The Significance and Selection of Imam and Unity in Selection
An absolute clear characteristic of the most perfect religion of Islam is which makes it distinct from every other divine and man-made religion and no other religion shares this characteristic with Islam. And that characteristic is Divine Monotheism. The concept of Divine Monotheism presented by Islam is not seen anywhere else. This concept of Divine Monotheism is not fictional but factual. All the other fundamentals of religious beliefs have the concept of Divine Monotheism evident in them.
- Divine Monotheism
This means that there is no god except Allah and He and only He is worthy of worship. None can be associated with Him in His being and His worship.
- Divine Justice
He is unique in His justice and all His other characteristics and there is none like Him.
The divine laws reach the people only through the divinely appointed prophet. Only Allah has the right to appoint a prophet and laws are dependent on the prophet.
- Divine Leadership
Obedience, mastership and leadership is exclusive to those whom Allah has appointed as the leader. Other than these selected individuals, the obedience and leadership of another person is not acceptable.
- Day of Resurrection
Everyone will face a common end and the criteria of success is sincerity.
[al-Imamat al-Ilahiyyah by Shaikh Sanad: vol 1]
Now if someone follows the religion of and obeys someone else other than the divinely sent prophet and the divinely appointed Imam then he has associated that person in Allah’s exclusive right of selecting and appointing a prophet and an Imam. These other can people can be a few individual of a complete nation. To believe in the prophethood of a person other than the divinely selected prophet and to obey a person other than the divinely appointed Imam is polytheism means to associate that other person with Allah.
Definition of Imamat
The concept of Imamat has always been matter of controversy and conversation. Before we move ahead, let us first define Imamat. We would also like to mention that before applying a characteristics or position to some person or thing, the characteristic or position is first defined and then based on this definition, this characteristic or position is applied to person or a thing. In this case, the person or thing on which the characteristic or position is applied are compatible with the definition. Sometimes, a person or a thing is appointed and then it’s characteristic or position is defined. In this scenario the criteria keep changing as different persons or things are not of the same criteria and therefore, the definition also changes with the person or thing.
Some people think that Imamat is a worldly kingdom and government whose responsibility is to defend the boundaries of the state, to manage the general affairs of the nation and to maintain law and order in the cities, etc. That is, it is a leadership role similar to the other political and governmental leadership roles whose domain is limited to the worldly affairs of the people.
On the other hand, some other people, in addition to worldly matters, have also added religious leadership and guidance as a condition for Imamat which also include the propagation of religion along with the above mentioned responsibilities.
But, in reality, Imamat is not limited to either of the above two definitions. Both these definitions are just a part of a reality and not the reality. Because in order to implement the worldly above responsibilities neither requires infallibility nor divine knowledge. This basic work is anyways happening today in whatever good or bad way even if the ruler is successful or not. Whereas Imamat is a position for which infallibility and divine knowledge is a condition. Isn’t is strange that a position with such high divine criteria is responsible for only for worldly responsibilities. Can intellect accept the fact that a school appoints the most learned teacher in the world in order to teach a groups of kindergarten kids? A simple task which can be done by any common person be given as a responsibility to an emperor. It is possible that the situation in the present time is beyond these definitions, there are conspiracies of the oppressive rulers, but it is clear that Imamat if also encompasses worldly, it means that only that person can become an Imam who is a ruler then the prophethood and Imamat of majority of the prophets and Imams will be questionable, while the prophethood, messengership and Imamat of these personalities was certain and without believing in whom, a person cannot be a Muslim. Hence the question arises that who is an Imam and what is his necessity.
The below mentioned proofs clearly explain the necessity of Imamat and will also prove that is an everlasting necessity. It means that Imamat is such a necessity which will last until the Day of Judgement.
Necessity of Imam
Hisham b. Hakam narrates that one day an atheist asked Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.), “How did you prove the (necessity of) prophet and Imam?”
