The 5th Political Theory – Introduction Pt.2

(Update: new content on this topic will be posted on my new political blog here)

Geo-political realities, artificial borders and ‘constructive instability’

It’s a tragedy when the collective imagination of a people becomes a sacred reality, in relation to the existing political geography, as if it were destined to be this way, or as if it was some kind of immovable, untouchable, unalterable barrier. As a result of this new collective consciousness, wars are fought over those borders as easily as they would sing their national anthems.

The Fifth Political Theory is a revolt against all those inherited religious, sectarian and tribal conflicts, still present in the collective consciousness of the region. Some would say that the future is hostage to the crimes, stupidity, ambitions and fanaticisms of our ancestors, so when moving forward, we must take those things into consideration!

That’s nonsense! An enlightened mind sees the opposite to be true: what must be built is a future of revolt against all that stupidity and all those inherited conflicts and divisions. A revolt against those who have drawn our identities in the days of fanaticism, and defined our understanding in the days of devolution.

We shouldn’t blame the laymen for this tragedy, as much as we should blame the intellectuals, religious scholars and political leaders. These groups of people claim to be aware of the realities of matters and the affairs happening around them, having an explanation ready for anything that occurs, because they watch the news and read political analyses. Such is the shallowness of these groups, that they are ignorant of the complex global strategies of creating events in order to affect collective awareness and thinking. ‘The powers that be’ do this through the creation of ideas to create or influence events, or through the observation of the dynamics of social interaction and how it can be manipulated, or the influencing of collective consciousness through the control of media and the tools used to analyse global events. In this way, they are able to control people’s behaviours and the outcome of events.

That is how conflicts and wars are managed behind the scenes. Everyone is made to believe they are playing an active role, while in fact they are mere tools in someone else’s master plan.

The strategy of Constructive Instability

In 2005 the executive director of the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Satloff, wrote an open letter to the under-secretary of state for public diplomacy, Karen Hughes, with this recommendation: “Banish the terms ‘Arab world’ and ‘Muslim world’ from America’s diplomatic lexicon; be as country-specific as possible, in both word and deed. Radical Islamists want to erase borders and create a supranational world where the lines of demarcation run between the ‘house of Islam’ and the ‘house of war’ [meaning lands in which Islamic law is not applied]. Don’t cede the battlefield to them without a fight”. Satloff dubbed the strategy “constructive instability” and insists that the search for stability has been a feature of US policy in the region. “In other regions . . . US strategists debated the wisdom of stability . . . but George W Bush was the first president to argue that stability was itself an obstacle to the advancement of US interests in the Middle East… In this effort the US has employed a range of coercive and non-coercive measures, from military force to implement regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a mix of carrots-and-sticks first to isolate Yasser Arafat and then to encourage new, peaceful, accountable Palestinian leadership; to the gentle (and increasingly less so) use of the bully pulpit to nudge Egypt and Saudi Arabia down the reformist path”.[1]

The most important information contained in this strategy is the dynamics of interaction or influence, across political borders, from Lebanon to the rest of the Arabic world, and vice-versa. It includes information on how media and politics work together dynamically, how military action works with the tools of political analysis, how political ideas work with religious and ideological thinking, and how national identities interact with sub-identities (religious and sectarian). Satloff spoke in the policy paper about a ‘Beirut endgame’ and Lebanon almost exclusively, as if it was a key starting point from which to target the rest of the region. The goal is to reformulate the collective awareness in the Middle East, and as a result to redraw its political maps, and to define the new political standpoints of the countries vis-a-vis themselves and with the West. [2]

There are various reasons why Lebanon is the ideal starting point to re-draw the regional map:

a) Lebanon is a country with multiple sects and religious denominations, like some of its neighbours, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Syria in particular, and any conflict between those groups will have a knock-on effect on the region.

b) Lebanon has a large Palestinian refugee population, and any instability in that country could affect the Palestinian refugee cause and taken advantage of.

c) Lebanon has a resistance, and anything that negatively affects it will affects the resistance axis.

d) Lebanon has a ‘free and independent media’, and a public that interacts with its media, which would undoubtedly cause neighbouring countries to interact with it as well. And through this media, we would be able to influence the general opinions of those neighbouring countries.

e) Lebanon holds parliamentary elections, which can be used to call others to replicate this model.

What Satloff didn’t mention in his study, is the effect of political assassinations and armed conflict (as has been the case in Lebanon) has had on the collective consciousness in Lebanon and the region. Especially, since this is something the US has made use of for some time, in order to influence the course of events in many countries.

Satloff’s policy document explicitly admits that there exists a strategy of instability, and admits that there is a complex plan that combines political and intellectual thinking, military strategy and media analysis, in the same way a molecular compound is broken apart and re-arranged to form a new compound.

In the face of such detailed strategic planning, we should ask ourselves: have we devised a response to such plans with a similar counter-strategy?

Have we mobilised politically and through social movements and the media in a way to be effective regionally across all borders? Have we cured our maladies, so as not to turn into obedient tools in the hands of those planning for ‘constructive instability’?


[1] Charara, Walid; Le Monde Diplomatique, ‘Constructive instability‘,  07/07/2005.

[2] Satloff, Robert; Assessing the Bush Administration’s Policy of ‘Constructive Instability’ (Part I): Lebanon and Syria, March 2005. And: Assessing the Bush Administration’s Policy of ‘Constructive Instability’ (Part II): Regional Dynamics‘.

