Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist

The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, also called the Governance of the Jurist (Persian: ولایت فقیه, Vilayat-e Faqih; Arabic: ولاية الفقيه, Wilayat al-Faqih), is a post-Age-of-Occultation theory in Shia Islam which holds that Islam gives a faqīh (Islamic jurist) custodianship over people. Ulama supporting the theory disagree over how encompassing custodianship should be. One interpretation – Limited Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist – holds that 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. Another – Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist – maintains that Guardianship should include all issues for which Prophet of Islam and Shi'a Imam have responsibility, including governance of the country. The idea of guardianship as rule was advanced by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in a series of lectures in 1970 and now forms the basis of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The constitution of Iran calls for a faqih, or Vali-ye faqih (Guardian Jurist), to serve as the Supreme Leader of the government.[4][5] In the context of Iran, Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist is often referred to as "rule by the jurisprudent", or "rule of the Islamic jurist".


Wilayat conveys several intricate meanings which are deeply tied to Twelver history. Morphologically, it is derived from the Arabic wilayah, the verbal noun of waliyan: to be near and to have power over something. Technically, wilayat means rule, supremacy or sovereignty. In another sense, wilayat means friendship, loyalty, or guardianship (see Wali).[6]

The doctrinal basis of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist comes at least in part from the hadith where Islamic Prophet Muhammad is reputed to have said "The ulama are the inheritors of the prophets" (Arabic: العلماء ورثة الأنبياء).[7] Although the issue was mentioned by the earliest Shi'i mujtahids such as al-Shaykh Al-Mufid (948-1022), and enforced for a while by Muhaqqiq Karaki during the era of Tahmasp I (1524–1576), according to John Esposito in The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Morteza Ansari (~1781-1864) was the first Islamic scholar to advance the theory of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist.[8]

There is a wide spectrum of ideas about Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist among Ja'fari scholars ranging from guardian-less activities (الأمور الحسبية) in Islamic society, such as unattended children, to absolute authority (الولاية المطلقة) in all public matters.

Two types of guardianship can be understood. The first type of guardianship is mentioned in various chapters of Shi'i fiqh. It discusses guardianship over the dead and over others in need of guardianship, such as the insane (سفيه), absentee (غائب), poor (فقير), etc. For example, verse 33 of Surah 17 [9] refers to authority of heir of oppressed slain. This type of guardianship can not be applied to a society because none of the mentioned characteristics apply to human society.

The second type of guardianship which appears in principles of faith and kalam discusses guardianship over sagacious and wise people. The verse 55 of Surah 5[10] implies the second type in Quran. The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist can be understood from this second type only. Believing the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist is not the matter of following a marja but should be understood by reason and needs intellectual reason.

Limited Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist

Traditionally Shi'i jurists have tended to this interpretation, leaving secular power for Shi'i kings called "Sultans." They should defend the territory against the non-Shi'a.

For example, according to Iranian scholar Ervand Abrahamian, in centuries of debate among Shi'i scholars, none have "ever explicitly contended that monarchies per se were illegitimate or that the senior clergy had the authority to control the state."[11] Most scholars viewed the 'ulama's main responsibilities (i.e. their guardianship) as being:

According to one of the leading Ayatollahs, Sayyid Ali Husaini al-Sistani, Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist

means every jurisprudent (Faqih) has wilayah (guardianship) over non-litigious affairs. Non-litigious affairs are technically called "al-omour al-hesbiah". As for general affairs with which social order is linked, wilayah of a Faqih and enforcement of wilayah depend on certain conditions one of which is popularity of acceptability of Faqih among majority of momeneen.[1]

Notwithstanding his indirect but decisive role in most major Iraqi political decisions, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has often been identified with the quietist school of thought, which seeks to keep religion out of the political sphere until the return of the Imam of the Age.[13][14]

Ayatullah Khu`i [rah] in his book 'rejects' Wilayat al-Faqih by saying:

أن الولاية لم تثبت للفقيه في عصر الغيبة بدليل وانما هي مختصة بالنبي والائمة عليهم السلام، بل الثابت حسبما تستفاد من الروايات أمران: نفوذ قضائه وحجية فتواه، وليس له التصرف في مال القصر أو غيره مما هو من شئون الولاية إلا في الامر الحسبي

"ولایت در زمان غیبت با هیچ دلیلی برای فقیهان اثبات نمی‌شود. ولایت تنها اختصاص به پیامبر وائمه دارد. فقها نه تنها در امور عامه ولایت ندارند، بلکه در امور حسبیه هم ولایت شرعی ندارند."

