The Imamate Ja`fariyyah Shiah


(1) The Imamite Ja`fariyyah form a large group of Muslims in the present age, which amounts to about one fourth of the total number of the Muslims. Their historical roots extend to early Islam when Almighty Allah revealed the following verse:

“Those who have faith and do righteous deeds; they are the best of creatures. (98/7)”

On that day, the Holy Prophet, in the presence of his companions, put his hand on `Ali ibn Abi-talib’s shoulder and said,

“O `Ali: It is you and your Shi`ah (followers) who are ‘the best of creatures.’”[^5]

The followers of this sect, who are ascribed to Imam Ja`far al-sadiq because of their adherence to his jurisprudential teachings, are also called Shi`ah.


The followers of this sect live densely in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. They also spread in big numbers in the countries of the Persian Gulf, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, and the former Soviet Republics, as well as some European countries, such as England, Germany, France, and in American, African and South Asian countries. In these countries, they have their own mosques and scientific, cultural, and social centers.


The followers of Shi`ism belong to various nationalities and ethnic groups and they vary in language and color. The Shi`ah live side by side with their Muslim brethren from the other sects peacefully and amicably and cooperate with them honestly and sincerely in all aspects and at all levels. In this regard, they act according to the following holy texts:

The Holy Qur'an reads,

“The believers are but a single brotherhood, (49/10)”

“And help one another in goodness and piety, (5:2)”

The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said,

“The Muslims must act as one hand against the others.”[^6]

“The believers are like a single body.”[^7]


Throughout the history of Islam, the Shi`ah have played an estimable and remarkable role in defending Islam and the honorable Muslim community. They led many governments and set up many states that contributed enormously to the Islamic civilization. They have had many scholars and thinkers who contributed to the enhancement of the Islamic heritage by compiling hundreds of thousands of writings and books, small and big, in various fields including exegesis of the Holy Qur'an (tafsir), traditions of the Holy Prophet (hadith), doctrines, jurisprudence, principles of Islamic jurisprudence (`ilm al-uSul), ethics, investigation of reported traditions (`ilm al-dirayah), biography of narrators (`ilm al-rijal), philosophy, sermons, politics, sociology, linguistics, and arts. They also wrote books on medicine, physics, chemistry, mathematics, astrology, and other physical sciences. Furthermore, they played a major role in founding many sciences.[^8]


The Shi`ah believe in Allah: the One, the Single, the Unique, ‘the eternally Besought of all; Who begets not, nor is He begotten.’ They thus deem Him too Exalted to be corporeal or have direction, space, time, alteration, movement, ascension, descent, or any other quality that does not befit His matchless majesty, holiness, perfection, and excellence.

They believe that there is no object of worship save Almighty Allah, and that all decisions and legislation belong to Him, and all kinds of polytheism, overt and covert, are considered grave injustices and unforgivable sins.

They draw these beliefs from judicious reasoning supported by the Holy Qur'an and authentic Sunnah, regardless of the source.

With respect to beliefs, the Shi`ah rest neither on Israelite traditions (i.e. those quoted from the Torah and the Gospel) nor on Magian traditions that anthropomorphize Almighty Allah, ascribe to Him unfairness, injustice, nonsense, and vainness—Exalted and Great be He—or indict the Divinely purified Prophets, who are completely protected against sinning, of dreadful sins and unbecoming evil deeds.


The Shi`ah believe that Almighty Allah is Just and Wise; He has created all things through justice and wisdom; therefore, there is no futility in the creation, including inanimate, plant, animal, humankind, sky, or land, because absurdism is in violation of justice and wisdom; and the absence of justice and wisdom negates the existence of Godhead because the idea of the divinity of Almighty Allah necessitates that He is the source of all perfect excellencies and ideal attributes and that He, the Glorified, is free from any defect.


The Shi`ah believe that Almighty Allah, out of wisdom and justice, has sent Prophets and Messengers, granted them infallibility and expansive knowledge through Divine Revelation, and sent them to the human beings since the first day of man's existence on this earth, in order to show them the right path, help them attain the desired perfection, and guide them to the obedience to Almighty Allah, for this obedience is their means that takes them to Paradise and makes them win His mercy and pleasure.

The most eminent of these Prophets and Messengers are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, as well as those to whom the Holy Qur'an and the Holy Sunnah have referred—peace be upon them all.


The Shi`ah believe that whoever obeys Almighty Allah, carries out His orders, and abides by His laws in all aspects of life will be granted security (from the Divine chastisement), win (the Divine reward) and deserve praise and incentive even if he or she be ‘an Abyssinian slave’. On the other hand, whoever disobeys Almighty Allah, disregards His commandments, and obeys the orders decided by other than Almighty Allah, will certainly lose, perish, and deserve condemnation and punishment, even if he or she be ‘a Qurayshite chief’, as is mentioned in a Prophetic tradition.

They also believe that Divine rewarding and punishment will be decided on the Resurrection Day when everyone will be called to account and be interrogated, the Scale of Justice (al-mizan) will be set up, and Paradise and Hellfire will be witnessed. All this follows the stages of the Grave Interrogation (musa’alat al-qabr) and the Intermediate World (`alam al-barzakh). However, they reject transmigration of the souls claimed by those who deny the promised Day of Resurrection, because it contradicts the principles of the Holy Qur'an and the Holy Sunnah.


