Khalid bin Sulieman Addadh
When comparing the radical views of the Islamic State and Wilayat al-Faqih, the doctrine of Shiite faqih (jurist) which dominate politics and economy, one finds that the ideologies have some similarities.
While not apparent to the ordinary observer, a deeper study into the two ideologies reveals a shared theology. The following study attempts to reveal the commonalities.
The reader may think that comparing the two ideologies is methodically weak since the comparison is not between two theories or two applications.
However, the author believes that there is a close connection between the theory of Wilayat al-Faqih and the various theoretical applications of IS.
To avoid mistakes when comparing, the study measured introspective applications of Wilayat Al-Faqih’s theories, while also considering theoretical sources of IS’s application.
The study revealed that Shiite jurisprudence did not engage in politics for at least one thousand years. The real shift in Shiite political thought was between 1890 and 1909, when Shiites began to see the possibility of freely experimenting with politics. This shift began with Mirza Hassan Shirazi’s fatwa in 1890 prohibiting smoking because Nasser al-Din Shah granted the British exclusive rights to the trade and manufacturing of tobacco in Iran. The tinbaki or timbak revolution came to an end with a political victory for the faqih over the Shah. A few years later, specifically in 1906, the harbingers of another revolution began to manifest, targeting the absolute monarchy and demanding its restriction. It was called the “Conditional Revolution” , among the most prominent religious figures supporting this constitutional movement, were the religious authorities of the great tradition of their time: Muhammad Kazem al-Khorasani and Muhammad Hussein al-Naini. It was another instance in which opposition jurists won a landslide victory over the Shah and his religious authorities including Muhammad Kazem al-Yazdi.
IS, as the author views it, constitutes an outcome (outgrowth) resulting from a set of ideas, whose theoretical cover is derived from several Sunni trends, the most important of which is Salafi-jihadism, from which general strategies at the level of movement and progress and the jurisprudence of jihad are derived. ISIS is also derived from al-Salafiya al-Elmiya or the scholarly Salafism, with its various subdivisions, fatwa, foundations of education, and behavioral education. ISIS is derived from the theories of Takfir wal-Hijra (Excommunication and Exile) group which defines how they treat people from different religions and creeds. But most importantly, according to the author, ISIS derives from al-Hakimiyah (Allah’s judgement and legislation) in the way it imposes itself as a more suitable candidate to govern than the rest of the Islamic countries, dismissing them as ignorant infidels, and other jihadist organizations which are different in orientations and principles.
The theory of al-Hakimiyah can be considered as the common ground that combines the doctrinal difference between the two sides of IS and Wilayat al-Faqih, because al-Hakimiyah dictates that a select group of believers assumes the rule of life and religion on behalf of Allah. Al-Hakimiyah means Allah is the worthy and the only authorized to rule the world. At the same time, Wilayat al-Faqih gives the jurist full freedom to rule in worldly affairs and religion in the absence of an infallible imam. Wilayat al-Faqih argues that logical imperatives necessitate that, which is the same as what IS is trying to impose on the ground, even over its jihadist counterparts.
Al-Hakimiyah is the thread that binds Shiite political theory together. It came at the hands of the Khomeini’s Wilayat al-Faqih, and the theory of the Sunni imamate or caliphate. It is a political template that begins with dismissing the ruler who rules with any constitution or laws other than those of Allah as infidel, and dismisses those who reject pledging allegiance to the Caliph as Khawarij or outsiders (unslamic) (2) and ends with the necessity of killing and beating all those who are opposed to establishing the caliphate.
Although al-Hakimiyah was essentially derived from Sunni thought, an important historical circumstance led the Shiite thought to adopt this theory. This happened through the founder of (Fedayeen Islam, founded in 1945) the Shiite Navvab Safavi, who was executed in 1956 for an attempt to assassinate the then Prime Minister of Iran.
