I would like to get a response on Wilayat ul Faqih. What is this concept for the citizens of Iran and how does it relate to individuals in the West? What are the responsibilities of Shi’a in the West in regards to Wilayat ul Faqih? Should this concept be causing a divide within the community and how should we solve this problem?
In a nutshell, Wilayatul-Faqih means the authority of a qualified Shi’a jurist for the benefit of Islam and the welfare of Muslims. For example, the Waliul-Faqih is the Wali (guardian, protector) of anyone who does not have a Wali to look after his/her affairs, like an orphan. Another example is related to the issue of the right of divorce in Islam and how it rests by default with the husband. However, if a man does not live with his wife peacefully nor divorce her generously, and as a result of that, his wife is in great hardship, then the Waliul Faqih has the authority to divorce her without his consent.
As you can see, there are numerous examples in our day to day life in which the Muslim community needs a higher authority to finalise a matter. On a higher level, the Waliul Faqih is the Wali of the political, educational, and economic welfare of the Islamic Ummah world wide. To the best of his ability and on the principles of enjoining good and forbidding evil, he should advise and if possible exercise his authority to ensure and protect the interests of the Ummah.
Whence there is an Islamic state and it is possible for the Waliul Faqih to exercise his authority – such as in Iran- then he is responsible to freely exercise his authority. As for the interests of Muslim minorities in other countries where his authority is limited, he still he has to exercise his duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil in different ways, such as through diplomatic methods, enlightening speeches and messages, etc.
The above-mentioned general concept of Waliyatul Faqih is accepted by all our respected jurists and there is no dispute about it. The scholarly dispute is about the scope and the limits of the authority of the Waliul Faqih.
Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei