The rational and narrative reasons all lead us to the fact that the Imam's position, like the one of the Prophet:
• is a divine position;
• the Imam should be appointed by God; and
• he should have all the conditions and characteristics of the Prophet except for the ability to receive revelations.
Now let us present our reasons:
During his lifetime the beloved Prophet of Islam put forward the basic and practical principles of Islam which consequently led to the completion of the sacred religion of Islam. But are these principles enough without an Islamic authority who has the ability to solve people's problems? Definitely not. Rather, there should have been an infallible Imam, after the Prophet, who could in the light of the Holy Quran, deal with new situations, especially those situations which did not arise during the Prophet’s lifetime.
After his prophethood, the Prophet spent thirteen years in Mecca struggling with idolatry, during which, due to the lack of proper conditions, he was unable to teach people the Divine rulings; therefore he spent most of his energy trying to inform people of the Islamic principles and the issues related to the Creator and resurrection. Since the issues of ‘Islamically permitted and forbidden acts’ could not be raised at the time, they were postponed to a later date.
Upon his entry into Medina, the Prophet was faced with insurmountable obstacles.
His life in Medina did not exceed ten years but during this time he personally took part in twenty seven Holy Wars against the idolaters and the Jews of Medina and Kheybar. His precious time was also spent on fighting with the infidels and hypocrites.
All the events caused the Prophet to present only an introduction of the Islamic principles. Therefore, he allowed his successors to explain and meditate related issues.
In surah Maidah we read:
﴿ الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ ﴾
“This day I have perfected for you your religion1“
This surah was revealed to the Prophet on the tenth year of his prophethood. The issues of resurrection and the Islamic principles were perfected by the Prophet up to the time of the revelation of this verse.
Now we must think. Who could satisfy all the needs of the Ummah based on these principles after the Prophet?
Adopting the right ways to deal with events, which will arise until Doomsday, based on the verses of the Holy Quran, or limited narrations related to us by the Prophet are huge problems indeed and beyond the conceivable power of ordinary people.
This is because the number of Quranic verses which deal with jurisprudential issues is not more than three hundred and the number of the narrations which are narrated from the Prophet concerning the issues of permitted and forbidden acts does not exceed four hundred.
Never can an ordinary man, with his limited knowledge, deal with the ever increasing events and occurrences of the present day Islamic community; rather, a capable man would be required to solve the problems with his Divine education.
Such a learned man must be immune to all sorts of sins so that he could be trusted by all. Such a person should be appointed by God.
Another interpretation of the issue of the perfection of religion that could be offered here is the continuity of the mission. This is because, according to numerous narrations, this verse was revealed to the Prophet on the day of Ghadir when Ali (as) was appointed by the Prophet as the Caliph Imam, his successor. Without an Imam there was no guarantee for the religion of Islam to continue with its existence. The chances existed that Islam would cease to exist were it not for the Imams. Because of this, Ali (as) was appointed by the Prophet to continue the Prophet's mission.
However, it should be noted that, after the Prophet’s demise divine revelation came to an end. This is because all of man’s needs, up to resurrection, were taken care of by the Prophet. But there are jurisprudential affairs which show themselves each day and should be resolved by the Prophet's successor.
Considering all this, we should admit that all of God's commands related to Islam were revealed to the Prophet during his lifetime. However, due to the limited years of prophethood and due to the daily problems he faced, he was unable to teach the Ummah all that he had received from Allah. Under such circumstances, the Prophet had to teach his successor, who like himself was innocent, all that he had received from God concerning the Divine commands and Islamic practical laws. Naturally, such a knowledgeable person, who is innocent flaw less, could only be appointed by Allah. The Ummah could never appoint such a person.
When we say that the Prophet had to “teach” his successor the Divine issues, the word “teach” is not a usual word; rather this was the complete capturing of his successor's soul, so that he could learn all that the Prophet was about to teach him.
In the end, it should be noted that Muslims, after the expansion and spread of Islam all over of the globe, were faced with unprecedented problems and new issues, which were never brought up at time of the Prophet.