He (a.s.) replied, “When it is proven that we have a Creator who is One, He has created us and is greater than us and every other creation. This Creator is Wise, Great and people neither see Him not feel Him. He does not sit among them nor can they go to Him so that they can prove each other. Hence it is necessary that He has His representatives from among the creatures who deliver His message and His orders to His creatures and servants and inform them about the things which things are beneficial for them, things which will lead to their survival and abandoning which actions would lead to their destruction. Therefore it is necessary that there are certain individual appointed by Allah, the Wise and the Knowing, who would order and prohibit people and deliver the divine message to them. These individuals are none other than the divinely raised messengers who are the chosen ones of Allah among the people. They are wise and noble and have been raised with wisdom. They are similar to people in the physical form but are different from them. They are supported through divine wisdom and assistance. This proves that it is necessary to have a prophet or a messenger in every era so that the earth is not devoid of a divine proof. It is mandatory to have one such individual in every era who possesses such knowledge which proves his truthfulness and justice.”
[Kafi: v 1 p 168 t 1]
Let us first mention that if a matter is presented in front of an Imam and the Imam verifies the matter, then it is considers as a tradition and similarly if an action is performed in front of Imam and he does not reject it, then that too is considered as a tradition.
Mansoor b. Haazim narrates that I asked Imam Sadiq (a.s.):
“Allah is way too High and Lofty to be recognized through his creatures, rather creatures are recognized through God.”
Imam (a.s.) replied, “You are right.”
I asked, “Anyone who believes that he has a Lord should also accept that there is pleasure and dissatisfaction for this Lord. This cause of pleasure and dissatisfaction cannot be known except through revelation and a messenger. Anyone who does not receive revelation should look to follow a prophet and when he finds a prophet and confirms that this is the divine proof, then he should his obedience is obligatory.”
I said to people, “Do you know that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is the divine proof over His creation?” They said, “Certainly!” I said, “Who is the divine proof in the world after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?” They said. “The Holy Quran.”
When I saw the Quran, I found that all the sects, Murjaiyyah, Qadariyyah and the heretics etc all use the Quran to successfully prove their points. I am certain that the Quran cannot be a proof without a guardian and truth is only what this guardian says about the Quran.
I asked the people, “Who is the guardian of Quran in this era?” They replied, “Ibne Mas’ood knows about the Quran, Umar does too and so does Huzaifah.” I asked, “Do these people have the complete knowledge of the Quran?” They replied, “No, according to us there is none that we know who has the complete knowledge of the Quran except Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.). Whenever an issue arises in the society, and we seek help from someone, they all reply “we do not know” but when it is taken to him (a.s.), he always has the solution. I bear witness that Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is the guardian of the Quran, his obedience is obligatory and he is the divinely proof over the people after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Whatever he mentions about the Holy Quran is the truth.”
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) replied, “May God bless you.”
[al-Kafi: v 1 p 168 t 2]
The following points become clear from the two traditions mentioned above:
- The discussion of Imamat is for those people who believe and submit in God and His Oneness.
- There is no point in discussing Prophethood and Imamat with those who do not believe in God.
- The divine entity of God is such that neither come among the people not can people see Him in any way.
- None other than God can explain the beneficial and harmful things for the people, i.e. only Allah has the right to make the laws of life for the people.
- Since God exists, there are certainly some things which please and displease Him.
- When we believe in the existence of God and when we obtain benefits from his bounties, then it is our responsibility that we always perform those action which are a cause of divine pleasure and refrain from those actions which displease Allah.
- Allah, on account of his infinite greatness, cannot come among the people.
- It is necessary that there are His representatives who come from His side and deliver His message to the people.
- These representatives are the divine proofs whose existence in every era is important.
- According to the second tradition, the Holy Quran cannot be a divine proof by itself as different sets of people prove different points from the same Quran
- Those who claim to have the knowledge of the Quran do not possess the complete knowledge of it.
- There is a need for a guardian for the Quran who is completely aware of the Quran and possesses complete knowledge of it so that he can explain the real concepts of Quran.
