The principle of Imamat is very clearly stated in both, the holy Book, The Qur'an as well as in the Hadeeth literature. The most explicit mention of this concept, its need for the Muslims, as well its necessity for salvation is given in the following verse:

"(Remember) the Day  whenWe will call every people with their  Imam; then whoever is given his book in his right hand, these shall read their book; and they shall not be dealt with a whit unjustly." (Q.17:71)

This is a clear warning to every one to look for, recognize and choose the right Imam and follow him. The Sunni scholars, on the other hand, have opined variously when commenting on this verse. In their opinion, the word Imam could mean, the leader, the apostle, the Book, or the list of deeds.

     One of the great Sunni scholars, Mulla Ali Qari, has stated in his Sharh-e-Fiqh-e-Akbar, that there is a famous hadeeth of the Prophet (pbh), which goes like this:

     "Anyone who dies without knowing the Imam of his time, dies the death of

     Please note that the Shi'a scholar Mulla Baqir Majlisi has quoted this same hadeeth from sixteen different sources in his monumental work Bihar al-Anwaar (102 volumes), and they are all from our Imams through the chain of Shi'a narrators. The wordings of the hadeeth is exactly the same. We have given here the Sunni source for your satisfaction. This hadeeth, when read in conjunction with the Qur'anic verse (17:71), does not leave any doubt for an
intelligent person that the word IMAM here means for what it is - THE IMAM OF THE TIME.

     Abdullah Yusufali writes in reference to this verse, as follows:
"Some understand the meaning to be that each People or Group will appaear with its Leader, who will bear witness to its virtues or sins. Another view is that the IMAM is their revelation, their Book. A third is that the IMAM is the record of deeds spoken of in the next clause. I prefer the first." (Note: 2266)

     The belief in  Divinely inspired infallible leaders, or Imams,  is based on verses in the Holy Qur'an as explained by the Prophet himself and other members of the holy Ahl a--Bayt.
There are twelve verses in the Qur'an which list the attributes, qualifications and requirements of an Imam, and according to the Shi'a faith, there are twelve Imams after our Prophet (may Allah's peace and our salams be unto them all). What a beautiful coincidence that is!  Or, may be, that is also a subtle indication of the truthfulness of this belief for the followers of
the Truth. The verses are listed below:

     2:124, 9:12, 11:17, 15:79, 17:71, 21:73, 25:74, 28:5, 28:41, 32:24, 36:12, 46:12

     The first indication of this concept in the Qur'an is in the story of Ibraheem:

"And when His Lord tried him with some words and he completed them, He said: I will make you an Imam of men. And from my children? asked Ibraheem. He said:
     My covenant does not include the unjust." (Q.2:124)

     Now we list the qualification of an Imam from these Qur'anic verses:

1.   It is quite clear from the verse (2:124) that the Imam has to be JUST and that he is appointed by Allah.
2.   Then in verse 21:73, the Qur'an asserts:
"And We made them Imams, who used to guide people by Our command, and we revealed to them the doing of good, and the  establishment of  Salat and the paying of Zakat, and indeed, were they Our  worshippers and Our Srvants."
3.   IN verse 25:74, the Qur'an adds that they pray for their wives and children to be with  them in all decisions and they wish to lead only the good people.
4.   Even if the Imam fails to attain temporal power in this world, he is still an Imam, because he is appointed by Allah. This is elaborated in verse 28:5.
5.   The Imam has firm faith in Allah's ayat, he practices SABR in the hardest times, and continues to guide people against all odds, even if his own life is threatened. This is explained in verse 32:24.
6.   The Imam of the time has all the knowledge to lead people in his time. This is explained in verse 36:12. AN extension of this tenet is that knowledge is still sent to our present Imam who is in occultation, from Allah, as elaborated in Sura Inna Anzalnahu (97:1-5). The word 'tanazzala' is actually 'tatanazzala' (the 't' in the beginning has been dropped) which is the present continuous tense and can only be translated as:" they continue to descend..,"

     The concept of an infallible Imam (and Prophets) is unique to the Shi'a faith. No other religion in the world has this concept of a divinely inspired leader with those attributes.  The concept of infallibility of the divinely inspired guides is derived from the Qur'an (33:33), where Allah promises to purify His chosen ones from all rijs (uncleanliness, physical as well
as spiritual). The fact that they were created from NOOR (Light) and sent to guide us in human form is confirmed by the verses of the Qur'an where the dialogue between Allah the Exalted and Iblees takes place.

