Mullah

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A mullah praying in Imamzadeh Hamzah, Tabriz. Mollah imamzadeh tabriz.jpg
A mullah praying in Imamzadeh Hamzah, Tabriz.

Mullah ( /ˈmʌlə, ˈmʊlə, ˈmlə/ ; Arabic : ملا, Azerbaijani : Molla, Persian : ملا / Mollâ, Turkish : Molla, Bengali : মোল্লা) is derived from the Arabic word مَوْلَى[ verification needed ]mawlā, meaning "vicar", "master" and "guardian". However, used ambiguously in the Quran, some publishers have described its usage as a religious title as inappropriate. [1] The term is sometimes applied to a Muslim man, educated in Islamic theology and sacred law. In large parts of the Muslim world, particularly Iran, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Eastern Arabia, Turkey and the Balkans, Central Asia, the Horn of Africa and South Asia, it is the name commonly given to local Islamic clerics or mosque leaders. [2]

Azerbaijani language Turkic language

Azerbaijani or Azeri, sometimes also Azeri Turkic or Azeri Turkish, is a term referring to two Turkic lects that are spoken primarily by the Azerbaijanis, who live mainly in Transcaucasia and Iran. Caucasian Azerbaijani and Iranian Azerbaijani have significant differences in phonology, lexicon, morphology, syntax, and loanwords. ISO 639-3 groups the two lects as a "macrolanguage".

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

Turkish language Turkic language (possibly Altaic)

Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.

Contents

The title has also been used in some Sephardic Jewish communities to refer to the community's leadership, especially religious leadership. [3]

The term mullah is primarily understood in the Muslim world as a term of respect for an educated religious man. [4]

Training and duties

Ideally, a trained mullah will have studied Islamic traditions (hadith), and Islamic law (fiqh). Such figures often have memorized the Qur'an. Uneducated villagers may frequently classify a literate Muslim with a less than complete Islamic training as their "mullah" or religious cleric. Mullahs with varying levels of training lead prayers in mosques, deliver religious sermons, and perform religious ceremonies such as birth rites and funeral services. They also often teach in a type of Islamic school known as a madrasah. Three kinds of knowledge are applied most frequently in interpreting Islamic texts (i.e. the Quran, Hadiths, etc.) for matters of Shariah, i.e., Islamic law.

Hadith collections of sayings and teachings of Muhammad

Ḥadīth in Islam are the record of the words, actions, and silent approval, traditionally attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Within Islam the authority of hadith as a source for religious law and moral guidance ranks second only to that of the Quran. Quranic verses enjoin Muslims to emulate Muhammad and obey his judgments, providing scriptural authority for hadith. While the number of verses pertaining to law in the Quran is relatively few, hadiths give direction on everything from details of religious obligations, to the correct forms of salutations and the importance of benevolence to slaves. Thus the "great bulk" of the rules of Sharia are derived from ahadith, rather than the Quran.

Fiqh is Islamic jurisprudence. Fiqh is often described as the human understanding of the sharia, that is human understanding of the divine Islamic law as revealed in the Quran and the Sunnah. Fiqh expands and develops Shariah through interpretation (ijtihad) of the Quran and Sunnah by Islamic jurists (ulama) and is implemented by the rulings (fatwa) of jurists on questions presented to them. Thus, whereas sharia is considered immutable and infallible by Muslims, fiqh is considered fallible and changeable. Fiqh deals with the observance of rituals, morals and social legislation in Islam as well as political system. In the modern era, there are four prominent schools (madh'hab) of fiqh within Sunni practice, plus two within Shi'a practice. A person trained in fiqh is known as a faqīh.

Quran The central religious text of Islam

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God (Allah). It is widely regarded as the finest work in classical Arabic literature. The Quran is divided into chapters, which are subdivided into verses.

Mullahs have frequently been involved in politics, but only recently have they served in positions of power, since Islamists seized power in Iran in 1979. In Syria, political militant groups supported by the West have taken root. The Taliban enforced Islamism in Afghanistan.

Islamism set of ideologies holding that Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life

Islamism is a concept whose meaning has been debated in both public and academic contexts. The term can refer to diverse forms of social and political activism advocating that public and political life should be guided by Islamic principles or more specifically to movements which call for full implementation of sharia. It is commonly used interchangeably with the terms political Islam or Islamic fundamentalism. In academic usage, the term Islamism does not specify what vision of "Islamic order" or sharia are being advocated, or how their advocates intend to bring them about. In Western mass media it tends to refer to groups whose aim is to establish a sharia-based Islamic state, often with implication of violent tactics and human rights violations, and has acquired connotations of political extremism. In the Muslim world, the term has positive connotations among its proponents.

Iranian Revolution Revolution in Iran to overthrow the Shah replace him with Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Iranian Revolution was a series of events that involved the overthrow of the last monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and the replacement of his government with an Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a leader of one of the factions in the revolt. The movement against the United States-backed monarchy was supported by various leftist and Islamist organizations and student movements.

