Who are the scholars that Shias around the globe follow?
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
In a previous article, the rationale behind the notion of following a scholar or an Ayatollah by all Shi’a Muslims was clarified and presented. In addition, the article presented a clear definition about the legitimacy, characteristics and details of a qualified jurist, who is eligible for this post according to the narration of Shi’a Imams and Prophet Mohammad. However, in this article we shall present the names of current prominent and legitimate scholars who are being followed by millions of Shi’as around the world.
As discussed in the previous article, the statement of Imam Al-Askari clarified the notion that the possibility of rouge and corrupt scholars is always present, and therefore, he have clear and specific guidelines for identifying such cases. Nevertheless, at the present time there are eight prominent scholars, who are being followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe, and these scholars are agreed to be the most pious and knowledgeable by all sides and schools of thoughts.
- Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani. He is the highest religious authority of Shi’a Muslims at the present time, who resides in the city of Najaf in Iraq. There is no official survey about the number of followers this scholar has, but it is believed that he has the highest number of followers in the world. Ayatollah Al-Sistani was born in Iraq, but he migrated to Iraq when he was a child and remained there ever since. He is considered one of the great pupils of late Ayatollah Khoie, who is still considered one of the greatest scholars Shi’a Islam has ever known.
- Grand Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Sae’ed Al-Hakeem. Ayatollah Al-Hakeem was born in the city of Najaf, Iraq in 1936. He attended the lectures of his late father, Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Ali Al-Hakeem, his late Grand Father, Ayatollah Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakeem, Ayatollah Ali Al-Hilli and Ayatollah Khoie. Currently, Ayatollah Hakeem resides in the city of Najaf and he is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
- Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Al-Najafi. Ayatollah Al-Najafi was born in the city of Jalandhar in 1942 (British India & Current Pakistan). He migrated to the city of Najaf, Iraq in early 1960s and stayed there for the purpose of studying in the religious seminaries of Najaf. He attended the lectures of Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Al-Rouhani and Ayatollah Al-Khoie. He is still residing in Najaf, Iraq and his followers are millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
- Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Ishaq Al-Fayath. He is from an Afghani origin, who was born in 1930 in Afghanistan. He migrated with his family to Najaf, Iraq when he was ten years old, and entered the Shi’a seminaries and started his long journey in religious studies. He attended the lectures of late Ayatollah Al-Khoie and many other grand jurists in the city of Najaf. Currently, he resides in the city of Najaf and has many followers around the globe.
- Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Wahid Al-Khorasani. He is considered the leader of Qom seminary, although he does not have an official post. Ayatollah Khorasani has millions of followers around the globe, and his religious authority is compared similar to Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq. He was born in the city of Nishabur, Iran. He migrated to the city of Najaf in 1962 and attended the lectures of Ayatollah Khoie and returned to Iran in 1972.
- Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Al-Rouhani. Ayatollah Rouhani is considered one of the few individuals who finished the high levels of Shi’a seminaries in his teenage years. He was born in the city of Qom, Iran in 1926. He migrated to the city of Najaf and attended the lectures of late Ayatollah Al-Khoie, Ayatollah Kompani, Ayatollah AboulHassan Isfahani and other Grand Ayatollahs. His extensive intellect and knowledge is acknowledged by many Shi’a scholars and he is considered one of the most knowledgeable scholars of modern era. Ayatollah Rouhani is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe, and currently he resides in the city of Qom.
- Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Al-Shirazi. Ayatollah Al-Shirazi is part of a family line that has given so many scholars and thinkers to the Islamic nation. His father and brother were Grand Ayatollahs as well, and he is considered one of the most knowledgeable jurists alive at the present time. He was born in city of Karbala, Iraq in 1942, and he attended the lectures of his late father, Ayatollah Sayed Mahdi Al-Shirazi, his late brother Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Al-Shirazi, Ayatollah Sayed Hadi Al-Milani and Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Redha Al-Isfahani. Ayatollah Shirazi is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
- Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani. Ayatollah Golpaygani is one of the oldest Shi’a scholars alive in the present time, as he was born in 1919, in the city of Golpaygan, Iran. He attended the lectures of Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi and many other great scholars. At the present time, Ayatollah Golpaygani resides in the city of Qom, Iran and he is considered one of the major religious authorities in Iran, who is being followed by many Shi’a Muslims.
- Grand Ayatollah Sayed Taqi Al-Qomi. He is the son of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Hussein Al-Qomi, who is known for his role in the Iranian constitutional revolution. Ayatollah Qomi was born in the city of Mash’had, Iran in 1923. He migrated to Iraq in 1936 and studied in the seminaries of Karbala and Najaf and attended the lectures of his father, and Ayatollah Sayed Hadi Al-Milani, Ayatollah Al-Khoie and many other scholars. Currently, he resides in the city of Qom, and has many followers around the world.