" He said: My Lord! because Thou hast left me to stray, certainly will I adorn unto them the path of error, and certainly will I cause them all to go astray. Save Thy (devoted) servants, of them the freed (chosen) ones."         

          It is quite clear from these verses that even Iblees was aware of the existence of such pure souls who could not be deflected from the right path.

     If you look at the lives of the twelve Imams you will find all the above mentioned attributes in them with perfection, and, no where else.

QUESTION: If somebody refuses to recognize the Imam of his/her time, is
he /she  a believer or a non-believer (kafir or Muslim)?

ANSWER: One of the greatest Shi'a scholars of this century, the late Ayatullah Abul Qasim al-Khui, has defined the principles of Islam in his Minhaj as Saliheen as follows:
Anyone who has faith in Allah being the Almighty Lord, in the Prophethood of Muhammad and his being the last of them, and in the Judgement, is a Muslim. Aditionally, to be a follower of the religion of Ahl al-Bayt one has to accept the JUSTICE of Allah and the superiority of our Imams as explained above.

QUESTION: How is the Imam proclaimed to the people? If there is a dispute between two claimants for Imamat, who decides which one is truthful?
ANSWER: The Imam is appointed by Allah, and this appointment is announced either by the Prophet himself or by the preceding Imam. Our Prophet (pbh) announced the Imamat of Ali bin Abi Talib at the INVITATION OF ZUL 'ASHEERA (the first sermon of his mission) and many other times, the last one being at Ghadeer-e-Khum in his famous discourse of that name(the last sermon of his life) in the 10th year of hijra while returning from Hajj.
The Prophet had, during his lifetime indicated many times that there will be twelve Imams after him. Then Imam Ali, on his deathbed proclaimed his son Hasan. The socond Imam, Hasan, proclaimed his brother Husayn after him, and so on until the twelvefth one who is in occultation. All these decrees of appointment have been preserved for us by Shaykh Mufeed
(died in 413 A.H.- 1022 A.D.) in his book Kitab al-Irshad.
The disputes that have been recorded in history are of two kinds: (1) Those which occurred due to the fact that the Imam of the time had become sidetracked as a result of the then current political trends, and a near one decided to show that he was the rightful Imam.
(Consider this in view of  verse 28:5) This was the case with the fourth Imam, Ali Zayn al-Abideen. He had been a prisoner of Yazeed and had been seen in chains in the bazaars of Koofa and Damascus. Many ignorant Muslims took that to mean that such a person could not be their Imam. Therfore, it was necessary to dispel that misunderstanding. First Muhammad Hanafiyyah, his own uncle came and claimed the Imamat. They both went to the Grand
Mosque and the hajar aswad confirmed the Imamat of Ali Zayn al-Abideen (by a miracle).
Well, may be you don't believe in miracles. But this report has been presrved  for us by Allama Shaher Ashoob in his Manaqib. Second, once during hajj while people were milling around the ka'ba trying to kiss the hajar aswad, Hisham bin Abdul Malik, who was the heir apparent at that time, tried to reach the hajar aswad but could not get through. He went up to a hill and waited for the crowd to thin down. All of a sudden, the crowd was seen splitting in
the  middle and a man clad in black aba, walked gently between the splitting crowd, went upto the hajar aswad, kissed it and walked back. People began going round the ka'ba again.
With Hisahm was a foreign ambassador. He was amazed and asked: "Who was that who commanded more respect from the people than the heir to the throne?"
Hisham was burning in jealousy and said:"I do not know." 
With them was also the famous poet Farazdaq. He was disgusted at Hisham's reply. On the spot he composed an ode and began reciting it. It goes
something like this:
     He is known by Makkah and Madinah,
     He is known by the Ka'ba, by the mosque,
     He is the best of the worshippers of Allah,
     He is the most pious, clean (of all sins),
     He is the (grand) son of Muhammad,
     He is the grandson of Ali and Fatima,
     When he reaches the hajar aswad,
     Hajar aswad kisses his hand,
     Your saying that you don't know him,
     does not reduce his honour.
And the ode continues in forty couplets, preserved for us by Shaher Ashoob. So, this was Ali Zayn al-Abideen. Farazdaq was punished by the prince for this impertinence, yes he was thrown in prison. But, at his own peril he had introduced Ali Zayn al-Abideen, the Imam of the time in most glowing words.
The Twelve Imams:
     There are twelve Imams (leaders) after the prophet of Islam, the first one being Ali, the prophet's cousin and son-in-law, then two of his sons, Hasan and Husayn, whose mother is Fatima (peace be unto her), the daughter of the Prophet of Islam; then Husayn's son Ali, then Ali's son Muhammad, then his son Jafar, then his son Moosa, then his son Ali, then his son Muhammad, then his son Ali, then his son Hasan, then the last, his son Muhammad. The last one of them, the twelfth Imam, has been removed from this state of time and place and lives in occultation, by God's command. He will, one day, on God's command, reappear and fill the world with peace and justice and Islam will be the only religion in the world. (peace be unto all the Imams). The twelfth Imam is also known as the MAHDI (the guided one). All Muslims, Jafariya or otherwise, believe in the appearance of a MAHDI, sometime in future, to
bring back complete justice and peace. While the Shi'a believe the awaited Mahdi to be the one described above, the Sunnis believe that the awaited  Mahdi is yet to be born. There have been many imposters in the past, the last one being the Mahdi of Sudan who rose against the British in 1865.

