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['Aalim Network QR] Selection of the Marja'-e-Taqleed

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|       In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful       |\
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Salaamun alaykum,

	The reply to the following two questions on the selection of the
Marja'-e-Taqleed were kindly provided by Shaykh Rasheed and Sayyid Rizvi. 
The first question asked that we survey all the 'Aalims for their opinion
on this matter.  Instead, we asked two of our respected 'Aalims to give us
the current views on this issue. 

	Both Shaykh Rasheed and Moulana Rizvi agree that the
identification of the most A'lam of the Mujtahidin is difficult these days
and outline their reasons for this.  Both our respected 'Aalims touch on
the issue of the Wilayat-ul-faqih (guardianship of the jurist) and it's
relationship to the position of the Marja'-e-Taqleed. 

	We are grateful to both Shaykh Rasheed and Moulana Rizvi for their
replies to these most important questions. 


Mustafa Rawji
Moderator, 'Aalim Network


Peace be upon you and may Allah bless you for your very valuable work. If
you and our dear Aalims allow I would like to ask them (all of them) with all
respect who is the most knowledgeable 'Aalam' mujtahid according to their
opinion. Please forgive me for this question and best regards to you all.

Who is the highest knowledgable 'Aalim or Marja  currently in Iran and Iraq?
Is Ayat. Khamneyie is the most knowledgable Mujtahid in Iran or are there
any other mujtahids who have more knowledge and experience in fiqh?


	Your questions are very relevant and profound. I will try to
answer them concisely. First, I would like to say that it is not very good
to try judge our religious leadership on such a one dimensional scale as
A'lamiyyah or who is the "most learned." The concept has always been the
subject of debate among scholars, most of whom regard it to be matter of
precaution to follow the most learned. According to clear logic and
rationale, it makes good sense to follow the "most learned," however,
determining who is the "most learned" is not a simple matter.

	In the past, such eminent personalities like Ayatullah Sayyid
Abul-Qaasim Al-Kho`i, may Allah Ta'ala grant him great reward, was
acknowledged by many to be the most learned in his time. When we examine
how he achieved this noble status, it was primarily due to the fact that
he was a great teacher of Darsul-Khaarij (the course of Ijtihaad) for many
years. Many of the great Mujtahideen of our time were his students. He
taught this course for more than thirty years. As a result of being
established in such an important position and being such a great teacher
who guided and trained so many individuals who have become great scholars
in their own right, he was widely acknowledged to be the most learned.

	After his death, many regarded Ayatullah Gulpaygani, may Allah
Ta'ala reward him, to be the most learned. Traditionally, Shi'ahs usually
looked to the most experienced teachers of Darsul-Khaarij as the

	After the death of such eminent scholars and leaders such as
Ayatullah Al-Kho`i and Ayatullah Gulpaygani, who both achieved a very
great status among Mujtahideen and both of their opinions were highly
regarded, it is very difficult to point to anyone in particular and
accurately say that he is the most learned. In brief, many of the Grand
Ayatullahs have passed on, may Allah reward them all, and those which
remain have not clearly emerged with the type of distinction that we were
used to in the persons of Ayatullah Al-Kho`i and Ayatullah Gulpaygani.

	Another point to bear in mind is that with the leadership of
Ayatullah Khomeini, may Allah Ta'ala reward him and protect his
revolution, the role of the Marja-e-Taqleed has been forever changed. He
moved the institution of Marja'iyyat into a new phase wherein the
Marja'-e-Taqleed is not limited to passing verdicts on issues of
jurisprudence, as was the case with the Grand Ayatullahs of the past. He
infused a new role of leadership into the institution of Marja'iyyat,
namely the role of Wilayatul-Faqeeh. Actually, it is not correct to say
that this is a new role. It is based on the concept of the leadership of
Ulamaa which has always existed in Shi`ah theology. It was due to the fact
that most Shi'ah Ulamaa were very restricted in their ability to lead and
govern their followers that the Marja'-e-Taqleed became restricted to the
routine work of passing legal verdicts (Fataawa).

