IMAM KHOMEINI’S “ISLAMIC GOVERNMENT: GOVERNANCE OF THE JURIST” AND “JIHAD AL-AKBAR”
Part III: The ‘Ulama
The critical role of the ‘ulama
The ‘ulama have a pivotal role in the safeguarding and propagation of Islam and in the commentary on its laws, as well as on the traditions. Their role is so significant that if due to their actions, as well as inactions, one person strays from Islam, they have committed one of the greatest sins: “If due to your actions, deeds and unfair behavior, one person loses his way and leaves Islam, you would be guilty of the greatest of the major sins, and it would be difficult for your repentance to be accepted.”1 The scholars provide guidance to the believers in general, and also to the seminary students; their conduct and words are perceived as the public face of their Islamic society.
When the ‘alim is corrupt, the whole community within which he operates, will become corrupted. If the scholar occupies a pivotal role in his Islamic society as a whole and puts forward deviated opinions, “it will result in nothing but harm to Islam and the Muslims.” 1 Indeed, “nations will be perverted by him.” 1
The aspects of their responsibility
The scholars have to teach and propagate Islam: “Make Islam known to the people.” 1 Of great importance is the education of the youth, especially as these are the people who are closest to having a pure, clear heart. “If you present Islam and Islamic government to the universities accurately, the students will welcome it and accept it…no student could be opposed to Islam, whose form of government and teachings are beneficial to society.” 1 So the ‘ulama must play a very active role in universities and seminaries.
Just as it is incumbent upon each believer to assist their brothers and sisters in the development of their faith, so the scholars must perform this duty: “If the duty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil is properly performed, all other duties will automatically fall into place.” 1 Of course, when a scholar undertakes this duty, he has a far greater outreach than an individual believer who is advising his brothers and sisters in faith, or family.
The obvious duty of the ‘ulama is to provide the scholarship on Islamic traditions and hadiths, and to be the body of people that provides guidance on all matters of Islamic jurisprudence and teachings. This is a vast undertaking, as “there is not a single topic in human life for which Islam has not provided instructions and established a norm.” 2 Not only is Islam an immense collection of laws and norms, “Islamic law is a progressive, evolving, and comprehensive system.” 2 This demands of the ‘ulama the highest level of scholarship, so that the teachings and commentary they provide is capable of communicating to the believers the best possible advisement.
“Anyone who wishes to disseminate the practices of the Most Noble Messenger (s) must know all the ordinances of God; he must be able to distinguish the authentic from the false, those of absolute from those of limited application, and the general from the specific.” 2
The ‘ulama are central in the combat against imperialism
Khomeini explains that the ‘ulama have been handed a very heavy responsibility: “You ‘ulama! You scholars! You Muslims! You will be responsible.” 2 The scholars play such a vital role in educating, propagating, teaching and commentating, that if they fail in this duty, this would have grave consequences for believers, society, (Islamic) nations, even the future of Islam.
He also considers the role of the ‘ulama in fighting against oppression, injustice and imperialism as crucial, “if the religious scholars of Islamic society are silent…in the face of the policies of the oppressors, they too are reproached and condemned by God.” 1 This means that the scholars must actively speak out against the rulers of oppressive regimes as well: “the political ruling of Islam…makes Muslims refrain from having recourse to illegitimate powers and their appointed judges, so that non-Islamic and oppressive regimes may fall.” 1
The scholars cannot try to separate Islam from politics, and if they do so, they are actually putting forward an opinion that has been devised by the imperialists: “this slogan of the separation of religion from politics and the demand that Islamic scholars should not intervene in social and political affairs has been formulated and propagated by the imperialists.” 2