What roles have ulama and Sufis played in the history of the Muslim world, and what significance should we attach to them?

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Learned men have played important roles in Islamic society from the early years of the religion's establishment. The ulama traditionally interpreted religious teachings as theologians, attorneys, and professors, and they conducted rituals. They also served as members of advisory or official governing councils. In modern times their influence has waned...

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Learned men have played important roles in Islamic society from the early years of the religion's establishment. The ulama traditionally interpreted religious teachings as theologians, attorneys, and professors, and they conducted rituals. They also served as members of advisory or official governing councils. In modern times their influence has waned considerably and they infrequently feature in state governance except in the more conservative countries that have religious Muslim leadership.

Sufi is the Westernized version of an Arabic word for those following a mystical orientation to understanding existence. As a mystical arm of Islam, Sufism is an ascetic, anti-materialist approach. They have contributed significantly to creative interpretation through art, music, dance, and literature. Sufis still play an educational, even missionary role in spreading the word of Islam.

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