Afghan Biographies

Ayatollah Fayaz

Name Ayatollah Fayaz
Ethnic backgr. Hazara
Date of birth 1930
Function/Grade Afghan religious Shia leader
History and Biodata

3. Biodata:
Ayatollah Fayaz Hazrat Ayatullah al-Azami Shaikh Mohammad Ishaq Fayaz was born in 1930 in in Suba, a village in Jaghori district of Ghazni province, to a farmer’s family. He went to the madrassa in his village and at the age of 17, when his mother died, he left for Mashhad in Iran. Mashhad is a centre of Shiite worship as the grave of Shia’s 8th Imam, Reza Sadiq, is located here. Fayaz started his religious studies in Mashhad, but after one year he went to Najaf in Iraq, one of the seven holy sites of the Shia faith. Here, one of the most well-known Shia madrassas of the world is located, the Hawza Elmiya-ye Najaf. Fayaz joined the madrassa classes of well-known Ayatollah Sayed Abu al-Qassem al-Khoi’i (1899–1992) who taught fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Fayaz soon became one of his best students, and in 1962 al-Khoi’i allowed him to publish his first book, “al-Muhazerat” (The Lectures), a transcript of al-Khoi’i’s lessons on the principles of jurisprudence. In the preface to the book, Ayatollah Khoi’i praised Fayez the “apple of my eye.” Later, Fayaz himself started teaching jurisprudence in the madrassas of Najaf.

Eventually, in 1992, he was asked to join into the shura-je marje, the Shia world community’s highest ruling council, consisting of four Islamic jurists. The term marja hails from the term used for religious authority in the Shia faith (it literally means  “reference”). There are the highest of marjas, and ‘lower’ marjas, usually regionally important religious leaders. The highest marjaas head of the Najaf council is considered to be “the most influential jurist in the Shiite world” – is currently Ayatollah Ali Sistani, an Iranian.

Nevertheless: when Fayaz’ book on women’s positions in Islamic society was launched in Kabul in November 2011 – the first public introduction of the ayatollah’s works in Afghanistan – Second Vice President Danish (then acting minister of higher education) introduced him as the “the best of all marjas currently out there” – something than can well be understood as a challenge to not just the current Afghan religious leadership,but maybe even to the Iranian politico-religious leadership.

Fayaz is attractive to a large group of Afghan Shia for three different reasons.
First, he is liked by those who believe that the clergy should stay out of political positions and, particularly, stay away from political parties in a state that is not an Islamic state. In his book The Islamic State, Fayaz declares that there is no strong evidence in the words of the prophet (hadith) or his successors (the imams) that approve welayat-e faqih. He does think, though, that a country should be an Islamic state and it should be ruled by the most just, honest and educated Islamic jurist – but not because the prophet or the imams said so, simply because this person would be the most skilled for the job. This is different from the Iranian system where religious leadership is considered as God-given. Fayaz’ view leaves room for interpretation and for competition among potential leaders of the state.

A second reason for Afghan Shia liking Ayatollah Fayaz is that he, in contrast to his rivals for religious leadership in Afghanistan, has not been involved in the violence of the civil war or with any of the political parties driving it. Commanders and fighters of Mohseni’s Harakat, for example, have been accused of numerous killings, for instance during the Afshar massacre in 1993 . This makes Fayaz more acceptable for those who suffered during the mujahedin era.

Thirdly, Ayatollah Fayaz’ acceptance among the educated class of the Shia communities owes much to his modern views regarding women’s rights, Islamic banking, medicine, and Islamic unity. For instance, according to Sharia law (a constantly changing, constantly added to catalogue of religious rulings or fatwas), women cannot become judges while Fayaz believes otherwise – he ‘even’ sees them as potential presidents. Ali Amiri, a philosophy professor at the Ibn Sina Private University and one of those who had been pushing for a different, more diversified religious Shia leadership (he is regularly in the Afghan media demanding change and had been involved in organising the ceremony for Fayaz), said that “if we had had access to his opinion at the time of tensions regarding the Shia family law, the law would look different today.”



Last Modified 2021-12-29
Established 2014-11-02