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Last Updated: 2011/10/23
Summary of question
What is an explanation of the Verdict (Hukm) of governance?
What is an explanation of the Verdict (Hukm) of governance? What evidence is there of the permissibility of this matter? Does the verdict of governance exist for any jurisprudent who possesses the necessary qualifications or no? And why?
Concise answer

The verdict of governance is a command from a ruler towards enacting a religious obligation. This explanation of the concept of the verdict of governance has not been mentioned in narrations; rather the jurisprudents have derived it from the traditions and their overall content (the difference of opinion lies in the outside application). The late author of the book of Jawahir has explained the matter of the verdict in the following words: ‘The verdict is a command from a ruler in regards to a specific shar’i or wad’i ruling. Its primary foundation in the traditions is that any jurisprudent who is just (Adil) and who possesses all of the necessary qualifications (including that of governance) can issue a verdict (hukm) in addition to the regular rulings he issues. Still, due to the reason that in an Islamic society the issuance of rulings from the jurisprudents has an inter-relationship with the management of that society and its organization, common sense indicates that the deciding entity be one and not multiple. Since many different rulings can be issued from different organizations or individuals, this would make the most sense organizationally in any given society.

Detailed Answer

An explanation of the verdict (hukm) of governance

The verdict of governance is a ruling which is issued by the ruler towards the enactment of a religious obligation. The difference between a verdict of governance and a regular ruling is that in regards to its application, the verdict of governance is longitudinal to regular rulings (and has precedence in application). [i]

Allameh Tabatabai in his explanation of the precepts of governance has said: The verdict is from amongst the decisions made by the ruling jurisprudent in light of the rules of the religious guidelines and the prevailing interests of the time; in light of these conditions, a verdict is issued and enacted. This form of ruling (ie. the verdict) is obligatory to follow and it is binding, much like the regular rulings. The difference is that the regular rulings are unchanging while the situational rulings can and do change. They are dependent on the situation and conditions which cause them to come into existence and since they are dependent on the fluctuating matters of social life, naturally, these rulings can gradually change or fall out of usage. During certain times they give up their validity in order for more appropriate rulings to come into play. [ii]

These verdicts of governance existed during the time of the Prophet (s) and during the rule of Imam Ali (a). From amongst these precepts of the governance of the Prophet (s) is the destruction of the ‘Mosque of Dhirar’, the destruction of the trees of the Bani Nudhayr tribe, the prohibition of temporary marriage for Ammar Yasir and Sulaiman ibn Khalid, the prohibition of eating domesticated animals for a period of time… and the seizure by Imam Ali (a) of the wealth of certain government workers without trial, the taking of zakat from horses and the prohibition of money changing… [iii]

An explanation of a regular religious ruling

In regards to the explanation of a regular religious ruling (or fatwa) it has been said that this is the formulation of general divine injunctions and rulings in general situations based on the four basic foundations of our religious law (the Quran, the Sunnah, the intellect (aql), and overall consensus (Ijma)). These are either directed as just overall guidelines or as commands. For example, after thorough research and study of the religious sources, a jurisprudent gains knowledge of the divine laws and he then gives his opinion through the following potential words: ‘The drinking of alcohol is prohibited (haram)’ or ‘Do not drink alcohol’. [iv]

The difference between a regular ruling and a verdict (hukm)

Since we have explained the overall concept of a verdict (hukm) and a regular religious ruling, we will delve into their specific differences:

1- A religious ruling or fatwa is from the category of ikhbar (i.e., informative [i.e., they inform us of God’s law]), while a verdict is from the category of inshaa’ (i.e., to generate [here denoting that the verdict is generated and not one discovered as is the case in ikhbar). To make this issue even clearer, a religious ruling is general and does not pertain to the actual application of that ruling, while a verdict (in addition to being a fatwa in essence) also encompasses the actual application of it as well.

2- In a fatwa, in regards to its generality, the particular conditions and situation of the followers is not necessarily taken into consideration, while in a verdict all of the particularities and characteristics of the followers are taken into consideration and this is besides the fact of whether the ruling is political in nature or social.

