Particularly the part about ghetto-isation is very evident in some parts of the communities etc., to me it seemed many follow Islam pretty much due to their environment in that case, because it's their little "bubble". Feels like Islam looks quite different there and compared to where people are more intergrated, at least that's how I saw things.

The people on this website are a non-respresentative group - they have taken a particular interest in religion and typically, have spent a great deal of time investigating the arguments for it and thinking about it. So on here, you'll probably find a large proportion of highly educated people who have gone to the effort of justifying their beliefs.
Yeah this place reminds more of people one would meet at religious organizations etc., it doesn't represent the mass at all.
This goes back to the quality of the clergy - they used to be the most educated 100 years ago, but they are among the least educated today and most of them don't have the ability to speak in a way that's appealing to people from academic backgrounds (e.g. alot of supersticioun, supernatural stories, emotions, etc).
This is very interesting, we can all agree that a change in this area probably would attract the more educated possibly -but at the same time I always think of the more educated as those who'd be more eager to discover things for themselves regardless of whether the clerics are on their wavelengths or not. In any case, it's sad to see that clerics are not viewed highly by some and also that the whole concept of being a cleric isn't seen as being highly educated/academic like they way it was before (many call clerics "mullahs" etc. in a comic way...), when this is one of the most valuable things one could have as an occupation!
Anyway you look at a lot of people who are of Muslim descent and who are Muslim by name but who have become 'secularized'... are they at peace with themselves or happy? Almost all of the ones I have met are not; they have seemed lost and confused and like they are trying different things to find their way in life, sometimes involving alcohol, sometimes 'new age spirituality', sometimes different relationships, sometimes materialism. It is really sad.

It is sad indeed. But at the same time not all that would seen as 'secularized' are the same, many are quite reasonable in that they have reached what they think "works" for them -it isn't a homogenous group. I saw the exact opposite, but again what I see as secularized and what you see as secularized can differ of course.

WS

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I think poor people have more religious and moral values. Most of the people who get worldly education are materialistice. Basic purpose of education for them is not the development of their thinking and awareness about how to lead life but mostly materialistice. Therefore, most of the people you say who are highly educated and qualified are secular and not so much religious. One more thing is that is difficult to convince them about religion and religious practices like i know a Doctor who says that Namaz is only a teaching of punctuality and has no importance more than this. I do not agree with them rather i believe this is Kalima e Kufr but they have manouvered the religious views according to their worldly needs. Their education is also based on worldly needs and desires and not for the nourishment of their souls. In such like circumstances seeing poor and middle calss people more religious than elite or high class of society is not a thing which can not be expected.

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I think poor people have more religious and moral values. Most of the people who get worldly education are materialistice.

I tend to strongly disagree. It really has to do with the person's basic core regardless of social context/religion/ethnicity/whatever. If those poor people are only religious because they lack the means that the middle-class has it means they'd change to the materialistic ways as you put it (ie. more immoral I suppose you mean), as soon as they'd get those resources as well -and that's not my definition of piety exactly.

Basic purpose of education for them is not the development of their thinking and awareness about how to lead life but mostly materialistice. Therefore, most of the people you say who are highly educated and qualified are secular and not so much religious.

Actually I always want to think academic studies are about development, and that has been my experience for the most part at least. I think honestly one cannot group everyone who seems secular (from the outside) as someone less "religious". Sure maybe if we would plot measurable religious traits, degree of ritual practise or sth like that against population based on class-belongings, maybe we'd then possibly get higher values from the lower social layers -but again piety/morals is not exactly sth you can assess analogously. Furthermore, the very aim of higher education is to be critical and question things (otherwise the areas of knowledge would never progress) so of course there are differences in the mentality of academics compared to someone who's never been exposed to those ideas ever(and yes consequently you would need to work harder to convince them about anything, religious dogmas included). However, it does not mean in any case one can draw such general conclusions about the expected level of morals/piety based on education/class-belongings. Personally I strongly believe knowledge is always good, even if it makes the world a bit less stable and bit more "rocky" beneath your feet, and I will always defend knowledge- seeking because I strongly believe it will only provide more proof of what Islam teaches. This is the only way to progress, what would the alternatives be?

Ws

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I'm trying to limit my SC time right now since I have loads to do but I could not resist responding to at least this one.

