Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Religious Referential Authority

1. The Religious Authority: Extension of Imamate

2. Qualifications and Conditions

3. Tasks and Responsibilities

The Religious Authority: Extension of Imamate

The structure of the system is based on the concept of Imamate in which the individuals of this community believe. This conception entails that the overall guardianship and leadership of Muslims must be held by one of the Twelve Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) after the Holy Prophet (S).1 It also entails that Imamate is an extension of the mission of the Prophets and Messengers. This extension can be represented in the following points of similarity between prophethood and Imamate:

(1) The positions of prophethood and Imamate are both identified to be divinely ordained offices that are prescribed through direct designation by Almighty Allah, like in the case of the Prophets and Messengers, or through indirect designation, such as the case of the Holy Imams and other prophets’ successors. For instance, the Holy Prophet (S), by the command of Almighty Allah, designated Imam `Ali to be the next Imam (i.e. leader). The other Holy Imams (‘a) were specified in the same way by the preceding Imam.

(2) The particularities and qualifications of the person designated as Prophet or Imam are the same. Both are, as a stipulation, required to have the highest degree of perfection, which is called infallibility (`ismah).

(3) Both a Prophet and an Imam undertake the same responsibilities, duties, and rights towards the masses and have the same rights, the observance of which is obligatory upon the masses. Like a Prophet, an Imam must be obeyed by the public, enjoy general authority over them, be regarded as having a greater claim over the believers than they have on themselves, undertake the mission of conveying the divine message, edify, educate, teach the public the Book and Wisdom, tend to their affairs, and live at the same level as them. In this respect, the Holy Qur'an states:

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِنْ كَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِين

He it is Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca a Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error. (62:2)

The system that the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) set forth for managing the affairs of the virtuous community is based on the aforementioned concept of Imamate. Even if an Imam is circumstantially deprived of authority and power to rule, he must still possess all the particularities and qualifications to undertake all the responsibilities and carry out all the duties divinely entrusted upon him. The public, on the other hand, must obey the Imam. All such responsibilities and duties must be compatible with the circumstances as well as the virtuous community that is being managed. The ability or inability to perform such responsibilities and duties would depend upon the circumstances.

In the age of the absence of the Imam, the well-qualified mujtahid, in his capacity as the natural heir of the Prophets and the Imams, must undertake this mission. The Prophets have in fact not left gold or silver coins as their legacies, but rather great knowledge and wisdom. In this respect, the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said:

اَلعُلَمَاءُ مَصَابِيحُ الأَرْضِ، وَخُلَفَاءُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ، وَوَرَثَتِي، وَوَرَثَةُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ.

The scholars are the lanterns of the earth, the representatives of prophets, my heirs and the heirs of the prophets.2

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said:

إنَّ الْعُلَمَاءَ وَرَثَةُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ، وَذَاكَ أَنَّ الأَنْبِيَاءَ لَمْ يُوَرِّثُوا دِرْهَماً وَلاَ دِينَاراً؛ وَإنَّمَا أَوْرَثُوا أَحَادِيثَ مِنْ أَحَادِيثِهِمْ. فَمَنْ أَخَذَ بِشَيْءٍ مِنْهَا فَقَدْ أَخَذَ حَظّاً وَافِراً. فَانْظُرُوا عِلْمَكُمْ عَمَّنْ تَأْخُذُونَهُ، فَإنَّ فِينَا أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ فِي كُلِّ خَلَفٍ عُدُولاً يَنْفُونَ عَنْهُ تَحْرِيفَ الْغَالِينَ، وَانْتِحَالَ الْمُبْطِلِينَ، وَتَأْوِيلَ الْجَاهِلِينَ.

Verily, scholars are the heirs of the prophets. The prophets have not left behind them Dirhams or Dinars; rather, the treasure they have left behind is their discourses. So, whoever applies some of these discourses acquires a great share of the fortune. You must consider the source from which you take your knowledge. Verily, in each generation, there are some decent people belonging to us, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), who cleanse this religion from the distortions of the exaggerators, the forgery of the misguided, and the interpretation of the ignorant ones.3

The previously mentioned natural sequence (i.e. extension) in the divine position and representation of the Prophets has been clearly mentioned in the following verse of the Holy Qur'an:

إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا التَّوْرَاةَ فِيهَا هُدًى وَنُورٌ ۚ يَحْكُمُ بِهَا النَّبِيُّونَ الَّذِينَ أَسْلَمُوا لِلَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُوا مِنْ كِتَابِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا عَلَيْهِ شُهَدَاءَ ۚ فَلَا تَخْشَوُا النَّاسَ وَاخْشَوْنِ وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا بِآيَاتِي ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۚ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

Surely, We revealed the Torah in which was guidance and light. With it, the prophets who submitted themselves to Allah judged matters for those who were Jews, masters of divine knowledge and doctors, because they were required to guard part of the Book of Allah, and they were witnesses thereof; therefore, fear not the people and fear Me, and do not take a small price for My communications. And whoever did not judge by what Allah revealed, those are the unbelievers. (5:44)

Abu-`Amr al-Zubayri has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying:

إنَّ مِمَّا إسْتُحِقَّتْ بِهِ الإمَامَةُ التَّطْهِيرَ وَالطَّهَارَةَ مِنَ الذُّنُوبِ وَالْمَعَاصِي الْمُوبِقَةِ الَّتِي تُوجِبُ النَّارَ، ثُمَّ الْعِلْمَ الْمَكْنُونَ بِجِميعِ مَا يَحْتَاجُ إلَيْهِ الأَمْرُ مِنْ حَلاَلِهَا وَحَرَامِهَا، وَالْعِلْمَ بِهِ خَاصَّةً وَعَامَّةً، وَالْمُحْكَمِ وَالْمُتَشَابِهِ وَدَقِائِقِ عِلْمِهِ وَغَرَائِبِ تَأْوِيلِهِ وَنَاسِخِهِ وَمَنْسُوخِهِ.

Among the matters by which one is deservingly designated for Imamate are purification and purity from sins and destructive acts of disobedience (to Almighty Allah)—which have an inevitable punishment in Hellfire—and acquaintance with unseen knowledge of everything the position (of Imamate) requires, such as, the lawful and unlawful and full awareness of specific and general matters of law, including knowledge of decisive and allegorical issues, the minutest details of the law, the most precise points of interpretation and currently valid and abrogated matters.

The reporter asked, “What is the evidence that proves that an Imam must have full knowledge of the things you have just mentioned?”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

قَوْلُ اللهِ فِي مَنْ أَذِنَ اللهُ لَهُمْ بِالْحُكُومَةِ وَجَعَلَهُمْ أَهْلَهَا: "إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا التَّوْرَاةَ فِيهَا هُدًى وَنُورٌ ۚ يَحْكُمُ بِهَا النَّبِيُّونَ الَّذِينَ أَسْلَمُوا لِلَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ" {44} فَهَذِهِ الأَئِمَّةُ دُونَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ الَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ النَّاسَ بِعِلْمِهِمْ، وَأَمَّا الأَحْبَارُ فَهُمُ الْعُلَمَاءُ دُونَ الرَّبَّانِيِّينَ. ثُمَّ أَخْبَرَ فَقَالَ: "بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُوا مِنْ كِتَابِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا عَلَيْهِ شُهَدَاءَ"  {44}

وَلَمْ يَقُلْ بِمَا حُمِّلُوا مِنْهُ.

