The following is the first argument (of a total of fourteen) given by a prominent Ismaili da’i, Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani (d. after 1020), for the necessity of imamate and my criticism of it. It’s taken from one of his works entitled al-Masabih fi ithbat al-imama (tran. by Paul E. Walker as Master of the Age: An Islamic Treatise on the Necessity of the Imamate, p. 71). I plan on eventually making my way through all fourteen of his arguments, God-willing.

 I. Kirmani’s first argument:

The Messenger set forth on behalf of God wisdom that is far-reaching and it was incumbent on him to convey it to those of the human species to whom he was sent, both those in existence in his time and those humans who would come into existence through procreation after him up to the Day of Judgment. The humans who lived in his time were not able to accept that wisdom in one fell swoop, nor was it feasible for the humans who were to come into existence up to the Day of Judgment to exist all together. Yet it was impossible that the Messenger himself remain in this world until the protection of God would cover all the nations to whom it was to be conveyed. As a result it was necessary to appoint someone to occupy his place in conveying that protection and to set up the perpetual designation of another when the time of his passing approached. The person appointed for that purpose is the imam. Hence, the imamate is essential.

II. The argument in syllogistic format.

If the people to whom the Prophet was sent were not able to accept the wisdom of God (i.e. the Revelation), then he had to appoint someone in his place to do it after him.
The people to whom he was sent were not able to accept the wisdom of God.
Therefore, the Prophet had to appoint someone in his place to do it after him.

The conditional is more or less evident (for Kirmani). He affirms the antecedent, justifying it by claiming: “The humans who lived in his time were not able to accept that wisdom in one fell swoop, nor was it feasible for the humans who were to come into existence up to the Day of Judgment to exist all together. Yet it was impossible that the Messenger himself remain in this world until the protection of God would cover all the nations to whom it was to be conveyed.” If so, then by modus ponens, the conclusion follows.

 III. Criticism of Kirmani’s first argument.

The argument can be criticized from many points of view, but I’ll just limit myself to a very simple one. And that is simply that I deny the conditional, for its antecedent and consequent are incompatible with each other. That is to say, if the people were not able to accept that wisdom of God from the Prophet “in one fell swoop”, then he could not have appointed someone to do it after him, for that would mean that he then did in fact convey the wisdom, even if only to a single individual, viz. the person whom he appoints to convey the wisdom of God after himself. So the consequent is false, and hence, we don’t need to accept the conclusion.

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