History has revealed that people got themselves elected by vote of majority but sooner or later its defects began to dawn upon them. We had considered those elected people as the best ones, and had prepared ourselves to lay our lives for their sake, and they on their part acted in such a manner by deceit, fraud and diplomacy, that we could not become aware of our wrong decision, and the later events established that they were other than what we had supposed them to be, as their position and status had changed them altogether. Actually we do not possess the knowledge of the unseen and thus as we are unaware of the coming events and the nature of the people's disposition we cannot form a definite opinion about them.
Are man's circumstances not apt to change? Is it not a fact that certainty changes into doubt and vice versa? Does fear not change into faith, and does faith sometimes not change into atheism? We have before us many instances of people about whom we had great hopes but they disappointed us. We also know of instances of people about whom we could not imagine that they would become so virtuous and pious, but all of a sudden they changed and became the source of virtues and blessings. Did the paid magicians of Fir'aun not come out to disgrace Prophet Musa and did they not all of a sudden become the followers of Prophet Musa?
Was Bal'am Ba'ur not a wise man who for the love of worldly things lost all his merits?
By citing these instances it is not our intention to denounce altogether the method of election or the verdict of the people, but our aim is to prove that election can be a means of solving a certain problem but it cannot be a correct, sure and Divine means. Therefore, the best means to solve all problems is the means of Islam. Perhaps we can liken the means of election to the process of drawing the lots but this too can be on some occasions a source of solving a problem but it can not always a practical and sensible means.
To elaborate the above-mentioned discussion we reproduce below an interesting narration of Imam Zaynul Abidin:
The Holy Imam says, "If you come across a man who is courteous, appears to be of good character, possesses the signs of devotion and worship, and is quite humble and modest, you should wait for some time, so that he may not deceive you".
The Holy Imam giving the reasons for patience says: "There are many people who are unable to gain worldly benefits not because of their faith and piety, but because of their physical infirmity, mental incapability, lack of personality, or fear. Thus that person who is incapable, timid and characterless uses religion as a shield to gain the world and he always deceives the people by his pretensions and affectation, and, if circumstances permit he would plunge himself into corruption and immorality".
In the latter part of this narration the Holy Imam says, "If you see that a person is also away from unlawful property, even then you should wait, and not make a hasty decision about his being a good person because a man has varying desires. There are many people who avoid unlawful property but they become inclined to other undesirable and unlawful deeds".
Would that we were able to comprehend the true meaning of the Imam's saying.
The Holy Imam continues to say, "When you see that a man abstains from all evil deeds and does not deceive you also, you should watch his intelligence, because there are many people who are away from evils and yet they do not have commonsense and intelligence, as a result of which they become inclined towards evil instead of good".
In the last portion of his narration Imam Zaynal Abidin continues to say, "If you see that a person possesses good intelligence and does not deceive you also, even then you should wait and see whether he lets his desires overpower his intelligence or with the help of his intelligence he is dominated by his desires, and how much ambitious he is of acquiring false leadership, because there are persons who are losers in this world and also in the Hereafter. They do not forsake the world for the love of Allah but for the sake of achieving the false power and authority. To them the pleasure of having the authority is more important than the pleasure of the world and its bounties.
The Holy Imam at last says: "In fact a noble man is he, who considers disgrace with truth better than honour coming through evil". (Biharul Anwar, vol. LXXIV, p. 184)472
The gist of this long narration is that the question of selecting a leader of the Ummah by means of election cannot be settled when all the influencing factors of deceiving the people and of the people being deceived are predominant.
I again repeat that election can be a means of solving a problem to a certain extent but it cannot be effective at all places and in all circumstances.
Imam Ja'far Sadiq says, "If a friend of yours has reached a high position or status and he still has one-tenth of his attachment and love that he had for you before, he is not a bad friend". (Biharul Anwar, vol. LXXIV, p. 157)
Just imagine how power changes man's attitude. Therefore many good-natured and sincere people become changed in their attitude and behaviour after attaining a position of authority. That is why we say that the appointment of the leader should come through Divine authority as Allah is All-Knowing and He knows the unseen. Allah alone knows better as to who should be endowed with Prophethood. The Holy Qur'an says:
Allah knows best where to direct His Message. (Surah al-An'am, 6:125)
People's Decision is Not Always Correct
Imam Muhammad Baqir said to Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari: ' O Jabir! You cannot be a friend of ours until you make yourself such that if all the people of the town say about you that you are a bad man and you do not grieve and gumble or if they say that you are a good man and you do not feel happy about it and that to know your own-self and submit yourself to the scrutiny of the Holy Book". (Buzurg Salan, vol. I, p. 431)
From this narration it becomes evidently clear that the common opinion or decision of the people is not always correct.
After it has been proved that Imamate is an important principle of the belief and is the source of guidance and development of the social order and that without following the Imam worship is not accepted despite one's day and night worshipping of Allah. The Holy Imam says: "By Allah! If some one engages himself in prayers during the night, and fasts during the day, but does not accept our leadership, will, on the Day of Judgement, either face a great torment of Allah or at-east Allah will not be pleased with him". (Biharul Anwar, vol.XXVI, p. 190)
We read in history that the question of Imamate has greatly influenced the people. It left a particular effect on their destiny and thereafter they were involved in threats, intimidation, temptation, and suspicions by which they for themselves installed fictitious leaders and Imams and thus brought various sections of the population on the brink of disaster.
Now it is appropriate that after all these discussions we should trace the means and method of appointment of the Imam from the Holy Qur'an and traditions. Before that it is better that we review the various prevailing methods in vogue and then compare them with that of the Islamic method and know the Islamic values.
Various Methods of Appointing the Leader
In this world people acquire leadership through revolt, force, power and oppression or through a committee or a parliament. It is also through general elections or through inheritance that a leader is appointed.
Obviously, armed revolt is a transgression and for practical purposes it thrusts the authority of a minority ignoring the views of the majority. This method thrusts one person on the people. The system of election is also not without defects as it also comes under the definition of force or compulsion. The only flawless means therefore is the Divine method by which only flawless means therefore is the infallible Imam is appointed.
By: Professor Muhsin Qara'ati