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Summary of question
Can you shed some light on the scope and limits of wilayat-e faqih (rule of jurisprudent)?
question
Can you shed some light on the scope and limits of wilayat-e faqih (rule of jurisprudent)?
Concise answer

The evidence and proofs supporting the rule of the jurisprudent (wilayat-e faqih) during the period of the occultation consider the jurisprudent as the ruler of Islamic society and deputy of the Infallibles, peace be upon them. What is in fact necessary for leadership and administration of society and which the sagacious and wise people of the world consider to be a right and an authority of the leaders of society and of the Infallibles (a.s.) are also proved for the jurisprudent in the time of occultation. Such a meaning is termed as wilayat-e faqih (rule or governance of the jurisprudent) which applies to two main spheres:

1. Those who are subject to this authority (Muwla 'alayhim )

2. Affairs which the jurisprudent has wilayah (authority) over;

As for the first category, the jurisprudent enjoys wilayah over each and every individual of society including Muslims and non-Muslims, Mujtahid and laity, his followers and other Mujtahids’ followers and even on himself. If he issues a ruling, everyone including jurists and even he himself should abide by it and act upon it.

As for the affairs in which the jurisprudent enjoys authority, it should be said that the jurisprudent enjoys authority over all social affairs. He can issue orders in accord with the Shari’ah rules and criteria. If he gives an order, it is necessary on all people to abide by it. There is no doubt that since the jurisprudent has acquired his authority from God, he should act within the framework of rules and standards which God, the Exalted, has presented in various regards.  For this reason, when it comes to the non-binding rules, he should take the public good (maslaha) into consideration and when it comes to the binding rules, he should act in accordance with the conditions set in regards to tazahom (contradiction).

Additionally, it is necessary for the jurisprudent to adhere to the rules prescribed for man’s various social realms and which are referred to and called “school” or “system” according to the codified (written) thought. He should endeavor to help materialize the economic, educational and social systems of Islam in the concrete external world. This by itself will be another limitation on the part of the divine lawgiver in exercising the authority vested with him.

Detailed Answer

The evidence and facts for the rule of the jurisprudent (wilayat-e faqih) during the period of the occultation consider the jurisprudent as the ruler of Islamic society and deputy of the Infallibles, peace be upon them. Therefore, what is necessary for leadership and administration of society and which the sagacious and wise people of the world consider to be a right and an authority of the leaders of society and of the Infallibles (a.s.) are also proved for the jurisprudent in the time of occultation. The authority of a jurisprudent is inferred from unconditional and absolute statements especially those of the Imam of Time. This authority is called absolute guardianship of the jurisprudent as opposed to ‘restricted guardianship of the jurist’. Wilayat mutlaqah faqih extends in scope into two spheres of leadership: 1. The first is in regards to those whom the Faqih has authority over (muwalla alayhim) 2. The second is in regards to the affairs which he has authority and guardianship over.

As for the first category, the jurisprudent has wilayah on each and every individual of society including Muslims and non-Muslims, Mujtahid and laity, his followers and other Mujtahids’ followers and even on himself. If he issues an order, everyone including jurists and even he himself should abide by it and act upon it. The reason, as was mentioned above, is that the textual proofs are absolute and unconditional.[1] Such a meaning is considered to be a rational part and parcel of the leadership of society.

Contrary to the above view, a group of Muslims interpret the term “wilayat” as custody or guardianship in which the subject to authority (Muwla 'alayh ) is unable to manage his own affairs nor is he able to distinguish between the good and the bad. They have thought that the rule of the jurisprudent (wilayat-e faqih) is also restricted to the same area i.e. the ‘incapacity’[2] of the subject whereas the fact is that wilayat-e faqih is applicable to two areas one of which is the incapacity of the subject while the other is leadership of society.[3]

Therefore, wilayat-e faqih does not imply in any way the incapacity of the subject to the authority of the jurisprudent so that it may be claimed that the Islamic republic under the authority of the jurisprudent is a self-contradictory premise.[4] In fact, in spite of the capability and perfection of the individuals under authority, wilayat in the sense of leadership is proved because the administration and management of societal affairs would not be possible without leadership. For this reason, other jurisprudents who should, despite enjoying the position of wilayat – as per the famous view which subscribe to divinely appointed leadership –inevitably abide by the command of the jurisprudent who has taken control of the affairs of society.  If this obedience was due to the incapacity of the followers, how would the arguments and proofs in favor of the rule of the jurisprudent include them?

As for the second condition, the jurisprudent has authority over all the various issues of society and is able to rule over these factors; when he issues a ruling in regards to societal issues, it is obligatory on all the people to obey him. The reason behind this is the lexical meaning of the word Wilayah (guardianship), as well as the necessity of such a thing in the governance of society.