The author does not, however, think that Navvab Safavi incorporated the theory of Sunni’s al-Hakimiyah into Shiite thought, because the first appearance of the theory in the Arab world was by Sayyid Qutb in 1962 in the third edition of his book In the Shade of the Quran, i.e. several years after the death of Safavi. However, Safavi inspired the most prominent Shiite religious leaders in Iran, such as Khomeini, who began his political movement after 1961. In this regard, one should not forget Khamenei’s eagerness to translate Sayyid Qutb’s books, under the influence of Safavi who said in Damascus in 1954: “Whoever wanted to be a true Jaafari should join the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood” That same year he met Sayyid Qutb, the operational leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The most important common denominator between Wilayat al-Faqih and IS is at the level of application, which have devastating impacts on people including the killing of civilians and spreading chaos, terror and fear.
Here is a simple and brief study, which examines the most important aspects of the theoretical entanglement between Wilayat al-Faqih and IS, in three main components in shariah: imamate, religious authority, and jihad.
The theory of Wilayat al-Faqih
The theory of the Wilayat al-Faqih was a reaction to the nearly 1,000 years of the Twelver Shiites’ complete boycott of anything related to power. After the “disappearance” of the twelfth Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Askari, who went missing in 329 Ah, senior Shiite scholars issued a fatwa prohibiting political work, revolution, and the establishment of the government, based on the belief that it is a function of the absent imam. This was in addition to old fatwas that prohibited cooperation with authorities, considering them usurpers of the imam’s rights. Furthermore, their fatwas prohibited “jihad”, enforcing Shariah laws, collecting zakat money, and even holding Friday prayers, based on the belief that these are tasks that require the presence of the infallible imam (the theory of waiting). But with the length of Mahdi’s absence and the urgent need to get out of this theory of waiting, some Shiite scholars, based on opinions and sayings of their imams, began to construe arguments advocating for a diligent jurist, who is competent and efficient, to run the affairs of the state. This gave rise to the so-called “general deputyship of al-Faqih” on behalf of the absent imam by sheikh Ahmad bin Mahdi al-Naraki (died in 1829), which later became the theory of Wilayat al-Faqih in its current form which was consolidated under Khomeini. In his book “Returns of the Days”, al-Naraki called on jurists to assume power over the country and was of the opinion that the faqih has the same powers of the imam: the general mandate, religious and political powers (3).
150 years after al-Naraki’s death, the Islamic Revolution in Iran led by Khomeini, represented the first practical application of Wilayat al-Faqih. However, Khomeini created Wilayat al-Faqih, after merging it with the theory of the general deputyship of the faqih—an absolute Wilayat al-Faqih, not a general Wilayat or a general deputyship. He made Wilayat of the fair scholar as the mandate of the Prophet Muhammad in his life (4). Hence, al-Faqih dominated, through this mandate, over political and religious powers, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the presence of a president of the country, an elected parliament and Shura Council. Iran’s al-Wali al-Faqih (the ruling jurist) or Supreme Leader has broad powers granted to him by the country’s constitution (5).
As such, Khomeini became al-Wali al-Faqih—a deputy to the infallible Imam. This gave him an absolute mandate which allowed him to bypass the constitution and the will of the nation (6).
In its latest developments, the definition of Wilayat al-Faqih is summarized as stated in Article 5 of Iran’s constitution, as follows:
“In the absence of Imam Mahdi (May Allah make him appear again) the mandate of the affairs and leading the Imamate of the nation of the Islamic Republic of Iran shall be in the hands of a fair, pious, visionary of the matters of the times, a brave Faqih, who is able to run and manage…” (7).
Islamic State’s Theory
What is known as ISIS or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is an armed organization that adopts the ideology of Salafi jihadist groups. It derives its theory from general Salafi theory, which was clearly crystallized by Ibn Taymiyyah, then Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. ISIS has two simple objectives: restoration of the Islamic caliphate and establishing sharia. It bases its argument on general religious authorities and determinants (8), the most important of which are:
- The Sunni juristic and doctrinal heritage, which is abundant in numerous and conflicting opinions and doctrines, from which the jihadists derive their general theoretical strategy. Islamic jurists devoted special and long writings of jihad and biographies, in which they examined the smallest of issues in great details. Doctrine books also touched on issues that are considered a starting point for establishing a hardline opinion on certain issues that constitute the ideology of jihadist groups, such as separate sections on names and provisions, takfir, Al-wala’ wa-l-bara’ (holding fast to all that is pleasing to God, and withdrawing from and opposing all that is displeasing to Allah, for the sake of Allah), the excuse of ignorance, among others.
