Roots of Religion: Imamat, during the Prophet’s (s.a.w.s.) time and after
There is no doubt that no matter how clear and precise divine laws may be, they still need clarification. All nations may have laws in their own languages, yet they require interpreters of these laws.
The Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.s.) prophethood can be divided in two parts – his life in Mecca and his life in Medina. The difficulties of Mecca did not allow the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) enough respite to explain the different laws and commands (ahkam) of Islam. His life in Mecca comprised mostly of discussions based on beliefs (aqaed). When he (s.a.w.s.) migrated to Medina and faced fewer restrictions there, he started explaining (in detail) the Islamic commands and law. Although in Medina there was no persecution as in Mecca, but persistent battles with the disbelievers occupied his time. Probably this is the reason we find various methods employed by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in the explanations of Islamic laws. Therefore it is necessary for a Muslim to have comprehensive knowledge of Islamic laws and commands if he wishes to follow Islam correctly.
Some Muslims claim that after the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.), the common Muslims are enough for the clarification of laws (i.e. the Muslims themselves can clarify the laws and do not need any other medium). The following incident shows how false this perception is. A person at the time of Hazrat Umar complained to him ‘I have not been married for more than six months and my wife has already given birth to a child.’ The judge heard the case and ordered the woman to be stoned to death. On the way, the woman saw Ameerul Mo’mineen – Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and beseeched him to rescue her. Hazrat Ali (a.s.) after hearing the entire incident sent the executioners back and asked the Caliph – ‘What kind of a judgment is this?’ The Caliph said, ‘It is not more than 6 months and she has already given birth to a child. This clearly means that she has committed adultery.’ Hazrat Ali (a.s.) replied,
"Has the Quran not revealed:’and her terms of pregnancy and suckling is 30 months.’
The Caliph replied ‘Yes, I have read this verse.’ Hazrat Ali (a.s.) said that another Quranic verse (Baqarah: 232) points out, ‘Mothers should suckle their children for a complete 2 years.’
‘Yes I have read this verse too.’ Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) then explained,
‘If we subtract 24 months from a total of 30 months, 6 months remain. If suckling period is 24 months, then the minimum period of pregnancy invariably is the remaining 6 months. So a woman cannot be liable for punishment if she delivers a child within that period.’
It is indeed noteworthy that if this was the case with the people that they could not discern the divine command when it was clearly mentioned in the Quran, then what about those laws, which were not clearly specified?? And if this is the situation with the Caliph of the Muslims, then what about the common man??
Are the scholars enough?
Islam covers a variety of intellectual and ideological issues. These issues relate to important beliefs viz. Tauheed, divine characteristics of self and action, free will, creation of the universe and the purpose of man’s creation, force and freedom, appointment of messengers, attributes of prophets, Mizan (scale), Mahshar (gathering), Serat (path), A’raaf (elevation), Shafa’at (intercession) and many other issues. Mention has been made in Quranic verses and traditions regarding these topics. However, when we look at the views of scholars from different Islamic sects on these issues, the wide differences in their views is indeed shocking. Even after studying all their views it is not possible for anyone to arrive at the truth. At this juncture, we ask the people of intellect and judgment, are all these different Islamic sects on truth? Are they treading on the right path? The answer is that all of them are not on truth. Then which belief does he accept, so that he is honourable near Allah?
Is the Quran enough?
It is abundantly clear that even Islamic scholars are not enough for clarification of Islamic beliefs. There were some people who believed that the Quran was sufficient for the Muslims after the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.s.) demise. But can we (always) use the Quran to differentiate between the beliefs of different Islamic sects? The belief of various sects is vastly different and Quran enlightens about itself thus: ‘If this was not from the side of God, then there would be contradictions in it.’ The uniqueness of the Quran lies in the fact that its meaning do not have any contradictions. However, people have been unable to understand the interpretation of Quranic verses completely. When Hazrat Ali (a.s.) sent Ibne Abbas for talks with the ‘Khwarij’ (Khwarji are those people who separated from Ali (a.s.) after the battle of Siffin and fought against him in the Battle of Nahawan), he said,
‘do not bring forth for them arguments from Quran. Quran carries various facts. You will say something and they will say something else (i.e. you will present some verses and they will present other verses)
(Nahjul Balagha. letter no. 77)
This means that Quran alone is not sufficient to end discord between Muslims. If Quran was sufficient there would never had been disagreement between Muslims, because every Muslim believes in Quran and even recites its regularly.