The 5th Political Theory – Introduction

(Update: the content of this post and what will follow, is now mirrored in my political blog here)

People used to look to identity as a unifying force around a particular political project, or social endeavour, in order to protect the interest of the group. However, we view identity to be the biggest hindrance to progress in our region, and the most negative heritage that has lead us to conflicts with no end or solution in sight. In fact, it is a drain of resources (human and natural), and it is taking us in the opposite direction of the movement of history.

The Fifth Political Theory is not a project to unite around an identity, but a project to unite around a common future goal, best suited for the progress of our society, to enable us to compete amongst the most advanced nations of the world.

A note on Identity

The conflicts in our region, especially the one initiated by what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’, are conflicts that utilise the instigation of one identity against the other, with policies purposely absent, in order for the policies of others to take advantage of the situation. As a result, instead of different factions debating which policies are best suited to manage their affairs in the region, we have a never-ending struggle of religious and ideological identities. These religions and ideologies, have been emptied of their socio-political essences and revolutionary progressive ideas, so it should come as no surprise that their opinions matter very little to the rest of the world (if they ever show opinions on things that matter!).

When Jesus (as) came to revolt against the status-quo of his time, he didn’t do so by attaching himself to an existing identity. The Christian identity came after people started to follow his teachings. The same applied to the early Muslims of the Arabian Peninsula, who followed Islam, not to become part of an existing identity, but to destroy the status-quo. Islam came as a social project to ‘islamize’  the people, and not to be carried as an identity. The current conflicts in the region revolve around identities, with total absence of their original ‘islamization’ or ‘christianization’, i.e. an absence of a deep and meaningful understanding of why they carry this identity, and as a result, what they could offer in terms of socio-political projects.

The majority of people in our region have inherited an identity, it is but a few who are truly religious.

The Fifth Political Theory is a political, social, economical and humanitarian project. Any reformist project must look back at history, revolt against any negative inheritance that has been accumulated over the years, and learn from the experiences of our ancestors. We are not responsible for our ancestor’s deeds, but we can build on them and work towards more perfect policies and social behaviours, setting an examples to the rest of the world. This cannot be achieved whilst hiding behind an inherited identity. Those who hide behind religious identities, have forgotten or misunderstood the true meaning and message of their faith, and instead are behaving more like infighting tribes.

Religious and sectarian infighting is the beginning of the end of religion (as was the case in the European wars of religion in the 16th century, that lead to the enlightenment and Europe’s eventual secularism).

This project is a revolt against inherited religions, because all that remains today are inherited religious identities, filled with fanaticism, and devoid of any sacred, social, political, or economical essence and intelligence.

Guardianship of the Jurist – It’s reality, extent & evidences (Part 2)

So far we’ve covered authority over the issuance of religious edicts (fatwas) and adjudication and huduud/executing the law. On these two subjects we have so far not seen any major differences between the scholars, who one way or another, see that the religious jurist is duty bound to ensure these responsibilities are taken care of.

Obviously, this can’t happen without a state and institutions. Someone must have the authority in order to enforce these adjudications and establish justice amongst the people. And if this person cannot, for whatever reason, do this from a position of leadership, he should at least demand authority over the judicial institutions. (this view is held by the majority of Shia scholars)

The fourth level of authority under question is what is known as authority over the ‘permission to act’ (couldn’t come up with a better translation), which is related to any social matter requiring consent of the guardian/ruler/person in authority, when an individual wants to do something that could affect his community and/or the environment, things to do with property, finance, security etc (See Sh al-Ansari in ‘al Makasib, vol3 pg553: He sees that this authority is extremely important and covers ALL social aspects when an action of one affects the lives of others. And this authority, he says, is the same authority given to the Prophet and Imam, and violating the ruling of the religious jurist in this instance is like violating the ruling of the Prophet and Imam). Again, this authority requires the jurist to be in a position of leadership for him to be able to manage the affairs of the people and ensure a stable and just society is established. He uses the following narration as evidence:

وأما الحوادث الواقعة فارجعوا فيها إلى رواة حديثنافأنهم حجتي عليكم وأنا حجة الله

‘.. for the occurring incidents turn to the narrators of our hadith, since they are my hujja on you, and I am God’s hujja..’

Therefore, all these authorities that have been given to the Imam, are passed down to the religious jurist, since they are his representatives, and he is the representative of God, who has been given guardianship over such matters.

Important to note that the Imam says go to the religious jurist and obtain his view/ruling on ‘the occurring incidents..’, and not: ‘go to the jurist to obtain God’s ruling on the matters’. And Sh al-Ansari considers this to be the main argument for the absolute guardianship of the religious jurist during the greater occultation.

So if this is the view of Sh al-Ansari, who helped put Najaf on the Shia hawza map, and he explicitly states in his book that there is no dispute over this concept amongst Shia scholars (of his time), how is it such a taboo subject nowadays? And more importantly, how can Seyyed Al Khoei claim that there is no explicit statement from the Imam giving such absolute authority to the religious jurists during the greater occultation?

