Need of a Divine Representative in Every Era

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Allah, the Almighty,after creating the creation arranged for all requirements for the creation to ascend to higher grades of perfection. Similarly, to inform man about things that are beneficial or harmful for him and for him to reach the higher stages of perfection, He has appointed His Divine Representatives as guides for man. So that man can protect himself from harm and perform actions which will be beneficial for him and will take him closer to perfection. Therefore, Allah the Almighty has Himself taken the responsibility to send these divine guides and not delegated this responsibility to man. 

Surely Ours is it to show the way, And most surely Ours is the hereafter and the former.

The representative who can make man reach the highest grades of perfection, can only be someone who is perfect and is aware of the path that will take a person towards perfection,who possesses perfect mannerisms, infallibility and divine knowledge which protects him from every evil action and word, after which no reality should be hidden from him. Is it possible for someone other than Allah, the Almighty to appoint such a representative? Absolutely not, only Allah is aware of all realities and knowledge and the person to whom He bestows it: 

“And your Lord knows what their breasts conceal and what they manifest”

“Allah best knows where He places His message”

Therefore, the chosen guides and divine representatives of Allah for guidance of man, whom Allah, the Almighty considers adept for guidance of man are referred to as Imam as indicated by few verses of the Holy Qur’an

“He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men.

Similarly, Allah the Almighty has denounced this position from those who do not deserve it. 

“My covenant does not include the unjust, said He”.

Allah, the Almighty has also attributed the appointment of someone to the position of Imamat to Himself and denied it for others. This clearly shows that apart from Allah, the Almighty no one has the authority or say in selection of an Imam. The Prophets and their successors were also aware of this reality. Therefore, when Prophet Moosa (a.s.) intended to make Haroon (a.s.) his successor, he requested Allah, the Almighty for it and did not appoint Haroon as the successor himself! 

And give to me an aider from my family: Haroun, my brother.

Similarly, when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) presented Islam to the tribes of Arabs, some one said, if we pay allegiance to you on what you are inviting us, and when Allah grants you success over your adversaries, then will we have the choice of leadership of the nation after you? 

Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replied, 

This affair is with Allah, He grants to whomsoever He wishes.

The question arises – is it necessary that there should be a divinely appointed infallible leader in every era? Is it necessary that there should be an Imam appointed by Allah in every era? 

In the light of numerous verses of the Holy Quran and traditions, it is firmly established that Allah the Almighty has never left the earth without a divine representative. 

Allah, the Almighty says, 

“You are only a warner and (there is) a guide for every people”

There are two conclusions from this. 

  1. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was appointed as a warner, that is, to inform us about the occurrences of the Day of Judgement. 
  2. Allah, the Almighty has appointed a guide for every nation. 

The question is, who is the guide that Allah has appointed for every nation? Are these the scholars of every nation (era)? The guide cannot be interpreted as the scholars in every nation, because, 

  1. At all times, in every nation there are hundreds and thousands of scholars and intellectuals. It is rare that there is only one scholar or intellectual in a nation, whereas the verse is talking about the need of one guide for every nation. Then, how should one choose that guide? And who will decide the criteria of selection of that guide? 
  2. The word ‘guide’ in blessed verse has been mentioned in a complete manner. Which means that in every nation there is one such guide who can guide the nation towards the laws and commands of Allah in every matter without any mistake or error. Whereas, we do not believe in infallibility of any scholar from errors and mistakes, rather any scholar can be prone to errors and mistakes. 

Similarly, it is apparent from other verses that this guide, guides through the commands of Allah and not through his personal opinion, otherwise he will be prone to mistakes and errors. 

“And We made of them Imams to guide by Our command”

It becomes apparent that the responsibility of leadership and guidance of man is entrusted with Imams who are appointed by Allah and without any doubt they guide towards divine revelation. And they are the worthiest of Imamat and caliphate. And they possess the authority that people follow them and submit to them. 

“Is He then Who guides to the truth more worthy to be followed, or he who himself does not go aright unless he is guided? What then is the matter with you; how do you judge?”

This verse clearly states that only that Imam is worthy of being followed who is himself guided and possesses the ability to lead and guide a nation. The one who is himself lost and misguided cannot guide anybody else and is not worthy of being followed. 

And if we refer to Shia and Sunni exegesis concerning this verse, then it is absolutely clear. Below are two traditions from the Ahle Tasannun. 

  1. In certain exegeses of Ahle Tasannun it is narrated: When the verse, You are only a warner and for every nation there is a guide’ was revealed, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) placed his blessed hands on his own chest and said, I am the warner, and he pointed towards Ali (a.s.) and said, You are the guide O Ali! Surely the seekers of guidance will be guided through you after me.
  2. The famous Ahle Tasannun figure Fakhruddin Raazi in his exegesis Mafatih al-Ghaib has brought three popular opinions concerning this verse. The third opinion is that warner refers to Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and guide refers to Ali (a.s.). Then he narrates from Ibn Abbas, that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) placed his hand on his chest and said, I am the warner. Then he pointed towards Ali (a.s.) and said, you are the guide. And after me, the seekers of guidance will get guidance through you. 

In the light of intellect and narrations after proving the necessity and need of a divine representative in every era, in the light of intellect it is not prudent and wise for a person that he lives without attaching himself with the guide announced in the Qur’an. And that he does not obey the Imam who is appointed by Allah. Just as the need of a divine representative is established from Holy Qur’an and traditions, the verses of Holy Qur’an and traditions also indicate that these guides are none other than the blessed progeny of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The first of whom is Ameerul Momineen Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) and the last of the chain is Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). Even today, this world exists due to the blessed presence of this Proof of Allah, the grandson of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a), the bearer of the crown of Imamat on the day of Ghadeer.

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