The proof is Almighty Allah’s statement about those whom He has permitted to hold the position of government and those whom He has stated to be the actual men of authority. He says, ‘Surely, We revealed the Torah in which was guidance and light; with it the prophets who submitted themselves to Allah judged matters for those who were Jews and the masters of Divine knowledge and the doctors. (5:44)’ These are Imams not Prophets who inherit the authority over people due to their knowledge. The doctors are the scholars whose rank is less than that of the masters of divine knowledge. After that, Almighty Allah continues to say, ‘Because they were required to guard part of the Book of Allah, and they were witnesses thereof.’ Notice that He has not said, ‘because they were required to convey it.’4

A mujtahid who represents ‘the doctors’ in the aforementioned holy verse must be characterized by the required qualifications that are held by the Imams–who represent ‘the masters of divine knowledge’–in the amount that is compatible with him (the mujtahid), his responsibilities, and rights. These qualifications are:

(1) Full acquaintance with religious laws

(2) Utmost decency

(3) Other personal qualifications to include:

(a) Awareness of political and social conditions

(b) Personal experience of the advantages and disadvantages linked to the movement and perfection of the virtuous community

(c) Courage to implement difficult, yet required, decisions

(d) Ability to take responsibility and lead the movement

(e) Maintenance of equality among the believers

(f) Presenting an exceptional example of conduct

Similarly, a mujtahid must enjoy the same rights and duties of the Holy Imams, yet again, in the amount that is compatible with his level of leadership.

This understanding and view of the general system of the virtuous society is an important issue because many responsibilities, relationships, policies, systems, courses, and situations that are compatible with the theoretical comprehension of the Prophets’ movements and their roles in the history of humanity as well as the norms that have affected history, branch out from this understanding.

The System of Religious Referential Authority

Based on this theoretical foundation, the Holy Imams (‘a) established the system of religious referential authority or the position of the well-qualified jurisprudential authority (wilayat al-faqih). In brief, this system can be defined as designating a mujtahid5 from the scholars of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) School, who fully meets all the previously cited qualifications and requirements, as a referential authority (marji`) for their followers with the aim of undertaking the basic tasks of Imamate, which are as follows:

(1) Authority (wilayah) over the affairs of the Muslims

(2) Issuance of verdicts (ifta') in order to explicate the concepts of the Divine Message, define the boundaries of religion and convey good tidings to those who commit themselves to them and warn people to refrain from acting outside those confines

(2) Reaching decisions on judgments in cases of litigation, allegations, and disputes

A review of the history of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) shows that while they practiced their roles as Imams in a limited way within the milieu of the virtuous community, they began establishing this system (religious referential authority) with the growth of the virtuous community. As a result, the circle of the virtuous community’s works, activities, and existence extended to such an extent that this system became the basic and general system in the ages after the Holy Imams (‘a).

As will be discussed in further detail, the Holy Imams (‘a) themselves established this system for the virtuous community by managing some of the affairs among the masses so that this would play a pertinent role in building the virtuous community and become an effective, reliable and sufficient system after the occultation of Imam al-Mahdi–may Allah hasten his advent.

It can be said that the most important and basic role of the Imams al-Jawad, al-Hadi, and al-`Askari, was to firm up and consolidate the posts of the system of religious referential authority.6

In order to depict the religious referential authority completely and clearly, we should have a lengthier discussion about the qualifications that must be met by a marji`, the tasks that must be undertaken by him, and the steps that the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) took in the field of organizing the virtuous community.7

Qualifications and Requirements

In addition to the basic requirements for the position of the religious referential authority—such as reason, freedom, and faith—the chief qualifications that a marji` is required to meet are as follows:

A. Ijtihad: Ijtihad, as a condition for holding religious authority, means that a marji` is required to have familiarity with religious laws, including the lawful and unlawful, and Islamic concepts to such an extent that he has the ability to recognize these laws and concepts from the religiously acceptable proofs—the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah that is authentically reported from the Holy Prophet (S) and the Imams (‘a) as well as other proofs—and to use the rules and practical principles that have been determined by the Holy Legislator in order to identify the practical, religion-based circumstances of an issue.

This qualification has been cited by the previously mentioned verse in general, and in the following section of the verse in particular:

"بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُوا مِنْ كِتَابِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا عَلَيْهِ شُهَدَاءَ"

…Because they were required to guard part of the Book of Allah, and they were witnesses thereof.

Confirmation of such knowledge has been made in many traditions that are reported from the Holy Imams (‘a), including the following which is authentically reported from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) and is recorded under the title of choosing an arbitrator to judge between disputants:

يَنْظُرَانِ مَنْ كَانَ مِنْكُمْ مِمَّنْ رَوَى حَدِيثَنَا وَنَظَرَ فِي حَلاَلِنَا وَحَرَامِنَا وَعَرَفَ أَحْكَامَنَا، فَلْيَرْضُوا بِهِ حَكَماً.

They (i.e. the disputant parties) must seek out one of you (i.e. the Shi`ah) who has reported our discourses, has acquaintance with what has been deemed lawful and what has been deemed unlawful by us, and has familiarity with our laws; then, they must accept him as arbitrator.8

On the authority of Imam `Ali (‘a), Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (‘a) reported the Holy Prophet (S) to have repeated the following supplicatory prayer three times:

اَللَّهُمَّ إرْحَمْ خُلَفَائِي.

O Allah, (please) have mercy upon my representatives.

When he was asked to define his representatives, the Holy Prophet (S) answered:

الَّذِينَ يَأْتُونَ بَعْدِي، يَرْوُونَ حَدِيثِي وَسُنَّتِي.

My representatives are those, among the coming generations, who will report my sayings and traditions.9

The following instruction has been mentioned in the famous document signed by Imam al-Mahdi—the Patron of the Age:

وَأَمَّا الْحَوَادِثُ الْوَاقِعَةُ فَارْجِعُوا فِيهَا إلَى رُوَاةِ حَدِيثِنَا، فَإنَّهُمْ حُجَّتِي عَلَيْكُمْ، وَأَنَا حُجَّةُ اللهِ.

As for the events that will take place in the future, you must refer them to the reporters of our traditions, for they are my proof on you and I am the Proof of Almighty Allah.

In addition, there are other traditions—some of which will be cited later—confirming that the ordinary followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) must refer to the well-versed and well-qualified scholars of their sect with respect to the religious laws. There are also other traditions that order the well-versed scholars to issue verdicts.

B. Decency: According to jurisprudents, decency can be defined as uprightness in following Islamic laws and avoidance of deviation. In other words, a decent person is one who never commits any act of disobedience to Almighty Allah, such as negligence of an obligatory act or commitment of a forbidden act unless there is a religiously justifiable reason. In this respect, there is no difference between minor or major sins.10

Decency is a disposition involving integrity in following Islam such that neither a major nor a minor sin is committed.11

Decency can be also defined as the faculty that habitually prevents one from performing acts of disobedience for which Almighty Allah has threatened Hellfire. This is not the same as regret that is felt after lust or anger vanishes because in regret the person experiences degeneration caused by such an act of disobedience.1212

Imam al-Khumayni has mentioned a similar definition of decency in Tahrir al-Wasilah.13

Sayyid al-Hakim seems to consider the decency that must be enjoyed by a marji`, as understood by religious believers (i.e. mutasharri`ah), to be such a supreme rank that it is neither compelled nor overcome by lust or anger in such a way that neither repentance nor regret will be necessary. “To be fair,” Sayyid al-Hakim adds, “it is extremely difficult for a general referential authority to persevere with decency in the issuance of verdicts–and this may take place in any age for a single or a group of scholars–unless such decency is of a powerful and supreme rank and is always monitored and managed. If such a rank of decency is lacking, this will definitely cause one’s feet to slip and expose great men to hazards. Only from Almighty Allah can we seek protection against such dangers.”14

Because traditions have highlighted the existence of decency among the qualities of witnesses that testify, leaders of congregational prayers, and leaders of holy wars in particular in addition to leaders of general affairs as well as other persons, religious scholars have concluded that decency must be one of the qualifications for a general referential authority. The scholars have unanimously agreed on this condition.

