There is no doubt that a guide is needed for the attainment and the development of spiritual life. Now let us see who is fit to undertake the task of such a guidance.
Naturally this task cannot be performed by an ordinary man. The guide must be a person whose speech is dependable, who is infallible, and who himself stands on the pinnacle of spiritual life.
As we know, Allah does not entrust the duty of guiding others to anyone unless He Himself has guided him fully.
The Qur’an says:
Is He who guides to the truth more worthy to be followed, or he who does not guide unless he himself is guided” (Surah Yunus, 10:35 )
A guide to spiritual life or the Imam must possess special qualities, because the function of Imamate is not ordinary guidance, which is the duty of every Muslim and is not confined to the Imam.
In the case of the Imam guidance means ‘guidance by behest’. Those who have not attained spiritual life and to whom the realities of the world have not been revealed, cannot undertake such guidance.
A study of those verses of the Qur’an in which there is a mention of Imamate will show that in most cases the mention of Imamate has been followed by that of ‘guidance by behest’ as an explanation of the meaning of Imamate.