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Last Updated: 2011/11/08
Summary of question
Is Wali al-Faqih infallible according to you?
Is Wali al-Faqih infallible according to you?
Concise answer

According to traditions and sayings of the Infallibles (a.s), infallibility is restricted to 14 people including the Prophet (s), Hazrat Zahra (s.a) and the 12 Shiite Imams. Therefore, Wali al-Faqih is not among them. However, according to the verses of the Holy Quran and traditions, it is mandatory to obey Wali al-Faqih during the period of the occultation of the Imam of Time, Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance). Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "Whenever (a Jurist) rules according to our rule, whoever does not obey him has disrespected the command of Allah and has opposed us, and opposing us is opposing Allah which is as bad as shirk."

Detailed Answer

In Shi'a theology, the belief is that the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s), including Muhammad, his daughter Fatima Zahra and the Imams are all infallible and do not make mistakes. It is believed that they are infallible in the sense that all statements or teachings made by them can be relied on to be certainly true, that all information believed by themselves is true, and that they have complete knowledge about right and wrong and never intend to disobey God It doesn't mean that supernatural powers prevent them from committing a sin, but it is due to the fact that they have absolute belief in God so that they find themselves in presence of God.

As was mentioned above, infallibility is restricted to certain people and Wali Faqi is not one of them. The question that arises here is that if Wali al-Faqih is not infallible, why is it necessary to obey him? In order to get an answer to this question, it is essential for us to know that the necessity of establishing a government is not restricted to the era of the Prophet (s) and Infallible Imams (a.s). In fact it is obligatory on Muslims in every age and in every era to establish a government and run their social affairs in the best possible manner. Without doubt, every wise individual knows that once a government is established the best person to take the leadership of society is he who is pious, faithful, and capable of good administration.

The necessity of establishing a government can be deciphered from the Quranic verses including the following: Aal-e Imran verse 104, Al-Hujurat and Al-Anfal, 60, Al-Maedah, 33, and Al-Maedah, 38. When a government is established, it is then necessary for people to obey the eligible person in authority. The Quran says, “O you who believe! obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority (successors of the Prophet) from among you."[1]

It is therefore necessary to obey those in authority (Ulu al-Amr) after the Prophet. According to most of the exegetes of the Holy Quran, the term "Ulu al-Amr" means that it is necessary to follow the Commander of the Faithful, Ali and the Imams (a.s.) and in the present time which is the time of occultation, it is necessary to refer to a qualified Wali al-Faqih who meets all the conditions. Hence, during the period of occultation, it is our duty to establish an Islamic government and obey Wali al-Faqih.

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: "Whenever (a Jurist) rules according to our rule, whoever does not obey him has disrespected the command of Allah and has opposed us, and opposing us is opposing Allah which is as bad as shirk."[2]  

Another question which may arise in the reader's mind is that if Wali al-Faqih commits a mistake in leading or handling the affairs of society, then what should be done?

The answer is that Islam has suggested certain methods in order to reduce the consequences of this possibility, for example it has set a number of required features which one must possess in order to be a qualified leader:

1- He must be Mo'men, Just and God-Wary 2- He must be a Jurist well aware of the surrounding circumstances of his time 3- He must possess adequate ability for leadership and be a capable decision maker 4- He must also be pure of bad traits like: greed, stinginess, covetousness, being eager for social positions, compromising principles, being weak-willed, etc.[3]  If he possesses these features he is less likely to commit mistakes or err in his decisions. Choosing such a person for the critical position of leadership and supervision of the Islamic society is very difficult and few people can make such a choice. The responsibility of leadership is also very critical. Only that person can take such a responsibility who has been guided to the point of inerrancy. The Commander of the Faithful, Ali (a.s) says:

"You certainly know that he who is in charge of honour, life, booty, (enforcement of) legal commandments and the leadership of the Muslims should not be a miser as his greed would aim at their wealth, nor be ignorant as he would then mislead them with his ignorance, nor be of rude behaviour who would estrange them with his rudeness, nor should he deal unjustly with wealth thus preferring one group over another, nor should he accept a bribe while taking decisions, as he would forfeit (others) rights and hold them up without finality, nor should he ignore sunnah as he would ruin the people."[4]

Therefore, it is less likely for a Wali al-Faqih to commit mistakes in Islamic and governmental principles and religious values. Such a leader who bears the foregoing traits and features is not expected to commit blunders.

[1]- An-Nisa: 59

[2] - Wasa’el al-Shia, vol. 1, pg. 67.

[3] - With help from Question 920 (website: 2975), The Wali Faqih and Infallibility.

[4] - Nahjul Balaghah, sermon 131.

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