Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's Fatwa
12 Jul 2009 17:40
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's Fatwa: an Unfair Supreme Leader is Illegitimate
By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 12 July 2009
In a very important development, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior cleric living in Iran, and one of the top two* marja' taghlid (source of emulation) in Shiite Islam, issued a series of Fatwas, calling the Supreme Leader illegitimate and saying that he was working with the government against religion. Montazeri has called on people to take action against this injustice, even if they have to pay a heavy price for it.
Ayatollah Motazeri, who has long been one of the most outspoken critics of Iran's hard-liners, issued the Fatwas in response to a letter that Dr. Mohsen Kadivar, a progressive cleric and a former student of his, wrote asking for answers to several pointed questions. (Dr. Kadivar was jailed a few years ago for his outspoken criticism of the hard-liners and now lives in the United States.)
The letter congratulates the Grand Ayatollah on the occasion of last week's anniversary of the birth of Imam Ali, the Shiites' first Imam, and a cousin and a son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad. The letter says that the anniversary has fallen at a time when peaceful protests against rigged elections have been met by injustice by the government, which has resulted in tens of deaths, hundreds of injured, and thousands of arrests -- all carried out in the name of Islam and Shiism by those who use Imam Ali's name but take the path of his enemies instead.
The letters continues,
I learned from you that spreading what the Holy Quran, the Prophet, and his descendants [the Imams] have taught us is the best way of confronting injustice under any condition. Thus, now, in order to keep the weak light of hope in the pure hearts of the young generation to whom injustice is being done, who are being taught superstitions in the name of Shiism, and whose soul are injured and tired by all the lies, treachery, and treason [by the government], I have come to the home of hope for the Iranian nation, [where I know that your] efforts and valiant defense of the rights of the nations - particularly on the same anniversary in 1997 [when the Grand Ayatollah harshly criticized the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for his interference in the affairs of the state] and the subsequent five-year house arrest [of the Grand Ayatollah] will never be erased from the nation's historical memory; [I have come] to ask you to respond to questions by your humble student in order to shed light in this dark place. These are the questions of our courageous and oppressed people from their religious leader [Grand Ayatollah Montazeri].
Dr. Kadivar then asks the questions:
Question 1: Taking up positions of power for serving the public -- which according to the laws must be occupied by those who are fair, honest, competent, and require the vote of the majority of the people -- by those who are either not qualified, or no longer satisfy the conditions and qualifications stipulated by the laws by exhibiting the characteristics that, with almost complete certainty, are against the required qualifications, requires what course of action [by the people]?
To this question, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has responded:
Answer: If any of the qualifications mentioned in the question, which religiously and reasonably govern the conditions for occupying the official position for serving the public, is no longer met by the person who occupies the position [to serve the public], that person, automatically and without any need for dismissal, is sacked, which also means all the orders issued by him are no longer valid. But, if the conditions are such that they are not religiously and reasonably necessary for taking up the position, but have been mutually agreed upon by the people and the person [taking the position] who serves them and takes care of their affairs, and have been violated by that person, the people can dismiss him. After the fall [destruction] of justice, honesty, and loss of the vote [trust] of the majority that must be reiterated constantly, which are the conditions for serving [the public] and ruling, the criterion is no longer that the person is innocent unless proven otherwise when it comes to the public affairs that he was in charge of, rather the person must prove his innocence, lack of violation of the laws and the religion, and the efforts for protecting people's right by giving the people a valid reason, in order to satisfy them. If there is still a difference [between the public and the person], the person must prove his claim [of innocence] to a free, fair, and neutral adjudicator who is independent of the government; otherwise, the adjudication will not be acceptable.
Question 2: What is the religious duty of the people with regard to the public servants who, despite the warning by the wise and good-intentioned people, insist on continuing to act against religion?
Answer: As I said, those who have lost, religiously and reasonably, the credibility for serving the public, are automatically dismissed, and the continuation of their work has no legitimacy. If they want to use force, or fool or cheat people in order to keep their power, people must express their opinion about the illegitimacy and lack of their approval of their performance, and seek their dismissal through the best and least harmful way. It is clear that this [dismissal of the officials] is a societal duty of everyone, and all the people, regardless of their social positions and according to their knowledge and capability, must participate in this endeavor, and cannot shirk their responsibility. The enlightened who have more knowledge about the religion and the laws, and are also more influential, have more responsibility [toward dismissal of the unqualified officials]. They must unify people and through formation of political parties and organizations, as well as public and private gatherings, inform the people and show them the way [to dismiss the officials]. In his will Imam Ali said [Nahjolbalaagheh, letter 47], "the governance and domination of the evil people [in a society] is the natural consequence of not preaching good deeds and avoiding sin, because they [the evil people] abuse the opportunities.
Question 3: Will committing the following great sins and insisting on doing so [by the officials] prove that there is no longer any fairness [in their behavior], and that they are unjust [toward people]?
- Ordering the murder of innocent people;
- preventing innocent people from gathering in public places and injuring them;
- preventing people by force from doing their religious duty of preaching good deeds and avoiding sin through banning all the legitimate and peaceful ways of protesting;
- denying the freedom and jailing of those who preach good deeds and avoiding sin, and pressuring them to "confess" to doing what they have not committed;
- preventing a free flow of information and censorship of the news, which are the essential and introductory parts of preaching good deeds and avoiding sins to the Muslim masses;
- libeling the protestors, who seek justice, by claiming that, "whoever that is opposed to the [government] officials is a traitor and spy for foreigners."