The discovery of solutions to such issues through the Holy Quran or narrations is problematic and disputable. Under such conditions, it is up to a direct recipient of the Divine revelation to interpret the verses of the Holy Quran and the narrations and to issue the proper verdict.
One of the problems of the Sunnite community is that they want to interpret all Islamic affairs by the limited number of Quranic verses.
They feel hindered and frustrated in many cases when they are unable to solve problems and they resort to analogy, which everyone knows to be baseless when answering the needs of the Ummah. However, if there was a qualified individual who could get the solutions from the Prophet and could resolve people's problems, he could put an end to such chaos, which exist to this day and would guide people to the right path.
If analogies could be resorted to only under rare occasions, we could say Islam permits us to solve the rare problems via analogies. But, on the other hand, if the very basis of Islam lay on guesses, we would have introduced to the world the legal and moral system of Islam on a baseless foundation. Then how could we expect the people of the world to carry out the Islamic legal and moral system when we doubt the Divine inspiration for such commands?
There are numerous cases of ignorance by religious leaders in history. Scientific calculations will lead us to the fact that there should be among the Ummah a learned, well informed and knowledgeable Imam who could protect and secure the very treasure of Divine commands and let people know of Divine instructions.
Here are some cases of ignorance on the part of the Caliphs:
1. In the presence of the Prophet's companions Omar ordered a pregnant woman who had committed adultery to be stoned. However, the order was annulled by Imam Ali (as) under the pretext that the woman was guilty but the unborn child was in fact innocent.
2. The Caliph ordered a man who had committed adultery to be stoned. This man and his wife were living in different cities. The Islamic punishment for such a crime is torture by whipping and not stoning.
This time too the verdict was annulled by Imam Ali (as).
3. Five wrongdoers were brought to the Caliph for having committed fornication. The Caliph ordered each one to receive whips. Imam Ali (as) was present. He said each one has got a special case and punishment. One is a non-Muslim infidel who should be killed because he was living in a Muslim community but had violated his obligations; the second one was a married man who had to be stoned; the third one was a young bachelor who had to receive whips; the fourth one was a bachelor slave who had to receive half the punishment for a free person; and the fifth was insane, who had to be released.
4. At the time of Abu Bakr, a Muslim man had drunk wine, but claimed that he was living among a group who used to drink wine and that he did not know drinking wine was prohibited in Islam. Abu Bakr and his aid Omar were puzzled and had to refer to Imam Ali (as) for a solution. Imam (as) said: ‘let this man be brought to the gathering of Ansars to see if any one of them had recited to him the verse on the prohibition of drinking wine. If it is found out that he has previously been exposed to such a verse he should be punished or else he should be released.’
5. A married woman was arrested because she had committed adultery; therefore, she was ordered to be stoned. But Imam Ali (as) asked for more investigation. The woman was ordered to be put on trial once again so that she could present the reasons for her crime. She said she had taken her husband's camels to the pasture and got extremely thirsty in the desert. She then had asked a man to give her some water, but he had said that he would give her water only if she slept with him. Since she had been on the verge of death because of her thirst, she had accepted such an abominable act. At this time, Imam Ali (as) quoted this Quranic text:
﴿ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ باغٍ وَ لا عادٍ فَلا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ ﴾
“A person who commits something, not for sin or aggression but because of emergency, is innocent” 2
The total of such cases in the history of Caliphs is so numerous that one might gather them in a whole book. Who could be responsible for such verdicts? Such dealings had not occurred while the Prophet was still alive so that people might hear the right verdicts from the direction of revelation. After the Prophet’ who could protect the treasure of God's commands? Could it be said that God had left people on their own and had stopped His kindness and generosity from people3?
- 1. . Quran 5:3.
- 2. . Quran 2:173.
- 3. . We do not need to go into details of such cases of the Caliphs' ignorance. Such details are dealt with in history books. The cleric Allamah Amini, in the sixth, seventh and eighth chapters of his precious book, Al-Ghadir, has revealed the status of the Caliphs' knowledge through various documents. The interested readers could refer to that book.