Shia doctrine: An Imam must be infallible

Among all Islamic schools of thought, the only school which believes in the infallibility of the Imam are the Imamiyyah. Sheikh Al-Mufid remarks: Our Imams, like the Prophets, are infallible (masum) and are protected from sin and error. Neither lapses nor negligence can affect them. In spite of this, they are still free to choose between good and evil and are not compelled to good. (Tashih Al-Itiqad, 61 ).

The clearest proof for the infallibility of the Imams lies in the concept of the Imamate itself. The successorship of the Imams to the Prophet (PBUH) is not limited to secular responsibilities regarding the material world; they are the Prophet’s successors in all of his duties and obligations, such as: the explaining the Divine Law, interpreting the Quran, addressing new issues, responding to the intellectual challenges of opponents, etc. The fulfilment of all these duties is possible only if the Imam is divinely guided.

The reality of the Imam’s infallibility is that he is endowed with qualities that enable him to comitting forbidden acts, slipping into error, and totally comply with his obligations. At the same time, he retains the freedom to sin should he choose to do so. In other words, the Imam reaches such a high level of virtue and wisdom that not only does he not commit any sins, he no longer desires to sin.

Infallibility (Ismah) is not something invented by the Imamiyyah, but which is clearly illustrated by numerous verses of the Quran and traditions from the Prophet (PBUH). We will discuss some of these now:

The Verse of Purification (Ayah Al-Tathir)

The Quran describes the Prophet’s (PBUH) Household (Ahlul-Bayt) as free from all kinds of impurity, including polytheism (shirk), hypocrisy (Nifaq) and sinfulness (Fisq). It says: Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O’ People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification.’ (Quran 33:33)

In reported in numerous traditions that what it is meant by ‘People of the Household’ (Ahlul-Bayt) has been clearly defined. On one occasion the Prophet (PBUH) drew his cloak over Ali (AS), Fatimah (SA) and their two sons, Hassan (AS) and Hussain (AS), and said: ‘O’ God! These are the People of my Household. (Al-Durr Al-Manthur, 5/198–199; Ibn Athir, Jami Al-Usul, 10/103 )

Imam Ali (AS) Is the Touchstone of Truth

The Prophet (PBUH) said: Ali is with the truth and the truth is with Ali. (Tarikh al-Baghdad, 14/321; Majma Al-Zawaid, 7/236) and anyone who is described in such a way must certainly be infallible (Ma’sum).

The Tradition of Two Weighty Things (Hadith Al-Thaqalayn)

In a widely-reported tradition, the Prophet’s (PBUH) Household has been equated with the Quran. This means that just as the Quran is infallible, so too are they. The tradition reads: ‘I am leaving two weighty things (Thaqalayn) amongst you: the Book of God and my Household, which, if you hold on to, you will never go astray’ (Aḥmad, Musnad, 2/114).

Obedience To ‘Those Vested With Authority’ Ulul-Amr)

The Quran bids people to obey God and the Prophet (PBUH), and ‘those vested with authority among you’. Therefore, if unconditional obedience is due to ‘those vested with authority’ in the same manner as God and the Prophet, they must also have been presumed to be infallible. If this were not the case, the Quran would have mentioned the proper conditions of such obedience: ‘O’ you who have faith! Obey Allah (SWT) and obey the Messenger and those vested with authority among you.’ (Q4:59)

In other words, the Islamic nation must obey God, the Prophet (PBUH) and those vested with authority. The infallibility of the first two is beyond question. As regards the third, however, God also orders us to obey them unquestioningly and does not make any stipulations, for instance, to obey them as long as they do not command you to commit sins. Consequently, upon God’s clear command to obey those vested with authority (Ulul-Amr), we understand that they are all infallible and protected from sinning or erring.

Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi was aware of this fact. He remarked: ‘Due to the fact that we are ordered to obey those vested with authority, they must be infallible and free from any wrong doing and sins.’ But then, he adds: ‘However, since we do not find such persons in society, the right person can be designated through the consensus of Muslims in each society.’

However, Al-Razi would have never interpreted the ‘those vested with authorised’ as being invested with it by the general consensus of the Muslims had he paid attention to the Quran and the Prophet’s (PBUH) tradition more closely. Since Alī (AS) and the Prophet’s (PBUH) Household are as infallible as to the text of Quran, they are granted divine authority. It would be very strange to deem ‘those vested with authority’ as those chosen by the general consensus of the Muslim nation. Had that been the case, the ruler and the ruled would be the same: the ummah on the one hand, becomes the ruler, and the ruled, on the other.

Source: shafaqna

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