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What are the arguments to prove that the wilayah (guardianship) of the Infallibles, peace be upon them?
question
What are the arguments to prove that the wilayah (guardianship) of the Infallibles, peace be upon them?
Concise answer

The wilayah of the infallibles, peace be upon them, can be proved through the four authoritative and valid sources such as the Quran, Sunnah, reason and consensus.

Shia scholars have a consensus about the guardianship of the Infallibles and it is so clear and manifest in their words and writings that even scholars from other sects have also affirmed it.

When it comes to the reason (‘aql), some scholars have turned to the ‘principle of grace’ [lutf] considering this principle as sufficient to prove the wilayah of the person of prophet or infallible imam as a ruler of Islamic society. However, some other scholars have considered this argument as insufficient and they have turned to the principle of wisdom [hikmah].

There are numerous verses in the Quran that make reference to prophetic wilayah. Perhaps, the clearest and most conspicuous verse is the verse which says:  “The Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves.

There are many traditions about the wilayah of the infallibles. For example, it has been narrated from Imam Sadiq, peace be upon him, that he, after reciting the verse “Only God, His Messenger, and the true believers who are steadfast in prayer and pay alms, while they kneel during prayer, are your guardians” said: Verily, the verse means that God and His Messenger and those who believe are more entitled and have more authority over Muslims than themselves. They are Ali and his pure progeny (descendants) who will hold authority over the believers until the Day of Judgment.

Detailed Answer

In the Islamic culture, with the need for a leader taken into account, no one per se has the right to leadership of society except God, the Exalted, Who controls all the affairs of human beings requiring them to follow His dos and don’ts, commandments and prohibitions.[1] Now, if He commands us to follow a particular person or group of people, we obey Him and if he determined special conditions and characteristics and relegated the task of choosing the person from among a number of qualified people, again we must obey him.  Muslims from the early period of Islam as of now believe that God, the Exalted, relegated the leadership of Muslim Ummah to the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, and then the leadership of the Muslim Ummah, according to the followers of the Ahlul-Bayt, was transferred to the infallible Imams, peace be upon them. The wilayah of the infallibles, peace be upon them, can be proved through the four authoritative and valid sources such as the Quran, Sunnah, reason and consensus.

Shia scholars have a consensus about the guardianship of the Infallibles and it is so clear and manifest in their words and writings that even scholars from other sects have also endorsed and affirmed it. Generally speaking, the most important feature of “imamate” (leadership) which has been and is one of the fundamentals of Shia religion originates in the fact that after the demise of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, the leadership of the Islamic Ummah was relegated to infallible Imams, peace be upon them. For this reason, Shia believes that the Messenger of Islam, in addition to the position of prophethood and messengership, also held the position of Imamate.[2] The position of prophethood is a position whereby one has knowledge of divine secrets in the creational and legislatives realms. The position of messengership (resalah) is for the prophet who is commissioned to deliver his knowledge and understanding to people and to guide them in the right path. The position of imamate is the position of the leadership of society.

When it comes to the reason or rational proof, some scholars have turned to the ‘principle of grace’ [lutf] and they have considered this principle as sufficient to prove the wilayah of the person of prophet or infallible imam as the ruler of Islamic society. However, some other scholars have considered this argument as insufficient and they have turned to the principle of wisdom [hikmah].[3]

The ‘wisdom argument’ can be explained briefly as under:

The intellect, proving the existence of the Lord, the Exalted, and the next world or the hereafter, concludes that whatever a person does in this world can have lasting effect on his life in the afterworld. The intellect is unable to independently discover these effects and to distinguish one from the other. That is why, according to divine wisdom, God, the Almighty, who created the world and mankind should reveal the path of salvation and prosperity to human beings by sending messengers to mankind. On the other hand, in order to guarantee the guidance of people and realize the goal of the prophethood, the prophets should be infallible and immune to all kinds of errors and sins in receiving the divine commands and in delivering them to people.  The intellect, analyzing the issue of infallibility, reaches the conclusion that infallibility in receiving and in delivering the message of God is concomitant with infallibility and inerrancy in all matters of the prophets’ lives. It is even concomitant with protection from mistake and forgetfulness. Therefore, the messenger must be infallible in every aspect of individual and social life. Then the intellect judges that based on divine wisdom, the affairs of society must be relegated to an infallible. Based on the same reason, the person of messenger is appointed by the religion as the leader of society. Now, if the intellect considers the position of imamate and finds the imam as the interpreter of the divine message that has been brought down by the prophet, it will reach the same conclusion through a similar method. Hence, based on reason according to which the Messenger and Imam must be infallible, the divine wisdom requires the leadership of society to be relegated to the person of the Messenger or Imam. This by itself proves wilayah for them in the sense of administration of society.

