This article concerns the dominant institution of religious authority within modern Usuli Twelver Shiʿi Islam: the marjaʿiyya. The most senior clerics serve as “sources of emulation” (marājiʿ al-taqlīd), informing the moral conduct of their lay “imitators” (muqallidūn). Despite the importance of this relationship, academic writing on what we call its “affective” qualities, especially from lay perspectives, is limited. We provide ethnographic data from anthropological research into Islamic medical ethics in Lebanon. Interviews in 2003 with infertile Shiʿi patients who were considering controversial assisted reproductive technologies revealed rare insights into which authorities they followed and in what numbers and how this relationship was experienced and drawn upon by those in need. We compare the very different relationships inspired by the two authorities most cited in our study: the late Beirut-based Ayatollah Fadlallah; and the Iranian Ayatollah Khaminaʾi, Hizbullah's patron. From his local base, Fadlallah offered a vivid and responsive persona of a qualitatively distinct type.