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Section 6: The Imamate

1. The Imamate Is Necessary

174. Concerning the Imamate. And it contains several subjects for discussion. (1) First, the Imamate is a universal authority (riyasa) in the things of religion and of the world belonging to some person and derived from (niyaba) the prophet. And it is necessary (wajib) according to reason. For the Imamate is a kindness (from Allah) (lutf), and we know absolutely that when men have a chief (ra’is) and a guide (murshid) whom they obey, who avenges the oppressed of his oppressor and restrains the oppressor from his oppression, then they draw near to soundness (salah) and depart from corruption. And we have shown previously that kindness is incumbent upon Allah1.

175. This is the discussion of the Imamate, which follows Prophecy, and is a branch of it. Now, “The Imamate is a universal authority in the things of religion and of the world belonging to a person” … And its being universal is the division (fasl) which distinguishes it from the dominion (wilaya) of judges and vicegerents. And “in the things of religion and of the world,” explains that to which it appertains.

Hence, it concerns the world as well as religion. And its “belonging to a person” calls attention to two matters: first he, who is worthy of the Imamate is a person appointed and specified by Allah and His Prophet, not any chance person; and second, it is not possible that there be more than one individual at any one period who is worthy of it. And some of the learned (fudala) have added to the definition something regarding its being fundamental (al-isala), and have said in the definition of the Imamate that it is a universal authority in the things of religion and of the world belonging to a person by fundamental right. And in this way, they guarded against a vicegerent (na’ib) to whom the Imam would give universal dominion.

And such an authority would be universal, but not fundamentally so. But in reality, he would be excluded by the condition of its being universal, for the above-mentioned vicegerent would not have authority over his Imam, and hence, his authority would not be universal. And in all this the definition of the Imamate corresponds with that of the Prophecy. Hence, in this case there must be added to it the words, “by the right of viceregency derived from the Prophet,” or “by means of a man” (that is, not from Allah direct, but through the mediation of the Prophet).

176. Since thou hast grasped this, then know that men have disagreed as to whether the Imamate is incumbent (wajib) or not. And the Kharijites say that it is not incumbent at all. And the Ash‘arites and Mu‘tazilites say that it is incumbent upon man, but then they disagree. The Ash‘arites say that this is known by tradition, and the Mu‘tazilites say (it is known) by reason. And our companions the Imamites say that it is incumbent upon Allah the Most High by reason, and this is the reality, and the proof of its reality is that the Imamate is a kindness (lutf), and every sort of kindness is incumbent upon Allah the Most High.

Hence, the Imamate is incumbent upon Allah the Most High. The major premise we have already explained. And the minor premise is that kindness (lutf) such as that which thou hast known (from our previous explanation) is that which brings the creature near to obedience and keeps him far from disobedience, and this idea (ma‘na) is realized by the Imamate.

And in explanation of this, (we say that) whoever has known dark experiences and has examined political principles knows of necessity that whenever men have among them a chief and a guide whom they obey, who restrains the oppressor from his oppression and the unjust man from his injustice and avenges the oppressed of his oppressor, and along with that leads them to rational principles and religious duties, and restrains them from the corruptions which cause the destruction of order in their worldly affairs, and from the evils which result in wretchedness in the world to come, so that every individual might fear that punishment, then because of this they will draw near to soundness and depart from corruption. And by lutf we mean nothing except this. Hence, the Imamate is lutf, and that is what we sought.

177. And know that everything which proves (dalla) that Prophecy is necessary proves also that the Imamate is necessary. For the Imamate is the successor (khilafa) of Prophecy and stands in its place (qa’im maqamaha), except in the matter of receiving (talaqqi) divine inspiration (wahy) without a mediator. And in the same way in which Prophecy is incumbent upon Allah the Most High on philosophical grounds, so also is the Imamate.

178. And those who hold that it is incumbent upon man (khalq) say that it is incumbent upon them to appoint a ruler to guard their persons from harm, for guarding against harm is incumbent. And we say that we have no quarrel with them as to the Imamate’s being a protection from harm and as to its being incumbent. But our quarrel is about their saying that it has been bestowed (tafwid) upon men, for in this case there would be an actual conflict (between Allah and men) regarding the appointment of Imams, and it would result in harm, whereas what is sought is the decrease of harm. And all this is also guarded against by the fact that immunity to sin is a necessary condition (in the Imam), and that his appointment (nass) by the Prophet is necessary.

2. The Imam Must Be Immune To Sin

179. (2) Second, it is necessary that the Imam be immune to sin (ma‘sum), otherwise there would be an endless chain. For the need which demands the imam is the restraining of the oppressor from his oppression and the avenging of the oppressed of his oppressor. Now if it were possible for him to be not immune to sin then he would need another imam, and there would be an endless chain, and that is impossible. And also, because if he committed sin (ma‘siya), and if it were incumbent upon men to disapprove of him, he would lose his place in men’s hearts, and the value of his appointment would be nullified.

