The Necessity of Obeying the Imam

The Necessity of Obeying the Imam

The Holy Quran has placed obeying the Imam in the same rank as obeying the Almighty Allah and His Messenger (s);

يا أَيُّها الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِى‏‌ الأمْرِ مِنْكُمْ فَإِنْ تَنازَعْتُمْ فِى‏‌ شَى‏‌ءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى‏‌ اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَاليَوْمِ الآخِرِ ذ لِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلًا

“O ye who believe! Obey God, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Messenger, if ye do believe in God and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.[13]”

In this verse, obeying three ones is considered obligatory for the believers:

1. The Almighty Allah has created humans and all the blessings for them, so appreciating the Creator is a logical issue.

One of the Divine blessings is sending the prophets (`a) along with Divine guidelines. Allah’s Mercy necessitates that He regulate guidelines and plans for humans’ worldly and spiritual perfection and send them by His messengers, so that the people are guided to the true path and warned against evilness and wrongdoing. In other words, following the Divine commandments and obeying the prophets (s) are to the benefit of the servants, hence logically obligatory.

2. The Prophet of Islam (s) is the second one whose obeying is considered obligatory in the mentioned Quranic verse. Prophet Muhammad (s) received messages from Allah through revelation and declared them to the people. Moreover, the Almighty Allah had allowed him to issue commandments in two cases. First he was allowed to issue commandments in various jurisprudential fields based on heavenly revelations and propose them to the believers. Second, since he was the Muslims’ leader and managed their social and political issues, he was permitted to make rules based on the expediency of the Islamic Ummah and in framework of general Islamic commandments and execute them. These rules are literally called ‘governmental commandments’.

Based on the mentioned Quranic verse, obeying the Prophet (s) is obligatory in this case too. This verse is also a proof for Prophet Muhammad’s (s) infallibility, or else obeying him absolutely was unjustified.

3. The Ulul Amr (those charged with authority). Although ulul amr apparently includes all the leaders and rulers, it should only mean the infallible rulers, because obeying them is considered absolutely obligatory. As mentioned before, obeying the fallible is religiously and logically baseless. As a result, ulul amr –as mentioned in the Quranic verse under discussion- means the Prophet’s (s) successors or the infallible Imams (`a), who are responsible for ruling the Islamic ummah after the Messenger of Allah (s) and manage the Islamic country. Some traditions interpret ulul amr as the infallible from the Prophet’s (s) Household.

Hussayn Ibn Abil ‘Ala’ says, “I asked Imam Sadiq (`a), ‘Is obeying the successors of Messenger of Allah (s) obligatory?’ Imam Sadiq (`a) answered, ‘Yes. They are the people about whom the Exalted Allah said,

أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِى‏‌ الأمْرِ مِنْكُمْ

‘Obey Allah and obey the Apostle’

And He stated,

إِنَّما وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكاةَ وَهُمْ راكِعُونَ

‘(Your (real) friends are (no less than) God, His Apostle, and the (fellowship of) believers,- those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship).[14])”[15]

Therefore, the infallible Imams (`a) were the possessors of the Prophet’s (s) sciences and attempted in circulating them. Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (s) had allowed them to make necessary laws in case there was no explicit text in Holy Quran, based on Muslims’ expediency and time and place requirements and execute these so called ‘governmental laws’.


[13] Surah Al-Nisa’ (4): 59.
[14] Surah Al-Ma’idah (5): 55.
[15] Usul Kafi, Vol 1, p. 189.