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Last Updated: 2012/01/17
Summary of question
What is the view of the majority of scholars regarding Wilayah Faqih during the major Occultation?
What is the view of the majority of scholars regarding Wilayah Faqih during the major Occultation?
Concise answer

For over a thousand years, Shi’a scholars have been cultivating the concept of Wilayah Faqih, its bounds and its privileges. Some, such as Abu al-Salah Halabi and Ibn Idris Hilli , have addressed the issue of qualifications for a representative to the infallible Imam (PBUH) in specific sections of their books, while others have touched upon it in passing. Some scholars like the author of “Miftah al-Kiramah”, have presented arguments for the reasoning of Wilayah Faqih and others such as Mulla Ahmad Naraqi have explained the span of authority of the faqih. A group of scholars, such as the author of “Jawahir” have delved deep into the subject, while another group have addressed it in a broad and general manner. In all their respective opinions, however, the concept of Wilayah Faqih has been an established and definite proposal.

Detailed Answer

Shi’a scholars have observed and examined the concept of Wilayah Faqih from the time of Sheikh Mufid (333 or 338-413 AH) up until today. Some scholars like Abu al-Salah Halabi have allocated a specific chapter to it in their works and have mentioned the qualifications of the imam’s representative in a detailed manner, while others have explained some of his responsibilities in passing. All of them, however, have accepted the general concept of Wilayah Faqih.

In order to shed light upon the history of this issue, we will observe the opinion of the great Shi’a scholars in this regard, with the exception of Sheikh Mufid’s which requires a separate article.[1]

1- Sheikh Abu al-Salah Halabi (d. 447 AH)

Sheikh Abu al-Salah Halabi was a student of Seyed Murtadha and Sheikh Tusi. In his “Al-Kafi”, he has allocated a chapter to the issue of Wilayah Faqih and has entitled it “Tanfid al-Ahkam” (Enacting Rulings). In it he says: “Enacting religious rulings and judging according to them is an authority exclusively granted to the infallible Imams. Thus, individuals that the imams have not authorized in this regard cannot assume this responsibility.”[2]

In this phrase, we find that enacting religious rulings and judging according to them, which covers all governmental and political affairs, is exclusively assigned to the Imams and those whom they authorize. Along these lines, Sheikh Abu al-Salah mentions the qualifications of those whom the Imams have authorized saying: “The qualifications of representing an Imam are as follows:

1- Possessing the knowledge of religious rulings

2- Possessing the power to enact it in an appropriate manner

3- Possessing intellectual strength, insight and patience

4- Having vigilance of contemporary circumstances

5- Being just and holding firm to religious rulings

6- Possessing the power to cause order within society“[3]

These conditions are similar to what we find many centuries later in the hundred and ninth article of the constitution of the Islamic Republic which reads:

“The qualifications and attributes of the leader are:

1- Scholarship, as required for performing the functions of a mufti in different fields of Fiqh.

2- Justice and piety, as required for the leadership of the Islamic Ummah.

3- Right political and social perspicacity, prudence, courage, administrative facilities and adequate capability for leadership.

2- Ibn Idris Hilli  (d. 598 AH)

A century and a half after Abu al-Salah Halabi, Ibn Idris Hilli  allocated a chapter of his book “Sara’ir” to Wilayah and also named it “Tanfid al-Ahkam” (Enacting Rulings). He has mentioned the qualifications of the leader with phrases similar to that of Abu al-Salah after noting that the position of implementing rulings is exclusively granted to the infallible imams and those whom they authorize in this regard. The only condition he adds is for the leader to have constancy in issuing Fatwas and acting according to them. Apparently, he was referring to the state of Ijtihad of the leader which the first condition (Possessing the knowledge of religious rulings) already covers.

3- Muhaqqiq Hilli  (676 Hijri)

Muhaqqiq Hilli  says in regard to Khums: ”The guardianship of spending the Imam’s share from Khums must be assumed by his representative, the same way the representative assumes the responsibility of one who is absent (a husband for example).”