Moreover, the rationally approvable line of conduct (i.e. al-Sirah al-`uqala'iyyah) that is assented by the Holy Legislator also confirms this condition, as is maintained by both Sunni and Shi`ite scholars.15

In this respect, a tradition that is reported from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (‘a) states that the Holy Prophet (S) has said:

لاَ تَصْلُحُ الإمَامَةُ إلاَّ لِرَجُلٍ فِيهِ ثَلاَثُ خِصَالٍ: وَرَعٌ يَحْجُزُهُ عَنْ مَعَاصِي اللهِ، وَحِلْمٌ يَمْلِكُ بِهِ غَضَبَهُ، وَحُسْنُ الْوِلاَيَةِ عَلَى مَنْ يَلِي حَتَّى يَكُونَ لَهُمْ كَالْوَالِدِ الرَّحِيمِ.

Imamate is unsuitable for anyone except a man who enjoys the following three qualities: (1) piety that prevents him from committing acts of disobedience to Almighty Allah, (2) self-possession that makes him control himself in situations of rage, and (3) affectionate authority over those who are under his authority to the degree that he acts as their tender father.16

Shaykh al-Kulayni has also reported through an authentic chain of authority on the authority of Muhammad ibn Muslim that Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said to him:

وَاللهِ، يَا مُحَمَّدُ، مَنْ أَصْبَحَ مِنْ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ لاَ إِمَامٌ لَهُ مِنَ اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ظَاهِرٌ عَادِلٌ، أَصْبَحَ ضَالاًّ تَائِهاً، وَإنْ مَاتَ عَلَى هَذِهِ الْحَالَةِ مَاتَ مِيتَةَ كُفْرٍ وَنِفَاقٍ. وَاعْلَمْ، يَا مُحَمَّدُ، أَنَّ أَئِمَّةَ الْجَوْرِ وَأَتْبَاعَهُمْ لَمَعْزُولُونَ عَنْ دِينِ اللهِ، قَدْ ضَلُّوا وَأَضَلُّوا.

O Muhammad, I swear by Allah that if any one of this nation begins his day without having a leader (i.e. Imam) characterized by directness and decency, who is designated by Almighty Allah, he is then certainly misled and lost. If he dies in such a state, he will have then died the death of unbelief and hypocrisy. Be it known to you, Muhammad, that leaders of injustice and their followers are detached from the religion of Allah, for they have strayed from the right path and misled others.17

C. Competence: Competence stands for aptitude, capability, and power to manage affairs. It thus includes proficient reasoning, excellent management, courage, fair policy, supervision, and guardianship along with other personal qualities upon which competence relies.

In their verdicts, scholars have highlighted competence as a term specified to be among the qualities of a religious referential authority. For instance, in his book of Tadhkirat al-Fuqaha', `Allamah al-Hilli has referred to the term of competence as being one of the indisputable conditions that is unanimously agreed upon by all jurisprudents. He thus says:

Among the conditions that must be met by an Imam is that…he must be courageous, have a judicious view and be competent. In addition, his hearing, sight, and pronunciation must be sound. Finally, he must be the most virtuous of his contemporaries.18

This condition has also been confirmed in many traditions. Imam `Ali Amir al-Mu'minin ('a) is reported to have said:

أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، إنَّ أَحَقَّ النَّاسِ بِهَذَا الأَمْرِ أَقْوَاهُمْ عَلَيْهِ وَأَعْلَمُهُمْ بِأَمْرِ اللهِ فِيهِ. فَإنْ شَغِبَ شَاغِبٌ اِسْتُعْتِبَ، فَإنْ أَبَى قُوتِلَ.

O people, the most rightful of all persons to hold this office (leadership) is the one who is most competent among them to maintain it and who knows best Almighty Allah’s commands about it. If any mischief is created by a mischief-monger, he will be called upon to repent. If he refuses, he will be fought.19

Imam `Ali ('a) is also reported as saying:

وَالثَّانِي أَنْ يَكُونَ أَعْلَمَ النَّاسِ بِحَلاَلِ اللهِ وَحَرَامِهِ وَضُرُوبِهِ وَأَحْكَامِهِ وَأَمْرِهِ وَنَهْيِهِ وَجَمِيعِ مَا يَحْتَاجُ إلَيْهِ النَّاسُ، فَيَحْتَاجُ إلَيْهِ النَّاسُ وَيَسْتَغْنِي عَنْهُمْ.

The second quality (of one who must have the leadership of the Muslim nation) is that he must be the most knowledgeable among all people of what Almighty Allah has deemed lawful and unlawful as well as all the laws, commands, prohibitions and whatever is needed by people, as decided by Almighty Allah. So, people will need such a person but that person does not need them.20

In his authentic report, al-`Ays ibn al-Qasim has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) to have said:

وَانْظُرُوا لأَِنْفُسِكُمْ؛ فَوَاللهِ، إنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَكُونُ لَهُ الْغَنَمُ فِيهَا الرَّاعِي، فَإذَا وَجَدَ رَجُلاً أَعْلَمَ بِغَنَمِهِ مِنَ الَّذِي هُوَ فِيهَا يَمُجُّهُ وَيَجِيءُ بِذَلِكَ الرَّجُلِ الَّذِي هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِغَنَمِهِ مِنَ الَّذِي كَانَ فِيهَا.

…Choose for yourselves; I swear by Allah, an owner of a flock of sheep who has hired a shepherd must certainly dismiss his shepherd and appoint another if he finds that the latter is more skilled in shepherding his sheep than the earlier.21

In a previous tradition, the Holy Prophet (S) has mentioned ‘nice authority’ as one of the conditions of an Imam. This quality corresponds with competence.

Describing an Imam, Imam al-Ridha (‘a) has said:

وَالإمَامُ عَالِمٌ لاَ يَجْهَلُ وَرَاعٍ لاَ يَنْكِلُ... نَامِي الْعِلْمِ، كَامِلُ الْحِلْمِ، مُضْطَلِعٌ بِالإمَامَةِ، عَالِمٌ بِالسِّيَاسَةِ، مَفْرُوضُ الطَّاعَةِ، قَائِمٌ بِأَمْرِ اللهِ، نَاصِحٌ لِعِبَادِ اللهِ، حَافِظٌ لِدِينِ اللهِ.

An Imam is so knowledgeable that he ignores nothing, so watchful that he never tires…He is of ever-growing knowledge and perfect self-possession. He is well-versed in (the affairs of) Imamate, is knowledgeable of politics, is obeyed as an obligation, undertakes his tasks by Almighty Allah’s command, is a well-wisher of Allah’s servants, and safeguards the religion of Allah…22

Tasks and Responsibilities

The tasks and responsibilities of the system of the religious referential authority of the virtuous community can be summed up in the following three fields:

(1) Issuance of verdictsIssuance of verdictsIssuance of verdicts

(2) Judgment

(3) Authority

Generally, these three areas of responsibility correspond with the responsibilities of Imamate, especially when we understand issuance of verdicts in its expansive meaning, which is to elucidate and propagate the Islamic code of religious law, along with its rules, concepts, doctrines, and views about the universe, life, history, norms, and ethics.

a) First Responsibility: Issuance of Verdicts

In order to systematize the process of issuing verdicts for elucidating features of the religion and propagating Islam the Holy Imams (‘a) took the following steps:

(1) Education

The Holy Imams (‘a) worked towards educating well-versed jurisprudents, scholars, and reporters of their traditions by means of conferring upon them special attention that they (i.e. the Holy Imams) used to give certain persons who had extraordinary interest in seeking knowledge, had actual competence to receive knowledge, and possessed the required scientific aptitude. These persons then became distinguished in scientific and moral fields. In addition to these persons, the Holy Imams ('a) educated a large number of students in jurisprudence and other fields of religious sciences and capable learners of the Holy Qur'an who lived in various regions of the virtuous community, especially the regions where their followers were considerable in number.