There are numerous verses in the Quran making reference to prophetic wilayah.[4] Perhaps, the clearest and most conspicuous verse is the verse which says:

"النبى أولى بالمؤمنين من أنفسهم"

“The Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves.”[5]

The verse clearly denotes the superiority of the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, to every other believer. That is to say, if believers have authority to do something for themselves, the Messenger (s) has more right and authority than they have on themselves. They do not have the right to disobey irrespective of whether a decision taken by the Messenger concerns an individual himself or the social affairs.[6] This verse makes explicit reference to absolute wilayah of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, in allowable Shari’ah realm. That is because it is only in this realm that people can decide for themselves to do what they want to.

In the event of Ghadir, the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, made reference to the same verse. In his address to the large gathering of people in Ghadir Khum he said:

"ألستُ أولى بكم من أنفسكم؟"

“Am I not more appropriate to rule over you than yourselves?”

After the people admitted that the Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, was more appropriate, the Prophet said:

"من كنت مولاه فعلى مولاه"

“Of whomsoever I am a master, Ali is his master.[7]

Therefore, the same prophetic guardianship is proved for Ali, peace be upon him, and other infallible Imams, peace be upon them.[8]

Another verse which refers to prophetic and Alawi guardianship is this verse:

"إنّما وليّكم الله و رسوله و الذين آمنوا الذين يقيمون الصلوة و يؤتون الزكوة و هم راكعون"

“Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers,- those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship).”[9]

In this holy verse which is Shia’s manifest in the area of wilayah (guardianship), God first proves guardianship for Himself, then for His Messenger and then for believers as well as those who established prayers and gave Zakat during Ruku. Although the sentence “and the (fellowship of) believers,- those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship)” is applicable to different manifestations, both Shia and Sunni sources have narrated and confessed that the verse refers to Ali bin Abi Talib, peace be upon him.[10]

In this verse, guardianship has been proved in an absolute way for the Messenger and the Infallible Imams, peace be upon them.

There are numerous traditions about the wilayah of the infallibles. For example, it has been narrated from Imam Sadiq, peace be upon him, that he after reciting the verse “Only God, His Messenger, and the true believers who are steadfast in prayer and pay alms, while they kneel during prayer, are your guardians” said: “Verily, the verse means that God and His Messenger and those who believe are more entitled and have more authority over Muslims than themselves. They are Ali and his pure progeny [who hold authority over Muslims] until the Day of Judgment.”[11]

Further reading:

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

 


[1] - See: Javadi Amuli, Wilayat-e Faqih (Rule of Jurisprudent) (Leadership in Islam), pg. 29.

[2] - Imamate means the leadership of the Islamic Ummah. Another meaning which is applied in regards to the Infallible Imams (a.s.) is possessing divine knowledge which is similar to the position of prophethood. Some have erroneously restricted the meaning of imamate to the second concept. (Vide: Mahdi Haeri, Yazdi, Hekmat wa Hokumat, pg. 171.)

[3] - Contrary to claim made by some people who, without proper investigation, have considered ‘the principle of grace’ as the only rational argument. Without noticing the objections to it such as those made by Fakhr Razi, those who subscribe to the ‘principle of wisdom’ considered themselves as the first critics of the principle of grace; thus they have sealed the door reasoning. (Vide: Mahdi Haeri, Yazdi, Hekmat wa Hokumat, pp. 173 – 176.)

[4] - Vide: Muntazeri, Wilayat al-Faqih, vol.1, pp.37 – 73.

[5] - Al-Ahzab, 6.

[6] - Vide: Sayyid Kazem al-Haeri, Wilayatul Amr fi Asr al-Ghaibah, pg. 153; Muntazeri, Wilayat-e Faqih, vol.1, pp. 37 – 40.

[7] - Vide: Majlisi, Behar al-Anwar, vol.37, pg. 108; Muntazeri, Wilayat-e Faqih, vol.1 pg. 41.

[8] - Vide: Sayyid Kazem Haeri, Wilayat al-Amr fi Asr al-Ghaibah, pg. 153.

[9] - Al-Maedah, 55.

[10] - Vide: al-Suyuti, Al-Durr al-Manthur, vol.2, pg. 293; Al-Bahrani, Tafsir al-Burhan, vol.1, pg. 479.

[11] - Usul-e Kafi, vol.1, pg. 288.

 

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