Textual Evidence which supports the General Guardianship of the Jurist
By: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei
Proving the general guardianship of the jurist does not need any textual evidence once the previous seven principles are established. Therefore, the textual evidence that we will discuss in this chapter is really nothing but supportive evidence for what we have already established. Therefore, if some of the chains of the coming narrations are not authentic, or if the indication of some of the narrations is arguable, it does not harm the concept we are trying to prove.
Some scholars have denied the general guardianship of the jurist- including al-Muhaqqiq al-Khurasani and al-Sayyid al-Khui, as well Sheikh al-Ansari who said that it would be easier to prove that pigs could fly- because of the deficiency of the textual evidence. This is out of place, because the textual evidence is nothing more than supportive evidence for the general guardianship of the jurist. As for the concept itself, it is one of the self-evident propositions, which need to specific evidence to be proven.
A. Evidence from the Holy Qur’an
1- Allah, the Exalted, has said: “And hold fast all of you together, to the Rope of Allah and be not disunited…”
It is obligatory for the believers to hold on to the rope of Allah in all their affairs, the most important of these affairs being governance. The rope of Allah during the era of occultation is the qualified jurist, who is the general representative of the Awaited Imam (atfs).
2- “And from among you there should be a group of people inviting to all that is good and enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and these it is that shall be successful”
3- “O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in charge of the affairs from among you”
Using this Ayah as supportive evidence depends on a few points:
- firstly: that the apparent meaning of ‘affair’ (‘al-amr’ in ‘ulil amr’) is leadership, governance and running the affairs of the community. The use of ‘affair’ (amr) in this way is very common. The Commander of the Faithful (as) said: “when I took up the affair (amr), a group broke its allegiance…”. He (as) also said: “the most worthy among people for this affair (amr) is the strongest of them for it, and the most knowledgeable of the Command of Allah in its regard.” . Also, in the sermon of the Master of the Martyrs to the companions of Hurr: “We, the household of Muhammad have precedence over those claimants in taking charge of this affair (amr) over you.”
- secondly: the apparent meaning of the ayah being that the obedience to those in charge of the affair is the same as the obedience to the Messenger. This is supported by the two titles (those in charge of the affairs, and the Messenger) being coupled with one another without any separator between them. Obeying them can have two meanings.
The first is obeying them when they are clarifying the rules of Allah, the Exalted. This cannot be, because it is not a command different to the obedience to Allah which has already mentioned in the ayah. The other meaning is obeying the commands that emanate from them, meaning that they are in charge of running the social, political and judicial affairs of the community, and this must be the correct meaning.
- thirdly: the meaning of ‘those in charge of the affair’: numerous narrations have been narrated by our scholars with the meaning that those in charge of the affair mentioned in this ayah are specifically the twelve Imams (as) from the progeny of the Prophet (pbuh). Among them is the narration in al-Kafi, through his chain to Burayd al-Ijli from Abu Ja’far (Imam Baqir a.s): “it is specifically referring only to us. He commanded all of the believers until the Resurrection Day to obey us”
Because these narrations clearly express that the ayah is referring to the twelve infallible Imams (as), the late Imam al-Khomeini did not use this ayah to prove the guardianship of the jurist. However, it can be said that there is no doubt that the expression ‘in charge of the affair’ is different to expressions such as ‘the close of kin (qurba)’ or ‘the Household (ahlul bayt)’. The latter expressions mean the twelve Imams specifically (as), whereas the former is a general expression that includes anyone who has the authority to take charge of the affair according to the legislation. In the era of the presence of the Imams (as), they are the most complete example of the ones in charge of the affair, and the community was obligated to pay allegiance to them and obey them, without any doubt.
However, during the era of occultation, when the community is deprived of the most perfect example, then the authority to take charge of the affairs goes to he who is closest to the perfect example and that is the qualified jurist, so that he may stop anarchy.
