All institutions have flaws and are susceptible to corruption because they are run by humans who also happen to be flawed and susceptible to corruption. Religious institutions are no different. But sometimes people within the institution think they are. These people feel untouchable and can be very resistant to change and criticism. But these are precisely the people choking the true spirit of Islam. I’ve been to many religious lectures over the years, and although there are some excellent scholars out there, the number of stupid sermons I’ve sat through are too many to remember. These are the deadly mistakes that sheikhs make that in turn damage Islam in the eyes of many young men and women.
1- Dumbing down sermons.
‘Dumbing down’ suggests that they’re doing it on purpose (this is me giving them some friendly benefit of the doubt even though I know there are many sheikhs who are simply ignorant). Every time I’ve complained about the structure-less, research-less, logic-less nature of a sermon, I tend to get the reply that sheikhs do this for the benefit of the general public because a large number of those listening wouldn’t be able to grasp something more complex. Not only is insulting people’s intelligence simply rude and unhelpful, there’s a difference between a basic sermon and one that waffles , goes no where or spews information that simply isn’t true. This brings me to my second point.
2-Indulging superstitions and historical inaccuracies
Yes, people they exist. Islamic historical sources have many inaccuracies and this includes many hadiths. The big scholars understand this and through research try to weed these out. But there are other sheikhs who do the exact opposite, reciting false historical events with full knowledge of the exaggerations. And when confronted about this, the answer I tend to get is: ‘it’s become the cultural and ritualistic norm to recite events in this way. It’s what people expect.’ Or worse: ‘if we tell them these things aren’t true, it might really shake their faith.’
So instead of enlightening the masses, they indulge their superstitions. Great.
3-Resistant to and suspicious of change
Every time someone new suggests a reinterpretation of a certain aspect of Islam, people go bonkers.
'You're twisting the religion.' Bla, bla, bla.
Not only do sheikhs do this, but regular people do it too. It’s as if Islam is a muffin from Tesco with all the ingredients clearly defined at the back and this person suddenly wants to change the recipe. Ask any Muslim and they will be quick to tell you that they believe Islam to be perfect. But the catch is that without an infallible human interpreting scripture and all the historical sources for us, what we have today is our fallible interpretation of Islam. The key word here is fallible. Fallible. Fallible. Excuse the metaphor but there is no clear recipe on how to do everything perfectly in Islam. We’re all trying to recreate that perfect muffin that really only existed while the Prophet pbuh was still alive. And by that I mean that only during the Prophet’s life could we be sure without a hint of doubt if it is ‘Islamic’ to do x y or z because someone could simply ask him.
But we unfortunately don’t have that luxury. This means that the one thing we know for sure is that we are definitely making mistakes. Scholars and sheikhs do their best, but they are fallible humans and there is no way that all the different versions of Islam -Sunni, Shiite etc. are all 100 percent right/wrong all the time. Certain things- like women praying behind men-may seem non-debatable but what my studies in philosophy and religion have exposed to me is that the deeper you delve into Islam or any religion, the more you realize that very few things are black and white. So scholars should not hold onto archaic principles and more should be done to develop our interpretation of the principles of Islam. Maybe if everyone understood the fallible nature of sheikh preaching, certain individuals would be less inclined to chop someone’s head off if this person doesn’t agree with them. It’s dangerous to give preachers the the level of unquestionable and blind authority that some people do.
More on this will be discussed in part two. Please press like and share if do and leave a comment below on what you think. I appreciate all the support.
Also, I just want to point out that I’m not aiming my criticism at the sheikh in the picture here. I just needed a picture of a sheikh and liked this one. And also of course of course not all sheikhs behave in the way I’ve stated. This is all my opinion and based on my personal experiences.