Zain al-Din Ali Amili, known as Shahid II (d. 966 AH), explains this phrase as follows: “The individual Muhaqqiq Hilli  refers to as ‘the imam’s representative’ is a just twelve imam Shi’a faqih that possesses the qualifications of issuing Fatwas, for this person has been authorized and chosen as a representative by the Imam.”[4]

4- Muhaqqiq Karaki (940 Hijri):

Muhaqqiq Karaki writes in regards to the Imam’s representative: “There is a consensus amongst Shi’a fuqaha that a qualified faqih (a faqih that possesses the qualifications of issuing Fatwas), whom is referred to as a ‘Mujtahid’, has been authorized by the Imams in all fields which representation is applicable. Therefore, taking complaints to him and obeying his verdict is obligatory. He can sell the property of one who does not pay his debts without the owner’s consent. He has authority over the property and wealth of absent people (in certain cases), children, the insane, bankrupts and pertaining to whatever the Imam has authorized him. The proof for this is the hadith of Umar ibn Handhalah and other ahadith similar to it.”[5]

He then continues: “If one observes the Sirah (lifestyle) of the great Shi’a scholars, such as Seyed Murtadha, Sheikh Tusi, Bahr al-Ulum and Allamah Hilli , he will find that they did the same and upheld this method and have explained what they believed to be true and veracious.”[6]

5- Mawla Ahmad Muqaddas Ardibili (d. 990 AH)

Muqaddas Ardibili argued to prove the Istihbab (religious preference) of paying Khums to the faqih as follows: “The reason is because the faqih is better aware of where the Khums should be spent. Different groups of people interact with him and this enables him to prioritize the expenses. A faqih is the representative of the infallible imam. Therefore, what is given to the faqih has been placed in the hands of the infallible.”[7]

Hajj Agha Ridha Hamidani (1322 Hijri) also considers entrusting the faqih with money placing it in the hands of the infallible.[8]

6- Jawad ibn Muhammad Husseini Amili (d. 1226 AH)

He was the author of the valuable book “Miftah al-Karamah” and was well-aware of the opinions of the jurists (fuqaha). He also believes a faqih is the representative of the imam. He says in this regard: “The fuqaha have been chosen as representatives by the infallibles. Our intellect, the consensus amongst the ulema and ahadith pertaining to this issue prove this viewpoint.”

As far as our intellect understands, if a faqih does not have such authorization from the last Imam, people’s affairs will remain unsolved and chaos will take over the society.

As for the consensus[9], we can claim that there is a consensus amongst Shi’a scholars in this regard and their consensus is binding on us (Hujjat).

As far as the ahadith, they are clear in respect to this authorization. For example, the hadith that Saduq[10] has narrated in Ikmal al-Din which says: “In response to Ishaq ibn Yaqub’s question, the Imam wrote: ‘In regard to the events that take place, refer to the narrators of our ahadith, for they are my proof (Hujjat) over you and I am the proof of God.’”[11]

7- Mulla Ahmad Naraqi (d. 1245 AH)

Naraqi says “A faqih’s position has two aspects:

1- A faqih has the same authority of that of the Prophet and the Imams – who are the strongholds of religion and the ultimate leaders – except in instances that have been excluded from the scope of his duties due to the ahadith or a consensus amongst the ulema or… .

2- All worldly and religious affairs of the masses that must be administrated (it is wajib to administrate them), either because reasons says so, or it is customary for such to happen, or because the religious and worldly order of the people depends on it, or because religion has ordered so, or because there is a consensus on it by the scholars, or because of the ahadith that negate harm and Usr and Haraj (hardship and difficulty) or due to the entailment of corruption in one’s faith, or due to the fact that there is specific instruction on doing or refraining from it, whether it is related to the well-being of one person or a group, which has not been assigned to a certain individual or group, must be assumed by the faqih.[12]

8- Sheikh Muhammad Hasan Najafi, author of Jawahir (d. 1266 AH)

The author of “Jawahir” says in regard to the scope of the faqih’s authority: “It is understood from the practice and fatwa of Shi’a scholars in different fields of Fiqh that the faqih has absolute authority. Moreover, one could claim that this is an indisputable and fundamental principle in their Fiqhi opinions.”[13]

