What’s up, al-Sistani? Holla At Me!

I thought that Sistani was supposed to be a super laid-back kind of guy, who returns e-mails personally by scanning a hand-written letter and then e-mailing that to the questioner, or something along those lines. Right?

Well, neither he nor anyone from his office has responded to this question yet:


Many people see Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s views on Democracy as an encouraging sign for Iraq. A friend of mine is under the impression that the Grand Ayatollah “believes that religion and politics should not mingle.” I, therefore, have a question about the Grand Ayatollah’s views regarding Islam and the law.

Would Ayatollah Sistani support Iraqi laws which supersede and may even contradict Islamic teachings, especially those teachings which give Muslims a higher social status than non-Muslims?

Thank you

Now, it may be that the Latin ‘Salvete’ (which translates to “Greetings”) threw him off, or it could be the fact that the email was coming from an address such as mine, i.e. Mr. President (konservo[at]hotmail[dot]com)

For whatever reason, I still have not received a response, but if he’s anything like the some of the guys in the clip below, it’s a safe assumption that his answer is ‘no.’

Muslim Scholars Debate Apostates in Islam


Click on Screen Cap. to See Clip

Here’s the transcript:

Following are excerpts from a debate on apostates in Islam, which aired on Al-Risala TV on November 5, 2007.

Sheik Tareq Al-Sweidan: We have a question for the viewers at home, not in the studio, and they can respond with a text message. What is the best way to deal with apostates who converted from Islam? You have three possible responses. The first is through dialogue only. The second option is killing them, and the third option is to leave it up to the legal system. Enter your votes, send in your answers, and the results will appear on the screen. As for the young people with us in the studio, you can participate in a survey on which we will base our discussion with our guests. You’ve heard one opinion, and my question is very simple: Does a Muslim have the liberty to change his religion or not? Does a Muslim have the liberty to change his religion?


Al-Sweidan: If a person converted out of conviction, should he be declared an infidel?

Abir: First, he should be allowed to repent. We should explain his error to him, and if he is adamant on rejecting this and insists on his interpretation, he should be allowed to repent and have the opportunity to…

Al-Sweidan: And afterwards, he should be pronounced an infidel?

Abir: I believe he should be.

Al-Sweidan: Thank you, Abir. Let’s move to Fatima. What’s your opinion?

Fatima: In my opinion, he should be declared an infidel. Why is there a problem with declaring people to be infidels?

Al-Sweidan: I’m not saying there is, I’m just asking a question.

Fatima: He should be declared an infidel. The Koran divided people into Muslims, infidels, and the People of the Book. So there is a group of people who should be declared infidels.


Gamal ‘Allam: With regard to matters of faith, the Sunni scholars have agreed that some acts lead to the excommunication of a person. If a person commits any of these acts, he is considered an infidel. The first case is denying something that is irrefutably part of Islam.


Gamal ‘Allam: Another case is when a person forbids something that is irrefutably permitted. If Allah permitted something, and along comes somebody and forbids it…

Al-Sweidan: For example, some Muslim countries forbid polygamy.

Gamal ‘Allam: Someone who forbids polygamy is an infidel, who should be excommunicated, because he is defying Allah in his right to forbid and permit.


Gamal ‘Allam: Whoever rules according to a law other than the law sent down by Allah, and who does so out of full awareness and conviction…


Gamal ‘Allam: If he believes that his law is equal to the law of Allah, he is comparing Allah to human beings, and thus, he is an infidel. If he believes his law to be better than the law of Allah, then he prefers the creature over its Creator, and thus, he is an infidel.


21 responses

  1. I was looking through his website to see if it said about how long it would take, and I came across this (Note: Ahlu’l-Kitab = People of the Book):

    Question: What is the fatwa about Ahlul Kitab? Are they clean or unclean?
    Answer: The Ahlul Kitab (that is, the Jews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians) are ritually pure (tahir) as long as you do not know that they have become ritually impure (najis) by coming into contact with an impure object. You can follow this ruling when dealing with them.

    December 7, 2007 at 12:11 am

  2. That’s all good for the People of the Book, but what if one is not religious, (such as myself). My question was more about how he thought the relations between church and state should be.

    December 7, 2007 at 12:16 am

  3. trajan75

    Ayatollahs are Ayatollahs!
    Great questions but he wouldn’t dare answer.
    Maybe he’d answer Umar!

