Is Waziri searching for the right label to tag Iranian political system or just on another a self appointed mission at deconstructing the theoretical basis of the system? This question actually made me reluctant to respond to the article despite being invited by the ‘God Worshipping Marxist’ whom some refer to as ‘Closet Marxist’ to stake a perspective. Secondly I am not an Iranian and therefore not morally bound to come to the defense of the political system there, but I feel morally bound to associate myself with the reality and aspirations of all those who uphold allegiance to the great prophet and his holy progeny (as). In my view Iran perfectly falls within this category.
Let me therefore begin by correcting an impression created by Waziri that the Muslims began facing challenges of having a leader saddled with both secular political and religious power just 40 years after the demise of the holy prophet (saw). No, this challenge began immediately after the death of the prophet and before he was even buried. The Muslims, not satisfied with the holy prophet’s choice of a leader for them, rejected his clear directives and opted to secularize the political system. Saqifa was a culmination and consolidation of the denial of the prophet (saw) and it happened even before the great prophet (saw) was buried. Saqifa was a mistake according to the second caliph but Allah saved the Umma from it’s negative consequences.
Unlike the Iranian Jurist consult’s ‘ arbitrarily appointed Guardian Council’ who, according to Waziri, couldn’t have appointed another successor in waiting as a result of the fallout of the Supreme Leader with Ayatollah Montezeri, the great prophet (saw) had actually categorically, clearly and publically announced his successor. The Muslim chose not accept his choice. They rejected it and some even went to the extent of actually accusing the prophet of open nepotism .What followed afterwards is reminiscent of the great tragedies that befell the Jews as they wander confused in the wilderness. This ‘rejection’ persisted to date and finds a fresh lease of life from intellectuals like Ibrahim Waziri.
We have read in the Sahis the second Caliph explaining to Ibn Abbas that the Arabs didn’t want to see both the prophet and the caliph coming from the same family. This is a tacit acceptance that the prophet did designated his successor only that the Arabs didn’t want it that way, unlike Waziri’s stubborn belligerence to the contrary. This also is clearly a justification for secularism as the rope linking heaven with earth is severed through some primitive Arab opinion poll that was never taken in reality. Eventually verdicts of some Caliphs came to be accepted as superior to the prophet’s and Qur’anic verdicts. Any discourse on Islamic Political system therefore ought to have started from the very beginning to the end; from the prophets to the hidden al-Mahdi whom obviously Waziri’s critical mind couldn’t accept existed and not somewhere in between.
Let’s not waste time on the so called National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) probably an arm of Rajavi’s terrorist MKO, and their series of Western engineered and funded protests that are so weak to shake the deep rooted political system of Iran. We’ll measure the popularity of the NCRI’ against the burial procession of martyr General Qassem Suleiman, a symbol of the revolution in every sense of the word. A procession the world is yet to witness its kind in all history. Currently we are in a period called ‘the 10 days of dawn’, the days that heralded the victory of the Islamic revolution on the 11th of February 1979. We task Waziri to measure the popularity of NCRI and even Ayat Montezeri against the upcoming marches in support of the revolution and the political system of Iran. However, this is not to deny that the fugitive Samad F Pakzad can uproot the system he described as ‘criminal’ and entrench a liberal, secular democratic order in Iran while in exile. Of course it’s possible, after all Ayatollah Khomeini himself deposed the Shah while in exile….no be so?
Now, if I should be given a lift and take a ride on Waziri’s bandwagon in search of the right appellation for the Islamic republic, whether its theocratic, democratic or theocratic democracy I would take the liberty of telling the co travelers that it really doesn’t matter what you call it so long as it remains a revolution and independent, serving the interest of Iran and Iranians and unyielding to colonialists demands and dominance of arrogant hegemonic powers. Democracy even where defined as the ultimate aspiration and expression of the Will of the people can only be a means to attain an end not the end in itself. The end is largely an abstraction of good defined in justice and truth and independent of our theorizations. For the faithful Muslims there has always been the belief that the ultimate good is tied to the divine which had manifested it’s will through the agency of the prophets. Iran as a nation tries to hold on to that rope the prophet (saw) commanded all Muslims to hold on to,which unfortunately was rejected by the larger Muslim Umma. Call it whatever you may, it serves the Iranians well. It gives them a sense of purpose beyond the mundane, a pride of place and dignity among nations and an enviable independence not found anywhere in the world.
