Friday, April 18, 2008

religious hierarchies

With the high profile visit of the Pope to the US, I started thinking about the religious hierarchy in Islam. A masjid is run primarly by the Imam and muezzin. The imam is responsible for leading the faithful in prayer while the muezzin calls the faithful to prayers by broadcasting the azan (think of it as church bells except with a human voice). In olden times the muezzin would climb to the top of the masjid's minaret and make his annoucement from there. Now a days thanks to electricity and powerful sound equipment the azan can be broadcasted with a microphone. What's the best placement for the megaphones, the top of the minaret of course! In case of emergencies the muezzin is fully capable of leading prayers.

The imam is basically a religious scholar he has devoted his life to understanding Islam. However he doesn't know everything and people are encouraged to correct him if they find him in error. To this extent every Muslim is required to have some knowledge of his or her faith. The depth and breadth of your knowledge depends on how much time you are willing to put in. However if a person has acquired basic knowledge and is able to pray by himself he can also lead a congregation in prayer. So in that instance a doctor or lawyer or an engineer can play the role of an imam!

I am fascinated by the Catholic Church. At a superficial level I think all those shiny robes and baubles look cool. Something out of Lord of the Rings! From a historical perspective the Church has played a major role in global events. And to this day it is an important player in world politics. I am amazed by how rigorous the church hierarchy is. What does it take to manage all those Cardinals, Bishops, Archbishops spread through out the world? I know the Chinese government took offense at its catholics after they swore allegiance to the Vatican. They feared a state within a state.

Then again they fear all forms of religion including the scant Muslim community who has been living there for centuries close to the China/Pakistan border. At this point I could easily delve in to the fallicies of Communism but then I would have to change the post title and that would be plain silly!
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