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Where Has the Concept of Wilayat al-Faqih Been Mentioned in the Quran?

The issue of Wilayat al-Faqih is one of the important issues in the jurisprudence of Islam; the jurisprudents have mentioned both intellectual and narrative proofs and it is over one thousand years that the Shia scholars have expounded upon the concept and limits of Wilayat al-Faqih.

Scholars such as Abu al-Salaah Halabi and Ibn Idris Hilli have dealt with this concept (of the representative of the last Infallible Imam (a)) independently, while other scholars have mentioned it in between the course of other subjects. People such as the author of Miftah al-Karamah have mentioned the proofs of the discussion of Wilayat al-Faqih, while others, such as Mulla Ahmad Naraqi have delineated the duties of the Wali al-Faqih. Another group, including individuals such as the author of Jawaahir, have discussed this subject in great detail, while another group has discussed it in brief. According to all of them, the essence of the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih is a certain and decisive matter (within the scope of Shia Islam).

In addition, we have traditions from the Infallible Imams (a), who are the real commentators (Mufasir) of the Quran, in proof of this important matter. Below we will mention both the intellectual as well as the narrated proofs behind the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih.

A- Intellectual Proofs:

Without doubt, any given society is in need of a manager and leader. From another angle, the issue of government is not something which is separate from the field of religion. Religion also extends into the field of governance and rule and the logical mind can find no reason why this should not be so. In fact, the logical mind will come to the conclusion that both religion and governance are interrelated with one another.  Now if we were to look at governance from a religious point of view as the means of protecting divine values and Islamic precepts and ideals, then it would logically follow that such a system would be in need of a leader. If an Infallible (a) was present amongst the people, then logically he should govern, but at the present time, when there is no Infallible (a) openly present amongst us, then the just and qualified jurisprudent can be introduced as his representative in governance.

In other words, there must exist a leader at the head of a system who understands the goals and ideals of that system which he is leading; in an Islamic system, it logically follows that the leader must be extremely well versed in Islamic law and the goals and ideals which the religion aim for. Such an individual can be found amongst the qualified jurisprudents.

B- Narrated Proofs:

For proving the system of Wilayat al-Faqih, there have been certain narrated proofs mentioned. Some of them are as follows:

1- The late Saduq has narrated from Imam Ali (a) who narrated from the Prophet (s) that:

“اللهم ارحم خلفایى”, which means ‘Oh God, send your mercy upon my successors’. It was then asked from the Prophet (s): Who are your successors? He replied: “الّذین یأتون من بعدى یروون حدیثى و سنّتى”, which means: Those who will come after me and narrate my traditions and Sunnah.

In the case of any tradition, two issues come into play. The first is a discussion on the chain of narration of that tradition, in order to ascertain its reliability and authenticity. The second is on the meaning of the content, in order to see how it applies to a given situation.

The aforementioned tradition has been mentioned in various reliable books of tradition with various chains of narration [and thus we are certain in regards to its authenticity]. In regards to proving that this tradition applies to the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih, we must first deal with two points:

  1. a) The first point is that the Holy Prophet (s) possessed three main positions. The first one of these is that of Risalah which means propagating the divine verses and Islamic religious precepts in guiding the people. The second is that of Qidaawat, which means judging between the people, while the third is that of Wilayat, which means governing over the Islamic society.
  2. b) The meaning of the line ‘those individuals who will come after the Prophet (s) and narrate his traditions and Sunnah’ refers to the jurisprudents and not the ‘narrators of tradition’ (meaning the Muhadiths); this is because the person who simply narrates a tradition cannot differentiate whether his narration is really a tradition and sunnah of the Prophet (s) or not. Such an individual is only able to narrate words which he has heard or actions which he has seen, without knowing the intricate details and context of the words or their authenticity. Only an individual who has reached the rank of a jurisprudent is capable of discerning such things.

Now, in light of these two points, the meaning of the tradition can be gauged to be as follows: ‘The Jurisprudents are the successors of the Holy Prophet (s)’ and since the Prophet (s) possessed many different roles and a specific role has not been mentioned in the tradition, then the jurisprudents are successors to the Prophet (s) in all the roles which he possessed. Some individuals, due to the reason that this tradition (as well as others like it) have used the word Khalifah, have claimed that: The word Khalifah possesses two different meanings:

The first is that the lexical meaning and its primary one; this is the same meaning used in the Quran: “”إنّى جاعل فى الأرض خلیفة, which means: I will appoint a successor upon the earth (or the verse: “یا داود إنّا جعلناک خلیفة فى الأرض فاحکم بین الناس بالحقّ”, which means: Oh David, we have appointed you our successor on this earth, so judge with truth amongst the people.) In the first verse, what is meant by successorship is takwini (generative) successorship which isn’t capable of being legislated and set, and in the second verse, although the successorship is of the tashri’i (legislative) type, yet it only has to do with judging.