Imam – The guide of Islam
There is a need for a person who can distinguish from what is correct and incorrect, truth and falsehood, who can explain and clarify the Islamic teachings clearly. Resolve the differences between people, assemble them on the same platform of belief and ideology. The one who is conversant with all Islamic laws, who recognises the underlying truth in each matter. He has encompassing knowledge of all the secrets of Quran. His knowledge is perfect and gifted by Allah Himself, thereby making him needless of the people. Indeed he must be sinless for one who is flawed himself, can never guide an entire community. Islam and Muslims have always been in need of a sinless Imam, who can protect Islamic teachings and save them from alterations and innovations. His existence is the standard between truth and falsehood. As we have highlighted above, the (silent) Quran cannot alone meet the requirements.
The narration of Hisham
Hisham b. Hakam (r.a.) was a great student and companion of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.). He was trained by Imam (a.s.) in the method of debating and as a result he reached a level of proficiency in this field. Once he had a discussion with a Syrian scholar on the need for an infallible Imam (Imame Ma’sum). The scholar was stressing on the fact that there was no need for a sinless guide after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). So Hisham questioned the scholar, ‘After the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) what is the arrangement done by God to resolve the differences between Muslims? What kind of proof or argument has He established on the nation? The Syrian replied, ‘God’s proof is the very Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.).’ Hisham questioned further, ‘Is the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.) sufficient to end settle the discard in the nation?’ He said, ‘Yes, surely.’ Hisham argued, ‘If this is so, then why is there a difference between the two of us, when we are the followers of the same Quran and Sunnah. You are saying something and I am saying something else. This itself proves that Quran and traditions (Sunnah) by themselves cannot resolve the differences completely.’ After this debate, the Syrian had no scope for a reply and he became silent.’ However, after this, the Syrian again posed the same questions before Hisham who replied, ‘At the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), his own presence was sufficient to end the differences between the Muslims. After the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), there was an infallible Imam in the midst of the people. And it is this very infallible Imam who guides the people and protects them from dispute. If the Muslims obey the verdict of the infallible Imam then they will never err, as the Imam’s infallibility is a safeguard against all discord. Then their differences will disappear. It is the none other than the Imam who is the protector of Islam, the explainer of Quran and the interpreter of the Sunnah. Nobody except the infallible Imam understands all this and can save the nation from sinking into differences, the Quran from conceptual innovations and the laws from personal interpretation.
(Usule Kafi, vol. 1, Chapter – Need of Hujjat)
If one accepts the presence of an infallible Imam in the nation, the most obvious question is whether the number of these pure spiritual guides has been determined by Allah and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).
The Twelve Imams (a.s.)
To safeguard the Muslims from deviation and destruction, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has ordered them to adhere to the Quran along with the pure Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). Sometimes, he (s.a.w.s.) has compared the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) to the ‘Ark of Noah’ and highlighted their importance. Adherence to them was made obligatory for reaching Hauze Kauthar in Qiyamat. Along with this, there are numerous traditions wherein their importance was established. Some traditions have even disclosed their names, so that the possibility of deviation would be minimal and one who deviates does so out of his choice.
Given below are some traditions from reliable books of Ahle Sunnah. Such traditions exist in plenty and show that even the Ahle Sunnah have recorded these narrations in their works.
1) Jabir b. Samrah – I heard from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.),
‘There will be twelve chiefs’.
After that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said something, which I could not hear. My father informed, – The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, ‘All of them will be from Quraish’
(Sahihe Bukhari vol. 9 pg. 81 printed in Maktab Abdul Hamid)
2) This tradition is also related from Jabir b. Samrah – ‘I heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) say,
"Islam will always be supported by 12 Caliphs.’