And if it were not necessary (that he be immune to sin), the command to do what is approved by Allah (al-ma‘ruf) and the prohibitions against what is disapproved (al-munkar) would cease to be incumbent, and that is impossible. And also, because he is the guardian of the law, in which case he must be immune to sin in order that it be safe from addition or loss. And also because of the word of the Most High,

“My covenant embraceth not the evildoers” (2:124).

180. When he had proved that the Imamate is necessary, he began to explain the qualities which constitute the necessary condition for the validity of the Imamate. And among them is immunity to sin, the meaning of which thou hast come to know. Now there is a difference of opinion as to its being a necessary condition in the Imam. Our companions the Twelvers and the Isma‘ilites have considered it a necessary condition, as opposed to the other sects (firaq). And the author sought to establish the belief (madhhab) of our companions by several proofs:

181. (1) First, if the Imam were not immune to sin, then it would be necessary for the number of Imams to be without limit. And that which is necessitated is false, hence, that which necessitates it is false also. And in explanation of this necessity – we have already explained the cause which makes us need an Imam, that is, the restraining of the oppressor from his oppression, and the avenging of the oppressed of his oppressor, and the leading of the people to that in which their soundness (salah) consists and turning them away from that which results in their corruption.

Then if he were not immune to sin there would be need of another Imam who would restrain him from his error (khata). And we transfer the discussion to that other Imam. Then it would be necessary for the number of Imams to be without limit, and that is false.

182. (2) If he were not immune to sin, then sin would be possible (ja’iz) for him. Let us suppose that he committed sin. Then in this case there would have to follow either the loss of the value of his appointment, or the nullifying (suqut) of his command to do what is approved and his prohibition of what is disapproved. And that which is necessitated is false in both its parts. Hence, that which necessitates it is false also. And in explanation of the necessity (we say that) whenever he commits sin it is either (a) incumbent upon men to disapprove of him, or (b) it is not.

From the first alternative (a) it would necessarily follow that he would lose his place in men’s hearts, and that after being a commander (amir) he would have to become obedient to commands (ma’mur), and after being a prohibitor he would have to heed the prohibitions (of others). And in such a case the value sought for in his appointment, namely, the elevation of his place in men’s hearts and their obedience to his commands and prohibitions, would be lost. And from the second alternative (b) it would necessarily follow that his command to do what is approved and his prohibition of what is disapproved would become non-incumbent, and that is false by the agreement of all.

183. (3) Third, he is the guardian of the law, and it is incumbent that everyone who is such be immune to sin. (a) First , because the guardian of the law might be either the Book (the Qur’an), or mutawatir tradition (that which has come down in a number of independent unbroken lines), or agreement (al-ijma‘), or fundamental absolution (al-bara’atu’l-asliyya – eg., when a Muslim is in doubt as to whether Ramadan is over or not he can pass judgment in his own mind that it is over and proceed to break the fast), or reasoning (qiyas), or tradition that has come down in a single line (khabaru’l-wahid), or istishab (when one is in doubt as to whether something that was clean has become unclean or not, he has the right to say, “I decree (hukm) that this is clean” – this is istishab). And no one of these is proper (salih) for guarding the law.

The Book and tradition are not, because they do not contain (wafi) all the commandments (ahkam), although in every situation Allah has a command which it is incumbent to know (tahsil). And agreement (ijma‘) is not, for two reasons, first, it is unable to meet most situations, although Allah has a command for (each of) them, and second, on the supposition of the non-existence of one immune to sin, there is in agreement no convincing proof (hujja). Hence, agreement is unprofitable, because of the possibility of error in every individual of them, and so in all of them. And Allah the Most High points to the possibility of error in all of them in His word,

“If he die, therefore, or be slain, will ye turn upon your heels?” (3:144).

And the Prophet said, “Beware lest after me you refer your affairs to unbelievers” (namely, Abu Bakr, etc.). And this address is not directed to any except those to whom error is absolutely possible. (That is, in case there is no Imam who is masum, it is possible for the agreement of believers to result in error.) For man is not forbidden to fly to the sky, because it is absolutely impossible for him to do so.

184. And fundamental absolution is not able to guard the law, because it requires the removal (irtifa‘) of most of the commandments of the law. And it may be said that what is fundamental (al-asl) is the absolution of man from the obligation (dhimma) of what is incumbent and forbidden. And the three remaining (namely, qiyas, khabaru’l-wahid, and istishab) all are alike in placing importance upon supposition (az-zann), and supposition especially gives no satisfactory knowledge of reality. And the proof for the rejection of qiyas is established, because our law is built upon the difference in things that agree (muttafiqat), such as the incumbence of fasting on the last day of the month of Ramadan and its being forbidden on the first of (the following month) Shawwal, and the agreement in things that differ, such as the obligation to make ablution from both urine and stools, and the agreement of both accidental murder and zihar in requiring atonement (kaffara). (Zihar is when a man says to his wife, “you are as my mother to me”. He then has to make atonement before she becomes lawful to him again).2

185. Not only so, but the Lawgiver cut off the hand of the petty thief but not of one who stole large sums (ghasib), and he scourged men for accusing people falsely of adultery and made four female witnesses necessary for it, but not for blasphemy (kufr). And all of this precludes qiyas. And the Prophet of Allah has said, “After me this people will act some by the Book and some by tradition and some by qiyas, and whenever they do thus then they have gone astray, and have led astray (others), and nothing remains to be the guardian of the law except the Imam.” And that is what we sought. And the Most High Creator has indicated this by His word,

“But if they would report them to the Messenger, and to those who are in authority among them (that is, the Imams), those who desire information would learn it from them” (4:83).

(b) Second, since he is the guardian of the law (he must be immune to sin), for it he were not immune to sin there would be no security against addition and loss and change and interchange in the law.

(4) Fourth, everyone who is not immune to sin is unjust (zalim), and nothing unjust is proper for the Imamate. Hence, no one who is not immune to sin is fit for the Imamate. And the minor premise is true because an unjust person is one who places anything in a situation other than its own, and one who is not immune to sin is thus. And the major premise is true because of the word of the Most High,

“My covenant embraceth not the evildoers” (2:124).

And the meaning of “covenant” is the covenant of the Imamate, for the verse points to that.

3. The Imam Must Be Specified

186. (3) Third, it is necessary that the imam be specified (mansus) for (the Imamate), because immunity to sin is a matter of the heart which no one perceives but Allah the Most High. Hence, the specification must be made by one who knows that the Imam has the immunity to sin (necessary) for it, or some miracle (mujiza) must be wrought by his hand to prove his veracity. (That is, the Imam must be appointed by Allah, not by the people.)

187. This is a reference to the way of appointing the Imam. And agreement has been reached that in appointing the Imam the specification can be made by Allah and His Prophet, or by a previous Imam in an independent way (without the voice of the people). And verily the disagreement is as to whether or not his appointment (ta‘yin) can be in a way (sabab) that is other than specification (nass) (by Allah and the Prophet). And our companions the Imamites deny that absolutely, and say that there is no way except nass.

For we have explained that immunity to sin is a necessary condition of the Imamate. And immunity to sin is a hidden matter, and no one is informed of it except Allah. Hence, in such a case no one can know in whom it is (to be found), unless He who knowns the unseen (al-ghayb) make It known. And that comes about in two ways: (1) first, by making it known to someone immune to sin, such as the Prophet, and then he tells us of the Imam’s immunity to sin and of his appointment (ta‘yin), (2) second, by the appearance of miracles wrought by his hand to prove his veracity in claiming the Imamate.

188. And the Sunnites say that whenever the people (umma) acknowledge any person as chief (baya‘at), and are convinced of his ability (isti‘dad) for it (the Imamate), and his power increases in the regions (khitat) of Islam, he becomes the Imam. And the Zaydites say that any rational ascetic Fatimite who comes forth with the sword and claims the Imamate is the Imam.

And the reality is contrary to all of this, for two reasons: first, the Imamate is a succession (khilafa) from Allah and His Messenger, and it cannot be acquired except by the word of them both; and second, the establishing of the Imamate by acknowledging anyone as chief and by his claim to it would result in conflict (fitna), because of the probability that every party would acknowledge some different person as Imam, or that every rational Fatimite would claim the Imamate, and then fightings and struggles would result.

4. The Imam must be the best of the people of his time

189. (4) Fourth, it is necessary that the Imam be absolutely the best (afdal) of the people, because of what has been said above regarding the Prophet.

190. It is necessary (wajib) that the Imam be the best of the people of his age, because he takes precedence over (muqaddam) all. And if there were among them one better than he then the worse (mafdul) would have to take precedence over the better, and that would be evil (qabih) according to reason and tradition. And this has been already explained in (the section on) Prophecy (par. 170).

5. The Imams After Muhammad (S) Are Ali (‘A) And His Eleven Descendants

191. (5) Fifth, The Imam after the Messenger of Allah is Ali b. Abi Talib, (1) because of his specification (nass) which has come down in several separate lines (mutawatir) from the prophet. And (2) because he is the best of the people of his age, by the word of the Most High,

“ourselves and yourselves” (3:61).

And the equal of the best is the best, and because of the prophet’s need of him in the “cursing of one another” (mubahala). And (3) because it is necessary (wajib) for the Imam to be immune to sin, and there is no one else beside him of those who claim the Imamate who is immune to sin, by the agreement of all.

Hence, he is the Imam. And (4) because he is the most knowing (alam), for the companion consulted him about their problems, and he did not consult any one of them; and because of the word of the prophet (upon him and his defendants be peace!), “Ali is the best of your judges (aqda),” and judgment requires knowledge, and (5) because he is more ascetic than anyone else, so that he divorced the world three times.

192. When he finished the conditions of the Imamate he began on the appointment of the Imam. And men have differed regarding that. And some say that the Imam after the Messenger of Allah was al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, because he was his heir. And the multitude of Muslims say that he was Abu Bakr b. Abu Quhafa, because the people chose him. And the Shi‘ites say that he was ‘Ali b. Abi Talib because of the appointment (nass) which came down direct to him (mutawatir) from Allah and His Messenger, and that is the reality.

And the author has probed ‘Ali’s right in several ways: (1) First, that consecutive tradition from the word of the Prophet which the Shi‘ites quote regarding the right of ‘Ali, by which certain knowledge can be obtained, namely, “Greet him as the chief of the believers” (bi-imrati’l-mu’minin), and, “Thou art the successor (khalifa) after me,” and other such words which prove what we sought. Hence, he is the Imam, and that is what we sought.

193. (2) Second, he is the best of men after the Messenger of God. Then he is the Imam, because it would be evil for the worse to take precedence over the better. And he is the best for two reasons: (a) first, he is equal to the Prophet. And the prophet is the best (afdal), hence, his equal is also the best, otherwise he would not be equal to him. And he is his equal because of the word of the Most High, in the verse of

“cursing one another”, “and ourselves and yourself.” (3:61).

And the intention (murad) in “ourselves” is ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, as is proved by sound tradition. And without doubt the intention is not that his self (nafs) is ‘Ali’s self, because union (ittihad) is false. Hence, his intention is “like him” and “equal to him,” as it is said, “Zayd is as a lion,” that is, is like him in bravery. And since he is equal to him he is the best, and that was what we sought3.

194. (b) Second, in the “cursing one another” (incident) the Prophet had need of him, and of no one else of the companions and kindred, in his prayer. And he who was needed is better than anyone else, especially in those great events (that is, the debate with the Christians of Najran) which are among the bases and foundations of (the validity of his) Prophecy.

195. (3) Third, it is necessary for the Imam to be immune to sin, and no one for whom the Imamate is claimed is immune to sin except ‘Ali. Hence, no one but him is Imam. Now the minor premise has already been explained. And the major premise is true, because all are agreed that ‘Abbas and Abu Bakr were not immune to sin. Hence, it comes about that he is the Imam. Otherwise, agreement would have to be nullified if we established immunity from sin for anyone except him, or else the age would have to be quit of any Imam who was immune to sin, and both (alternatives) are false.

196. (4) Fourth, he is the most knowing of men after the Messenger of Allah, hence he is the Imam. Now he is the most knowing for several reasons, (a) first, he was mighty (shadid) in surmise (hads) and sagacity (dhaka) and in desire (hirs) for learning, and he was the constant companion of the Prophet, who was absolutely perfect after Allah the Most High, and had a mighty love for him and a desire to teach him. And whenever these qualities are united in a person it is necessary (wajib) that he be more knowing than anyone else besides that teacher and that is self-evident.

197. (b) Second, the greatest of the doctors among the Companions and the Successors (tabi‘in) used to consult him about the problems which they met and to take his word, and to refer to him contrary to their own opinions (ijtihad), and this is explained in the books of history and biography.

198. (c) Third, all the masters of the arts (funun) and science (‘ulum) refer to him. For the commentators take the word of Ibn ‘Abbas, and he was one of ‘Ali’s disciples, as he said, “‘Ali explained for me the ba in bismillah from the beginning to the end of the night.” And the masters of scholastic theology go to him – the Mu‘tazilites, in that they refer to Abu ‘Ali al-Jubba’i, and he in matters of knowledge refers to Abu Hashim b. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, and he refers to his father ‘Ali, and the Ash‘arites, because they refer to Abu’l-Hasan al-Ash‘ari, and he was the disciple of Abu ‘Ali al-Jubba’i, and the Imamites, whose reference to ‘Ali is evident.

And if there were nothing else except his word (kalam) in “Nahju’l-Balagha” and other books in which are recorded discussions of divinity, the Unity and Justice and Destiny (qada) and Decree (qadar), and the manner of progress on the way to Allah (suluk) and the degrees of real knowledge, and the principles of oratory and the rules of eloquence and other sciences, there would be in it enough to satisfy one who considers and to warn one who thinks.

As for the masters of jurisprudence, the reference of the chief of the mujtahids of the various sects to the disciples of ‘Ali is well known. And his wonderful decisions in jurisprudence are mentioned in their own place, such as his decision in the affair of the man who had sworn that he would not loose the chain of his slave that (the other man) might give its weight in silver.

[A certain man saw a slave with a chain on his feet, and vowed to give the weight of the chain in silver to the poor if the owner would loose him. The owner refused to take off the chain, and the man did not know how to ascertain the weight of it so that he could pay his vow. ‘Ali told him to put the slave’s feet in a basin of water, then lift the chains up out of the water, and put in enough silver to make the water rise to where it was before.]

Also, his decision in the matter of the owner of the loaves of bread (who did not know how to divide them equitably), and so forth.

199. (d) Fourth, the word of the Prophet regarding him, “‘Ali is the best judge of you all”. Now it is well known that judgment (qada) has need of many sciences. Hence, Ali is master of them all.

200. (e) Fifth, the word of ‘Ali, “If a cushion be placed for me and I sit upon it, then I will judge (hukm) among the people of the Tawrat according to their Tawrat, and among the people of the Furqan according to their Furqan, and among the people of the Injil according to their Injil, and among the people of the Zabur according to their Zabur.

By Allah, there is no verse that has descended by night or by day, in the plain or on the mountain, without my knowing upon whom it has descended and regarding what it has descended.” And this proves his mastery (ihata) of all the divine sciences. And since he is the most knowing he is therefore the one appointed for the Imamate, and that is what was sought.

201. (5) He is the most ascetic of men after the Prophet of Allah. Hence, it comes about that he is the Imam, for the most ascetic is the best. And as for his being the most ascetic, we must examine his words (kalam) regarding asceticism (zuhd), and his sermons and commands and prohibitions, and his shunning the world, the evidences of which are manifest in him (not in word but in deed), so that he divorced the world three times.

[The world came to him in the form of a beautiful maiden, and he pronounced the triple formula of divorce, thereby making her unlawful for him.]

And he shunned worldly pleasures of food and drink and raiment, and he was not known by anyone to be entangled in anything worldly. He even used to lock up his vessel of bread, and when they asked him about that, he said, “I fear lest one of my children should put in it some buttered bread,” And the fact that he distributed his own food and his family’s food to the poor and the orphans and the prisoners is a sufficient proof of his asceticism. And a verse of the Qur’an descended regarding that, proving his excellence and his immunity to sin.

202. And the proofs of this cannot be numbered for multitude.

203. The proofs of the Imamate of ‘Ali are more than can be numbered, so that the author composed a book on the Imamate and named it “Kitabu’l-Alfayn” and mentioned in it two thousand proofs for his imamate. And a multitude of the doctors have composed so many treatises on this subject (fann) that it is impossible to encompass them, but we will mention here some of them to exalt and bless him by remembering his excellences. And they are of several sorts. (1) First, the word of the Most High,

“Verily your protector (wali) is Allah and His Messenger, and those who believe, who observe prayer, and pay the alms of obligation, and who bow in worship” (5:55).

And (the understanding of that) depends on several preliminaries (muqaddamat). (a) First, the lexicographers say that “Verily” (innama) is to restrict (hasr) the meaning. The poet said, “I am a protector, a helper, a brave man, verily either I or one like me will defend their relatives.”

And if this verily did not restrict the meaning, then his boast would not be fulfilled. (b) Second, by wali the intention is either the worthiest to control (al-awla bi’t-tasarruf) or the helper (an-nasir), since in this place absolutely no other of the meaning (of wali) is sound. But the second meaning (namely, the helper) is here false, because help does not belong exclusively to those two (Allah and His Messenger). Hence, the first (meaning) is singled out. (c) Third, the address is to believers, for what immediately precedes is,

“O ye who believe, should any of you desert his religion” (5:54).

Then He says, “Verily your wali is Allah and His Messenger.” Hence, the pronoun (your) applies in truth to them (believers). (d) Fourth, the intention by “O ye who believe” in the verse is some of the believers, for two reasons: first, if it were not thus, then every individual believer would become wali in his own person in the meaning mentioned (see(a)), and that is false; and second, the description which he gave of them does not apply to all of them, that is, the giving of alms while in the state of bowing in worship (ruku‘), since the phrase expresses a state of being (haliyya).

(e) Fifth, the intention by this some is ‘Ali b. Abi Talib exclusively, because of sound tradition and the agreement of most of the commentators that while he was praying a beggar begged him for something, and he gave him his signet ring while he was bowed in worship. And since ‘Ali is the worthiest to control among us, he is singled out to be the Imam, for by Imam we do not mean anything except this.

204. (2) Second, a mutawatir tradition has been handed down that when the Prophet returned from the farewell pilgrimage to Mecca he commanded them to alight at the Pool (ghadir) of Khum at noon. And that loads (of the camels) were placed for him in the form of a pulpit. And he addressed the people and called for ‘Ali and lifted him up with his hand and said, “O people, am I not better (awla) for you than your own souls?” They said, “Yea, O Prophet of Allah!”

He said, “Let whoever owns me as his master (mawla) own this ‘Ali as his master. O Allah, befriend (wali) whoever befriends him and hate whoever hates him, and help whoever helps ‘Ali and forsake whoever forsakes him, and compass him with reality as he goes about!” And he repeated that to them three times. And the intention in mawla is awla (the better), because the first of the narrative, “Am I not better for you (awla bikum)?” indicates that. And in the word of the Most High regarding the unbelievers

“Your abode the fire! – This shall be your master (mawlakum),” (57:15).

The meaning is, “it is better for you (awla bikum).” And also, it is not possible here for mawla to have any other meaning, such as neighbor (al-jar) or releaser of a slave (mu‘tiq) or ally (halif) or nephew, for it is impossible that the Prophet should stand in that time of excessive heat and call the people and inform them of things which did not have any great value for them, such as that whoever was his neighbour or releaser of his slave, etc., was ‘Ali’s likewise. And since ‘Ali is the best (awla) among us he is the Imam4.

205. (3) Third, a mutawatir tradition (nass) has come down to us that the Prophet said to ‘Ali, “Thou hast (received) the same position from me which Harun had from Musa, except that there is no prophet after me.” He confirms for him, therefore, all the degrees (maratib) which Harun had from Musa, and he excepts prophecy. Now, one of the positions which Harun received from Musa was that of being his successor (khalifa), although he died before him. And Ali lived after the Messenger of Allah. Hence, his succession is established, since there is nothing to cause his displacement (zawal)5.

206. (4) Fourth, the word of the Most High,

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those among you invested with authority” (4:59).

And by “those invested with authority” the intention is either one who is known to be immune to sin, or it is not. The second alternative is false by agreement, because it is impossible that Allah should command absolute obedience to one to whom error is possible. Hence, the first is singled out. Hence, it comes about that he is ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (upon him be peace!), since immunity to sin was not claimed for anyone except him and his descendants. Hence, they are the ones intended, and that is what was sought. And this deduction is contained exactly in the word of the Most High,

“Believers! Fear Allah, and be with the sincere (as-sadiqin)” (9:119).

207. (5) Fifth, he claimed the Imamate, and miracles were wrought by his hand, and whoever is like that is veracious in his claim. Now that he claimed the Imamate is evident, and the records of his words and complaints and quarrels are well known from the books of biography and history, so that when he saw that they had deserted him he sat down in his house and busied himself with collecting the Book of the Lord (the Qur’an). And when they sought him to acknowledge him as their chief, he refused. Then they kindled a fire in his house and forced him to go out.

And his sermon entitled Shiqshiqiyya in “Nahju’l-Balagah” will suffice to make thee aware of his complaint in this matter. And the miracles wrought by his hand were many. Among them are the removing of the gate of Khaybar, and conversing with ravenous beasts on the pulpit of Kufa, and the lifting up of a great stone from the mouth of the well when the army could not remove it, and making the sun to go back so that it returned to its place in the heavens, and others which cannot be numbered. And every one who is like that is veracious (sadiq). Hence, he is veracious, because of what has been previously said regarding Prophecy6.

208. (6) Sixth, either the Prophet appointed (nass) an Imam, or he did not. The second alternative is false, for two reasons. (a) First, the appointment of an Imam is incumbent upon him, to perfect religion and to appoint its guardian. And if the Messenger of Allah had failed to do that, he would have failed in doing what was incumbent (wajib).

(b) Second, since his (Muhammad’s) compassion and lovingkindness for the mukallafin and his care for their advantage was so great that he taught them the places of purification (istinja) and impurity (janaba) and other things which are of far less importance that the Imamate, it is impossible that in his wisdom and immunity to sin he should not specify for them him whom they should consult in their problems and in their private affairs and in their needs. Hence, the first (alternative – that he appointed an Imam) is singled out (as true). And the mass of the people did not claim that anyone had been appointed except ‘Ali and Abu Bakr. Hence, it follows that the one appointed was either ‘Ali or Abu Bakr. And the second alternative is false, hence, the first is singled out.

209. Now, the second (alternative) is false for several reasons.

(a) First, if Abu Bakr was the one appointed, then the dependence of his authority on the acknowledgment (bay‘a) of the people was sin and an impugning of the Imamate.

(b) Second, if he was the one appointed, then he would have mentioned that, and would have claimed it at the time when the people acknowledged him, or after it, or before it, since “there is no ‘itr (attar) after ‘Arus is dead” (said by a wife when her husband ‘Arus died). But he did not claim it, hence, he was not the one appointed.

(c) Third, if he was the one appointed then his asking to be excused from the succession, when he said, “Excuse me, I am not the best of you when “Ali is among you,” was a great sin, for it would have been a rejection of Allah and His Messenger. Hence, it would have impugned his Imamate.

(d) Fourth, if he had been the one appointed he would not have been in doubt at his death as to his worthiness of succession. But he was in doubt, so that he said, “O that I had asked the Messenger whether in this matter the right was with the Ansars or not!”.

(e) Fifth, if he was the one appointed, the Messenger of Allah would not have commanded him to go out with the army of Usama b Zayd. For the Messenger of Allah was ill, and his soul had warned him of death, so that he said, “My soul warns me of my death, and I am about to be taken, because Jibra’il used to present himself to me with the Qur’an once every year, and this year he presented himself to me with it twice.” And if this were the situation and the Imam were Abu Bakr, then he would not have commanded him not to remain behind Usama. But he urged all to go out, and he cursed all who should stay behind him, and he found fault with them when they remained behind them.

(f) Sixth, if there is no one except ‘Ali among those for whom the Imamate is claimed who is fit for it, then he is singled out for it. And the first statement is true because they were all unjust (zalim) because of their previous unbelief, according to the word of the Most High.

“My covenant embraceth not evil doers” (2:124).

210. Then after him his son al-Hasan, then al-Husayn, then ‘Ali b. al-Husayn, then Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-Baqir, then Ja‘far b. Muhammad as -Sadiq, then Musa b. Ja‘far al-Kazim, then ‘Ali b. Musa ar-Rida, then Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-Jawad, then ‘Ali b. Muhammad al-Hadi, then al-Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Askari, then Muhamad b. al-Hasan the lord of the age (Sahibu’z-Zaman) the blessings of Allah be upon them! Because each one of them who preceded appointed his successor, and because of the preceding proofs.

211. When he had finished establishing the Imamate of ‘Ali he began to establish the Imamate of the Imams who were steadfast in authority after him. And the proof of that is of several kinds: (1) First, the appointment (nass) of the Prophet (Allah bless him, etc.) And concerning this is his word to Husayn, “This is my son Husayn, an Imam, the son of an Imam, the brother of an Imam, the father of nine Imams, the ninth of them being the one of them who shall arise (al-qa’im) and the greatest (afdal) of them.” And again (there is) that which Jabir b. ‘Abdu’llah the Ansari related. He said, “When the word of the Most High descended,

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those among you invested with authority” (4:59).

I said, “O Messenger of Allah, we know Allah and obey Him, and we know thee and obey thee, but who are those invested with authority whom Allah has commanded us to obey?”

He said, “O Jabir, they are my successors and the possessors of authority after me. The first of them is ‘Ali, then after him is his son al-Hasan, then al-Husayn, then ‘Ali b. al-Husayn, then Muhammad b. ‘Ali (and you will soon see him, O Jabir, and when you see him then give him my greetings), then Ja‘far b. Muhammad, then Musa b. Ja‘far, then ‘Ali b. Musa ar-Rida, then Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-Jawad, ‘Ali b. Muhammad, then al-Hasan b. ‘Ali, then Muhammad b. al-Hasan (he will fill the earth with equity and justice just as it is (now) full of injustice and oppression).”

212. And again (there is) that which has been related from the Prophet, that he said that Allah chose Friday from among the days, and the month Ramadan from among the months, and the night of qadr from among the nights. And He chose the prophets from among mankind, and He chose the messengers from among the prophets, and He chose me from among the messengers, and He chose ‘Ali from me, and He chose al-Hasan and al-Husayn from ‘Ali, and He chose from al-Husayn his executors (awsiya), who are nine of his descendants, who should prevent the erring from leading others astray from their religion, and the destroyers from making their profession, and the ignorant from interpreting.

213. (2) Second, the appointment by each one of them of his successor, which has come to us by mutawatir traditions, which are too many to be numbered. And the Imamites have related traditions regarding their succession (tabaqat) which are contradictory.

214. (3) Third, it is necessary that the Imam be immune to sin, and there is no one besides them who is immune to sin. Hence, no one besides them is an Imam. The explanation of the first statement has been already given. And the second statement is true by agreement that in the time of each one of them immunity to sin was not claimed for anyone except them. Hence, they are the Imams.

215. (4) Fourth, they are better than anyone else of the people of their time, as is known from the books of biography and history. Hence, they are the Imams, because it would be evil for the worse to take precedence over the better.

216. (5) Fifth, each one of them claimed the Imamate, and miracles were wrought by his hand. Hence, he is the Imam. And the explanation of this has preceded, and the Imamites have related their miracles in their books. And there is a book for thee regarding this, “Khara’iju’l-Jara’ih(?)” of ar-Rawandi, and other books also on this same subject.

217. A matter of importance – the Twelfth Imam is alive and existent (mawjud) from the time of his birth (256 A.H.), to the end of the period of taklif. For in every age there must be an Imam immune to sin, because the proofs are universal (‘umum), and beside him there is no one immune to sin. Hence, he is the Imam. And the thought that it is unlikely that anyone like him should remain alive is false, for it is possible, especially since it has occurred in previous times to the fortunate (as-su‘ada) and the unfortunate (al-ashqiya) (the saved and the lost) to live longer than he has lived.

And the cause of his being hidden is either some advantage which Allah has kept to Himself, or else the number of enemies and the paucity of helpers. For in view of the wisdom of the Most High and the Imam’s immunity to sin it is impossible that Allah’s kindness (lutf) be hindered. Hence, it is because of someone else (that is, the enmity of men), and that is what was sought.

218. O Allah, hasten his joy, and cause us to behold his victory, and make us his helpers and his followers, and sustain us with his obedience and his good pleasure, and protect us from his opposition and his anger, by the Real (al-haqq) and by him who speaks in verity (the Prophet or Imam)!

  • 1. Contrast with the Shi‘ite conception of the Imam that of the Sunnite as expressed in the creed of an-Nasafi (Macdonald, pp. 313-314): “The Muslims cannot do without a leader (Imam) who shall occupy himself with the enforcing of their decisions, and in maintaining their restrictive ordinance and grading their frontiers, and equipping their armies, and receiving their alms, and putting down robberies and thieving and highwaymen, and maintaining the Friday services and the Festivals, and removing quarrels that fall between creatures, and receiving evidence bearing on legal claims, and marrying minors, male and female, who have no guardians, and dividing booty.

    And it is necessary that the leader should be visible, not hidden and expected to appear (muntazar), and that he should be of the tribe of Quraysh and not of any other. And he is not assigned exclusively to the sons of Hashim nor to the children of Ali. And it is not a condition that he should be protected by Allah from sin (‘isma), nor that he should be the most excellent of the people of his time, but it is a condition that he should be sui juris [i.e., Muslim, free, male, sane, adult], should be a good governor and should be able to carry out decrees and to guard the restrictive ordinances (hadds) of Islam and to protect the wronged against him who wronged him. And he is not to be deposed from the leadership on account of immorality or tyranny.”

    The Sunnite want an earthly ruler with sufficient power to govern the Muslim state and repulse all enemies, while the Shi‘ites look for one who can established the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and bring an end to all the evils of the world. When one recalls the historical situation at the time when the Shi‘ite creed was written it does not seem strange that after the horrors of the Mongol invasion and the wars and confusion which followed, some men should long for a sinless Imam who was able to “restrain the oppressor for his oppression and avenge the oppressed of his oppressor.”

  • 2. For Sunnite the Foundations of religion are the Qur’an, the Sunna, Ijma‘, and Qiyas. It is evident from the text that the Shi‘ites reject all of these as insufficient in themselves, and look to a divinely guided Imam, who alone can interpret the Qur’an and make known to men their duty. The Shi‘ite mujtahids are the representatives of the hidden Imam, but it is possible for them to err, as they do not receive any supernatural guidance from the Imam. There is no place in Shi‘ite theology for kashf (see Macdonald, “Development,” p. 215, etc).
  • 3. In the creed of an-Nasafi we read: “And the most excellent of mankind after our Prophet is Abu Bakr the Veracious.”

    A full account of the incident here referred to is found in chapter 18 of Herrick’s “Hyat-ul-Kuloob” (which is a translation of volume ii of the great work of Mulla Muhammad Baqir-i-Majlisi (d. 1070/1659) – see Browne’s “Persian Literature in Modern Times,” (pp. 409, 417). The story in brief is as follows. When Muhammad sent letters to the kings of Rum, Persia, etc, summoning them to embrace Islam, the Christians of Najran in South Arabia assembled in their church to decide what they ought to do.

    After various proposals had been made as to whether they should fight or yield or become Muslims, someone arose and quoted Jesus’ words to Simon Peter promising to send Ahmad the Parqalit (the parakletos, the Comforter), whose son should conquer the world. But it was replied that Muhammad had no offspring, and so this could not refer to him. Then they brought out the Book of Jami‘ and read from the story of Adam, how Adam once saw a brilliant light with four other lights about it, and was told by Allah that these lights were five of his descendants, namely, Muhammad and his Wazir and his daughter and his two grandsons who would succeed him. Ibrahim also saw a similar vision, and the same thing was predicted by Musa and ‘Isa.

    So, it was decided to send all their princes and doctors to Medina to see whether Muhammad was the one whom ‘Isa had predicted. Accordingly, they entered Medina in great pomp, found Muhammad in the Mosque, and debated the question of the person of Christ with him. At last, unable to convince one another, they proposed to him that they refer the matter to Allah, and call down His curse on whoever lied. Then the verse of Mubahala (mutual cursing) was sent down (Qur’an 3:61), Muhammad agreed, and the contest was set for the following day. The Christians said to one another, “If Muhammad comes out with royal pomp, then we shall conquer, for he is only an earthly ruler, but if he comes out with only a few godly people then he is a prophet, and will prevail”.

    The next day the Christian leaders came forward with their sons and wives. All the people of Median came out with banners waving to witness the conflict. Late in the morning Muhammad came forth with the Holy Family only (‘Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn), and took his place with them under a cloak hung between two small trees. The Christians asked why he brought out those people and not the chief men of his religion. He replied that Allah had so commanded.

    Then the Christians, remembering what they had read in the Jami‘, turned pale and retired, fearing to make the trail, for they recognized Muhammad as the Prophet whom ‘Isa had predicted. Muhammad raised his hands to pray, and at once the mountains began to tremble and smoke covered the earth. If he had spoken but one word everything would have been destroyed! So, the Christians made peace, and agreed to pay an annual tribute of 2,000 robes and 1,000 mithqals of gold.

    The Shi‘ites attach very great importance to this incident, not only as proving the prophetic mission of Muhammad, but also because it establishes their doctrine of the Imamate. See “Hayat al-Qulub,” pp. 325, 326.

  • 4. For a fuller account of this incident see “Hayat al-Qulub,” ch. 19.
  • 5. This idea was possibly derived from Ibn Saba, the founder of the Saba’ites, a Jew who carried on a vigorous campaign for ‘Ali. See Nicholson, “A Literary History of the Arabs,” p. 215.
  • 6. “Aided by divine power, Aly seized the outer ring of the gate, and shook it so violently that the whole fortress trembled. The gate broke away, and Aly, using it as a shield, rushed into the town, which he soon overcame. He then hurled the gate forty cubits distance, which seventy men, to satisfy their curiosity, tried in vain to lift” (“Hayat al-Qulub,” p. 274).