Dear Sayyid, what are the qualities that a marjaÝ must possess in the modern age? And what qualifications does he need?
Prophethood and imamate: Role and responsibilities
Sayyid KamÁl al-ÍaydarÐ (KH): First of all, I would like to thank the staff of this journal. I ask Allah to grant you success through His assistance that you may continue your work in producing studies such as these.
In my opinion, to give a clear picture of the desired qualifications for a marjaÝ who wishes to look after the affairs of the followers of the school of Ahl al-Bayt during the Occultation (ghaybah), we must first look at the responsibilities which rest upon the shoulders of the Imam (as) during the Appearance. This is because, according to the school of Ahl al-Bayt, we believe, during the Occultation, the marjaÝ undertakes the role set up for him by the Imams (a3) during the Appearance. When we refer to the history of Islam and to the roles played by the Prophet (saaw) – and thusly the roles played by the the Imams as well – we find that the Prophet [p] was responsible for a number of functions.
The first function the Prophet [p] performed was one restricted to him, namely receiving revelation from Allah. The door of revelation was closed forever when He passed away; this door was closed for no other reason than the fact that our prophet was the seal of the prophets and messengers.
IJ: You mean that Gabriel was cut-off from Mankind?
KH: Yes, whatever was related to divine revelation was cut-off, but as for those issues connected to speaking with the angels (tahdÐth), this is a different discussion altogether.
This was the duty that he used to perform and a duty that only he could perform, which terminated with his passing away.
But there are other functions fulfilled by the Prophet [p], including explaining the religion and making it clear to people, in accordance with the verse: ‘…that you may clarify for the people that which has been sent down to them…’ – Therefore the role of the Messenger is not confined to merely making clear the revelation, no. He must also explain it and interpret it.
Another function fulfilled by the Prophet [p] was establishing this religion in people’s lives. This is connected to politics and leadership, meaning that the Prophet did not just explain the revelation and interpret the religion, he also set out to establish a state with a religious basis in Medina. This is something that did not take place in Mecca, but only after his emigration to Medina.
This is a selection of his responsibilities.
Now, when I say ‘state’ (dawlah), I mean a state from all of its dimensions, whether warfare, social relations, judging between people. These are the dimensions which every state must possess in a manner appropriate to its time. The Prophet (saaw) saw to all of these.
Afterwards, during the time of the Imams (a3) after the Prophet (saaw), we believe that they – beginning with Imam ÝAlÐ (as) to the Eleventh Imam, because the Twelfth Imam is in Occultation – these eleven Imams from the Prophet’s Household did not fulfil the first function, because there was no more revelation, but they were responsible for the second and third roles.
This means that their first responsibility is to explain the religion and their second responsibility is to establish it in people’s lives.
But only rarely were the conditions favourable for this second responsibility, as was the case in the time of Imam ÝAlÐ (as) for a few years and the time of Imam al-Íasan (as) for a few months. As for all other times besides these two, conditions were not right for them to establish a state on the basis of Islam as their forefather, the Prophet (saaw), did. We do not wish to discuss this political aspect much, so let us focus on the matter of explaining the religion and interpreting it, and giving a complete view of all the religious sciences. The Imams (a3) fulfilled this duty in the best possible way.
As for the era of the Twelfth Imam, you know that this Imam also undertook responsibility for the affairs of the ShÐÝah during the Lesser Occultation. However, during the Greater Occultation, the ShÐÝah have no access to their Twelfth Imam.