(Sahihe Muslim vol. 6 pg. 2)
Then the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said something, which I could not follow. I asked my father what did Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) say? He answered,
‘they will all be from Quraish.’
Numerous narratives on this topic are available with slight variation. Many reliable Ahle Sunnah books like Sahihe Bukhari, Sahihe Muslim, Sunane Abi Dawood, Musnade Ahmad b. Hanbal, Allah Mustadrak, Tarikhul Khulafa , Al Sawaiqul Mohriqa, Yanabiul Mawaddah, Muntakhabul Kauzul Ummal. By referring to these books and their illustrious authors, we are assured about the authenticity of the tradition that after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and till the day of Qiyamat, there will only be 12 twelve true successors. Their number will neither be more nor less.
Surprise and anxiety
The scholars of the Ahle Sunnah have narrated this tradition frequently and have advanced innumerable lists of personalities to conform to the 12 Caliphs prophesied by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). However, till today they have been unable to come out with a convincing list of 12 leaders who fit the description of the 12 Caliphs forecasted by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).
Ibne Arabi, the interpreter of Sunane Tirmidhi has advanced the names of the following personalities in the exegesis of this tradition – Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Imam Ali (a.s.), Imam Hasan (a.s.), Muawiya, Yazid, Muawiya b. Yazid, Marwan, Abdul Malik b. Marwan, Walid, Sulaiman, Umar b. Abdul Aziz, Yazid b. Abdul Malik, Marwan b. Muhammad b. Marwan, Saffah… after this he has listed 27 Bani Abbas Caliphs till his own time. He says after those if we agree on the number 12 then the list ends with Sulaiman, and if we look at it from the viewpoint of the real Caliphs then only 5 remain – the four rightly-guided Caliphs (Khulafae Rashideen) and Abdul Aziz. … I do not really know the true meaning of this tradition.
(Sharhe ibne Arabi ala Sahihe Tirmidihi vol. 19 pg. 68-69)
In ‘Fathul Bari’ the commentary of Sahihe Bukhari, it is clarified thus ‘4 caliphs have passed and the remaining will come before Qiyamat.’
(‘Fathul Bari’ 16/341)
Suyuti has tried to present the facts thus – ‘The 4 rightly guided Caliphs, Imam Hasan (a.s.), Muawiya, Abdullah b. Zubair, Umar b. Abdul Aziz, Mahdi Abbas, Tahir Abbas – leaving 2 Caliphs, of whom one is definitely the Mahdi and surely he is from the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).’
We have seen clearly how all Ahle Sunnah scholars are confused by the exegesis of just one prophetic tradition. Some scholars cannot come up with the requisite number of 12 Caliphs, while others when they try to come up with 12 Caliphs, are unable to maintain continuity in the chain. In short, the Ahle Sunnah scholars are incapable of listing Caliphs who are exactly 12 in number, while their chain of succession is continuous and the ethics (akhlaq) and beliefs of the Caliphs are perfect and admirable. When we browse through the names of the Caliphs advanced by Ahle Sunnah scholars, we see that only Umar b. Abdul Aziz was a respectable person, while the others were not even fit to be called as Muslims, let alone being Caliphs and successors of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). For instance, Abdul Malik b. Marwan, who threw an arrow towards Quran, cannot even be called a Muslim, then how can he be a Caliph?! If he was alive today and committed such an act, the Muslim community would certainly have stoned him to death!
It is clear that the Muslim nation is at a complete loss to advance the names of 12 Caliphs who conform to the tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). The sole reason behind this perplexity is the vast distance between the Muslims and those individuals nominated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) for the guidance of the nation. Time and again he (s.a.w.s.) used to say, ‘I leave behind 2 precious things in your midst. If you adhere to them you will never be deviated. One is the Book of Allah and the other is my progeny and the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). Both of them will never separate from each other till they meet me at the ‘Pond of Kauthar’.