	Ayatullah Khomeini, with the establishment of the Islamic
Republic, again joined the offices of spiritual and temporal leadership
together as it is supposed to be according to our theology. When we look
at the real world, it revolves around matters broader than the issues of
jurisprudence. Our leadership should be able to meet the needs of their
followers in all aspects of their daily lives and provide the
comprehensive and balanced leadership that makes Islam the dynamic force
which can change men and nations.  This additional aspect of the
Marja'-e-Taqleed's leadership makes the whole question of who is more
learned even more difficult to solve. Not everyone, of course, agrees with
Ayatullah Khomeini's vision of the role of the Marja', however, on the
other hand, it is difficult to refute and even more difficult to ignore
the need of such comprehensive leadership in today's world.

	Therefore, in brief, there is no simple answer to the question of
who is most learned. If the traditional standard of following the most
experienced teachers of Darsul-Khaarij is adhered to, then, some of the
most prominent teachers of Darsul-Khaarij today are:
		Ayatullah Wahid Khorasani (Iran); 
		Ayatullah Jawad Tabrizi (Iran); 
		Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (Iran);
		Ayatullah Bashir Najafi (Iraq); 
		Ayatullah Seestani (Iraq). 

	On the other hand, if you believe that Marja'iyyat has a larger
role than what was customary in the past (in the vision of Imam Khomeini),
then, certainly Ayatullah Khamanei, his successor, is the most capable

This is my humble opinion only and Allah knows best. 


Ali Rasheed


	The question of who is an a'lam among the mujtahidin is a very complex
question. In order to understand this fully, let me start with the basics
on issue of taqlid.

FIRST:  In following the shari'a laws, a Shi'a is required to do one of
the three things: 

	1. either he should become a mujtahid (became an expert in Islamic
	   jurisprudence) and follow the conclusion of his own research;
	2. or he should do taqld of a mujtahid (i.e., follow an expert
	3. or he should do ihtiyat. 

(Ihtiyat means precaution, and here it means studying the various opinions
of mujtahids and then following the most difficult one: for example, if
one mujtahid says 'smoking is makruh' and the other says 'smoking is
haram,' then in ihtiyat, you will consider it as haram.) 
SECOND:  In taqlid, the majority of mujtahidin are of the opinion -as
wjib or ihtiyt-e wjib- that one should follow 'the most learned' of all
the mujtahidin (a'lam). This is support by common sense-now that you want
follow a mujtahid, then why not follow the most learned of them? 

THIRD:  The method of identifying a mujtahid or an a'lam is as follows: 

1. Personal knowledge for one who is knowledgeable enough in Islamic
jurisprudence to distinguish who is a mujtahid or an a'lam. 

2. Testimony of two just scholars who confirm the ijtihd or a'lamiyyat of
a certain person. 

3. Shiy': popularity in the Shi'a community about ijtihd
and a'lamiyyat of a person which creates conviction in your mind. 

				* * *


	It is not easy to distinguish the a'lam among the present
mujtahidins.  This is mainly because of two reasons: Firstly, the present
generation of mujtahidin was over-shadowed for a long time by some very
prominent mujtahids of this century like Ayatullah al-Khu'i and Ayatullah
al-Khumayni (may Allh shower His mercy and blessings upon them). Allh
gave indeed a long life to Ayatullah al-Khu'i that he was able to train
three generations mujtahidin in the last decades of his life!  The present
marji' did not get the chance to prove their a'lamiyyat. Secondly, the
Shi'a world is blessed at this moment with so many mujtahidin that it is
not easy to say that so and so is 'the most learned' of all.  Although
having so many mujtahidin creates confusion in distinguishing the a'lam,
it is also a blessing for which we should thank Almighty Allh! 
	Those who have gained recognition by the majority of the learned
scholars of Shi'a fiqh as suitable for marja'iyya are: 
	1. Ayatullah Sayyid 'Ali Sistani (Iraq);
	2. Ayatullah Wahid Khurasani (Iran);
	3. Ayatullah Sayyid 'Ali Khamane'i (Iran);
	4. Ayatullah Shaykh Fazil Lankarani (Iran);
	5. Ayatullah Shaykh Jawad Tabrizi (Iran);
	6. Ayatullah Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi (Iran).