From my experience, I think that less educated parts of society tend to be more culturally religious while more educated parts of society tend to be truly religious without the cultural aspects distorting it. The reason: knowledge enlightens. I know plenty of religious doctors and rich businessmen and upperclass people that spend their time and money on things like going for hajj multiple times or helping less fortunate members of our community (and I came to know of this not because these people publicize their acts of charity but through other means). When I see the less educated, culturally religious people, I see people who do not do hijab but then cry during Muharram over the hijabs being snatched. These culturally religious people will hold majlises but then have dancing at mixed weddings.

Now, I am not looking down on less educated people-- there are some very respected members of our community that lack formal education who have surprised me with their ability to distinguish between culture and religion. This is not a rule of thumb, of course, but these are the general trends that I see.

Edited by BabyBeaverIsAKit

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I think poor people have more religious and moral values. Most of the people who get worldly education are materialistice. Basic purpose of education for them is not the development of their thinking and awareness about how to lead life but mostly materialistice. Therefore, most of the people you say who are highly educated and qualified are secular and not so much religious. One more thing is that is difficult to convince them about religion and religious practices like i know a Doctor who says that Namaz is only a teaching of punctuality and has no importance more than this. I do not agree with them rather i believe this is Kalima e Kufr but they have manouvered the religious views according to their worldly needs. Their education is also based on worldly needs and desires and not for the nourishment of their souls. In such like circumstances seeing poor and middle calss people more religious than elite or high class of society is not a thing which can not be expected.

Education does not equal materialism. If people equate the two, that is dangerous because that gives people an excuse not to get educated. Mashallah, however, nowadays many people in our communities are getting educated, even those from less educated family backgrounds.

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I'm trying to limit my SC time right now since I have loads to do but I could not resist responding to at least this one.

From my experience, I think that less educated parts of society tend to be more culturally religious while more educated parts of society tend to be truly religious without the cultural aspects distorting it. The reason: knowledge enlightens. I know plenty of religious doctors and rich businessmen and upperclass people that spend their time and money on things like going for hajj multiple times or helping less fortunate members of our community (and I came to know of this not because these people publicize their acts of charity but through other means). When I see the less educated, culturally religious people, I see people who do not do hijab but then cry during Muharram over the hijabs being snatched. These culturally religious people will hold majlises but then have dancing at mixed weddings.

Now, I am not looking down on less educated people-- there are some very respected members of our community that lack formal education who have surprised me with their ability to distinguish between culture and religion. This is not a rule of thumb, of course, but these are the general trends that I see.

Education does not equal materialism. If people equate the two, that is dangerous because that gives people an excuse not to get educated. Mashallah, however, nowadays many people in our communities are getting educated, even those from less educated family backgrounds.

i dunno what im tryin to say, but i couldn't agree with u more

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A rigorous education forces a person to challange their views and become much more critical about ideas presented to them. They also have a much more plauralistic exposure to ideas and beliefs, and this tempers their convictions. Conversely, those not receiving a strong education will have less resistance to accepting superstitious ideas, or ideas with less evidence or weaker foundations. (It is) easier to accept cultural or religious dogma when it is the accepted norm in your community, and much harder to challange it also.

Although I don't disagree with the substance of the quote, the subtext of it demonstrates something important to the discussion.

This quote probably comes from a person who was educated in the western, secular educational system (most likely in the U.S.). In this system a "rigorous education" means exposure to the "scientific method", the specific flavor of which (in the west) means that empirical evidence is universally accepted and non-empirical evidence (i.e., rationional but non-material) is relagated to the "soft" sciences (such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, religious studies, etc.) This materialist paradigm dictates what is considered a "rigourous" and "non-rigourous" education in most Western Universities that receive government grants.

"Pluralistic explosure" means that moral judgements are irrelvant to learning and general knolwedge. Morality is seen as a specific discipline within the "soft science" of the Religious Studies or Ethics departments.

"tempering convictions" means that morality plays the "second fiddle". The person is encourged to avoid moral and ethical discrimination when observing the world. Rather, one should observe the world and draw conclusions about it much as a person who walks through the Louv're in Paris (i.e., not making moral judgements about what is presented, but rather, to appreciate the works for their "unique beauty).

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