The Traditionalist Position: In order to understand Islam correctly, we need qualified scholars to relay to us the correct information. These scholars have compiled, purified and applied this information correctly. Hence, we should follow their teachings.
The Quranist Response: First and foremost, Quran does not identify religious scholarship as ‘ulamaa’. Rather it uses the word for those who study nature (35/28) and who study human evolution (26/197). This group of people rather have created a system of knowledge and chosen to dominate Islamic thought with their authority. Hence, the phrase ‘Islamic Priesthood’ is more appropriate to describe them.
Secondly, Quran tells us about the contemplation of itself and its signs:
أَفَلاَ يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَى قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا (محمد: 24).
So do they not contemplate deeply The Quran or on their hearts are there locks?
كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُوْلُوا الأَلْبَابِ (ص: 29)
A book, we descended it to you, blessed, that you may contemplate it deeply and that the people of the core may contemplate it deeply.
Neither one of these verses ever state, nor do their contexts ever infer that anyone needs any priesthood to mediate knowledge for them. These verses simply tell people to contemplate deeply.
Thirdly, Quran denounces priesthoods and do not limit them to ‘previous religions’:
اتَّخَذُوا أَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَابًا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَالْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُوا إِلَهًا وَاحِدًا لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ سُبْحَانَهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ (التوبة: 31).
They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنْ الأَحْبَارِ وَالرُّهْبَانِ لَيَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ النَّاسِ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَيَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلاَ يُنفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَبَشِّرْهُمْ بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ (التوبة: 34).
O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah: announce unto them a most grievous penalty
In both of these verse,we can see that we do not need any kind of religious mediation in order to understand and apply the principles of islam.
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