Islamic Republic of Iran, an Islamic Popular System

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The public ought to be sure of the righteousness and piety of the person who is at the top of the hierarchy of political power in the Islamic system. Such a person, because of his firm faith and lofty morals will not be inclined towards oppression, corruption, tyranny, anarchy, and misuse of power and property.

If you remember last week’s episode was dedicated to the dynamism of the popular religious system of government in Iran, and to understand it better, we discussed the differences between this system and western liberal democracy. Popular religious rule is a system that takes roots in a religion-oriented society once the public accepts the rule of religion in all spheres, especially in the management of social and political affairs. One of the pivotal differences between popular religious rule and the western liberal democracy is the status and role of leadership. Since Velayat-e Faqih or the governance of the supreme jurisprudent, is the core of the popular religious rule, those in the west who have failed to grasped its meaning, often resort to illogical criticism. Our discussion of Velayat-e Faqih will be divided into four parts to help our listeners understand it better. First comes salient features of Valiy-e Faqih (or the supreme jurisprudent); second, how to choose the Valiy-e Faqih as the leader of the society; third, the responsibilities and powers of Valiy-e Faqih; and fourth, how to check his performance.

In most modern cultures, democracy is often portrayed as man’s greatest achievement for administering the society. This tendency has made most of the political systems of the world, whatever their background or basis, to create what they call democratic pillars, even if these are superficial, in order to justify the legitimacy of their rule for the sake of public opinion. In countries ruled by liberal democracy, a president or a prime minister is the head of state. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, although the president is elected by the direct vote of the public and is the highest executive official, it is the Valiy-e-Faqih who is at the top of the system. He is also elected through people's vote (though indirectly). The reason for this glaring difference between popular religious rule and liberal democracy stems from their different objectives. In popular religious rule the government's goal is not to merely create welfare and convenient life for all strata in the society, but it is duty bound to create appropriate economic and social conditions for a much loftier goal, which is striving towards spiritual and moral perfection in order to obtain eternal bliss in the hereafter. Hence the need for a person well versed in Islamic laws and firm belief in them to guide and lead the country in the direction of sublime goals of the Islamic government.

According to Islam, an ideal and desirable government after Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) is the one governed by an Infallible Imam (AS) who is appointed by God and is immune from sins and mistakes. He is the one who manages the society in the best way. Now that the Prophet’s 12th and Last Infallible Successor, Imam Mahdi (May God hasten his reappearance) is in occultation by the Divine command, we have to look for a person who has achieved a lofty status in Islamic laws with full awareness of the political and social conditions that would make him eligible for role o leadership in the absence of the Infallible Imam. The supreme jurisprudent should thus possess three basic features. He should be an expert is an Islamic jurisprudence which means awareness out of the commandments and regulations of Islam. He should be pious and possess moral and ethical merits that would make him immune from carnal desires, threats, pressures, and all other temptations. And finally comes efficiency, or the necessary qualities of leadership that such a person should possess, including awareness of social conditions, political acumen, familiarity with international issues, and courage in facing enemies. The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran has mentioned in detail the conditions of the eligible Valiy-e- Faqih. The features of leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been mentioned in articles 5 and 109 of the constitution. Broadly speaking these could be classified into 3 parts. First, features related to morality, including sense of justice, piety, and bravery. Second are the religious qualities, such as being an authority on jurisprudence for approval and implementation of Islamic laws in different areas. The third one is related to efficiency, which, as we said before, courage, foresight, sense of justice, prudence and political acumen to lead the Islamic Ummah.

The qualities defined by constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the Leader, are based on the holy Qur’an, and the hadith of Prophet Mohammad and the Infallible Imams (peace upon them). God talks about the necessity to follow the well- informed and learned figures of the society in Surah Nisa, Verse 83:

“When a report of safety or alarm comes to them, they immediately broadcast it; but had they referred it to the Prophet or to those vested with authority among them, those of them who investigate would have ascertained it. And were it not for Allah’s grace upon you and His mercy, you would have surely followed Satan, [all] except a few.”

There are various Ayahs in the Holy Qur’an and plenty of narrations in the Hadiths about the qualities of piety and the justice required by the leaders of the society.

God says in Surah “Hojarat”, verse 13: “…Indeed the noblest1 of you in the sight of Allah is the most Godwary among you. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-aware.

It is also mentioned in Surah Baqarh, verse 124 that “And when his Lord tested Abraham with certain words, and he fulfilled them, He said, ‘I am making you the Imam1 of mankind.’ Said he, ‘And from among my descendants?’ He said, ‘My pledge does not extend to the unjust.’

The Prophet’s First Infallible Successor,Imam Ali (AS), who practically demonstrated the rule of social justice during his four-and-a-half year caliphate, has explicitly spoken about the qualities of piety and justice for the deserving leader. Thus, we have to stress that justice in Islam is basically different from what exists in the political literature of the West. The Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran as the first system of popular religious rule in the modern world, Imam Khomeini (RA), has written in his book “Tahrir al- Wasilah”: Justice is an inseparable quality of formed in a person due to restraint and self-care so that he doesn’t commit cardinal sins and doesn’t persist in committing minor sins intentionally, or omits his religious obligations.”

According to such a definition, considering justice and piety for anyone who is at the helm of the political affairs in an Islamic country, the public would be certain that such a person, relying on his faith and moral supports would not be pushed toward corruption, tyranny, anarchy and taking advantages of public power and property. Having such spiritual and moral behavior, this leader would not be surrounded to foreign cruel powers and considers the happiness of the society in attracting the satisfaction of God, and not an apparatus to achieve secularization (world greed). A glance at the history of Imam Khomeini’s fights and leadership shows that he was cordially loved by people by having such characteristics. The late Imam sterilized the whole plots of the enemies of the Islamic Revolution by people’s support and trust and hope in God. Before Imam Khomeini was known as a great politician, he was an outstanding scholar and Gnostic of his time.

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