1. How many years has it been since the belief in Wilayatul Faqih has existed? 2. Which year in history did this concept originate? 3. Has there been any mention of this concept by the Imams (a) or the Prophet (s)? 4. Has this concept been recorded in the traditions of the Shias or in their speeches? 5. How about in the tradition’s or speeches of the Ahlul Sunnah?

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The concept of Wilayatul Faqih, taken to mean the leadership of a society under an individual who has reached the rank of ‘Ijtihad’ (Jurisprudence) in Fiqh, is according to some, a new concept in terms of Islamic thought and first originated less than 2 centuries ago. This group claims that none of the Shia or Sunni Jurisprudents ever researched this concept in which a Jurisprudent, based on his right to give rulings and judgments in Islamic matters, has the right of rule over an Islamic country, countries, or all of the countries of the world. However, if we look at the currents of Islamic thought in the past regarding this matter, we will see that Shia ideology has taken the matter of the responsibility of the management of society being passed on to the just Jurisprudents to be certain and without doubt. Hence, instead of debating the essence of this concept, the Shia Jurisprudents have looked more at its results and the means of its application and have placed these under their research and scholarship. Renowned Jurisprudents such as Sheikh Mufid have verified the essence of the concept of Wilayatul Faqih and have said that these scholars have the responsibility of leading the Islamic society during the occultation of the Infallible Imams (a). These statements from Sheikh Mufid that occurred more than a thousand years ago still stand strong today. Detailed Answer The Historical Precedence of Wilayatul Faqih The concept of Wilayatul Faqih, taken to mean the leadership of a society under an individual who has reached the rank of ‘Ijtihad’ (Jurisprudence) in Fiqh, is according to some, a new concept in terms of Islamic thought and first originated less than 2 centuries ago. This group claims that none of the Shia or Sunni Jurisprudents ever researched this concept that a Jurisprudent based on his right to give rulings and judgments in Islamic matters, has the right of rule over an Islamic country, countries, or all of the countries of the world. They say that it has been no longer than two centuries since, for the very first time, the Late Ahmad Naraqi (who was famously known as Fadhil Kashani and lived during the rule of Fath Ali Shahe Qajar) devised this concept of Wilayatul Faqih. In continuing with this line of thought, it is said that the reason for the Late Naraqi to have devised this concept was for helping bolster and solidify the rule of the king of that time! [1] However, if the Late Naraqi wished to support the king, it would have been more conducive to simply act like certain scholars had acted in the past. He could have just relied on hadiths such as [السلطان ظل الله [2 and then identified the subject of these hadiths with the king and ruled that obedience and consensus were divinely and religiously obligatory. [3] He would not have introduced the concept of a Jurisprudent ruling over the state as this was a concept which had a probability of being rejected by the king. If it is claimed that this scholar initially created this position for jurisprudents in general, and took up the position himself as a jurisprudent in that time in order to endorse the king and give his rule a religious side to it, the answer will be that there was no reason for him to make the job more difficult and go such a long way just to make the obedience of the king religiously obligatory; he could have directly named the king as the ‘Shadow of God’ (as the hadiths put it) and made his obedience religiously obligatory. If people make the claim that he also had gained a taste for power and that this theory was falsely created and attributed to Islam to quench such a desire, then it must be countered that this scholar’s life and character did not accord with such a claim. He was an upright man, a teacher of ethics and morals, and a mystical poet. He was far from being accorded with such slanders or being subject to such a low erosion of morals. In fact these accusations are closer to the accuser’s character traits than his own. These accusations against the concept of Wilayatul Faqih are purely fictional in character and don’t have any basis in historical fact and scholarly research. When we look back historically at the currents of Islamic thought, we see that in the ideology of the Shia’s this matter first came up during the time of the concealment of the Imam (a). During this time the responsibility of the leadership of society was passed on to the Jurisprudents, and this was a matter which was defined and clear cut. Since it was such a clear cut matter, discussion focused more on its practical applications and end results, rather than its essence, and these were the main subject of research and scholarship. The Late Sheikh Mufid (born 333 or 338-413 Hijri) was known as one of the great Shia scholars who lived during the 4th or 5th century Hijri. In his book Al Mughniya, in the chapter of ‘Commanding Towards the Good and Forbidding the Evil’, after mentioning the beginning stages of this concept and reaching the highest stage (when it reaches the stage of enjoining good or forbidding evil by physical intervention), he says: و ليس له القتل و الجراح الاّ باذن سلطان الزمان المنصوب لتدبير الأنام Translated from its original