Imamate and Islamic ruling in the outlook of Imam Khomeini: Judicial aspect

American Herald Tribune | Anastasia Fatima Ezhova: First of all, we should repeat once again that we speak of Shi‘ism exactly cause other versions of Islam are facing crisis cause of denial of Imamate in all its aspects, while we proved that Imamate is an inherent part of Islam. Consequently, everybody who wants to keep genuine Islam alive should follow the path of 14 Infallibles (a) and particularly the 12 Imams (a) in all its aspects without excluding any of it. 

But due to the misunderstanding of Mahdawiyyat Shi‘ism also faced innate crisis that led the Shi‘a community to stagnation and deviation from its own backbone principles.

We have already indicated all aspects of Islam’s revival handled by the Imams (a).

So let’s see if something is left from it if we accept such an interpretation of Mahdawiyyat that had settled by the time Imam Khomeini (s) appeared.

We’ve already pointed out four aspects reflecting the meaning of Imamate.

Was anything left from Shari‘ah? No, cause as we’ve mentioned the Divine Law is not a number of laws and prescriptions just combined together mechanically but it’s an integral judicial system based on wholesome world outlook derived from acknowledging Tawhid. And implementation of Shari‘ah requires special institutions which will put it into effect. For example, if somebody wants to defend his or her rights granted by Shari‘ah, this person may not gain success relying just on the piousness of other Muslim as they may be not so God-fearing. Who will solve the problems of this person and protect his or her rights if there are no Islamic authorities and institutions? The structure of Shari‘ah is of such a kind that if we remove any of its laws the whole system will be destroyed: “O believers, take Islam entirely and follow not the steps of Satan” (2:208). 

But many of political, social, economic prescriptions will surely be withdrawn without participating in political life and implementing them using administrative force. And this contradicts the essence of Din as we’ve described it previously, and there is an evident controversy between this situation and the principle of Tawhid which implies totality of God’s power and consequently the power of Divine Shari‘ah.

What was the use of preserving and commenting different laws considering political, penal, administrative and so on aspects of the Divine Law if they turn out to be not topical nowadays? But all the Imams (a) sacrificed their blessed lives just for this great aim of keeping Islam (i.e. Tawhid and Din) and Shari‘ah save and actual. For what purpose have they (a) become martyrs if many sides of Shari‘ah they struggled for are not only not implemented into life but even the theoretical base for its abandonment has been worked out? Notice that not only persecutions of the category hudud, Friday sermons and jihad  [1] are led with the help of Islamic government; implementation of more than half of Islamic social, political and economical prescriptions require existence of Islamic ruling, otherwise putting those laws into practice will get just voluntary but not compulsory. But this will surely lead to unjustice towards some kinds of rights other people possess as they are granted to them in the Divine Law.

Those who suppose that any kind of Islamic ruling during the great Occultation implicates a challenge against Imam Mahdi’s (a) rights, should remember that the Imams (a) didn’t struggle for the sake of attaining personal power, but they viewed power authorization only as a means of implementing Shari‘ah and justice according the principles of Islam. Thus if we deny the possibility of implementing Shari‘ah at the period of Imam’s (a) Occultation, we acknowledge his Eminence’s ruling for form’s sake, but in substance we deny and contradict it as we don’t accept the essence for which all the Infallibles (a) struggled.

Imam Khomeini always strongly accented this point:

“We once again stress that Allah, the Exalted, made laws for the life of the human beings, and brought precepts for their happiness in this world and the next. According to the judgments of reason these laws and precepts were meant by Allah and His Prophet to be practiced (by mankind), not to be put aside. This is a fact which needs no proof, because it is of the clear judgments of the intellect that every law-giver in the world makes his laws in order to enact them and have them practiced, not to merely pronounce the, and put them on the paper”. [2]

His Eminence also stressed that the Infallibles (a) really didn’t aim to obtain a political power just for enjoying its benefits, rather they perceived it as a hard unpleasant but necessary mission which makes them able to perform their obligations not only of commenting but also implemeting the Shari’ah law. In his book “Islamic Government” Imam Khomeini (s) quotes a suitable tradition:

