The subject under discussion is the perfect man from the viewpoint of Islam. A perfect man means an exemplary human being, who is superior and exalted, or any other interpretation that one can make. Like everything else, a human being may be perfect or imperfect, and sound or defective. A sound person, too, may be both sound and perfect or sound and imperfect.
To know a perfect or exemplary human being from the viewpoint of Islam is necessary for Muslims because it is like a model and example, by emulating which we can, if we wish, attains our human perfection under Islamic teachings. We should, therefore, know what a perfect man is, how he looks spiritually and intellectually, and what his peculiarities are, so that we may improve ourselves, our society and other individuals based on that model. But if we do not know what a perfect human being is in Islam, surely we cannot become a perfect Muslim, or even a relatively perfect human being.
From the viewpoint of Islam, there are two ways of knowing a perfect person: One way is to see how the Qur'an in the first place and tradition in the second place have defined a perfect man, even if it is meant to be a perfectly faithful and good Muslim. A perfect Muslim is a person who has attained perfection in Islam; a perfect believer is one who has attained perfection in his faith. Now we must see how the Quran and tradition have portrayed such a person and with what peculiarities. As it happens, we have many things to quote from both of these sources.
The second way is to regard real individuals who are built up on the model of the Qur'an and Islam, not an imaginary and idealistic being, but a real and objective personality who exists in various stages of perfection at its highest level or even at slightly lower stages.
The holy Prophet himself is an example of a perfect man in Islam. Imam Ali is another example. To know Ali (as) is to know a perfect man, and that means to know him thoroughly, and not only his name, lineage and apparent identity. We may know that Ali is the son of Abu Talib and the grandson of Abdul-Mottalib, and that his mother is Fatima, daughter of Assad-bin-Abdol-Ezi, and his wife is Fatima Zahra (as) and he is the father of Hassan and Hossain, and at what dates he was born and died, and what battles he fought etc. But this knowledge is only about his apparent identity, and not about him as a perfect man. Recognition of Ali means knowing his personality, rather than his person.
To the extent that we get acquainted with his whole personality, we will know him as a perfect man of Islam; and to the extent that we take him as a model and accept him in actuality and not literally as our leader and Imam, and follow and emulate him, we will then be a Shi'a follower of this perfect man.
A Shi'a means one who accompanies Ali, not only with words and sentiments, but with the act of following him in practice and act in philosophical and academic terms.
These two ways of recognition of a perfect man are not only theoretically useful, but we must also use this knowledge to follow the ways shown by Islam to become a true Muslim and make society truly Islamic. The way is thus shown and the result is explained.
But the question arises as to the meaning of 'Perfect'. Some things may seem obvious, but explicit things are sometimes harder to explain than difficult matters.
In Arabic the two words meaning 'Perfect' and 'complete' are close to each other but not exactly similar in meaning, and both of them have an antonym meaning 'defective'. The difference between the two words is as follows: The word 'complete' refers to something which is prepared according to a plan, like a house and a mosque, and if any part of it is unfinished, it is incomplete or defective. But something may be 'complete' and yet there may exist a higher degree of completion or many degrees higher than that, and that is called 'perfection'. 'Complete' is a horizontal progress to maximum development and 'perfect' is a vertical climb to the highest degree possible.