Such education can be evidently noticed in personalities like Aban ibn Taghlib, Zurarah ibn A`yun, Abu-Basir, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Burayd al-`Ujali, Yunus ibn `Abd al-Rahman, `Uthman ibn Sa`id and his son Muhammad, and many others.

Abu’l-`Abbas al-Fadhl ibn `Abd al-Malik has reported that he heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saying:

أَحَبُّ النَّاسِ إلَيَّ أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتاً أَرْبَعَةٌ: بُرَيْدُ بْنُ مُعَاوِيَةَ الْعُجَلِيُّ، وَزُرَارَةُ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُسْلِمٍ، وَالأَحْوَلُ. وَهُمْ أَحَبُّ النَّاسِ إلَيَّ أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتاً.

The most beloved persons to me, from among both the dead and the alive, are four: (1) Burayd ibn Mu`awiyah al-`Ujali, (2) Zurarah, (3) Muhammad ibn Muslim, and (4) al-Ahwal. These are positively the most beloved persons to me from among all the dead and the alive.23

Ibrahim ibn `Abd al-Hamid and others have reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying:

رَحِمَ اللهُ زُرَارَةَ بْنَ أَعْيُنٍ. لَولاَ زُرَارَةُ وَنُظَرَاؤُهُ لاَنْدَرَسَتْ أَحَادِيثُ أَبِي.

May Allah have mercy upon Zurarah ibn A`yun. Had it not been for Zurarah and his peers, the traditions of my father would have been wiped out.24

Sulayman ibn Khalid has said that he heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saying:

مَا أَجِدُ أَحَداً أَحْيَا ذِكْرَنَا وَأَحَادِيثَ أَبِي إلاَّ زُرَارَةَ، وَأبَا بَصِيرٍ لَيْثَ الْمُرَادِيَّ، وَمُحَمَّدَ بْنَ مُسْلِمٍ وَبُرَيْدَ بْنَ مُعَاوِيَةَ العُجَلِيَّ. وَلَوْلاَ هَؤُلاَءِ مَا كَانَ أَحَدٌ يَسْتَنْبِطُ هَذَا. هَؤُلاَءِ حُفَّاظُ الدِّينِ وَأُمَنَاءُ أَبِي عَلَى حَلاَلِ اللهِ وَحَرَامِهِ. وَهُمُ السَّابِقُونَ إلَيْنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالسَّابِقُونَ إلَيْنَا فِي الآخِرَةِ.

I cannot find anyone who revived our affairs and my father’s traditions save Zurarah, Abu-Basir Layth al-Muradi, Muhammad ibn Muslim, and Burayd ibn Mu`awiyah al-`Ujali. Had it not been for these persons, none would have had the ability to infer this. These are the protectors of the religion and the trustees of my father regarding the lawful and the unlawful that Almighty Allah has determined. They are verily the forerunners toward us in this world and the forerunners toward us in the Hereafter.25

Abu-`Ubaydah al-Hadhdha' is reported to have said that he heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saying:

زُرَارَةُ وَأَبُو بَصِيرٍ وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُسْلِمٍ وَبُرَيْدٌ مِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالَ اللهُ تَعَالَى: وَالسَّابِقُونَ السَّابِقُونَ {10}أُولَٰئِكَ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ {11}

Zurarah, Abu-Basir, Muhammad ibn Muslim, and Burayd are among those about whom Almighty Allah has said, ‘And the foremost are the foremost; these are they who are drawn nigh to Allah. (56:10-11)’26

`Abdullah ibn Abi-Ya`fur has reported that he said to Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “I cannot meet you every time I would like, and I cannot come to you. However, one of our parties may come to me and ask a question while I do not have all the answers.”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

مَا يَمْنَعُكَ مِنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ الثَّقَفِيِّ؟ فَإنَّهُ سَمِعَ مِنْ أَبِي وَكَانَ عِنْدَهُ وَجِيهاً.

What prevents you from asking Muhammad ibn Muslim al-Thaqafi? He heard from my father and he had considerable status with him.27

Yunus ibn Ya`qub has reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said to him and his companions when they once visited him:

أَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ مَفْزَعٍ؟ أَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ مُسْتَرَاحٍ تَسْتَرِيحُونَ إلَيْهِ؟ مَا يَمْنَعُكُمْ مِنَ الْحَارِثِ بْنِ الْمُغِيرَةِ النَّضْرِيِّ؟

Do you not have any shelter? Do you not have any rest-house to rest in? What prevents you from joining al-Harith ibn al-Mughirah al-Nadhri?28

Jamil ibn Darraj has reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), condemning someone, said:

لاَ قَدَّسَ اللهُ رُوحَهُ، وَلاَ قَدَّسَ مِثْلَهُ! إنَّهُ ذَكَرَ أَقْوَاماً كَانَ أَبِي ائْتَمَنَهُمْ عَلَى حَلاَلِ اللهِ وَحَرَامِهِ، وَكَانُوا عَيْبَةَ عِلْمِهِ. وَكَذَلِكَ الْيَوْمَ هُمْ عِنْدِي مُسْتَوْدَعَ سِرِّي وَأَصْحَابَ أَبِي حَقّاً. إذَا أَرَادَ اللهُ بِأَهْلِ الأَرْضِ سُوءاً صَرَفَ بِهِمْ عَنْهُمُ السُّوءَ. هُمْ نُجُومُ شِيعَتِي أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتاً. هُمُ الَّذِينَ أَحْيَوْا ذِكْرَ أَبِي. بِهِمْ يَكْشِفُ اللهُ كُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ، يَنْفُونَ عَنْ هَذَا الدِّينِ إنْتِحَالَ الْمُبْطِلِينَ وَتَأْوِيلَ الْغَالِينَ.

May Allah sanctify neither his soul nor the souls of his likes! He reviled some personalities whom my father used to entrust with the lawful and the unlawful matters that have been decided by Almighty Allah and they were the store of his knowledge! Similarly, these very persons are the hoards of my secrets and true companions of my father. If Almighty Allah wills to pour a misfortune on the inhabitants of this earth, he may save them from this misfortune for the sake of these persons in particular. They are verily the stars of my followers (i.e. Shi`ah) in their lifetimes and after their death. It is they who revived the affairs of my father. By them, Almighty Allah exposes all heresies. They save this religion from the fabrications of the wrongdoers and the misinterpretations of the exaggerators.

The Imam (‘a) then wept. I (the reporter) asked, “Who are these?”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

مَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتُ اللهِ، وَعَلَيْهِمْ رَحْمَتُهُ أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتاً: بُرَيْدُ الْعُجَلِيُّ وَأَبُو بَصِيرٍ وَزُرَارَةُ وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُسْلِمٍ.

Allah’s blessings and mercy be upon them in their lifetimes and after their death. They are Burayd al-`Ujali, Abu-Basir, Zurarah, and Muhammad ibn Muslim.29

Dawud ibn Sarhan has reported that he heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saying:

إنِّي لأُحَدِّثُ الرَّجُلَ بِالْحَدِيثِ، وَأَنْهَاهُ عَنِ الْجِدَالِ وَالْمِرَاءِ فِي دِينِ اللهِ، وَأَنْهَاهُ عَنِ الْقِيَاسِ، فَيَخْرُجُ مِنْ عِنْدِي فَيَتَأَوَّلُ حَدِيثِي عَلَى غَيْرِ تَأْوِيلِهِ... إنَّ أَصْحَابَ أَبِي كَانُوا زَيْناً أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتاً. أَعْنِي زُرَارَةَ وَمُحَمَّدَ بْنَ مُسْلِمٍ وَمِنْهُمْ لَيْثُ الْمُرَادِيُّ وَبُرَيْدُ الْعُجَلِيُّ. هَؤُلاَءِ الْقَائِلُونَ بِالْقِسْطِ، هَؤُلاَءِ الْقَوَّامُونَ بِالْقِسْطِ، هَؤُلاَءِ السَّابِقُونَ السَّابِقُونَ أُولَئِكَ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ.