Therefore, the limitation in the narrations is not real. Rather, it is relative, meaning that it was only meant to distinguish between the true Imams and the tyrant rulers who were claiming rights that did not belong to them. This does not hinder us from adhering to the ayah in order to establish the right of authority for the one who has this right according to legislation. Al-Kulayni narrated through his chain to the Commander of the Faithful (as): “Know Allah by Allah, the Messenger by the Message and those in charge of the affair by the enjoining good, justice and good actions”
In other words, there are three possibilities for the meaning of ‘those in charge of the affair’ in the ayah:
- the first: any ruler or leader unconditionally, as is the opinion of most of the Sunnis
- the second: the infallible Imams (as) specifically, as is indicated by the apparent meaning of some of the narrations, as is the opinion of the majority of the Shia scholars
- the third: those who have the authority to take charge of the affair- both in terms of the ruling and the specific example- according to the legislation. Therefore, it is not permissible to obey one who does not have a legislative right to take charge of the affair, and the right of obedience is specific to the infallible (as) in his presence, whereas in his absence this right goes to the one who has been appointed by the infallible, either specifically- such as the people appointed by the Commander of the Faithful (as), e.g. Malik al-Ashtar and Muhammad ibn abi Bakr and others- or generally such as the qualified jurist.
4- “Surely Allah commands you to fulfil the trusts to their owners and that when you judge between people you judge with justice; surely Allah admonishes you with what is excellent; surely Allah is All-Hearing All-Seeing.”
The apparent meaning of ‘trust’ in the ayah is a general concept that includes the trusts of wealth and so on between people, as well as the trusts Allah has left with his slaves such as His Holy Book and His commands and prohibitions, and the trusts He has left with His vicegerents, which is leadership. They are the ones ordered to take care of the rights of their people and to be just between them, and to rule by what Allah has revealed. A part of the letter of the Commander of the Faithful to al-Ash’ath ibn Qays, his appointee at Azerbaijan reads: “your work is not a source of sustenance for you, rather, it is a trust around your neck”
There is no doubt that guardianship is one of the greatest examples of a trust, and perhaps the fact that it is coupled with ruling by justice in the ayah is evidence that it is the example of trust intended here. This is because ruling by justice is one of the affairs of guardianship and one of its branches, and one of the examples of fulfilling the trust to its owners.
B. Evidence from the Narrations
The narrations that affirm the guardianship of the jurist in general are very many in number. Al-Naraqi has mentioned nineteen narrations in ‘al-Awa’id’, of which we will mention the most important ones:
1- the accepted narration of Umar ibn Handhala
Al-Kulayni has narrated from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Muhammad ibn al-Husayn, from Muhammad ibn Isa (al-Yaqtini) from Safwan ibn Yahya, from Dawud ibn al-Husayn, from Umar ibn Handhala: “I asked Abu Abdullah (Imam Sadiq a.s) about two men from among our companions who were involved in a dispute with one another about a debt or inheritance. They sought the judgment of the ruler or the judges, is this permissible?
He (as) said: ‘anyone who seeks their judgment, in truth or falsehood, then he has sought the judgment of a tyrant. Whatever that ruler rules for him will be considered illegitimate, even if it was right in reality, because he acted according to the rule of a tyrant, while Allah has commanded that the rule of a tyrant should be rejected. He, the Exalted, has said: ‘they wish to seek the judgment of the tyrant, while they had been ordered to reject his ruling’’.
I said: ‘so what should they do?’ He (as) said: ‘they should look for he among you who has narrated our narrations and looked into what we have made permissible or impermissible and who knows our rulings. They should seek his judgment and be content with this, for I have made such a person a ruler over you. If he rules by our rules and that person does not accept that from him, then he has taken the rule of Allah lightly, and has rejected us, and whoever rejects us has rejected Allah, and this is the edge of associating partners to Allah’”.
2- the famous (or ‘accepted’ according to al-Jawahir, 21:394) narration of Abu Khadija
Sheikh al-Tusi narrated with his chain from Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Mahbub, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from al-Husayn ibn Sa’id, from Abul Jahm, from Abu Khadija: “Abu Abdullah (Imam Sadiq a.s) sent me to our companions and told me to tell them: ‘if a dispute arises between you, or a disagreement about an issue of giving and taking comes about between you, be wary of seeking the judgment of any of those sinful people. Appoint between yourselves a man from among those who know what we say is permissible and impermissible, for I have made such a person a judge. Beware of raising your disputes to the tyrant ruler.’”
