We believe that the Imamate is one of the fundamentals of Islam (usul ad-din), and that man's faith can never be complete without belief in it.
It is wrong to imitate our fathers, family or teachers in this matter, even if we respect them, for it is just as necessary rationally to consider the Imamate as it is to consider tawhid and nubuwwah. If a man does not believe in it, and supposes that it is not a fundamental of Islam, he should, nevertheless, examine the concept of the Imamate, if only to absolve himself of responsibility in this matter. The reason for this consideration is that, since we do not receive commands concerning our religious duties directly from Allah, we must refer in this matter to someone in whom we can trust, by following whom we may be sure that we will not be held responsible by Allah for having committed errors. According to our belief, the members of the Household of the Prophet fulfil such requirements.
We believe that, just as it is necessary for Allah to send someone as a prophet, so it is also necessary for Him to appoint an Imam. It is necessary that at all times there should be an Imam to represent the prophet, and that he should perform the duties of the prophet, such as guiding the people, and showing them the way of goodness and prosperity in this world and the next. He ought also to hold the highest position as a public authority in all aspects of people's lives, so that he may cause Justice to increase among them and eliminate enmity and oppression from between them. The Imamate is therefore a continuation of the prophethood, and the reasoning which proves the former's necessity is the same as that which proves the latter's.
It is for this reason that we may say that the appointment of someone as Imam can only be accomplished by the Will of Allah through the Prophet or through the previous Imam. People cannot choose someone as an Imam because they have no authority to do so, and, should they seek to depose him: "He who dies without knowing the Imam of his time, it is as if he dies in jahiliyyyah (the time of ignorance)". It will be seen from the above that it is impossible for there to be a time without an Imam appointed by Allah, and that it makes no difference if human beings deny him or not, help him or not, obey him or not, or if he is absent from people's sight. Just as the Prophet was absent from people in the cave and in the mountain pass, so is it possible for the Imam to be absent. It also makes no difference, logically, if the absence is long or short.
Allah has said:
And there is a guide for every people. (13;7)
There is not a nation but a warner has passed among them. (35;24)
We believe that, like the prophet, an Imam must be infallible, that is to say incapable of making errors or doing wrong, either inwardly or outwardly, from his birth to his death, either intentionally or unintentionally, because the Imams are the preservers of Islam and it is under their protection. Their position in regard to Islam is the same as the Prophet's, and the reasoning which necessitates their infallibility is the same as that which necessitates the Prophet's infallibility, and there is no difference between them in these matters.
An Arabic verse says:
"For Allah it is not impossible:
We believe that the Imam, like the prophet, must be the best among mankind, and that he must excell in all human qualities, such as bravery, generosity, chasteness, truthfulness, justice, prudence, reason, wisdom and morality. The reason for this is the same as that which we gave for the prophet's superiority. He derives his education, the Divine commandments and all his knowledge from the Prophet or from the previous Imam. When a new question arises, he knows the answer from Divine Inspiration through the pure mind that Allah has given him. If he gives attention to some matter in order to know it, he will obtain a perfect understanding with no error, for the Imams do not derive their knowledge from methodological reasoning, or from the teachings of men of knowledge, although it is possible for their knowledge to be increased and strengthened. For the Prophet said:
O Lord, increase my knowledge!
It has been shown by psychological investigations that every man has, during his lifetime, one or two moments in which he is able to understand something by intuition. In fact, this is a kind of inspiration from Allah. This power has not been given to mankind equally, but in different degrees, according to their capacities. At such a time the human mind is capable of discovering certain facts without thinking or reasoning, and without guidance from someone else. Everyone acknowledges this condition from his own personal experience many times during his life.
Therefore it is possible that a human may attain to the highest degree of this state, one which both ancient and contemporary philosophers have described. We maintain that the powers of the Imams to receive inspiration have reached the highest degree of excellence, and we say that it is a Divinely-given power. By this means the Imam is able to understand information about anything, anywhere, and at any time, and he understands by means of this Divinely -given power at once, without recourse to methodological reasoning or guidance from a teacher. When he desires to know about some matter, it is reflected in his pure mind as if in a polished mirror. It is clear from the histories of their lives that, like the Prophet, the Imams were not trained or taught by anyone at all, not even in reading and writing, from their childhood's to the maturing of their minds. No author or teacher was seen to instruct one of them, but they were incomparable masters of knowledge, so that they were never asked about any problem without being able to answer it immediately, and they never said that they did not know. They never required time to consider a question before replying.
