The doors of ijtihad is closed said the scholars of the Abbāsids (reigned 750–1258). How convenient. They were paid Islamic scholars, interpreting ‘their’ sharia into a law that upheld their power and then essentially declared “you Muslims, no matter what the Quran dictates, are no longer allowed to think and interpret Islam for yourself.” Sad thing is, most Muslims bought into that snake oil salesmanship. Why? Because people love hierarchy. It is just so much easier to let someone else decide for you what is right and what is wrong. It is simpler to just follow along.
This past week we saw the anointment of the new Pope in the Catholic faith. The tradition of sequestering a small elite group of men to decide who the next Catholic leader will be is an ancient tradition. This reminded me a lot of the sequestering of the elite from which a new Muslim leader was ‘voted’ in upon the death of Prophet Muhammad. Now I’m sure the companions of the Prophet were qualified men; but, regardless, the similarity in the selection process is remarkably similar- all very secret and all male.
Another similarity: there are a group of American nuns in the Catholic Church who are defying the official interpretation and orders of its patriarchal system. The nuns support for the ordination of women as priests has brought on an “inquisition” from the Vatican. Much like we Muslim women here in the U.S. (and Canada), we women are leading co-ed congregations in prayer and suffering from an unofficial “inquisition” from the Pope-wanna-be of the Muslim faith. The nuns want a seat at the table, they want equality, and they no longer accept their second-class status. It all sounds just like the demands of (some) Sunni women doesn’t it?
The Sunni Pope-wanna-be are everywhere. They even go so far as to conflate obedience to the husband with that of obedience to God. As such, over the centuries they see themselves as God, dictating and judging whose prayers are accepted, who is Muslim enough, and forging a ‘lord-like’ persona for themselves. Muslim women have bought into the Pope-wanna-be franchise, even smart Muslim women. Look at the success of the “Obedient Wives Club”, which started in Malaysia but has now moved its headquarters to….? You guessed it, Saudi Arabia!
God in Islam has become the misogynist man according to the Pope-wanna-be, “because we said so”- and the doors of ijtihad are closed.
Since our current belief system already defies the teachings of the Quran why don’t we stop pretending and be honest - why don’t we just go ahead and appoint a Pope. At least there would be ONE man responsible for a new ijtihad, one that reflects the 21 century, one we can lobby for a pluralistic and inclusive Islam, one who can wave his magic wand and, just like that, all the suicide bombings would end, all the Shia-Sunni killings would cease, no more female genital mutilation and …the list goes on and on...
If you’re the ijtihadi type, please watch this collection of interviews of 21st Century Muslims advocating for a 21st Century interpretation of Islam – Ijtihad: Feminism and Reform.
By Ani Zonneveld, Aslan Media Columnist