A government, social or business organization must need a group of competent andexperienced individuals to run its service and business functions. In absence of such executives and business leaders, the organization wouldn’t be able to survive.
These organizations will always be dependent upon competent and honest managers; otherwise, they will be liquidated in a short period. This is a clear fact that can be perceived by pondering a little. Our daily life experiences and social experiments also witness this important observation.
Guardianship in Islam
Surely, the organization of the religion of Islam, which could be called the world's largest organization, follows the same principle. It depends upon guardians and directors for its survival and continuity.
It always looks for competent individuals to provide the people with Islamic teachings and laws, to carry out its exact provisions in the Islamic society, and to allow no negligence and procrastination in the observance and safeguarding of Islam.
The guardianship of religious matters and of the Islamic society is called "Imamah". The guardian or leader of religion is known as the "Imam". The Holy Prophet (SA), Muhammad (pbuh) appointed the Imam Ali (AS) by the Will of Almighty Allah to act as a custodian and guardian of the sciences and commandments of Islam and to lead the people onto the right path.
A true investigation and a thorough sincere study on Islamic teachings will lead us to the conclusion that Imamah is one of the unquestionable principles of the holy religion of Islam and that the Almighty Allah stipulates this matter in Qur'anic verses while introducing the organization of His religion.
Error-prone Nature of Man
Error-prone nature of man’s intellect makes it impossible to establish a just system in society without the guidance provided by the prophets of God. Similarly, the existence of Islamic scholars and their religious propagation is not sufficient to make people independent of Imams.
The question is not whether people follow the religion or not, rather the point under discussion is that the religion of Allah must reach the people untouched and without any change, alteration, or mutilation.
Verily, the religious scholars are not infallible and not immune from error and sin regardless how virtuous and pious they are. It is not impossible that Islamic sciences and laws be ruined and changed by them, irrespective of deliberately or unintentionally. The best evidence for this matter is the existence of various sects and discrepancies which have crept into Islam.
Therefore, in any case, the existence of the Imam is necessary to safeguard the real Islamic sciences and laws of the religion of Allah, so that people could benefit from his guidance whenever they find the ability to receive it.
Imam, guidance and human perfection
The kindness, love and care of the Creator of this universe necessitates for guiding every creature towards a specific goal. For instance, a fruit- bearing tree is led towards development, blossom, and bearing fruit. Its course of life differs from that of a bird. Similarly, every bird lives in its own special way and pursues its own specific goal.
In this manner, every creature is led only towards reaching its specified goal and pursuing the right path and nothing else. Obviously, man is also one of the creatures of Allah and is bound by the same principle of guidance.
Since the ideal perfection and prosperity of man is gained through his own choice and free will, the Divine guidance of man, in particular, should be achieved by way of invitation, propagation, and communication of religion and its rules and regulations through the prophets, so that men could not have any excuse against this system of the Almighty Allah.
"(We sent) messengers as the givers of good news and as warners, so that people should not have a plea against Allah after the (coming of) messengers…"(Quran, 4:165).
This holy statement leads to the same logic that necessitated the appointment of prophets and the establishment of the system of religious invitation.
After the demise of the Holy Prophet (SA), who guarded the religion and led the people with his purity, it is necessary for the Almighty Allah to assign someone similar to him in purity and ideal attributes (except Revelation and Prophethood) as a substitute to preserve the Islamic sciences and commandments without any deviation and lead the people.
Otherwise, the program of general guidance will be disrupted and people would have an excuse against the system of guidance of Allah.
The following sources are used to prepare the above article.
1. Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'I, Islamic Techings in Brief, Ansariyan Publication