By Jamal J. Elias

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On Umar’s death a council was convened to name a successor; it included Ali but was unfairly packed with supporters of Uthman. This ushered in a particulary dark period of oppression and nepotism which the virtuous members of the Islamic community could do little more than bear in silence. Ali’s silence in the face of these unjust transfers of power is explained by his desire to prevent bloodshed and division within the young Islamic community. However, when Uthman passed leadership to his profligate cousin Mucawiya, Ali was forced to intervene at the behest of virtuous members of the community, who repeatedly pleaded with him to deliver them from Mucawiya’s tyrannical rule.

In practice, people frequently ignore the mufti’s opinion if it dis-pleases them, largely because there is no institution that enforces his decision. The office of a judge, that is, someone who presides over a court and has the power of the state and its police to enforce his opinions, is fulfilled by a qadi. Qadis are government officials and are appointed by the rulers. Many faqihs consider government employment to be inappropriate for a scholar of law, because of the temptation to compromise in matters of principle.

The Sufi is expected to repent of all the bad deeds he or she has committed in life and to take a vow to avoid all earthly pleasures. After having repented of the past, the Sufi is supposed to divest him- or herself of earthly belongings, which even include attachments to friends and family. After having done so, Sufis traditionally enter a monastery or convent and devote themselves fully to the difficult task of shedding earthly concerns, In practice, this process of divestment is extremely difficult, often takes a long time, and requires strict, meditational exercises under the directions of a master.

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