The reasons we advanced for the necessity of prophethood will make us familiar to a large extent with the necessity for the existence of the Imams after the demise of the Prophet. This is because these two have a lot in common. Here, however, some other topics will be discussed as well.
SPIRITUAL PERFECTION WITH DIVINE LEADERS
Let us first consider the objectives behind the creation of man, the cream of the crop of creation.
Man travels along a rough road, full of ups and downs towards God, towards absolute perfection and towards spiritual progress in all dimensions.
No doubt, man could not succeed without an infallible Imam, without a divine instructor. This is because everywhere there is darkness, and one must be aware of the danger of going astray.”
Despite the fact that God has equipped man with wisdom and intelligence, with a strong conscience and with divine books, he could still go astray. The presence of an infallible leader will, to a great extent, reduce the hazards of deviation and corruption. For this reason: “the existence of an Imam completes the goals of creation as such.”
This is the same thing that is referred to in books on belief, such as “The Law of Benevolence,” which means that God has put all the means of perfection at man’s disposal. Among these means is the appointment of prophets and infallible Imams.
PROTECTING HEAVENLY LAWS
We are aware of the fact that divine religions, when revealed to the prophets, are like sparkling raindrops that sustain life. However, having been in contact with unclean environments and feeble minds they gradually become contaminated and become mixed with superstitions and illusions. In this way, these religions lose their initial elegance and vividness and under such conditions, they lose both their attraction and educational impact. They then lose their quality to satisfy.
That is why there should always be an infallible religious leader to protect the principles of religion and in this way; innovations and superstitions in religion could be avoided. A religion would lose its value and vigor within a short period of time if such a leader did not exist.
For this very reason, the Honorable Imam `Al¢ (s) in Nahj al-Bal¡ghah says:
“Yes, the surface of the earth shall never lack a rising that rises by God as His proof, either in an apparent or hidden way.”(۱)
In fact, an Imam’s heart is like a safe in which precious documents are safeguarded so that they might be secure against theft by robbers or against hazardous and unfortunate events. This is one of the logical reasons for the presence of an Imam.
THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP OF THE NATION (UMMAH)
There is no doubt that no community could continue to exist without a capable leader. For this very reason, it has been common for nations in the past to appoint leaders; sometimes leaders have been decent and at other times indecent. Because of the need for a leader, aggressors and tyrant sultans have passed themselves off as the community leaders since antiquity.
On the other hand, in order for a person to attain spiritual perfection, he has to live and cooperate with others. This is because an individual is not powerful enough but a congregation of people can give the individual a lot of power.
However, a community should be governed by a correct system in order for capabilities to flourish and corruption to be suppressed. Such a community should mobilize its potential innate forces.
(۱)Nahj al-Bal¡ghah, Maxims, Sentence 147.
Since error-prone man cannot bring forth such a mobilization, an innocent and infallible leader, appointed by God, becomes necessary. This need is especially felt today when we observe the degree to which political leaders are corrupt.
This is another logical reason for the presence of an Imam within a community. It is another aspect of God’s Benevolence. I would like to iterate this fact that while the Infallible Imam(s) is temporarily hidden from our eyes, our obligation to have a substitute Imam has been anticipated in Islamic law. This will be discussed in subsequent lectures.
THE NEED TO MAKE THE PROOF IRREFUTABLE
It is up to an Imam to both lead and guide people and make the proof irrefutable against those who would still like to go astray. This will forestall any excuses to the effect that the religious leader has not put forth enough energy to guide them.
This would prevent the construction of alibis and excuses, and those who are sincere would be guided.
The Imam is a Great Medium for Divine Grace Most scholars of religion, in accordance with Islamic narrations, have likened the presence of a Prophet or an Imam among humanity to the heart in the body of a human being.
We know that when the heart beats, it sends blood to all the arteries which carry blood to other parts of the human body.
The Infallible Imam is a perfect and progressive member and leader of humanity. Since he is the cause for the descent of divine Grace from which each individual benefits depending on the degree of his communication with the Prophet and the Imam, he could be likened to the heart of the community as well.
We should not be under the delusion that the Prophet or the Imam should provide people with material things. The same way the heart is an intermediary between man and God in conveying God’s Grace; the Prophet and the Imam are the intermediaries of God’s Grace to humanity.
THINK AND ANSWER
What is the role of the Imam in man’s spiritual perfection?
What is his role in safeguarding the Shariah?
What is his role in leading the government and the political system?
What is meant by the Imam as the irrefutable proof?
What is the Imam’s role in this regard?
Who is the intermediary for God’s Grace?
What can the Prophet or Imam be likened to?