On Issuing Fatwas (Rules)
The master's exacting standards in research and study and his rigorous approach, specially to the area of science of the tradition, have not led him to apply similarly a rigorous and strict method in issuing Fatwas, because in comprehension of the Koranic verses and traditions and the foundations of deduction, he pays special attention to the principle of facility and always holds to the advice given to sheikh Ansari by the author of the Jawahir who said, “Decrease your cautions, for the creed of Islam is the easy and convenient creed.”
Not only does Ayatollah Saanei bring up various canonical issues for general discussion by large groups of seminary students and researchers who assemble in his house every day, he also tries to benefit from their exchange of opinions and cooperation by forming a group for the formulation of Fatwas.
A number of books by His Eminence have so far been published. They include the common book of Religious Laws (Towdhih-ul-Massael), Hajj Rites, Majma-ul-Masael (two volumes), Selected Rulings, Fatwas on Medical Issues, Misbah-ul-Moqaledin, the Rules of Hajj for Ladies, the Book of Qissass, the Book of Divorce, the Rules of the Lesser Pilgrimage (Omra Mufrada), and Religious Rules for Ladies.
He has also published his annotations to the Tahrir-ul-Wassilah and Orwat-ul-Wothqa in Arabic.
His other works include notes of Imam Khomeini’s Kharij course, pamphlet on the rule of relief and transgression, pamphlet on Taqiya, pamphlet on the principle of non-malice in canonical rules.
Another part of Ayatollah-ul-Uzma Saanei’s time is allocated to replying to requests for Fatwas and so far, several thousands of such requests have been handled and returned.
What is striking in his book Majma-ul-Massael is that his method of replying is similar to that of the great Marja' and jurisprudent, the late Mirza-ye-Qomi.
In some instances, apart from stating the Fatwa in question, the evidence and supportive documents are also mentioned which can be an invaluable source of learning for seminary researchers and the students of the canon.
Despite the fact that Ayatollah Saanei always makes a point of respecting the ruling by prominent canonists and the views of the disciples, specially the well-known opinions, and while he always calls on all seminaries, and his own students in particular, to show proper respect to the canonists of the disciples and refers to them with the greatest sign of respect and praise for their ideas, his open-mindedness in canonical matters and the special attention he pays to basing his interpretations on reliable references and solid decisive evidence have led him to issue a large number of innovative and novel Fatwas and opinions for his practicing followers.
These Fatwas which are invariably upheld within the framework of the principles and standards of the canon have, in many instances, solved the practical problems faced by his followers in the area of private and social action.
For those who are well acquainted with the principles and proofs, referring to the detailed discussion and the documented evidence underlying these Fatwas can prove a great asset in gaining a better and more precise insight in the interpretation of the evidence and in responding to the canonical needs of society.
The following are samples of his fatwas:
1- On Vilayat-ul-Faqih (Supreme Religious Jurisprudence): Any comprehensively qualified Mujtahid is competent to assume the position of Vilayat and as regards the people, and in serving the public interest in cases for which Islam has not decreed a specific ruling, the legitimacy for action derives solely from the people and the view of the majority and mass of the people, where legitimacy depends on the endorsement by the public as a whole or a majority thereof and the duty to apply them rests directly or indirectly with the Valy-ul-Faqih (Supreme Religious Jurisprudent).
2- On the age of puberty for girls, His Eminence states his preference for the evidence by Ammar Sabati who has specified the age of thirteen lunar years as a condition of religious puberty, and says, “In case other signs of puberty explained by textual support and Fatwas are not realized, they (girls) reach religious maturity at this age.
3- On women’s sitting in judgment, he has commented: The condition of masculinity has no particular bearing upon judgment and there is no religious reason to support this either, and whoever is vested with authority to appoint judges may appoint them (women) to sit as judges especially in cases relating to women and family rights.
4- On the question of custody of the underage child and its property in the absence of the father, His Eminence’s opinion is that the mother is the inalienable guardian and the beneficiary of the proofs of benevolence and piety and interests and munificence, and custody of the underage is none but benevolence and munificence; and on the strength of the sacred verse “In custody over the kin some are preferred over some others”, the mother takes precedence over the grandfather, and in the absence of the mother, the grandfather has custody of the child.
5- As regards the difference in the Diya (blood money) for women and men, he has concluded, “Diya for infliction by mistake or quasi-deliberate infliction is the same for men and women and this ruling is based upon the application of the supportive argument for diya.”
6- On the question of the curtailed rituals for the oft-traveler, his ruling is, “Persons who travel a distance of four furlongs (farsangs) within a period of ten days (be it on business or otherwise) and do not abide in one place for more than ten days, are oft-travelers and if individuals travel on pilgrimage, too, their prayers are said in full and their fasting is unbroken.”
7- About the question of music, His Eminence holds that the prohibition of music and lyrics is based on the content and thus, any voice, lyric or music which does not promote laxity and immorality and does not misguide human beings or blemish the visage of Islam, is not forbidden.
8- On the question of the infidels, he pronounces, “Most apparently, their purity is like the purity of Muslims. Yet, the antagonists among them who fight Muslims because of their adherence to Islam or their belief in Islam (and not for any other reason) are deemed adversaries in religion who, like a few of the infidels, having gained certainty of the validity of Islam continue to deny it, are bound to be unclean.
9- On Riba (usury), he has ruled, “The forbidding decree on usury as it appears in the Koranic verses and traditions which have been referred to, concerns interest payable on depreciation and not interest resulting from gainful employment of the principal.
10- On Qissass: Grand Ayatollah Saanei believes in the generality in the all round application of Qissass for the murder of any individual whose life is protected under the Islamic rule, irrespective of the murderer or the victim being Muslim or non-Muslim.
Qissass is life giving in the eye of those who can think: “And for you, there is life in Qissass, you, possessors of reason” (the Cow, 179). And this ruling is based on the absoluteness and generality of the traditions and Koranic verses related to retaliation (Qissass) and certain traditions on the issue, which provide the necessary conclusive legal proofs.
11- As regards the status of Vilayat and sovereignty and position of the Marja' and other prerogatives of the Faqih, he does not uphold the condition of masculinity and rules that the criteria is competence in the canon and piety.
He concludes that just as the Islamic law does not allow any discrimination on the basis of race, nor does it condone discrimination on the grounds of sex and ethnicity.
His Eminence also holds other views which are representative of his opposition to discrimination and the details of this discussion are presented in his different practical treatises, especially the “Selected rulings.”