Imams

(Shia)

Shi'a Imams of Islam

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Ali (AS), The First Imam

It was Friday 13th of Rajab 30 Amulfeel Hazrat Fatima binte Asad, the wife of Hazrat Abu Talib entered the precincts of the Kaaba and prayed to Allah saying O'my protector ease my pain.'All of a sudden the wall of the Kaaba opened up and she, as if by some unseen force went inside the Kaaba and the wall closed. Ali (AS) the youngest son of Abu Talib was born inside the Holy Kaaba. She stayed inside for three days. On the 3rd day she came out through the door and Muhammad was waiting outside. She told Muhammad (SA) that the boy had not taken any milk. Muhammad gave him the first feed from his mouth and afterwards asked his uncle Abu Talib that he wished to adopt the baby. Ali entered the house of Muhammad from the very first day of his birth. Ali's mother Fatima binte Assad Also lived there who looked after his own son as well as Muhammad(SA) so much so that later the Holy Prophet used to say that she was like his own mother.

Shah Waliullah, Mohadith-e-Dehlvi writes in the book “Izalatul Kholafa” giving reference from Imam Hakim in his Mustadrak Part 3, Page 483. Qud Tawatarul Akhbar Inna Fatimah Binte Asad woledat Aliyan Fi Jaufil Kaaba”. Another writer of the old school Sibtel Jauzi in his book Tazkeratul Khawas ul Umma, page 7 mentions the same fact that Ali was born inside the Kaaba.

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Masoodi the famous historian writes in his book of history Muruj el Zahab, that Ali was born inside the Kaaba on the orders of Muhammad the Messenger of God.

It was after the adoption of Ali(AS) that he lived with the Holy Prophet in his house.

Some historians try to show that when Muhammad(SA) declared his prophethood Ali(AS) was the first among male children who accepted Islam. The implication here is that both Muhammad(SA) and Ali(AS) were non -believers before this declaration. This is against the Qur'anic verdict which says that Ibrahim was a muslim and he taught his children to be muslims so that when the Prophet was born among the descendents of Ibrahim through the line of Ismael he was born a muslim and so was Ali. The correct thing to say would be that when Muhammad (SA)declared his prophethood openly Ali (AS) immediately adhered to the declaration without hesitation.

The three persons seen in prayers in the Kaaba were Muhammad, Khadija and Ali before anyone else accepted Islam. For 3 years young and poor persons of Makka were accepting Islam secretly. The first open declaration came when the Qora'anic verse tells the Prophet to "come out openly and warn the people of your own clan." Invitations were sent to leaders of the Banu Hashim to come to the house of Muhammad (SA)for Dinner. Forty of them came, ate food and then heard Muhammad (SA)about his mission of ' No god but Allah and Muhammad(SA) as the messenger of Allah and whoever offers his help to propagate this religion will be his deputy and successor. No one stood up except Ali(AS). After announcing this 3 times Muhammad(SA) declared that Ali (AS)will be his deputy to his mission and will be his successor after him. People thought it as a joke that a 13 year old boy was to be a deputy of this prophetic mission. Even Abu Lahab jokingly told Abu Talib, go and obey your son to which AbuTalib smilingly accepted. Ali(AS) promissed to help Muhammad(SA) in his mission and kept this promise all his life.

Once the family settled in the newly adopted city of Madina their first task was to complete the mosque around which their houses were also built. Ali initially stayed with his mother but when he married Fatima the daughter of the Prophet he was given a house next to the Prophet by the side of the mosque. He had been betrothed to her several days before the battle of Badr. But the marriage was celebrated three months later. Ali was about 23 years old and Fatima was 18. This was most happy and celebrated marriage. The distinctiveness of their respectivecharacters blended so well with each other that they never quarrelled and complained of one another and led a happy and most contended life. Materially the couple did not posses much, spiritually they were at the highest level of assent. They had no worries if they go hungry or their clothes had patches.They would be more concerned if an orphan goes away from their door without receiving any food.