There is no problem with the chains of the two narrations because the scholars have categorised both of them as ‘accepted’ narrations. As for their indication for our discussion we say: The narrations speak specifically about judgment. However, there is no doubt that judgment is part of government and that its external power usually comes through the ruler and his police force. Otherwise, the judge himself has no power to implement or prevent. So judgment in itself is not alternate to guardianship, but is one of the tasks and roles included within guardianship.
This is why often the guardian (leader, ruler) himself takes up this task, or the judges take up this task by appointment from him. Therefore, using these two narrations to prove the authority of judgment for the jurists, but then saying they do not apply to them to rule- as is the opinion of most jurists- is not a valid distinction. A number of things indicate this point:
- the first: analysing the Holy Qur’an and honourable sunna shows us that rule (hukm), governance (hukuma), ruler (hakim) and expressions derived from those words are used to described a judge.
An example of the first is the following Qur’anic ayah in which the expression ‘hukm’ is used to indicate judgment: “and if you judge between people, judge between them by justice” (4:58).
Similarly, the narration of Imam al-Sadiq (as) through Sulayman ibn Khalid in which the word ‘hukuma’ is used to indicate judgment: “be conscious of ruling for the ruling belongs to the Imam who is knowledgeable in judgment and who is just between the Muslims, similar to a prophet or a trustee of a prophet.”
An example of the second is the narration of the Commander of the Faithful (as) in which the expression ‘hokkam’ (plural of Hakim: governor) is used to indicate governor: “He substituted for them instead of degradation, honour, and instead of fear, security, so they became governing (Hokkam) kings and knowledgeable leaders...they are the governors over people and kings in the extremities of the earth.” Similarly the narration from Imam al-Sadiq (as): “Our Shia will be the rulers and the heads (highest authorities) of the Earth in the government of the Qa’im”.
Therefore the word ‘hakim’ (ruler) is used to mean both a judge (qadhi) and a ruler (Wali). In fact, the two posts have one general meaning, and this is because there is no implementation for the ruling of the judge unless he is appointed on behalf of the ruler. Because of this, the opinion that ‘hakim’ is synonymous with ‘qadhi’ but different to ‘wali’-as is the opinion of Sayyid al-Khui  -is not supported by the usage of these words in the textual evidences.
- the second: the use of the expression ‘over you’ by the Imam in the accepted narration indicates superior status and this is the characteristic of the ruler who is in power. If it was supposed to mean judgment only then it would have been more appropriate to say: ‘between you’.
- the third: in the first narration, the Imam (as) first uses the expression ‘qadhi’ and then ‘hakim’ and ‘hakam’. This hints that the meaning is the judgment emanating from the ruler, and not the partial judgment like that between a husband and wife mentioned in the following ayah of the Qur’an: “a judge from her family and a judge from his family”
- the fourth: the Imam (as) says: ‘be wary of raising your disputes to the tyrant ruler’. This hints that the obligation is to resort to the just ruler who knows the legislative laws, and is it possible to imagine obligating the people to resort to the just ruler when he has no authority over the affairs of people?!
- the fifth: the fact that ‘qadhi’ is opposed to ‘sultan’ (king or ruler) indicates that the ‘hakim’ and ‘qadhi’ are different.
The context of the narrations is with regards to judgment and the raising of legal disputes. However, the end of the accepted narration, which says: ‘I have made him a ruler (hakim) over you’ is a universal principle which is mentioned in order to show the cause for the ruling. Therefore, it is the generality of the evidence, not the specificity of the situation that has authority in this case.