The second meaning is what appeared after the passing of the Prophet (s) in a political and historical sense. This is a more worldly use of the word Khalifah and it is not really used in the sense of someone being divinely selected for the position. Whomever the people selected was considered as the caliph, whether he was righteous or unrighteous, and this rank is considered separate from that of the Imamate.

If one was to focus on the lexical meaning of Khalifah, which has the meaning of a successor, then it will be manifest that such a usage has been applied in all instances in the Quran, traditions, and even in history. The only difference in these usages is in the instances of successorship. Sometimes this successorship is in takwini matters and real and actual ranks, and sometimes in tashri’i and legislative and legal ranks. Even in the history of Islam, if we were to look at the word Khalifah after the passing of the Prophet (s), the meaning of the word was used in the sense of someone who was the successor to the Prophet (s) in governance and management of the society. Therefore, in reality, the word Khalifah does not possess varying meanings; rather, it has one singular meaning in all instances of its usage. In the aforementioned tradition, the word Khalifah has been used to mean a successor and since no particular restrictions have been mentioned on it, the word applies to the jurisprudents in all of the responsibilities and duties of the Prophet (s).

2- The late Saduq has narrated in the book Ikmal al-Din from Ishaq ibn Ya’qub that Imam Mahdi (a) responded in his own handwriting to his questions. He reportedly said: ‘أمّا الحوادث الواقعة فارجعوا فیها إلى رواة حدیثنا، فإنّهم حجّتى علیکم و أنا حجّة الله علیهم’, which means: In the events which occur, refer to the narrators of our traditions, for they are my proof upon you and I am God’s proof over them. This same tradition has been narrated by the late Shaykh Tusi in his book Kitab al-Ghaybah with the difference that in the end of his narration, instead of “أنا حجّة الله علیهم”, has been mentioned: “أنا حجّة الله علیکم”, which means I am God’s proof over you. In the narration by the late Tabarsi in the book Al-Ihtijaj, only the term “أنا حجّة الله” has been mentioned. These differences though, do not make much difference in the overall application of this tradition.

From the perspective of the chain of narration, this tradition is almost certain up until Ishaq ibn Ya’qub; this is because a group of narrators have narrated this from another group who narrated this from the late Kulayni from Ishaq ibn Ya’qub. The books of Rijal have not directly authenticated Ishaq ibn Ya’qub and some have attempted to introduce him as the brother of the late Kulayni. But these efforts don’t do much. The right thing to say is that in light of the situation of Imam Mahdi (a) from the social aspect during the minor occultation, and the pressure and suppression in that time, which had driven the imam to conceal himself from the sight of the people and only make contact with his followers through his specific deputies, issuing letters, which were official proof of the imam being alive and his leadership, would only take place through trustworthy individuals. Therefore, the dispatch of a letter from Imam Mahdi (a) to a specific individual during that time period can be considered as a sign of that individual’s trustworthiness and reliability.

If it is asked how we know whether Ishaq ibn Ya’qub received a letter [from Imam Mahdi (a)], since such a claim may have been a lie, in response, it can be said that Kulayni, who reported the existence of this letter from him, must certainly have trusted him; if he had not trusted him, he would never have reported such a matter. Therefore, there is no room for any doubt in the chain of narration of this tradition.

The best way to argue using this tradition is in the following way: Imam Mahdi (a) has mentioned his two lines of “فإنّهم حجّتى علیکم”  and  “أنا حجّة الله”in a way which clearly shows that the authority of the narrators of their hadiths (which we explained means the jurisprudents in this context) is the same as their authority. Now if we were to keep in mind the time period that this letter was issued in, namely the time of the minor occultation, knowing that during this time period the Imam (a) was preparing the Shias for the major occultation (in reality finalizing his testament and final rulings), then it will be clear that this letter is speaking in the context of the occultation and appoints the Shia jurisprudents as the successors of the Imam (a) during that time; this role includes that of leadership and governance over society.

