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I read the following in an Islamic magazine `There is a hierarchy in Islam which is as follows – The Messenger (Sallalahu Aallahi Wasallam)- Ghaus(seven helpers)- Imams, Qutubs(seven poles) – Abdals(seventy reformers)`. Please can you explain the levels of hierarchy and as to whether, this is reported correctly?

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The following answer was to a similar question by Sheikh al-Hajj Gibril Haddad

How would you respond to those modern day writers who say there is no clergy or hierarchy in Islam? How would you differentiate between the hierarchy in Islam with that in Catholicism?

Wa `alaykum as-Salam:

The Prophet (saws) stated there is no rahbaniyya in Islam, meaning by rahbaniyya the monastic vows of perpetual celibacy, poverty, and solitariness. However, Islam promotes modesty (haya`), simple living (zuhd), and temporary retreat from the world (i`tikaf).

The statement that there is no hierarchy in Islam is false, Allah Most High in the Qur`an differentiated between selected Prophets and others, between the earlier believers and the later believers, between those whose belief holds complete sway over them and those who admix their faith with sins, between the Anbiya`, the Siddiqin, the Shuhada` and the Salihin, between the Darajaat or levels that the Believers receive from their Lord, between those who possess hikma, fiqh, albab, absar, Iman etc. as opposed to those who possess merely Islam, between those whose hearts shake at His mention as opposed to the rest, etc. It is all about hierarchy even among the disbelievers, some being closer to belief than others. To say there is no hierarchy in Islam is as novel a concept as it is a novel wording.

As for the second question the difference is that (ecclesiastical) hierarchy in Catholicism is a man-made institution while hierarchy in Islam is decreed by Allah Most High: When Allah loves someone, He decrees it to Gibril who then announces it to the angels who then announce it in the heavens and the earth, and that person becomes beloved, their prayers answered, their presence beneficial to others etc. The Awliya` or saints come second only to the Prophets in this respect, as in the verses alluded to in the previous paragraph and as in the hadith al-`Ulama` warathat al-Anbiya`. The verse stresses their spiritual primacy while the hadith stresses their primacy in knowledge.

There is also Islamic hierarchy in the socio-political institution of Ahl al-Hall wal-`Aqd, which probably disappeared with the end of the rightly-guided Caliphate. And Allah knows best.

Hajj Gibril GF Haddad