- Ibn Taymiyyah’s writings: they are the most prominent extension of the system of Islamic opinion, juristic or doctrinal for jihadist groups, including ISIS. This can be seen in the large number of statements about ibn Taymiyyah’s fatwas and some of his disciples, and the application of these sayings and quotes.
- The literature on the preaching of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab, especially on subjects related to Takfir, the excuse of ignorance, Al-wala’ wa-l-bara’, among others.
- Fatwas of some contemporaries, which were issued specifically to support the orientations of jihadist groups, upon which ISIS was founded. Examples are fatwas issued by some Saudis such as Hammoud al-Uqla Al-Shuaibi and some of his studies, Nasser al-Fahd, Suleiman al-Alwan, Beshr bin Fahd al-Beshr, Abdul Rahman al-Barrak, and Abdullah al-Saad, plus many non-Saudis from Morocco, Egypt, and Pakistan.
There is no militant group that adopts jihad as a way to affect change unless it passes through the filters and screenings of Salafism. As such, before you can be a pure jihadist you must be a pure Salafist, even ostensibly at least (9). Therefore, all jihadist groups, including IS, have a series of core issues in common, which are mentioned at the beginning of our talk about IS as a theory, and we detail it a little bit here (10):
- Enforcing the Islamic law.
- Establishing the Islamic caliphate.
- Confronting authoritarian regimes (tyrants).
- Confronting the conspiracies of the West against Islam and Muslims.
- Jihad as a means of changing the deteriorating reality of Muslims.
Al-Hakimiyah as a source of inspiration for Wilayat-al-Faqih and IS
Many Sharia scholars objected to the term al-Hakimiyah, since it did not appear in any written book related to the fundamentals of religion in the past. Even conducting a simple search of all political Islamic literature during the first ten centuries, whether it relates to royal rulings or Islamic politics, one cannot find a single book mentioning the term. This is a modern concept, coined by Sayyid Qutb, when he was translating and quoting al-Maududi, which was adopted by various contemporary radical fundamentalisms, both Sunni and Shiite (11).
Al-Maududi coined the terms al-Hakimiyah and al-Jahiliyyah, as two opposite terms—if one of them is achieved the other becomes nil. He put al-Hakimiyah only in the hands of the group of believers, as defined by Sayyid Qutb in his book “Milestones along the Way”, and in his interpretation of Quran “In the shade of the Quran” (12).
It does not take much effort to see that Wilayat al-Faqih has taken control of the affairs of life and religion to establish the infallible imamate under the pretext of ruling on behalf of the Absent Imam with all his powers. The same thing applies to ISIS, which sought to control worldly affairs and religion under the pretext of establishing an Islamic Caliphate. The difference is that since its practical inception, Wilayat al-Faqih has been able to capture a large and rich country, and using it as a starting point to gain followers and spheres of influence, either by polarizing or controlling and using all the tools of temptation, terrorism and wars. This is what we see in several Arab, African and Asian countries. IS has followed suit in trying to capture areas from which it can seize more territories, gain more funding and capabilities where people pledge allegiance to Caliph. Although IS do not openly claim that its Caliph is infallible, the caliph, in its view, is like an infallible man with absolute powers, enforcing laws in the name of Sharia, and practicing all kinds of terrorism and wars, against Muslims and non-Muslims.
Yet, what is clear, beyond any doubt, is the similarities between the two theories: in approach, orientation, goals, means, tools, practices and disastrous outcomes that they bring to the world.