When I hold a discourse with some men and warn them against argument and disputation in matters concerning the religion of Almighty Allah and against analogy, they misinterpret my discourse as soon as they leave me….

The companions of my father were good examples in their lifetimes and after their death. These are Zurarah, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Layth al-Muradi, and Burayd al-`Ujali. It is these people who speak fairly. It is these people who are the maintainers of justice. It is these who are the foremost—the foremost who are drawn near to Allah.30

(2) Undertaking the Mission of Issuing Verdicts

The Holy Imams (‘a) specially directed the best among their companions and those distinguished by knowledge and virtue to undertake the mission of issuing verdicts and reporting their traditions to the next generations of the virtuous community. Sometimes, the Holy Imams (‘a) would direct these elite companions to give legal opinions to the Muslims of other sects according to each individual’s sect so that these personalities would take their natural role in the Muslim community and, at the same time, maintain the virtuous community and its particularities as a favor.

In this respect, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said to Mu`adh ibn Muslim al-Nahawi (the grammarian), “I have been informed that you sit in the mosque and give legal opinions to people.”

“Yes, I do,” Mu`adh answered, “and I wanted to ask you about this before I left you. As I sit in the mosque, people come to ask me questions. When I know that the asker is an opponent of you, I answer him according to the other sects’ opinion. When I know that the asker is a follower of you, I answer him according to what you have said about his question. However, it happens that a man whose sect I cannot recognize comes to me, so I answer by saying that so-and-so scholar says this, and so-and-so scholar says that. Hence, I include your sayings along with the others’ opinions.”

The Imam (‘a) answered, “Good, continue in this way, because I myself do it.”31

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported to have said:

إعْرِفُوا مَنَازِلَ شِيعَتِنَا بِقَدْرِ مَا يُحْسِنُونَ مِنْ رِوَايَاتِهِمْ عَنَّا. فَإنَّا لاَ نَعُدُّ الفَقِيهَ مِنْهُمْ فَقِيهاً حَتَّى يَكُونَ مُحَدِّثاً.

Recognize the ranks of our followers (i.e. Shi`ah) according to the extent to which they master reporting our traditions. Verily, we cannot consider one to be a real jurisprudent (i.e. faqih) until one is a proven traditionist (i.e. reporter of our traditions).

The Imam (‘a) was asked, “Is it possible that a faithful believer receives from the angels directly?”

He answered:

(الْمُؤْمِنُ) يَكُونُ مُفَهَّماً، وَالْمُفَهَّمُ الْمُحَدَّثُ.

A faithful believer may receive explanations from the angels. Hence, one who receives explanations is receiving them directly from the angels.32

(3) Asking people to refer to well-versed scholars

The Holy Imams (‘a) used to draw the attention of the masses towards referring to the elite companions and distinguished scholars in questions of religion in general and religious laws in particular so that the structure of the virtuous community could be accomplished in their lives. In this way, when the next generations of the virtuous community would refer to the well-versed scholars in religious issues, this significant feature would be automatically entrenched in the milieu of the virtuous community.

Ahmad ibn Ishaq has reported that he asked Imam Abu’l-Hasan al-Ridha (‘a), “With whom should I deal? From whom should I take (answers to my religious questions)? Whose word should I accept as true?”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

اَلعُمَرِيُّ ثِقَتِي، فَمَا أَدَّى عَنِّي فَعَنِّي يُؤَدِّي، وَمَا قَالَ عَنِّي فَعَنِّي يَقُولُ. فَاسْمَعْ لَهُ وَأَطِعْ، فَإنَّهُ الثِّقَةُ الْمَأْمُونُ.

Al-`Umari is my trustee. So, whatever he conveys to you on behalf of me is truly conveyed on behalf of me. Whatever he says to you on behalf of me is truly said on behalf of me. So, you must listen to and obey him. He is verily, an honest trustee.

When the reporter put the same question before Imam Abu-Muhammad (‘a), he answered:

اَلعُمَرِيُّ وَابْنُهُ ثِقَتَانِ، فَمَا أَدَّيَا عَنِّي فَعَنِّي يُؤَدِّيَانِ، وَمَا قَالاَ لَكَ فَعَنِّي يَقُولاَنِ، فَاسْمَعْ لَهُمَا وَأَطِعْهُمَا، فَإنَّهُمَا الثِّقَتَانِ الْمَأْمُونَانِ.

Al-`Umari and his son are trustworthy. So, whatever they convey to you on behalf of me is truly conveyed on behalf of me. Whatever they say to you on behalf of me is truly said on behalf of me. So, you must listen to and obey them. They are verily honest trustees.

The reporter once asked al-`Umari a certain question and al-`Umari answered:

مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْ تَسْأَلُوا عَنْ ذَلِكَ. وَلاَ أَقُولُ هَذَا مِنْ عِنْدِي، فَلَيْسَ لِي أَنْ أُحَلِّلَ وَلاَ أُحَرِّمَ.

It is forbidden for you all (i.e. the Shi`ah) to ask this question. Do not cite such a thing from me. I have no right to forbid or deem things lawful.33

Isma`il ibn al-Fadhl al-Hashimi has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) about temporary marriage (i.e. mut`ah).

The Imam (‘a) answered:

إلْقَ عَبْدَ الْمَلِكِ بْنَ جُرَيْحٍ فَسَلْهُ عَنْهَا، فَإنَّ عِنْدَهُ مِنْهَا عِلْماً.

You may find `Abd al-Malik ibn Jurayh and address this question to him, because he has considerable knowledge of this matter.

The reporter said: I therefore met with `Abd al-Malik who dictated a great deal of knowledge to me proving the legality of temporary marriage. Within the matters that `Abd al-Malik has reported about temporary marriage is that its term and number are limitless.

I then brought the paper dictated by `Abd al-Malik to Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) and he, confirming it, replied, “These dictations are true.”34

Al-Mufadhdhal ibn `Umar has reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) during a long discourse to al-Faydh ibn al-Mukhtar said:

فَإذَا أَرَدْتَ حَدِيثَنَا فَعَلَيْكَ بِهَذَا الْجَالِسِ.

If you want to be on familiar terms with our traditions, you must join the sessions of this man.

When I asked our companions about the man whom the Imam (‘a) had indicated, they answered, “He is Zurarah ibn A`yun.”35

`Ali ibn al-Musayyab al-Hamadani has reported that he once said to Imam al-Ridha (‘a), “My home is far away, and I cannot visit you any time I want. From whom should I acquire matters of the religion?”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

…مِنْ زَكَرِيَّا بْنِ آدَمَ الْقُمِّيِّ، الْمَأْمُونِ عَلَى الدِّينِ وَالدُّنْيَا.

You should receive them from Zakariyya ibn Adam al-Qummi, the one entrusted with worldly and religious affairs.

The reporter added: When I left, I visited Zakariyya ibn Adam and asked him everything I needed.36

`Abd al-`Aziz ibn al-Muhtadi and al-Hasan ibn `Ali ibn Yaqtin have both reported that they asked Imam al-Ridha (‘a), “We can with difficulty present ourselves before you whenever we want to ask you about what we need from the matters of our religion. Is Yunus ibn `Abd al-Rahman so trustworthy that we can receive from him whatever we need about the matters of religion?”

The Imam (‘a) answered in the affirmative.37

Al-Fadhl ibn Shadhan has reported `Abd al-`Aziz al-Muhtadi—describing him as the best of the people of Qum he had ever met and the representative of Imam al-Ridha ('a) and one of his elite companions—as saying, “I said to Imam al-Ridha, ‘I cannot visit you whenever I want to, so from whom should I acquire the matters of religion?’