Up to here, we can safely say that there is consensus over these four levels of guardianship and authority. However due to the scholars distancing themselves from positions of government (because of various reasons), this has affected the cultural mindset of people in to thinking that the extent of guardianship given to the religious jurist is limited to issuing religious edicts/fatwas and resolving disputes. Here’s Sh. Al Najafi with the clearest of statements on this matter (his book al Jawahir, vol21, pg 396-7):

الجواهر، ج21، ص396 و 397:  قال الكركي في المحكي من رسالته التي ألفها في صلاة الجمعة اتفق أصحابنا على أن الفقيه العادل الأمين الجامح لشرائط الفتوى المعبر عنه بالمجتهد في الأحكام الشرعية نائب من قبل أئمة الهدى في حال الغيبة في جميع ما للنيابة فيه مدخل بل القطع بأولوية الفقيه في ذلك بعد أن جعله الإمام عليه السلام حاكماً وخليفة وبأن الضرورة قاضية بذلك في قبض الحقوق العامة والولايات ونحوها بعد تشديدهم في النهي عن الرجوع إلى قضاة الجور وعلمائهم وحكامهم بعد علمهم بكثرة شيعتهم في جميع الأطراف طول الزمان وبغير ذلك مما يظهر بأدنى تأمل في النصوص وملاحظتهم حال الشيعة وخصوصاً علمائهم في زمن الغيبة وكفى بالتوقيع الذي جاء للمفيد من الناحية المقدسة وما اشتمل عليه من التبجيل والتعظيم، بل لولا عموم الولاية لبقي كثير من الأمور المتعلقة بشيعتهم معطلة. فمن الغريب وسوسة بعض الناس في ذلك أنه ما ذاق من طعم الفقه شيئاً

‘..our associates are in agreement that the just trustworthy religious jurist who encompasses the necessary conditions to issue religious edicts, otherwise known as mujtahid in the religious laws, is a deputy of the Imams of Guidance during the occultation in ALL that which this deputation is associated with. In fact, they are certain of this matter, since the Imam has made him (the jurist), a ruler and khalifah, and due to the necessity of obtaining the public rights themselves, since the people have been prohibited from resorting to the unjust judges and their scholars and rulers. This matter becomes evident after a little contemplation over the available narrations, and understanding the state of their Shia and their scholars during the occultation, especially from the letter that was given to Sh. al Mufid reverencing and venerating such scholars. In fact, if it wasn’t for this general guardianship, a lot of problems of the Shia would remain unresolved. I find it strange that some still doubt this, it can only be due to his lack of knowledge in religious jurisprudence…’

The fifth level of authority is where the main dispute becomes evident.  Our starting point for this type of guardianship is the quranic verse:

النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ

‘The Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves..’ [33:6]

What does ‘a greater claim‘ mean in this verse? Is it absolute or constrained? There is consensus amongst the specialists of quranic exegesis (of all sects) that this claim is absolute (see Al Tabari, Tabataba’i). So if a muslim wanted something, and the Prophet wanted something else, related to a worldly or afterlife matter, then the Prophet’s view has priority.

Question arises on whether this ‘greater claim’  or priority is related to social matters as well. Sh. Al Ansari’s view is that it is absolute and does include matters that affect society, and in this regard Seyyed al Khoei agrees. Also, in short, it is proven that this status is also valid for Imam Ali and his holy household. What we need to establish is whether this authority stands for the religious jurist, or not.

This is where Sh Al Ansari’s earlier comment (in Part 1 of this discussion) becomes clear, in that he considers all previous four aspects to be part of the guardianship of the jurist, except this particular authority of ‘priority’, for which he has not found evidence for its inclusion.

Guardianship Of The Jurist- Its reality, extent & evidences (Part 1)

The office of his eminence Ayatullah Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari have started uploading Kharej fiqh lectures from 5 years ago on two previously unreleased topics, namely wilayat-ul-faqih (guardianship of the jurist), and al insaan al kaamil (the perfect human). Considering this topic is still fiercely debated, and still confuses a lot of people (muslim and non-muslim alike), I hope that posting the videos and associated english summaries will benefit all. (Note: this is not just a translation of the most important parts of the lecture(s), but I will contribute as well with my own comments, so if you’ve got questions or issues with what’s written, please refer to the precise wording so I can differentiate between the two):

He starts the discussion by posing the two main questions that are the basis of this topic:

1) whether guardianship of all religious matters is valid for the religious jurisprudent during the greater occultation of Imam Mahdi (ajf), and whether it is not

2) If he is granted such authority and responsibility (in effect, the same responsibility -not status- of the Prophet and Imam), what is the extent of this guardianship/custodianship

He then asks: What are the known views on the permissibility of establishing an Islamic State during the greater occultation?

Answer to that, is that there are 2 distinct opinions:

a) that is it not permissible and forbidden

b) that it is permissible – and within this group, there are 2 sub-groups –

one that says it is obligatory to establish islamic rule, by all means necessary;

and the other, that it is permissible, if the right conditions and circumstances are present.

The first group had used the following narrations as evidence:

في (وسائل الشيعة, طبعة مؤسسة آل البيت, المجلد الخامس عشر, ص50, هناك بابٌ تحت عنوان: باب حكم الخروج بالسيف قبل قيام القائم×) مجموعة من الروايات, الروايات بعضها صحيحة السند, الآن لسنا بصدد بحثها

الرواية الأولى: >عن علي ابن الحسين× قال: والله لا يخرج أحدٌ منّا قبل خروجه (عليه أفضل الصلاة والسلام) إلاّ كان مثله كمثل فرخٍ طار من وكره قبل أن يستوي جناحاه فأخذه الصبيان فعبثوا به<. هذا تمثيل كل حكومة قبل قيامه (عليه أفضل الصلاة والسلام)

