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Summary of question
The place of the people in a government system based on the Wali Faqih and its difference with a government based on liberalism?
What is the place of the people in regards to a government system based on the Wali Faqih and its difference with a government system based on liberalism?
Concise answer

According to Quranic verses and the viewpoint of Islam, the ‘people’ compose one of the basic and essential foundations of a government. The Quran says: “We have sent our messengers with clear proofs, and we have revealed with them (divine) books and the Mizan (a means of discerning between the truth and falsehood, as well as just rules) in order that the people may uphold justice…’

The place of the people in a government based on the Wali Faqih can be summarized in the following: The selection of the governmental system based on the Waliy Faqi, the selection of the leaders of the Islamic government, the consultation of the Islamic ruler with the people, etc.

In regards to the meaning and essence of Liberalism, it can be said: A government system based on Liberalism is a system in which a liberal approach is taken regarding all of its aspects and affairs, its main objective being to bring as much freedom as possible to the individual in society and in general, the essence and foundation of Liberalism is based on individualism and humanism.

Some of the points of difference in the system of Wali Faqih and Liberalism are as follows: God centeredness, the right of freedom for human beings within the limits of Islamic law, respect of all divine religions, taqwa and piety being the criteria for value in people, etc.

Detailed Answer

The place of the people in a governmental system based on the Wali Faqih

According to Islam and Quranic verses, people are one of the central factors of a government. The Holy Quran says: “لقد ارسلنا رسلنا بالبینات و انزلنا معهم الکتاب و المیزان لیقوم الناس بالقسط...” meaning that: “Certainly We sent Our apostles with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice;”[1],[2]

We can summarize the relationship between people and the government within the following fields:

1- Choosing the Islamic government by the people:

In the Islamic government, people have chosen an Islamic political structure out of their knowledge, love and free will and long the execution of divine law, and obviously, an Islamic government will not be able to function without the selection and advocating of the people. It is on this basis that even though Imam Ali was granted Wilayah (Authority) by Allah and was divinely selected to lead the people, he did not carry out this responsibility until they came to him and swore allegiance, because the grounds were not yet ready for him to practice his authority and Wilayah.

But when the grounds existed he did not neglect his responsibility, as the Imam himself says “If people had not come to me, and supporters had not exhausted the argument, and if there had been no pledge of Allah with the learned to the effect that they should not acquiesce in the gluttony of the oppressor and the hunger of the oppressed, I would have cast the rope of Caliphate on its own shoulders, and would have given the last one the same treatment as to the first one. Then you would have seen that in my view this world of yours is no better than the sneezing of a goat!”.[3]

These statements of the Imam show that even though establishing a government for the execution of justice and getting back the rights of the oppressed from oppressors is a duty that Allah has assigned to the imam, but because carrying out this duty is not possible without the support, allegiance and advocating of the people, until people do not take the required steps in regard to establishing a government, the infallible imam is not responsible to force people to obey him, instead he must guide people and advise them so that they do what is necessary out of free will.[4]

2- The choosing of governmental officials by the people:

In an Islamic government, it is the people that appoint the officials (The leader, president, representatives of the parliament, etc.) in either direct or indirect forms.

People directly choose the president, members of the Assembly of Experts, representatives of the parliament and representatives of the city and village council. The people also indirectly choose the leader through the

Assembly of Experts.

The choosing of officials by people is one of the indisputable principles of an Islamic government. Imam Khomeini says in this regard: “It is the people that should appoint their expert and trust-worthy individuals as

officials and hand the reign of affairs over to them.”[5]

3- The Islamic leader consulting the people:

It is necessary for the leader to find out about the people’s opinion through consulting them and to employ their thoughts in the better management of affairs. However, it is the leader that determines finally whether or not he should act according to his own opinion or according to that of the people. Of course, if Allah and the infallibles have expressed their opinion in regard to a specific issue, then the leader must act accordingly, even if his act contradicts the people’s opinion, and in such a situation people have no right to object his act; because they have accepted for their government to implement divine law and the rulings of Islam. In this regard Imam Ali says: “About you asking me to consult you, by Allah I had no desire to have authority and power, but you called me to it and made me responsible of it, and I was worried that by not accepting your request, there would be dispute and contention among the Ummah. So when I became responsible of it, I examined the book of Allah and the Sirah and Sunnah (lifestyle) of the Holy Prophet and I followed the guidelines of the Quran and the Sunnah. I did not need the opinion of you or other people, but when I do not find the ruling to a certain situation in the Quran and the Sunnah of the prophet, and needed your consultation, then I will consult you.”[6]

When a person like Imam Ali, who stated many times: “سلونی قبل ان تفقدونی”; meaning that: “Ask me [whatever you wish] before you lose me[7], finds himself in need of people’s consultation in regard to some issues, then it is natural that leaders who are not infallible would need the consultation of experts and knowledgeable individuals in regard to new and present-day issues.

