Islamic Laws

Husband and wife following different religious authority ‘mujtahid’

By: Abdul Adheem al-Muhtadi al-Bahrani
Question: I imitate (follow) a religious authority (mujtahid) that I have chosen by my will after I have read his Islamic thoughts, which comply with the present age. There are millions who imitate him all over the world.
My wife agreed to marry me even though she knew about this matter (my choice of mujtahid[196]). But now, a year after our marriage, she asks for me to either imitate the mujtahid she imitates or for me to divorce her. Before this request, we used to discuss the matter a lot. I did not imagine that someday it would deserve to be discussed to this extent or that it would be a cause for wasting our time and annoying our nerves besides that it might be a cause for divorce!
In the beginning, I paid no attention to her request. I heard from one of her relatives that she had known, since the beginning of our marriage, about my imitating this mujtahid but she had said that she would be able to make me change. Now, after her attempts have failed, she comes to me asking me to divorce her.
I am confused and indignant at the same time. I am confused as to what I should prefer; should I submit to this stickling wife who asks for an illegal and inhumane thing or should I submit to the destruction of my marital life and the wealth I have spent in establishing this life?
I am indignant too because I thought that religion was a means of happiness and mental comfort for man, but why do those who ascribe to themselves religion and call themselves Ulama’ throw their ignorant followers into fanaticism? By doing so, they distort the truth of religion and the fame of the good Ulama’ and mujtahids and destroy the happiness of man. Why do the honorable religious authorities and scholars not deny these calamities, which deal deathblows?
I heard about such a matter that happened or caused marital disagreements, but I did not expect that it would happen to me.
Why do some speakers stress the disagreements and political disputes between some religious authorities and leaders while praising their own leaders and exalting them to the level of infallibility and charismata? Why do they think that no one is good besides them and that those who do not adopt their opinions are deviates and misled?
For what is this extremism? Whereto do these persons want us to get with their narrow-mindedness? Has the time not come yet for our authorities to fight these mockeries, which are practiced under the pretence of supporting the religious authorities themselves? I apologize for violating the decorum of politeness. Please, excuse me if I was somewhat harsh in my speech! There is no power save in Allah, the Exalted, the Great.]
The answer: Dear brother, I find you right, wronged, and calling for reform. These are the qualities of one who does not leave the true religion just because the pretenders have practically left it.
May Allah bless your faith, certainty, and taqlid[197]. I pray to Allah to bless your marriage and your patience too. Allah always blesses the intentions of the sincere people because He has promised that He will not waste the reward of good doers.
Dear brother, this problem is one of the results of entering into the world of politics without having an immunity of piety in the heart. The manifestations of piety that do not come from the heart are too many! The philosophy of these manifestations is that man is to be tried and then he either becomes more faithful or he perishes along the way. Without being tried, man shall not attain the high degrees of Paradise nor shall he be thrown into the abyss of Hell. May Allah protect you, us, and all the Muslims from the flame of Hell and the moaning of its inhabitants.
You should know that when piety abides in the heart, immunity, which resists the prevailing of envy, fanaticism, injustice, oppression, superiority complex, and the omitting of others from the religious and social stations of activities, will be born.
I wish that those people would at least once in their lives ponder over the speech of Imam Ali (a.s.) about the qualities of the pious people. Piety, as the master of the pious Imam Ali (a.s.) explained to his companion Humam who flew high towards his lofty goal longing for Paradise and fearing the Fire, is the required immunity for every true Shia. If anyone finds this piety inside him, let him enter any field to which his legal duty guides him, whether the field of culture, trade, politics, war, family, sitting in loneliness, or at the table of negotiations. However, this piety has disappeared from the lives of many people in our present age and so their lives have entered into the darkness of injustice; sometimes it is the injustice of the husband to his wife, the wife to her husband, the parents to their children, the members of the family to each other, or the neighbor to his neighbor and sometimes it is the injustice of the government to its people, the people to their leaders, or countries to each other, and so forth. I ask: can he, who is unjust to others, defeat injustice?