The Shi`ah believe that Muhammad ibn `Abdullah ibn `Abd al-Muttalib—peace of Allah be upon him and his Household—[^9]is the last, the seal, and the most preferred of all the Prophets and Messengers. Almighty Allah has safeguarded him against flaws and slips and protected him from committing any act of disobedience to Him, be it grave or insignificant, whether before or after his prophethood, while disseminating the Divine Mission or on other occasions.

Almighty Allah revealed the Holy Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad (S) as an eternal constitution for man. Hence, the Holy Prophet (S) delivered the whole message and fulfilled this duty honestly and sincerely, sacrificing everything for it, no matter how precious it would be.

Shi`ite writers have compiled scores of books and researches on the Holy Prophet’s life, personality, manners, characteristics and miracles.[^10]


The Shi`ah believe that the Holy Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, through Archangel Gabriel the Honest and was recorded by a group of major sahabah,[^11] at the head of whom was `Ali ibn Abi-talib, in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (S) and under his supervision and instruction. The sahabah learnt the Holy Qur'an by heart and had a good command of it, computed its chapters, verses, words and letters, and then transferred it to the later generations. The Holy Qur'an is currently recited by all Muslims of divergent sects, “at hours of the night and at the two ends of the day.” It has been preserved from adding, deleting, distorting, or alteration of any single character of it.

On this subject, Shi`ite scholars have written both voluminous and short books.[^12]

(11) The Shi`ah believe that before the Messenger of Allah (S) died, he had appointed `Ali ibn Abi-talib as his vicegerent and Muslims’ leader (imam) after him so that `Ali might lead the Muslims politically, guide them intellectually and solve their problems.

In the last year of his blessed lifetime and immediately after his last ritual pilgrimage (hajj), the Holy Prophet (S), by a Divine command, gathered the crowds of the Muslims who had just completed the rites of hajj and who were, according to some narrations, more than one hundred thousand in a place called ‘Ghadir Khumm’ and declared `Ali to be his successor. Several Qur'anic verses were revealed concerning this important event.[^13]

The Holy Prophet (S) also ordered people to swear allegiance to Imam `Ali (a.s) by shaking hands with him. The grand personalities from the Muhajirun (emigrants of Mecca), the AnSar (people of al-Madinah), and eminent sahabah were the first to pay homage and congratulate Imam `Ali on this position.[^14]


The Shi`ah believe that Imam `Ali was appointed by a Divine Command to lead Muslims after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) and to take charge of all the responsibilities of the Holy Prophet (S) which he had in his lifetime—including the leadership of the Muslim community, guidance to rightness, educating, teaching, elucidating religious laws, solving complicated intellectual problems, and taking care of major social affairs. This means that he enjoys the qualifications that make the public have confidence in him just as they trusted the Prophet (S) so that he can lead the nation to redemption. Accordingly, the Imam has the same responsibilities of the Holy Prophet excluding the reception of Divine Revelation and prophethood, because prophethood was sealed by Muhammad ibn `Abdullah (S), the seal of the Prophets and Messengers whose religion is the seal of religions, whose law is the seal of the Divine laws, and whose Book is the seal of the Divine Books.[^15]


The Shi`ah believe that as long as Muslims were in need of an orthodox leader and an infallible guardian, appointing other Imams to succeed `Ali (a.s) as successor to and Imam after the Holy Prophet (S) was indispensable. This succession of leadership is necessary for establishing the roots of Islamic doctrines and precepts, preserving the principles of the religious law, and protecting the fundamentals of Islam against the dangers that threaten and have been threatening all Divine faiths and godly systems, and so the Holy Imams (a.s) who are commissioned to play various roles and undertake various responsibilities in various circumstances, present practical patterns and programs befitting all the conditions which the Muslim nation may face in the future.


In view of this fact and due to the Divine philosophy, the Shi`ah believe that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) has nominated eleven Imams to lead the Muslim nation after Imam `Ali (a.s). Hence, these Imams, along with Imam `Ali, are called the Twelve Imams.[^16] On various occasions, prophetic traditions and predictions refer to the number and tribe (namely, Quraysh) of these Imams though their names and peculiarities are not mentioned in some traditions.

Some of these traditions are mentioned in different forms in such sources like sahih al-Bukhari and sahih Muslim, two reference books of Prophetic traditions which the Sunnites regard most authentic. These two reference books narrate that the Holy Prophet (S) has said,

“This religion will continue to exist (and on other occasions, in constancy, might, or invulnerability) as long as there are twelve princes (or vicegerents) all of whom belong to the tribe of Quraysh (or according to other books to the family of Hashim).”

In other reference books of merits, virtues, poetry, and literature, these Twelve Imams are mentioned by names.

Albeit the Prophetic traditions have not mentioned by name `Ali ibn Abi-talib and the eleven Imams (a.s) from his offspring, these traditions are in accord with no school of thought except that of the (Twelver) Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah. Furthermore, there is no logical explanation for these traditions except that of the Shi`ah.[^17]