Re-Stratification in the Name of God

Re-Stratification in the Name of God

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9731-7.ch005
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Considering the modern sociological enterprises of Emile Durkheim's view of the social origin of religion, Max Weber's categories of actions, and Talcott Parsons' action theory as well as theories of stratification, we have focused on Islamic ummah, differentiating Shi'ite /Sunni Islam and the role which ulama plays as a status group. Re-stratification in the name of God has referential significance to the Iranian revolution and the re-emergence of the Shi'ite Islam grabbing political power. Following Parsonian emphasis on socio-cultural differentiation the Islamic, ummah is neither a total whole nor limited to the ulama but diversified in terms of incorporating certain modern establishments and ideas, from publishing religious journal, spreading ideas among the high schools and university student to pushing for less patriarchal domination, from absorbing components of the western constitutional tradition and governmental division of power to detachment form economic co-optation by the state. Hence we can speak of old and innovative religious class in Islamic societies characterized the former by propensity to keep the status quo, functionally a prerequisite for maintenance of cultural, political and religious dogma, usually called conservative Islam and the latter enthusiasm for working its way towards reinterpretation of dogma, developing propensity for participating in global dialogue for change or re-stratification of society. Finally, demand for an innovative communicative system in order to be touch with the larger world exists in and among the innovative religious groups. In general, politico-religious action, within the domain of action theory, behooves us to revisit Iran as the first birthplace of resurgent Islam, exposing an otherwise hidden process, the rise and fall of a system of stratification that was led by a high-ranking Shi'ite cleric in modern times. The Iranian religious revolution that brought about a different system of stratification, rather than being interactive, was originally molded by reaction to modernity is investigated in this chapter. The diversity of Islams indicates that they can be considered as examples of an open system of stratification. In other words, whatever the cultural disposition or religious orientations of Islamic societies would be, we generalize that they have a propensity to have social mobility dissimilar to the closed caste system. Our sheer learned interest in stratification and social mobility is an acknowledgment of “connections” between economy and religion in Islamic societies that is elaborated in this chapter.
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In the Christian tradition, according to Isaiah 58:7-10, “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; cloth the naked when you see them and do not turn your back on your own.” Similarly, in Islam, according to Imam ‘Ali, “Fear God regarding the lowest class, the wretched, needy, suffering and disabled who have no means at their disposal….Be heedful for God’s sake of those rights of theirs which He has entrusted to you. Set aside for them a share of your treasury.” (Bill & Williams, 2002)



Our work, following Parson’s thoughts, requires more diligent attention, specifically where the analysis of politics and economics as subsystems of the Islamic social system are concerned. As far as the normative dimensions of Islam in the domains of politics and economics, there is a teleological character that aims to ameliorate life conditions. There is also an Islamic orientation which is concerned with justice, needs, and equality that could be dialectically termed as encountering between reality and idealism in establishing a perfect state. The teleological character tells us that it has reference to the future, “an anticipated state of affairs but which will not necessarily exist without intervention by the actor” (Parsons, 1968).

Furthermore, the teleological character of Islam is also intertwined with the notion of “sovereign,” which makes economics less significant than political power. The Islamic schemas of end-means, conditions, and norms see economic activities as means, not ends, regulated by certain norms including those which stemmed from of the charismatic sources of authority and power. Parsons suggests that Weber, in his investigation of his concept of authority, did not think of it as an economic category. He defines it as “the probability of securing obedience to specific commands on the part of a given group of persons” (Parsons, 1968). Parsons writes that for Weber, authority is a narrower concept than that of power, which is the probability within a social relationship of being able to secure one’s own ends, even against the opposition.

It is notable that Islam shares “the problem of meaning” with other monotheistic and non-monotheistic religions, and particularly shares with Christianity’s “eschatological” concern with the Second Coming, a belief which has survived through a long series of postponements, the last major one being that of the millennial year (Parsons,1964). However, Islam’s fundamental difference with Christianity in that regard rests on the conception of “sovereign” which flows into “regulation of power” premised on the principle of absolutism and initiated in terms of “jurisprudence.” Furthermore, group formation and the intervention of actors also induce “messianic and quasi-messianic” movements. These occur occasionally and are allied to a pantheistic or emanationist metaphysic, at other times rigorously guarding the absolute transcendence of God by transmuting His presence in the world to the presence of His will as revealed impeccably to an imam. These are fundamental “cases in point” (Al-Azmeh, 1997).

Certainly, social scientists who were less interested in the implications of social actions for economic activity and were more interested in the regulation of power by authority, became influenced by Max Weber. By a combination of structural components including class, status group, and power, Weber directed attention to a new understanding of stratification. Similarity of level of wealth combined with income, equity, dividends, and capital gains make up the framework of our class position. However, measuring wealth and its major factor, income, are subject to variation in comparison to prestige if they are operationalized in terms of years of education. When property ownership, as a by-product of the economic activities of individual, holds lower significance than other variables such as political relationship and prestige, the respect and admiration attached to an occupation produce different synergic effects in the minds of people. Regardless of a church pastor’s political power to induce church members to vote in favor of one or the other party, his/her income varies according to church membership and donations. The pastor’s income may be low in comparison to well-to-do church members, but in the minds of parishioners and believers, he/she enjoys an occupational prestige. The ranking position of ulama, whose achieved status grants them the title of guardians of Islam, is also subject to a knowledge-oriented stratification system as a source of power to influence the public’s opinions.

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