An argument proposed by the proponents of following the imāms is that they (the imams) took all of that (the religious knowledge) from the students of the companions (tabi'in) who received their instruction from the companions themselves, who received their instructions from the Lawgiver himself, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, divinely protected from every mistake, who bore witness that the first three generations of Muslims would be ones of virtue and righteousness. Also, these Imams were from the best of the generations and thus are considered by the consensus to have reached human perfection. So, how can one say that following any one of these imams is not the right way?
I am afraid it is not true. The imams do not profess that they are merely reporting the ijtihad done by the Prophet (sws) transmitted to them. If in a particular case we find the matter as such then it becomes subject to the analysis of historian who will find out whether the matter has been truly ascribed to the Prophet (sws) or not. We all know that the imams do their own ijtihad based on reasoning and inference from the Holy Qu'ran. Both of these things we all are bestowed with. We know that no one can claim that he has the very view which would have been of the Prophet (sws) in a particular matter. And we even cannot be sure absolutely that a matter has been truly ascribed to the Prophet (sws) since there involve matters which render the report subject to analysis. Therefore I am afraid this argument does not hold water.