Therefore, in an Islamic government, the people have the privilege of being able to participate in law making (governmental laws) and decision making and current affairs of the state through their representatives.[8]

4- Participating in the legislation of law:

In the Islamic government, people have the chance to participate in legislating laws that are implemented through their representatives in the Islamic Consultative Assembly which is the law-making body of the country. This even goes for the constitution that the country is currently administrated by, as it was enacted only after the people voted for it.[9]

5- The people’s supervision of the officials and authorities:

People oversee the acts and deeds of the officials with open eyes and sharp ears and for many years have employed the right of supervising the officials as a means of taking role in the government, and have stopped the government from making mistakes by examining and scrutinizing its acts and programs.

In the Islamic government, people oversee the execution of divine rulings according to Islamic manners such as the upholding of justice, eradicating discrimination, giving people their rights, the possessing of sufficient power and management in order to rule, avoiding false pride and vanity, feeling responsible to Allah and the people, the officials spiritually building themselves before others, being honest and avoiding wrongdoing and, in short, acting according to the Quran and Sunnah’s commands and rulings.[10]

6- The people’s role in supporting and assisting the government

The same way the Islamic government relies on the allegiance of the majority of people to be established, it also requires the support and assistance of the people to continue functioning. People’s support and advocating can immunize the government to all foreign and domestic threats. Imam Ali alludes to this role in his words and commands, in a letter to Malik Ashtar, to rely on the enduring class of the society at all times and situations and to avoid relying on the self-centered and much-asking wealthy class, and to always think of pleasing the former rather than the latter.[11]

Imam Khomeini says in this regard: “The people should support their government; a government that is not supported and advocated will fail and collapse.” On another occasion he says: “At all events we need the people; meaning that the Islamic Republic needs the (support of) people until the end. It was the people that brought the Islamic Republic to this point and it is them that will help it reach the final point.”[12],[13]

7. The right of freedom for the people within the limits of Islamic law: A government based on Wali Faqih does allow people the right of freedom within the construct of Islamic law, which comes from the law-centeredness of Islam. In the political construct of Islam, absolute freedom without any conditions and limitation which causes corruption and the destruction of the people is not accepted as correct. These are some of the issues which clarify the people’s position and role in the Wali Faqih system. But in order to show the differences between the Wali Faqih system and that of Liberalism, it is first necessary to become familiar with the system of Liberalism, as well as its foundations:

A Description of Liberalism:

Liberalism means seeking freedom and a liberal is one who is a freedom seeker or a supporter of freedom. It comes from the Latin word Liberten. Many opinions have been presented in regards to its contextual usage by western linguists. If we put all of these viewpoints together, we will come to understand that Liberalism comes to mean the philosophy of the increase in the personal freedom of individuals up to whatever point possible. In other words, the broadest meaning of Liberalism is the securing of as much freedom as possible for the individual.[14]The foundation of this philosophy is based on the emphasis of the individual.[15]

The Foundations and Principles of Liberalism:

Liberalism consists of certain foundations and principles; we will list some of these below:[16]

1- An emphasis and focus on the individual (over that of the society): This focus on the individual is an important basis and foundation of Liberalism. The meaning of a focus on the individual is that he and his rights are predominant over all other things. If a government has been established, then it must go after fulfilling the needs of the individual of that society. Religion, morals, and thinkers have no right to interfere in the affairs of individuals and what is most important is the individual and his needs and desires.

2- The primacy of freedom: this means that freedom is the highest of values. Based on this foundational belief, freedom must be given to individuals to engage in any action, whether it involves any actions against religion, morals, as well as other restrictive factors. Furthermore, these freedoms are to be held honorable and respected.

3- Humanism: this means that everything, including morals and religion, must be justified and based on the desires and needs of the people. Human beings must not harmonize themselves with morals or religion, rather, morals and religion must harmonize themselves with human beings.

4- Secularism: this means the separation of religion and the daily affairs of life. Based on this viewpoint, religion must be marginalized. In addition, religion does not have the right to interfere in the important affairs and matters of life.

5- Capitalism: Liberalism has been so mixed in with capitalism and economics that many thinkers are firm on the belief that liberalism is the ideology of capitalism.

The Liberalist System

Therefore, by understanding the meaning, foundation, and principles of liberalism, it can be said that the system of liberalism is a system whereby all sorts and types of freedom and freedom seeking are sought after; its main goal is the establishment of as much freedom as possible for the individual in the society. It is also based upon a focus on the individual.