The Imam (‘a) answered:

خُذْ عَنْ يُونُسَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَانِ.

You should take them from Yunus ibn `Abd al-Rahman.38

b) Second Responsibility: Judgment

Judgment, in the sense of deciding judicially which party of two disputants is rightful and which is not, is considered one of the most important issues in the organization of the Muslim community in general and the virtuous community in particular. It is, moreover, one of the basic topics for which the Divine Books were revealed and the Divine Messages were given to Prophets and Messengers of Almighty Allah.

This is because judgment is correlated with matters of disputation and contention among people—an issue that coexisted with the first brick in the human structure of life. Throughout the various ages of human progression, this issue has always had such a special significance that it gave man the idea that the issues of government and establishment of states are originally and inseparably connected with the issue of judgment with which the state develops into a social system.

Being connected to issues of contention and disputation, judgment seems complicated to some extent. In some cases, both parties of litigation believe that they are right. Moreover, the result of judgment can sometimes be opposite to the factual right causing more complication, since the owner of the right may be judicially forced to abandon his right and keep silent because of a judgment made by a judge.

In view of all this, the Holy Qur'an connects faith with surrender to the judgment that is issued by the Holy Prophet (S). Hence, it reads:

فَلَا وَرَبِّكَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىٰ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَجِدُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

But no! By your Lord! They do not truly believe until they make you a judge of that which has become a matter of disagreement among them, and then do not find any resistance in their hearts as to what you have decided and submit with entire submission. (4:65)

The Holy Prophet (S), who is divinely infallible and connected with divine revelation, took precautions for himself and for his authority among Muslims, saying:

إنَّمَا أَقْضِي بَيْنَكُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالأَيْمَانِ، وَبَعْضُكُمْ أَلْحَنُ بِحُجَّتِهِ مِنْ بَعْضٍ، فَأَيمَّا رَجُلٍ قَطَعْتُ لَهُ مِنْ مَالِ أَخِيهِ شَيْئاً فَإنَّما قَطَعْتُ لَهُ بِهِ قِطْعَةً مِنْ نَارٍ.

I can only judge between you on the bases of evidence and oaths, and some of you may provide their evidence more convincingly than others. So, if I deem a portion of the property of someone to be for another, this will mean that I have decided a piece of Hellfire for him.39

Judgment, in the aforesaid tradition, does not include decisions made based on Unseen Divine Knowledge (al-ghayb al-ilahi). Judgments based on presented evidence may sometimes be contrary to actual fact, such as in cases when a plaintiff cannot find evidence to prove his claim, when a defendant swears falsely to gain the decision, or when a defendant refers taking an oath to the plaintiff who refrains from taking it out of fear of Almighty Allah and thus relinquishes his right so that the case is won by the defendant. The defendant might also provide false witnesses who apparently seem righteous and thus the judge may accept their testimony and issue a judgment contrary to reality.

The Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) encountered a real problem in the milieus of the virtuous community when they attempted to fill this crucial gap in the general system of the virtuous community. Therefore, they found a veritable and practical solution.

The problem of flawless judgment has various aspects some of which are related to the ruling authority since the position of a judge is an official position that requires permission determined and given by the ruling authority. This is the point of difference between judicature, being a governmental position, and issuance of verdicts, which was practiced by any well-versed scholar, traditionist, or student of jurisprudence without need for permission.

Other aspects are related to the executive and procedural power. A judge may settle a dispute by a sentence that he issues, but the actual executor of this sentence is the executive power, such as the police and other governmental agencies that use power to put that sentence into action when a party of the lawsuit refrains from submitting to the judge’s sentence. As for the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), they did not have such executive power.

Other aspects are related to the community itself, be it a reluctance of qualified persons to assume this precise and sensitive job or be it the masses’ response and commitment to the decisions issued by the Holy Imams (‘a).

Despite all these impediments, the Holy Imams (‘a) succeeded in creating an active and functioning system of judicature during the span of their actual lifetimes which continued to survive during other ages. To achieve this goal, the Holy Imams (‘a) provided an exceptional form of judgment that is characterized by exactitude, flexibility, and lucidity. This form can be found in their traditions about judgment.

True Judgment

Let us refer to some aspects and steps that the Holy Imams (‘a) developed in order to establish their exceptional form of judgment:

A. The Holy Imams (‘a) severely condemned individuals who presented their lawsuits before unjust judges that had been appointed by tyrannical and unjust ruling authorities. Such condemnation was not only based on the probability that such inexperienced judges would issue flawed judgments with regard to the religious law of Islam, but also based on two other important issues:

First: The position of a judge is a divinely designated office that none has the right to hold except those well-qualified. Without such qualification, which is both spiritual and practical, judgeship is invalid even where a judge has judged according to that which is true. Hence, unqualified judges are unsuitable for holding this divine position.

In this respect, Sulayman ibn Khalid has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying:

إتَّقُوا الْحُكُومَةَ؛ فَإنَّ الْحُكُومَةَ إنَّمَا هِيَ لِلإمَامِ العَالِمِ بِالْقَضَاءِ الْعَادِلِ فِي الْمُسْلِمِينَ، كَنِبِيٍّ أوْ وَصِيِّ نَبِيٍّ.

Avoid holding the position of judgeship, because this position must be exclusively held by a leader who is well-versed in judgment and who treats Muslims justly, such as a Prophet or a Prophet’s successor (i.e. wasi).40

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported as saying:

اَلْقُضَاةُ أَرْبَعَةٌ؛ ثَلاَثَةٌ فِي النَّارِ وَوَاحِدٌ فِي الْجَنَّةِ: رَجَلٌ قَضَى بِجَوْرٍ وَهُوَ يَعْلَمُ، فَهُوَ فِي النَّارِ. وَرَجُلٌ قَضَى بِجَوْرٍ وَهُوَ لاَ يَعْلَمُ، فَهُوَ فِي النَّارِ. وَرَجُلٌ قَضَى بِالْحَقِّ وَهُوَ لاَ يَعْلَمُ، فَهُوَ فِي النَّارِ. وَرَجُلٌ قَضَى بِالْحَقِّ وَهُوَ يَعْلَمُ، فَهُوَ فِي الْجَنَّةِ.

There are four categories of judges—three will be in Hellfire and only one in Paradise: (1) a judge that intentionally rules unjustly will be in Hellfire; (2) a judge that rules unjustly because he does not know will also be in Hellfire; (3) a judge that rules according to that which is true but he does not know will also be in Hellfire; and (4) a judge that rules according to that which is true and knows (that he is ruling according to the truth) will be in Paradise.41

Abu-Basir has reported that he, once, said to Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “It happens that I have to decide about an issue that I have found neither in the Book of Allah nor in the Sunnah. Should we use our view about such issues?”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

لاَ، أَمَا إنَّكَ إنْ أَصَبْتَ لَمْ تُؤْجَرْ، وَإنْ أَخْطَأْتَ كَذَبْتَ عَلَى اللهِ.

No! If you do so and hit on the correct ruling, you will not be rewarded and if you do and fail to make an accurate ruling, you will have fabricated a forgery against Almighty Allah.42

Second: Referring to such false judges is a submission and surrender to the governments of tyrannical and unjust ruling authorities who appoint such unqualified persons as judges. As a result, reference to such judges is regarded as “summoning one another to the judgment of Satan” about which the Holy Qur'an says:

أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يَتَحَاكَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوا أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِهِ وَيُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ يُضِلَّهُمْ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا

Have you not seen those who assert that they believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you? They desire to summon one another to the judgment of the Evil One, though they were commanded to deny him, and Satan desires to lead them astray into remote error. (4:60)

Abu-Basir has quoted Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) regarding a man who had a dispute with one of his brethren-in-faith about a property. When the latter asked him to accept a third person of their faith as arbiter, the former refused and insisted on summoning his brother-in-faith to the official court of the unjust ruling authorities.