In the time of Ghayba there is absolutely no evidence that proves the Wilayah of the Fuqahah. Wilayah is only the prerogative of the Prophet and Imams. The Fuqahah not only don't have Wilayah in general affairs, but they also do not have any legal Wilayah in non-litigious affairs.
Mirza Ali Gharvi Tabraizi, Al-Tanqeeh fi Sharha urwatul wusqa of Al-Khoei, Page #424[15]

Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist

Supporters of absolute guardianship cite verse 62 of sura 24[16] and believe that collective affairs (امر جامع) are under the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist at most. Those scholars who believe in the necessity of establishing an Islamic state say that within the boundary of public affairs the guardianship must be absolute, otherwise the state can not govern the country.

The idea of the Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist gained influence with the success of Ayatollah Khomeini's leadership of the Iranian Revolution. Earlier, Khomeini had expanded on it in his book Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist. He presented the concept as necessary to protect and preserve Islam during the Occultation of Imam. According to Khomeini, society should be governed by those who are the most knowledgeable about Islamic law (Shari'ah).

Velayat Faqih in constitution

According to the constitution of Iran, Islamic republic defines as a state ruled by Islamic jurists (Foqaha). In accordance with verse 21/105 of the Koran and on the basis of two principles of the trusteeship and the permanent Imamate, It is counted as a state of jurists. Also it is explained that only those jurists are entitled to rule who are characters like upright, pious and committed experts on Islam. Also those who are informed of the demands of the Times and known as God-fearing, brave and qualified for leadership. Also they must hold the religious office of source of imitation and be permitted to deliver independent judgments on general principles(fatwas).chapter one of constitution, where fundamental principles are referred, expresses that continual ejtehad by qualified jurist is a principle in Islamic government. Likewise Article 5 expresses that an individual jurist who is endowed with all necessary qualities or a council of jurist, has the right to rule in Islamic republic as long as the twelfth imam of shia remains in occultation. Also article 57 and 110 show the exact meaning of the ruling jurist’s power. According to article 57, the jurist has supervision over three other branches. . According to article 110 this supervisory are as follow:

These powers belongs to the supreme leader as a Vali-e-faqih.[17]

Religious and political position

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, during the occultation of the Wali al-'Asr, the Guardianship and the Leadership of the Ummah (Persian: ولایت امر و امامت امت) devolve upon the just and pious jurist, who is fully aware of the circumstances of his age, courageous, resourceful, and possessed of administrative ability. Also, in another article states that the powers of government in the Islamic Republic of Iran are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the Absolute Guardianship and the Leadership of the Ummah (Persian: ولایت مطلقه امر و امامت امت) that refers to the Supreme Leader of Iran.[18]


"Limited Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist" has been known since Sheikh Mofid, When Ijtihad among Shi'a emerged in 10th century CE (4th century AH). On the basis of this jurists have judged and take Khoms.

Absolute Velayat-e faqih was probably first introduced in the Fiqh of Jafari in the famous text book Javaher-ol-Kalaam (جواهر الکلام). Later, Ayatollah Molla Mohammad Mahdee Naraqi[19] of Iran published a paper advocating a modest level of political actions for Islamic leaders  limited velayat-e-faqih.

By the time of Iranian Constitutional Revolution (انقلاب مشروطه), Ayatollah Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri customized this theory to match with Iranian Majles of National Council, which was removed when he was executed by those opposed to his idea of Islamic government. Nevertheless, an extensive "guardianship" was given to clerics. (see: Iranian Constitution of 1906)

Ayatullah Khomeini in 1970 gave a series of lectures that became a book Hokumat-e Islami: Valiyat-e faqih (Islamic Government) arguing that monarchy was "unIslamic". In a true Islamic state those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia, and the country's ruler should be a faqih who "surpasses all others in knowledge" of Islamic law and justice[20] – known as a marja` – as well as having intelligence and administrative ability.