There are many Qur’anic verses and prophetic traditions that have warned Muslims of injustice. The Prophet (S) said, ‘Beware of injustice, for it is the darkness of the Day of Resurrection![198]’
About party spirits the Prophet (S) said, ‘He who is fanatic fanaticizes will take off the noose of faith from his neck.[199]’
In some books I have written about denying fanaticism and disagreements, especially concerning the religious authorities. The most important thing that I have written criticizing this phenomenon and giving curative alternatives you can read in my book (Stories and Ideas from the moralities of Clergymen). In more than 700 pages of the book you will find important instructions about this concern that you and your wife can both benefit from. You can also refer to our books in general where we have tried to treat this destructive disease through Qur’anic verses and the instructions of the Prophet (S) and Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). I pray to Allah to make us succeed in treating our intellectual, mental, familial, and social diseases or in limiting them.
(He said: O my people! have you considered if I have a clear proof from my Lord and He has given me a goodly sustenance from Himself, and I do not desire that in opposition to you I should betake myself to that which I forbid you: I desire nothing but reform so far as I am able, and with none but Allah is the direction of my affair to a right issue; on Him do I rely and to Him do I turn)[200].
The reform that all disputers feign has certain morals and principles, the head of which is piety as Imam Ali (a.s.) said in one of his traditions[201]. With true piety and by knowing its criteria, man can understand the limits of truth and falsehood in all cases.
Imam Ali (a.s.) said, ‘Does it please you that you are from the triumphant party of Allah? Fear Allah the Almighty and do good in all your affairs, because Allah is with those who guard against evil and those who do good (to others).[202]’
The Prophet (S) recommended Abu Tharr by saying, ‘O Abu Tharr, in working with piety be more careful than your care for work.[203]’
However, we find that most of the fanatics who feign religiousness are enthusiastic in their actions but inattentive in their positions with regards to piety and to what the Holy Qur’an has said, (Allah only accepts from those who guard (against evil))[204].
Dear faithful brother, be pious and let your worships and situations be sincere to Allah to receive His great contentment!
Politics, presidency, fame, praises, and lifting pictures without piety or the acceptance of Allah are but mirages leading to perishment.
I know some persons who expended their efforts in boyish disputes and quarrels that turned the happiness of some spouses into unhappiness and began spreading rumors against whoever disagreed with them in thought until they set the fire of disagreements and quarrels. However, some of them changed their positions after they realized that the facts could not be seen in the dust of the quarrels and the smoke of disagreements.
I hope that those who come after us will take a lesson from this historic period, whose bad deeds have eaten away its good deeds. I hope they will not intrude on each other and kill their powers and abilities over trivial things. Let us heed this advice from our pure leaders of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) who said, ‘Strive and make every effort! If you do not do so, then do not disobey. Whoever builds and does not tear down, his building will rise even if it is simple, and whoever builds and tears down, his building will not rise[205].’
I wonder at the followers of different religious authorities who defy death in their disputes!
These authorities differ in opinions because they are mujtahids, and the legal duty of any mujtahid is to stick to his own opinion; otherwise he will be an imitator of other than himself. However, the blame is on the followers; why do they dispute, on which basis do they quarrel, and by what right do they exchange names against the names of the mujtahids!
We are proud of all of our mujtahids, and we tell the world that we believe in freedom of opinion and our evidence of that is the multiplicity of opinions of our mujtahids. Is it not wrong for the followers to deform this shining face of the freedom of Ijtihad [206] in our Hawzas[207]?
You can see in the following one of the situations when our mujtahids disagree in opinion and how nicely they deal with each other. One of the great Ulama’[208], who has written many books and accompanied many mujtahids in Iran, told me that in the beginning of the year 1962 AD, and before the uprising of Khurdad[209] took place in Iran, when Imam Khomeini (may Allah have mercy on him) began increasing his criticism against the extinct regime of the Shah, the great Ayatullah al-Akhond al-Hamadani thought that the position of Imam Khomeini would not serve the goal that Imam Khomeini intended; therefore, he sent Sheikh Abdurraheem, the teller of this story, to Imam Khomeini to tell him word by word: “Al-Akhond al-Hamadani sends you his greetings and says to you, ‘O Abu Tharr, slowly, slowly!’”
Sheikh Abdurraheem said, ‘I went to the meeting where Imam Khomeini was giving his lecture. After he finished his lecture, I went out after him and waited for him to be alone so I could deliver the oral message to him, without allowing it to fall into the trap of spies or being heard by any of his attendants because the message was special. I followed him until he stopped near the tomb of the late mujtahid Ayatullah Sayyid al-Buroojerdi to recite the sura of al-Fatiha for him. I seized the opportunity, approached him, and told him the phrase as it was, no more no less. Imam Khomeini replied to me saying, ‘Send him my greetings and say to him: O Salman, rise, rise!’
Dear reader, notice how these mujtahids respected each other. Al-Akhond al-Hamadani addressed Imam Khomeini as “Abu Tharr” because Imam Khomeini was revolutionary in his actions like Abu Tharr was and did not submit to injustice and deviation. Imam Khomeini addressed al-Akhond al-Hamadani in his reply as “O Salman!” He compared him to Salman al-Farsi in his steadfastness, devotedness, and asceticism. Both Abu Tharr and Salman were great companions of the Prophet (S); they might have been different in their situations but with no enmity to each other, rather each of them had his own opinions according to the area of his legal duty. In the same way, those who bore the similitudes of Abu Tharr and Salman sent each other highly polite messages within the morals of Islam although they were different in analyzing the situations and different in their opinions.
At the same time when you see our mujtahids have the morals of the first companions, you see those who pretend to be their followers have the morals of other than them.
Is this the right line of Islam, which Imam Khomeini and other mujtahids wanted and made great efforts throughout their lives to serve?
Yes, there are mistakes, but they are distributed amongst all. No one can be proud that he is free from mistakes or defects. No one is infallible. Since it is so, let each side keep silent! They should not provoke each other or criticize each other baselessly, for ultimately the two sides would lose.
Therefore, each one should act according to the mujtahid whom Islamic freedom has permitted to be imitated and followed. Let the youths undertake legal responsibility with all its moral dimensions. This is the method we impart in our instructions, as we have received from the Holy Qur’an, the conducts of the Prophet (S) and his guiding progeny (a.s.), the events of history, and our experiences in this age.
Acting according to this method requires some important steps:
1. Acquiring knowledge and information by continuously reciting the Qur’an and reading its interpretation, reading traditions and their meanings, and reading good books published by this Islamic school
2. Heartily concentrating on achieving the good end
3. Watching one’s deeds to serve that very goal
4. Respecting others even if they are dissenters
5. Observing equanimity, solidity, morality and gravity
6. Being certain of the truthfulness or falseness of any news that comes to one’s ear
7. Improving one’s mental and intellectual abilities and all the means leading to Islamic goals, and this requires paying attention to these listed steps and also avoiding selfishness and dictatorship
8. Being courageous in taking decisions to change what one has accustomed himself to
9. Complying oneself with news events and being aware of contemporary issues
10. Always praying to Allah for success and being humble to the truth
Dear brother, with these points in mind, I hope your wife will return to her reason. If she is sincere to her religion, she should ask the mujtahid whom she imitates to give her a fatwa. I am sure that he will deny her situation, and ask her to be reasonable and live in peace with her husband.
[196] Mujtahid is a person accepted in Shiism as an authority on the interpretation of Islamic law
[197] Taqlid is the imitating of a religious authority in practicing the obligations and verdicts of religion.
[198] Jami’ al-Akhbar, p.426.
[199] Jami’ al-Akhbar, p.461.
[200] Holy Qur’an, 11:88.
[201] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70 p.284.
[202] Mizan al-Hikma, vol. 10 p.619.
[203] Ibid.,p.632, quoted from Kanzol Ummal, vol.10 p.619.
[204] Holy Qur’an, 5:27.
[205] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70 p.286.
[206] Ijtihad is the ability of deriving legal verdicts from religious texts.
[207] Hawza is a theological college, where students can specialize in Islamic law, philosophy, theology, and logic
[208] He is Sheikh Dr. Abdurraheem Bekhshayishi.
[209] Khurdad is the third month in the Iranian calendar.

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