Arabic this means that: “The responsible individual, while acting upon the concept of commanding towards good and forbidding against evil, does not have the right to kill or wound another individual, unless the king or ruler of that time, who has been selected by the people for governance and rule, gives this permission. He then continues and says: فأمّا إقامة الحدود فهو الى سلطان الإسلام المنصوب من قبل الله تعالى و هم أئمه الهدى من آل محمدصلى الله عليه وآله و من نصبوه لذلک من الأمراء و الحکّام و قد فوّضوا النظر فيه إلى فقهاء شيعتهم مع الإمکان Translated this means: “As to the matter of enacting ‘divine hudood’, this is something which relates to the king or Islamic ruler who has been selected by God. These individuals who are selected by God are listed as follows: The Imams (a) from the family of Muhammad (s) or those who are appointed by the Imams (a) to lead society and govern over society. This second group consists of the leaders or rulers who are selected by the Imams (a) and the Imams (a) have given this responsibility to the Shia Jurisprudents, when it is possible to refer to them.”[4] Sheikh Mufid (ra) first explains that the king must be selected by God (under the conditions which he has set forth) and then further explains that he is the authority in making decisions in punishing or executing for commanding the good and forbidding the evil in society. Then he introduces the ‘application of hudood’ as an example of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.[5] Then this topic is repeated that this important duty is the responsibility of the Islamic ruler who has been selected by God. These people are then introduced as being: 1. The Infallible Imams (a) who have been selected directly by God as leaders of the Islamic society and the enforcers of divine law. 2. The rulers and governors who have been appointed by the Imams (a) for political governance and rule. 3. The Shia Jurisprudents who have been appointed from the side of the Imams (a) for governance and enforcement of divine law. With this account, the Late Sheikh Mufid further points out that on this issue of the Imams (a) leading society (which is considered a defined and undisputable matter in Shia Ideology) that this concept leads to rule first by people directly appointed by the Imams (a), such as Malik Al Ashtar who was a governor during the Caliphate of Imam Ali (a), or the four representatives of Imam Mahdi specifically appointed during his minor occultation, and finalizes in the general representatives of the Imams (a) whom he points out are the Shia Jurisprudents. Naturally, the great sheikh is aware of the fact that the Shia Jurisprudents may not have the chance of being in power, hence the words ‘when possible’ are added to end of the ruling. Then Sheikh Mufid continues on this matter of ‘when possible’ and says: فمن تمکّن من إقامتها على ولده و عبده و لم يخف من سلطان الجور ضرراً به على ذلک، فليقمها This means that if a Jurisprudent is able to enact the divine law on his children and servants, and will not suffer harm or oppression from the ruler of the time, then he must enact these laws.[6] These statements which bring one to tears show how this concept has been confined throughout history and has existed in Shia thought for approximately one millennia and has a solid historical foundation. Sheikh Mufid also shows another aspect of the possibility of enacting divine law when he says: و هذا فرض متعيّن على من نصبه المتغلّب لذلک، على ظاهر خلافته له أو الإمارة من قبله على قوم من رعيته، فيلزمه اقامة الحدود و تنفيذ الأحکام و الأمر بالمعروف و النهى عن المنکر و جهاد الکفّار Translated this means: “This matter of enacting the divine law is a clear obligation on a Jurisprudent that has been selected for this duty by the ruler or if he is entrusted with the supervision of a certain group by the ruler”. Hence, he then must establish the divine law and administer it. Alongside these, commanding people to the good and forbidding them from the evil, as well as war against the enemies must be established. [7] This means that if oppressive and tyrannical kings select a Jurisprudent and he is able to take charge of that opportunity and establish the divine law, and also not be harmed in doing so, then he must enact the divine law and it is religiously obligatory on him. In this passage, Sheikh Mufid has pointed out 4 issues: 1. Enactment of the divine law (meaning application of Islamic penalties for crimes) and this is considered one of the powers of the Jurisprudent. 2. Enactment and execution of the Islamic ethical and moral code. This is inclusive of all divine and Jurisprudential laws. The Jurisprudent must strive in this respect till the whole of society has been encompassed with the divine law. 3. Commanding the good and forbidding the evil. The highest stage of this is exclusive to the Islamic Jurisprudents and the Late Sheikh Mufid has emphasized this. 4. Jihad with the enemies, which includes both defending the country/state and initial jihad (attacking them first). [8] Then Sheikh Mufid again reiterates his points afresh as if to close the door to every unjustifiable rationalization and interpretation of this subject. He says: و للفقهاء من شيعة آل محمد: أن يجمعوا بإخوانهم فى صلوة الجمعة و صلوات الأعياد و الإستسقاء و الخسوف و الکسوف إذا تمکّنوا من ذلک و آمنوا فيه من مضرّة أهل الفساد و لهم أن يقضوا بينهم بألحق و يصلحوا بين المختلفين فى الدعاوى عند عدم البيّنات و يفعلوا جمع ما جعل إلى القضاة فى الإسلام لأنّ الأئمة: قد فوّضوا إليهم ذلک عند تمکّنهم منه بما ثبت عنهم فيه من الأخبار و صحّ به النقل عند أهل المعرفة من الآثار Translated in its original