…كَانَ بِمَنْزِلَةِ الَّذِينَ قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: " أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يَتَحَاكَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوا أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِهِ"

This man is of the same rank of those about whom Almighty Allah has said, “Have you not seen those who assert that they believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you? They desire to summon one another to the judgment of the Evil One, though they were commanded to deny him. (4:60)”43

Umar ibn Hanzalah has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “Two of our acquaintances disputed about a debt or an issue of inheritance. They sued one another before the ruling authority and their judges. Is this acceptable?”Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “Two of our acquaintances disputed about a debt or an issue of inheritance. They sued one another before the ruling authority and their judges. Is this acceptable?”Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “Two of our acquaintances disputed about a debt or an issue of inheritance. They sued one another before the ruling authority and their judges. Is this acceptable?”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

مَنْ تَحَاكَمَ إلَيْهِمْ فِي حَقٍّ أَوْ بَاطِلٍ فَإنَّمَا تَحَاكَمَ إلَى طَاغُوتٍ، وَمَا يَحْكُمُ لَهُ فَإنَّمَا يَأْخُذُ سُحْتاً وَإنْ كَانَ حَقُّهُ ثَابِتاً، لأَنَّهُ أَخَذَهُ بِحُكْمِ الطَّاغُوتِ، وَقَدْ أَمَرَ اللهُ أَنْ يُكْفَرَ بِهِ. قَالَ اللهُ تَعَالَى: " أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يَتَحَاكَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوا أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِهِ"

Anyone who takes their litigation before such judges, be the judge right or wrong, has in reality taken his litigation to the Evil One (Taghut). Whatever he gains from that court is considered illegally acquired property, even if it is his right. This is because he has taken it through the judgment of the Evil One while Almighty Allah has commanded to deny him (the Evil One), saying,

“Have you not seen those who assert that they believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you? They desire to summon one another to the judgment of Satan, though they were commanded to deny him. (4:60)”44

B. On various occasions, the Holy Imams (‘a) laid great stress on this issue so as to achieve a practical goal and create a strong personal deterrent that replaces the executive power of official judges of the unjust ruling authorities. As a step in this way, the Holy Imams (‘a) advised the virtuous community to strongly condemn the corruption, deviation and aggression that the offices of the ruling authorities in general and the system of judicature in particular used against the rights of people.

C. In the designation of a judge, the Holy Imams (‘a) followed a method characterized by flexibility on the one hand and by proportional power of execution on the other. They used to ask the disputant parties to choose for themselves an arbitrator and reach an agreement on selecting a judge, as is mentioned in the accepted tradition (i.e. maqbulah)45 of `Umar ibn Hanzalah and the authenticated tradition (i.e. muwaththaqah) of Abu-Basir.

Some scholars believe that such traditions do not denote a judge in the ordinary meaning, but give explanations of the qualities of the arbitrators of judgment and conciliation, because they specify as condition the consent of the two parties.46 However, the last statement in the tradition involved apparently shows that it denotes the designation of judges.

D. The Holy Imams (‘a) gave general, simplified, and clear-cut qualifications that must be held by a judge whose words are taken as final judgment in the case that many judges disagree about a question (i.e. a chief-judge).

`Umar ibn Hanzalah has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “Two of our acquaintances disputed about a debt or an issue of inheritance. They sued one another before the ruling authority and their judges. Is this acceptable?”

The Imam (‘a) answered:

مَنْ تَحَاكَمَ إلَيْهِمْ فِي حَقٍّ أَوْ بَـاطِلٍ فَإنَّمَـا تَحَـاكَمَ إلَى الطَّاغُوتٍ، وَمَا يَحْكُمُ لَهُ فَإنَّمَا يَأْخُذُ سُحْتاً وَإنْ كَانَ حَقّاً ثَابِتـاً، لأَنَّهُ أَخَـذَهُ بِحُكْـمِ الطَّاغُوتِ، وَقَدْ أَمَرَ اللهُ أَنْ يُكْفَرَ بِهِ. قَالَ اللهُ تَعَالَى: " أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يَتَحَاكَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوا أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِهِ"

Anyone who takes their litigation before such judges, be the judge right or wrong, has in reality taken his litigation to the Evil One (Taghut). Whatever he gains from that court is considered illegally acquired property, even if it is his right. This is because he has taken it by the judgment of the Evil One while Almighty Allah has commanded to deny him, saying,

“Have you not seen those who assert that they believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you? They desire to summon one another to the judgment of Satan, though they were commanded to deny him. (4:60)

“What should they do instead?” asked the reporter.

The Imam (‘a) explained:

يَنْظُرَانِ مَنْ كَانَ مِنْكُمْ مِمَّنْ قَدْ رَوَى حَدِيثَنَا وَنَظَرَ فِي حَلاَلِنَا وَحَرَامِنَا وَعَرَفَ أَحْكَامَنَا، فَلْيَرْضُوا بِهِ حَكَماً، فَإنِّي قَدْ جَعَلْتُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ حَاكِماً. فَإذَا حَكَمَ بِحُكْمِنَا فَلَمْ يَقْبَلْ مِنُهُ، فَإنَّمَا إسْتَخَفَّ بِحُكْمِ اللهِ وَعَلَيْنَا رَدَّ، وَالرَّادُّ عَلَيْنَا الرَّادُّ عَلَى اللهِ، وَهُوَ عَلَى حَدِّ الشِّرْكِ بِاللهِ.

They should choose one from among you who has reported our sayings, learnt the questions that we have deemed legal and those we have deemed illegal, and gained knowledge of our judgments; hence, they should accept him as arbitrator, for I proclaim such individuals to be your judges. If the arbitrator then decides according to our judgments, any rejecting party would be belittling the judgment of Allah and rejecting us. Whoever rejects us has in fact rejected Almighty Allah—an act, which is as grave as polytheism.47

c) Third Responsibility: Authority

Without doubt, authority (wilayah) and Imamate is the most important divinely designated position in the Islamic system as is openly stated by the Holy Qur'an and the traditions that are authentically reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), some of which have been previously cited in this book under different titles.

It is also possible to insert the first responsibility (issuance of verdicts or propagation and elucidation of religious issues) and the second responsibility (judgment) within this very important divinely designated position.

The greatness and holiness of this position and the numerousness of tyrants, oppressors and leaders of injustice that have claimed this position might be two reasons that caused the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to condemn the others who claimed this holy position on the one hand and confirm that the position was designated to them alone on the other.

This may be a convincing explanation for the scarcity of traditions about a decent and well-versed mujtahid having the right of general authority after the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). The Holy Imams (‘a) confirmed that the general authority was originally their exclusive right in which nobody else shared in order to block any possible psychological or mental gap that might have aroused the idea that others who claim having this authority might have the like of this right or that their right of authority might be parallel to the divinely designated right of authority of the Holy Imams.

It is also noteworthy that all the traditions about the qualities of judges restrict the right of judgeship to the Holy Imams (‘a) except for some reported texts indicating them to be restricted to the arbitrators of conciliation and judgments of mutual consent.

Based on such interpretations, a group of jurisprudents are of the opinion that there is no definite text (authentically reported from the Holy Imams (‘a)) involving the designation of the mujtahid for this divine position. Such jurisprudents, however, admit that it is not feasible to leave this divine position unoccupied and lacking a responsible person among the Muslim community, who possesses the essential qualifications (al-qadr al-mutayaqqan) to undertake the responsibility of this position must be a well-qualified mujtahid. These jurisprudents also agree that the well-qualified mujtahid is the most suitable person to occupy this divine position from another type of evidence which is called dalil al-hisbah, meaning evidence that is derived from necessity.48

In any case, some texts that are reported from the Holy Imams (‘a) refer to or can be understood, suggestively or openly, as referring to the general authority of the well-qualified jurisprudent. Apart from exhaustive discussions on each of these texts, we can, in the main, extract this conceptual trend in the Ahl al-Bayt’s building of the system of the virtuous community—entailing that the well-qualified and well-versed jurisprudent must undertake the affairs of the general authority (wilayah).