Concept of TAQLEED
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
Seeking the consultation of an expert has become a norm and a random measure, which any human would take, if he/she faces a problem that requires external help. A sick person would visit a physician, and someone who needs to repair his/her vehicle would seek the help of a certified mechanic. Therefore, this concept is something that humans have coped with and consider a necessity for life. Islam has given a substantial amount of importance to the concept of asking and consulting the knowledgeable and people of intellect and cognition. The 16th chapter of Quran in the 43rd verse say: “So, ask the people of knowledge if you do not know”. The 39th chapter of Quran in the 9th verse states: “Say, are those who know equal to those who do not know?” Therefore, there are numerous verses in the Quran and traditions and quotes by the Prophet and his holy household that suggest, Shi’a Muslims must always seek the help and guidance of a righteous Imam (leader).
Shi’a Muslims and Muslims in general believe that Islam is a way of life, and their religion has the answers to aspects of life, and therefore, due to the complexity of the literature and Islamic traditions, the necessity of experts in religion and theological subjects presents itself. During the time of the Prophet and his holy household, their presence filled the need for experts, since their absolute knowledge about the Quran and the real teaching of Islam was sufficient for their followers. In addition, Shi’a Muslims from all over the Islamic nation travelled to Medina and Mecca to meet the Imams and seek help for their questions and problems.
As discussed in previous articles, the notion of occultation is one of the mandatory beliefs of Shi’a Islam, which includes believing in the presence of the 12th Imam, who is Imam Al-Mahdi. Imam Al-Mahdi was born in 869, and in 941 his started his major occultation after a 72 years minor occultation. He is believed to be still alive, and present on this planet, and no one knows his real identity, although he lives among people and helps them all, when they seek his help. Therefore, some narrations suggest that when Imam Al-Mahdi returns and everyone finds out about his true identity, they all say: we have seen this man before. However, during the minor occultation, Imam Al-Mahdi communicated with his followers through four ambassadors, and those four ambassadors were chosen by the Imam, based on their piety and modesty. Prior to the beginning of Imam Al-Mahdi’s major occultation, which is still in effect, he wrote a letter to the Shi’a Muslims and announced the will of Allah, which mandated his being in an occultation, for a an unknown period of time, and he shall return at the end of time. Upon his return, Imam Al-Mahdi, shall fill this earth with justice and equality, after it has been filled with tyranny and oppression. However, the Imam orders his followers (Shi’a Muslims) to refer back to the narrators of Traditions (AHADEETH). Imam Al-Mahdi orders his followers to follow the scholars of his nation and seek their help in the issues of religion, and abide by their orders.
Imam Hasan Al-Askari, who is the father of Imam Al-Mahdi, in a long narration presents the characteristics of a scholar that Shi’a Muslims are supposed to follow and embrace. Imam Al-Askari states: “and whomever, from the jurists is maintainer of his soul, protective of his faith, opposing to his inclination, obedient to the orders of his master, therefore, it is for the ordinary people to follow him”. This narration by Imam Al-Askari, shows the necessity of the concept of following a scholars, which is called (TAQLEED) in Arabic.
However, Imam Al-Askari projected the possibility of rouge scholars exposing themselves as righteous individuals and asking random people to follow them. The Prophet of Islam, considers the notion of following a corrupt scholar, as being worse than a physical confrontation, since such an action would hurt physically, but following a corrupt scholar would result in annihilation and intellectual destruction. Therefore, Imam Al-Askari continues on with his tradition and gives the details about the characteristics of a righteous scholars, who is worthy of being followed and has the blessing of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household. Imam Al-Askari says: “and, that would not mean all Shi’a scholars, since the one who adopts the corrupts and undesired teachings of our enemies shall not be honored and followed. Therefore, do not accept anything from them, and they shall have no dignity. The large amount of admixture in our statements and teachings, would make some corrupt scholars to misuse, our words and distort the meanings of them, due to their lack of knowledge. Others, would lie and say what we have not said, so they can gain wealth or position from this world, which shall be their fuel in hell. Their lies and distortions, would expand and expand to an extent where Shi’a Muslims would consider their statements, as part of our legacy and traditions. These types of scholars are worse than the army of Yazid Ibn Muawiya, who killed Imam Hussein and his companions in Karbala”.
Therefore, the Imams of Shi’a Islam have clarified the path for their followers to determine their responsibility and tasks during the times of hardships and calamities. Following a scholar, would make life much easier for a Shi’a Muslim, since he/she does not have to spend years and learn the details and methods to understand the Quran. These righteous scholars and Ayatollahs spend decades in seminaries and religious schools, studying the knowledge of Quran and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household. Their studies would include subject and other fields like: Mathematics, science, biology, finance, philosophy, theology, politics and many other fields of knowledge that enable a scholar in comprehending the world in a more clear way.
However, history of Shi’a Islam after the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi is filled with examples of rogue and corrupt scholars, who led many people astray and away from the religion of Islam. Some scholars used this position as a mean of collecting wealth and prestige among the people, and others used it as a way to seek affiliation with the tyrants and oppressors. Nonetheless, the righteous and pious scholars of Shi’a Islam were always aware and cautious for these types of examples, and had a strict guideline, which they abided by. Therefore, every time they felt there was a need for a clear and public statement to expose a corrupt scholar, they did not hesitate to show their opinion and present the solutions for Shi’a Muslims.
The concept of Taqleed, is considered a logical and rational necessity, which is mandated by intellect and power of sense. Therefore, it cannot be considered as (Blindly following), since its purpose is to ease the responsibility of random people by seeking the help on an expert.