The concept of someone being removed from this frame of refrence and living in a different set of Space and Time is quite viable under Einstein's theory of Relativity. Under Newtonian physics, Time was supposed to be constant, like water flowing from a stream. Under Einstein's theory, the concept has gone through a complete change. Time is also variable.
People can be moved from one Time to another Time. ( I am speaking with knowledge - I have a masters degree in physics and can write about it at length.)

The Mahdi and his occultation:
     Although there is no explicit verse in the Qur'an to support the concept of the long life of the expected Mahdi, as preached by the Shi'a faith, it is supported by numerous hadeeth reports in almost all Sunni books, including Bukhari and Muslim. There is however, indirect support for this notion in the Qur'an. In chapter 18 (Sura Kahf) Qur'an relates the story of the
'Sleepers of the Cave,' verses 13-22. A number of believing men ran into the mountains and hid inside a cave where they were put to sleep by Allah. Then they woke up after several hundred years, then went back to sleep. They will finally wake up on the Day of Judgement.
Then in the same chapter, Qur'an speaks of a  'One from among Our servants' (the prophet Khidhr), who has been living a long life; he meets with Prophet Moses (verses 65-80), and then in the hadeeth there are reports that he also meets our Prophet. The bottom line is that Allah, out of His unlimited power, can prolong the life of any being to any length. The Shi'a believe that the 12th Imam, who is the expected Mahdi, lives in a different frame of time and
space than all of us, and that he guides our acts by Allah's commands, and therefore, he receives Allah's commands on an ongoing basis. This is supported by Qur'an 97:4 - 'The Angels and Spirit descend therein by the permission of their Lord, with (decrees) of all affairs.' (See also Q.16:2 ).
     The Mahdi will appear at the appointed time on Allah's command. Only He knows the time of the Mahdi's appearance. However, every Shi'a believes that Mahdi may come anyday.
He/she is supposed to go to bed ever night with the hope and expectation that tomorrow the Imam will appear. This intezar  (anticipation) is part of the faith of every Shi'a. It is for this reason that the Imam is also known as the Imam-e-muntazar (the awaited leader).

          Thank you for reading.


Syed-Mohsin Naquvi





وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ {41:18}

But We delivered those who believed and practised righteousness



The Concept of Imamat
The perfection of Deen
The Esoteric  Dimension

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وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ     اللهم صلى على محد و ال محد.... و عجل فرجهم