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Ulema(or Ulama; Arabicعلماء  "Ahleem" - also used in Ottoman turkey)  are Muslim scholars. The singular form is Alim. They are learned in Islamic Sha'aria law and may have studied philosophy and related subjects.

Ulema is really used to denote two different concepts:

1. The collective aggregate of all of religious leaders.

2. An organized political body that exercises power in the name of religion in specific countries such as the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Ottoman Empire.

Members of the Ulema may also be military as well as political leaders.

The Ulema generally make decisions by Ijma -  consensus - and often claim that this is in fact the consensus of the Islamic community (Umma). In practice, the opinion of the Ulema may represent their own narrow class or religious interests.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Mujahedin

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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