As a rule, great responsibilities demand hard conditions and the greater the responsibilities the harder their fulfillment becomes. The work conditions of worshippers and an Imam who has control over people's lives and possessions is not identical.
Both prophethood and Imamate are the most demanding positions in the world. The Prophets and Imams, who have control over people's possessions and lives, have full control over people the Holy Quran concerning the Prophet declares
﴿ النَّبِيُّ أَوْلى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ ﴾
“The Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves”1.
In the sermon of Ghadir it is said that the Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful.
Would it be possible for Allah to bestow such a significant job upon an individual who is prone to sins?
Both the Prophet and “those in authority” (اولى الامر) according to the Holy Quran are to be obeyed in the same way that we obey Allah.
The Holy Quran declares:
﴿ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَ أَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَ أُولِي الأَْمْرِ مِنْكُمْ ﴾
“Obey Allah and obey the apostle and those in authority from among you”2.
This verse most vividly stipulates that we should unconditionally obey the group called “those in authority from among you”. Since this group is flawless, their obedience becomes urgent and such obedience is entirely justifiable.
However if this group were not flawless and performed sins how could Allah oblige us to obey them?
When the Holy Quran compels us to obey “those in authority” beside Allah and His Apostle we would conclude that “those in authority” are, like the Apostle himself, flawless. No man in such an authority would ever participate in homicide or in the confiscation of the possessions of the oppressed.
It might be said that the obedience towards “those in authority” is feasible only if he carries out his duty in accordance with Shariah and the explicit commands of Allah and the Apostle, otherwise obedience towards them should be stopped and even be opposed.
The answer to this question is clear for the following reasons: this act is feasible only if
(1) all people were completely aware of the Islamic principles and the practical laws and capable of the recognition of both Islamic legal and illegal affairs, and
(2) if they were so brave and courageous as not to be scared of the governor's despotism and could obey him if he were just and openly oppose him if he were a tyrant.
Unfortunately, however the common man does not have full command over the Islamic principles so that he could give his views and not the commands of “those in authority. The majority of people want to get familiar through them, with the divine laws.
Furthermore opposition to the governing body is not an easy job and there are few who are willing to do so and suffer the consequences.
Besides bestowing such authority upon the powerful men would enliven the spirit of aggression among them which would definitely destroy social disciplines and as a consequence each level of society would refrain from obeying “those in authority”. As a result the leader would suffer a lot.
That is why we could conclude from this verse that the position of “those in authority” could be bestowed upon only a selected group who would never engage in wrongdoings and is clean at all times.
The following verse, among the Quranic guidance eloquently insists that an Imam should never engage in injustice and tyranny.
“When his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words he said: sure I will make you an Imam of men, Ibrahim said: and of my offsprings? My covenant does not include the unjust, He replied”3.
Imamat, like prophethood is a divine position, which is bestowed upon only the worthy and deserving people. In this verse Ibrahim wishes his children could benefit from such a magnificent divine position; however he is opposed by Allah who would not consent to give such a position to the tyrants.
Definitely by the word “unjust” in the above verse is meant, the sinners. This is because committing any sin is a tyranny against oneself and an aggression against divinity.
Here, we should find out which group of tyrants according to the Quran should be deprived of such a position.
As a general rule those who assume the role of leading people fall in four categories:
1. Those who have been tyrants all their lives both prior to their being governor and after;
2. Those who have never sinned.
3. Those who had been tyrant prior to their government, but clean after this position;
4. And those who are opposite of the level three i.e. they had been clean prior to the position of government, but became wrong doers when they got this position.
Now let us see which of these four groups in Ibrahim's view deserve leadership.
Definitely, Ibrahim could never have wished such a great position for the first and fourth groups, this is because a governor who is afflicted with sin and wrongdoings while he has been in power does not deserve such a position. This is from Ibrahim’s point of view who had received such a position only after heavy examinations and a hard life of endurance against wrongdoings. He could never have wished such a position for such a group.
Naturally, Ibrahim had the two other groups in mind when he asked God. And the third group is naturally put aside by the expression “ لاينال” “does not include”. Thus, that group deserves Imamate who had never got involved in sins.