3- The Narrations indicating that the Scholars are the Heirs of the Prophets
a- Al-Kulayni narrated through an authentic chain from Ali ibn Ibrahim from his father from Hammad ibn Isa from al-Qaddah from Abu Abdullah (Imam Sadiq a.s): “the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ‘whoever takes a path seeking knowledge on it, Allah will set him on a path to paradise. The angels lower their wings for the seeker of knowledge out of pleasure with him, and the inhabitants of the earth and the skies seek forgiveness for the seeker of knowledge, including even the whale in the sea...and surely the scholars are the heirs of the Prophets...the Prophets do not pass on dinars and dirhams as inheritance, but they pass on knowledge as inheritance. Whoever takes from this knowledge, he has attained abundant fortune.’”
c- The Commander of the faithful (as) said: “the people closest to the Prophets are the most knowledgeable about what the Prophets taught.”
c- It is narrated from the Prophet (pbuh): “the scholars of my nations are like the prophets of Bani Israil”.
These narrations are relevant because the scholars being the heirs of the Prophets or those closest to them or like them means that whatever role belonged to the Prophets belongs to them, except those roles about which it has been proven that they cannot be passed on, such as Prophecy, natural guardianship and essential virtues. If you want, I would say: what is meant is that the general roles are transferred to the scholars, including teaching people, guiding them, judging between them and managing their affairs.
The prophets, especially the Messengers (as) from among them, had the right of general guardianship. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Certainly We sent Our messengers with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the balance that men may conduct themselves with equity; and We have made the iron, wherein is great violence and advantages to men, and that Allah may know who helps Him and His messengers in the secret; surely Allah is Strong, Mighty.”
The unconditional nature of the narrations means that the general guardianship that belongs to the Prophets transfers to the scholars of Islam.
The claim that what is meant by ‘the scholars’ is the twelve Imams specifically- as Sayyid al-Khui argues in al-Tanqeeh- is refuted by the fact that there is no evidence for such a specification. In fact, the beginning of the first narration, which says: ‘whoever takes a path, seeking knowledge on it’ indicates that there is no such specificity. Yes, there is no doubt that the infallible Imams (as) were the scholars who were perfect in knowledge.
Yes, the problem with using the first narration as evidence is that there is a clear expression in that narration that what is passed on as inheritance is knowledge and not general guardianship, and because of the presence of this connected contextual evidence, attributing the ‘inheritance’ to be for all the roles of the prophets is problematic.
4- The Jurists are the Fortresses of Islam
Al-Kulayni narrates from Muhammad ibn Yahya from Ahmad ibn Muhammad from Ibn Mahbub from Ali ibn abi Hamza, who said: “I heard Abul Hassan, Musa ibn Ja’far (as) saying: ‘When a believer dies, the angels, the parts of the earth on which he used to worship Allah on and the gates of heaven from which his actions elevate will weep for him. Similarly a crack appears in Islam that will not repaired by anything, because the learned believers are the fortresses of Islam, just as the walls of a city are its fortresses’”.
The chain of narration: there is no problem with the chain of narration except with regards to Ali ibn abi Hamza al-Bata’ini because he was one of the major figures of the Waqifiya. However, it is possible to trust his narration, either because the one narrating from him is Hassan ibn Mahbub, about whose trustworthiness the scholars agree, or because of the testimony of Sheikh al-Tusi: ‘the scholars have acted according to his narrations’.
Because of this, many of the great narrators such as Safwan, ibn abi Umayr, al-Bazanti, ibn Mahbub and others narrated from him. We ought to also keep in mind that his conversion to the belief of Waqifiya occurred only after the martyrdom of Imam al-Kadhim (as).
Its content and relevance: Imam al-Khomeini said regarding the relevance of this narration to the ruling under discussion: ‘It is an obvious fact, as discussed earlier that within Islam there is a system and a government for all affairs. Thus, there remains no doubt that the jurist is not a fortress for Islam- just as a wall is for a township- except by being the maintainer of all the roles, including implementing justice and the judicial punishments, defending the country’s borders, collecting taxes and dues, and spending them for the benefit of the Muslims and appointing premiers in the territories.
Otherwise, mere statutes would not be ‘Islam’. In fact, it may be said: Islam is the government in all its roles, and the rules are the laws of Islam, and the rules are among its affairs. In fact, the rules are sought not for themselves but as instruments for implementing the laws of Islam and bringing about justice. Therefore, for a jurist to be a fortress for Islam, just as the walls of a city are a fortress for it, has no meaning unless it means that the jurist should be the guardian, having the same role as the Messenger of Allah and the Imams, may the blessing of Allah be upon all of them, when it comes to the affairs of ruling.