Arabic, this means: “And if it is possible for the Jurisprudents, who follow the Household of Muhammad (s), and they will not suffer harm from it, that they should gather with their brothers in faith at the Friday Prayer, the Eid Prayers, the special prayers for rain, the prayers of fear, the prayers for the eclipse of the moon and sun, and judge with truth between their brothers in faith who have conflicts with each other and don’t have any witnesses, bringing them to terms with each other, and enacting everything Islam has determined to be the responsibility of Islamic judges, it will be their duty that they must carry out.” The reason being that the imams, through hadiths that are considered authentic to the experts, have conferred this religious authority upon the Jurisprudents. [9] Here, Sheikh Mufid has pointed to two important issues: 1. Establishing prayers, such as the Friday prayer, the Eidul Fitr prayer, Eidul Qurban prayer, the prayer for rain, as well as the prayer of fear. 2. Arbitrating and judging between people. He counts both of these as being within the standing of the Jurisprudents and he also considers the Jurisprudents as having been selected by the Ahlul Bait (a) for this position. He makes his stand based on traditions which he introduces as proof. In later discussions we will refer to these traditions which pertain to the concept of Wilayatul Faqih in detail. For this article it is enough for us to refer to this point that according to reliable narrators of traditions leading prayers on the two eids of Fitr and Ad’ha [10] and especially on the matter of the Friday Prayer [11], a condition has been introduced where the man leading the prayer must be a “just imam”. From this perspective, some of the Jurisprudents have interpreted a ‘Just Imam’ to mean the Infallible Imams (a) and do not consider these prayers to be religiously obligatory on the people during the occultation of the Imam (a). Sheikh Mufid has introduced these prayers as being among the responsibilities of the Shia Jurisprudents and this comes to show that he sees them as being the living examples of the ‘Just Imams’. This statement is more so compatible with his previous statements where he considered war with the enemies as being another of the responsibilities of the Shia Jurisprudents. The reason being that this statement - in its generality and absoluteness - covers even offensive wars, while there are traditions that state that, in order for an Islamic state to engage in an offensive war, it is conditional upon the permission of an Imam whose obedience is obligatory. [12] Some scholars consider this to mean an Infallible Imam (a), and consider a war initiated by a Jurisprudent to be impermissible. Sheikh Mufid is of the opinion that a Shia Jurisprudent who is ruling on behalf of the Imams (a), during a time of occultation, is a living example of the Infallible Imam (a) ‘whose obedience is obligatory’. All of Sheikh Mufid’s words indicate that the issue of Wilayatul Faqih and that the jursiprudents have been appointed by the infallibles for the governance of society were all accepted during his time. These luminous words which occurred approximately 1000 years ago in history are still shining today, although some don’t see it or don’t want to. [13]


[1] See: Mahdi Ha’eri Yazdi, Hekmat va Hukumat,, p. 178. [2] See: Majlisi, Biharul-Anwar, vol. 72, p. 354 (the book of ‘ushra [socialization], the chapter on rulers and governors, hadith 69). Of course Imam Khomeini interprets these hadith in a way that they identify with both the waliyy faqih and infallible imam. [3] It must be noted that hadiths like these are interpreted in two ways: a) One who holds power in a state, is the shadow of Allah (swt) and must be followed and obeyed. From this perspective, the ruler’s traits and the way he governs and his policies have no impact whatsoever on his total obedience. Such an interpretation is without a doubt to the favor of rulers and justifies everything they do. b) One who takes power, is the shadow of Allah (swt), meaning that his government and himself have to be in a way that corresponds with what Allah (swt) and his religion call for. According to this tafsir, Islam says that only the person who qualifies to be ruler in Islam’s eyes and takes power in a way that Islam approves of is to be followed and obeyed. [4] See: Sheikh Mufid, Al-Muqni’ah, p.810. [5] Some believe: The enactment of Islamic punishments and hudud have to do with qada’ (judgment) and the judging dimension of the jurisprudent, while in fiqhi terms, qada only has to do with judging between individuals and solving their arguments. Enacting Islamic punishment for criminals is of the responsibilities of the waliyy faqih, who is in charge of society. [6] See: Sheikh Mufid, Al-Muqni’ah, p. 810. [7] See: Ibid. [8] This passage implies that the Waliyy Faqih can also declare initial jihad (offensive war), the research of which is beyond the scope of this article. [9] Sheikh Mufid, Al-Muqni’ah, p. 811. [10] Sheikh Hurr Ameli, Wasa’elul-Shia, vol. 5, pp. 95-96, (the book of Salat, the chapters on the prayer of a slave, chapter 2, hadith 1). [11] Ibid, pp. 12-13 (the book of Salat, the chapters on the Friday Prayer and its rites, chapter 5). [12] See: Hurr Ameli, Wasa’elul-Shia, vol. 11, pp. 32-35 (the book of Jihad, the chapters on fighting the enemy, chapter 12). [13] Adopted from the book of Velayat va Diyanat, Ayatullah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani, pp. 67-74. ------------------------------ Ref:

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