رواية ثانية: >قال أبو عبد الله الصادق×: يا سدير إلزم بيتك وكن حلساً من أحلاسه واسكن ما سكن الليل والنهار فإذا بلغك أن السفياني قد خرج فارحل إلينا ولو على رجلك< إذن هذه المدّة لابد أن تكون حلسة بيوتكم. >قال: يا ابن رسول الله أين نجد العافية أو الراحلة؟ قال: تسعة في اعتزال الناس وواحدة في الصمت< أولاً: أصلاً لا تختلط معهم, وإذا اضطررت للاختلاط اسكت, هذه روايات موجودة في تراثنا الفقهي

روايةٌ أخرى: قال في خطبةٍ له أمير المؤمنين >ألزموا الأرض واصبروا على البلاء ولا تحركوا بأيديكم

قال: >ألزموا الأرض واصبروا على البلاء ولا تحركوا بأيديكم وبسيوفكم في هوا ألسنتكم ولا تستعجلوا بما لم يعجل الله لكم, فإنه من مات منكم على فراشه وهو على معرفة حق ربه .. هذا أفضل…< إلى آخر ذلك

رواية أخرى: -ولعلها صحيحة السند- قال: >كل راية ترفع قبل رايته (عليه أفضل الصلاة والسلام) فصاحبها طاغوتٌ يعبد من دون الله عز وجل

The jist of these narrations is that it is a bad idea, and not advisable, and one should remain at home and in seclusion and not speak up. The last narration states that any banner that is raised before the appearance of the Imam, is a banner of taghuut that is worshipped beside Allah (swt).. so quite harsh words.

So the first group has a very easy and relaxed life, where they don’t involve themselves in any socio-political activity to lay the groundworks of an islamic state, or even if an islamic state was established by pure coincidence, or on the back of tanks, they would not involve themselves (at least they claim not to….).

As for the second group:

sub-group 1 is of the view that the laying the groundworks for the right conditions of establishing an islamic state is obligatory on all muslims by any means necessary (even by the use of force), just as ablution is obligatory before prayer. This is the view of Mirza Jawadi Tabrizi.

sub-group 2 is of the view that laying the groundworks for establishing the islamic state is obligatory subject to the right conditions to arise, as in the ruling with respect to hajj, which is only obligatory on those who are able to perform this religious duty.

So what’s our duty? The answer to this partially lies in the life of the Imams, to see how they reacted when faced with such a choice.

Seyyed Kamal considers this topic more important than any personal religious duty, including salah, and I hope you too appreciate why.

He then continues to pose the question on WHO should take charge of this hypothetical islamic state, assuming one is established by some means, and what is the extent of his authority/responsibility?

He makes it a point to clarify that the Jurist / Faqih in question here, is not the commonly known scholar of fiqh that gives religious rulings on personal religious matters, but the wholistic jurist combining all necessary qualitiies of a leader of the islamic state, which includes bravery and awareness of all socia-political, economic and other current affairs of the era he’s living in. CLearly these are not conditions to become a mujtahid of basic fiqh matters.

On the extent of the jurist’s authority there are 4 views:

1) One held by Seyyed Al Khoei (ra), where he claims that there is no evidence whatsoever that the jurist has any sort of authority over muslims, and that ‘his guardianship should be limited to non-litigious matters (al-omour al-hesbiah)[1] including religious endowments (Waqf)[2] judicial matters[3] and the property for which no specific person is responsible.’ (see wikipedia entry as reference to this sentence). If you require references, please let me know.

2) One held by Shaheed Al Sadr, where he suggests that his guardianship is limited to the ‘void’ left between the halal and haram matters (where he has No say in the matter), and the matters which are mustahab and makruh (where he does have a say in the matter, if the need arose).

First the Seyyed re-emphasizes Seyyed Al Khoei’s view, which is that he does not believe that the religious jurist has been given any guardianship whatsoever (even juristic), but he is duty-bound to deal with certain non-litigious matters out of necessity. So, the religious faqih does have a responsibility to deal with social matters in the islamic society, unlike the first group which rejected this responsibility. He shouldn’t just state what the religious ruling is, but make sure the judgement is executed in accordance with islamic law. (references available if required)

The 3rd theory, is a contemporary theory unheard of before the islamic revolution in Iran, and states that: the religious jurist (faqih), who encompasses all required qualities, has been given all responsibilities of the infallible Imam in order to manage the affairs of the islamic ummah, but on condition that the islamic nation elects him first.

To clarify more:

– the islamic nation has a religious obligation to elect a guardian (waliy), who has certain characteristics, these characteristics have been made clear by the infallible Imam

– the guardianship of the faqih has been given to the religious jurist by the Imam

– but in order for this guardianship to take effect, the islamic ummah has to elect the faqih, who has those all-encompassing characteristics.

As an example, we can say there is amongst us in the community someone who has all necessary qualities to lead the community in prayer, however the community decides against selecting him to be the Imam of the mosque. Therefore, all those qualities that he has are of no use to the community unless they select him to be Imam.

Again I re-emphasise, the Muslims DO NOT have a choice whether to elect a guardian or not, this is a religious duty, just as ablution is a religious duty before prayer. It is the duty of the Muslims to identify and elect the right leader to guide them to prosperity and progress.

Also, it is the religious duty of the religious establishment to educate the Muslim ummah in such a way in order for it to make the right choice! Otherwise, they would end up with the likes of those who followed after the death of the Prophet (s).

