We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Wakālah al-Khāṣṣah, al- - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
:
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result

Wakālah al-Khāṣṣah, al-

By:
Moojan Momen
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Wakālah al-Khāṣṣah, al-

In Ithnā ʿAsharī Shiism, the designation of four successive persons to act as deputies of the Hidden Twelfth Imam is al-wakālah al-khāṣṣah (special vicegerency or agency). Although this authority lapsed in 941 CE, it contains millennialist potential, and certain overtones of it play a part even in orthodox modern Shiism. When the Twelfth Imam of the Ithnā ʿAsharī Shīʿīs went into occultation (ghaybah) in 873–874 CE, there followed a period called the lesser occultation in which four successive persons claimed to be the deputies of the Hidden Imam. These four were each called bāb (gate) or naʿib (deputy) and were said to hold al-wakālah al-khāṣṣah. Then in 941 the last bāb declared that there would be no more specific representatives until the Hidden Imam returned, and thus Shīʿīs entered the greater occultation. The Shīʿī ʿulamāʿ (community of religious scholars) over the next few centuries, however, developed the concept of a general vicegerency delegated to them by the imams, known as al-wakālah al-ʿāmmah.

Since 941, no one within orthodox Ithnā ʿAsharī Shiism has been able overtly to claim the special vicegerency, but there have been a number of movements and trends that have echoes of this concept. The nineteenth-century Shaykhī movement held the concept of a spiritual hierarchy at the head of which was al-Shīʿī al-Kāmil (the perfect Shīʿī), who must exist in every age. Although the Shaykhī leaders did not specifically link this Perfect Shīʿī to the concept of al-wakālah al-khāṣṣah or claim to be this figure, at least some of their followers appear to have made both of these connections; thus we find the first two Shaykhī leaders referred to as bābs.

The only figure to make an overt claim to be the specific vicegerent of the Hidden Imam was Sayyid ʿAlī Muḥammad the Bāb, the founder of Bābism in nineteenth-century Iran. In the opening chapter of his first prophetic book, the Qayyūm al-asmāʿ, there is a sentence that amounts to a claim to al-wakālah al-khāṣṣah. Both Sunnī and Shīʿī ʿulamāʿ saw, however, that the text of even this first book presaged much higher claims, which were to become explicit some four years later when the Bāb claimed to be the Hidden Imam. See BāBISM and BāB.

Shortly after the start of the Shaykhī movement, a movement began within orthodox Ithnā ʿAsharī Shiism toward a focal leader, the concept of the sole marjaʿ al-taqlīd. This reached a peak with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who, during the height of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, was referred to as Nāʿib al-Imām (deputy of the Imam) and was undoubtedly seen in the popular imagination as the representative of the Hidden Imam.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran confines what had been the collective responsibility of the ʿulamāʿ in the general vicegerency to one person, al-faqīh (the jurist), that is, Khomeini (although it does allow for a council of jurists in place of the single jurist). Thus by concentrating the function of the general vicegerency in one man, Khomeini became de facto if not de jure the specific vicegerent of the Hidden Imam.

See also GHAYBAH; IMAM; MARJAʿ AL-TAQLīD; SHAYKHīYAH; and WAKāLAH AL-ʿĀMMAH, AL-.

Bibliography

  • Amanat, Abbas. Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Bābī Movement in Iran, 1844–1850. Ithaca, N.Y., 1989. See pages 149–151, 171–173, and 199–200 for a discussion of the Bāb's claims.
  • Hussain, Jassim. The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam. London, 1982. Gives the history of the original four bābs.
  • Lambton, Ann K. S.“A Reconsideration of the Position of Marjaʿ attaqlīd and the Religious Institution.”Studia Islamica5 (1964): 115–135. A discussion of the Baḥs¯ī dar bārah-ʿi marjaʿīyat va rūḥānīyat (Tehran, 1963), a work of discussions among the ʿulamāʿ concerning the concentration of leadership in one person, the sole marjaʿ al-taqlīd.
  • Momen, Moojan. Introduction to Shīʿī Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiism. New Haven, Conn., 1984. See pages 161–165, 289.
  • Momen, Moojan. “The Trial of Mullā ʿAlī Basṭāmī: A Combined Sunnī-Shīʿī fatwā against the Bāb.”Iran20 (1982): 113–143. Discusses the Bāb's claims.
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2019. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice