Okay, here goes, I’m going to write a lot.
Islamically, there is no hierarchy. In Islam, there is no equivalent to the pope or archbishop. All believers in God are said to be a brotherhood/sisterhood. However, power structures are manifested through the practice of Islam. Such power is culturally determined, different sects have different power structures, scriptures embody power, clerics and caliphs possess power, and class and gender are factors that can be looked at.
According to the Quran, there is no power structure. It is believed that only God has power and thus has the ability to change and create events in the world. No Muslim possesses greater military or political power than another (by default) and all humans are equal and will be judged according to the same criteria. The power structures that have emerged in Islam can be seen as a contravention to the Sharia concept of egalitarianism among males and females.
Also, power is culturally determined. Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are two Islamic nations for example, but they are incredibly different. Saudi Arabia is a traditionalist society and many Saudi Arabian Muslims pertain to the Wahabi sect. Saudi Arabia is a theocratic monarchy and regards the Quran as its constitution, combined with the strict application of Sharia law. Saudi Arabia continues old age cultural customs. Women’s rights are greatly limited and a harsh dress code is enforced on them. Also, Saudi Arabia possesses a great degree of power because of its very position over the Ummah. It holds Mecca and Medina, thus Saudi Arabia has great influence over the Islamic way of thinking. Essentially Wahabis are extremists who wish to oppose those who do not adhere to their beliefs – including Muslims from other sects.
Indonesia, on the other hand, is a progressive and modernist society unlike Saudi Arabia. Islam is based on cultural development and moderation. Indonesians aim to make Islam the state ideology in that there is a belief in one God and one God only, but all people are free to choose and follow their own religion of their choice. It is not a very patriarchal society since gender roles are not really emphasised over there. There is no theocratic power in rule.
As you can see, both have predominantly Muslim populations, perhaps 98%, yet they are total extremes, all because of their cultural context and the surrounding environment.
Now, different sects in Islam have their own way of distributing power. This reflects the complex differences and nature between them.
The Sunni sect is adhered to by 85% of Muslims worldwide. They believe that the successors of Muhammad, known as Caliphs, are only guardians of Islam and do not hold greater power than any other Muslim. Some power is given to imams based on their level and knowledge/study of Islam, however this power is not absolute whatsoever. Essentially, there is no real power structure in Sunni Islam.
Shia Muslims, on the other hand, who make up 11% of the Muslim population believe that the role of the descendants of Caliph Ali (the cousin of Muhammad) is to continue revelations and the teachings of the prophet. Considerable power is given those believed to be descendants, who are able to interpret widely. The shia sect has a clear power structure.
To add to this, there is power in the Quran and holy scriptures. The Quran is seen as the cornerstone of Islam and the infallible and direct word of God. It is believed by many Muslims that the Quran is perfect and unchanging, and because they believe it is the literal word of God, it is permanent.
Other scriptures include the Sunnah, which is known as the trodden path and the way of the prophet. It is a collection of the deeds and the words of the prophet and holds great authority in Islam.
It is a collection of the words and deeds of the prophet and holds great authority in Islam. The Sunnah is seen as a guidance system for Muslims.
The Hadith is somewhat similar to the Sunnah. The hadith is a collection of the life and sayings of the prophet. They are written stories collected after his death. The hadith has had massive influence in shaping Muslim communities and shaping Islamic law because Muslims seek to model themselves around the prophet and his life.
Another scriptures that wields great power is Sharia law. Sharia law is Islamic law. It is subject to some reform, but its concept is generally unchanging. Sharia law determines what is forbidden and what is good and allowed, known as haram and halal respectively. There are four roots of Islamic Law. The first is the Quran, then Sunnah, then consensus – an agreement among scholars, and analogy. While Sharia law may appear strict and rigid, the implementation of these four sources and the supplementary principles makes it a lot more flexible, except otherwise in the case of the Taliban, who have modelled Sharia based on their own contentious agenda.
Clerics, too, are men who have studied Islam extensively and provide spiritual guidance to the Islamic community. They also act as political representatives for their Muslim communities, and this hold a small degree over power.
islam is not hierarchical itself, like Christianity (with pope and similar sectarian structures etc). we uphold God’s Authentic HOLY Quran. we worship directly to ONE God.
who cares about hierarchy?
God is the only true lawgiver above me. I am one in the same with everything else.