Evidence from narrations:

There are many, I will just list a few,


  >عن الإمام أمير المؤمنين× قال: دعوني والتمسوا غيري واعلموا إن أجبتكم< إذن الدعوة ممن؟ من الأمة >إن أجبتكم ركبت بكم ما أعلم ولم أصغ إلى قول القائل وعتب العاتب وإن تركتموني فأنا كأحدكم 

 ولعلّي أسمعكم وأطوعكم لمن وليتموه أمركم

 >وقد كان رسول الله’ عهد إليّ عهداً فقال يا ابن أبي طالب لك ولاءُ أمتي,  >فإن ولوك في عافيةٍ وأجمعوا عليك بالرضا فقم بأمرهم وإن اختلفوا عليك فدعهم وما هم فيه

قال رسول الله’ يقول لأمته >إن تولوها عليّاً تجدوه هادياً مهدياً


 >حتى إذا قبض الله رسوله<رجع قومٌ على الأعقاب وغالتهم السبل واتكلوا على الولائج ووصلوا غير الرحم وهجروا السبب الذي امروا بمودته

In short, this guardianship can be called ‘Guardianship by Election’.

One last point on this, is the verse in Surah Hadid:25

لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَأَنزَلْنَا الْحَدِيدَ فِيهِ بَأْسٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَلِيَعْلَمَ اللَّـهُ مَن يَنصُرُهُ وَرُسُلَهُ بِالْغَيْبِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ﴿٢٥

Certainly We sent Our apostles with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the balance that men may conduct themselves with equity; and We have made the iron, wherein is great violence and advantages to men, and that Allah may know who helps Him and His apostles in the secret; surely Allah is Strong, Mighty. (25)

First point: the apostles of GOd have been sent to make clear the religious teachings (fatwa), and then with the help of the people, to establish justice on earth. It is interesting that the emphasis is on the PEOPLE, who are duty-bound to establish justice, and not the apostle. And how can we establish this justice? With Iron. It’s no use to merely give speeches and to set up conventions and seminars, justice can only be established with a powerful security system in place.

The 4th theory: just a summary today, tomorrow will come the details, which is the absolute wilayah of the jurist, as defined by Imam Khomeini (ra).

All responsibilities of the infallible Imam have been given, by appointment of the Imam, over to the most capable individual -and not just the religious jurist- to guide the islamic ummah. Not just any individual, but he who has satisfied the characteristics defined by the infallible Imam.

So the 3rd theory was by election, this guardianship is by anointment, or by appointment of the infallible Imam, and the muslims have no say in this whatsoever.

Seyyed Kamal clarifies a point regarding the third theory (elected wilayah): that the consent of the people to elect such a leader has to have a form of external manifestation, which according to scripture is the bay’ah, or pledge of allegiance. These sources (Quran & Sunnah) are too numerous to list, and most are well known so no need to repeat here.

What he tries to emphasise here though is this point: that all Prophets & Imams did not take guardianship or leadership by force, but through consent of their followers. None of them said, if you don’t elect me so and so will happen. None of them used the sword or force or terror to subjugate people into submission.  So one aspect of accepting Islam and the Prophet and the Imam relies on the shahadatayn (bearing witness), and the other to the pledge of allegiance, so that the guardian and his followers are TOGETHER able to establish justice and prosperity on Earth (while defending their religion), examples in history are many, one of which is Ghadeer Khumm, and the Prophet’s command to pledge allegiance to Imam Ali (as). The need for this pledge was the manifestation of the people’s consent to have him as their ruler and guardian, where verbal or visual consent is not enough.

He then continues to show why Bani Ummayah have tried since the times of Mu’awiyah to prove that the pledge of allegiance and the khilafah of Imam Ali is null and void, but I won’t go into that here.

Continuing with the 4th theory: 

we said that this guardianship is like that of the father over his son, where the son has no say in the matter. we also said that whatever authority and power given to the Prophet and Imam (by God), is given to the jurist/faqih during the greater occultation.

This theory has been attributed to Imam Khomeini (qs), and recently there have been accusations from here and there, that this theory is has no roots in the Najafi school (the neo-Najafi school post Sh Al Ansari), and is unique to the Qomi school… They claim that it is widely accepted by the scholars that this theory of absolute guardianship has no proponent, apart from Imam Khomeini. Is that true though? Let’s see what the following scholars (from Najaf), have to say*:

1) Sh Naraqi, student of Sh Ja’afar Kashif al Qhita’: in his book ‘Awaid al Ayam, pg 529: summary of what he says there is that the wilayah belongs to God essentially, and He has given it to the Prophets and Imams, and to the religious jurists who are the representatives of the Imam during the greater occultation and his wilayah entails a) all wilayah authority given to the Prophet and Imam, and b) every matter to do with the people’s worldly and religious affairs that have to be dealt with to resolve problems, disputes, protecting the countries’ borders, etc (as in S al Khoei’s theory).

2) Sh Muhammad Hussein al Najafi, in his famous book Jawahir al Kalam, vol40, pg15: there is evidence that during the greater occultation the religious jurist has guardianship over the judicial affairs (whereas S al Khoei said there is NO evidence for ANY kind of guardianship, even judicial), and that this evidence helps to conclude that absolute guardianship, as per the Imam, is given to the jurist.

Seyyed Kamal then pleads with his students not to belittle or ridicule others who do not accept this theory, or vice versa. These are opinions which should be respected, whether they agree or not. He also noted that these two scholars lived before the IRI even existed, so nobody can accuse them that the IRI had any influence on their judgement.

The exact phrase of Sh al Najafi is this:

 ويمكن بناء ذلك بل لعله الظاهر على إرادة النصب العام في كل شيء

على وجه يكون له ما للإمام عليه السلام

i.e every responsibility given to the Imam during his presence, is given to the jurist during the greater occultation.

