what is the meaning of ‘Grand Ayatullah’? And is it specifically (only) for the Imams (pbut) or for everyone in order for all of the scholars to be called by it (rightfully)?

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Title ‘Grand Ayatullah’
Question 121: A lot are named (Grand Ayatullah – Grand Sign of Allah) with the recent scholars, so what is the meaning of ‘Grand Ayatullah’? And is it specifically (only) for the Imams (pbut) or for everyone in order for all of the scholars to be called by it (rightfully)?

Answer: {Moses said to them, “Pity on you, do not fabricate a lie against Allah, lest He should destroy you with a punishment. And loser is he who fabricates a lie.”} [1].

The ‘sign’ is a symbol or proof/evidence, and it is attributed to Allah the Glorified the Al-Mighty concerning the (first) point of proving His existence the Glorified the Al-Mighty, and concerning the (second) point of knowing Him the Glorified the Al-Mighty.

So as for the point of proving His existence the Glorified the Al-Mighty then all of the things created and existing are ‘Ayatullah/Sign of Allah’ and mankind is the greatest of them, and all the things that exist indicate towards the existence of the Creator; because they are created, and also indicates towards the existence of the Influencer/Initiator/Causer because they are influenced/initiated/caused, and mankind is the most evidence and indication for the existence of the Creator the Glorified the Al-Mighty.

And as for the point of knowing Him the Glorified the Al-Mighty then nothing is an ‘Ayatullah/Sign of Allah’ except His (the Glorified the Al-Mighty) Hujjas/proofs (pbut) upon His creation, since through them Allah is known hence they are the evidence for Him truthfully and with certainty, and because of this the meaning of ‘Ayatullah/Sign of Allah’ is for them the Imams (pbut), and ‘Grand Ayatullah’ is specifically for the Prince of the Believers Ali ibn Abi Talib (pbuh), and the ‘Ayatullah’ in this generation is Imam Mahdi (pbuh), it is not even correct from this that Imam Mahdi Muhammad ibn Al-Hassan (pbuh) is named ‘Grand Ayatullah’; because this title is specifically for the Trustee of the Trustees Ali ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) since he is one of those who (came to) know Allah and taught the creation through Allah the Glorified the Al-Mighty after Muhammad (pbuhap).

Since the scholars definitely don’t want the first meaning; because it includes everyone whether they were righteous or wicked, indeed the first meaning resembles towards the genus of the created (creation), so using it to differentiate between individuals of the same race is invalid and illogical and futile, thus they definitely want the second meaning, and because of this they have fallen into the forbidden, therefore being called by this name (i.e. Ayatullah) for anyone other than the Imams (pbut) is forbidden so indeed being called ‘Grand Ayatullah’ for anyone other the Prince of the Believers (pbuh) is also forbidden.

And it has been narrated from the correct narrations from them (pbut) that Fatima (pbuh) and the Imams (pbut) are called by ‘Ayatullah’, from AlKathim (pbuh) from his fathers (pbut) from the Messenger of Allah (pbuhap), he said: (“I entered heaven and then saw on its door written in gold: There is no deity except Allah, Muhammad is the beloved of Allah, Ali ibn Abi Talib is the trustee of Allah, Fatima is the sign of Allah (Ayatullah) …”) [2], and from the Prince of the Believers (pbuh) he said: (“The Imam is the Word of Allah, and the Hujja (proof) of Allah, and the Face of Allah, and the Light of Allah, and the Veil of Allah, and the Sign of Allah (Ayatullah), Allah chooses him and causes by him what He Wills and requires towards him thereby the Wilaya/authority and the obedience upon all of His creation, thus he is His trustee in His sky and His Earth …”) [3].

And it was narrated that the Prince of the Believers Ali ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) was called by ‘Grand Ayatullah’, Sheikh AlMufeed and AlShaheed and AlSayyed ibn Tawus said inside the book Al-Iqbal (r.a) narrated that Ja’far ibn Muhammad AlSadiq (pbuh) visited the Prince of the Believers may Allah’s blessings be upon him with this Ziyara (visiting the shrine/holy place): (“… Until he (pbuh) said: Peace be upon you O Grand Ayatullah …”) [4].

And it has been narrated (a narration) prohibiting and disallowing about anyone other than Ali ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) calling themselves by ‘the Prince of the Believers’, from Al-Sadiq (pbuh): a man asked him about the Qa’im (pbuh) sending peace upon him by (calling him) the ‘Prince of the Believers’, he said: (“That is incorrect this is a name that Allah named the Prince of the Believers (pbuh) with (and) no one has been named by it before him, and no one will be named by it after him except a disbeliever, I said: May I ransom myself for you how does one send peace upon him? He said: He says – peace be upon you O ‘Remainder of Allah’, then he read: {(the) Remainder of Allah is better for you if ye are believers;…} [5]. ”) [6].

And Al-Ritha (pbuh) was asked: why was the Prince of the Believers (pbuh) named (as such)? He said (pbuh): (“Because he fed them knowledge, as you hear in Allah’s book: {… And the provider of our family …} [7]. ”) [8].

So if no one is named after Ali (pbuh) by ‘the Prince of the Believers’ except a disbeliever, then what is their evidence upon (the fact) that they name themselves by a name exclusively for the Prince of the Believers (pbuh), and it is Grand Ayatullah.

{They are but names which you have named — you and your fathers — for which Allâh has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to them the Guidance from their Lord! * Or shall man have what he wishes? * …. But they have no knowledge thereof. They follow but a guess, and verily, guess is no substitute for the truth. * Therefore withdraw from him who turns away from Our Reminder and desires nothing but the life of this world. * That is what they could reach of knowledge. Verily, your Lord it is He Who knows best him who goes astray from His Path, and He knows best him who receives guidance.} [9].

Therefore it is a must that the people do not transgress their limits and especially the scholars, and (a duty) upon them is to heed this truth and to comply to it, indeed with humility grows wisdom and not with pride.

– Ahmed Al-Hasan

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[1] The Holy Qur’an: Surat Ta-Ha {20: 61}.

[2] Kanz AlFawaa’id: vol 1, page 149.

[3] Bihar AlAnwar: vol 25, page 169 – taken from author: AlBarasi, in book: Mashariq Anwar AlYaqeen.

[4] Bihar AlAnwar: vol 97, page 373; Al-Iqbal: page 608; Mafateeh AlJanaan: page 448, Ziyara (visit) of the Prince of the Believers in the day of the Prophet’s (pbuhap) birth.

[5] The Holy Qur’an: Surat Hud {11: 86}.

[6] AlKafi: vol 1, page 411, Hadith 2.

[7] The Holy Qur’an: Surat Hud {12: 65}.

[8] AlKafi: vol 1, page 412, Hadith 3.

[9] The Holy Qur’an: Surat Al-Najm {53: 23-30}.