Since the nation has not heeded this advice, they have been in perplexity and anxiety since the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
The Path Of Salivation
Come let us search for the true meaning of the tradition from the teachings of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). Abu Basir narrates Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) – my father (a.s.) said to Jabir b. Abdullah Ansari, ‘I have to discuss something with you please let me know when you have the time.’ Jabir replied ‘We can discuss whenever it suits you’. Then Imam Baqir (a.s) asked Jabir, ‘Tell me about the tablet which you saw in the hands of my mother Janabe Fatima (s.a.) and she had informed you about its contents.’ (After explaining the incident of the tablet and its characteristics Jabir declared). By Allah! I saw written in the tablet ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Benevolent, the Most Merciful. This is a communication from the God the High, and the Wise to His Messenger, His Light, His Representative, His Proof – Muhammad which has been brought from the side of the Lord of the Worlds by Jibraeel Ameen. O Muhammad! Consider My Name as Great and be thankful for my blessings … Worship Me and have faith upon Me. I have not sent any messenger whose term has expired except that I have appointed a successor for him. And I have given you excellence over all My Messengers and have given your successor preference over all successors and made you noble with your grandsons Hasan and Husain (a.s.) I have made Hasan (a.s.) a treasure of my knowledge …and made Husain (a.s.) a treasure of my revelation (Wahy) and elevated him through martyrdom and completed My blessings upon him. He is the most excellent of all martyrs …and through his progeny I will reward or I will chastise. The first of them is Ali ‘Chief of the worshippers’ and his son will be the similitude of his grandfather Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) – he is Muhammad Baqir …and the one who doubts on Jafar shall be destroyed. To reject him is to reject Me. And it is obligatory on me to elevate the position of Jafar and appoint Moosa (Kazim) after him in the darkness of discord, because the chain of My commands will never be terminated … and Hell is for the one who denies him and Ali (Rida) after the expiry of Moosa’s term. And I will make him (Ali) happy through his son Muhammad (Taqi) who will also be his successor and his son (Naqi) will be bestowed with complete goodness and through him I will manifest the treasures of My knowledge – Hasan (Askari) and I will complete this chain (of Imamat) with his son (MHMD) (Mahdi-Akheruz Zamana) who is a mercy for the entire universe.’
Numerous such traditions are found in the books of the Ahle Sunnah where there is a definite and clear mention of the 12 Imams (a.s.). Refer to the book Yanabiul Mawaddah vol. 3 chap. 76 pg. 100-101, Faraedus Simtain vol. 2 chap. 31, pg. 134, tradition 431
(Usule Kafi vol. 1 pg. 527-528)
We have seen that the interpretation about which the people have been bewildered and confused has been solved easily by the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). And whosoever acquires closeness with Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) will neither face difficulty in finding of truth in this world nor encounter any trouble for salvation in hereafter.
Sixth Imam (a.s.)
If you review this tradition you will find that the name of Imam Moosa b. Jafar Kazim (a.s.) comes immediately after Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) and that too from the holy tongue of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). From this we understand that the Imamat of Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) was preordained. It is not the result of ‘bad’aa’ and traditions like the one outlined above are very creditable and are found in the books of Ahle Sunnah.
The Ismailis believe that the Imamat of an Imam is established only with the definite and categorical acknowledgement of the previous Imam or Prophet, as the case may be ‘Imamat’ is not established until a Prophet clearly appoints an Imam to succeed him or an Imam appoints another Imam.
(Daaemul Islam Kazi No’man vol. 1, pg. 43
publisher Darul-Maarif, Egypt)
In the light of this provision, the Imamat of Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) is proven beyond any shred of doubt. Both the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the Imams (a.s.) have acknowledged his Imamat categorically. Despite this, some people still stress that after Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.), Imamat was the right of his eldest son Ismail and after him, his first son Muhammad b. Ismail. As proof they rely on the principle that historically Imamat has been the right of the eldest son and since Ismail was the eldest son of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) Imamat naturally rests in him and no one else. With baseless ‘principle’ they take Ismail as the 7th Imam and after him – Muhammad b. Ismail.