In comparison with this, it has never been said of any Islamic scholar, narrator or scientist, in his biography, that he did not study or was not educated by some other scholar, or that he never had any doubts about any problem, for human nature has always been thus.
We believe that the Imams have authority, and that Allah has ordered people to obey them. They are witnesses for mankind, doors opening the way of Allah, guides to Him, guardians of His knowledge, interpreters of His revelation, pillars of His Unity, and custodians of His Wisdom. They are the cause of peace among the inhabitants of the earth, just as the stars are for the heavens. And so the prophet said:
My household is like the ark of Nuh; whosoever embarks
In accordance with the Qur'an, the Imams are:
Honoured servants who speak not until He has spoken and act by His command (21;26-7)
those whom he has kept away from uncleanness and cleansed with a thorough cleansing.
We believe that their orders and prohibitions are Allah's orders and prohibitions, that obedience and disobedience to them, friendship or enmity towards them, are all the same as if towards Allah. It is a sin to deny them, for everyone who denies them in fact denies the Messenger, and that is the same as denying Allah.
It is incumbent on all people to submit themselves to the Imams, to follow their commandments and to obey their sayings. So we believe that all commandments must be learned from their pure teachings, and that if one refers to another person concerning a commandment of the din, one will not be cleared of responsibility towards Allah and will not be sure that he has correctly performed his duty. Like the ark of Nuh, everyone who goes on board is saved, but those who remain behind are drowned in the stormy sea of doubt, wandering, pretension and strife.
We do not seek at this time to prove that they were the legal khulqfa' and that they possessed Divine authority, because this is not the place to do so, and discussing this question cannot bring back times gone by, nor restore things to their rightful owners. We only mean to show that we are obliged to refer to them to obtain the Divine commandments and to find out what the prophet truly said.
The path of those who were not educated by the Imams, or whose minds are not enlightened by knowledge of the Imams is in deviation from the straight path of Islam, and such a person will never be sure that he is free from the obligations and necessary duties that were revealed by Allah; for, granted that there are differences in opinion between Muslim groups as regards the commandments of the din, and that there is no hope that they will agree with each other in their opinions, one cannot just follow them blindly. It is necessary to consider each one until one gains positive assurance of the truth from one of them and is sure that he is doing what Allah commanded him to do. For if one is under an obligation, one must clear oneself of that obligation with certainty through rational means.
Clear reasoning thus obliges one to refer to the Household of the Prophet. We must refer to them concerning Islamic doctrine and legislation as they were revealed to the Prophet. The Prophet said:
This tradition is narrated by Sunni and Shi'a traditionalists alike. If you consider it carefully, you will be amazed and convinced by its good sense and by its excellent expression, because at first it says "if you keep hold of both of them, you will never go astray after me". What the Prophet left among us were two worthy things; together he considered them to be one, and he did not say that one need only hold on to one of them, but that one should hold on to both of them so as not to be misled. He explained the reason in the next phrase very clearly. "these two will never be separated from each other until they encounter me at Kawthar". So, if a man separates them and takes hold of only one of them, he will never be rightly guided. So they are the ship of Nuh, and peace for the inhabitants of the earth. All those who do not take refuge with them will be drowned in the depths of perdition.
It is not correct to say that the meaning of this tradition is that it is necessary merely to love the Household of the Prophet, without following and obeying them; no-one can apply this interpretation unless he be a fanatic or totally ignorant, because this is an incorrect interpretation of the Arabic sentence.
Say (O Muhammad, unto mankind): I do not ask of you a wage for this except love of my kinsfolk. (42;23)
We believe that in addition to the obligation to hold fast to the Household of the Prophet, it is necessary for every Muslim, from the point of view of his din, to love them. For Allah, in this verse, has told mankind to love them.