At the same time, since the jurisprudent derives his authority from God, he is bound to exercise his authority within the framework that God has set out for him. If the jurisprudent is going to rule on an issue that is mubah (meaning that it is neither wajib nor haram), his criterion must be the interest of the Islamic state. This means that if there exists benefit for the overall society or for the Islamic system as a whole, or for a certain group within the society, then the jurisprudent can issue a command or prohibit on the basis of this benefit. This is the same principle by which individuals decide what is in their best interests in their own personal lives when it comes to permissible acts that are mubah. The best proof towards this principle can be found in the following verse of the Quran: «النَّبِیُّ أَوْلى‏ بِالْمُؤْمِنینَ مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ», which means: “The Prophet has more precedence over the faithful than their own souls…”[5]. The argument of wilayat al-Faqih needs to be added to this verse to prove our point. From this verse, it is understood that the Prophet (s) has precedence in regards to the people to a higher degree than they have in regards to themselves. Therefore, if the people are free to do various things or not do them, the Prophet (s) has the authority to command them or forbid them based on his authority over them.[6] In the same way that the Prophet (s) and the Imams (a) possess this authority in their governance over society, the jurisprudents (who are their representatives) also possess such an authority on behalf of the Infallibles (a).[7] In order to be able to discern where the interests of the Islamic state lie, Islamic guidelines must be taken into consideration, and also, specialists in different fields and sciences should be referred to and consulted to make sure of the existence of these interests and benefits. The jurisprudent has no choice but to refer to various experts in various societal fields in order to know what is truly in the best interests of his society when he wishes to exercise his authority.

If a jurisprudent wishes to exercise wilayat (authority) in the area where God has a binding command or prohibition and the jurisprudent gives a ruling contrary to it, this is possible only when he should act in accordance with the conditions set in regards to contradiction.

Contradiction is a state in which two binding religious but contradictory commandments require the duty-bound (mukallaf) to abide by them whereas it is not possible for him to act according to both of them at the same time, in which case if he acts upon one of them, it will result in his disobedience of the other injunction. In this case, the duty-bound should take the more important and more binding obligation than the less important and less binding one which is also important per se.

When it comes to individual affairs, it is the individuals themselves who distinguish the contradictions and prefer the more important over the less important. As for social affairs, it is the head of the society who should adopt a strategy in this regard. Once he declares his standpoint and position, it is necessary on every individual to follow him. An example which is normally given in regards to contradictions in individual affairs is the following:

Suppose a person walks through another person’s residential place at a time when he sees a child drowning in a swimming pool. He then faces with two obligations which he cannot fulfill jointly and simultaneously: 1- To save the drowning child, 2 – To avoid entering the other person’s private residential place without his permission. Here one should fulfill the obligation which is more important. Obviously, he should save the child by entering that person’s residence without seeking his permission.

For contradiction of obligations in social affairs, we can give the following example:  Suppose there is a country whose people are suffering from acute shortage of food and nutrients. The situation is such that if a solution is not looked for and found, the entire Islamic system would fall into crisis and will eventually collapse. On the other hand, the country has a huge quantity of non-halal food resources such as non-halal fish or fish without scales. If these fish become allowable for consumption, the crisis will end and the danger will be averted. In this case, there are two choices that the Islamic government can adopt: 1- The necessity of protecting the system 2- The prohibition of eating fish without scales. The government will take action to do what is more important. In other words, it will announce to the public to consume non-scaly fish in order to survive.

In this contradiction, eating non-scaly fish becomes permissible for people. In fact, contradiction occurs only when there is not any allowable alternative in sight to remedy the hunger problem. The rules relating to contradiction is valid insofar as the contradiction exists, and it will not be valid as and when there is no contradiction. Obviously, in the absence of any contradiction, it is necessary to act according to the primary Shari’ah rule.

Hence, when it comes to the non-binding rules, the jurisprudent should take the public good (maslaha) into consideration and when it comes to the binding rules, he should act in accordance with the conditions set in regards to contradiction.

Additionally, it is necessary for the jurisprudent to adhere to the rules prescribed for man’s various social realms and which are referred to and called “school” or “system”[8] according to the codified (written) thought. He should endeavor to help materialize the economic, educational and social systems of Islam in the concrete external world. This by itself will be another limitation on the part of the divine lawgiver in exercising the authority vested with him.

Further reading:

- Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani, wilayat wa Diyanat (Guardianship and Religiosity), Khana-e Kherad Cultural Institute, 2nd edition, 1380 (2001).

 

 


[1] - See: Index: Proofs of Wilayat-e Faqih.

[2] - It means lack of ability to run and manage one’s own life.

[3] - See index: The Concept of Wilayat-e Faqih

[4] - See Mahdi Haeri Yazdi, Hikmat wa Hokumat, pg. 216.

[5] -Al-Ahzab, 6.

[6] - Vide index: The Reasons for Guardianship of the Infallibles.

[7] - Vide Index: The Proofs for Wilayat-e Faqih (Rule of the Jurisprudent).

[8] - Vide Index: Islam and the Theory of Written Thought.

 

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