Hawzah News Agency – At the beginning of our discussion of the Imamate, we pointed out that the Imam and caliph of the Prophet, from the point of view of the Muslims, is one who is charged with the responsibilities of the Prophet—save that of establishing the religion. We shall mention below the most important of these responsibilities in order to highlight the rank and significance of the Imamate.
1. Explaining the meanings of the Holy Qur’an and resolving its complexities was one of the responsibilities of the Prophet. As the Qur’an says:
... And We have revealed unto thee the Remembrance that thou mayst explain to mankind that which hath been revealed for them. (Sura alNahl, XVI:44)
2. Explaining the rulings of the Shari’a was another of the Prophet’s responsibilities, which he discharged partly through reference to Qur’anic verses and partly by his own actions, the Sunna. Such explanation was given gradually, in harmony with the unfolding of daily events; the nature of this responsibility was such that it needed to be continued, for the number of hadiths of the Prophet regarding legal rulings does not exceed five hundred; and this quantity of juristic traditions is insufficient for [a comprehensive system of] jurisprudence.
3. The avoidance of divisiveness. Since the Prophet was the pivot of God’s truth, and he illuminated all matters, such that any kind of deviation in the beliefs of the umma was forestalled, no kind of sectarianism saw the light of day during his life-time.
4. Responding to all religious and theological questions was another of his responsibilities.
5. Training his followers by means of his speech and his actions.
6. Establishing justice, equity and security in the nascent Islamic
7. Protection of the frontiers and the lands of Islam against its
Now if the last two responsibilities can be carried out by a leader chosen by the people, it is obvious that the previous ones require a leader of exceptional knowledge and ability, one who, in his mode of awareness and of activity, follows in the footsteps of the Prophet, one who must be appointed by means of a special grace from God. He must bear within himself intimate knowledge of the prophetic message, and he must be free from all types of error and sin in order to discharge the aforementioned obligations and thereby fill the place vacated by the Prophet. But it must be stressed that such a person, despite possessing certain prophetic
sciences, is not a Prophet, nor the founder of a divine law, the rank of Imam never being equated with that of a Prophet.
Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, london • new york 2003.