By: Ayatullah Professor Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
During the “legislation” part of the discussion, we enumerated three main qualities that a person with divine connections must possess, if his main duty is implementation of the law which guarantees worldly and otherworldly interests.
First condition or qualification: The implementer of law and any Islamic ruler, in general, must know the law. Of course, there are different degrees and levels of knowledge and learning, the ideal one being impeccable knowledge of divine laws. He who possesses this quality and attains this station is an infallible person who does not err in his gnosis, perception and discernment and knows the law revealed by God perfectly. Naturally, in the presence of such a person, i.e. an Infallible, his sovereignty over society becomes indispensable and exigent. But in the absence of the Infallibles, the government and the implementation of laws shall be delegated to the person who knows the laws better than anyone.
Second condition or qualification: The implementer of law should not be influenced by personal or factional interests, whims and caprice. In other words, he must have moral integrity. Like intellectual competence, moral integrity also has different degrees and the ideal degree can be found in an infallible person who is never influenced by ungodly motives, threats and temptations. He will never sacrifice collective interests before the altar of personal, familial or factional interests. Of course, in the absence of the Infallibles, the person who is morally nearest to them has the right to rule and implement law.
Third condition or qualification: The possession of managerial skill and talent to apply general laws to specific cases. He is supposed to know their various applications and how to implement them so that the spirit of law and purpose of legislation are preserved. Of course, to reach this degree of managerial skill requires specific experiences and wisdom that a person acquires throughout his life of management. The highest level of this quality is also possessed by the Infallibles. They are immune from any error in knowledge and understanding of divine laws, not influenced by carnal desires, and possess special divine blessings. They do not deviate or err in discerning what is good for society while applying general laws to particular cases.
Theoretical connection of Islamic government with ideological principles and foundations
It will be easier for a person to believe in the truthfulness of the Islamic political system who acknowledges that human society must have law that ensures both material and spiritual interests of human beings, and is convinced of the qualifications of Islamic rulers and administrators. Of course, the acceptance of these preliminaries is itself based upon certain presumptions. First and foremost, man has to accept that there is God and that a prophet has been commissioned by God to expound divine laws.
He has to equally accept that beyond this life man has an eternal life in the hereafter, and life in this world and the other have a causal relationship. These presumptions are the essence of the subject of our discussions. Their proofs are included in theology, scholasticism and philosophy. One cannot deal with each of them in a social, legal and political discourse as it would take many years before one arrives at a conclusion.
Our addressees are Muslims who believe in God, religion, revelation, the Day of Resurrection, apostleship, and the infallibility of the Prophet (s), and who want to know whether Islam has a distinct political system or not. They are not those who deny God, or say that man can demonstrate and chant a slogan against God! They do not reject the religion and laws of Islam or say that even the Prophet might have committed an error in understanding the revelation.
Similarly, others who oppose us in principle are not the focus of our present discourse. If they are open to dialogue and willing to listen, we must discuss our ideological principles by means of rational and philosophical proofs, and persuade them to believe that there is God and the Day of Judgment; that God has revealed ordinances for the felicity and prosperity of mankind in this world and the hereafter; obliged His Apostle (s) to convey them to His servants; also, the Apostle (s) is immune from committing error in understanding the revelation; otherwise, he could not have been a prophet.
Can any intelligent person accept another person on top of the hierarchy of power notwithstanding the presence of a person who is infallible in knowledge and action and the best one to identify what is good for society? Everybody knows that preferring the inferior to the superior in optional affairs is shameful and indecent, and no intelligent person accepts it. Our talk is not meant for those who claim to be Muslims but deny the existence of a ma‘sum, believing that neither the Apostle nor the Imams have been infallible. We have no business with them. My assumption is that we all accept the thematic principles of the discussion and acknowledge that the Apostle (s) is ma‘sum and according to Shi‘ah beliefs the Imams (‘a) are also infallible.
Now, assuming that a ma‘sum is present in society, should the government and the implementation of law be entrusted to a fallible person? Delegation of the affairs to a non-ma‘sum is tantamount to allowing error in understanding law. Permitting what is not supposed to be permitted [tajwiz] means that one prefers his interests to that of society, sacrificing the latter before the altar of the former. Tajwiz means that one who has no competence in managing society becomes the ruler! All of these forms of tajwiz are condemnable and rejected by reason.
Therefore, in the presence of a ma‘sum no intelligent person will ever deny that it is expedient for the ma‘sum to rule, and to choose another person instead of him is an irrational and foolish act. No one has any qualms in accepting this proposition. Reason dictates it and we do not need to cite Qur’anic verses and traditions to prove it, indicating that it is obligatory to obey the Apostle (s) and the Imams (‘a), such as these:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ…
“O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you…” and
مَّنْ يُطِعِ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللّهَ…
“Whoever obeys the Apostle certainly obeys Allah…”
Logical and rational basis of Islamic government’s linear degrees
In connection with the exigency of the rule of a ma‘sum when he is present and accessible, our argument is rationally acceptable. But our main concern is to present the Islamic viewpoint for the period of occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (‘a) when the people are deprived of his presence and have no access to him to benefit from his government. We are also concerned with the period when a ma‘sum was present but the oppressive powers deprived him of ruling over the Muslims, or the social circumstances were not conducive for him to assume political power.
For any post or position, certain conditions and qualifications are laid down. The one who possesses all the qualifications is chosen. If such a person cannot be found, the one who possesses most of these qualifications is chosen. Let us cite another example. If you know a doctor who has thirty years of medical experience, but you consult a young doctor who has recently opened a clinic, and he aggravates your condition instead of curing you, will you not be condemned by both reason and the reasonable?
They will ask you why you left the proficient and consulted the inefficient. You could be excused if the proficient doctor was demanding a huge amount as medical fee, or you had to travel abroad in order to be treated by a specialized doctor and could not afford it. But our assumption is that you had access to a proficient and specialized doctor and the medical fee he was demanding was less than the rest, or the same. In this case, if you consulted a neophyte doctor and your health condition got worse, you will not be excused by the reasonable. Everybody will reproach and criticize you.
The above rational rule is applicable in all social affairs and acceptable to all reasonable people, Muslims and non-Muslims. Its support is the dictate of reason and needless of religious proof. According to this rule, if the ideal form of Islamic government which is rationally also the best form of government is not possible and we have no access to an infallible person with the most knowledge, piety and skill, what will be the dictate and verdict of reason? Will our reason give us freedom to do whatever we like and choose anyone we like as the ruler?
Or, will our reason demand that in case of the unavailability of an infallible person who is the ideal one to rule, we have to choose the most competent person who is the most proximate to the station of the Infallibles? If the perfect grade is not available, we have to choose the grade of 99, 98, 97, so on and so forth. Once the perfect grade is unobtainable, all other grades should not be treated identically and count 99 as equal to 1 on the pretext that our target being the ideal was not available, so it made no difference whom we chose! Undoubtedly, reason will not accept it.
We have to look for the person who is competent to rule over the Muslims and who is nearest to the Infallibles in knowledge, piety and managerial skill. This rational proposition can easily be grasped and understood by every intelligent person and there is no need to substantiate it with intricate juristic and theological proofs.