A Delegated System of Governance: Understanding the Concepts of Imamat and Wilayat in Shi’a Islam, Part II

Por • 15 oct, 2020 • Sección: sociologia

by Mansoureh Tajik for the Saker Blog

 “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

In Part I of this topic (See here), the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran under the leadership of Imam Khomeini was referenced as a specific example of a system in governance based on Imamat and Wilayat as interpreted, implemented, and practiced in Shi’a Islam. Iran was a nation pegged and primed to become a model for a fully secularized, westernized, and liberalized society in a Muslim majority land. This was a nation endowed with lucrative material wealth and natural resources, several millennia of civilization, culture, and written history but headed by a darling pro-Western puppet regime brought about through series of costly overt and covert schemes and operations.

As well it was stated in the article that the inception of this system was to bring the Word of God into the governance of people exactly when supercilious Western elites, that is, the sorts of elites who have this delusion that history begins and ends with them, were gleefully celebrating an envisioned modern Atlantis in which the Word of God has no place in its systems of governance. Still, the Islamic Republic of Iran happened. Not only did the Islamic Republic of Iran happen, it became a significant, enduring, and dynamic force to reckon with despite all options on and under the table that were thrown at it. Talk about the showing of a heavenly middle phalange. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Before attending to the next segment, I would like to address here a question posed in the comment section of the part I of the essay since the response to that helps with specific points in the overall argument of the essays. “daniel” on October 02, 2020  ·  at 4:46 am EST/EDT wrote:

“99.25% of the participants voted “yes” to an Islamic Republic system of government in Iran[1] replacing a system of monarchy based on an inherited position transfer from a king to his eldest son.”

Was the Iran 1979 referendum (results shown above) a once off thing & considered binding for life or was it set up as a recurring probing exercise which follows some regular interval, say a 50 years cycle?

Until 1979, any major movement, like the Constitutional Movement of 1906 or any systematic mechanism that could have legitimately and authentically admitted the will of the people into the system of governance had often been violently suppressed. I addressed some of that in another essay last year titled “Willfully and Consciously Demonizing Shia: the Leadership of the Pious.” Please see here.

The revolution of 1979 happened because for hundreds of years almost all major and minor movements to reform the system of governance according to authentic desires and will of the people of Iran had failed. The referendum in 1979 was the first and the ONLY straight forward mechanism at that time to get the voices of the people heard, clearly documented, and actualized. After some revisions to the constitution 10 years later, another nationwide referendum was held and 97.38% of the participants approved the revised version of the constitution. Furthermore, through direct election of their representatives into Majlis Shoraye Islami (an assembly of 290 seats) and Majlis Khobregah Rahbari, the Assembly of Experts for Leadership (consisting of 88 seats), the people of Iran could make decisions about the constitution and the Wali Faqih, respectively.

When there are already appropriate, effective, and functioning venues and mechanisms in place, the need for a referendum becomes null and void unless either all of those systems become so corrupt and dysfunctional that the will of the people can no longer be genuinely manifested, or the issue in question is so novel that the approval of which does not fall within the realm of the established mechanisms and requires a nationwide referendum. So far, we have had neither of those situations occurring in Iran.

I would like to add a comment that I thought the answer provided by another commenter “arash” a good use of the instrument of jadal—a form of argument when one uses already accepted conventions of the opponent as proof and/or refutation of one’s own argument. Although I think “daniel” may have asked the question out of sincere curiosity, I do understand the sensitivity of the question and what may have prompted that response. A repeated ad nauseam favorite false statement by the Zionist West, Inc. has often been that a democratic referendum can work in a Muslim land only once: to bring about an Islamic State into power (often referencing Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood experience of 1950s as example); then it is stopped for good. Nevertheless, we are glad that the democratic processes work so very well and in an exemplary manner at least in the US, France, UK, and elsewhere in the West. Electoral College Votes. Two Party Systems. AIPAC. Industry Lobbies. Yellow Vests. Brexit. Arbitrary Lockdowns…

People. Glass Houses. Stones.

Now, in continuing with our topic in this follow-up essay, we start with defining the terms and concepts related to the topic of wilayat and Imamat. The term wilayat is derived from tri-literal root word “wāw lām yā,” literally meaning “something that comes very closely on the heels of another of a similar essence without distance and separation between the two.[1] Depending on the context, the word wali could take different (but related) meanings. Prominent among the meanings are guardian, protector, friend, ally, encouraging, aiding, assisting, heeding, following, parent, and offspring.[2] The common denominator and implicit in all these meanings of wali and its derivatives are two conjectures: 1) a spiritual and devotional nearness, intimacy, and companionship; 2) a reciprocal and mutual relationship both in theory and in practice.

Generally speaking, anyone and anything can become anyone’s wali and/or one can choose him/her/it as his wali, be it an informal choice and/or a formal declaration though laws and conventions. If you want to know who your wali is, you must take an inventory of who and what your closest allies, companions, influencers, friends, masters, and followers are and how you spend most of your time. While at it, you should examine what credentials those awlia (plural form of wali) have, where they are leading you, what the final destination and ultimate consequence of the path in which you are following that wali are. Let’s make the meaning of the term more palpable and empirical.

An alcoholic has chosen alcohol and its colleagues –that is, anything and anyone connected to it by way of selling, serving, producing, distributing, and more – as his awlia. He spends part of his time chasing after getting that alcohol and the remainder of his time following where that alcohol takes him (in mind, body, and soul). Obedient to his wali to the bone. Ditto with a drug addict, sex addict, food addict, fame addict, internet addict, and you name it. For capitalists, capital et al. are their awlia. For Satan worshippers, Satan is their wali. They chase to find it and they follow where it leads, a downward spiral to be sure. For some Trump and his handlers are their wali/awlia; for others Biden and his handlers are their wali/awlia. Some choose Muhammad bin Salman as their wali, and some do the same with Abul Fattah el-Sisi. Sultan Erdogan Jr. is wali to some and Netanyahu is wali to others. Zionism, imperialism, globalism, and more are all awlia to this, that, and the other. For some, their ego is their wali and for some others their wants, lusts, ambitions and greed.

A troupe of wretched examples to be sure. The reality of our world is such that hopeless examples of wali far exceed the worthy and upright ones. As Molana Jalal-iddin Muhammad (Molavi) in Mathnavi reminds us: رشته ای بر گردنم افکنده دوست  می کشد هر جا که خاطرخواه اوست“A bridle around my neck placed by the beloved – Taking me place to place wherever s/he desires.” So, it behooves us to choose wisely that/s/he which/who we choose as our wali. Generally speaking, that is.

More specifically, however, about the term wali (and its plural form awlia), Quran issues certain caveats. There is a verse in Quran (2:255) called Ayatul Kursi which is memorized and often recited by Muslims with the two verses that follow it, verse 256 and verse 257.[3] The trio offer many blessings and bounties for those who recite them regularly. So, they are quite well-known among those who are blessed enough to have chosen Quran as their regular companion. All three verses and their translations are in the reference sections. Here, however, I would like to restate first Verse 257 in which the word Wali with a specific meaning of Protecting Guardian and its plural form awlia meaning guardians are used:

 “Allah is Wali [Protecting Guardian] of those who have believed. He brings them out of the darkness(es) toward the light. And those who disbelieved, their awlia [guardians] are the Taghut [transgressing oppressor and evildoers] who bring them out of the light toward the darkness(es). Those are the companions of the fire and they abide therein forever.”

Thus there is only One True Wali for humanity and that is God, the Protecting Guardian. If a person or a collective (an Ummah) chooses anyone and anything other than God as his/her/their guardians, then they are eventually led into nothing but all sorts of darkness: Oppression, misery, ignorance, transgression and more. The choice is clear: Choose One True Wali, or become slaves to many masters and false gods and their self-serving impulses. If a nation does not choose God as One True Wali, it appears that any good-for-nothing two-bit jerk with some capital, fire power, and conniving skills would dare to imagine himself as qualified to be their master and make decision for them. I am just saying.

Logic, reason, wisdom, common sense, and intelligence all dictate that we, as individuals and/or as collectives choose the best and the most qualified for guardianship, administration, and caretaking of our affairs according to our beliefs and ideals. And nobody is putting a gun/sword over anyone’s head to choose God as their Wali.

I can see an explosion of fiery questions in so many minds. Wasn’t Islam spread by sword?! Didn’t Allah-fearing Muslims attack nations and forced people to convert to Islam or get decapitated?! Does the word Daesh/ISIS mean anything?! I am very grateful that you are asking all these questions, notwithstanding the questionable assumptions. The key to answering all these questions is following all the intricate details that one way or another link to the concept of wali and use concrete and true examples to distinguish true from false, which by the end of these essays we will have done, Inshallah.

Verse 256 of Chapter 2 (Baqarah) that we mentioned above states that:

“There is no compulsion in the religion. Certainly a distinction has been clearly made between the right and the wrong. Therefore, whoever disbelieves in false idols/evildoing transgressors and believes in Allah, then certainly he has grasped onto a robust anchor that will not break. And Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.”

