Imam as a Holder of Walayat
Dealing with the proof of Walayat and its holder, the Imam, and the fact that the world has never been without a holder of Walayat, i.e. a perfect man, Allamah Tabatabai says "'There is no doubt about the existence of a path of Walayat by treading on which man traverses the stages of esoteric perfection and reaches the stage of proximity to Allah. The existence of the outer religious trappings, without an inner reality, is unimaginable. The creative ability or source which has provided for religious teachings of practical, ethical and social nature and has preached them, must have provided for the inner reality also, which is the soul of the outer religious phenomena.
The arguments, which prove the existence of Prophethood and the continuity of the religious laws, also prove the existence and continuity of the system of Walayat. How can it be imagined that the tenets and laws should have a real existence, but the inner reality should not exist or the contact of the human world with it should be severed? The chief holder of Walayat, who maintains this contact, has been called Imam by the Qur'an, as is borne out by this verse.
When his Lord tested Ibrahim with certain commands and he fulplled them. He said: Surely I am appointing you an Imam of man" (al-Baqarah, 2: 124)
The Imam is a person who is selected by Allah to be the leader of the path of Walayat. It is he who holds the reins of esoteric Walayat in his hands. He is the centre of the rays of Walayat which reflect on the hearts of the people".
In the Usul al-Kafi there is a report by Abu Khalid Kabuli, who narrates that he asked Imam al-Baqir about the Qur'anic verse,
So believe in Allah, His Messenger and the light which We have sent". (al-Taghabun, 64:8).
The Imam explaining the verse said: "O Abu Khalid!I swear by Allah that the light of the Imam shines more brilliantly in the hearts of the believers than the sun at day".
What he meant was that it was wrong to confine the aim of the religious teachings to the good results which might be obtained in the worldly life, and to interpret proximity to Allah, which is the direct result of good deeds, allegorically to mean attaining favour of Allah in the same sense as the favour of those in power and authority is gained in this world. Such an interpretation ignores the effective role which proximity to Allah plays in spiritual life. Proximity to Allah raises man up on a higher plane of existence. Those who traverse the highest stages of proximity to Allah and really get closer to the centre of existence, naturally dominate the world. It is they who control the souls and the conscience of others and are witnesses to their deeds.
Basically every existing thing that advances on the way to its perfection, traverses some stages towards proximity to Allah. Man is also one of the existing things. His perfection is not confined merely to what is called nowadays civilization i.e. the development of a series of sciences, arts and rules of personal and social behaviour useful in the present life. Man has another dimension also, for which he has to purify his soul and secure contact with Allah.
"Adapted from Master and Mastership"
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