3- The breadth of a religious ruling is typically limited and relative, but the breath of a verdict is absolute. This means that a religious ruling only relates to the ruling authority who issued it (the marja) and applies only to the followers of that jurisprudent. This is while the verdict of a ruler is applicable upon all of the people and the followers of all of the various jurisprudents (maraja). It is even binding upon the other jurisprudents (maraja) themselves, unless its incorrectness becomes clear [v] , it is religiously binding and obligatory to follow. [vi]

Hadithic proof for the definition of Hukm (verdict of governance)

From the proofs which are used to prove the Guardianship of the Jurist [vii] is one proof which states that the ruler possesses the authority to issue a verdict (rather than a regular religious ruling). In the letter (tawqī) of the 12th Imam (a), the people have been directed towards resolving their jurisprudential differences through the scholars of the religion. [viii] The jurisprudents, through the use of this tradition and similar traditions, have explained the matter of the verdict of governance. The late author of the text Jawahir has said the following in his explanation of what a verdict is. He writes: ‘The verdict is a command from a ruler made in regards to a shar’i or wad’i ruling, or the subject of a shar’i or wad’i ruling on a specific subject. [ix] Therefore, the verdict of governance is dependent on the legitimacy of the actual government and all of the primary and secondary rulings and waqe’i and dhaheri rulings lie upon this issue. In other words, all rulings that are beneficial to the protection of Islam and the socio-political system of the Muslims can be legislated by the Islamic ruler (waliyy faqih) as a primary or secondary verdict of governance and it will be binding upon all.

The legislation of the verdict (hukm)

The primary principle according to the traditions is that any just jurisprudent who possesses all of the necessary qualifications, and who also possesses the conditions of governance can issue a verdict (in addition to the religious rulings which he normally can issue), and that is why in some of the jurisprudential books, the matter of two conflicting verdicts by two different jurisprudents is discussed. [x] Nevertheless, although there may be cases where there is more than one individual who is qualified for issuing a verdict, it should be kept in mind that when several jurisprudents issue a verdict, it will be tied with the governance and management of the Islamic society; if the deciding entities in such a government are multiple, it is clear that it will lead to turmoil and tension in society. Here, the intellect and common sense rule that following the supreme leader is obligatory upon all (even other jurisprudents), thus, the deciding entity and the one issuing the verdict in such a society needs to be one, not many. [xi]

For further information please refer to the following:

The Selection of a Waliye Faqih, 786 (Site: 845)

The Best Way of Selecting the Waliye Faqih, 9778 (Site: 9786)

[i] Bahrami, Qudratullah, Emam Khomeini az Didgahe Maqame Mu’azzame Rahbari, pg. 93, The Research Center for Islamic Research of Sepah, Tehan, without date.

[ii] Tabatabai, Muhammad Husein, Ma’naviyyate Tashayyu’, pg. 65, Enteshar Publications, Tehran, quoted by Hakemiyate Dini, pg. 191.

[iii] Emam Khomeini az Didgahe Maqame Mu’azzame Rahbari, pg. 94.

[iv] Ibrahimzadeh, Nabiyyullah, Hakemiyyate Dini, pg. 186.

[v] Al-Urwah al-Wuthqaa (annotated), vol. 1, pg. 48.

[vi] Hakemiyate Dini, pg. 187, according to the viewpoint of a number of jurisprudents, the verdict of the ruler isn't binding upon all, Mustanad al-Shia fi Ahkaam al-Shariah, vol. 10, pg. 418.

[vii] Refer to Question 2194 (website:2498).

[ix] He says: “ أما الحکم فهو إنشاء إنفاذ من الحاکم لا منه تعالى لحکم شرعی أو وضعی أو موضوعهما فی شی‏ء مخصوص ”.  See: Najafi, Muhammad Hasan, Jawahir al-Kalaam, vol. 40, pg. 100, Daar Ihyaa’ al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, without date.

[x] See: Ansari, Sheikh Murtada, Matarih al-Andhaar, pg. 304, Aal al-Bayt, Qum, without date.

[xi] Adopted from Question 39 (website: 272).

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