On July 11, 2009, the liberal Iranian website www.khandaniha.eu published a fatwa by Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior contemporary Shi'ite cleric. The fatwa was issued in response to a series of queries submitted to him by Iranian intellectual and cleric Mohsen Kadivar, pertaining to the legitimacy of the current Iranian government.
The following are excerpts from the fatwa:(1)
Query: "What is the ruling regarding holders of government positions, whom shari'a law requires to act justly, honestly, and wisely... if they [do not fulfill] these requirements to any degree, but behave in a manner diametrically opposed to them?"
Reply: "If none of the requirements mentioned in this query are met, this automatically, and without any need for impeachment, brings about the de facto collapse of the velayat [the 'jurisprudent,' meaning Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] and of the government that is in charge of administering social affairs [i.e. the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] - and renders null and void all decrees issued by those who hold government positions...
"In the event of a breach of any article of the contract between the two sides - namely [the contract] between the position holder and the people, who appointed him - the people may remove the position holder from his post."
Query: "What is the religious duty of the people if these position holders insist on acting in ways that contravene the religious directive of 'commanding good and prohibiting evil?'"
Reply: "As I said, both religious law and common sense [dictate that] position holders who have lost the right to administer social affairs automatically lose their posts, and their rule is no longer legitimate in any way. If they remain in their position by means of force, fraud, or forgery, then the people must express their opinion regarding the illegitimacy and unpopularity [of these position holders], and remove them from their posts in the least harmful way...
"Obviously, this is a duty incumbent upon all [and not only upon specific individuals]... and none may evade it under any pretext. The elite [i.e. the clerics] have a special obligation [to carry out this task], since they are knowledgeable in religious and civil law, and have greater ability than [the rest of the people]. Their statements have greater influence and carry greater force; therefore, they bear a greater responsibility. They must present [the people]... with an alternative [option], while [preserving the people's] unity and ideological harmony, and establishing parties as well as public and private organizations."