Prophethood and Imamat

Moulavi Abdul Ghani: I do not understand why you Shias are constantly trying to prove the existence of an Imam? And you stretch this belief to such proportions that you go the extent of claiming that if the Imam is apparently not to be seen, then he must be in occultation. When the divine laws were effectively conveyed by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), is there any need for an Imam?

Professor Nasir Mahdi: The same arguments that establish the necessity of prophethood and revelation of divine laws, hold good even for establishing the existence of Imam (a.s.), the protector of divine laws. To elaborate our claims further, we will try to prove the necessity of Imamat with the help of arguments supporting the necessity of prophethood. If you pay careful attention to these arguments, which have already been established in the past, then the necessity of Prophethood for the masses become very clear to you.

  1. Man cannot progress in his life alone, but needs constant assistance and cooperation of those around him. In other words, man is a social animal and therefore he has to stay in society and interact with people. Obviously the consequences of his living will be beneficial for him and moreover he will be confronted with others like him for fulfilling his needs and acquiring benefit. Every member of the society tries to maximise his benefit through his capacity and potential. He tries to overcome all obstacles in his way. As his fellow creatures are also struggling in the same manner, there is bound to be a clash of gains, trampling of each other’s rights and exceeding of limits. For this reason a society needs rules and codes. The rules and regulations could serve to defend human rights and curb the individual’s emotions of anger, greed and jealousy. Differences and personal conflicts could also be resolved. Hence existence of rules and regulation is absolutely critical for the very survival of man and society.
  2. Man seeks perfection. An inclination towards perfection and happiness is inherent in his instinct. All his collective and persistent endeavours are only for procuring perfection and there is no other motive.
  3. Man is on a journey of progress and advancement and his attention towards real perfection is imbibed in his nature (fitrat). Hence it is essential that he strives hard if he wishes to reach his desired goal because vain and useless deeds will be counter-productive and will distract him from his objective.
  4. It is an indisputable fact that man has two facets – a body and soul. From the material point, his existence is in the form of a body and in the spiritual form it is the soul. With the firm connection between the body and the soul he is able to scale the heights of progress.
  5. As man is made up of body and soul, he has to prepare himself to face the material and spiritual aspects of life. By focusing on both these aspects simultaneously he can be a carrier of good conduct, but if he is negligent he will become wretched and despicable.
  6. Just as there exists a strong connection between body and soul, the relationship between the worldly and the spiritual lives are also bonded. All his actions and deeds and the movement of his limbs have some impact on his soul. Similarly man’s spirituality also has some impact on his apparent actions.
  7. Man is advancing on the road of progress and perfection, which is instilled in his nature. Allah’s creation is not in vain, hence his struggle towards his goal and his striving towards perfection is necessary. He should be ale to differentiate between the path towards his goal and the path that leads him astray.
  8. Man by nature is self-centered and self-seeking and basically does not have a any other aim in life other than his own success and benefit. Man tries to derive benefit from his fellow creatures and wants to enjoy the fruits of his endeavours.
  9. A man goes after perfection and in his endeavour he pursues every possible way. But in that he, invariably finds himself incapable of differentiating between the right and the wrong way. This is mainly because desires and temptations pull down a curtain of darkness over his intellect and prevent him from selecting the right path. His desires distract him from the truth and drive him towards the valley of deviation and disgrace. In such circumstances it is essential that there are rules and laws in place that resolve his difficulties and firmly establish him on the road of progress and prosperity. In this way, he can acquire bliss and good conduct – the ultimate goals that he had outlined for himself.
  10. It is evident that man is helpless to formulate a comprehensive set of laws for himself that can guarantee him success in this world as well as hereafter. The reason behind this is that man is a victim of his selfish desires, vanity, personal and social ambitions. Moreover, he has very limited knowledge. Hence it is essential that laws should be devised by someone who does not have these defects and whose knowledge is limitless and whose essence is not affected by changing times.

Good fortune in the hereafter
After underlining the aim behind prophethood, it is appropriate to state that Allah, the Wise, who has granted man the capacity to do good or evil, has not left man free to fall prey to beastly behaviour and base desires. Allah has not deserted man to wander in the darkness of ignorance. On the contrary, out of His limitless and boundless favours, He has raised prophets (a.s.) who propagated rules, laws and established a complete code of conduct to ensure success and happiness for man in this world and the hereafter. By sending prophets (a.s.), Allah ensured that there was no excuse for man in the hereafter.

Path of progress
Progress of man and his salvation is in treading the straight path towards Allah. For this Allah revealed laws and regulations to the prophets (a.s.). The prophets (a.s.) in turn used to preach these laws to the people and guided them towards the belief in One God and the hereafter. Moreover, the divine commandments and spiritual laws did not contradict reality, nor did they go against man’s goal of achieving bliss and prosperity in this world and the hereafter. In other words, Allah’s laws were in conformity with man’s nature and his objectives. So if man treads on the path defined by Allah for his progress, he will experience satisfaction and bliss in his own existence in this world itself.

Infallibility of Allah’s prophets (a.s.)
It is essential for the prophets (a.s.) and messengers (a.s.) to convey the rules and regulations to the people so as to fulfill the aim of prophethood. It is important for the prophets (a.s.) to guide and help the people to the path that leads them to their desired goal. The guarantee of man’s success in this world and the hereafter was linked to the obligatory rules and commandments which were to be conveyed by the prophets (a.s.) to the people without any increase or decrease in them, so that people do not offer any excuses later. Obviously only that person will be able to achieve the task of conveying divine rules and commandments who is free from all sorts of mistakes, doubts, errors and forgetfulness. In addition to this, he has to be aware of the realities behind these rules and he must act on his knowledge and invite people with his tongue as well as his actions towards real perfection, leaving no room for doubt or suspicion in treading the right path. This is because if a prophet is not abiding by the rules of religion then the people will not trust him, and will not believe him completely. If he goes against his own commands, he will be inviting the people towards a conflict, and they will not know whether they should follow his commands or his actions. Obviously if the prophet does not practically obey divine commands, then just a verbal invitation will not have the desired effect on him.

Thus we have established the need for prophethood for the masses and the rationale behind the infallibility of prophets (a.s.). The need for prophethood is proved and it is evident that there has to be Allah’s proof on the earth at all times. Hence we have this belief that it is necessary that an Imam should be present on the earth at all times, whether he is accessible to people (apparent) or concealed from their eyes. Inshallah, we shall discuss the occultation on Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) in the subsequent part.