Extremism, restrictions and the absence of freedoms and democracy are predominantly linked to Sunni Islam. The purpose of this study is the absence of follow-up and modern studies on the second face of extremism represented by Shiite extremism and its pervasiveness in several Arab capitals, taking on an ugly and bloody sectarian face.
In this paper, we will try to follow the same path, but with the Shiite doctrine this time, and in particular with regard to the theory of governance in Shiite jurisprudence with its most present example, and embodiment, the theory of “Wilayat al-Faqih.”
Wilayat al-Faqih: meaning and historical contexts of its emergence
Initially, the term “Shiite” was used to refer to those who affiliated with Ali ibn Abi Talib, having said that his imamate and his succession by text and will, the imamate does not come out of his children.
But also a second word has been associated with the term Shiite. Shiites have now become known as Imamate Shiites, meaning the necessity of infallibility in the Imam, the absolute Imam, and the necessity of stipulating him by God as a way to know him, thus invalidating the law of consultation and election, then restricting the Imamate to only include the infallible imams of Ahl al-bait, starting with Ali ibn Abi Talib, Al-Hasan, Al-Ḥusayn, later the imams from the descendants of Al-Ḥusayn, whom Allah appointed as the leaders of his creatures until the Day of Resurrection.
Scholar Al-Naraqi is considered to be one of the first theorists of Wilayat a-Faqih, as he gave the jurist the responsiblity for the guardianship that was previously restricted to the infallibles and considered him their deputy. It can be said that the theories he represented and the research and discussions that followed have paved the way for Chomeini to move forward in a major shift, which is the quest to establish an Islamic government led by al-Faqih the just.
Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution and Wilayat al-Faqih
Khomeini had once delivered a series of lessons in religious sciences to the students of Najaf in Iraq under the title “Wilayat al-Faqih”, which turned into the content of his book “The Islamic Government.” In this book, Khomeini presents his viewpoint that adopts the absolute Wilayat al-Faqih under various pretexts. However, many Shiite jurists differed with him on this matter inside and outside Iran, especially in terms of absolute guardianship that will solidify tyranny on the one hand and in terms of the invalidity of the grounds Khomeini relied on to justify Wilayat al-Faqih on the other hand. The reality that Iran was suffering from paved the way for his ideas to become popular and the fact that his victorious return in the Islamic Revolution after overthrowing the Shah in 1979 had cemented Wilayat al-Faqih regime.
Iranian voices against Wilayat al-Faqih
One of the most important opponents of Wilayat al-Faqih interpreted by Khomeini was Mohammad Kazem Schariatmadari, born in Tabriz. Ayatollah Shariatmadari is considered one of the most important Shiite authorities and neither he nor the people of Tabriz voted at the time in favor of the Iranian constitution. “It is not permissible for a single individual or a single class to rule. The people have the right to elect their representatives in Parliament by their free will of voting,” Ayatollah Shariatmadari explicitly expressed in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper in 1977. The controversy continued over the idea of Wilayat al-Faqih, which lacks the textual support to many Shiite scholars. Textual support would come in Qur’an or a Hadith. Kamal al-Haydari explains this point, quoting from Imam Al-Khoei, one of the most important Shiite references, who assigns to the jurist the position of fatwas, and fatwas are only a degree of guardianship. Still, he does not believe that the jurist has absolute authority as the Prophet.
Arab Shiite references’ attitudes towards Wilayat Al-Faqih:
Among the most important voices that expressed his view was Muḥammad Ǧawād Muġnīya, a Lebanese Shiite reference. “The only absolute Imamate by necessity of the doctrine is the Muhammadiyah Imamate, all the others lack definitive evidence,” Muġnīya once said.
In additon, among the prominent figures who took a clear position against wilayat al-faqih, was also Ali al-Amin, who titled one of his books “Wilayat al-Dawla or Wilayat al-Faqih.” More than once, al-Amin considers that wilayat al-faqih is not a state that crosses borders and nations, it binds those who believe in it within its homeland. He refers to the expansion attempt that Iran is trying to impose on the Arab Shiites. Al-Amin asks in this regard: How can the Wali al-Faqih have a guardianship over us, while we are outside Iran and we do not have the right to vote?
The relationship between Wilayat al-Faqih and hakimiyyah (Iran and Muslim Brotherhood)
We can talk about what looks like to be the birth of harmony between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wilayat al-Faqih ideology. The relationship between them went through some phases, such as the meetings that took place between Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sheikh Muhammad Taqi al-Din al-Qummi. Afterwards, there was a meeting between Hassan al-Banna and Ayatollah al-Kashani between 1947 and 1948. Those meetings focused mainly on bringing the Sunni and Shiite denominations closer. Mojtaba Nawab Safavi, founder of the Ansar al-Islam, is considered the first to initiate the process of rapprochement between a Shiite organization and the Brotherhood.
As for the relationship between the Iranian regime and the terrorist al-Qaeda organization, it also went through important moments, especially after the events of September 11, 2001. The US magazine “Foreign Affairs” talked about a turning point in the relationship between Tehran and al-Qaeda through statements by some of the organization’s leaders in an article, published on February 11, 2015. Those leaders were detained and later allowed to move freely inside Iran, including Abu al-Khair al-Masri, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy leader of al-Qaeda. It is also possible to consider the content of some documents published by the US Central Intelligence Agency after Osama bin Laden’s assassination in Pakistan in 2011. Among them are 19 pages talking about the relationship between the organization and Iran, including a document in which a prominent al-Qaeda member refers that Iran is ready to provide all the money, weapons and training camps the organization needed, in exchange for the organization to attack US interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
The theory of Wilayat al-Faqih, as we have seen in the research, does not have the consensus of Shiite scholars, whether inside or outside Iran, and it devotes a logic against history and the highest human values. If one talked about democracy as a civil political system, they would find themselves under the Wilayat al-Faqih’s regime under individual absolute rule. Talking about freedom of expression, one would hear the groans of detainees who criticized the guardianship regime. Speaking of diversity, you would have a complaint about the oppressed Arabs of Ahwaz under that regime. If you talked about good neighborliness and respect for sovereignty, a voice comes from the country of Wilayat al-Faqih to brag about their direct and indirect occupation of four Arab capitals.
Such a regime swims against the current, it takes the creative Iranian people hostage under the weight of tyranny and its abuse. No one thinks that the words mentioned in this study are aimed at undermining the Iranian people, who are known for their creativity and efficiency in many fields. Rather, it is a defense of the right of this people against that dictatorship represented by Wilayat al-Faqih. Perhaps the voices that come out from time to time in Iranian cities represent the tendency towards liberation from this regime, as there is no future in the coming days, even if they are a little long. Those, who triumph with diversity, democracy, and freedom will find the path.