By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by: Ghasan Rimalwi
The institution of the Shiite religious authority enjoys certain points of strength and suffers from certain points of weakness. Concerning the points of strength, the institution has proven throughout history to be consistent in the primary issues in the face of any opposite pressuring elements. We have never heard of an authority that has ever bent down before a tyrant or changed a Fatwa just because a tyrant demanded so or issued a Fatwa for the personal interest of a tyrant or an unjust regime; thus, drifting away from the jurisprudential bases adopted by religious authorities. When we go through the history of these religious authorities, we find out that the levels of jurisprudential, political, and social piety were at their highest positions; thus, it would be counted as a major advantage in favor of this institution, throughout the history we have lived before and are still experiencing till now.
Moreover, another major point is that religious authorities were well-versed in science and many fields of knowledge. Have you ever noticed that a certain religious authority was not up to the scientific level required from religious authorities? This is a critical point for we have noticed that when a certain authority passes away, many names might come to the front; however, the most capable religious authority; the one who is competent at the scientific level and is pious enough, is the one who eventually takes the lead.
As for the points of weakness, the authority is still restricted to a person rather than to an institution, at a time the situations of the authority in the Shiite Islamic world have evolved to an extent that the political issues have become the responsibility of the religious authority. Moreover, the religious authority is required to shoulder the responsibility of the big challenges facing the Islamic reality and the like; at a time he is incapable, by his personal potentials or aids, to face all that.
Moreover, there is a certain alienation from the Islamic and international reality, which would have negative or positive effects on the Islamic reality, rendering the authority isolated from the developments taking place in the world and from living up to the ongoing changes. Meanwhile, we notice that other religious authorities, namely Christians, are always present even in issues that are not related to Christianity; thus, they are present at the level of all the political, cultural, and religious awareness in the world.
Actually, this is one of the weakest points that rendered the Islamic reality at a certain position and the institution of the Islamic authority at an entirely different position. Had it not been for the jurisprudential line that makes people in need for the jurist's opinion, or the financial line that is related to the jurisprudential line through the legitimate rights, there would not have been any relation between this institution and the people.
* An excerpt from the book: "The New Features of the Shiite Religious Authorities".