My opinion is that God has made it obligatory to obey the faqih using the term “اولى‏الامر” (The possessors of authority). Proof for this is the absoluteness found in the ahadith of the faqih’s authority, especially Imam Mahdi’s (as) hadith.[14]

In regard to the authority of Waliyy Faqih, it is understood from the unconditional statement of the Imam about the qualified faqih which says: ‘I have appointed him as your governor’, that he has been granted absolute authority. Moreover, the Imam’s statement that reads: ‘The narrators of our ahadith are my proof (Hujjat) over you and I am the proof of Allah’ clearly indicates the vast authority of the faqih, including carrying out the physical punishments (Hudud), etc. At all events, carrying out the physical punishments is obligatory during the Imam’s occultation, because the authority of the infallible Imam has been proven for the qualified faqih in many cases.

A faqih has a similar position in social and political affairs to that of an infallible imam. Therefore, from this perspective, there is no difference between the two. This is an established viewpoint amongst the Shi’a scholars, as their books are full of rulings that must be carried out by the representative of the Imam during the occultation. If they are not to be the Imam’s representatives, all affairs and issues will remain unattended. Therefore, one who causes doubt about the absolute authority of the qualified faqih has not understood Fiqh and the core of the infallibles’ words. Such a person has not pondered the statement of the Imams that says: “We have appointed the faqih as governor, successor, judge and proof (Hujjat) upon you…”. These ahadith, as well as many others, clearly illustrate that the Imams’ aim was to cause a source of order for the Shi’a through the fuqaha during the occultation. It is for this reason that Sallar Ibn Abd al-Aziz states with all certainty in his book Marasim that the Imams have assigned these affairs to the fuqaha. In short, the absolute authority of the faqih is so clear it does not need any reasoning to back it.[15]

9- Sheikh Murtadha Ansari (d. 1281 AH)

Despite the fact that Sheikh Ansari does not consider the authority of the faqih to be unconditional in his book al-Makasib, he clearly states: “The authority of the jurist holds in matters whose religiousness is clear”.[16] In the chapter of ‘Judgment’ on judicial issues, he divides the issues related to the infallibles into two categories: personal duties and general ones. He writes: “The first category is related to the time of the infallible. The second, however, is related to all times.” He then states that the appointment of the Fuqaha by the infallibles pertains to the second category. He refers to the fuqaha’s authority during the occultation as “Governing”.[17]

10- Seyed Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum (d. 1326 AH)

Bahr al-Ulum discusses whether the ahadith referring to Wilayah Faqih indicate unconditional authority or not. He writes: “What matters is to scrutinize the ahadith of Wilayah Faqih to see whether they are referring to absolute authority or not. In this regard, we must say that the leadership of the Islamic society as well as all people is assumed by the imam, and this calls for people to refer to him in all worldly and religious affairs, the same way any nation refers to their leader. It is clear that this will lead to the strength of the Islamic government, the establishment of which has always been one of Islam’s goals. Therefore, in order to maintain the Islamic government, the imam must appoint a successor and that person cannot be anyone other than a qualified faqih. This can be understood from the ahadith such as: ‘In regard to the events that take place, refer to the narrators of our ahadith (the fuqaha)’. Moreover, the Fuqaha have agreed that in many situations people must refer to the faqih, even though there is no specific hadith about these situations. This shows that they have actually accepted the absolute authority of the faqih, which is proven by the ahadith and intellect. The reports of the consensus amongst the scholars in regard to this issue are ‘Mustafid’.[18] By the grace of Allah, the issue is clear and there is no room for doubt or confusion.”[19]

11- Ayatollah Burujirdi (d. 1382 AH)

He believed that the authority of the faqih was clearly proven in issues related to people’s affairs and held that there is no need for ahadith like the hadith of Umar ibn Handhalah. These ahadith, however, can be considered extra proof in this regard. He writes:

“…In short, there is no doubt that the qualified faqih has been appointed to administrate affairs that are related to people’s well-being. Taking what we said into consideration, there is no need to the hadith of Umar ibn Hanzalah, even though it can be considered extra proof in this regard.”[20]

12-Ayatollah Sheikh Murtada Ha’iri (d. 1362 AH)

