Like his predecessor Khoei, Sistani does not share the definition of the doctrine of Velayat-e faqih (the authority of jurists) supported by Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran's current supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. However, his point of view about wilayat al-faqih is more advanced than that of al-Khoei. The only difference between Sistani's wilayat al-faqih and the other two Grand Ayatollahs is in the range of power that a Grand Ayatollah has in ruling the Islamic community. He believes in more power than al-Khoei believes but less than that of Khomeini. Sistani's web site says,
Question: What is Grand Ayatollah Sistani's opinion about Wilayat-e Faqih (governance of jurist)?
Answer: Every jurisprudent (Faqih) has wilayah (guardianship) over non-litigious affairs. Non-litigious affairs are called "al-omour al-hesbiah". As for general affairs to which social order is linked, wilayah of a faqih and enforcement of wilayah depend on certain conditions one of which is popularity of Faqih among majority of momeneen (believers).
On the specific question of obedience to a Supreme Leader, he has said that any pronouncement of a Supreme Leader "supersedes all (including other Marja') unless the pronouncements are proven to be wrong or the pronouncements are proven to be against what is in the Qur'an or in Religious Tradition."
Instead of rule by Islamic clerics or 'The Quran as constitution', Sistani is said to favor the providing of values and guidelines for social order (nizam al-mujama) as the role of Islam.
According to Sadegh Zibakalam, professor of political science at Tehran University, Sistani has avoided supporting the concept of wilayat al-faqih, not explicitly dismissing the notion, but not explicitly supporting it either, creating "a major lacuna" in the "grand ideological scenario" of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
According to scholar Vali Nasr, despite Sistani's disagreements with Iran's ruling clerics, he has "never tried to promote a rivalry" between his religious center of Najaf and the Iranian center in Qom. He has never made any comments about the confrontations between reformists and conservatives in Qom or between clerics in Lebanon, a reflection, Nasr believes, of Sistani's reluctance to become involved in politics.