The Just Ruler (Al-Sultan Al-Adil) in Shiite Islam: The Comprehensive Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence

The Just Ruler (Al-Sultan Al-Adil) in Shiite Islam: The Comprehensive Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence

The Just Ruler (Al-Sultan Al-Adil) in Shiite Islam: The Comprehensive Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence

The Just Ruler (Al-Sultan Al-Adil) in Shiite Islam: The Comprehensive Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence

Synopsis

The Islamic regime that came to power after the 1978-79 Iranian revolution justified the rule of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Shi'ite imams in general, on the basis of the doctrine that the Islamic jurist is best suited to rule with justice in an Islamic country. Arguing that this concept has no apparent parallel in Sunni Islam, this study explores its origins in the Sunni/Shi'ite schism, which took place after the death of the Prophet, and traces its evolution to the present day. Drawing on exhaustive research in the Islamic libraries of Iran and Jordan, as well as discussions with leading jurors and scholars in Iran, Sachedina presents the first in-depth analysis of an Islamic phenomenon of vital contemporary social and political significance.

Excerpt

I began research on this book in 1978-79 when I was writing sections of my earlier work, Islamic Messianism, in Mashhad, Iran. This was when Iran was going through the Islamic revolution. Under those circumstances I had the rare opportunity to participate in much of the academic as well as the popular discussion that was centered around the subject of Islamic government and the authority of the Imamite jurist in the absence of the twelfth Imam. I had drawn up a rough plan of research on the Just Ruler in Twelver Shī‛ism. For this research I returned to Iran in January 1983.

I had realized in 1980 that library research on the subject would be incomplete without engaging in discussion with Imamite jurists in Iran. Accordingly, in 1983, for almost six months, I spent my mornings in the library of the late Āyatullāh Mīlānī, housed at his son Sayyid Muhammad ‛Alī's house in Mashhad, going through the Imamite jurisprudence in its entirety with the Āyatullāh's grandson, Sayyid Fādil Mīlānī. During these morning hours I joined the scholars who visited the late Āyatullāh's residence regularly to raise some of the issues that were relevant to the concept of wilāyat al-faqīh (the discretionary authority of the jurist). In the afternoons I used the recently established Turāth Ahl al-Bayt Library and Research Center, where I found a number of young students of Islamic theology and jurisprudence engaged in research, with whom I had the opportunity to sharpen my comprehension of the Shī‛ī worldview. With them I traveled in the realm of an intellectual and idealized Islamic vision of justice and of the necessity of the Just Ruler to establish that just social order. Those months in Iran prepared me to undertake the writing of the present work.

The research in Iran would not have materialized without the affiliation granted by the University of Mashhad, which enabled me to procure my temporary residence permit and facilitated the use of other libraries in Mashhad, especially the Āstāne Quds-i Radāwī Library. In this connection Professors Khwājawiyān and Jahāngīrī of the Dr. ‛Alī Sharī‛atī Faculty of Letters and Humanities were extremely helpful. Professor Nathan Scott, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, using his discretionary authority, assigned me to research leave during the spring of 1983. In addition, Mr. Sajjad Ibrahim, president of Muhammadi Islamic Trust in Toronto, provided me with a travel grant. I am indebted to all of them.

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