More precisely, the position of the general authority is a fact firmly established in the milieus of the Ahl al-Bayt’s followers as it has been practiced by the mujtahids and supported by the scholars, irrespective of the evidence proving its transfer to the well-qualified jurisprudents.

However, the most obvious divine text that can be used as evidence proving this general authority for the well-qualified jurisprudents is the aforesaid verse (No. 44) of Surah al-Ma'idah (No. 6). As for hadith, the best tradition that proves this issue is a document of Imam al-Mahdi (may Allah hasten his advent) which he himself dictated:

وَأَمَّا الْحَوَادِثُ الْوَاقِعَةُ فَارْجِعُوا فِيهَا إلَى رُوَاةِ حَدِيثِنَا، فَإنَّهُمْ حُجَّتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنَا حُجَّةُ اللهِ.

As for the events that shall take place in the future, you must refer them to the reporters of our traditions, for they are my proofs for you and I am the Proof of Almighty Allah.49

This tradition, pointing out ‘the events that shall take place in the future’, signifies the emerging issues that humanity is bound to encounter in the daily activities of life that will require a religious law to resolve them. In addition, the statement that the reporters of the traditions are the proofs of the Imam (‘a) for people has been concluded with the statement that the Imam (‘a) is the Proof of Almighty Allah for people. Of course, this is comprehensive and general. This significance can also be gauged from the traditions describing the qualities of judges. As has been previously discussed, judicial authority is considered to be one of the most important and crucial positions of the general authority.

The discussion of this topic consummates the Holy Imams’ (‘a) conception about the system of the virtuous community thus: the well-qualified jurisprudent (mujtahid) must conclusively be the religious referential authority of the individuals of the virtuous community, and such authority undertakes the tasks of the Imam (‘a).

Among the many well-versed jurisprudents, the religious referential authority can be appointed either through direct election by the masses made after investigating the required personal qualities–knowledgeability, decency, experience, competence, and others to which experienced people must testify–after which it becomes obligatory upon them to act upon the verdicts of that mujtahid; or, through indirect election by the masses who elect experienced individuals who in turn elect the general referential authority who then holds the authority of the Holy Imam. Such a process of election and voting cannot take place unless the masses possess the determination and freedom to vote in order to freely express their wills. As a practical example, well-versed scholars of the Islamic Republic of Iran elected the general referential authority and the Constitution of the country upheld their election.50

  • 1. - The Twelve Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are namely:
    1) `Ali ibn Abi-Talib
    2) Hasan ibn `Ali
    3) Husayn ibn `Ali—(2) and (3) are the grandsons of the Holy Prophet (S) and sons of Imam `Ali (‘a)
    4) `Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-`Abidin
    5) Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Baqir
    6) Ja`far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq
    7) Musa ibn Ja`far al-Kazim
    8) `Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha
    9) Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Jawad
    10) `Ali ibn Muhammad al-Hadi
    11) Hasan ibn `Ali al-`Askari
    12) Muhammad Mahdi, (the rightly-guided) son of Hasan, the Hujjah (Proof of Allah), namesake of the Holy Prophet (S)—his grandfather—as foretold by the Prophet (S) himself.
    I have discussed the concept of Imamate, along with explanation of this concept, necessity for Imamate and related proof in the first book of this series under the title ‘Imamate.’ Similarly, many Imamiyyah scholars have dealt with this topic in detail in many books, citing numerous proofs on its accuracy.
  • 2. - Muhammad al-Rayshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah 6:457 as quoted from al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-`Ummal, H. 28677.
  • 3. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi 1:32 H. 2.
  • 4. - Shaykh al-Huwayzi, Tafsir Nur al-Thaqalayn 1:634, H. 206, as quoted from Tafsir al-`Ayyashi.
  • 5. - Mujtahid can be defined as a person who possesses the faculty of inferring a religious law or analyzing practical examples of an issue by means of drawing on religiously acceptable proofs and criteria that have been decided or approved for this purpose specifically by the Holy Legislator with the aim of arriving at religious facts, laws, and examples of an issue.
  • 6. - This fact will manifest itself more evidently when the special roles of each of the Holy Imams (‘a) is displayed individually.
  • 7. - This topic will be discussed in greater detail in the coming thesis about the virtuous referential authority in a later volume of this series.
  • 8. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah 18:19, H. 1.
  • 9. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah 18:101, H. 7.
  • 10. - Sayyid Abu’l-Qasim al-Khu'i, Minhaj al-Salihin, 1:10, Ed. 28.
  • 11. - Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, Minhaj al-Salihin, 1:12, with a commentary by Martyr Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Ed. 2.
  • 12. - Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, Minhaj al-Salihin, 1:12, with a commentary by Martyr Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Dar al-Ta`aruf – Beirut.
  • 13. - See Imam al-Khumayni, Tahrir al-Wasilah, 1:10.
  • 14. - Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, Mustamsak al-`Urwah al-Wuthqa, 1:43.
  • 15. - Refer to the words of the scholars in this connection; Shaykh al-Muntazari: Wilayat al-Faqih, 1:261-273.
  • 16. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, 1:407, H. 9.
  • 17. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, 1:183-184, H. 8.
  • 18. - Shaykh al-Muntazari, Wilayat al-Faqih, 1:265 as quoted from `Allamah al-Hilli, Tadhkirat al-Fuqaha', 10:452.
  • 19. - Nahj al-Balaghah, 2:104 (commentary of Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh), Sermon No. 173.
  • 20. - Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 93:64, as quoted from al-Nu`mani, Kitab al-Ghaybah.
  • 21. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 11:35, H. 1.
  • 22. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, 1:202.
  • 23. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:104, H. 18.
  • 24. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:104, H. 20.
  • 25. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:104, H. 21.
  • 26. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:104, H. 22.
  • 27. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:104, H. 23.
  • 28. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:104, H. 24.
  • 29. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:105, H. 25.
  • 30. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:106, H. 26.
  • 31. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:108, H. 36.
  • 32. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:108, H. 38.
  • 33. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:100, H. 4.
  • 34. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:100, H. 5.
  • 35. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:104, H. 19.
  • 36. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:106, H. 27.
  • 37. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:107, H. 33.
  • 38. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:107, H. 34.
  • 39. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:169, H. 1.
  • 40. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:7, H. 3.
  • 41. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:11, H. 6.
  • 42. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:24, H. 6.
  • 43. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:3, H. 2.
  • 44. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:4, H. 4.
  • 45. - An accepted tradition (maqbulah) is that which is admitted by scholars although its series of narrators does not meet the qualifications required.
  • 46. - Ayatollah Sayyid al-Khu'i, Minhaj al-Salihin, 1:4.
  • 47. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:99 Sifat al-Qadhi (Qualities of judges), S.11, H.1.
  • 48. - In the search for general authority, jurisprudents have dealt with this topic. In sum, some of them have concluded that the general authority of the jurisprudent (wilayat al-faqih) is proven by clear texts reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), while others have concluded that this position is proven by the reason-based necessity for occupation of this important position by the most qualified person, as well as by other proofs. Thoughtfully but simply, I have discussed this topic in my book entitled al-hukm al-islami bayna al-nazariyyah wa’l-tatbiq (Islamic Government: Theory and Application). Here, I prefer to discuss this topic from the angle of the universal and conceptual basis rather than other angles.
  • 49. - Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi`ah, 18:101, H. 9.
  • 50. - Further discussions of this issue have been cited in my book of al-hukm al-islami bayna al-nazariyyah wa’l-tatbiq (Islamic Government: Theory and Application); Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Act 5.