Ibne Abil Hadid, the Motazelli commentator of Nahjul Balagha says that: Ali(AS) had a personality in which opposite characteristics had so gathered that it was difficult to believe a human mind could manifest such a combination. He was the bravest man that history could cite and such brave men are always hard hearted, cruel and eager to shed blood. On the contrary Ali was kind, sympathetic, responsive and warmhearted person, qualities quite contrary to the other phase of his character and more suited to pious and God fearing persons.Ali's bravery and piety both became legendry.Life in Madina while the Holy Prophet was alive was the most busy for Ali. But he remembers these times as the best times of his life. He says in Nehjul Balagha ' Life with my brother was a life of ease and happiness.'

Hasan (AS), The Second Imam

Born in Madina 15th Ramazan 3rd year of Hijri. Elder son of Ali and Fatima, grandson of the Prophet of Islam. When he was born and the news of the birth of a grandson was conveyed to the Holy Prophet he came to the house of Fatima, took hold of the baby in his arms, said Azan and Iqamah in his ears and said, this is a beautiful child, I name him Hasan. He will keep Islam and muslims safe from the hands of its destroyers. Historians note that this child looked like his grand father the Holy Prophet in looks and in manners.

Hussain Ibn Ali (AS), The Third Imam

Second son of Fatima (SA) and Ali (AS) Hussain (AS) was born on 3rd Shabaan, 4th year of Hijri (10.1.626 AD) When he was born the Holy Prophet was given the news of the birth of his 2nd grandson. He arrived at the house of his daughter, took the little baby in his arms, said the Azan and Iqamah in his ears. People around the Prophet saw tears in his eyes. Fatimah asked what was the reason for this, he told her that this boy of hers will achieve martyrdom, but consoled her by adding that God will create a nation who will mourn Hussain till the Day of Judgement. Another famous saying of the Prophet at the same time became synonymous with the name of his grandson Hussain. “Hussian-o-Minni wa Ana Minul Hussain”.

Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain. One can explain this Hadith that Hussain, being the grand son of the Prophet was from him biologically. How a grandfather was from his grand son needs to be explained. Prophets of God speak spiritually rather than materially. He was talking about Islam the Deen he was assigned by God to propagate God's religion.. He was for Islam and his whole life was for Islam and its establishment on earth. Any break in this mission would subvert this mission which was the purpose of his creation. The message of the Holy Prophet in this saying was that Hussain will, in some near future save this mission from destruction, hence the very purpose of his being will be saved by the sacrifice of his grandson. He was giving the news of a future occurrence. The story of Kerbala unfolds.

Ali Ibn el Hussain, Zainul Abedeen (AS), The Fourth Imam

When the young Ali took the mantle of Imamat, times were hard on the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet. His is the saddest story of all time. On the 10th of Muharram at the time of Asr Prayers, when his father Hussain(AS) was alone in the battlefield ready to do battle, he withdrew to the camp of his ailing son, came beside hibed, woke him and told him that the story of Kerbala was over, that he was about to go to sacrifice his own life for the cause of Islam. It was at that time that the father transferred the mantle of Imamat, the spiritual guidance, to his son to lead the muslim Ummah towards the Right Path.

He was born in Madina some 22 years ago, on 5th Shabaan 38 year of Hijra. In some history books his date of birth is shown as 15th Jamadiul Awwal 38 AH. His mother was Shahr Bano the daughter of Yazdjurd II, the last of the Persian Kings before Islam. She was taken prisoner when muslim armies conquered Persia. When she was brought in Madina Imam Ali(AS) spoke to her and she embraced Islam and was married to his 2nd son Imam Hussain.(AS) She had died after giving birth to her only son. He was only two years old when his grand father Ali (AS) was martyred in the Mosque at Kufa. After that the whole family of the Prophet returned to live in Madina. For the next 10 years under Imam Hasan(AS) as Imam and after his martyrdom, his father Imam Hussain(AS) as the Imam, the young Ali was growing in their shadow and watching the workings of the Imamat without the wordly authority.

People knew they were the grand sons of the Holy Prophet and followed them by their hearts but outwardly because of the fear of the Ummayad ruler in Damascus, there was very little following of the Ahlulbayt of the Prophet. In 60 Hijri when his father Imam Hussain(AS) had to leave Madina for Makka and then for Kerbala, he was with him all the time. In Kerbala all male children of Ali(AS) and Hussain(AS) were killed except Ali Ibn el Hussain who with providence became so ill that he was unable to participate in the Jihad with his father and survived the massacre. His life and with that the line of descendents of Hussain(AS) survived because the Imamat had to go on. He became the 4th Imam on the 10th of Muharram 61 Hijri. He was taken captive and was brought to Kufa and then to Damascus in chains. In spite of his illness and humiliating position in front of Yazid the Ummayad ruler, when Yazid addressed him in an insulting manner saying that his father wasted his life by refusing to give the oath of allegiance to Yazid, Imam replied, it was to save Islam. They were wondering how Islam was saved.

When time for Azan came and the Moazzin screamed from the minaret” I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, Imam shouted to Yazid, this is the way Islam was saved. People would have forgotten the name of Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah if his grand son would not have shown the world that you were a ruler by default. Yazid ordered his swordsman to kill this young man, but by the intervention of his aunt Zainab his life was spared. He remained in prison for one year with the whole family. There was turmoil in all parts of the Islamic empire on this brutal killing. In the end Yazid was afraid that if he kept the family of the Prophet in prison any longer, he will loose his kingdom. So he sent orders to bring the family before him and told him that he was releasing them. He also asked what they wish to do now. In reply to this His aunt Zainab said that they would wish to hold a gathering in Damascus so that she can tell the people what happened in Kerbala. Yazid agreed and the first Majlis was held in Damascus. In this Majlis most of the women of Damascus took part who were secretly following the path of Ahlulbayt which included Yazid's wife Hind.

Then they all returned to Kerbala to pay homage over the graves of their beloved father, uncles and brothers. It was on the 20th of the month of Safar 62 Hijri that they arrived back in Kerbala. The first Majlis of Arbaeen was held in Kerbala in which his aunt Zainab and all the surviving family attended. It was at that time that one of the companions of the Prophet Jabir Ibn Abullah Ansari visited the grave of Hussain(AS) who later narrated the whole story of Kerbala to many of his listeners in Madina and many other towns he visited. The message of Hussain(AS) was spreading from town to town and from country to country.

Muhammed Ibn Ali el-Baqir (AS), The Fifth Imam

Born in Madina on Ist Rajab 57 Hijri, died in Madina on 7th Zilhijja 114 Hijri (31.1.733AD) at the age of 57 years. Period of Imamat 19 years.

On the evidence of the most authentic Hadith narrated by Sunni and Shia historians, one of the companions of the Holy Prophet Jabir Ibn Abdallah Ansari was in the presence of the Holy Prophet. He asked the Prophet about the names of descendants from his daughter Hazrat Fatima and Ali (AS). The Prophet told him,

“O Jabir, you will have a long life, and although you will go blind, but you will meet the 5th in line of my descendants whose name will be my name, who will walk like me and who will be the 5th Imam of the time. When you will meet him, give my salaams to him”.

As predicted by the Holy Prophet Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari had a long life and became blind in his old age. But he devoutly waited for the time when he would meet the 5th Imam. Each morning he would come out from his house, sit by the road side and wait for the sound of the footsteps to recognise the 5th Imam. One such day while he was waiting in the street of Madina, he heard someone walking towards him, the sound of footsteps reminded him of the way Holy Prophet used to walk. Jabir stood up, stopped the man and asked his name. He replied,”Muhammad”, Jabir asked, whose son?, he replied “Ali Ibnul Hussain”. Jabir immediately recognised the man he was talking to was the 5th Imam. He kissed his and told him the message from the Holy Prophet and that the Prophet sent his salaams to him. Imam took him to his home, asked his friends to gather as many people as they can. When they all assembled in his house, the Imam asked Jabir to tell the whole story again. Jabir narrated the story, they all cried and attested in unison of the Imamat of the Fifth Imam and also the names of the other Seven Imams in his line up to the Twelvth Imam.

After the death of the 4th Imam in 95 Hijri, the caliphs in Damascus were so preoccupied with their conquests of foreign lands that they did not have time to worry about the people in Madina, their loyalties or their hostilities. They were also satisfied that the Imams of the Ahlulbayt would not divulge in any rebellion against them due to the most peaceful and quite life of the 4th Imam Zainul Abedeen (AS). They left the people of Madina to their activities in some peace. This was the time Imams of Ahlulbayt were waiting for. Our 5th Imam opened a school to teach Qor'an and Hadith as it was taught by the Holy Prophet and Imam Ali AS).

Ja'afar Ibn Muhammad el-Sadiq (AS), The Sixth Imam

The 6th Imam, Ja'afar Ibn Muhammad el Sadiq(AS) was Born in Madinah on 17th Rabiul Awwal 83 Hijiri (23.4.702 AD). Died in Madinah on 15th Shawwal, 148 Hijri (7.12.765 AD) at the age of 63. Period of Imamat 34 years.

Musa Ibn Ja'afar al-Kasim (AS), The Seventh Imam

Born in Madina on 7th Safar 128 Hijri (10.11.745AD). Died in Baghdad Iraq 25th Rajab 183 Hijri (4.9.799 AD) Period of Imamat was 35 years.

Imam Musa Ibn Ja'afar was born during the struggle between the Ummayads and the Abbasids. He was only four years old when Abul Abbas “Saffah”, “The Shedder of Blood”, came to the throne as the first Abbasid caliph. For twenty years he was under the authority of his father, who died ten years before the end of the long reign of Mansur. The Imamat of the 7th Imam extended through the ten remaining years of the caliphat of Mansur, and included the ten years of the rule of Mahdi, one year and some months of Hadi and about twelve years of the reign of Harun al- Rashid. Thus for thirty five years he was the Imam. He held this coveted distinction as the longest period of Imamat of the Eleven Imams.

With six brothers and nine sisters Imam Musa (AS) grew up in a large family. Ismail the oldest brother died at a young age and Musa was chosen by Divine providence to succeed his father as the Imam. There were those among the followers of the 6th Imam who thought that Imamat should be hereditary and therefore the eldest son of the 6th Imam should succeed. They misunderstood the whole concept of Imamat which was neither hereditary nor mandatory for any one person. It was divinely selected and the Imam at his death bed reveals the name of the next Imam.

The Abasid caliphs were always on the alert with this distinctive source of Imamat and our 7th Imam was fully aware of this danger. The Caliphs were on the alert to discover any real or imaginary disloyalty with the Imam or his followers and they would immediately put them under arrest. This natural anxiety, however, does not appear to have seriously interrupted his life as an Imam. He continued to disseminate Qora'anic teachings as his father Imam Ja'afar al-Sadiq (AS) used to do through the Islamic schools opened in Madina during the life of the 5th Imam.

Ali Ibn Musa, al-Reza (AS), The Eighth Imam

Born in Madina 11th Zeeqaad 148 Hijri (1.1.766 AD). Died in the city of Tus Iran on 17th Safar 203 Hijri (26.5.819 AH) Period of Imamat 20 years.

His grandfather Imam Ja'afar Al-sadiq (AS) died one month before the birth of Imam Reza(AS) The family must have been consoled by his birth which took place after such a great loss. He was brought up and instructed by his affectionate father under whose supervision he passed his boyhood and youth. He availed himself of the instructions of his learned father for thirty one years till the later was taken to Baghdad to suffer the hardship of imprisonment for four years till his death.

It is thought in some historical circles that the 8th Imam involved himself in politics while his ancestors up to the 7th Imam after the martyrdom of Imam Ali(AS) refrained from this journey. Outwardly it looks like the Imam was abandoning the policy of his predecessors for the Imam could not be the heir- apparent to the caliphate without becoming involved in the politics of the day. The Imam took pains, however, to indicate that it was not his desire, but that he was acting only in accord with the summons he had received from Mamoun. He seemed to have no choice but to proceed on this hazardous journey. Indeed if he had refused to proceed or shown any reluctance, force would surely have been used which would have been more humiliating for the Imam and his family.

It is mentioned by various historians, Both of Shia and Sunni schools of thought, that when Mamoun initially offered the Imam his throne, the Imam declined the offer firmly and resolutely. After several attempts to bring the Imam to accept the offer failed, Mamoun told him to accept the offer of being his heir- apparent to succeed him after Mamoun's death. Imam replied to this offer, “ I will accept this to console you, but this will never happen for I will leave this world before you.” Once Mamoun achieved his desire to get the consent of the Imam as his successor, he declared this openly to all in order to see the reaction of the Abbasid clan who were favouring his half brother Amin.

Muhammad Ibn Ali al-Taqi al-Jawad (AS), The Ninth Imam

Born in Madina, 10th Rajab 195 Hijri (12.4.811 AD). Died in Baghdad Iraq 29th Zeeqad 220 Hijiri (27.11.835, aged 25 years, Period of Imamat 17 years.

At the time of the death of Imam Ali Al-Reza (AS) our 9th Imam was only 9 years old. Some people from among the followers of Ahlulbayt and others, doubted Imam's eligibility to become Imam at this young age. Kulaini in his Kafi relates that the Mutawalli of the Holy Ka'aba questioned Imam for several days before he was satisfied and accepted him as the Imam of the Time.

Ali Ibn Muhammad (Al-Naqi, Al-Hadi) (AS), The Tenth Imam

Born in Madina 5th Rajab 214 Hijri ( 8.9.829 AD). Died in Samarrah, Iraq 3rd Rajab 254 Hijri ( 1.7.868) aged 40 years. Period of Imamat 34 years.

The period of Imamat of our 10th Imam coincided with the decline of the power of the Abbasid Empire. They were threatened by the Turks and had to move the Capital from Baghdad to Samarrah. He was only 6 years old when his father Imam Muhammad Taqi (AS) was martyred in Baghdad when poisoned by Mu'tasim Billah Abbasi. Our Imam lived in Madina for the remaining 8 years of the reign of Mu'tasim and 5 years of the reign of Wathiq Billah. It was when Mutawakkil became caliph in 236 Hijiri (847 AD) the Imam was called over to the Abbasid capital Baghdad.

Mutawakkil, was the most cruel and deadly enemy of the Ahlulbayt (AS), who tried to drown the Grave of Imam Hussain (AS) in Kerbala by diverting the waters of the Eupheretes River. But by a miracle the river water encircled the grave and did not go over it in spite of the fact that the surrounding ground was higher. When the Caliph failed in his action of drowning the grave he ordered that the whole area should be turned into farmland but when horses failed to take the plough over the grave, he realised his folly. Eventually he left the hallowed ground as it was but as long as he lived he forbade any pilgrimage to the Shrine of Imam Hussain (AS). History tells us that pilgrims to the grave of Sayyidush Shohada (AS) did continue to go in spite of the danger to their lives. Indeed many were killed on their way to the Shrine but the enthusiasm to visit the grave never subsided.

Hasan ibn Ali (al-Askari) (AS), The Eleventh Imam

Born in Madina on the 10th of Rabuil Akhar 232 Hijri ( 6.12.846 AD) Died in Samarrah Iraq on 8th of Rabiul Awwal 260 Hijri (4.1.874) aged 28 years. Period of Imamat 6 years.

Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (Al-Mahdi-Sahibuz Zaman) (AS), The Twelfth Imam

(The hidden Imam who is expected to return)

“The world will not come to an end,” said the Prophet Muhammad, “ until a man from my family (Ahlulbayt) and of my name shall be master of the world, When you see a green ensign coming from the direction of Khorasan, then join them, for the Imam of God will be with the standards who will be called al-Mahdi.”

“The Mahdi will be descended from me, he will be a man with an open countenance and a face with a high nose. He will fill the earth with equity and with justice, just as it has been filled with tyranny and oppression.” (Biharul Anwar, Majlisi)

Imam Muhammad Abul Qasim (al Mahdi)(AS), the last in the line of the Twelve Ithna Ashari Imams was born on 15th Shaban 255 Hijri in Samarra, Iraq. His father was the Eleventh Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS) and his mother was Nargis Khatoon, grand daughter of the Emperor of Rum.

It was 8th Rabiul Awwal 260 Hijri when our Twelfth Imam led the funeral prayer of his father Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS). He was only Five years old, yet the whole crowd of muslims including the Abbasid caliph of that time Al-Mu'tamid followed the young Imam without question. Once the prayers were over and the Imam went inside the house, that the Caliph realised the full implication and significance of the occasion and he immediately ordered his soldiers to enter the house and search for the young Imam. They did not find any one inside the house. The Caliph was very angry at this incompetence of ministers and other officials who were unable to find a boy of five who had just led the prayers and had just disappeared. The caliph had no inkling of the secrets that God did not want to reveal. He went back to his palace and into the luxurious life of a playboy king while the world around him squeezed his empire into oblivion.

This is an essential belief that Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (AS) Sahibuz zaman, is alive and guide's his followers whenever such need arises. This is based on the verses of the Holy Qur'an that express the idea of Divine Guidance through the Prophets and Imams. “ And among those whom we have created are a people who guide others with truth, and in accordance therewith act justly” . (Sura vii V 180)

As in the above saying of Imam Hussain (AS) that due to the excessive length of the concealment of the 12th Imam many believers will have doubts about his existence. Many will question the very longevity of his life and the usefulness of his presence as an Imam.

To the question of existence, we have seen above the many Verses from the Qora'an and Hadith of the Prophet and all the Eleven Imams. We have also read quotations from the Books of Ahlul Sunna wal Jama'a and many scholars and philosophers from the earliest times to the present.

Although absent and unrepresented, Imam al-Mahdi (AS) still guides people and defends the faith. Even though unseen, the Imam supervises the world affairs and guides it. This curtain will exist as long as Providence deems it necessary. The time will come, which may be too late for many of us, but when the curtain of absence will be removed, Imam al-Mahdi (AS) will reappear and as predicted by the Prophet, fill the world with justice and equity, discarding the prevailing injustices and oppressions. May God bring about his early reappearance and ease his coming.


Editor's Notes

The texts above are excerpts from much more complete scholarly presentations from the web-site: al-islam.org

They represent well researched and well-documented information, presented from the perspective of Twelver Shi'a Muslims. Fiver and Sevemer Shi'a generally agree on the first Imams, but disagree regarding how many Imams have been valid. Sunni Muslims only accept the Prophets (until Ali, the First Imam) and do not accept the validity of the Imamates of those after him.


Imams

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Unfortunately, we are not aware of any scholarly texts on this subject which have yet been translated into English. We know that a number of Arabic scholars have written wonderful texts in Arabic, and look for the day when we will be able to add higher quality texts to this presentation.


Also, see:
Islam, Muhammad
Koran, Qur'an
Pillars of Faith
Abraham
Testament of Abraham
Allah
Hadiths
Revelation - Hadiths from Book 1 of al-Bukhari
Belief - Hadiths from Book 2 of al-Bukhari
Knowledge - Hadiths from Book 3 of al-Bukhari
Times of the Prayers - Hadiths from Book 10 of al-Bukhari
Shortening the Prayers (At-Taqseer) - Hadiths from Book 20 of al-Bukhari
Pilgrimmage (Hajj) - Hadiths from Book 26 of al-Bukhari
Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihad) - Hadiths of Book 52 of al-Bukhari
ONENESS, UNIQUENESS OF ALLAH (TAWHEED) - Hadiths of Book 93 of al-Bukhari
Hanafiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Malikiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Shafi'iyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Hanbaliyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Maturidiyyah Theology (Sunni)
Ash'ariyyah Theology (Sunni)
Mutazilah Theology
Ja'fari Theology (Shia)
Nusayriyyah Theology (Shia)
Zaydiyyah Theology (Shia)
Kharijiyyah
Imams (Shia)
Druze
Qarmatiyyah (Shia)
Ahmadi
Ishmael, Ismail
Early Islamic History Outline
Hegira
Averroes
Avicenna
Machpela
Kaaba, Black Stone
Ramadan
Sunnites, Sunni
Shiites, Shia
Mecca
Medina
Sahih, al-Bukhari
Sufism
Wahhabism
Abu Bakr
Abbasids
Ayyubids
Umayyads
Fatima
Fatimids (Shia)
Ismailis (Shia)
Mamelukes
Saladin
Seljuks
Aisha
Ali
Lilith
Islamic Calendar
Interactive Muslim Calendar


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