- lying, giving false testimony, and making false reports about people's rights;
- treason against the national trust;
- ignoring people's votes and neglecting the advice of the learned and informed people;
- preventing people from participating in the national process of deciding their own fate;
- making a bad name for Islam and the religion through presenting a very violent, irrational, aggressive, superstitious, and dictatorial image of Islam and Shiism in the world.
Answer: Committing any of the above sins and insisting on doing so are some of the clearest demonstrations of lack of fairness [by the officials], and obvious signs of injustice. Indeed, if such sins are not viewed by the people as signs of injustice, what sins can be considered as such? It is clear that any sin, particularly the above, that is committed in the name of the religion, law, and justice, will cause even more corruption and elimination of justice, which will have punishments both in this world and even more severe ones in the next world, because such sins, in addition to their own particular effects, also cause the destruction of the good images of religion, justice, and law.
If there are cases in which the government officials believe they are taking just and legitimate actions, but a majority of the people consider them as unjust, illegitimate, and corrupted, the views and judgments of fair and neutral adjudicators must be the criteria [for deciding who is right].
Question 4: Can resorting to "preserving the political system has the highest priority," which only provides justification for violating the legitimate rights of the people and ignoring moral principles, be considered honest? Can the excuse of "it is expedient for the political system" be used to avoid carrying out justice, which has been a distinct characteristic of Shiism throughout history? If some officials confuse the expedience of the political system with their own, and insist on their mistake, what is the religious duty of the pious people [toward them]?
Answer: Preserving the political system is not by itself an issue, particularly when the system becomes the same as a person [who rules the system and the people]. When it is said that preserving the political system has the highest priority, we mean that system that is a tool for setting up a just society in which the religious and reasonable duties of the people can be carried out. Thus, resorting to "preserving the political system has the highest priority," in order to justify what the officials do, and presenting to others what they do as just, are not allowed. If this is done due to being uninformed, then, it can be addressed using the principle of preaching good deeds and avoiding sin. On the other hand, it is clear that committing unjust acts and against Islam cannot preserve and reinforce an Islamic system, because the principle of needing an [Islamic] political system is based on the need for carrying out justice and preserving the rights of the people or, in one sentence, carrying the Islamic principles. So, how can one think that by resorting to force, injustice, and un-Islamic acts the Islamic system is preserved and reinforced?
A political system based on force, oppression, changing people's votes, killing, closure [of organs of civil society], arresting [people] and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate. And, according to the teachings of the Prophet and his descendants confessions in jail have no religious or legal validity and cannot be the criterion for action [against the confessor].
The courageous people of Iran are also aware of such confessions -- the examples of which can be found in the history of communist and fascist regimes -- and are aware that such confessions and fake television interviews are extracted from their jailed children under duress and torture, in order to hide the oppression and injustice, and in order to present a distorted image of the peaceful and lawful protests of the people. The [government] officials who are responsible for such acts must be aware that such acts are sinful, and are punishable both religiously and by law. Iran belongs to the people, not to you and me, and they make the decisions, and the officials are their servants. People must be able to gather peacefully, and defend their rights both in writing and orally. When the Shah heard people's revolutionary voice [in November 1978], it was too late. It is hoped that the officials will not allow the same situation to develop again, by being as flexible as possible about the people's demands.
Question 5: Under what conditions does the Faghih [the Supreme Leader] lose his qualifications [for continuing as the Supreme Leader], and what are the duties of the maraaje' taghlid [sources of emulation] and the people with regard to this issue?
Answer: Injustice is the intentional opposition to the teachings of religion, the foundations of reasonableness, and rationality, and the national accords and consensus that have become the laws of the land. The ruler who opposes these is no longer qualified to rule. Recognizing this is first and foremost the duty of the learned people who know the teachings and rulings of religion and are independent of the political system, as well as by intellectual and legal scholars who are completely familiar with the laws as well as the Islamic teachings and rulings, and are familiar with the solid evidence of the ruler being opposed to the teachings of the religions, reasonableness, and rationality, with the condition that they are independent of the political system. Next, it [recognizing the disqualification of the ruler] is done by the common people who are familiar with the Islamic rulings and the laws, and feel the opposition of the ruler in their own daily lives.
Thus, in summary, the fairness or injustice of the rulers is something whose effect in society is clear and not masked. Everyone is responsible for [opposition to] injustice and neglect of people's rights [by the officials] according to their knowledge, and must also inform others about it, and by considering the existing conditions and according to the principle of preaching the good deed and avoiding sin, present a solution [to the problem that the society is grappling with]. It is impossible and not believable to think that a person is supportive of justice, but does not take a step in materializing it, or be afraid of doing so, or use lack of power as an excuse for inaction. Being afraid of God's creation is being against God. The lives of our innocent Imams were dedicated to social justice. Had they spent their lives only for Islamic teachings regarding individuals [and not the society], they would not have been oppressed, jailed, under surveillance, and finally killed. God expects the learned people, especially those who are informed about the religion, not to be silent about oppression. Of course, taking action [against oppression] entails paying a heavy price, but will also be rewarded greatly [by God].
It is clear that Grand Ayatollah Montazeri considers the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as being unqualified and illegitimate, due to what he considers as oppression, use of force, silencing and jailing the opposition, and other acts by him. Given the authority and significance of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, and the immense respect that he enjoys among the population and in Shiite Islam, these Fatwas are bound to greatly influence the thinking of other ayatollahs.
Dr. Kadivar likens Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's Fatwas to the historical Fatwa of Akhnound Mollaa Mohammad Kazem Khorasani, an important religious figure of his era, during the Constitutional Revolution [1905-1908] against the dictatorship of Mohammad Ali Shah, and the Fatwa of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the Islamic Revolution against the dictatorship of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
*The other top source of emulation is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq.Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau