Ayatullah Ali Mishkini
Even a superficial study of the basic teachings of Islam will reveal that its teachings are not limited to the system of beliefs and acts of worship. It has a complete moral, government, and political, social, judicial and economical system. In other words, it provides comprehensive instructions for all the affairs of man’s worldly existence as well as about the matters relating to the Hereafter. The Islamic system has requires the establishment of a State and provided the fundamental principles necessary for its establishment, for the protection and security of all of its followers and to organize and manage a society in harmony with man’s nature. Such a vast system, vital for the needs of man both spiritual and material, was in fact established by the Prophet (s.a.w) and worked for years under the leadership of his successors.
The Wilayat of the Ma’sumim, refers to his authority in such a system as mentioned above. God, the Absolute Sovereign through His Providence has granted this Wilayat to the prophets and the Imams, so that they may govern the human society according to the needs and requirements of the times. This form of government, the ‘Islamic government,’ consists of three elements:
• The Wali and the characteristics of his Wilayat, authority.
• The form of his government and its organs
• The resources at its disposal.
This form of government is unique in all the three aspects mentioned above; it differs from other forms of governments, past or present, in each of these aspects. However, our discussion here is confined to the first aspect, that is, the role of the al-Walayat al-Tashri’iyyah of the Wali in the context of the Islamic government. We leave the discussion of the other two aspects to some future occasion.
In the original Islamic Law, the guardianship of society during the lifetime of a Ma’sum, whether a prophet or an Imam, belongs to him. The following Quranic verse and Hadith indicate this fact: “The Prophet has a greater right over the believers than themselves and his wives are their mothers. And some of the relatives have priority over the others in the Book of Allah than (other) believers and the Emigrants”…. (33:6)
Three issues are stated in this verse:
• The authority of the Prophet (s.a) over all others
• The fact that marrying any of his wives is Haram, unlawful, for other Muslims
That compared to others, the relatives of an individual have priority rights to his inheritance. The third point is related to the first Point, as illustrated in the following example. if you say, “Ahmad is a better calligrapher than Hassan,” you are stating three things
• Ahmad is a calligrapher
• Hassan also is a calligraphist
• Ahmad is a better calligrapher than Hassan is.
Now consider this statement of the Prophet (s.a.w): “Whoever is under my Wilayat and authority is also under the Wilayat and authority of Ali Ibn abi-Talib.”
The evidence in this Hadith about the Wilayat of the Prophet (s.a.w) and of Ali Ibn abi-Talib (a.s) and for that matter the Wilayat of all the other Imams has abundant supporting evidence exceeding the requirements of Tawatur (unanimously reported). The discussion of details is beyond the limits of this discourse. The three main points in the aforementioned Quranic verse were:
• the believer’s Wilayat over his own self
• The Wilayat of the Ma’sum (infallible) over the believers
• Supremacy of the second form of Wilayat over the first.
Wilayat of Man over His Own Self
According to the above verse and other Islamic texts, every man is by nature created free, with authority over his own person, just as, according to a Mutawatir Hadith the holy Prophet (s.a.w) says, “The people have authority over their property “), he has Wilayat and authority over his own property. The Wilayat and sovereignty of the individual over his own self means that he has the right to choose his way of life, his occupation or any of the other particular activities in any aspects of his life. He can also use his wealth and property as he chooses in his pursuit of worldly or spiritual aims.
However, it is obvious that in Islam no general principle or law (with only few exceptions) has absolute and universal applicability. Therefore, man’s Wilayat over his own self and property is valid only to the extent that it does not violate the basic laws of the Shari’ah or the dictates of reason. No one, therefore, has the right to commit suicide, mutilate his body, paralyze his mental or physical faculties, or take up illegal occupations. No individual is free to use his property for illegitimate ends, to waste or squander it, or to earn, produce, consume or bequeath it in ways contradictory to the established Islamic criteria.
To sum up, although the principle of the individual’s Wilayat over his own person and property is a valid one, it is subject to ethical, legal, and rational restrictions. Such limits are not confined to Islamic laws alone. In no religion or school of thought man is absolutely free to do as he pleases with himself and his property. However, the nature of the limits on freedom differs from one school to another in accordance with each ones doctrines and viewpoints.
Without enumerating all the limits incumbent upon man’s Wilayat over his own person and property, it is limited and conditional and that it should not violate the Divinely ordained limits of individual or social welfare or transgress against what reason considers as beneficial and appropriate. A careful study of Islamic laws and practical experiences of day-to-day life can reveal how the above mentioned principle works in individual cases. We may recall that when enumerating the various forms of Wilayat it was pointed out that none of the different kinds mentioned is absolute, unlimited and unconditional.
An explanatory Note
The Wilayat of the Prophet (s.a) and the Imams (a.s) in their times was a comprehensive one. They had the authority to establish and administer a fully organized government with all its necessary branches and departments. The Ma’sum (infallible leader) is the basis of the system of the Islamic government. He is the ruler par excellence, has absolute sovereignty over every member of the society and has the right to interfere in all affairs of the people; as abundant textual evidence prove it, he possesses all the qualities required for a leader and guide of a nation.
His knowledge, especially in social and political issues, is comprehensive and complete. His genius for administering justice is such that he never intentionally violates the Divine laws and never neglects his duties. And his infallibility is such that he does not make any mistake in any aspect of any of his duties.
Basically, the Wilayat and sovereignty of such leaders as described above is implicit in the very essence of Islamic government. However, in the history of Islam, this form of government has never been realized except during the latter years of the Prophet’s life in the region of al-Madinah and Hijaz, and during the brief caliphate of Imam Ali (a.s) within limited geographical boundaries.
Islamic government is, in essence, the rule of God over human society; or, in other words, it is the rule of Divine Law. And according to the testimony of the Holy Quran and historical evidence, this was the kind of government established whenever any of the prophets of God succeeded in establishing a government.
The accounts of lives of such figures as Joseph (a.s), Moses (a.s), Joshua (a.s), David (a.s), Solomon (a.s) and, preeminently, that of the Prophet of Islam (a.s) and his rightful successors confirm it very clearly whenever they succeeded in setting up a government. Although historical accounts show that the governments of those infallible leaders lacked the complexities of modern governments’ elaborate divisions and departments, the general principles they practiced could be applied and extended to cover all aspects of modern States.
However, the general principles of the primary and secondary nature in the Islamic laws would quite adequately show how to establish a government in the modern world, no matter how complex, elaborate and vast its organization may be. When the Prophet (a.s) formed his government, he established most of the organizational machinery to meet his society’s needs. The Sunnah clearly outlines the financial aspects and issues of the budget and personnel of the Islamic government, which are of vital significance for all governments. Two examples of the financial resources are Anfal that include the under and above ground of the earth and such taxes as Khums and Zakat
Ayatullah Ali Mishkini