    December 7, 2007 at 12:42 am

  4. Sistani is no mere Ayatollah. He is a Grand Ayatollah, and thus presumably receives an awful lot of mail. It’s also possible that it’s taking him some time to formulate an answer; this isn’t some easily answered question like “May I cheat on my exams?” He hasn’t been overly concerned about political correctness, so I doubt he’d shy away from such questions.

    December 7, 2007 at 1:31 am

  5. In fact, the one guy in the video who says that Muslims should have freedom to leave Islam brings up the fact that, if the religion is understood this way, countries will be more Just and tyrants will be deposed.

    December 7, 2007 at 2:49 am

  6. trajan75

    Valid point.
    Isn’t Sistani the Pope of the Shia religion?
    Does he have more theological power than Ayatollah Khamanei?

    December 7, 2007 at 12:08 pm

  7. While Shiism is more hierarchical than Sunnism, it’s still not that hierarchical. Sistani is the most respected, most influential Shiah cleric in Iraq. As to whether he’s senior to Khamenei, that’s kind of hard to say, at least off the top of my head. Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of Iran, and thus (I think) the Marja al-Something, but his actual theological credentials are rather thin. I don’t know which one is accepted as being more knowledgeable.

    December 7, 2007 at 12:59 pm

  8. What did you all think of the discussion on the Egyptian T.V., one of the guests had some really progressive views, too bad he was mocked by the other guest and the audience.

    December 7, 2007 at 2:30 pm

  9. Oops,

    It was Saudi Arabian T.V., that makes it all the more surprising.

    December 7, 2007 at 2:33 pm

  10. Okay, I figured it out.

    The Egyptian scholar is the cool one and he seems like he’s trying to bring Islam into the 21st century. The dude with the beard is a jerk, and the audience is just some dumb kids who agree with everything the jerk says.

    December 7, 2007 at 2:39 pm

  11. trajan75

    If there where more Muslim reformers that were open minded and changed Islam from a political religion and towards a personal faith, I’d have no problem.
    In fact I want it to happen.
    Religion is a personal matter.
    This is the 21st Century not the Dark Ages.

    Thans for clearing that up.
    It seems Sistani is more interested in Theology while Khamanei si more of a political figure.

    December 7, 2007 at 3:47 pm

  12. Dean CT

    Leave Islam alone. It’s gentle and sweet, like a teddy bear. Oh, wait…

    December 7, 2007 at 4:43 pm

  13. Dean CT

    I appreciate the avatar, P!

    Where does one find a good variety of those things, anyway?

    December 7, 2007 at 5:03 pm

  14. CT,

    I made mine with a photo editing program (Macromedia), you can upload any photo into your WordPress© account. Let me know if you need help.

    December 7, 2007 at 5:32 pm

  15. trajan75

    Hey PIp,
    Umar lives in NOVA now!

    December 7, 2007 at 7:37 pm

  16. Where does he say that? I just checked his site.

    December 7, 2007 at 8:27 pm

  17. trajan75

    ” Since the place I am renting is near the hospital he called me and asked if I could come over and keep him company because he knew he would be there a long time. ”

    He’s talking about a NOVA area hospital.

    December 7, 2007 at 8:31 pm

  18. NOVA?

    December 8, 2007 at 2:26 am

  19. vermontdave

    Northern Virginia, I believe.

    It was a few years ago that I sent that e-mail. The response came back after a few days, or even a week, as an image of hand-writing on note book paper.

    I wonder if you haven’t received an answer because you asked a question. All I did was send a sort of thank you note encouraging his help in controlling the violence.

    December 9, 2007 at 7:55 pm

  20. NOVA?

    Oops, sorry, Sergei. I didn’t realize this thread was still alive.

    Yes, NoVa is ‘Northern Virginia’

    I wonder if you haven’t received an answer because you asked a question. All I did was send a sort of thank you note encouraging his help in controlling the violence.

    Was the note from him, or someone from his office? Because I did ask a question about his personal beliefs.

    He might have even posted a response on his homepage.

    December 9, 2007 at 8:08 pm

  21. vermontdave

    I would assume that the note was from his office, not from him personally.

    I should have saved the reply, but it seems to be gone.

    December 9, 2007 at 8:45 pm

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