Thus, the conflict is in fact—despite the sectarian difference between Sunnis and Shiites—between all recognized Islamic doctrines on the one hand, and terrorism, from IS and its likes, or Wilayat al-Faqih, on the other (13).
Imamate in the two theories
The Shiites have made imamate a supreme component in religion, by making it a duty of Allah, not the people he created. Al-Kulini says: “Since the death of Adam, Allah has left no land without sending an imam who guided its people to Allah, and that Imam is Allah’s evidence against his servants” (14).
As for the Sunnis, the first one who talked about this concept was Abu al-Hassan al-Ashari, who made it obligatory for mankind, not Allah (15).
The best manifestation of the concept of imamate and the differences between the two groups around it is the refusal of Ibn Taymiyyah in his book Minhaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah in refuting the arguments of the Qadiriyah Shiites (those who believe that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable), and hence he refused to include the imamate among the primary sources of Islamic shariah. Instead, he considered it as a secondary source, while acknowledging its importance to the good of people in their religion and life. He agreed with the consensus of Muslims—both Sunnis and Shiites—that the imamate was only a side issue. (16).
This is, of course, ran contrary to the arguments of the advocates of imamate as a fundamental pillar in Islam, such as Wilayat al-faqih, ahl al-Hakimiyah, and those who call for the establishment of the caliphate. Each of those arguments faced great resistance and opposition from the people of their sect. It is no secret that this is the main issue that divides Muslims.
Thus, saying that the issue of the imamate is a secondary issue nullifies the saying that any ruler who rules with any laws other than that of Allah’s Shariah is an infidel. On the other hand, the theories of al-Hakimiyah and al-Jahiliyyah, constitute a major argument in the Shiite faqih assuming the rule of Umma affairs, both in terms of religion and worldly affairs.
The two most prominent contemporary Salafist figures, Ibn Baz, and al-Albani say that the ruler who does not apply Allah’s Shariah is not an infidel.
That opinion undermines the theory of al-Hakimiyah and its numerous practical applications, including the attempts to seize power by force, assassination of heads of states, dismissing them as infidels, or dismissing all such governments as infidels.
Religious authorities in the two theories
Sunni and Shiite groups, both extremist activists and jihadists, share one similarity: they are not preaching and guidance groups, but rather military organizations and recruitment institutions, based on the allegiance and obedience of their members. These groups view spiritual guidance as a traditional effort that should be left to traditionalists to do.
In the Sunni Muslim world, there is not a single religious authority, but rather multiple religious authorities and muftis, official or non-official, to which individuals seek advice with complete freedom. To follow them and their practices and opinions is not a doctrinal obligation of the Sunnis. This makes the Sunni religious space open and broad, in which difference and diversity are permitted, and new faces and figures rise and fade from time to time. Extremist ideas may gain traction, in the form of organizations with their own religious literature and authorities, or individual fatwas issued by individuals in certain matters. However, they do not historically express the opinion of the official institution, whose positions and practices correspond with the orientations of the state that they dismiss as infidel.
On the contrary, the Shiite religious authority and its tradition represent a belief, guidance, and commitment. However, it remained static, traditional and conservative until it became active with Wilayat al-Faqih, which succeeded in empowering its authority and staging a revolution by cooperating with civil and political forces opposed to the Shah, and then later driving those same forces out of the political arena. Hence, the state it established has come to essentially represent religious authority and loyalty before representing worldly and political loyalty.
While Wilayat al-Faqih’s authority for the Shiites is official, essential and popular, in the form of a state-like organization, the emir’s authority represents the only authority among radical Sunni organizations, and dealing with the emir is very similar to dealing with the religious authority, as evidenced by the many jurisprudential texts which demand blind obedience to him.
The two sides are able to expel and exclude their opponents and achieve what they want from their members and followers. Sunni organizations reject politics and do not believe in it and its components and seem to be trapped and confined to the organization’s narrow objectives, as they strike randomly wherever they can. Shiite organizations have become part of the strategy of the state and a global Islamic revolution, i.e. the Iranian revolution, with an expansionist political orientation that does not reject politics but exploits it, and hence has no special objectives, except to carry out the interests of the Wali al-Faqih regime, its allies and orientations (17).
Jihad in the two Theories
In his encyclopedic book, which is an implicit reference to jihadist groups Jihad and Fighting in Islamic Politics, Dr. Mohammed Khair Heikal defines jihad as:
“Fighting for the sake of Allah against the infidels who have no covenant and no protection, and doing everything related to fighting such as the call to it, and providing assistance in conducting it, after the conditions required for the legitimacy of that fight are met).
According to Heikal, the purpose of jihad is to establish and protect the Islamic community and to protect Muslims from aggression (18).
This book, together with the book al-‘Umda fi I’dad al-‘Udda (“The Essentials of Making Ready [for Jihad]”) by Abdelkader Abdel Aziz, and Fiqh al-Jihad by al-Qaradawi, provide the most important arguments of the Sunni jurisprudence on jihad on various aspects of the jihadist scene.
As for the Shiites, Khomeini believes that the term ‘jihad’ means fighting for the sake of Allah, adding that jihad in Islamic culture means the cognizant man’s struggle against the enemy for the sake of Allah and reforming society. In terms of objectives, jihad is divided into: defensive jihad in the face of armed aggression, primary jihad for the call to Islam, and jihad against Ahl al–Baghi (i.e. a group that wants to dominate another group without right, or arrogance and the practice of injustice and unfairness). The main objective of all types of jihad in Islam is confronting oppression, injustice and abuse; those who are killed fighting in the sake of Allah are called martyrs. Jihad on the battlefield and combating infidels is called the smaller jihad, according to the Prophet Mohamed. On the other hand, jihad within oneself or the soul (fighting moral vices) is called the greatest jihad, which is much more difficult than the smaller jihad (19).
Khomeini differentiates between the two divisions of jihad in Shiite thought:
- Primary Jihad: Jihad in which non-Muslims are invited to embrace Islam. According to the opinion of all Shiite jurists, primary jihad is only carried out in the era of infallible Imam and upon his order.
- Defensive Jihad (Jiahd al-dafa’a): When the borders of an Islamic country are attacked by outsiders or their rights are taken away, everyone (whether men or women, young and old) must come to defend it by any means, and this kind of struggle is called defensive jihad (20).
This is a near-perfect match between the Sunni division and the jihadist division of jihad. Sunnis divide jihad into jihad al-Talab (offensive jihad), jihad al-Dafa’ (defensive jihad). For the two groups, Jihad al-Talab begins first with the call to Islam, which Sunnis consider as jihad in terms of reward from Allah and jurisprudential ruling, even if it is not fighting.
The Shiites also agree with the Sunnis on the issue of greater jihad, jihad of the soul, so al-Qaradawi detailed it in his above-mentioned book.
Unlike Khomeini’s fatwa about primary jihad in the absence of the infallible imam, the current Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Khamenei, sees the possibility of conducting the primary jihad in this era: “It is not wrong to say that it is permissible for the Faqih, who have all the requirements, if he believes that it is necessary” adding that this opinion is the most valid (21).
- Wilayat al-Faqih has been established after a theoretical development preceded by a stagnation in Shiite thought on engaging in the public affairs of the Umma (nation).
- Under Khomeini, Wilayat al-Faqih transferred the Shiite theory from the general Wilayat to the absolute Wilayat, granting al-Faqih all the powers of the Prophet Muhammad in his life.
- ISIS is an application of a fabricated theoretical mixture of several Salafi, jihadist and Takfiri Sunni theories, which took it upon itself to awaken radicalism in Islamic jurisprudence from its dormancy.
- Al-Hakimiya is a candidate to become an umbrella for the ideology of IS and the applications of Wilayat al-Faqih, by virtue of the common denominator among the three parties, in making the group of believers, al-Faqih, or the Caliph, the ruler in the name of Allah.
