I was trying to get a cab a few months back. It was Friday, I was running a little late for prayers and I really needed to get to the Mosque. I'd just arrived at the train station and was relived to see a cab waiting at the rank. I rushed over, threw open the door and told the driver where I wanted to go. '$15' the driver said. 'What?! It's $7 and you know it, run it by the meter' I exclaimed back at him. 'You want a meter cab, you go and hail one of the street' the driver replied to me haughtily and I did just that, much to his annoyance, paid $7 and was on time for Friday prayers.
About 4 hours later, having eaten with friends at the mall next to the Mosque, I once again needed a cab, this time to get home. Thankfully, by the entrance of the mall there was another rank so I walked on over and approached the first cab. Before I could reach it though a man in a smart uniform informed me I needed a ticket and directed me to an office next to the rank. Slightly confused I walked on over, queued for five minutes and got to the window. '$25' the uniformed woman stated and I handed over the money and got a slip of paper in return. I was then put in a group with a young couple who were going to the same area as me and told to wait for my 'turn'. 10 minutes later the couple and I were directed to a cab. It was only when I got home that I realized that, not only had my journey taken twice as long as normal, I'd paid $15 more than I normally would and had to share a cab (the couple were lovely BTW and we had an interesting talk on the art of growing bonsai trees, mine keep dieing and according to them it's because I don't give them enough sunlight. We live and learn...).
So, why did I do it? Why at the train station was I not prepared to pay an extra $8 dollars but at the mall meekly paid $15 extra with no fuss? It's simple really and goes down to basic human psychology, humans will do something if a person in 'authority' tells them. It's why policemen wear uniforms, they are just an ordinary person like you and me but the uniform states 'I'm in charge, do what I say'. At the mall, all the staff at 'rip you off cab company' wore uniforms and had a smart office, I wasn't prepared to challenge them because my brain said 'well, they are in charge here' and meekly handed over a vast amount of money just for a guy to stop a cab for me. I could have done that myself for free like I did at the train station!
So how is this relevant to Islam and religion? Well often I see people following so called 'scholars' saying absolutely daft things about Islam. Why? Let's take an example I heard of recently when some 'scholar' in Saudi said that sport was bad for women and lead them to hell or some such junk. If I told you that you'd quite rightly laugh at me, tell me that sport encourages healthy competition, is good for your body and that Mohamed himself prescribed a number of sports (horse riding, archery and falconry if memory serves) to Muslims. Clearly, there is nothing in Islam that says it's bad for women to get fit and partake in sport, there are rules about clothing and so on yes, but that applies for men as well. This happens a lot, all the time I hear of 'scholars' giving barmy judgments that have little to do with Islam and more to do with their own personal goals. So, why do people listen to this 'scholar' even though he's clearly talking junk? Simple, he's wearing 'uniform', in other words he has a beard and so on. Just as I followed the uniformed staff at the taxi rank even though they were clearly not working in my interest, people follow or at least don't question what these 'scholars' say due to their 'uniform'. It's not unique to Islam, I've seen plenty of nutcase Christian Priests and Jewish Rabbis spouting out junk, it's a universal problem.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying don't trust religious leaders, far from it, there are plenty of good religious leaders out there who really do speak for the faith. All I am asking you, the reader, is not to be blinded by 'uniform', to question what people say and check whether they really are following what God said, not just furthering their own agenda for their own means. As Thomas Jefferson once said “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” He is correct, and it is fear that these 'scholars' and such like rely on, your fear of questioning and thinking for yourself. So don't fear, trust in God and think!