These people have ignored the fact that being the eldest son is never the criterion for Imamat and there is no tradition to support this principle. Imam Ali (a.s.) himself was the youngest son of Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.) and according to the some traditions – Imam Ali – Zainul Abideen (a.s.) was younger to Ali Akbar (a.s.) and therefore he was named ‘Ali Al Awsat’ (the middle Ali). There is no criterion of being the youngest or eldest as far as Imamat is concerned, rather it is beneficence of Allah, the Almighty, He gives it to whomsoever he wishes.
Ismailis books also advance the following argument …’Imamat after Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) was the right of his eldest son Ismail. Since he died in the lifetime of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.), his son Muhammad reserves the right for Imamat and not Moosa Kazim (a.s.). This is because Imamat is transferred from father to son and not brother to brother. Transfer of Imamat from brother to brother was a peculiar trait limited to Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s) and nobody else.’
(Taarikhe Fatimiyaane Misr vol. 1 pg. 40, Dr. Zahid Ali A’lamul Ismailia Mustafa Ghalib – Beruit edition)
Certain questions can be raised against this kind of reasoning
- If Imamat is a legacy, then if the son dies in the lifetime of the grandfather then the grandchild’s right to the legacy is nullified. Then how is Muhammad b. Ismail entitled to legacy when Ismail had died during the lifetime of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s)? Rather by the laws of inheritance in Islam, Muhammad b. Ismail’s right will be ignored in favour of his paternal uncle Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s), who is the son of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) and was present at the time of Imam Jafar
Sadiq’s (a.s.) martyrdom.
- On the other hand, if Imamat is not a legacy, then there is no question of a transfer from father to son. This is the favour of the Almighty, He bestows it on whomsoever He wishes and deprives it to whomsoever He pleases.
- The transfer from brother to brother is becomes applicable only when the Imamat of Janabe Ismail is accepted. When Janabe Ismail was never an Imam, there is no question of transfer of Imamat from brother to brother. After Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) Imam Moosa-al-Kazim (a.s.) became Imam, so Imamat had transferred from father to son. We have advanced this argument only to answer the Ismaili argument, else Imamat is a position that is reposed in a person only by divine appointment.
Moreover, there is no tradition from the Imams (a.s.) or even the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) himself that declare the Imamat of Janabe Ismail. Then where is the question of him succeeding Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.)? Likewise all talks of bad’aa and transfer of Imamat from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) to Muhammad b. Ismail is pure nonsensical and without any basis whatsoever.
We have discussed the fact that appointment by a preceding Prophet or Imam is necessary for Imamat. But there is no definite acknowledgement from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and/or the Imams (a.s.) about the Imamat of Muhammad b. Ismail. Also the Imam has to be necessarily infallible (ma’soom). Everyone is unanimous regarding the Imamat of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.), hence there is absolutely no possibility of an error or oversight on his part. If somebody considers otherwise, then he does not believe him to be an Imam and an infallible. And to say that Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) has appointed Muhammad b. Ismail as the Imam after him, then there cannot be anything further from reason and truth than this claim. The silence of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) about in this context is adequate proof of his rejection and disapproval of Muhammad’s Imamat.
Moreover books contain numerous traditions mentioning the Imamat of Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.). Allama Majlisi (r.a.) in vol. 48 of his book Beharul Anwar has brought 46 traditions on this topic. We present a few of them here:
- Sulaiman b Khalid narrates, ‘Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) called Abul Hasan Moosa Kazim (a.s.). We were present at that time. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) said to us, – Attach yourself to him, by Allah, he will be your Imam after me."
(Mirzahool Uqool vol. 3 pg. 337, Usule Kafi Kitabul Hujjat)
- Faiz b. Mukhtaar says, ‘Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) informed us about Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) thus – He is your Imam, the person about whom you were inquiring. Rise and acknowledge his right.’
- Nasr b. Qaabus narrates, ‘I presented myself before Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.), and asked him who is the Imam after you?’ Imam (a.s.) answered, ‘My son Abul Hasan Moosa b. Jafar (a.s.) is Imam after me.
(Ithbaatul Wasiyyah pg. 162)
- The great Islamic historian Mas’oodi has narrated an incident in his book ‘Ithbaatul Wasiyyah. At the time of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) there was a raging debate between the supporters of both Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) and Janabe Ismail on the issue of Imamat. The followers of Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) said, ‘let us do Mubahela on this issue.’ Everyone went to an open ground and prayed. Rain clouds started appearing, but it only rained on the followers of Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.), while the followers of Janabe Ismail were not graced even with a single drop of rain!
(Ithbaatul Wasiyyah pg. 162)
In addition to the above, we also come across several traditions regarding Janabe Ismail, which prove that he was not worthy of this divine position.
- Hasan b. Raashid asked Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) about Ismail. He (a.s.) replied,
‘He is neither similar to me nor to my forefathers.’
(Mo’jamul Rijaalul Hadith, Sayyedul Khui vol. 2 pg. 123)
It is apparent from this tradition that Janabe Ismail was not Imam like Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) or his forefathers (a.s.)
- Apart from this, Rashiduddin Fazlullah in his book Jamaeut Tawaarikh vol. 3 pg. 9, has mentioned concerning the Imamat of Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) thus – Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) had appointed his elder son Ismail, but he drank some wine, so Imam (a.s.) rejected him and instead transferred Imamat to his other son Imam Moosa (Kazim). Everyone is unanimous that infallibility (Ismat) is necessary for Imamat. An Imam should be pure and safe from even minor sins, let alone major sins. And when Imamat of Janabe Ismail is not established clearly, then where is the question of Muhammad b. Ismail qualifying for this divine status.
- Kazi Nomani, the very respectable and reliable scholar of Ismaili sect, in his book ‘D’aaemul Islam’ records the noble names of the Ma’soomeen (a.s.) in his discussion of the criteria of the Imam. He writes, ‘the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) appointed Ali (a.s.) …Ali (a.s.) explicitly appointed Imam Hasan (a.s.) … Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) explicitly appointed Imam Jafer Sadiq (a.s.).
‘And similarly the other Imams (a.s.) did the same for the succeeding Imam.’
(Daaemul Islam vol.1 pg. 43)
He has not mentioned the name of the Imam after Imam Jafer Sadiq (a.s.) and made the topic brief. This shows that the reliable scholars of this sect do not find any merit in the Imamat of Ismail or Muhammad b. Ismail established beyond doubt. Other wise they would have mentioned it somewhere, and presented it as a proof of veracity.
Division among Ismailis
We have already mentioned that the Ismailis argue that Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) cannot be the Imam because Imamat is never transferred from brother to brother. It is a strange irony of fate that they advanced the same argument for caliphate with which they had rejected Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.). The eight Fatimide Caliph (Mustansir Billah) had two sons – Nizaar (Mustafa Billah) and Ahmad (Musta’li). Mustansir appointed Nizaar but on his deathbed he appointed Ahmed, while Nizaar was alive (whereas Ismail had died during the lifetime of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.)). Some people selected Nizaar as the successor and others chose Ahmad. The disagreement reached to such a level that the Fatimide Caliphate was divided. One group of Muslims followed Nizaar and another followed Ahmad. Hasane Sabah positioned and propagated on behalf of Nizaar and Amirul Joyush Badrul Jamaali sided with Ahmad. Today the Nizaari followers are called ‘Aga Khanis’ while followers of Ahmad are know as ‘Bohra’.
If an impartial person studies their beliefs and historical background, he will find so many inconsistencies and contradictions that locating the path of truth will not only be difficult, but impossible! The Ismailis acknowledge only 7 Imams instead of 12 Imams, and persist on the number 7. All their laws of jurisprudence are based on 7 levels. Hence they are also called ‘Sabiah.’
They also explain every Quranic verse and tradition by its hidden meaning, rather than the evident meaning, and therefore they are know also as ‘Baatiniyah’. Those who consider Ismail as the Imam are also know as Ismailiyyas. The most extensive explanation and propagation of their beliefs was done by Abdul Khitaab b. Maimun and Karmate.