The following quote from Imam Ali (as) from the sermon of Shiqshiqiya, in which he tells of the reason for accepting Khilafa, supports what Imam al-Khomeini says: “if people had not come to me and supporters had not exhausted the argument and if there had been no pledge of Allah with the learned to the effect that they should not acquiesce in the gluttony of the oppressor and the hunger of the oppressed I would have untied the rope of Caliphate”.
One may argue that what springs to mind from the expression ‘protecting Islam’ is educational activities, calling to Islam, refuting the objections against Islam and similar things, and that implementation and the execution (of the laws) is a different issue altogether. Otherwise, one would have to say that the infallible Imams- except perhaps the Commander of the Faithful (as)- and many of the jurists throughout the history of the Shi’a were not protectors or fortresses of Islam because none of them had guardianship over the matters of governance or rule.
The answer to this argument is that: the discussion is in the realm of reality, meaning that the real guardianship belongs to the infallible Imam (as) in his presence, while in his occultation it becomes the right of the closest of people to him, and that is the qualified jurist. In the practical realm, however, this guardianship depends on the presence of an opportunity for them. Al-Kulayni narrated from Sadeer al-Sayrafi: “I entered upon Abu Abdullah (Imam Sadiq a.s) and said to him: ‘by Allah, remaining seated (i.e. not rising up) is not appropriate for you’. He (as) said: ‘and why, O Sadeer?’ I said: ‘because of the multitude of your followers, Shi’a and helpers.
By Allah, had the Commander of the Faithful (as) had as many supporters as you have, the tribes of Taym and Uday would not have coveted against him. He (as) said: ‘O Sadeer, how many would they be?’ I said: ‘a hundred thousand’. He said: ‘one hundred thousand?!’ I said: ‘yes, and two hundred thousand’.
He (as) said: ‘two hundred thousand’?! I said: ‘yes, and half of the world’. He (as) went quiet then said: ‘would it be easy for you to come with us to the pasture?’ I said: ‘yes’. He ordered for a donkey and a mule to be prepared. I went ahead and mounted the donkey. He (as) said: ‘O Sadeer, would you mind leaving the donkey for me?’ I said: ‘the mule is better looking and nobler (for you)’.
He (as) said: ‘the donkey is friendlier towards me’.  So I came down and he mounted the donkey and I mounted the mule. We kept riding until the time for prayer set in and he (as) said: ‘O Sadeer, let us stop here and pray’. Then he (as) said: ‘this is a salty land; it is better not to pray here’. So we continued to ride until we reached a red land and he saw a boy looking after a flock of sheep, and he (as) said: ‘By Allah, O Sadeer, if our Shi’a were to the number of these sheep, it would not have been appropriate for us to remain seated.’ We stopped there and prayed, and when we had finished prayer I went to the sheep and counted them. They were seventeen in number”
5- The Narration ‘the jurists are the trustees of the Messengers’
Al-Kulayni has narrated from Ali ibn Ibrahim from his father from al-Nawfali from al-Sakuni from Abu Abdullah (Imam Sadi a.s) who said: “the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ‘the jurists are the trustees of the Messengers as long as they do not enter into the world (dunya).’ It was said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, what do you mean by their entering into the world?’ He (pbuh) said: ‘following the (tyrant) ruler; if they do this, then be wary of them when it comes to your religion’”. 
The narration is authenticated in terms of its chain. It is relevant because one can argue that the unconditional expression of the narration indicates that the jurists are the trustees of the Messengers in all matters related to the message, the most clear of which is leadership of the community and the implementation of social justice. What we discussed earlier about the interpretation of the ayah: “Allah commands you to fulfill the trusts to their owners” supports this.
Earlier, we have also discussed the narration from the Commander of the Faithful (as) about the government being the clearest example of a trust. The sermon of the master of the martyrs (as), which he narrates from the Commander of the Faithful (as) also supports this.
In that sermon, the Imam urges towards enjoining good and prohibiting evil: “the running of the affairs and the laws are in the hands of the scholars of God, who are the trustees over his halaal and haraam…O Allah, you know that what occurred was not a competition for power or seeking the vanities of this world, but so that we could return the truths of your religion and bring about good in your land and so that the oppressed among your servants may feel secure…”.
Yes, one may argue that the expression of the narration is not unconditional because of the end of the narration: ‘be wary of them when it comes to your religion’ which hinders the establishment of any unconditionality. The apparent meaning of the narration, when one considers its end, is that the jurist who adheres to religion and who is independent in his ability to clarify the laws and who is not following the (tyrant) rulers of the time is the trustee of the Messengers.
6- The Holy Letter
Al-Saduq has narrated in Kamalul Din: “Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Isam al-Kulayni narrated to us from Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni from Ishaq ibn Ya’qub: ‘I asked Muhammad ibn Uthman al-Amri to take a letter of mine in which I had asked about issues which were problematic for me. An answer came to me in the handwriting of our master, the Present Imam (May Allah hasten his reappearance): ‘as for the upcoming affairs, refer to the narrators of our narrations, for they (i.e. the narrators) are my proof against you and I am God’s proof against them’’.
The authenticity of the chain of narration depends on the principle of the authenticity of the ‘teachers of license’, because Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Isam has not been praised in any books of biography and so cannot be authenticated except by the fact that he was one of the teachers of al-Saduq. Similarly, Ishaq ibn Ya’qub is unknown and his authentication depends on his being a teacher of al-Kulanyi.
The narration is relevant in two ways. The first is from the aspect of the Imam’s words ‘as for the upcoming affairs…’ while the second is from the aspect of the causality in the Imam’s words ‘they are my proof against you and I am God’s proof against them’.
In order to make the indication of the narration clearer, we say the following:
1- What is meant by upcoming affairs is not the ruling regarding the events, but the affairs themselves. Sheikh al-Al-Ansari, while explaining this narration’s indication of the guardianship of the jurist, said in his book ‘al-Makaseb’: ‘the apparent meaning of ‘upcoming affairs’ is all affairs about which one- according to custom, intellect or legislation- must refer to the leader about, such as ruling with regards to the wealth of those who are unable to do so themselves because of absence, death, young age or foolishness.
Specifying it to the jurisprudential issues is far-fetched for a number of reasons…’ He then mentions three reasons and says: ‘the result is that the apparent meaning is that the expression ‘upcoming affairs’ is not specific to that whose ruling is doubtful nor is it specific to the legal disputes’
Therefore, the unconditional command to resort to the narrators necessitates resorting to them when it comes to narrations, rulings, solving of conflicts and legal disputes, just as it necessitates resorting to them when it comes to the implementation of jurisprudential rulings as well executing them and operating the guardianship depending on the needs and situations.
2- Obviously, what is meant by ‘the narrators of our narrations’ is not mere narrators of the expressions of their narrations without any understanding or expertise. The Imam (atfs) did not order his companions to resort to the narrations but to the narrators and said ‘they are my proof’ and did not say ‘their narrations are my proof’. It is certain then that what is meant by this is the jurists whose knowledge is based on the narrations of the holy progeny (as).
3- The Imam (atfs) compared the narrators being a proof to himself being a proof. This comparison apparently indicates that the two expressions are identical in terms of concept and application. Indisputably we believe that the infallible Imam is a proof against us in that he has guardianship over the community in all its forms, including issuing edicts (if the expression is correct), passing judgment, and putting into practice the authority of guardianship and it is not permissible to go against him, and so the same would apply to the qualified jurist.
One may argue that the unconditional expression is arguable because it seems, when one looks at the holy letter, that the original letter of Ishaq ibn Ya’qub had in it a number of questions which were known to the asker, and in each of the Imam’s answers he refers to these questions in the answer. Therefore, perhaps what is meant by ‘the’ in ‘the upcoming affairs’ is a reference to the events mentioned in the question asked by Ishaq ibn Ya’qub in his original letter.
The answer to this argument would be: the generality of the causality at the end of the Imam’s answer necessitates that the narrators are a proof in all affairs.