It is narrated from the Prophet:
Naturally we must love them; it is one of the necessary Islamic duties over which there can be no dispute or doubt. All the sects of Islam have accepted this, apart from a few people who are recognised to be enemies of the Household of Prophet, and they have been given the derisive name of Nawasib (i.e. those who have planted enmity of the Household in their hearts). They are counted among those who deny one of the necessary beliefs of Islam.
One who denies one of the Islamic commandments about which there is no doubt, such as the obligation to pray or to pay zakat, undoubtedly ranks with a denier of Prophethood, even though he may utter the two testimonies of the Islamic faith (i.e. ashhadu an la ilaha ila 'llah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah. I testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). Enmity towards Muhammad's Household is a sign of unbelief, and love of them is a sign of faith. Therefore enmity towards them is the same as enmity towards Allah and His Messenger.
Allah has ordered us to love the Imams, because they merit this, and because of their high degree of obedience to the commands of Allah, their high position in the presence of Allah, their purity from polytheism, sin and that which keeps His servants away from the Mercy of Allah.
It is impossible that Allah should enjoin us to love someone who commits sin and does not obey Him as he should be obeyed; for all mankind are His slaves and created equally, and none have a special relationship or friendship with Him. The noblest of them in the sight of Allah is the best in conduct. So, if He instructs all people to love someone, that person must be the best among them in virtue and above them all, otherwise he would not deserve to be loved, and Allah would never prefer some person to another for no reason, or if that person had no merit.
We do not exaggerate about the Imams as some sects have done:
A monstrous word it is, issuing from their mouths. (18;5)
but we believe that they are human beings like ourselves, i.e. that if they do good they are rewarded and if they commit sin they are punished. Indeed, they are honoured servants and Allah has given them great dignity and authority, for they have the highest perfections, namely knowledge, goodness, bravery, generosity, chastity and every virtue and worthy quality. Nobody can equal them as far as morality is concerned. Thus, they deserve to be Imams; guides and authorities after the Prophet in those matters in which people require help: religious commandments (ahkam), judgement (hukm), legislation (tashri'), and the commentary (tafsir) and interpretation (ta'wil) of the Qur'an.
Imam Ja'far Sadiq said:
We believe that the Imamate, like the Prophethood, must be an appointment from Allah, through His Messenger, or an appointed Imam. From this point of view, the Imamate is the same as the Prophet hood.
It is wrong for people to dispute against him whom Allah has sent as a guide and leader for all people, for they cannot elect him. One who is able to bear the responsibilities of the Imam of the people and the guide of mankind can only be recognised and appointed by Allah. We believe that the Prophet declared who was to come after him (his khalifah), and that he appointed his cousin 'Ali ibn Abi Talib as the Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-mu'minin), guardian Of the revelation and Imam for the people on several occasions. The Prophet obliged everyone to take an oath to agree to 'Ali's succession on the day of Ghadir, and he said at that time:
The first place in which the Prophet declared the Imamate was when he had gathered his close relatives and kinsfolk and said to them:
At the time the Prophet said this, 'Ali had not yet come of age.
The Prophet spoke many times on this matter:
Other traditions indicate that 'Ali had guardianship over the people, as do the verses in the Qur'an such as:
The last part of this verse was revealed about 'Ali who gave his ring to a beggar while doing ruku' in prayer. Naturally we are not able, in a book such as this, to q uote all such traditions and verses, and to consider them.
Imam 'Ali publicly declared the Imamate of Hasan and Husayn, and the latter declared the Imamate of his son 'Ali Zayn al-'Abidin, and similarly each Imam was appointed by the previous one.