He considers the Tawqi’ of Imam Mahdi (as) (letters written by the Imam to one of his representatives before the major occultation) one of the proofs for Wilayah Faqih and says: “The Tawqi’ of Imam Mahdi is sufficient to prove authority for the qualified faqih (to lead the Friday prayer). We have mentioned and examined its chain of narrators in our book ‘Ibtigha al-Fadilah’. One concern mentioned in regard to this hadith is that the question asked in it is a very specific one. However, this is not an issue, as the final sentence of the hadith is a general statement and is explaining a general principle. The hadith implies that the qualified faqih is a proof (Hujjat) from the Imam, which means that he must be referred to in whatever people would refer to the Imam in.”[21]

13- Imam Khomeini (d. 1368 AH)

He believed that a qualified faqih has absolute authority, meaning that all the responsibilities and positions of the infallible imam are assumed by the faqih during the occultation, except for those which are clearly negated by the ahadith and are personal responsibilities of the Imam. He says in this regard: “Taking what was said into consideration, we conclude that the Fuqaha have been authorized by the Imams in all fields the Imams have authority in. To make exceptions in regard to certain jurisdictions, we must have adequate proof that they are exclusively for the Imams. Phrases such as: ‘This issue is in the hands of the Imam.’ Or ‘The Imam orders this…’ cannot be sufficient proof, for the faqih inherits these authorities due to the reasons mentioned above. We pointed out earlier that all governmental and social authorities are inherited by the faqih.”[22]

For more information, refer to:

Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani, Velayat va Diyanat, Cultural Institute of the House of Wisdom, Qum, second edition, 1380 (2001).

[1] See: Wilayah Faqih and Sheikh Mufid, Question 22.

[2] Abu al-Salah al-Halabi, al-Kāfī fi al-Fiqh, pg. 422.

[3] Ibid, pg. 423.

[4] Zayn al-Din bin Ali al-Ameli al-Juba’i, Masalik al-Afham, vol. 1, pg. 53.

[5] Muhaqqiq Karaki, Rasa’il al-Muhaqqiq al-Thani, the treatise on congregational prayer, vol. 1, pg. 142.

[6] We find examples of this in the works of Sheikh Mufid, the teacher of Seyyed Murteza and Sheikh Tusi.

[7] Muqaddas Ardibili, Majma’ al-Fa’idah wa al-Burhan, vol. 4, pg. 205.

[8] Haj Agha Reza Hamedani, Misbah al-Faqih, book of Khums, pg. 160.

[9] Ijma’ or consensus means the general agreement of scholars on an issue which is revealing of authentic evidence in that regard and reflects the standpoint of the infallible.

[10] We will point out the signification (semantics) of these ahadith. (please refer to: this same article, the section on the proofs of Wilayah Faqih, the narrative proof).

[11] Husayni Amili, Miftah al-Karamah (book of judgment), vol. 10, pg. 21.

[12] Ahmad Naraqi, Awa’id al-Ayyam, pp. 187-188.

[13] Muhammad Hasan Najafi, Jawahir al-Kalām , vol. 16, pg. 178.

[14] Sheikh Hurr Amili, Wasa’il al-Shia, vol. 18, pg. 101 (book of judgment, chapter on the traits of a judge, chapters 9-11).

[15] Muhammad Hasan Najafi, Jawahir al-Kalām , vol. 21, pp. 395-397.

[16] Sheikh Murtada Ansari, al-Makasib, pg. 154.

[17] Sheikh Murtada Ansari, book of judgment and testimony, pp. 243-244.

[18] Istifadah or being mustafid means abundance and being abundant; when a consensus or hadith is narrated by numerous individuals, the hadith is referred to as a khabar mustafid and the consensus as a ijma’ manqul mustafid.

[19] Seyed Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, Balghah Fiqhiyyah, vol. 3, pp. 221 and 232-234.

[20] Book of al-Badr al-Zahir (transcriptions of the lessons of Ayatullah Burujirdi, pg. 52.

[21] Murtada Ha’iri, Salat al-Jama’ah, pg. 144.

[22] Imam Khomein (rah), Kitab al-Bay’, vol. 2, pp. 488-489.

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