Imam of light and guidance
 

Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) outlines the characteristics of the just and rightly guided Imam, 'You should know that among the creatures of Allah, the most distinguished person before Allah is the just Imam who has been guided (by Allah) and guides others. So, he stands by the recognized ways of the Prophet's (s.a.w.a.) behavior (Sunnah) and destroys the innovations. The (Prophet's (s.a.w.a.)) ways are clear and they have signs, while innovations are also clear and they too have signs.' (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 164, vol. 1, pg. 608, Ansariyan Publications)

In another sermon, Hazrat Ali (a.s.) declares,
'Certainly the Imams are the vicegerents of Allah over His creatures and they introduce Allah to His creatures. None will enter Paradise except he who recognizes them (Imams) and knows Allah, and no one will enter Hell except he who rejects them and denies Him. (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 152, vol. 1, pg. 554, Ansariyan Publications)

He elaborates on this further, 'O my Allah! You know that it was neither our (Ahle Bait) objective to seek power, nor to acquire anything from the treasures of the world. Rather we wanted to restore the signs of Your religion and to spread prosperity into Your cities so that the oppressed among Your creatures may be safe and Your forsaken commands could be established. O my Allah! I am the first who was inclined (towards Thee) and who heard and responded (to the call of Islam). No one preceded me in prayer except the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).'

'You certainly know that he who is in charge of honor, life, booty, (enforcement of) legal commands and the leadership of the Muslims should not be a miser as his greed would aim at their wealth. Similarly he should not be ignorant as he would then mislead them with his ignorance, nor should he be rude as he would estrange them with his rudeness. He should not be unjust in distributing wealth by preferring one group to another, nor should he accept bribes while taking decisions, as he would forfeit the rights of some and decree without decisiveness, nor should he ignore the Sunnah as he would ruin the people.

(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 131, vol. 1, pg. 496, Ansariyan Publications)

By referring to these brilliant sermons, it becomes abundantly clear that the leader and Imam who possesses the following characteristics can alone guide the people towards the truth.

1. He is guided.
2. He guides others towards the true path.
3. He enlivens the Sunnah.
4. He destroys innovations.
5. His recognition is the cause of deliverance for the people.
6. His rejection is the cause of eternal chastisement.
7. He does not desire worldly power and authority.
8. He does not crave for the treasures of the world.
9. He makes manifest the signs of religion.
10. He establishes peace and tranquility in Allah's cities.
11. He provides shelter to His oppressed servants.
12. He revives the forgotten commands.
13. He is not a miser.
14. He is not ignorant.
15. His traits and mannerisms are not evil and wicked.
16. He is not a coward.
17. He is not a corrupt.
18. He does not destroy the Sunnah.

Imam Ali (a.s.) highlights the above points in another sermon, 'Certainly, there is no obligation on the Imam except what has been devolved on him from Allah, namely to convey warnings, to exhort and advice, to revive the Sunnah, enforce penalties on those liable and issue shares to the deserving.'

(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 105, vol. 1, pg. 400, Ansariyan Publications) The Ahle Bait (a.s.) If we search for the cha

racteristics of the rightly guided Imam, we find that these traits are present only in the pure and infallible members of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Hazrat Ali (a.s.) exhorts, 'Look at the people of the Prophet's (s.a.w.a.) family - Ahle Bait (a.s.). Adhere to their direction. Follow their footsteps because they will never misguide you, and never throw you into destruction. If they sit down, you too must sit down, and if they rise, you also rise. Do not go ahead of them, as you will go astray and do not lag behind them, as you will be ruined.

(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 97, vol. 1, pg. 378, Ansariyan Publications)

'Where are those people who have lied and have tormented us and have deceitfully claimed that they are 'the ones firmly rooted in knowledge' and not us? (They lie against us and covet over position) because Allah, the All-Merciful has exalted our status and has made them inferior to us. He has conferred upon us an eminence from which He prevented them from surpassing us. He allowed us entry to the transcendental sphere of divine revelation, which He denied them. Remember that guidance could be acquired and ignorance could be dispelled through us only. Undoubtedly the Imams shall be from the Quraish, from the Bani Hashim. This divine appointment has been made for this august progeny, and none else deserves this sublime and sacred rank.'

(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 144, vol. 1, pg. 528, Ansariyan Publications)

These assertive and decisive statements make it abundantly clear that the rightful possessors of Imamat and Caliphate are the Ahle Bait (a.s.). No one else is deserving of this honor and station. Only the Ahle Bait (a.s.) can direct the people to the path of guidance and lead them to paradise. If somebody considers a person other than them as his leader, guide and Imam, he has deviated and is far from guidance.

When Imam Ali (a.s.) appointed Janab Mohammad Ibne Abi Bakr as governor of Egypt, he (a.s.) wrote a letter to him in which he said:

'The leader towards guidance, and the leader towards destruction, the friend and the enemy of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), can never be alike.'

(Nahjul Balagha, Letter No. 27, vol. 2, pg. 314, Ansariyan Publications) Imam Ali (a.s.) has tried to awaken the consciousness of man with this powerful statement. The statement appeals to the people to open their eyes and refer to their intellects and then decide with deep reflection - Are the leaders of guidance and the path bearers to paradise equal to the guides towards the hell fire and darkness? Never! Awaken and decide for yourselves.