We believe that the Imams are twelve in number; that the Prophet publicly announced them by name; and that each of them announced his successor. They are:
We believe that the Imams are twelve in number. that the Prophet publicly announced them by name; and that each of them announced his successor. They are:
1) Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Abi Talib,
2) Abu Muhammad Hasan ibn 'Ali, called Zakiy. (2-50/623-670)
3) Abu 'Abdillah Husayn ibn 'Ali, called Sayyidash-Shuhada'. (3-61/624-680)
4) Abu Muhammad 'Ali ibn Husayn, called Zayn al-Abidin. (38-95/658-713)
5) Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Ali, called al-Baqir. (57-114/678-732)
6) Abu 'Abdillah Ja'far ibn Muhammad, called as-Sadiq. (83-148/702-765)
7) Abu Ibrahim Musa ibn Ja 'far, called al-Kazim. (128-183/745-799)
8) Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Musa, called ar-Rida. (148-203/765-818)
9) Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ali, called al-Jawad. (195-220/810-835)
10) Abu 'l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Muhanmnmad, called al-Hadi. (212-254/827-868)
11) Abu Muhanmmad Hasan ibn 'Ali called al-'Askari. (232-260/846-870)
12) Abu'l-Qasim Muhammad ibn Hasan, called al-Mahdi (256- /870- )
The last is the Imam of our time, but he is absent and we are waiting for his reappearance, may Allah hasten it to spread justice and equity throughout the world, filled as it is with oppression and wrong.
Many people have narrated from the Prophet concerning the reappearance, at the end of time, of the Mahdi, who is a descendent of his daughter Fatimah, and how he will spread justice and equity throughout the world, after it has been overcome by injustice and oppression. All sects of Muslims have accepted this good tiding, but with different interpretations.
It is not a new opinion or idea that has come into existence only among the Shi'a, and in which they were prompted to believe by oppression, dreaming of someone who would come to clear the world of injustice, as some malevolent sophists have suggested. On the contrary, the concept of the reappearance of the Mahdi has been well known among all Muslims, and they have believed in it. Proof of this is that some persons falsely called themselves Mahdi during the first century after the advent of Islam; such were the leaders of the Kaysaniyyah, the 'Abbasids and the 'Alawiyyah. Only because people believed in the Mahdi could these persons have deceived them, exploited their belief and seized power. So they made their claims in order to impress the people and spread their influence.
We, the Shi'a, on the one hand, believe in the truth of the Islamic religion as the last Divine religion, and have no expectation of another religion to come and reform humanity. But, on the other hand, we observe oppression and corruption spreading day by day throughout the world, resulting in a total lack of justice and improvement anywhere in the inhabitable countries of the globe. We have also witnessed Muslims foresaking every Islamic principle, commandment and law in every single Islamic country. We know that we must wait for the reestablishment of Islam in all its power, to reform this world, drowned as it is in oppression and corruption.
Naturally, with such diversity of opinion among people pretending to be Muslim as we see today, it is impossible that the superiority of Islam should return, unless a great reformer appears to protect it, and, through Divine providence, unite people and eradicate the error, perversion and wrong which has become admixed with Islam. To be sure, this guide must possess such a great position, such general authority and such supernatural power as to fill the earth with justice and equity when it is full of evil, injustice and wrong.
In short, the observation that humanity is in a pitiful condition, the assertion of the truth of Islam, and its position as the last religion leads to the expectation of such a great reformer (mahdi) to bring salvation to the world. All Muslim sects and the peoples of other religions believe in this expectation, the difference being that the Imamate sect believes that this reformer is a definite person, that he is the Mahdi, and that he was born in 256 A.H. (870 A.D.), that he is alive now, the son of Imam Hasan al-'Askari, and that his name is Muhammad. Many narrators have passed to us ahadith (pl. of hadith) from the Prophet and his Household concerning his birth and his absence.
The Imamate must continue uninterrupted, although the Imam may live hidden among mankind until Allah wills that he reappear on a certain day, a Divine mystery known only to Him. The fact that he has lived for such a long time is a miracle granted to him by Allah, and it is no more amazing than the miracle of the start of his Imamate for humanity at the age of five, when his father's life was taken away. Nor is it any more surprising than the miracle whereby 'Isa talked with people from his cradle, and w as appointed a prophet when still an infant. From the physiological point of view, it is quite certain that to live more than the natural span of life, or more than the imagined natural span, is not impossible, even though medical science is not yet able to prolong human life as much as possible. But while medicine is unable to do this, Allah can, for He is All- Powerful and Omnipotent. For the Qur'an states that Nuh lived to a very old age, and that 'Isa is alive now, and once one has accepted Islam, there can be no denying what the Qur'an says. It is incomprehensible that a Muslim should dispute the possibility of these things, while at the same time calling himself a believer in the Glorious Qur'an.
