The Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah believe that the Twelve Imams are as follows:
Imam `Ali ibn Abi-talib , the Holy Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law; i.e. the husband of Lady Fatimah al-Zahra', the Holy Prophet’s daughter.
Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn; sons of Imam `Ali and Lady Fatimah, and grandsons of the Holy Prophet.
Imam Zayn al-`abidin, `Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Sajjad.
Imam Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Baqir.
Imam Ja`far ibn Muhammad al-sadiq.
Imam Musa ibn Ja`far al-Kazim.
Imam `Ali ibn Musa al-Riza.
Imam Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Jawad al-Taqi.
Imam `Ali ibn Muhammad al-Hadi al-Naqi.
Imam al-Hasan ibn `Ali al-`Askari.
Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Mahdi, the Awaited Savior.
They (peace of Allah be upon them all) are the Ahl al-Bayt (i.e. the Prophet’s Household) whom the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) appointed by a Divine Command as leaders of the Muslim community on account of their infallibility, purity from faults and sins, and the boundless knowledge they inherited from their grandfather, the Holy Prophet (S), who ordered people to love the Ahl al-Bayt and obey them. In this respect, Almighty Allah addresses the Prophet in these words:
“Say: No reward do I ask of you for this except the love for my near relatives. (42/23)”
Also, He says:
“O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with the true ones. (9/119)”[^18]
The Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah believe that these Immaculate Imams, against whom history has never recorded any slip or act of disobedience to Almighty Allah, in actions or words, have served the Islamic nation very much through their magnificent knowledge, and enriched Islamic culture with profound erudition and sound stances in the fields of doctrines, Islamic laws, ethics, arts, exegesis of the Holy Qur'an, history, and future insights. Through their words and actions, the Holy Imams educated a group of men and women who, as a result, became pious figures whose precedence, knowledge, and good manners are recognized by everybody.
The Shi`ah also believe that though the Holy Imams were deprived of holding their position of the political leadership of the Muslim nation to which they were appointed, they were able to achieve their intellectual and social missions perfectly by safeguarding the principles of Islamic belief and fundamentals of Islamic laws.
Had the Holy Imams been allowed to play their political role that was assigned to them by the Holy Prophet (S) according to a Divine decree, the Muslim nation would have certainly attained inclusive happiness, dignity, and glory, and Muslims would have preserved their unity and integrity and there would have been no division, mutual dispute, clashes, massacres, annihilation, humility, or subservience…[^19]
For this reason and on account of the numerous narration-based and reason-based evidences in the books of Islamic doctrines, the Shi`ah believe that it is obligatory to follow the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s) school of thought and comply with their approach, because it is the very approach that the Holy Prophet (S) had prescribed for the Muslim nation and it is the approach by which he ordered people to abide.
In the famous and soundly based narration known as Hadith al-Thaqalayn (The Tradition of the Two Weighty Things), the Holy Prophet (S) has been authentically reported to have instructed the Muslim nation to abide by the Holy Imams (a.s), saying, “I am leaving with you two weighty (i.e. precious) things; the Book of Allah and my offspring—the Ahl al-Bayt. If you adhere to these two, you shall never go astray.”
In addition to sahih Muslim, this narration has been reported by tens of the scholars and narrators of traditions over the ages.[^20]
This Prophetic decision of appointing people to be his vicegerents and successors was something common in the time of the former Prophets and Messengers—peace be upon them all.[^21]
(18) The Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah believe that the Muslim nation—may Allah exalt it—is required to study and discuss these matters and refrain from ill methods of revilement, offense, false impressions, false accusations, hyperbolic statements, and buffoonery.
They also believe that the scholars and thinkers of the various sects of Islam should convene scientific conferences so that they may investigate the assertions of their Ja`fariyyah Shi`ite brethren on honest, sincere, fraternal, and objective terms in order to present the evidence that supports their views, which are in accord with the Holy Qur'an, soundly based traditions of the Holy Prophet (S), judicious reasoning, historical facts, and general political and social evaluation at the time of the Holy Prophet and thereafter.
The Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah believe that the sahabah (the Prophet’s Companions) and the men and women who clung to the Holy Prophet (S) had served Islam because they sacrificed all that they had, including their lives, to spread and preserve their religion; therefore, all Muslims should respect these individuals, appreciate their service to Islam, and pray that Almighty Allah’s good pleasure will embrace them.
However, this does not mean that all those who accompanied the Holy Prophet (S) were so decent and pure that their attitudes and deeds are above criticism. Of course, they are human beings who are not inerrant.
History confirms that some of the sahabah strayed off the right path during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (S). The Holy Qur'an stresses this fact in some chapters and verses, such as Chapters of al-Munafiqun (No. 63), al-Ahzab (No. 33), al-Hujurat (No. 49), al-Tahrim (No. 66), al-Fath (No. 48), Muhammad (No. 47), al-Tawbah (No. 9).
An impartial criticism of certain situations of the sahabah is not considered disbelief. Of course, the criterion of belief and disbelief is known to everybody. This criterion is represented in accepting or rejecting such principles like Almighty Allah’s Oneness and Muhammad’s Prophethood and other matters like the necessity of performing prayers, observing fasting, going on hajj, and the unlawfulness of intoxicants, gambling, and the like.
It goes without saying that every Muslim has to abstain from obscene language, revilement and lowly writings, because such behavior is unbecoming to a true Muslim who follows the Holy Prophet as an excellent example.
It is true that the majority of sahabah were righteous, virtuous and worthy of respect and honor, but the application of the rules of investigating the biographies of the narrators of hadith (al-jarh wal-ta`dil) to the sahabah is only intended to distinguish the authentic Prophetic tradition (sunnah) from the fabricated one, because, as is known to everyone, fabrication against the Holy Prophet (S) unfortunately increased after his departure just as the Holy Prophet (S) had predicted. This fact has led scholars of both sects, such as al-Suyuti, Ibn al-Jawzi, and others, to write valuable books on the methods of discriminating the traditions that the Holy Prophet (S) had definitely said from fabricated traditions.
The Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah believe in the existence of the Awaited Imam al-Mahdi (a.s). They rely on the many predictive narrations reported from the Holy Prophet (S) which confirm the existence of Imam al-Mahdi, being among the descendants of Lady Fatimah (a.s) and, more specifically, the ninth descendant from Imam al-Husayn (a.s). In view of the fact that Imam al-Hasan al-`Askari (a.s) is the eighth descendant from Imam al-Husayn (a.s), he departed life in AH 260 and had only one son named Muhammad, this son must be Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) who is also called Abu al-Qasim.[^22]
Having seen him in person, a group of trustworthy Muslims have informed others about the birth of Imam al-Mahdi and about some of his characteristics and his father’s appointing him as Imam after him. However, after the age of five, Imam al-Mahdi was hidden from public view when he learned that his enemies intended to kill him. So, Almighty Allah has preserved him for the future to the day when he will be sent to establish the just global Islamic government at the end of the age and purify the earth from injustice and prejudice with which it will be filled.
Imam al-Mahdi’s existence for such a long age is neither strange nor odd, because the Holy Qur'an confirms that Prophet Jesus is still alive although he was born about 2006 years ago. Similarly, Prophet Noah lived for 950 years among his people calling them to worship Allah, and al-Khizr -who was contemporary with Prophet Moses- is still alive, too.
Essentially, Almighty Allah has power over all things; His will is accomplished and none can reject or repel it. With reference to Prophet Jonah—peace of Allah be upon him and upon our Prophet and his Household—the Holy Qur'an reads,
“But had it not been that he was of those who glorify Us, he would certainly have tarried in its belly (i.e. the big fish) to the day when they are raised. (37/144)”
A great number of prominent Sunnite scholars admit to the birth and existence of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) and mention the names of his ancestors and refer to his characteristics. The following scholars are among them:
A. `Abd al-Mu’min al-Shabalnaji al-Shafi`iy; the author of ‘Nur al-AbSar fi Manaqib al Bayt al-Nabiyy al-Mukhtar’.
B. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami al-Makki al-Shafi`i, the author of ‘al-sawa`iq al-Muhriqah’, wrote the following about Imam al-Mahdi (a.s):
“Abu’l-Qasim Muhammad al-Hujjah (i.e. the Argument of Allah over His creatures): When his father died, he was only five years old. Almighty Allah granted him wisdom. He is also named al-Qa'im (the Riser; i.e. the Imam who will rise to undertake the mission assigned to him) al-Muntazar (the Awaited).”
C. Al-Qanaduzi al-Hanafi al-Balkhi, the author of ‘Yanabi` al-Mawaddah’ published in Turkey - Istanbul, during the Ottoman dynasty.
D. Muhammad siddiq Hasan al-Qanuji al-Bukhari; the author of ‘al-Idha`ah lima kana wama yakun bayna yaday al-Sa`ah’.
In his book entitled ‘Islamuna’, Dr. MuStafa al-Rafi`i, one of the recent scholars, has written about the question of Imam al-Mahdi’s birth in details and delivered a rebuttal of all the doubts raised in this respect.
The Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah offer the prayers, observe fasting, defray the poor-rate (zakat), pay the one-fifth tax (khums), go on the ritual pilgrimage (hajj) to the Holy House of God at Mecca, perform the rituals of the hajj (as obligatory in the first time and as recommended in later times), perform the single minor pilgrimage (al-`umrah al-mufradah) as a recommended act, enjoin good, and forbid evil, show loyalty to the true friends of Almighty Allah and confederates of the Holy Prophet, show hostility to the enemies of Almighty Allah and the Holy Prophet, and fight for the sake of Almighty Allah all the unbelievers or polytheists who wage war against the Muslims and the conspirators who plot against the Muslim nation. Also, they abide to Islamic laws in performing economic, social, and family activities—such as business, matrimony, inheritance, education, breast-feeding, observing Islamic veil (hijab), and so on. They get such laws by means of ijtihad[^23] which their pious religious jurisprudents infer from the Holy Qur'an, the authenticated Sunnah, the confirmed narrations related from the Household of the Holy Prophet, reason and scholarly consensus.
The Shi`ah believe that each one of the obligatory prayers has an appointed time; and the appointed times of the daily (obligatory) prayers are five; the dawn (fajr), the noon (zuhr), the afternoon (`aSr), soon after sunset (maghrib), and the evening (`isha'). Although they believe that it is preferable to offer each prayer at its appointed time, the Shi`ah offer `aSr prayers soon after the zuhr prayers and they offer the `isha’ prayers soon after the maghrib prayers too, following in this the Holy Prophet (S) who himself offered these couples of prayers in succession on some ordinary occasions; i.e. when there were no such problems like sickness, rain, or being on journey and when it was quite possible for him to offer each prayer at its appointed time separately and at times.[^24] The Holy Prophet (S) did so in order to alleviate the Muslims’ duty of performing obligatory prayers, a practice which seems normal in the present age.
The Shi`ah recite adhan (call to prayers) in the same way as the other Muslims do and they add the phrase, ‘hayya `ala khayr al-`amal (Come to the best of deed)’ after the phrase, ‘hayya `ala al-falah (Come to prosperity)’, because the former phrase was part of adhan in the time of the Holy Prophet (S), but `Umar ibn al-Khattab cancelled it, under the pretext that this phrase, which indicates that prayer is the best of deed, distracts the Muslims’ attention from participating in the holy wars.[^25] He also ordered that the phrase, “al-Salatu khayrun min al-nawm (Prayer is better than sleeping)” would be added to the adhan (for the Morning Prayers only), although this phrase was not part of the adhan during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (S).[^26]
In view of the fact that the acts of worship and their introductory acts have to be done according to the command and will of Almighty Allah—the Source of legislation—in the sense that every part of such acts has to be on the basis of a general or particular statement from the Holy Qur'an or Sunnah; otherwise, it will be considered rejected heresy. Therefore, it is impermissible to add or delete anything from religious rituals or any religious affair based on a personal opinion.
The Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah also include in adhan the phrase, “ash-hadu anna `aliyyan waliyyu allah (I bear witness that `Ali is the intimate servant of Allah)” after the phrase, ‘ash-hadu anna muhammadan rasulu allah (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah)’. In this, they rely on many narrations reported from the Holy Prophet (S) and the Holy Imams stating that the phrase, “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” is not mentioned or written above the gate of Paradise apart from the phrase, “`Ali is the intimate servant of Allah”. However, this does not indicate that the Shi`ah claim that Imam `Ali is a prophet, or a god, etc… Allah forbid!
As a result, it is not a problem to mention this phrase along with the two phrases of shahadah (i.e. testifying to Almighty Allah as the One and Only God and to Prophet Muhammad as His messenger) if it is said in the hope that this will be commended by Almighty Allah.
According to most Shi`ite scholars, this phrase is neither obligatory nor part of adhan.
This additional phrase is not considered unfounded addition to religious rituals and, as a result, it is not regarded as heresy, because, as has been previously cited, it is not said as part of the adhan or as something obligatory.
During prayers, the Shi`ah prostrate themselves on dust (highland), pebbles, rocks, or other (natural) parts of the earth or its plants (including mats made of plants) and excluding rugs, clothes, edible things, or jewelry, as is confirmed by many traditions reported by Sunnite and Shi`ite scholars. One of the Prophetic traditions says that the Holy Prophet (S) used to prostrate himself on dust or on the ground directly and he used to order the Muslims to imitate him. According to one of these traditions, the Prophet (S) once noticed Bilal prostrating himself during a prayer with the edge of his turban between his forehead and the ground in order to avoid the burning heat of the ground. The Holy Prophet (S) moved the turban away from Bilal’s forehead and said to him,
“O Bilal: Let your forehead touch the dust.” Other narrations related from the Holy Prophet (S) say that the same thing happened to suhayb and Rabah to whom the Holy Prophet (S) said:
“O suhayb, let your face touch the dust.”
“O Rabah, let your face touch the dust.”[^27]
As has been cited in sahih al-Bukhari and other reference books of hadith, the Holy Prophet (S) has said:
“The earth has been made for me a prostration-place and pure thing.”
Naturally, prostration on the earth and putting the forehead on it is the most appropriate state of prostrating oneself before Almighty Allah, because it is the most appropriate way of showing humility and meekness to the object of worship. Besides, this way of prostration reminds man of his origin. In this regard, Almighty Allah has said (in the Holy Qur'an):
“From it (i.e. the earth), We created you, and into it We shall send you back, and from it will We raise you a second time. (20/55)”
Prostration is the highest degree of submission, and this cannot be achieved by prostrating oneself on carpets, rugs, textile, or precious jewelry; but by putting the most honorable part of the body; i.e. the forehead, on the cheapest thing; i.e. the soil.[^28]
Of course, the dust on which prostration is done has to be pure; therefore, the Shi`ah usually carry with them a piece of pure clay which can be at their disposal all the time.
Such pieces of clay may be taken from blessed lands, such as the land of Karbala' where Imam al-Husayn (a.s), the grandson of the Holy Prophet (S), was martyred. Similarly, the sahabah used to carry with them some pebbles from the land of Mecca to use them in prostration when they went on journeys. They regarded these pebbles as something blessed, for they came from a blessed place.[^29]
But, the Ja`fariyyah Shi`ah do not insist on this act or abide by it at all times. They prostrate themselves on any rock, provided that it be clean and pure, including the tiled floor of the Holy Prophet’s Mosque and that of the Holy Mosque of Mecca.
In addition, the Shi`ah do not put their right hands on their left hands during prayers, because the Holy Prophet (S) did not do so. Besides, there is no evidence about the validity of such a thing; therefore, the Malikiyyah (a sect of Sunni Muslims) do not do so either.[^30]