“The Commander of Faithful (a) [3] asked Ibn ‘Abbas about the nature of ruling and power: ‘How much does this shoe cost?’ Ibn ‘Abbas answered: ‘Nothing’. Then the Commander said: ‘Power over you costs even less in my eyes, but with the help of guidance and power I can establish the Law’, – i.e. the laws and establishing of Islam, – ‘and do away with unjustice’, i.e. all possible unacceptable and despotic institutions”. [4]

And Imam Khomeini also brings another Nahjul-Balaghah: “Amirul Mu’minin (A.S.) has said: ‘By Him Who cleft the grain and created man, had it not been for the presence of the present and for the evidence of available supporters, and had it not been for the pledge taken by Allah from the learned men that they should not acquiesce in the gluttony of the oppressors and the hunger of the oppressed, I would have thrown the rope (of the Chaliphate) on its shoulder, and would have given the last one the same treatment as to the first one. Then you would have seen that in my view this world of yours is not better than the sneezing of a goat”.  [5]

If we comprehend this issue we’ll come to understand that denying Islamic governance is in fact nothing else but rejecting the mere aim of the Infallibles (a) which is not personal power but putting Divine law into practice. And, in turn, it is not possible without crating the system of Islamic government because, as we’ve mentioned, Shari’ah and Din is a complex system including legislating the area of politics, economy, taxes, international policy and war affairs. Thus by establishing Islamic government we in fact observe the rights of the Infallibles (a) who were struggling and dying for these laws. In this outlook we shouldn’t perceive Imam (a) as a king jealous for his exclusive right on political power, rather we’ll get his pleasure which is the same thing as the pleasure of Allah if we’ll fight against injustice and oppression by the means of implementing His just laws.

As all the Imams (a) represent the same Light of Guidance, and while denying the actuality of Imam Hussein’s (a) path (manhaj) we thus negate the essence of his mission, and denying the 3rd Imam (a) we thereby deny the 12th Imam (a) too. And if we take into account the revolutionary and non-conformist message of Imam Hussein (a), we can call contradictory some claims of Imam Khomeini’s opponents that Shi’a Islam rejects revolution against authorities because some of the holy Imams (a) were not involved in such activities. Imam Khomeini harshly criticized this approach as anti-Islamic one:

“…Now we meet some ‘alim (may God forgive him) who says: ‘If the Imam of Time (a) will see it fit to return, he’ll come. I can’t take care about Islam more than his Eminence (a), and he is brilliantly aware of the current situation. Subsequently, he should begin to improve our affairs first, and not me!’ But this is the logic of those who shirk from responsibility and not the logic that is approved by Islam. Islam doesn’t acknowledge such a system of proves. Everybody who speculates this way is delving thoroughly in religious traditions and, for example, tells us about peace-keeping with rulers and praying for them. But this contradicts what Qur’an teaches us. Apparently, such religious scholars didn’t read this Holy Book. Even if they find a hundred of traditions like this, it won’t confirm their point of view as these traditions conflict Qur’an and the Prophets’ customs…Is it possible for a Muslim to wish a long life to a ruler who commits many kinds of unjustice? May anyone maintain relations with somebody who exterminates common people and religious scholars?”.  [6]

But there is another serious problem in the approach of Imam Khomeini’s opponents as it blocks following many of the role models proposed by the Imams (a), and particularly Imam Hussein’s (a) role model. We can sometimes hear strange claims that “it’s not appropriate to employ his methods nowadays in the situation of the Occultation”. But the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and the mystery of Kerbala is a cornerstone for the whole Shi‘ism.


[1] As the hadith says that these practices won’t exist during the Occultation.

[2] M.J. Khalili. Manafi Anari. Fundamentals of the Islamic revolution, p. 143.

[3] Imam Ali (a)

[4] Imam Khomeini “Islamic Government”,, p. 63.

[5] Imam ‘Ali. Nahjul-Balaghah, Sermon 3.

[6] “The Speeches of Imam Khomeini” // “Imam Khomeini”, Moscow, “Palea-Mishin”, 1999, pp. 301-302.

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