Every one of you is a shepherd, and every one is responsible for his flock.
Therefore it is wrong for a Muslim to pay no attention to his religious duties, and to abandon them because he is expecting the Mahdi, the one who brings good tidings; because such an expectation must not induce us to have no responsibility or duty, or to postpone any of our actions, and it will not leave people aimless like animals.
In this question the Shi'a follow what has been said
by the Household of the Prophet : that Allah will cause
people to return to this world in the same form as they
were before; that He will distinguish between the
righteous and the wrong-doers, and between the oppressed
and the oppressors; and that this will take place during
the time of the Mahdi.
They shall say: "Our Lord! Thou hast caused us to die two deaths, and Thou hast given us twice to live; now we confess our sins. Is there any way to go forth?" (40;11)
Truly the Qur'an came to proclaim raj'ah in this world, as did many traditions from the house of Infallibility, and all the Imamites believe this, except a few .who have interpreted the pronouncement on raj'ah as meaning that the government will return to the Household of the Prophet together with the power to forbid and command, and that this will be when the Awaited One reappears, without involving the return of people or the giving of life to the dead.
Belief in raj'ah is considered among the Sunni to be repugnant, and they deem it a heretical belief. Their collectors of ahadith considered one who had transmitted ahadith about raj'ah to be discredited, and caste aspersions on the characters of such people so as to undermine the value of their transmission. Moreover, they considered one who believed in raj'ah to have descended to the ranks of unbelief (kufr) or polytheism (shirk), or worse. This belief was therefore one of the biggest causes for the despising of the Shi'a by the Sunni, and their slandering of them.
Undoubtedly, this was all part of the sabre-rattling engaged in by some Islamic sects in the past to damage each other and cause dissention. In fact, there is no evidence to substantiate their accusations, because belief in raj'ah cannot cause any blemish on belief in tawhid or nubuwwah; it only emphasizes the correctness of the two, because raj'ah testifies to the supreme ability of Allah to resurrect and raise from the dead, and is one of the supernatural events that will testify as a miracle for Muhammad (S.A.) and his Household. It is similar to the miracle of the raising from the dead performed by 'Isa, only more important, as it involves raising those bodies that have rotted away.
Says he (man): "Who will give life to the bones when they are rotten?"
Say: "He will give life to them Who brought them into existence at first, and He is cognisant of all Creation." (36;78-9)
One who denegrates raj'ah as being a kind of transmigration of the soul, which we know to be incorrect, has not differentiated between transmigration and bodily resurrection, because the meaning of transmigration is that the soul moves into another body, and this is not the same as bodily resurrection. The meaning of this latter is that the soul returns to the same body with all its individual characteristics; and raj'ah is the same as this. If raj'ah were a kind of transmigration, the restoring to life by 'Isa must also be transmigration, and the Resurrection (ma'ad) would be as well.
Now there remain two points to discuss concerning raj'ah: firstly , that it is impossible that it should take place; secondly, that the traditions relating to raj'ah are not true. Now, if it is worth discussing these two subjects, raj'ah cannot be as despicable a subject as the enemies of the Shi'a have suggested. How many beliefs of other sects of Islam which are either extremely improbable or else entirely unsubstantiated by religious texts have led to these sects being accused of being unbelievers or of being beyond the pale of Islam? And for this there are many examples : the belief that the Prophet was liable to forget or to disobey Allah's Will; the belief that the Qur'an is eternal; the belief that when Allah said He will punish, he is obliged to do so (al-wa'id); the belief that the Prophet did not appoint a khalifah after him.
As for our two points of discussion, and for there
being no basis in truth for raj'ah due to its
being impossible, we hold that it is a kind of bodily
resurrection, differing only in that it takes place in
Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away. (36;78)
Say: "He will revive them Who brought them into existence at first, and He is Cognizant of all Creation." (36;79)
In such a situation, where there is no intellectual evidence either to deny or to prove raj'ah, or even if it is just our imagination that says that there is no evidence, we must have recourse to the Islamic texts which are from the source of Divine inspiration. For there is proof in the Qur'an to substantiate the occurrence of raj'ah in this world for some of the dead, as there is also for the miracle of 'Isa in restoring the dead to life.
And I heal the blind and the leprous and bring the dead to life with Allah's permission. (3;49)
And Allah said:
When will Allah give it life after its death? So Allah
caused him to
And also in the verse we have seen before:
They shall say: "Our Lord! Thou hast caused us to die two deaths . . ." (40;11)
And the meaning of the verse will not be fulfilled unless there is a return to this world after death, although some commentators of the Qur'an have tried to give an exigesis (ta'wil) which cannot, however, satisfy us or reveal the true meaning of the verse.
Concerning the second point of discussion, which claims that the traditions referring to raj'ah are not authentic, this has no foundation in truth, because raj'ah is a necessary belief according to the Household of the Prophet, and this has been narrated by many transmitters.
After this, it is rather surprising that a famous writer, Ahmad Amin, who claims to be knowledgeable, says in his book "The Dawn of Islam' (Fajr al-Islam): "Judaism makes its appearance in Shi'ism in the belief in raj'ah." We would say to him: Judaism also makes its appearance in the Qur'an through raj'ah, as it has been mentioned in those verses of the Book which have been quoted above.
And we would also tell him : there is no way in which Judaism and Christianity cannot appear in Islam, because the Prophet came to confirm what existed of the Divine shara'i', even though he abrogated some of their laws. So the appearance of Judaism and Christianity is not a disgrace in Islam, even if, as the writer claims, raj'ah is one of the beliefs of the Jews.
Anyway, raj'ah is not one of the fundamentals of Islam, belief in which is compulsory; but our belief stems from the authenticated traditions of the Household of the Prophet, whom we know to be infallible. For it is one of the unseen things which they relate, and there is nothing which suggests that it cannot take place.
It is related from Imam Sadiq in an authenticated tradition:
Taqiyyah is my din and the din of my forefathers.
Whosoever has no taqiyyah has no din.
It was the motto of the Household of the Prophet. so
as to protect themselves and their followers from harm
and bloodshed, and to better the condition of the Muslims
and to cause agreement among them, and restore them to
Taqiyyah has rules and observations which indicate whether it is obligatory (wajib) or not, and these are mentioned in the relevant chapters of the books of those learned in jurisprudence (fiqh). It is not obligatory at all times, but is sometimes optional; and sometimes it is obligatory not to do it, as when it is necessary to proclaim the truth publicly, to protect Islam and save it, or to fight in the cause of Islam. On these occasions, property is of no value, and individual souls are of no importance. Taqiyyah is forbidden (haram) when someone's life is in danger, or when falsehood is being propagated, or when anything is threatening Islam, or when Muslims are menaced, or injustice and iniquity are spreading among them. The purpose of taqiyyah, in the view of the Shi'a, is not to form a secret organisation dedicated to destruction and subversion, as some of their enemies, who are not able to see things in there true light, have imagined, for such people have made no effort to really understand what we say. The point is not to make Islam and its rules a secret which cannot be divulged to those who do not believe. No, the books of Shi'a and their writings in the fields of jurisprudence (fiqh), law (ahkam) and theological studies, as also their beliefs, are in great abundance in the world, more than any other sect that is sure of its way. Our belief in taqiyyah has been abused by those who want to denegrate the Shi'a, and they consider it to be one of their weak points, for it seems that they are not satisfied with the necks that fell to the sword in the attempt to finish them off in that age when it was enough to say that someone was a Shi'i to assure his death at the hands of the enemies of the Household of the Prophet, from the Umayyids and the 'Abbasids up to the Ottomans.
If our attackers wish to say that there is no evidence for taqiyyah in Islam, we can refute this. Firstly we follow our Imams and are guided by their guidance, and they have ordered us to practice taqiyyah when it is necessary, and it is to them an integral part of Islam, as we saw from the saying of Imam Sadiq:
Whosoever has no taqiyyah has no din.
Secondly, it has been commanded in the Qur'an:
Not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of his faith. (16;106)
This verse was revealed about 'Ammar ibn Yasir, who took shelter by proclaiming unbelief in order to protect himself from the enemies of Islam. Also Allah has said:
And a believing man of Pharoah's people who hid his faith . . . (40;28)