Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Request for help to my Shia readers

Dear friends,

I am a little confused about one topic and I would appreciate some guidance here.  All of you are welcome to help me out, but I am particularly addressing this one to my Shia friends and readers.

Here is what I think I know (correct me if I am wrong):

Any Shia Muslim has to choose a spiritual guide and, if I remember correctly, he is referred to as a Mujtahid and his interpretations of Islamic Law is referred to as Ijtihad.  While this guide is freely chosen, once that choice is made the pious Shia then follows his spiritual guidance for the rest of his or her life.  I am not sure if this concept of spiritual guide is linked to the concept of Welayat-e Faqih or not - so any clarification here would be most welcome.

It is also my understanding that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah chose to place themselves under the guidance of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rather than than Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah and that the Western press was quite wrong when it spoke of the latter as the "spiritual leader of Hezbollah".  As far as I understand, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was the spiritual leader of the rest of the Shia in Lebanon, including the political party Amal.  Is all this correct?  If not, please correct my misunderstandings or simplifications.

My question is this: now that Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah has died, what happens to the Shias who followed his spiritual guidance?  Did he leave somebody for them to follow, or do they start at 'step1' and chose anybody they wish?

Also - is the authority needed to become a Mujtahid  linked to a specific clerical rank (Grand Ayatollah, Ayatollah, Hojatoleslam)?

Lastly, what is the difference between a Mujtahid and a Marja-i-taqlid?

I would appreciate any pointers about these topics.  If you could also point me to some good articles disussion and explaining these issues to a non-Muslim like myself I would be most grateful.

Many thanks in advance,

The Saker