Since there is no (read, must not be any) compulsion in this religion and the distinction between right and wrong has been clearly made, our job is to first reject all false awlia and then accept One True Wali. If we do not, our punishment/the consequence is to fall into dizzying vortices of fear and regret. If we succeed in doing this though, then we have grasped onto a “robust anchor”—an unbreakable, firm, unwavering, and lasting chain and handhold. Again, the choice is clear and is ours.

Now, we need to follow up on two clues: 1) How God as Wali translates into the concept of wilayat of a person, which means guardianship, stewardship, caretaking, safekeeping, and supervision by other than God; 2) What/who the bands in the unbreakable chain of “robust anchor” are.

As Muslims, we believe the Almighty God has absolute Wilayat, the Absolute Protecting Guardianship, of all creation, including the human beings. This Wilayat takes two inter-linked and inter-related types of laws that govern us (humans) and the world in which we live. One form relates to the laws of Taqwin, or the innate laws of nature. Everyone and everything from a speck of dust to electrons to multi-cellular complex beings to the universe at large submits to, or is a Muslim to, these laws of Taqwin.

We are able to study the chemistry of water because the electrons, the protons, the neutrons, the atoms, the molecules, the hydrogen bonds, and every drop of water, every stream, river, lake, and ocean all faithfully submit to the laws of Taqwin. Because there is a law, we can learn from the repeated patterns made possible by that law and try to manipulate observable things around us. It does not really matter if someone believes in God or s/he is an agnostic or an atheist. Every ounce of his/her existence submits, or is a Muslim to the laws of Taqwin set by God, the Creator. When we study biology, anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, parasitology, microbiology, immunology, virology, ecology, and whatever else, we are in fact trying to understand the laws of Taqwin regardless of whether we fully understand or willingly admit this fact or not.

Most of these laws could be observed, learned, experimented with, and from them countless lessons could be drawn. God’s Wilayat in Taqwin is Absolute. That we can manipulate a gene, for example, it does not mean that somehow we have gained some sort of a veto power to overwrite the laws of Taqwin. It only means the laws of Taqwin that govern the genes offer a level of flexibility to be “interpreted,” to a certain point, in practice. So, those “scientists” with a tiny bit of knowledge but huge propensity for arrogance should exercise caution not to get too cocky since they do not really know when their arrogance might just force them to nosedive into abyss. Wilayat over Taqwin is not our topic of discussion here, so we leave it be.

The other form of God’s Wilayat relate to the laws of Tashri’e. These are laws that are sent to people by God through His great Messengers and Prophets (May peace be upon them all) to guide humanity in this life and prepare/educate/equip them with the appropriate knowledge and skill for the Hereafter. The first prophet, we are taught by Quran, was Adam (peace be upon him) and the last one was Prophet Muhammad. However, great prophets of God were not merely some post office employees given a piece of mail to deliver. They were also given the responsibility and mandate to govern the societies of believers in accordance to the laws set by God Almighty. In other words, they were delegated by God to govern; an authorized or deputized Wilayat. In this regard then a prophet is Wali of God, and all prophets are Awlia of God, Awlia-Allah.

Why? Because the one who knows and understands the laws best, the one who has been trained and assisted by the Law Maker the best, the one who is the most truthful, honest, trustworthy, pious, and pure and behaves most authentically in accordance with the laws of God and obeys him in heart, body, mind, and soul is the best qualified person to govern the believers of God based on His laws. It is not an unreasonable and illogical concept that would be hard to grasp. It is rather simple.

Is it stated in Quran that the prophets of God have guardianship over the believers’ affairs? Yes. A few examples are helpful. During the time of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), he had the legitimate Wilayat and guardianship to govern and lead the society of the believers. During the time of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), he had the legitimate Wilayat and guardianship to govern and arbitrate the affairs of the believers. Likewise with Prophet Isa Son of Maryam (peace be upon him), Prophet David (peace be upon him), Prophet Issac (peace be upon him), Prophet Muhammad  and all other prophets of God. Relevant verses abound in Quran but here are a few examples:

In Chapter 4 (Nisaa), Verse 64:1-8, it is stated: “And We did not send any Messengers except for them to be obeyed by Permission from God.”

Chapter 4, Verse 59:1-10 reads: “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those among you who have the guardianship of your affairs.”