The Differences between the System of Wali Faqih and the System of Liberalism:

Keeping what was mentioned previously in mind, we will mention some of the points of difference between the systems of Wali Faqih and Liberalism:

1- Even though the system of liberalism makes the claim of freedom for the individuals of a society, yet in reality, it does not enact such a thing and has set up the few wealthy individuals of society against the larger portion of the poor. Right now there exists a very strong social class gap and inequality in countries where liberalism has been enacted.[17] The poverty stricken classes do not practically benefit from any respect or honor in the society. Contrary to this, the Islamic system based on the Wali Faqih  (which is based on the laws and regulations of Islam) has never associated the value of human beings to be in their material possessions and wealth; it has always considered the criterion of human worth to be found in human piety: (إنّ اکرمکم عند الله اتقاکم)[18], which means: ‘Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.’All the foundations of such a government are based upon this concept.

2- In the system of Liberalism, in terms of the ethical actions of individuals, the way of living an overly indulgent and easy life, which is beyond the normal boundaries, is the prevailing situation at hand. In addition to this, no one has the right of interfering in the actions of any other individual. Even if someone wished to engage in actions which go against religion and ethics, still no one has the right of interference. The identification of moral ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are only in the hands of the individual, and the individual is seen as being without need of revelation and divine rules and regulations.[19] Although Liberalism does not accept any restrictions to limit these freedoms (Refer to: The Limitations of Freedom in Islam, Question 289 (Site: 2485)), still the government based on the Wali Faqih (which is based on the foundations, principles, and regulations of Islam), for the sake of human wellbeing and the security of the society and the people, must enact certain punishments and restrict certain types of behaviors.

3- Freedom from the perspective of Islam and the Islamic government is explained within the structure and foundations of divine law. Therefore, the spreading of deviant ideologies, slander against the people, slander against the sacred and divine concepts, machinations against Islam and Islamic law, and slander against religiously divine figures such as: the prophets (a), Imams (a), buying and selling religiously unlawful (as well as usurped) items, buying and selling deviant books are all completely forbidden in the framework of the Islamic system. Contrary to this, it is possible to insult and slander religions and religious figures within the framework of the liberal system, and there is no criterion which considers these actions as being immoral or wrong.

4- Freedom has been defined in Islam and in the Islamic government, but in Liberalism, the only things which are defined are material and physical interests. In addition, these factors are the only ones focused upon and all other factors are seen as either unimportant or less important.

5- Islam and the Islamic government emphasize a system focused on God, contrary to the Liberalism, which focuses on the human individual; Islam also gives the right of law making and rule only to God. In addition, it does not consider religion and politics to be separate from one another.[20]


For further information, please refer to the sources below:

1- Professor Hadavi Tehrani, Velayat va Diyanat, The House of Wisdom Cultural Institute Publications, Qum, Fifth Print, 2010.

[1] Hadid: 25

[2] Adopted from Question 269 (site: 111).

[3] Nahjul-Balaghah, sermon 3.

[4] Adopted from Question 269 (site: 111).

[5] Adopted from Question 269 (site: 111).

[6] Sheikh Tusi, Amali, pg. 731 (Noor 2 software)

[7] Nahjul-Balagha, sermon 5-189.

[8] Adopted from Question 269 (site: 111).

[9] Adopted from Question 269 (site: 111).

[10] Adopted from Question 269 (site: 111).

[11] Nahjul-Balagha, letter 53.

[12] Jaygahe Mardom dar Nezame Eslami az Didgahe Imam Khomeini, pg. 162, The Institute for the Publication of Imam Khomeini’s (rah).

[13] Adopted from Question 269 (site: 111).

[14] In other words, Liberalism denotes a set of ideas and theories related to the government, the main objective of which is freedom of the individual . Modern Liberalism has its roots in the Enlightenment. In general, emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunities. Different branches of Liberalism may suggest different policies, but they all share the same principles, most notably: the promotion of freedom of thought and speech, the restriction of the authority of governments, the role of law, free exchange of ideas, ‘mixed’ economy and a clear governmental system. All Liberalists, and also proponents of other political ideologies, support several forms of government, referred to as ‘liberal democracy’, with free and fair elections, in addition to equal rights given to all citizens by the law.

[15] See: Alizadeh, Akbar Asad, Liberalism, Muballeghan Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 58; Faqih, Nasir, Liberalism, Shamime Yas Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 18; Anthony Arblaster, The rise and Decline of Western Liberalism (Farsi translation), Mukhbir, Abbas, pp. 14-17, Markaz Press, Tehran, 1377 (1998).

[16] See: Alizadeh, Akbar Asad, Liberalism, Muballeghan Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 58; Faqih, Nasir, Liberalism, Shamime Yas Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 18; Anthony Arblaster, The rise and Decline of Western Liberalism (Farsi translation), Mukhbir, Abbas, pp. 14-17, Markaz Press, Tehran, 1377 (1998).

[17] See: Muballeghan Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 58; Yas Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 18.

[18]Surah Hujurat, Verse 13.

[19]See: Muballeghan Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 58; Yas Magazine, Shahrivar 1383 (2004), no. 18.

[20] Ibid.

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