Wilayat-e-Faqih & Marja'iyya


Sayyid M. Rizvi


Link: 1997 QA

Q2. Who is the highest knowledgable 'Aalim or Marja  currently in Iran and Iraq? Is Ayat. Khamneyie is the most knowledgable Mujtahid in Iran or are there any other mujtahids who have more knowledge and experience in fiqh?

A2. Before the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the marja' (the Grand Mujtahid) was the leader of the Shi'a community but did not have the means to bring about any change or transformation in the society. The Islamic Revolution is based on the concept that the supreme leader should be a mujtahid. In that sense, it is not a new concept; it is just providing the means for exercising complete leadership for the mujtahid in a Shi'a community. This has, however, created some confusion among the Shi'as about the issue of taqlid: do you follow the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran or can you still do taqlid of other marمji'?

The confusion arises because of the historical events of the Islamic Revolution. This Revolution was led by the late Ayatullah al-Imam Sayyid Ruhullah al-Khumayni. He was already recognized as a marja' and an a'lam by many Shi'as; it is important to remember that his a'lamiyyat or marja'iyya did not depend on the Revolution. Therefore, it was quite natural to select him as the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this manner, the marja'-e taqlid also became the supreme leader known in the Iranian consititution as 'wali-e faqih'.

The question which must be asked is the following: it is necessary for the wali-e faqih to be also a marja-e taqlid? In other words, it is necessary for the institution of the wali-e faqih and the marja'iyya to be one and the same? The best answer is given by the constitution of the IR of Iran and the late Ayatullah al-Khumayni himself.

Soon after the Revolution, when the first constitution of the Islamic Republic was approved by the Iranian people, it said that the office of the wali-e faqih should be occupied by a marja'-e taqlid accepted by the majority of the people. It said,  "Whenever one of the fuqahم' [i.e., mujtahidin] possessing the qualifications specified in Article 5 of the Constitution is recognized and accepted as marja' and leader by a decisive majority of the people...he is to assume [the office of] wilayat-e amr and all the functions arising therefrom."  (See article 107 of the first Constitution.)

This actually reflected the reality of times when people saw that Imam al-Khumayni, a marja-e taqlid, was the wali-e faqih also. However, after few years while Ayatullah al-Khumayni was still alive, the constitution of Iran was amended. While the deliberations were going on, the Speaker of the Assembly for the Amendment of the Constitution, Shaykh 'Ali Mishkini, wrote a letter to Imam al-Khumayni asking him about the question of "marja'iyya and wali-e faqih". Ayatullah al-Khumayni wrote:

"From the beginning I was of the view that marja'iyya is not a necessary condition [for wali-e faqih=leadership]. A just mujtahid who is recommended by the Assembly of Experts can assume the leadership of the Islamic society...I mentioned this point while experts were preparing the constitution, my friends were insisting on the marja'iyya as the necessary condition [for wali-e faqih]. Hence, I agreed with their proposal. At that time I was sure this condition could not be fulfilled in the future."
(Sahifa-e Nur, vol. 21, 129)

Accordingly, the Constitution was changed and the condition of "marji'iyya" was taken out from the qualifications of the wali-e faqih who was to assume the supreme leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. (See Article 107 and 109 which clearly state that ijtihمd is a sufficient qualification for the leader, he does not necessarily have to be a marja'-e taqlid.)

In the light of the above change in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, supported by the views of the late Founder of the Islamic Revolution, we can conclude that the office of Wali-e faqih and the Marja'iyya does not have to be one and the same: it could be or it could not be, it depends on the person who assumes that position.

In the final analysis, I would say that one may do taqlid of any of the marمji'-e taqlid in all matters; but since they are silent or have no opinion on political issues and on issues related to the Islamic Movement world-wide, one should follow the Wali-e faqih of Iran who is best suited to guide on such issues.

Sayyid M. Rizvi

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