The Wilayatul Faqih system operating in Iran isn’t autocratic and dictatorial as Waziri is trying hard to paint it. For instance, while it’s the constitutional power of the Jurist-Consult to appoint some members of the Guardian Council (the jurists) it’s also a fact that the council is not entirely appointed by the Jurist-Consult alone, as Waziri puts it,‘ single handedly’. That’s what he didn’t tell us for whatever reason. The Guardian Council actually consists of 12 members; six Jurists to be appointed by the Jurist-Consult or his leadership Council and six lawyers to be nominated by the High Council of the Judiciary. This is what Article 91 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran says:
“With a view to ensuring that the decisions of the Assembly do not ignore Islamic precepts and the principles of the Constitution, a Guardian Council of the Constitution is to be set up consisting of:
I. Six qualified Jurisprudents who are well versed in Islamic jurisprudence and who are aware of the virtues and needs of the time. The appointment of such persons is the responsibility of the Leader or of the Leadership Council
II. Six lawyers who are qualified in various branches of law from among Muslim jurists, who are introduced to the Assembly by the High Council of the Judiciary and whose nomination must be approved by the Assembly.
It is thus clear that the allegation of, or rather, understanding of Waziri that ‘the Jurist consult has his successor selected by the Guardian Council he independently selected’ isn’t entirely right or true.
One would have to admit that the Iranian Guardian Council is much superior and even more democratic than some Shura we have witnessed in the course of Muslim history. The constitutional provision might have allayed the fears of Waziri that the true test of the Islamic system’s resilience is in “its ability to provide a foolproof successions order that is objective, logical and satisfactory “. What ever that means, Waziri needs to define objective, logical and satisfactory. But its clear the system is all inclusive and participatory. The checks and balances of the Iranian system are such that even the supreme leader is being assessed by an elected body (the assembly of experts) and can be removed. The allegations therefore that “ the supreme will of the people is being compromised” and that elected politicians are just officers of the Jurist consult are all balderdash and laughable.
I wouldn’t delve much on Ayatollah Khomeini’s fallout with Ayatollah Montezeri, but its true there was a major difference of thought on the trajectory of the revolution that climaxed when Montezeri made unpleasant remarks about Iranian youths paying supreme price in the course of the 8 year imposed war with Iraq, questioning the right of theSupreme leader to send Iranians to war against clear invasion of the country and maintaining that only Mahdi has such powers.. That clearly crossed the red line…in some advanced democratic climes that’s simply treason.It however brings to surface the intractable problem of reconciling politics with religion which Waziri’s hasn’t yet provided a better alternative than what obtains in Iran.
The better alternative he seemed to have suggested is to revert
to that ‘ consensus
achieved between Sunni and Shia communities’ of separation of political secular leadership with religious scholarly positions. When ever that consensus was reached? Never heard of it. But it all tailored in the narrative of a democratic secular order despite Waziri’s acceptance that we haven’t yet reached that Francis Fukuyama’s dreamland and end of history with the western liberal democracy.
On the search for a label to tag Iranian system, I would also agree with the appellation ‘Theocratic democracy’ coined, according to Waziri’s,by Richard Bulliet. This without of course subscribing to such definitions of democracy that encroach on the precinct of the sacred and divine or denying it. Here Waziri’s paper could have been enriched unearthing the Dialogue Amongst Civilizations writings of the former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami. It is on record that Khatami posited that the Iranian nation aspires to attain a level freedom similar to that of West without necessarily compromising their values.
The constant assault of Waziri against the Shi’ite belief in Mahdi and particularly the occultation deserves a few words of response here:
First, the denial in itself is a silly servile owning up to western secular thoughts that not only deals with the here and now, the temporal and mundane but tend to deny the sacred and transcendent . It’s a shameful continuation of that culture of ‘thumbs down’ to the prophet’s own will (and indeed divine will) on leadership of the Umma that began during his lifetime and right after his. The denial of Mahdi tantamounts to positing a hopeless and helpless destiny for the Umma in its identity and political expression. It’s a veritable attempt to drive the nail in the coffin of the efforts of the prophet for the establishment of a just political,social and moral order that guarantees safety, security and happiness and prosperity to humanity at large.
The attempt to ridicule the belief in a hidden saviour is as much an attempt to ridicule the entire religion of Islam in its postulations of similar import like the resurrection of Ashabul Kahfi, the Mi’iraj of the Prophet (saw), return of Jesus the Christ, the resurrection of a follower of Ezra and his donkey after a hundred years and a lot of other seemingly reality contradictory episodes mentioned in our scriptures. If Waziri could whole heartedly accept all these why not that Mahdi was born a million years ago and is now in occultation? Sincerely speaking, assault on Mahdism shouldn’t be heard from Muslims because it borders on denial of religion in its entirety. But we are critics, ain’t we?