His argument is based on the following proof:

– the famous narration of Imam Mahdi (ajf): فأما الحوادث الواقعة فارجعوا فيها إلى رواة حديثنا فأنهم حجتي عليكم وأنا حجة الله

Sh al Najafi comments on this narration, that ‘this necessitates that the jurists (the narrators of their hadith), are the Imam’s hujja on the muslims on EVERY matter that he is a hujja over them, except that which is proven otherwise.

Seyyed Kamal then shows that Seyyed Sabzawari is of the same view, in his book ‘Mahthab al ahkam, fi bayani al halal wal haram, vol 16 pg364-365. He’s even more explicit and states that the jurist has guardianship as if he IS the Imam.

Just goes to show that Imam Khomeini is not the only one who viewed guardianship to be absolute during the greater occultation, as we saw by these scholars who lived before the revolution in Iran.

Seyyed Kamal then briefly mentions the view of Sh al Ansari, who states that it is IMPOSSIBLE to prove that the jurist (who satisfies the necessary requirements) has the same guardianship as that of the Imam during the greater occultation. (see al Makasib vol3 pg 553)

It is of the Seyyed’s view, that the scholars did not resolve the main point of dispute, therefore he continues from now onwards to do so before arriving at some conclusion. This is the Seyyed’s approach with all religious concepts, and has done so most methodically, like no one before him, on the concept of Imamah (see his publications on the subject).

(Please note that these lectures came as a request from his students during the course of the regular sessions on khums, and therefore he doesn’t go into extreme detail)

From the following lectures it should become apparent what the true views of each scholar is, and whether they agree or disagree with each other.

First step is to define what the wilayah/guardianship that is given to the Imam actually is, so that we understand what we’re saying when we claim that ‘everything given to the Imam is valid for the religious jurist’.

There is no doubt in anybody’s mind, that wilayah belongs essentially and only to Allah swt, even the wilayah of a person over his own self and all his possessions, belongs to Him alone. The quranic and rational proofs divide the wilayah of Allah swt into two:

1) wilayah takweeniyah (existential guardianship)

2) wilayah tashree’iyah (legislative guardianship)

(for details see Tafsir al Mizan, vol6, ref the verse 5:55). Also see english translation on, short extract here:

al-Wilayatu ‘t-Takwimiyyah (The Authority Over Creation): Through this authority He manages everything and disposes the creatures’ affairs as He pleases and in whatever way He pleases. He says: Or have they taken guardians besides Him? But Allah is the Guardian…. (42:9);… you have not besides Him any guardian or any intercessor; will you not then mind? (32:4);… Thou art my guardian in this world and the hereafter;… (12: 10 1);… he has no guardian after Him;_ . (42:44). The same is the implication of the verses: …and We are nearer to Him than his life vein. (50:16);… and know that Allah intervenes between man and his heart, …(8:24).

al-Wilayatu ‘t-Tashri’iyyah (The Authority Over Legislation): Allah has ascribed to Himself this wilayah which concerns the believers’ religious affairs: Legislation of the laws, guidance, advice, help and so on. He says: Allah is the Guardian of those who believe; He brings them out of the darkness into light, …(2:257);… and Allah is the Guardian of the believers (3:68); and Allah is the Guardian of the pious… (45:19) The same is the theme of the verse: And it is not for a believing man nor for a believing woman to have any choice in their affairs when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he surely strays off a manifest straying (3 3:3 6).

Question: have both of these types of guardianships been given to the Prophet and Imams of Ahlul Bayt, or one and not the other?

This matter is disputed in the school of Ahlul Bayt:

1) The first view claims that the Prophet and Imams have not been given any guardianship. Their duty is to inform us of our religious duties and to explain the details. The miracles and supernatural favours are Gods’ acts and they have no role in those either except to pray to Him to fulfil those favours and requests.

2) The second group is of the view that the Prophet and Imams have authority over creation. The problem is, people seem to think this guardianship/wilayah means they are able to raise the dead for example, i.e. have the ability to influence the existential world, which is not what the scholars mean when they say wilayah takweeniyah. This wilayah is in reference to the role the Prophet and Imams play as intermediaries of Divine Grace (wasatah al faydh), which means they fall within the series of causes that brought this universe and everything within it into existence, everything that descends to this world has to pass through them, and everything that rises up to the Divine has to pass through them.

That’s very different to the ability to influence the existential world, the Quran even mentions some Jinn’s ability to do that.

Now does this view fall within the matter under dispute? No it does not, since these matters are existential and not subjective things that can be transferred from one individual to another.

So the question arises, has the religious jurist been given authority to issue religious decrees? Some have rejected this, like the akhbaris, while those who accept it, the usoolis, have to provide proof for this authority when they issue their book of decrees (risalah). Why is this an issue? It’s an issue because the jurist could be right or wrong, and the Akhbaris use the narration of Imam Ali (as), that any path that leads to disputes over fatwas is forbidden by God, which is what essentially ijtihad is.

This is not to be mixed with wilayah tashree’iyah, which is the authority to create religious law, which is specific to God, the Prophet and Imams, and is not transferred to the jurist.

The third wilayah is judicial authority, over which the same dispute as the second type of wilayah (religious decrees) arose, since the religious jurist overlooking a judicial matter could make a mistake, so how can it be given to him?

Seyyed Kamal initially reiterates the point regarding God’s essential wilayah/authority over everything.