Chapter 26 (Shu’ara), Verses 105-110: “The people of Noah denied the Messengers. When their brother Noah said to them, ‘Will you not fear God? Indeed, I am a trustworthy Messenger to you. Therefore, fear God and obey me. And I do not ask of you any payment for it. My payment is not but from the Lord of the Worlds. So, fear God and obey me.”

Chapter 26, Verses 142-145: “When said to them their brother Saleh, ‘Will you not fear God? Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger. So, fear God and obey me. And I do not ask of you any payment for it. My payment is not but from the Lord of the Worlds.”

Chapter 26, Verses 160-164: “People of Lut denied the Messengers. When said to them their brother Lut, ‘Will you not fear God? Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger. So, fear God and obey me. And I do not ask of you any payment for it. My payment is not but from the Lord of the Worlds.”

Therefore, this guardianship, this delegated (by God) system of governance is entrusted to Prophets who are trustworthy and get their wages/salary directly from God. They are not there to fill their pockets, accumulate wealth, and fulfill their lofty desires at the expense of people and under the guise of governing them. They have primacy over any other person for that position.

These are all Prophets of God and we are saying that Prophet Muhmmad was the last of the Prophets. Then, what happened after him? Was the world left without a Wali? Were people and the believers left on their own to find someone, anyone, to govern their affairs? Was there any criterion? Did the Prophet leave the people stranded to fight and divide? Would that even be a responsible and wise thing to do?

It is quite evident that we Shi’a Muslims believe that Wilayat did not end with the Prophet and the guardianship of the society of the believers, the Muslim Ummah, had a clear path to take. This brings us to the next phase of the essay in which we explore the term Imamat and how a major division occurred as soon as the Prophet passed away. We are entering into a very complex territory and a minefield and, with God’s Help, I will need to do some major mine neutralization. So, stay tuned, please.

References

[1] Jafari MR & Haeri SH (1390). “An Inquiry into the meaning of the term Wali.” Quarterly Special in Imamat Research, No. 1, Imamat Cultural FoundationSpring 1390.

[2] Norasideh AA, Feyzullah-Zadeh AA, and Mastery Farahani J (1391). “Semantics of the term ‘Wali’ in Al-Quran Al-Karim.” Arabic Literature Bulletin,No. 7 (6/65), Pages 151-168. Shahid Beheshti University, College of Literature and Social Sciences.

[3] Holy Quran, Chapter 2 (Al-Baqara), Verses 255-257:

اللّهُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَیُّ الْقَیُّومُ لاَ تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَهٌ وَ لاَ نَوْمٌ لَّهُ مَا فِی السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِی الأَرْضِ مَن ذَا الَّذِی یَشْفَعُ عِنْدَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ یَعْلَمُ مَا بَیْنَ أَیْدِیهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَ لاَ یُحِیطُونَ بِشَیْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلاَّ بِمَا شَاء وَسِعَ کُرْسِیُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الأَرْضَ وَ لاَ یَۆُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا وَ هُوَ الْعَلِیُّ الْعَظِیمُ (255)

“Allah is One, there is no God but Him, the Ever existing, the Sustainer of all that exists. It does not overtake Him either slumber or sleep. To Him belongs all there is in the heavens and whatever on the earth. Who is the one who can intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them. And they will not encompass anything of His knowledge except that which He Wills. His dominance extends to all the heavens and the earth. And it will not tire Him the guardianship of them both.”

لاَ إِکْرَاهَ فِی الدِّینِ قَد تَّبَیَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَیِّ فَمَنْ یَکْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَ یُۆْمِن بِاللّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَکَ بِالْعُرْوَهِ الْوُثْقَیَ لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللّهُ سَمِیعٌ عَلِیمٌ (256)

“There is no compulsion in the religion. Certainly a distinction has been clearly made between the right and the wrong. Therefore, whoever disbelieves the false idols/evildoing transgressors and believes in Allah, then certainly he has grasped onto a robust anchor that is unbreakable. And Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.”

اللّهُ وَلِیُّ الَّذِینَ آمَنُواْ یُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَی النُّوُرِ وَالَّذِینَ کَفَرُواْ أَوْلِیَآۆُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ یُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَی الظُّلُمَاتِ أُوْلَئِکَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِیهَا خَالِدُونَ (257)

“Allah is Wali [Protecting Guardian] of those who have believed. He brings them out of the darkness(es) toward the light. And those who disbelieved, their awlia [guardians] are the Taghut [transgressing oppressor and evildoers] who bring them out of the light toward the darkness(es). Those are the companions of the fire and they abide therein forever.”

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