This theory was put into action as part of Iran's Islamic Revolution. But generally before then, by the time of Ayatollah Naraqi it was first produced and introduced into Iran's royal law allowing Iranian ayatollahs to make sure that Islamic laws impacted the general laws of Iran.

The theory is also a key ideology of the in Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

Welayat Faqih in practice

See also: Setad

Clerics in politics of Iran

Iran has become the first nation-state in history to apply absolute Welayat Faqih in government. Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist in the Islamic Republic of Iran is represented not only in the Supreme Leader, who must be a cleric, but in other leading bodies, particularly the Assembly of Experts whose members must be clerics, the Council of Guardians, half of whom must be clerics, and the courts. Friday prayer leaders are appointed by the Supreme Leader as well.[21]


Shia Muslims may follow, or emulate, one of several different marjas. in the personal matters. But they are required to follow the orders of Wali e Faqih in social matters or the matters that are concerned with the general well being of the Muslims. Other marjas are also required to follow this order. However some of the Ayatollahs who had a difference of opinion registered their opposition in some of the matters.

These include:

Other controversies that lead to an ayatollah being put under house arrest for their alleged role in anti Islamic Republic activities.


The term "mullahcracy" is sometimes used by detractors to describe the Guardian Council, or the Islamic Republican system in general.[22] The word is "mullah," a title given to all scholars of Islam,[23] suffixed with "-cracy," denoting a form a government.[24]

The level of control of Islamic scholars has even been challenged by some Islamic scholars themselves like Grand Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri and Ayatollah Mohamed Hossein Kazemini Borujerdi though the recent criticisms seem to be toward the military and secret police.

Response to criticism


See also


  1. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 13, 2006. Retrieved August 23, 2006.
  2. 1 2
  3. Interview: Hamid al-Bayati (May 2003) Archived December 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Taking Stock of a Quarter Century of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Wilfried Buchta, Harvard Law School, June 2005, p.5–6
  5. Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, section 8 Article 109 states an essential qualification of "the Leader" is "scholarship, as required for performing the functions of mufti in different fields of fiqh"
  6. Ahmad Moussavi, The Theory of Wilayat-i Faqih
  7. Chapter 14 Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Esposito, John, "Ansari, Murtada." The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, (2003). Found in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
  9. 1 2 "Surat Al-'Isra' [17:33] – The Noble Qur'an – القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  10. 1 2 "Surat Al-Ma'idah [5:55] – The Noble Qur'an – القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  11. Khomeinism : Essays on the Islamic Republic by Ervand Abrahamian c1993. (Professor of History at Baruch College, in the City University of New York, p. 19
  12. Khomeinism : Essays on the Islamic Republic by Ervand Abrahamian c1993. (Professor of History at Baruch College, in the City University of New York
  13. The New York Times > International > Middle East > Politics: Shiites in Iraq Say Government Will Be Secular
  14. "Iraqi Sheik Struggles for Votes, And Against Religious Tradition". Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  15. Al-Tanqeeh fi Sharha urwatul wusqa of Al-Khoei by Mirza Ali Gharvi Tabraizi – Page number 424التنقیح فی شرح العروه الوثقی، الاجتهاد والتقلید، آیت‌الله خویی، تقریرات از میرزا علی غروی تبریزی؛ قم، ص424
  16. 1 2 "Cmje". Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  17. Asghar schirazi, the constitution of Iran & 1997 I.B.TAURIS, p. 12-13
  18. Constitution of Iran Unofficial English translation hosted at University of Bern, Switzerland (with good summaries)
  19. Biography
  20. Islam and Revolution, p. 59.
  21. Wright, The Last Revolution, c2000 p.15-6
  22. Pooya Dayanim on Iran on National Review Online
  23. Australian National Dictionary Center – -cracy.

Further reading

Look up Velayat-e faqih in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/20/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.