IMAMAT - THE ESOTERIC DIMENSION
The verses of the Qur'an which
clearly speak about the concept of
IMAMAT were discussed in the last
message. In this text we will
discuss the implied meaning of this
concept in various Qur'anic verses.
According to the sayings of the
Imams, nearly one-quarter of the
Qur'an speaks about the Imams either
explicitly, or implicitly. The basis
of the esoteric dimension is taken
from the following verse:
He is Who has revealed the Book to
you; some of its verses are decisive
(muhkam), they are the basis of the
Book, and others are allegorical (mutashabih);
then as for those in whose hearts
there is perversity, they follow the
part of it which is allegorical,
seeking to mislead, and seeking to
give it (their own) interpretation,
but none knows its interpretation
except Allah, and those who are
firmly rooted in
knowledge say: We believe in it, it
is all from our Lord; and none do
mind except those having
This verse can be understood in
two different ways. It is quite
clear that there are two kinds of
verses in the Qur'an, one are the
MUHKAM, those which are clear in
meaning and all can understand the
commandments contained therein. The
other are MUTASHABIH, their meaning
are in the form of a metaphor,
therefore, they have to be explained
The next clause in the verse is
: those who know the meanings this
second kind of verse is Allah, and
the ones firmly rooted in knowledge.
But, the statement actually
The great majority of Sunni
scholars insist that there is a full
stop after the word Allah, in other
words the word 'and' is not a
conjunction, instead it is there to
start a new sentence.
That will give it the
meaning that Allah alone knows the
meaning of those verses. Some others
have said that that is not so. Among
them is Zamakhshari, the author of
the great Tafseer known as
KASH-SHAAF. Zamakhshari reasons that
it would really be illogical to give
a book to people in which there are
parts which no one can understand.
Allah might as well have held those
The Shi'a scholars (and some
Sunni, mainly the Shafi'i) read the
verse meaning that Allah and those
firmly rooted in knowledge know the
real meanings of the MUTASHABIH.
Those firmly rooted in
knowledge, according to the Shi'a
belief, are the Imams after the
Prophet (may our salams and Allah's
peace be unto them all).
In fact, the Shi'a Mufassir
does not explain any verse of the
Qur'an, be it MUHKAM or MUTASHABIH,
without referring to the statements
of the Imams. According to FIQH
JA'FARI, it is a sin to do TAFSEER
BIR RA'I. We quote one hadeeth in
support of this from Tabataba'i:
The Prophet said:
"Whoever interprets (i.e., explains)
the Qur'an according to his opinion,
should settle himself in his seat of
- Quoted from Al-Meezan Vol 5. p
The same book (Munyatu 'l-murid)
narrates that the Prophet
said:'Whoever spoke about the
Qur'an of his own opinion (even if)
he was right, he committed wrong."
Al-Meezan, Vol 5, p111.
Tabataba'i adds that this
hadeeth also appears in Abu Dawood,
Tirmidhi and Nasa'i.
In fact he best discussion on
this Qur'anic verse has been done by
Allama Tabataba'i in his celebrated
work known as AL-MEEZAN. Tabataba'i
has taken 102 pages to complete his
discussion on this topic. Obviously,
we do not have the space to
reproduce all that here.
Now that we have established
that there are verses in the Qur'an
which require special explanation by
people who are established in
knowledge and that those people are
none other than the members of the
holy Ahl al-Bayt, we now give below
some examples of those verses. These
verses were explained by the Imams
and they are pointing to the concept
of Imamat in a metaphorical sense.
1. Nay! these are clear
communications in the breasts of
those who are granted knowledge;
and none deny Our communications (ayaat)
except the unjust. (Q.29:49)
The theme is repeated in 10:7 and
22:57. The Imams are the Signs of
Allah (Ayat Allah) on this earth.
2. Keep us on the right Path (Siraat
Imams are the Sirat al-Mustaqeem.
The theme is repeated in 6:153,
15:41, 20:135, and 43:43.
3. The Imams are the WAY (Sabeel),
the theme is found in Q.25:9, 27;
6:153, 29:69, and in 31:15.
4. Imams are THE BOUNTY OF GOD (N'emat
Allah), as in Q.14:28, and 16:83.
5. Imams are the GIFTS OF ALLAH (ALAA'I),
as in Q. 7:69 and in 55:13 and many
more times in this Sura.
