Ever since the 1970s there has been what some term a “democratization” in Islamic jurisprudence. Prior that era, Islamic clerics were nearly all on the state payroll. The national government controlled the religious leaders, imams, clerics and judges, and thus controlled what they said. These state-salaried religious leaders would follow the government line in their preachings and their edicts (or, in Islamic parlance, fatwas). Only what the state permitted could be heard in mosques or proscribed in a fatwa.
This could be a blessing or curse. The curse was often that the religious authority was corrupted by state payments. Instead of being a clear and independent cry, many clerics would instead serve the interest of the state, including condemning dissent and supporting state repression. Fatwas could be issued to second any state decision and rule against protest. That is the case today in Saudi Arabia where in the wake of the Arab Spring and the royal families efforts to keep it at bay, the always subservient clerics have come to the rescue once more to condemn protests as un-Islamic and compel the Saudi people to remain silent with heads bowed down to the royals. Iran offers a similar case of state clerics being run in the name of state repression.
But the pre-1970s era was also a blessing in that state clerics were often well trained and adhered to thoughtful guidelines without veering off into asinine territory. The clerics could be counted on to adopt mainstream positions to cater to the mainstream audience. The state made sure that the clerics were not radicals or extremists and did not waste time on foolish and irrelevant matters.
But just as the boom of cable television lead to a breakdown of audience monopolization by the big broadcast networks who tailored their programing to mainstream sensibilities, and, instead, ushered in the idea of niche broadcast with channels appealing to foodies, women, men who like cars, ect… the end of the state monopoly on religious clerics in the Middle East and Muslim world generally has done the same thing.
This “democratization” where clerics can operate free from state control and influence and can decide their own message has lead to a Muslim world where people can choose who they listen to. Don’t like one cleric, fine, there’s always another.
This is mostly a good since it creates an independent religious culture and frees many from the onus of state advocacy, but the bad is that it has led to a proliferation of kooky clerics with stupid ideas. These self-made clerics routinely pontificate on the most absurd notions and issues Fatwas that belong in the category of “Who Gives A Damns?” A case in point:
“The Imam, whose name is Zamzami Abdelbari, said that marriage remains valid even after death, which does not cancel the marriage link. He took as evidence a Koranic verse which says that Muslims believers will go to Paradise with their wives…Sheikh Zamzami said that the husband has the right to have sex with his dead wife. He added that the husband may wash the body of his dead wife and have sex with her. He said that the woman also has the same right but failed to explain how a woman can manage to perform sex with the corps of her dead husband.”
I mean, really, who gives a damn? Was this some urgent fatwa that needed to be explained? And, amusing, that women are told to make due with a flaccid body.
The problem is that with so many clerics, just like with so many channels, many have too much time on their hands and need to up the ante in absurdity to attract some measure of attention. So they think of something on which no one has issued a fatwa (for obvious reasons: because one is not merited) and then do so themselves for publicity’s sake.
It really is a comic joke and these people need to be tuned out as the trash clerics they are.