The Infallibility of Imams (`a) and its Limits
One of the brilliant characteristics of the Imams (`a) is infallibility. Infallibility means being safe. An infallible person is someone who is completely safe from committing faults, forgetfulness, and wrongdoing. Just as the Prophet (s) should be infallible, the Imam should be infallible, since he is the Prophet’s (s) successor. If the Prophet’s (s) successor is not infallible, there will be no guarantee for execution of religious commandments revealed for people’ guidance and Allah’s blessings will not be completed. Various qualities of an infallible person are:
1. He has no superstitious or wrong opinion.
2. He commits no fault in understanding religious facts and issues.
3. He is away from fault and forgetfulness in recording and maintaining religious commandments, sciences, and teachings.
4. He commits no fault in presenting religious commandments, sciences, and teachings to the people.
5. He commits no unlawful or irreligious deed.
The Secret of Infallibility
The infallibility of the Prophet (s) and the Imams (`a) does not mean that they do not have the factors for or ability to commit sins. It does not mean that if they intended to commit sins, the Almighty Allah directly or through His angels avoided them. Rather, the infallible Imams (`a) –like other people– had lust and anger and could do wrong, but they avoided it. The secret of their infallibility is twofold; first, their strong belief in Allah, the Hereafter, the Hell and the Paradise, the Reckoning, and punishments and rewards, and second, inner intuition of outcomes of wrongdoing, which is granted to them by the Almighty Allah.
The secret of infallibility of the Imams from faults and forgetfulness is their knowledge type. The Imams’ (`a) knowledge of religious facts is intuitive, which originates from their insight. They intuitively know the true path to humanity and the sources of religious commandments and rules without any forgetfulness. Moreover, their physical structure is created by the Exalted Allah in a way that they can state their intuitive knowledge in words for the people. This in another Devine blessing and support from the Almighty Allah.