The New International Encyclopædia/Ulema

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The New International Encyclopædia
Ulema
Edition of 1905. See also Ulama on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ULEMA, ụl'ā-mä (Ar. ulamā, plural of ālim, learned, from alima, to know). The theologian lawyers of Islam. This religion has no ecclesiastical ministry, as any one of the Faithful may lead a congregation in prayer as Imam. But, inasmuch as theoretically every detail of life is to be guided by the letter of the Koran, along with all the approved traditions and orthodox interpretations, there is the necessity of a class of men learned in the canon law, who may act as the advisers of the Faithful in all these innumerable emergencies. These Ulemas, therefore, correspond most closely to the class of the Scribes or Rabbis in Judaism. The province of the Ulemas is now confined to a limited field in the Turkish Empire. By dictating the details of domestic life, they wield a vast authority over the people, and stand independent of, and often opposed to, the secular Government. They are recruited mostly from the lower classes. The candidates go up to the schools or universities, where the scholar remains three or four years, passing successively through the disciplines of grammar, dogma, and law. He may also pursue logic, rhetoric, etc. The great Mohammedan university is that of Cairo. The order is hierarchically graded. Above the lowest class stand the muftis, who have vast power in making abstract decisions on the law; above these the mollahs (i.e. patrons), who constitute the governing body, having their chief centres at Constantinople and Cairo; and from this body at Cairo is appointed the Grand Mufti, or Sheikh-ul-lslam, the chief spiritual authority in Turkey.