Some challenge the argument using this letter and say that those who rely on it to prove this point (which has taken place in many legal literatures that they are unaware of; the only thing they are aware of is what has been mentioned in Awa’id of Naraqi) don’t know the true meaning of the term ‘Hujjat’ that has been mentioned in the letter and lack of competence in semantics! They go on to examine the usages of this term in logic, philosophy and principles of jurisprudence, ending up lost and not being able to find their way out!

The intent of the word Hujjat in this tradition is similar to many other instances of its use. Its use connotes that the Imam (a) is the Hujjat of God (Proof of God); therefore, if he was to say anything and the people were to not obey, then God would view his direction as His proof over the people and the people would not have any excuse in front of Him. Likewise, if they were to obey him and it was asked of them why they acted in such a manner, then their answer of because he directed them in such a manner would be sufficient (this also applies if they were to obey those whom the Imam (a) had selected as his representatives). In any case, just as past jurisprudents have mentioned numerous times, there is no doubt in the meaning of this tradition towards the application of Wilayat al-Faqih and the issue of his representation of the Infallible Imam (a).

The conclusion is that the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih is in line with the Wilayat (Guardianship or Authority) of the Infallible Imam (a), as the Maqbulah hadith of Umar bin Handhalah from Imam Sadiq (AS) reads: “Refer to the one who narrates our hadith and looks into our halal an harams and knows our rulings. Be content with his government for I have made him governor over you.[1]

In proving the concept of the Wilayat al-Faqih some have referenced certain verses of the Holy Quran in support of their argument. These verses are as follows:

“إِنَّ الَّذینَ یَکْتُمُونَ ما أَنْزَلْنا مِنَ الْبَیِّناتِ وَ الْهُدى‏ مِنْ بَعْدِ ما بَیَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِی الْکِتابِ أُولئِکَ یَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّهُ وَ یَلْعَنُهُمُ اللاَّعِنُون‏”[2]

” وَ قاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لا تَکُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَ یَکُونَ الدِّینُ کُلُّهُ لِلَّهِ فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِما یَعْمَلُونَ بَصیرٌ “[3]

” إِنَّ أَوْلَى النَّاسِ بِإِبْراهیمَ لَلَّذینَ اتَّبَعُوهُ وَ هذَا النَّبِیُّ وَ الَّذینَ آمَنُوا وَ اللَّهُ وَلِیُّ الْمُؤْمِنین‏”[4]

” وَ ما مُحَمَّدٌ إِلاَّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَ فَإِنْ ماتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انْقَلَبْتُمْ عَلى‏ أَعْقابِکُمْ وَ مَنْ یَنْقَلِبْ عَلى‏ عَقِبَیْهِ فَلَنْ یَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَیْئاً وَ سَیَجْزِی اللَّهُ الشَّاکِرین‏”[5]

” وَ إِذا جاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ مِنَ الْأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذاعُوا بِهِ وَ لَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَ إِلى‏ أُولِی الْأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذینَ یَسْتَنْبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ وَ لَوْ لا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَیْکُمْ وَ رَحْمَتُهُ لاَتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّیْطانَ إِلاَّ قَلیلا”[6]

” وَ ما کانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِیَنْفِرُوا کَافَّةً فَلَوْ لا نَفَرَ مِنْ کُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِنْهُمْ طائِفَةٌ لِیَتَفَقَّهُوا فِی الدِّینِ وَ لِیُنْذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذا رَجَعُوا إِلَیْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ یَحْذَرُون‏”[7]

