In defence of elitism

The Quran approves of elitism at the social, political and spiritual levels, often promoting it. It approves of social inequality and rank (fadilah, preference, from fadl, grace; Quran 24:20, 32) in this world, differentiating slaves from masters, men from women, and parents from children (Quran 4:34; 24:22, 58; 43:32).

Moreover, God raises the righteous, including the apostles, to different grades (darajah, sing;  daraajat, pl.) in both worlds (Quran 2:253; 4:96; 6:83, 132, 165; 17:21, 55; 43:32;  46;19;  57:10; 58:11). It tempers potential hubris among the pious and knowledgeable elite by reminding them that ‘over every one who has knowledge, there is one who is all-knowing’ (Quran 12:72).

Elitism is, in any event, inevitable where complex skills are to be acquired; and evidently it need not be objectionable if superiority and recognition are earned on the basis of excellence and expertise in a disciple.

The Quran and the Secular Mind, Shabbir Akhtar,  p.79      

Categories: Islam, Qur'an, Recommended reading

3 replies

  1. I agree in principle that there are distinctions in society with respect to the abilities of people however what are presented as differences such as men and women and slaves to masters.

    Slaves are those who are taken against their will and thus any talents they have cannot be fully realized as they are constrained to the demands of a master. Men and women are distinct but can be overcome such as in the often suggested: strength, nurturing etc.

    I think the passage in 4:34 stands as an obvious example of a cultural distinction that is given divine justification without explanation as to why it is the case.

  2. I’m not sure how elitism can generally be defended. Yes, some people will be better equipped for some roles/jobs than others, but then again, those same people have weaknesses that the supposedly inferior people can compliment.

  3. Another issue with elitism lies in the language used in the original post. There’s the lurking implication that slavery is/was ok in some forms, likewise that men are superior to women.

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