Al-Walī al-Faqīh and General Vicegerency (al-Nīyābat al-'Āmma) of the Imam of the Time (a)

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According to a hadith attributed to Imam al-Rīḍā (a) wherein he states "Whoever claims to be the vicegerent of the Imam of the time (peace be upon him) is a liar," How is it possible for Ayatollah Khamenei to be a vicegerent of Imam (a)?

It is important to note that within Shiite belief, during the major occultation, there is no specific designated vicegerent. However, certain narrations suggest that individuals possessing particular qualifications may assume the role of general vicegerents of Imam Mahdi (a). This broader vicegerency necessitates specific prerequisites: • Imam Mahdi (a): "اَمَّا الْحَوادِثُ الْواقِعَةُ فَارْجِعوُا فیها اِلی رُواةِ حَدیثِنا، فَاِنَّهُمْ حُجَّتی عَلَیْکُمْ وَاَنَا حُجَّةُ اللّهِ عَلَیْهِمْ": “As for the incidents that occur, refer regarding them to the narrators of our hadiths, for they are my authority against you and I am God’s authority over them.” Researchers believe that this narration indicates the introduction of certain scholars as the vicegerent of the Imam of the time (a) and the necessity of referring to them.

• Imam Sadiq (a): "فَأَمَّا مَنْ کَانَ مِنَ الْفُقَهَاءِ صَائِناً لِنَفْسِهِ، حَافِظاً لِدِینِهِ، مُخَالِفاً لِهَوَاهُ، مُطِیعاً لِأَمْرِ مَوْلَاهُ فَلِلْعَوَامِّ أَنْ یُقَلِّدُوهُ": “As for whoever is among the jurists who protects himself, preserves his religion, opposes his whims, and is obedient to the command of his master, then the common people should follow him.”

• Imam Sadiq (a) said about the duty of the Shiites who do not have access to the infallible Imam: "Anyone of you who is a narrator of our hadith, who looks at our halal and haram, has an opinion (he has mastered those issues), and knows our rulings, accept his ruling, because I have made him ḥākim (ruler) over you.

Based on the theory of Wilāyat al-faqīh, posits that the sole individual capable of assuming this vicegerency must possess the scholarly, jurisprudential qualifications, as well as a sound political and social vision, along with a commitment to justice and piety. Such an individual is believed to have been generally designated by the Imam of the time (a) based on established traditions.

The late Muḥaqiq al-Karkī (A.D. 940), one of the Shia scholars, asserted that Imami jurists universally concur that a just jurist meeting all the prerequisites for issuing fatwa (legal decrees) is the vicegerent of the infallible imams (a) in all matters pertaining to vicegerency.

Muḥaqiq al-Ardabili (A.D 993), one of the Shia jurists, proposes the general vicegerency of the jurist from the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (a). Similarly, Shahīd al-thānī, another renowned Shi‘ī jurist, regarded Shiite just jurist possessing the conditions for giving fatwa to be the deputy of the imam (a).

Narrations Implying the End of Vicegerency with the End of the Period of Minor Occultation

According to some narrations, the vicegerency of the Imam of the time (a) has come to an end with the end of the viceroyalty of the last vicegerent during the minor occultation. However, it is important to clarify that such assertions pertain to the conclusion of a specific form of vicegerency and do not impinge upon the concept of general vicegerency. What has been said about the correctness of applying the title of nā’ib (vicegerent) to the jurist is about vicegerency in its common sense, which is not in contradiction with the hadiths.


  • This article is mainly taken from "ولی‌فقیه و نیابت عام امام زمان(ع)" on Persian Wikipasokh.