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Stands >2004 Stands >The Stand of RabihII 20, 1425H / June 8, 2004 A.D.

The involvement of clerics in political action.

Sayyed Fadlullah: Religious men have the right and the duty to engage in politics, but their views and stands could be challenged, especially by those who argue in an objective and academic way.

Asked in his weekly seminar the following question: What is the Islamic position from the participation of the religious men (clerics) in politics?

The Religious Authority Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah said:

Such a question requires a multi-phased approach

Firstly: Participating in politics is a natural right for religious men, for two reasons.

A: Politics, as we deduce from our study of the Holy Quran, is part of the movement of religions to achieve its goals. Allah says in His Glorious Book: “Certainly We sent Our messengers with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the balance that men may conduct themselves with equity” (57:25). And this (conducting with equity) cannot be achieved without politics.

B: The religious man is but a man like any other one in the society. Hence, he has the right to be interested in things that are of concern to the society, including politics. To deprive the religious man of this right is a kind of discrimination against him. In this respect, this idea might be one of the corollaries of secularism, which separated religion from the reality, despite the fact that several religious men, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have played a positive role in the development of their societies.

Secondly: The political stance that might be taken by the cleric is not, by necessity, the right one, just as his conception of the religion, might not be the right one too. His thought is but a product of his political and religious culture or education, and as such it represents his personal understanding of what is right, which means that others have the right to discuss his opinions and differ with them, provided that they adhere to the objective academic principles.

It follows that clerics do not have the right to exploit their religious positions to persecute people in their thoughts or relevant actions.

Thirdly: When a religious man participates in politics, it should be based on religious values, and not on the basis of what is prevalent in the political domain that holds that politics is the art of the possible. Nevertheless, the realism of Islamic values allows a certain kind of flexibility that does not contradict with the strategic issues, and this is what the Muslim jurists and scholars had institutionalized when they talked about the "competition" between what is important and what is more important, and when they described the relations between the primary priorities (titles) and the secondary ones.

Nevertheless, making such judgments requires both a high level of religious knowledge in its various fields, and an ability to diagnose the political reality on the ground in an accurate manner, so as to ensure that the existing pressures will not divert one’s position out of their virtuous Islamic goals.

Fourthly: If the cleric is to engage in political activity, he has to avoid doing so in a marginal way. On the contrary, he has to follow up all what goes on in the world, which has become a global village with interacting relations and problems. He should also attain a political knowledge that would qualify him to make informed judgments. Furthermore, He ought to rely on the help of the experts in the various fields, as well as consultation.

Fifthly: As for the religious authority that represents a position of leadership, we believe that the religious authority should not be engaged or consumed, in details. He has to concentrate on the needs of the Islamic nation, seeking to address its present problems and future aspirations.

If the religious authority represents an extension to the line of the Message, those who led this line in the past used to open up on all the issues and not limited concerns. The needs of Muslims have grown different nowadays that they no longer conform with the traditional manner the religious authority used to conduct itself with, making it necessary for the religious authority to address the major issues of Muslim nation on the basis of the religious values they both believe in.

Religions leaders, especially the religious authorities, have to articulate the Islamic position towards the major issues of the entire nation, such as opposing occupation, unveiling arrogant plots that are executed under the pretense of fighting terrorism, denouncing the explosions that kill innocent people in mosques and other places, emphasizing the difference between terror and resistance and rejecting the western concept of religious fundamentalism that considers violence as the basis of change. All this aims at establishing the Islamic thought as the foundation of political action and enriching the Islamic culture in theory and practice in the collective conscience of the nation.