Time: 16 Dey 1366/6 January 1988
Location: Tehran, Jamaran
Topic: Limitations of the authority of an Islamic government
Addressee: Khamenei, Sayyed Ali (President and Friday Prayers Leader)
In the name of God,
The honorable Hojjat al-Islam Mr. Khamenei, the respected President of the Islamic Republic – damat efazateh – after presenting greetings and salutations, at this critical juncture, I did not wish to draw attention to conflicts, and believe that in these instances, silence is the best way. And of course we should not assume that whatever we say and do, no one has the right to criticize. Criticism, even condemnation, is a divine gift for the growth of humans. But I did not see fit to answer the noble writing – and the request that was stated inside it – with silence. Therefore, I will state what I have in mind in a condensed manner:
From your statements in the Friday prayers, it appears that you do not consider to be correct the concept of ‘governance as an absolute rule’, as has been handed down by God to his Prophet (PBUH) and the most important of the Divine Laws, privileged over all other holy Sharia Laws. And the interpretation that I have said that government’s authority is within the framework of Divine Laws is completely against my statements. If the authority of governance is within the framework of secondary Divine Laws [Ahkam-e Far’ieh Elahi], then it follows that the statement regarding divine governance and the absolute bestowed rule of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) is a meaningless and empty phenomenon; and I point out the consequences [of this], which no one would want to accept: For example, road building that requires acquiring a home or its grounds is not within the framework of secondary laws. Military service, mandatory dispatching of individuals to the warfront, interfering with entry and exit of currency, preventing the entry or exit in any way of goods, prohibiting hoarding (except under two or three circumstances), taxes and customs, regulating prices, preventing price-fixing, preventing the spread of drugs, prohibiting addictions in any way possible (except in the case of alcohol), carrying weapons in any manner, and hundred of similar examples, that are within the authority of the government, are also outside [of secondary Laws] according to your analysis; and hundreds of other examples.
I must state that governance, which is a branch of the Absolute Rule of the Prophet (PBUH), is one of the primary laws of Islam; and it takes precedence over all secondary Laws, even prayer and fasting and the hajj pilgrimage. The ruler can destroy a mosque or a house that sits in the route for a road, and avoid the money to the owner. The ruler can shut down mosques in times of necessity; and destroy a mosque belonging to pretenders [zerar], if a resolution is not possible without destruction. The government may unilaterally void Sharia-based contracts that it itself has made with the people in situations where that contract is contrary to the good of the nation and Islam. And it can prevent any action – be it devotional or not – that is contrary to the interests of Islam – as long as it continues to be so. The government can temporarily prevent the hajj pilgrimage – which is one of the most important divine practices – in situations where it deems it to be contrary to the interests of the Islamic country.
What has been said up to now, or is being said, is based on a lack of understanding of the Absolute Divine Rule. That which has been said – that is prevalent – [that, for example], a contract for sharecropping [mozare’eh] or a contract to invest another person’s money [mozarebeh] – and similar contracts with those authorities – will be abolished, I say explicitly that, even if true, these are the authorities of the government. And more than this are other issues, which I won’t bother you with. God willing, the Lord will protect people like your Excellency who have no aim but to serve Islam.
16 Dey 1366 / 6 January 1988
Rouhallah al-Mousavi al-Khomeini