6. Imams are the FIRMEST HANDLE (Urwat
al-Wuthqa) as in Q.2:256.
7. Imams are the ROPES OF ALLAH (Habl
Allah), as in Q.3:102.
8. Therefore believe in Allah and
His Apostle and the Light which We
have revealed, and Allah is aware of
what you do.(Q.64:9)
The Imams are the Light of Allah.
The theme is repeated in 4:174,
6:122, 7:157, 9:32, the most
beautiful of all these verses is
9. Lo! We offered the Trust
(AMANA) unto the heavens and the
earth and the hills, but they shrank
from bearing it and were afraid of
it. And man assumed it. Lo! He hath
proved a tyrant and a fool.
(Q.33:72). The TRUST is the WALAYA
of Imam Ali, and the tyrant fool are
those who refused to acknowledge it
and usurped his right.
Lo! Allah commandeth you that
you restore deposits (AMANA) to
their owners, and if you judge
between mankind that ye judge
justly. Lo! comely is this which
Allah admonisheth you. Lo! Allah is
ever Hearer, Seer.(Q.4:58)
The AMANA here implies the
designation of an Imam by his
10. And of those whom We have
created are a people who guide
with the truth and thereby they do
justice.(Q.7:181) THE GUIDES
mentioned in this verse are no one
but the Imams.
11. And those who disbelieve say:
You are not a messenger. Say: Allah
is sufficient as a witness between
me and you and whoever has the
knowledge of the Book.(Q.13:43)
The ONE WHO HAS THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE
BOOK is the Imam. The theme of this
special knowledge is repeated in
16:27, 29:49, and 34:6.
12. Imams are the INHERITORS OF THE
BOOK, as in Q.35:32
13. Imams are the POSSESSORS OF
AUTHORITY (ULIL AMR), as in Q.4:59;
therefore, obeying them becomes
14. O you who believe! Be careful
of (your duty to) Allah and be with
the true ones(SAADIQEEN). Q.9:119.
The Imams are the Saadiqeen.
15. And We did not send before you
any but men to whom We sent
Revelation -- so ask the followers
of the Reminder (AHL ADH DHIKR) if
you do not know.(Q.16:43) The term
is repeated in the following verse.
The Imams are the Ahl adh Dhikr.
16. ........... Say: I do not ask
of you any reward for it but love
for my near relatives(QURBA)................
(Q.42:23). The QURBA here are the
Imams. Such respected Sunni scholars
as Baydhawi and Fakhr Razi agree on
this and they say that 'Qurba' here
refers to Ali, Fatima, Hasan and
17. The term Aal Yaseen in 37:130
is no one but the Imams, YASEEN is
the Prophet of Islam.
18. I swear by the sun and its
And the moon when it follows
And the day when it shows it,
And the night when it draws a
veil over it, (Q.91:1-4)
The sun is the Prophet of
Islam, the moon is Imam Ali and the
day represents all the other Imams
(in some tafseer it is Imam Mahdi
specifically), and the night
symbolizes the instruments by which
the Imams' authority was usurped by
19. He has made the two seas to
flow freely (so that) they meet
Between them is a barrier which
they cannot pass,
Which then of the bounties of
your Lord will you deny?
There come forth from them
pearls, both large and small,
The two seas are Ali and
Fatima, the barrier (in some tafseer)
is the Prophet of Islam, and the
pearls are Hasan and Husayn. Among
the Sunni scholars who agree with
this tafseer is Suyooti in his Dur
al-Manthoor quoting Ibn Mardwayh.
20. And whoever takes Allah and His
Apostle and those who believe for a
guardian, then surely the party of
Allah are they that shall be
triumphant.(Q.5:56) Imams are the
PARTY OF ALLAH.
21. And the servants of the
Beneficent God are they who walk on
the earth in
humbleness, and when the ignorant
address them, they say: Peace.
(Q.25:63) THe SERVANTS OF THE
BENEFICENT (IBAAD AR-RAHMAAN) are
the Imams. It truly describes the
characters of the Imams, how they
reacted to their aggressive enemies
all their lives.
Thank you for reading.
P.S. Most of the above text
draws on hadeeth reports about the
Imams preserved in Majlisee's
BIHAR-UL-ANWWAR (Volumes 24 & 25).