Then he brings up 3 views on whether this wilayah (existential/takweeniyah) has been transmitted to the Prophet and Imams, and the extent of this wilayah (whether it’s just a matter of raising the dead or whether they are intermediaries to God’s Grace), again I won’t go over that since it’s outside of the remit of this study. If anyone is interested, please let me know I can elaborate.

On the subject of legislative authority (in its general sense, which includes authority over religious legislation, judicial matters and executive orders), we mentioned that the religious legislation have been given to the Prophet and Imams, however the jurist has only authority over the issuance of fatwas, which is different to the authority over religious legislation in the sense that he cannot come up with a new sharia, since he is not infallible and therefore can make mistakes. He is limited to ijtihad, whether usooli or akhbari, and nobody disagrees on this point.

For judicial matters, we know this has been given to the Prophet and Imams, but is it valid for the jurist as well? The answer is that all Shia scholars, usoolis and akhbaris are in agreement that this authority has been given to the jurist during the grater occultation. (Note: we have not touched on who this jurist is or what his qualities should be, and insha’Allah I’ll dedicate a separate thread for it, or point you to my posts on my blog on the matter). Scholars only disagree on HOW this authority has been deduced from the available evidence. Is it an explicit statement in a narration, or a rational deduction from the obvious need to resolve social disputes.

Sh al Ansari says we have an explicit statement from the Imam, whereas Seyyed al Khoei, as we mentioned earlier, disagrees and even goes so far that there is no evidence whatsoever for ANY authority of any kind. (see previous mentioned sources). S al Khoei also states that WHO should take on this authority is not specified, and that the priority should be given to the religious jurist, however, if one were not available, any other individual could take on that role.

The akhbaris put a condition that the (non usooli) jurist – or the narrator of hadith, as they call him – should find the appropriate hadith in order to resolve any dispute, since they consider ijtihad in such matters forbidden.

For the executive authority, the Prophet and Imams no doubt have the authority to issue the judgement then to order the execution of the ruling. This is where we have quite a substantial disagreement between scholars on whether this authority has been given to the religious jurist. There are 3 views:

1) First view claims that this authority belongs to the Prophet and Imam only. This group defends their ommitance of the chapter on huduud (executive rulings) in their risalah/book of fatwas.

2) The second view claims that this is such a problematic issue that we can neither accept or refute it…!

3) The last view states that this authority has been given to the religious jurist, with conditions. Seyyed al Khoei says again that this is necessary, but not due to any explicit hadith statement (see Mabani takmilat al minhaj,vol1, pg224). Again, WHO should take on this role in his view? Ideally the religious jurist, but can be anybody else.

The intellectual criteria of a Marja’ – Part 2 – Understanding Judicial Laws vs Understanding Religion

When we say that the problem of tradition and modernity can be solved through the process of ijtihad – bearing in mind that human development and modernisation comprises all aspects of life, including natural and intellectual dimensions – it is because the quranic meaning of fiqh is broader and more comprehensive than the mere judicial laws governing the relationship between God and the human being (as is commonly understood by contemporary scholars and the religious seminaries as a whole), but should also include the relationship between the human and his fellow human, and the human and his surrounding environment. Quranically, fiqh is not what is written in the books of practical laws (risalah ‘amaliyah), but should address all issues and problems in our daily lives, both on a personal level and in society as a whole.

On a religious level, this comprehensiveness must therefore include all aspects of ones belief, of which doctrines (aqa’id) should be at the forefront of a mujtahid’s specialisation. Aspiring scholars should ask themselves: should there be ijtihad in theology, philosophy, morals, etc?

This brings us back to the verse in the last postلِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ (‘to obtain understanding in religion’), where the word ‘fiqh’ linguistically means ‘to arrive at an unknown (piece of knowledge) through a known (piece of knowledge), so it is more specific than knowledge.’ [1]; since knowledge can occur by merely standing in front of an object, where that object is imprinted as a mental image in the mind, which is a piece of knowledge gained by the individual without any effort.

So ‘obtaining understanding in religion’ by necessity means to obtain understanding in all aspects of religion (in the absolute sense [2]) in order to answer and deal with all contemporary issues faced by muslim communities around the world. However, this isn’t generally the case when one investigates the current seminary system, or what is generally understood the role of the mujtahid to be (unfortunately and to the detriment of this respected establishment, however don’t be fooled in thinking that this has always been the case..! [3]).

Narrations supporting the Quranic definition of ‘fiqh’

1) ‘When a true believer dies the angels and the parts of earth where he worshipped Allah weep because of his death. Also the doors of the heavens through which his good deeds had been taken up weep and it causes an irreparable damage in the Islamic system. It is because the true believing Fuqaha, people of proper understanding in religion and its laws are the strongholds of the Islamic system just as the fortress around a city is a stronghold for it.’ [4]

So, if someone specialises in one aspect of religion, like judicial laws dealing with an individuals relationship with God, does that make him a protector of Islam? In fact, he is but one part of a larger ‘fortress’ that is protecting Islam, and not the entire structure.

And this is why we need to be more specific on who we class to be a specialist in lesser fiqh (in the commonly understood sense of the word), and those experts or mujtahids in greater fiqh (in the more general sense of the word, which includes doctrines and akhlaq, etc), since we will rarely find someone who will encompass and be knowledgeable in all aspects of religion.