- Al-Hakimiya exists only in the presence of two opposite parties: a group of believers and infidels or polytheists. The approaches upon which IS built its system and organization only exist in the presence of two opposite parties: disbelievers and believers. In Wilayat al-Faqih, the theory of Al-wala’ wa-l-bara’ promotes the common meaning.
- Imamate in the two theories is obligatory, the affairs of the world and religion cannot be right unless it is established. However, the Shiite theory has made it one of Allah’s duties, as he is responsible for appointing the imam, while the Sunni theory has made it a greater duty but it is still a duty of creation (mankind), which ibn Taymiyyah has rejected, viewing the imamate as a sub-issue in Shariah.
- Al-Wali al-Faqih, the emir, and the issues of jurisprudence, make the issue of religious authority almost identical in the two thoughts on this matter, and sometimes even derive their arguments from the same texts.
- Despite that Shiites render Jihad inactive, its definition and division into categories in the theory of Wilayat al-Faqih is identical to that of Sunni jurisprudence, which has explained, in detail, all possible issues in jihad.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.
 Barnaby Rogerson, The Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad: And the Roots of the Sunni-Shia Schism, Translated by Dr. Abdul Rahman Abdullah Al-Sheikh, 2015, Egyptian General Book Authority
 In reference to the Kharijite doctrine.
 Al-Naraki, Ahmed Bin Mahdi, Returns of the Days in Clarifying the Rules of Deducing Rulings, 1st edition, 2000, Beirut, al-Hadi Publishing and Distribution House, 2/86.
 Khomeini, Sayyid Ruhollah, Islamic Government, 3rd, p. 49. Khomeini, Grand Ayatollah, Kitab Al Baya’, 1st edition, 1421Ah, Foundation of the Organization and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s books, 2/617 and beyond.
 Iran’s 1979 Constitution, which included its amendments until 1989, translated by the International Foundation for Democracy and Elections, p. 3.
 Ahmed, Development of the Shiite Political Thought from Shura to Wilayat al- Faqih, 6th edition, 2008, Beirut, Arab Foundation, p. 205.
 Iran’s Constitution, Ibid, p. 22.
 ISIS and Militant Groups: Arab and Western Studies by a group of researchers, 1st edition, 2016, Beirut, Nama Center for Research and Studies, p. 83.
 Three books are considered among the most important literature on contemporary jihad, which can be reviewed to clarify the Salafist orientation in all jihadist movements in their various walks of life:
- Al-‘Umda fi I’dad al-‘Udda, by Abdelkader Bin Abdul Aziz, 1st edition, 1999, Jordan, Dar al-Bayrak.
- ALjamaa fi talab Alelm Al-sharief, by Abdelkader Abdel Aziz, 2nd , 1415 Ah.
- Al-Faridah al-Gha’iba , Muhammad Abd al-Salam al-Faraj, 1415 Ah.
 Ibid, p. 100.
 Hani Nassira, The Failure of the “Fundamentalist Promise” from Wilayat al-Faqih to ISIS, Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, Monday, December 12, 2016.
 See the following references, to name but a few:
- The Political Theory of Islam, by al-Maududi
- The approach of the Islamic Coup, by al-Maududi
- Towards the Islamic Constitution, by al-Mududi
- In the Shade of the Quran, by Sayyid Qutb
- Landmarks on the Way, by Mohamed Qutb
- The Ignorance of the Twentieth Century by Muhammad Qutb.
 Al-Ammari, Abdel Aziz, Arab-Islamic Political Thought, 1st edition, 2015, Beirut, Lebanon, Gadawl, p. 161.
 Ibid, p. 337.
 Ibn Taymiyyah, Ahmad ibn Abdul Halim, Minhaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah, Muhammad Rashad Salem, 2nd edition, Riyadh, Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University, 1/75.
 The European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper.
 Heikal, Dr. Mohammed Khair, Jihad and Fighting in Legitimate Politics, 1993, Beirut, Dar al-Bayrak, 3/1703
 Imam Khomeini’s website.
 Imam Khomeini’s website.
 Office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website.