” وَ لْیَحْکُمْ أَهْلُ الْإِنْجیلِ بِما أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فیهِ وَ مَنْ لَمْ یَحْکُمْ بِما أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولئِکَ هُمُ الْفاسِقُونَ * وَ أَنْزَلْنا إِلَیْکَ الْکِتابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقاً لِما بَیْنَ یَدَیْهِ مِنَ الْکِتابِ وَ مُهَیْمِناً عَلَیْهِ فَاحْکُمْ بَیْنَهُمْ بِما أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ وَ لا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْواءَهُمْ عَمَّا جاءَکَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ لِکُلٍّ جَعَلْنا مِنْکُمْ شِرْعَةً وَ مِنْهاجاً وَ لَوْ شاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَکُمْ أُمَّةً واحِدَةً وَ لکِنْ لِیَبْلُوَکُمْ فی‏ ما آتاکُمْ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَیْراتِ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُکُمْ جَمیعاً فَیُنَبِّئُکُمْ بِما کُنْتُمْ فیهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ *وَ أَنِ احْکُمْ بَیْنَهُمْ بِما أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ وَ لا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْواءَهُمْ وَ احْذَرْهُمْ أَنْ یَفْتِنُوکَ عَنْ بَعْضِ ما أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ إِلَیْکَ فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّما یُریدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ یُصیبَهُمْ بِبَعْضِ ذُنُوبِهِمْ وَ إِنَّ کَثیراً مِنَ النَّاسِ لَفاسِقُونَ *أَ فَحُکْمَ الْجاهِلِیَّةِ یَبْغُونَ وَ مَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ حُکْماً لِقَوْمٍ یُوقِنُونَ *یا أَیُّهَا الَّذینَ آمَنُوا لا تَتَّخِذُوا الْیَهُودَ وَ النَّصارى‏ أَوْلِیاءَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِیاءُ بَعْضٍ وَ مَنْ یَتَوَلَّهُمْ مِنْکُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا یَهْدِی الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمینَ “[8]

” وَ لا تَأْکُلُوا أَمْوالَکُمْ بَیْنَکُمْ بِالْباطِلِ وَ تُدْلُوا بِها إِلَى الْحُکَّامِ لِتَأْکُلُوا فَریقاً مِنْ أَمْوالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَ أَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُون‏”[9]

” یا أَیُّهَا الَّذینَ آمَنُوا أَطیعُوا اللَّهَ وَ أَطیعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَ أُولِی الْأَمْرِ مِنْکُمْ فَإِنْ تَنازَعْتُمْ فی‏ شَیْ‏ءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَ الرَّسُولِ إِنْ کُنْتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَ الْیَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ذلِکَ خَیْرٌ وَ أَحْسَنُ تَأْویلاً “[10]

” وَ لا تَرْکَنُوا إِلَى الَّذینَ ظَلَمُوا فَتَمَسَّکُمُ النَّارُ وَ ما لَکُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَوْلِیاءَ ثُمَّ لا تُنْصَرُونَ “[11]

” اللَّهُ وَلِیُّ الَّذینَ آمَنُوا یُخْرِجُهُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُماتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَ الَّذینَ کَفَرُوا أَوْلِیاؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ یُخْرِجُونَهُمْ مِنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُماتِ أُولئِکَ أَصْحابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فیها خالِدُونَ “[12]

” قُلْ هَلْ مِنْ شُرَکائِکُمْ مَنْ یَهْدی إِلَى الْحَقِّ قُلِ اللَّهُ یَهْدی لِلْحَقِّ أَ فَمَنْ یَهْدی إِلَى الْحَقِّ أَحَقُّ أَنْ یُتَّبَعَ أَمَّنْ لا یَهِدِّی إِلاَّ أَنْ یُهْدى‏ فَما لَکُمْ کَیْفَ تَحْکُمُون‏”[13]

” أَ لَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذینَ یَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِما أُنْزِلَ إِلَیْکَ وَ ما أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِکَ یُریدُونَ أَنْ یَتَحاکَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَ قَدْ أُمِرُوا أَنْ یَکْفُرُوا بِهِ وَ یُریدُ الشَّیْطانُ أَنْ یُضِلَّهُمْ ضَلالاً بَعیدا”[14]

” إِنَّ اللَّهَ یَأْمُرُکُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَماناتِ إِلى‏ أَهْلِها وَ إِذا حَکَمْتُمْ بَیْنَ النَّاسِ أَنْ تَحْکُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ نِعِمَّا یَعِظُکُمْ بِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ کانَ سَمیعاً بَصیرا”[15], [16]



[1] Tafsir Nur, Muhsin Qara’ati, vol. 3, pg. 111…فإنی قد جعلته علیکم حاکما.

[2] Baqarah:159.

[3] Anfāl:39.

[4] Aal Imran:68.

[5] Aal Imran:144.

[6] Nisa’;83.

[7] Tawbah:122.

[8] Ma’idah:47-51.

[9] Baqarah:188.

[10] Nisa’:59.

[11] Hud:113.

[12] Baqarah:257.

[13] Yunus:35.

[14] Nisa’:60.

[15] Nisa’:58.

[16] See: al-Sayyid Ali Ashur, Wilayat al-Faqih al-Dastur al-Ilahi li al-Muslimin, Daar al-Huda, Beirut, first edition, 1422 AH (2001), pp. 114-130.


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