Since taqlid is a personal matter, I would advise that you refer to two
'ulam' in your area whom you trust and make your decision accordingly. 

				* * *


	Before the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the marja' (the Grand
Mujtahid) was the leader of the Shi'a community but did not have the means
to bring about any change or transformation in the society. The Islamic
Revolution is based on the concept that the supreme leader should be a
mujtahid. In that sense, it is not a new concept; it is just providing the
means for exercising complete leadership for the mujtahid in a Shi'a

	This has, however, created some confusion among the Shi'as about
the issue of taqlid: do you follow the supreme leader of the Islamic
Republic of Iran or can you still do taqlid of other marji'? 

	The confusion arises because of the historical events of the
Islamic Revolution. This Revolution was led by the late Ayatullah al-Imam
Sayyid Ruhullah al-Khumayni. He was already recognized as a marja' and an
a'lam by many Shi'as; it is important to remember that his a'lamiyyat or
marja'iyya did not depend on the Revolution. Therefore, it was quite
natural to select him as the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of
Iran. In this manner, the marja'-e taqlid also became the supreme leader
known in the Iranian consititution as 'wali-e faqih'. 

	The question which must be asked is the following: it is necessary
for the wali-e faqih to be also a marja-e taqlid? In other words, it is
necessary for the institution of the wali-e faqih and the marja'iyya to be
one and the same? The best answer is given by the constitution of the IR
of Iran and the late Ayatullah al-Khumayni himself. 

	Soon after the Revolution, when the first constitution of the
Islamic Republic was approved by the Iranian people, it said that the
office of the wali-e faqih should be occupied by a marja'-e taqlid
accepted by the majority of the people. It said,

"Whenever one of the fuqah' [i.e., mujtahidin] possessing the
qualifications specified in Article 5 of the Constitution is recognized
and accepted as marja' and leader by a decisive majority of the
people...he is to assume [the office of] wilayat-e amr and all the
functions arising therefrom."  (See article 107 of the first

This actually reflected the reality of times when people saw that Imam
al-Khumayni, a marja-e taqlid, was the wali-e faqih also. However, after
few years while Ayatullah al-Khumayni was still alive, the constitution of
Iran was amended. While the deliberations were going on, the Speaker of
the Assembly for the Amendment of the Constitution, Shaykh 'Ali Mishkini,
wrote a letter to Imam al-Khumayni asking him about the question of
"marja'iyya and wali-e faqih". Ayatullah al-Khumayni wrote: 

	"From the beginning I was of the view that marja'iyya is not a
necessary condition [for wali-e faqih=leadership]. A just mujtahid who is
recommended by the Assembly of Experts can assume the leadership of the
Islamic society...I mentioned this point while experts were preparing the
constitution, my friends were insisting on the marja'iyya as the necessary
condition [for wali-e faqih]. Hence, I agreed with their proposal. At that
time I was sure this condition could not be fulfilled in the future." 
(Sahifa-e Nur, vol. 21, 129) 

	Accordingly, the Constitution was changed and the condition of
"marji'iyya" was taken out from the qualifications of the wali-e faqih who
was to assume the supreme leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. (See
Article 107 and 109 which clearly state that ijtihd is a sufficient
qualification for the leader, he does not necessarily have to be a
marja'-e taqlid.) 

	In the light of the above change in the Constitution of the
Islamic Republic of Iran, supported by the views of the late Founder of
the Islamic Revolution, we can conclude that the office of Wali-e faqih
and the Marja'iyya does not have to be one and the same: it could be or it
could not be, it depends on the person who assumes that position. 

	In the final analysis, I would say that one may do taqlid of any
of the marji'-e taqlid in all matters; but since they are silent or have
no opinion on political issues and on issues related to the Islamic
Movement world-wide, one should follow the Wali-e faqih of Iran who is
best suited to guide on such issues. 


Sayyid M. Rizvi

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