23. The meaning of caliphate and imamate.
(As 200 explained,) the real meaning of royal authority is that it is a form of organization necessary to mankind. (Royal authority) requires superiority and force, which express the wrathfulness 201 and animality (of human nature). The decisions of the ruler will therefore, as a rule, deviate from what is right. They will be ruinous to the worldly affairs of the people under his control, since, as a rule, he forces them to execute his intentions and desires, which it may be beyond their ability (to do). This situation will differ according to the difference of intentions to be found in different generations. (But) it is for this reason difficult to be obedient to (the ruler). Disobedience 202 makes itself noticeable and leads to trouble and bloodshed.
Therefore, it is necessary to have reference to ordained political norms, which are accepted by the mass and to whose laws it submits. The Persians and other nations had such norms. The dynasty that does not have a policy based on such (norms), cannot fully succeed in establishing the supremacy of its rule. "This is how God proceeded with those who were before." 203
If these norms are ordained by the intelligent and leading personalities and (best) minds of the dynasty, the result will be a political (institution) on an intellectual (rational) basis. If they are ordained by God through a lawgiver who establishes them as (religious) laws, the result will be a political (institution) on a religious basis, which will be useful for life in both this and the other world.
This is because the purpose of human beings is not only their worldly welfare. This entire world is trifling and futile. It ends in death and annihilation. God says: "Do you think that we created you triflingly?" 204 The purpose (of human beings) is their religion, which leads them to happiness in the other world, "the path of God to whom belongs that which is in heaven and that which is on earth." 205 Therefore, religious laws have as their purpose to cause (human beings) to follow such a course in all their dealings with God and their fellow men. This (situation) also applies to royal authority, which is natural in human social organization. (The religious laws) guide it along the path of religion, so that everything will be under the supervision of the religious law. Anything (done by royal authority) that is dictated by force, superiority, or the free play of the power of wrathfulness, is tyranny and injustice and considered reprehensible by (the religious law), as it is also considered reprehensible by the requirements of political wisdom. Likewise, anything (done by royal authority) that is dictated (merely) by considerations of policy or political decisions without supervision of the religious law 206 is also reprehensible, because it is vision lacking the divine light. "He for whom God makes no light has no light whatever." 207 The Lawgiver (Muhammad) knows better than the mass itself what is good for them so far as the affairs of the other world, which are concealed from the mass itself, are concerned. At the Resurrection, the actions of human beings, whether they had to do with royal authority or anything else, will all come back to them. Muhammad said: "It is your own actions that are brought back to you."
Political laws consider only worldly interests. "They know the outward life of this world." 208 (On the other hand,) the intention the Lawgiver has concerning mankind is their welfare in the other world.209 Therefore, it is necessary, as required by the religious law, to cause the mass to act in accordance with the religious laws in all their affairs touching both this world and the other world. The authority to do so was possessed by the representatives of the religious law, the prophets. (Later on, it was possessed) by those who took their place, the caliphs.
This makes it clear what the caliphate means. (To exercise) natural royal authority means to cause the masses to act as required by purpose and desire. (To exercise) political (royal authority) means to cause the masses to act as required by intellectual (rational) insight into the means of furthering their worldly interests and avoiding anything that is harmful (in that respect). (And to exercise) the caliphate means to cause the masses to act as required by religious insight into their interests in the other world as well as in this world. (The worldly interests) have bearing upon (the interests in the other world), since according to the Lawgiver (Muhammad), all worldly conditions are to be considered in their relation to their value for the other world. Thus, (the caliphate) in reality substitutes for the Lawgiver (Muhammad), in as much as it serves, like him, to protect the religion and to exercise (political) leadership of the world.
This should be understood and be kept in mind in the following discussion. God is wise and knowing.