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The Sociopolitical Role of Shia Muslims in the Elections according Ayatollah Sistani

What follows is the guidance and edicts of his eminence grand ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani regarding the sociopolitical role of shia Muslims in the elections:

Question (1): What role does the Ayatollah Sistani see itself playing with regards to the sociopolitical matters of Shia Muslims in the world, including the United States?

Answer: Grand Ayatollah Sistani adopts a rational approach in assessing the current state of affairs, as well as in identifying solutions, and adopting specific positions.[1] As such, the religious authority only considers the fulfillment of religious affairs to be its duty, and therefore, it does not interfere in politics. Instead, it leaves those activities to the political entities and professionals in the field.[2] It only intervenes in the crucial matters of the nation and the implementation of its interests if the political apparatus is unable to deal with them or provide comprehensive solutions.[3] Administering social justice, regulating security, fighting corruption, preserving national sovereignty, and other such functions are the duties of the government, and the religious authority only provides advice and guidance.[4]

Question (2): What is the advice of the Ayatollah Sistani to Shia Muslims in various countries of the world, including the West, about their societal role?

Answer: Ayatollah Sistani believes in the [harmonious] coexistence of all citizens of any nation regardless of their different religions, sects, and viewpoints. In addition to the importance of preserving their religious identity and noble traditions, Shia Muslims should integrate into the society of their home-countries, wherever they may be. Accordingly, the religious authority wants Shia Muslims to manage their day-to-day affairs [within the boundaries of Islam] by referring to the trustworthy experts in their country, and according to what suits them and their circumstances. Hence, the religious authority does not interfere in their affairs unless requested by them, and provided that its involvement is beneficial to them given their conditions and circumstances.[5]

Question (3): What is the view of the Ayatollah Sistani regarding participation in elections (i.e., voting) and candidacy for political office?

Answer: Participation in elections (municipal, local or federal, or for representative councils or other such bodies) is of great importance in shaping the future of a country, society, and future generations. Whoever does not participate in elections to express their view, passively allows others to shape their future and the future of their children; this is a mistake that no citizen should fall into.[6]

In fact, the critical interests of Muslims in non-Muslim countries may require that they seek membership in political parties. In such cases, it is permissible for Muslims to engage in these activities to the extent that it is needed to serve the interest [of the Muslim community], which should be determined by consulting the trustworthy experts in the community who have familiarity with such matters.[7]

Question (4): What is the Ayatollah Sistani’s advice to its followers about dealing with elections and voting?  Are there any tips on how to select the [appropriate] candidate or party, because some believers have difficulty identifying the right candidate?

Answer: Ayatollah Sistani does not get involved in identifying the right candidates, instead, this is the responsibility of the citizens.[8]  Citizens should not be deceived by empty promises and media propaganda before elections. Before voting, citizens should learn about the candidate’s past and their political record, and they should verify their integrity, competence, and zeal for the improvement of the homeland and its citizens.[9] It is imperative to elect individuals who are qualified, honest, loyal, and focused on achieving the interests of the country and the citizens.[10]



[1] Shawwal 13, 1435, part of an advice his eminence provided to some of his respected visitors.

[2] Muharram 12, 1441 https://www.sistani.org/files-new/Archeives/1441h/12-9-2019.pdf

[3] Muharram 24, 1442 AH. Statement of meeting the representative of the United Nations with his eminence (God prolong his life).

[4] Muharram 24, 1442 AH. Statement of meeting the representative of the United Nations with his eminence (God prolong his life).

[5] Muharram 12, 1441 https://www.sistani.org/files-new/Archeives/1441h/12-9-2019.pdf

[6] Jumada al-Akhirah 4, 1435 AH,  https://www.sistani.org/arabic/archive/24730, and Jumada al-Akhirah 25, 1435 AH, https://www.sistani.org/arabic/archive/24867

[7] Ramadan 27, 1418 AH, The Code of Practice for the Muslims in the West. page 171.

[8] Jumada al-Akhirah 25, 1435 AH, https://www.sistani.org/arabic/archive/24867

[9] Jumada al-Akhirah 4, 1435 AH, https://www.sistani.org/arabic/archive/24730

[10] Jumada al-Akhirah 25, 1435 AH, https://www.sistani.org/arabic/archive/24867


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