- The only person who qualifies for these traits is Ali b Abi Talib.
- He alone is the Proof of God
- His obedience is obligatory upon everyone
In the light of these points, it becomes crystal clear that a divine proof is absolutely necessary in every time and era
- Who can inform the people about all those things which benefit or harm them
- Who explains those actions which are a cause of divine pleasure and displeasure
- Who explains the real meanings of the Quran
- So that people can worship God and that to in such a manner which is as per divine orders and can fulfill the aim of their creation.
- So that people can have a successful life in this world and the hereafter.
Keeping in mind the aforementioned points, we as each and every logical and intellectual person, that after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), who is the one person who possesses these characteristics and fits perfectly on the above conditions? If we scan through the pages of history, is there anyone other than Ali b. Abi Talib, who possesses all these characteristics to their perfection? One who explains the divine laws for the people, informs people about Allah’s pleasure and displeasure and who possesses the complete knowledge of the Quran. Can all the people of this world or all the intellectuals get together and appoint one such person who possesses these traits? Such a selection is not in the hands of the people because:
All the intellectuals of this world only have visibility to the apparent aspect of a person whereas these characteristics are related to the inner self of the person and such characteristics have every scope error. This selection is only and only possible from God’s side. None can interfere in this matter. Therefore, only that person can become the divine proof after the Holt Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who is appointed by Allah.
When we consider the guarding of the boundaries and general public welfare in the definition of Imamat, we shall select such a person who will be able to perform these responsibilities. But if Imamat includes explanation of laws and religious responsibilities and eliminating differences in the light of the Holy Quran, then this requires such a person who knows all the laws of religion both in general and in detail and is aware of all the Quranic concepts. He should be aware of each and every minute detail of religion and should have encompassing knowledge every matter in order to solve differences. The selection of such an individual can only be divine.
It is strange that people do not accept this second situation. They do not accept this situation because if they do so, they shall lose their say in this selection of a ruler because normal people are unable to select such a person. Apart from this, another reason, which could be the real reason, are those people who have been selected who do not possess even one of the required qualifications. As a result, people will have to abandon all these people and this will lead to abandoning all those personalities who were revered and honored for years. This is similar to the situation of accepting Divine Monotheism when who people revered, honored and worshipped idols for years and generations were called towards the One God, did not accept and said,
“We have found our forefathers on this path and we shall continue treading their path”
If man uses a bit of intellect and justice, he shall become aware of the real need of Imamat and thus he shall not accept the Imamat of anyone else other than that of the Ahle Bait (a.s.).
The Door of Recognition and Worship
God has created man for His recognition and worship and this recognition and worship is his perfection. A man engulfed in materialism and ignorance cannot attain the recognition of the Pure Allah independently. If he tries to reach to Allah on his own, he will reach somewhere else but not to Allah. This is such a reality with which we all are aware and does not require any special argument or proof.
Keeping this human limitation in mind, Allah has sent prophets and messengers so they bring people towards the recognition of the real Allah and teach them the methods of worshipping Him. All the prophets and messengers guided the people towards the recognition and worship of God and did this in its true sense.
The question is: did this necessity cease to exist after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)? Or does it continue to exist until the dawn of resurrection?
If this requirement ceased to exist, then why did people abandon the funeral of the people and gathered to immediately appoint a successor to the prophet while religion had already been perfected? This immediate and systematic effort to appoint a successor proves that with the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), messengership ended but the need for guidance in the path of recognition and worship continued.
Who will fulfill this need? Only he can fulfill this need who possesses excessive recognition of Allah and not only knows the lowest and the highest levels of worship but also has himself traversed this journey of worship. It can be said without an iota of doubt that except the Ahle Bait (a.s.), none other can aptly fit this requirement whose first personality is Ameerul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) and the last is Hazrat Hujjat b. Hasan al-Askari (a.t.f.s.) who is alive today and he is the connection, medium and proof between Allah and His creation.