2) ‘The scholars are the heirs of the prophets,…’ [5]

It is evident that the role of the Prophets wasn’t limited to explaining the judicial laws, especially considering that only 10% (or less) of the Quran deals with such matters. So for those who wish to become heirs to the Holy Prophet (s) and his pure progeny (as), should think deeply about these narrations and the preceding quranic discussion before taking on such a heavy burden…! Yet how easy it is to spend 5-10 years studying laws dealing with purity of water and doubts in salat…!! And yet even with such a limited and narrow view of the word fiqh, we find dereliction in dealing with contemporary issues of muslim communities living in the west.


[1] Al Mufradat (arabic lexicon of quranic words and their meanings), by Ragheb al-Isfahani, pg 642, under the root word (f q h).

[2] ‘Religion’ or ‘deen’, is quranically defined to mean that way of life that brings mankind happiness in this world with spiritual perfection in the herafter. (for further info see blog posts under ‘Philosophy of Religion’)

[3] One example of a traditional understanding of fiqh can be seen in the words of Imam  al-Ghazali and Sheikh al-Baha’i, who considered this contemporary definition of fiqh to be a new phenomenon unheard of in previous eras of scholarly work. Al Ghazali considered the word fiqh to mean the science of the hereafter and to understand the issues dealing with the soul and those deeds that harm it, and with the ability to understand the material world vis a vis other realms especially the hereafter. He uses the verse of warning (Al Tawbah:122) as evidence in this regard, since warning involves knowledge of those aspects of religion dealing with doctrines in general, and the hereafter in particular. (see Al Mahajah al Baydha’, by Faidh al Kashani, Vol1, pg81).

[4] Usool Al Kafi, Vol1, pg38, H3.

[5] Usool Al Kafi, Vol1, pg46, H5.

The intellectual criteria of a Marja’ – Part 1 – The Quranic meaning of ‘fiqh’

The Shia School prides itself in opening the door for ijtihad from the first days of Islam, but I will not dwell on its importance here and the evidence for its need to keep up with the changing times, since there is no disagreement on this aspect (although there are different views in defining ijtihad [1]). Shaheed Al Sadr says: ‘Ijtihad allows the muslims to apply islamic theory to daily life, since pracitcal application cannot happen until ijtihad defines the theory and its details.’ [2]

The differences in opinion arose with differing views on the role of the mujtahid and the extent of his responsibilities (although the responsibilites are clearly stated in the Quran and narrations as we’ll see below..).

Imam Khomeini’s view on Ijtihad: ‘We have limited ourselves to a small part of juristic laws, and left many aspects untouched and therefore many aspects of ijtihad remain strange to us.’ [3] He saw that the ijtihad being performed at the religious seminaries was not enough to tackle all the issues faced by the muslim nations, due to the wrong understanding of ijtihad and intellectual standstill due to the focus on the individual and not the society as a whole. The solution he proposed was: ‘Islam deals with all aspects of life, and gave corresponding laws for each (aspect).’

This is where the correct understanding of fiqh becomes critical in understanding the correct purpose of ijtihad and the correct role of the mujtahid. And, as always, to establish the correct meaning of any religious concept, we must go to the Quran:

وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُ‌وا كَافَّةً ۚ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ‌ مِن كُلِّ فِرْ‌قَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُ‌وا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَ‌جَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُ‌ونَ

‘And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious?’ [4]

Before talking about the meaning of the word ‘fiqh’ or ‘tafaquh’ in this verse, another important phrase is ‘why should not’ (فَلَوْلَا), which is used as an exhortation to do a certain thing, in this case: ‘to obtain understanding in religion’, i.e. it is obligatory (for all or some) to obtain religious knowledge.

The verse then defines the role of those who obtained religious knowledge to be ‘that they may warn their people when they come back to them’, correlating understanding in religion with warning, deeming knowledge on its own to be insufficient without spreading it to those who lack it. But what does ‘when they come back to them’ mean? They must have gone somewhere to return to their people. It is evident, then, that migration of those tasked with obtaining knowledge and then returning to their people, having gathered all necessary information and experience, is fundamental to ‘warning’ them and providing themselves and others with the tools to counter any (intellectual) threat they might face.

Allamah al-Tabatabai’s view on the verse: ‘Hence it is clear that the intended meaning of ‘becoming learned’ (tafaquh) is to gain an understanding of all religious sciences, whether the roots of the religion or its branches, and not just the practical laws, which is the formal meaning of fiqh amongst religious people. The proof for this is first, to become learned in religion and second, and to warn their people… because they can only warn their people if they have an understanding of all aspects of the religion, including that which will occasion divine reward or punishment in the Hereafter.’ [5]

Knowledge in religion (tafaquh) in narrations

The narrations dealing with the importance of knowledge and the obligation of its acquisition are numerous, I will mention just one relevant to our discussion above:

Imam al-Sadiq (as) said: ‘Become learned in religion, for those who do not are desert dwellers (i.e. ignorant and lacking knowledge)’ [6]

The term ‘desert dwellers’ should not be taken as an insult, as the Quran has given a clear definition for this group in society:

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَ‌ابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَـٰكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ

‘The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and faith has not yet entered into your hearts..’ [7]

The desert dwellers are far removed from the centres of knowledge and culture, which will have an effect on their spiritual and behavioural conduct.


[1] See: ‘Ijtihad: its meaning, sources, beginning and practice of ra’y’

[2] Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr: ‘Future directions of the Ijtihad movement’, Al Ghadeer magazine, Dec 1980.

[3] Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, ‘Islamic Government’, pg65.

[4] Al Tawbah:122

[5] Allamah Tabataba’i, Tafsir Al Mizan, Vol9, pg337.

[6] Usul al Kafi, Vol1, pg31, H6.

[7] Al Hujurat:14