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Wednesday, 20 March 2013 00:00

Sunni Islam Should Just Get a Pope

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I am born into the Sunni tradition, where we supposedly don’t allow for a religious hierarchical structure. But all the characteristics, rituals and laws of Sunni Islam point upwards, to an ambiguous testosterone dominated hierarchy. It’s time we call out the many Pope-wanna-bes.

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

*Photo Credit:  james_gordon_losangeles
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+3 # Kelly 2013-03-20 19:28
When I read the title, I was like...oh hell no...then I read the article and was like...couldn't agree more! There ARE so many self-appointed popes in the Sunni world...why not simplify the process so progress might be made? Well, because a monopoly might take hold (more so than is seen today with Saudi, Inc.) and well... Great satire :)
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-1 # mike 2013-03-21 01:17
not pope, caliphate
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2013-03-24 13:47
Who would you pick for caliphate Mike? Or are you playing with the satire?
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+1 # Fazel Subian 2013-03-22 04:27
Understand the purpose of a religion.
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0 # Ramish 2013-03-23 06:46
Utterly useless article....If you there is a problem then you should have given solutions rather the cribbing and writing sarcastically. I wonder why people like are even bother to write.
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+1 # Ani Zonneveld 2013-03-24 13:51
Why is it useless to point out the hypocrisy of our Muslim communities? We actually do have solutions and in our progressive Muslim communities we don't have an official Imam of the mosque. Everyone who knows how to lead prayer get to do so, like wise with giving khutbah, doing the azan.

What's your solution?
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0 # joel 2013-06-19 03:22
Actually i have been thinking the same thing for yrs, glad to see others share my views. In fact i am a longtime convert and soldier in the U.S army, when it really hit me was not long ago after explaining to a few fellow soldiers the difference between taliban and my views ( sucks that i constantly have to explain this) it hit me one day the similarity with the old catholic church with their religious laws and hierarchy, canoon language, established ritualistic worship, ect... This also made me think of the dire need of a muslim martin luther who is not afraid to challenge the "official" Islam. Why not call athan or pray in our own languages? Who says i need to trust abu huraira just because bukhari did?
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