Is the Guardian Jurist (Wali-ul-Faqih) chosen by appointment or by election?


Is the Guardian Jurist (Wali-ul-Faqih) chosen for the position of guardianship, by appointment or by election?


The supportive textual evidence regarding the guardianship of the jurist indicates only that the jurist is appointed by the infallible Imam (as), and this goes back to his being appointed by Allah, the Exalted. (For example) the Qur’anic ayah regarding the story of Talut: “surely Allah has chosen him and given him an increase in knowledge and physique” (2:247) and the Imam’s words in the narration : “I have made him a ruler over you” and the Imam’s words in the second narration: “I have made him a judge”, as well as the expression of the Commander of the Faithful at the end of the fifth narration: “the implementation of the laws and affairs by the knowledgeable about Allah, the trustees over his halal and haraam” all indicate that this position is affirmed for the jurist without the need for election by the people or their allegiance or similar things.

The position of the guardian jurist is similar to the position of issuing edicts or the position of judgment. Just as these positions are not affirmed through election, neither is the position of guardianship. The jurist is an issuer of edicts (fataawa), a judge and a guardian whether the people elect him or not. Since the jurists are general representatives of the Awaited Imam (atfs), he is the only one who can appoint them, as was the case with his specific representatives. Guardianship, then, is from Allah and for those whom He made it for.

One can say: there is no dispute between our scholars about the fact that the guardianship of the jurist on limited Hisbi issues – about which they are unanimous – is by appointment only, and there is not even a hint of election in that. Otherwise, it would be a right of attorney (wekala) and not guardianship (wilaya). The case then is similar when it comes to the general guardianship for those who believe in it. In fact, if a jurist fulfills his substitutive obligation by taking up the role of guardianship, it becomes obligatory upon the Muslims to accept his guardianship, to support him and to be loyal to him, just as it is obligatory for the layman to refer to the expert in jurisprudence when it comes to the rules of the legislation, because of the words of the Awaited Imam (atfs) in his holy letter: “then refer regarding those matters to..”, and the words of Imam al-Sadiq (as): “they should be pleased with him as a judge”. There is no difference in this between the layman and other jurists: all must follow him and help him just as is the case in Hisbi issues. Yes, the obligation of the jurist to take up this role depends on whether the Muslims would support or forsake him.  It becomes obligatory for him to take up this role if the community would help him. If you wish to call this election then there is no problem with the terminology. The Commander of the Faithful (as) said in explanation of the reason why he accepted the Caliphate: “…if people had not come to me and supporters had not exhausted the argument…I would have unleashed the rope of Caliphate.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 3). Also, in the letter of Imam Husain (as) to the noblemen of Kufa before his departure to that city he said: “I am sending to you my brother and my cousin, the one in whom I trust from among my household, Muslim ibn Aqeel. If he writes to me that the intelligent and honoured among you agree on the same thing that your messengers have brought, and which I have read in your letters, then I will come to you immediately” (al-Mofid in al-Irshad: 185)

If there is more than one jurist, or there is doubt about the qualifications of a claimant to the guardianship, then one must refer to the eight conditions and the factors that would prefer one over the other, as is the case in other jurisprudential issues. The ones who should look into this matter are the experts and not all people through an election. This in reality is a case of specifying the example existing in the external world, as is the case with finding the most learned jurist (when it comes to issuing edicts).

Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei