The Sh:!a believe that the successors to the Messenger of Allah (N) are the twelve Imams who were declared for successorship by the Messenger of Allah (N) himself and appointed them as his successors after him at the command of Allah. 133 Furthermore the prophet said: ‘Whoever dies without knowing the Imam (leader) of his time has died the death of the age of ignorance.’134 He also said: ‘The successors (khulaf"’) after me will be twelve.’135

These twelve Imams are:

  1. Imam !Al: ibn AbY ھ"lib (Amir al-Mo’mineen) (a.s.).
  2. Imam .asan ibn !Al:. (al-Mujtaba) (a.s.).
  3. Imam .usayn ibn !Al: (Sayyid al-Shuhada’) (a.s.).
  4. Imam !Al: ibn .usayn (al-Sajjad) (a.s.).
  5. Imam Mu9ammad ibn !Al: (al-Baqir) (a.s.).
  6. Imam Ja!far ibn Mu9ammad (al-sadiq) (a.s.).
  7. Imam MYs" ibn Ja!far (al-Kadim) (a.s.).
  8. Imam !Al: ibn MYs" (al-Rida) (a.s.).
  9. Imam Mu9ammad ibn !Al: (al-Jawad) (a.s.).
  10. Imam !Al: ibn Mu9ammad (al-Hadi) (a.s.).
  11. Imam .asan ibn !Al: (al-Askari) (a.s.).
  12. Imam Muh}ammad ibn .asan (al-Muntadar al-Mahdi) (a.s.).

The Awaited Imam Mahdi

The Sh:‘ah believe that the twelfth Imam – the Mahd: (a.s.) – is alive and in the world and hidden from sight by order of Almighty Allah. When Allah permits him, he will emerge and fill the earth with justice and equity after it having been filled with wrongdoing and injustice; as the Prophet (N) foretold in many ubiquitous traditions136 related by all Muslim scholars, Sunni and Sh:!a alike, in their trusted books. If one looks at the books muntakhab alathar 137 and al-mahd:138 one will come to know the great amount of narrations from the noble messenger Mu9ammad (N) and his pure household on this subject.

Our desire and request from Allah is that the Mahd: appear as the Prophet foretold139 and all Muslims should await his appearance and his victory and pray for him night and day for he is the rescuer of the world from destruction and corruption. (Oh Allah, hasten his victory and ease his emergence and make us of his helpers.) In addition, modern science agrees that it is possible for a person to remain alive for thousands of years, and in the Holy Qur’"n regarding Noah it is said that: eSo he remained amongst them for one thousand years save fifty yearsf140.


The Sh:!a believe that the noble Prophet (N), his daughter F"Uimah al-Zahr"’ (a.s.), and the twelve Imams (a.s.) are infallible and incapable of sin, error or forgetfulness since Alla>h has protected them from these things. There are evidences for this from both rational and traditional sources. Almighty Alla>h has said: eVerily Alla>h wishes to take away from you all impurity, O Ahl al-Bayt (people of the house), and to purify you a thorough purificationf141 This verse is related to the above mentioned infallibles in most Qur’"nic commentaries.142 Additionally, the faculty of reason does not permit that the source of divine laws be exposed to the possibility of error and sin otherwise his words and actions could not be relied upon.

These fourteen infallibles are the authorities of Allah and those who follow them will be saved and those who lag behind them will perish. So it is obligatory to follow their every word, deed and ratification, and this is known as the sunnah or way of the Prophet (N) according to the terminology of the jurists.

These pure people laid down the rules for a noble life – under the directions of Almighty Alla>h – and they are preferable to all the other discoverers, politicians, and scholars and the like. The Prophet and Knowledge of the Unseen The Sh:!a believe that the Prophet (N) knows the unseen by permission of Almighty Alla>h; he knows the past, present and future as taught to him by Alla>h. As Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd He does not show His unseen to anyone except as He pleases to a messengerf143 So Almighty Alla>h shows the messenger His unseen and the messenger teaches that to whoever he wishes at the command of Alla>h. The Prophet Mu9ammad (N) did this and taught his household (a.s.) the unseen.

Allegiance and Dissociation

The Sh:!a believe that it is obligatory to be allied (tawalli) to Alla>h and His messenger and His authorities/patrons (awliya’), and that it is obligatory to be disassociated (tabarri) from the enemies of Alla>h and the enemies of His messenger and the enemies of His authorities/patrons.


The Sh:!a believe in resurrection on the day of judgement which is the day when the believer who obeys Alla>h will find salvation and be rewarded with gardens of heaven which are as wide as the heavens and the earth; and the unbeliever who is sinful will be punished in the hellfire in the most severe physical and psychological pain.

Divine Decree

The Sh:!a believe in the concept of revelation in the divine decree (bad"’) but in the correct way according to Alla>h’s words: eAlla>h effaces whatever He wishes and affirms [whatever He wishes]f144 The meaning of bad"’ is revealing after concealing. This does not mean that Almighty Alla>h did not know something and then came to know it, for that is blatant heresy and no Muslim would say such a thing.

Compulsion and Delegation

The Sh:!a, based on the traditions, believe that [on the question of human free will] ‘there is no compulsion (jabr) and no delegation (tafwid}) rather a matter between the two matters.’145 This means that a person is not compelled in his/her actions, nor is he/she absolutely free to act. Bodily organs and limbs and powers are from Almighty Alla>h, and the will to act well or ill is from the person. If he/she acts well then this is due to Alla>h’s blessing, and if he/she acts ill then this is due to the person in question.


The Sh:’ah believe in dissimulation (taq:yyah) as sanctioned by Islamic Law. Dissimulation in its correct form is one of the teachings of Islam. Its meaning is that it is obligatory for a person to protect his person and property and honour and those of all other believers from the unbelievers and the wrongdoers. The Holy Qur’"n and the Prophet (N) and Imams (a.s.) have sanctioned this. In the Qur’"n it says: eLet not the believers take the unbelievers for allies instead of the believers. Whoever does this is not of Alla>h at all, unless that ye guard yourselves against themf146 Almighty Alla>h has also said in the Qur’"n: eAnd He has not placed upon you any hardship in the religionf147.

Temporary Marriage

The Sh:!a believe in the legality of the divine law of temporary marriage or nik"9 al-mut!ah148. Almighty Alla>h has said: And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their dowries as an obligationf149. Also they believe that the mut!ah of the .ajj pilgrimage which the Messenger of Alla>h (N) ordered his companions to do in the farewell pilgrimage is part of Islam. Mut!ah, as with all the other laws of Islam is valid for ever150, since ‘that which Mu9ammad has declared lawful will remain lawful until the day of resurrection and that which he has declared unlawful will remain unlawful until the day of resurrection.’151

Prostrating upon Pure Earth

The Sh:!a believe that it is correct only to prostrate on the earth or what grows from it other than that which is edible or wearable as clothing.152 The Messenger of Alla>h (N) said: ‘The earth has been made a place of prostration for me and its soil is purifying.’153 Usually the Sh:!a keep a tablet of clean pure earth with them upon which to prostrate to Alla>h during the ritual prayer since one cannot always easily find clean earth everywhere. They do not prostrate in a place not knowing whether it is clean or unclean. Often this tablet of clay comes from the earth of the holy site of Karbal"’, the place where Imam .usayn ibn !Al: (a.s.), grandson of the Prophet (N), is buried. There are narrations from the Prophet’s household (a.s.) which mention that it is recommended to pray on the earth of Karbal"’. This reminds one of how one should defend Islam and make sacrifices in the way of religion just as Imam .usayn rose up against oppression and tyranny.

Combining the Prayers

The Sh:!a believe that it is permissible to combine the noon (duhr) and afternoon (!aNr) prayers, and the sunset (maghrib) and evening (!ish"’) prayers as well as it being permissible to pray them separately. This is because the Prophet (N), at certain times, used to combine these prayers [at home, and not for reasons of fear, rain or being on a journey] as is found in a number of traditions.154 Combining the prayers is a way to hasten on the good155 as Almighty Alla>h has said: eAnd hasten to forgiveness from your Lordf156 and He has said: eRace for the good thingsf157 In addition, combining the prayers makes it easy for Alla>h’s servants as Alla>h has said: eAlla>h desires for you ease and He does not desire for you difficultyf158

The Sh:!a also have sufficient evidences for the various legal issues159 such as the ritual ablution (wu+Y’) in the way that is practiced by the Sh:!a, and the adha>n or the call to prayer in the way known to them, and praying with the hands by the sides and the like. They restrict themselves to taking minor and major Islamic laws from the Qur’"n and the traditions and proven consensus and reason.


The Sh:!a believe that intercession or shaf"!ah is correct as is to be found in the Holy Qur’"n and the authentic traditions.160 Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: ethey do not intercede except for someone He approves off161 Beseeching the Prophet and his Pure Family The Sh:!a believe it is permissible to seek a way to Alla>h (tawassul) through beseeching or pleading to the Prophet (N) and his pure family (a.s.). Alla>h has said of them in the Qur’"n: eAnd seek the way (was:lah) to Himf162. The Sh:!a also believe that it is permissible to seek the aid of Ahl al-Bayt in asking for needs to be fulfilled by Almighty Alla>h, for they are alive and receiving sustenance with their Lord, as is found in the Qur’"nic verse about the martyrs163 who have a lesser station than the Prophet (N).164 Just as the companions of the Prophet (N) used to seek a way to Alla>h through the Prophet (N) and would seek their needs from him when he was alive in the world165, it is permissible for Muslims to seek a way to Alla>h through him and seek their needs from him now when the Prophet (N) is alive in the afterlife. The Prophet (N) and his pure household (a.s.) have a high station with Alla>h so Muslims seek a way to Alla>h through them to ask Alla>h to fulfil their needs.

Almighty Alla>h has said: eAnd if, when they wrong their own selves, they were to come to you [the Prophet]166 and seek forgiveness from Alla>h and the Messenger seeks forgiveness for them they would find Alla>h turning towards them, mercifulf167 Therefore, seeking a way to Almighty Alla>h (tawassul) through the station of pious people in their graves such as the Prophets and friends of Alla>h is permissible because of the solid evidences from the Qur’"n and the traditions and consensus as well as the practices of the Muslims in this regard.168 Visiting Shrines and Seeking Blessings From Them The Sh:!a believe that it is a commendable act to make a visitation to the grave of the Prophet (N) and the pure Imams [of Ahl al-Bayt] and that it is permissible to seek blessings from them as is found in many holy traditions.169 For they are alive and receiving sustenance with their Lord. Almighty Alla>h has said: eDo not think that those who have been killed in the way of Alla>h are dead. Nay they are alive with their Lord receiving sustenancef170 and it is obvious that the Prophet (N) and members of his household have more virtue than the martyrs as we mentioned previously.

For these reasons the Sh:!a visit their graves and seek blessings from their relics171 and kiss their shrines; and this is to show love for Alla>h and for His pure and saintly friends and is not at all any kind of worship of other than Allah. It is simply respect for the person in the shrines, just as people respect the binding of the Holy Qur’"n and kiss it; not because it is leather but because it is associated with the Holy Qur’"n. In the same way, Islam has ordered respect for ‘the black stone’ [of the holy Ka!bah] and the kissing of it; because it is one of the rites and symbols of Allah not because it is stone-worship. Kissing the pure shrines is meritorious and brings one closer to Alla>h and it is like kissing the black stone which the Messenger of Alla>h (N) himself kissed.172