Doctrine of the Number of the Imams.
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 Talib, al-Murtuza. Born 23 years before the Hijrah
(601 A.D), died in the years 40 AH (661 AD)
2. Abu Mohammed Hasan ibn ‘Ali, called Zaki.
3. Abu ‘Abdillah Husain ibn ‘Ali, called Sayyed ush-Shuhada.’ (3-61/624-713).
4. Abu Muhammad ‘Ali ibn Husain, called Zainul Abedeen’.
5. Abu Ja’far Mohammed ibn ‘Ali, called al-Baqir.
6. Abu ‘Abdillah Ja’far ibn Mohammed, called as-Sadiq.
7. Abu Ibrahim Musa ibn Ja’far, called al-Kazim.
8. Abu-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Musa, called ar-Reza.
9. Abu Ja’far Mohammed ibn Ali, called al-Jawad. (195-220/810-835).
10. Abu’l- Hasan ‘Ali ibn Mohammed, called al-Hadi.
11. Abu Mohammed Hasan ibn ‘Ali, called al-Askari.
12. Abu’l-Qasim Mohammed ibn Hasan, called al-Mahdi.
The last is the imam of our time, but he is in occultation and we are awaiting for his reappearance, may Allah hasten it to spread justice and equity throughout the world, filled as it is with oppression and tyranny.
Doctrine of the Mahdi.
Many people have narrated from the prophet concerning the reappearance, at the end of time, of the Mahdi, who is a descendant of his daughter Fatima, and how will spread justice and equity throughout the world. After it has been overcome by injustice and oppression. All sects of Muslim 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’s 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 Imam Mahdi has been well known among all Muslims, and they have believe 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 kayasaniyyah, 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 re-establishment of Islam in all its power, to reform this world, drowned as it is in oppression and corruption
1 The Kaysaniyyah were followers of Kaysan, a freed slave of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and supposedly a student of his son Mohammed ibn Hanafiyyah. They exaggerated in their belief about him, ascribing complete knowledge to him. They held an esoteric belief that religion involved following a human, that Mohammed ibn hanifiyyah was immortal and the Mahdi. There were subsequent divisions into the Mukhtariyyah, the Hashimiyyah, the Bayaniyyah and the Razamiyyah sects.
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 province, 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 pitfall 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 people of other religions believe in this expectation, the difference being that the Imamate sect believes that this reformer is a definite persons, that he is the Mahdi, and that he was born in 256 AH (870 AD), that he is alive now, the son of Imam Hasan al-Askari, and that his name is Mohammed. Many narrators have passed to us ahadith (pl. Of hadith) from the Prophet and his house hold concerning his birth and 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 ‘Hazrat Isa talked with people from his cradle, and was 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 life, or more than the imagine natural span, is not impossible 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 Hazrat Nuh lived to very old age, and that Hazrat Isa is alive now, and once one has accepted Islam, there can be no denying what the Qur’an says, it is comprehensible that a Muslim should dispute the possibility of these things, while at the same time calling himself a believer in the Glorious Qur’an.
We should remember at this point that the expectation of this saviour and reformer, the Imam Mahdi, does not mean that Muslims should stand idle in their religion, or abandon their religious duties, but that they should perform all the Divine commandments and make every endeavour to seek out the way of Truth. It is an obligation for them to fight for Islam, to put the principles of Islam into practice to order others to do likewise and to prohibit them as far as possible from doing wrong. As the prophet said:
Every one of you is a shepherd, and every one is responsible for his lock.
Therefore it is wrong for a Muslim to pay no attention to his religious duties, and to abandon them because he is expecting the Imam Mahdi, the one who brings good tidings, because such and expecting must be induce us to have no responsibility or duty, or to postpone any of our actions, and it will not leave people aimless like animals.
Doctrine of the Return (raj’ah)
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 will take place during the time of the Imam Mahdi. Allah will not cause anyone to return unless he has attained a high degree of faith or sunk deep into corruption. After this they will die again an on the Day of Resurrection they shall be raised again to be rewarded or punished, for Allah has mentioned in the Qur’an the desire of these people who have come twice into this world to come yet a third time in order to repent of their sins.
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. In there any way to go forth?”
(Surah 40: Ayat 11)
Truly the Qur’an came to proclaim raj’ah on this world, as did many tradition 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 the people or the giving of the 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 unbeliever (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 of damage each other and cause dissension. 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 Mohammed (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 cognizant of all Creation.”
(Surah 36: Ayat 78-9)
One who denigrates raj’ah as being a kind of transmigration of the soul, which we know to be incorrect, has no 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 ‘Hazrat 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 punish, he 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 this world. Therefore the same evidence that proves the possibility of resurrection will also prove the possibility of raj’ah. There is no reason for amazement, except in that it is unusual for us and we are not accustomed to such things in the life of this world. But we know of no cause or impossibility that would bring us near to an understanding or refutation of raj’ah, only that human imagination does not find it easy to accept what is out of the ordinary. So there is no more reason to refute it than there is to refute resurrection.
Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away.
(Surah 36: Ayat 78).
Say: “He will revive them who brought them into existence at first and He is Cognizant of all Creation.’
(Surah 36: Ayat 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 Hazrat Isa in restoring the dead to life.
And I heal the blind and leprous and bring the dead to life with Allah’s permission.
(Surah 3: Ayat 49).
And Allah said:
When will Allah give it life after its death? So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him to life.
(Surah 2: Ayat 259).
And also in the verse we have seen before:
They shall says “Our lord ! Thou hast caused us to die two deaths...”
(Surah 40: Ayat 11)
And the meaning of the verse will not fulfilled unless there is a return to this world after death, although some commentators of the Qur’an have tried to give an exegesis (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 verse 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 sharia”, 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 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.