Taliban Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan

The Taliban or Taleban, who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organization in Afghanistan currently waging war within that country. Since 2016, the Taliban's leader is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. The leadership is based in Quetta, Pakistan.

Usage

The term is most often applied to Shi'ite clerics, as Shi'a Islam is the predominant tradition in Iran. However, the term is very common in Urdu, spoken throughout Pakistan, and it is used throughout the Indian subcontinent for any Muslim clergy, Sunni or Shi'a. Muslim clergy in Russia and other former Soviet Republics are also referred to as mullahs, regardless of whether they are Sunni or Shi'a.

Shia Islam group of denominations of Islam which holds that Muhammad designated Ali as his successor and leader (imam), whose adherents form the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain

Shia Islam is one of the two main branches of Islam. It holds that the Islamic prophet Muhammad designated Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor and the Imam (leader) after him, most notably at the event of Ghadir Khumm, but was prevented from the caliphate as a result of the incident at Saqifah. This view primarily contrasts with that of Sunni Islam, whose adherents believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor and consider Abu Bakr, who they claim was appointed Caliph through a Shura, i.e. community consensus in Saqifa, to be the first rightful Caliph after the Prophet.

Pakistan federal parliamentary constitutional republic in South Asia

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s sixth-most populous country with a population exceeding 212,742,631 people. In area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the far northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.

Sunni Islam denomination of Islam

Sunni Islam is the largest denomination of Islam, followed by 75-90% of the world's Muslims, and is arguably the world's largest religious denomination. Its name comes from the word sunnah, referring to the behaviour of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims arose from a disagreement over the succession to Muhammad and subsequently acquired broader political significance, as well as theological and juridical dimensions.

The term has also been used among Persian Jews, Bukharan Jews, Afghan Jews, and other Central Asian Jews to refer to the community's religious and/or secular leadership. In Kaifeng, China, the historic Chinese Jews who managed the synagogue were called "mullahs". [5]

Outside of Eastern Arabia, which has a long Shiite tradition and numerous Shiite minorities, the term is seldom used in other Arabic-speaking areas where its nearest equivalent is often shaykh (implying formal Islamic training), imam (prayer leader; not to be confused with the imams of the Shiite world), or ʿālim ("scholar", plural ʿulamāʾ). In the Sunni world, the concept of "cleric" is of limited usefulness, as authority in the religious system is relatively decentralized.[ citation needed ]

The term is frequently used in English, although English-speaking Muslim clergy rarely call themselves mullahs. It was adopted from Urdu by the British rulers of India and subsequently came into more widespread use.[ citation needed ]

It is sometimes used in a derogatory and humorous form, to mock gnostically religious men.[ citation needed ]

Iran

Until the early 20th century, the term mullah was used in Iranian hawzas (seminaries) to refer to low-level clergy who specialized in telling stories of Ashura, rather than teaching or issuing fatwas. Today, the term is sometimes used as a derogatory term for any Islamic cleric. In recent years, at least among Shia clerics, the term ruhani (spiritual) has been promoted as an alternative to mullah and akhoond , free of pejorative connotations. [6]

Dress

Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. Rafsanjani Khomeini Bazargan.jpg
Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan.

In Iran the usual dress of a mollah is a turban (Persian : عمامهammāme), a long coat with sleeves and buttons, similar to a cassock (Persian : قباqabā), and a long gown or cloak, open at the front (Persian : عباabā). The aba is usually made either of brown wool or of black muslin. It is sleeveless but has holes through which the arms may be inserted. The turban is usually white, but those who claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad traditionally wear a black turban. [7]

See also

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Safavid conversion of Iran to Shia Islam Historical event

The Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunni Islam to Shia Islam took place roughly over the 16th through 18th centuries and made Iran the spiritual bastion of Shia Islam. It also ensured the dominance of the Twelver sect within Shiism over the Zaydiyyah and Ismaili sects – each of whom had previously experienced their own eras of dominance within Shiism. Through their actions, the Safavids reunified Iran as an independent state in 1501 and established Twelver Shiism as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in the history of Islam.

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References

  1. Esposito, John (2004). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. p. 214.
  2. Roy, Olivier (1994). The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 28–9. ISBN   0-674-29140-9.
  3. See for example: "Rabbinic Succession in Bukhara 1790–1930",
  4. Taheri, Amir (1985). The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution. Bethesda, Md.: Adler & Adler. p. 53. ISBN   0-917561-04-X.
  5. Chinese and Japanese repository of facts and events in science, history and art, relating to Eastern Asia, Volume 1. Oxford: s.n. 1863. p. 48. Retrieved 2011-07-06. (Original from the University of Michigan)
  6. Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p. 203
  7. Seyyed Behzad Sa'adati-Nik Tarīkhche-ye Lebās-e Rūhānīat (The History of Clerical Dress). Mehr News, 29 Tir 1394.