(Rooz Online)

November 20, 2009
By Ali Farokhi

Following the escalation of protests by Iran’s senior ayatollahs against the regime, some members of the Qom Seminary Teachers Association (the most important organization of clerics affiliated with the regime) are planning to present a new list of “grand ayatollahs” under the supervision of Mohammad Yazdi, Ahmad Jannati and Mesbah Yazdi.

In Shia jurisprudence, grand ayatollahs are ranked highest and have the ability to issues “Fatwas” (religious decrees).

According to credible reports, the list will include the names of grand ayatollahs who have been approved by the Islamic government.

Previously, when the Teachers Association released a list of grand ayatollahs following the death of ayatollah Khomeini and then ayatollah Araki, it dropped the names of grand ayatollahs such as grand ayatollah Montazeri, Sistani, Shrazi, Ezzeddin Zanjani, Sadegh Rowhani, Sadeghi Tehrani and Qomi, who were certainly grand ayatollahs that had published their doctrinal books (containing orders to be followed by the pious) at least 20 years earlier. Instead, the Teachers Association placed the name of Islamic Republic supreme leader, ayatollah Khamenei ¾ who had not reached the highest ranks of jurisprudence ¾ on top of its list.

Recently, during clashes between the supreme leader’s office and Qom grand ayatollahs over the announcement of the Eid Fetr date, except for one grand ayatollah, none other abided by the supreme leader’s determination of the end date of the month of Ramadan. Similarly, following the announcement of Ahmadinejad’s victory following the most recent presidential election, all but one grand ayatollah refrained from sending him a congratulatory note.

It seems that these reasons have convinced the Teachers Association’s leaders to identify and announce several grand ayatollahs who are supportive of the government.

According to rumors, the new list of grand ayatollahs will include people such as Jafar Sobhani, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Khoshvaght and a number of other ayatollahs approved by the regime. Credible reports indicate that prominent grand ayatollahs such as Montazeri and Zanjani will not have a place on the list. One informed source also reports that individuals such as grand ayatollah Ali Safi, the descendant of ayatollah Behjat’s seminary, or Sanei, seyyed Ali Mohaghegh Damad, Dastgheib Shirazi and Bayat Zanjani will not have a place on the list either due to their criticism of the regime’s behavior.