Ismailis and 12 Imams
We have already mentioned the famous tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) – There will be 12 Caliphs after me.’ Ismailis have interpreted this tradition thus – Imam Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) to Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) are the 6 Imams. The 7th Imam – Ismail b. Jafar, 8th Imam – Muhammad b. Ismail, 9th Imam – Abdullah Taqi, 10th Imam – Ahmed Wafi, 11th Imam Husain Razi, 12th Imam Abdullah Mahdi (who established the Fatimide Caliphate in Egypt). A very strange feature about this chain of Imamat is the complete lack of information about Taqi, Wafi and Razi. There is no information of even where these people resided? Where they were born? What were their conditions? Another interesting fact is that there is disagreement between the scholars regarding even their names. More details are available in ‘Tahqiqo Tarikho Phalsaphe Mazaahibe Ahle Sunnat Aur Firqae Ismailiyya’ by Yusuf Kazaai.
In this chain of Imamat, Abduallah is the 12th Imam and his title has been kept as al-Mahdi. In this way the prophetic tradition of the 12 Imams (a.s.) was accepted by them unconsciously. But when he expired in 934 AD, the truth became apparent to all. Traditions regarding the real Mahdi are evident and declare that his advent will be just before Qiyamat and he will live till just before Qiyamat. Moreover, he will accomplish several tasks chief among which is establishing a universal Islamic government, based on peace and justice and devoid of tyranny and oppression. Going by these and other traditions about the real Mahdi, Abdullah Mahdi does not qualify as the Mahdi. Therefore the full chain of the Ismaili Imamat is falsified and there is no point in discussing it any further.
Recognition of Imam His Mastership and the acceptance of the deeds
Significance of the Imam and Imamat in Islam can be judged from the following tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).
‘One who dies without recognising the Imam of his time dies the death of ignorance.’
(Musnad Tayalesi pg. 259, Sahihe Hafiz Nishapuri vol. 8, pg. 107 Nafhul Laahut by Shaikh Ali Al Karki pg. 13, Yanabiul Mawaddah by Hafiz Quduzi pg. 117, Usule Kafi by Yaqoobe Kulaini (r.a.) vol. 1 pg. 376)
The tradition highlights the fact that all beliefs and actions are null and void without the recognition of the Imam of the time. By putting the condition ‘Imam of the time’ (Imame Zamana) the tradition clarifies that it does not indicate the Holy Quran because the Holy Quran is not confined to guidance at a particular time, but is a guide for all times. Not only is the recognition of the Imam of the time necessary for our beliefs, but it is a prerequisite for the acceptances of our deeds. If one’s heart is empty of the recognition and love of the Imam of his time, then all his actions are worthless.
Muhammad b. Muslim (r.a.) narrates from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.),
‘If somebody worships the Almighty with all his heart but he does not have an Imam, then his worship and efforts will not be recognised. He is deviated and perplexed, and Allah, the Almighty, is unhappy with his actions, and his example is that of a little goat, which has separated from the caretaker of its flock, it runs here and there, searching the way (it is apparent that without a guide the entire effort is wasted and nothing will be achieved except fatigue). When night came and darkness enveloped its surroundings, the lost goat came across another flock with a different shepherd. It came near the flock with eagerness and spent the night there. But in the morning the shepherd reared his flock, he refused to recognise this little goat. Nor did the other goats accept him. (How many people are there who are initially with the truth but with passage of time start giving allegiance to others, like Zaidiyyah, Fatimiyyah) So it separated from them and ran here and there in perplexity, searching its shepherd and flock. Then it again sighted a flock and started to mix with them. Suddenly, the shepherd noticed it and shouted. ‘Go Away! Search for your own flock and shepherd!’ Troubled and defeated it turned back, wherever it went, it could not find the path. The effort it put in was tremendous, but there was no result. It has no guide to show it the right path to the pasture and steer it towards its own flock. Then the wolf saw it and it found its prey in the form of the lost goat. It took full advantage of the confused nature of the goat and devoured it.’
‘By Allah, O Muhammad! The people of this nation who do not have a just Imam from Allah’s side are also confused and perplexed in the same manner. They are troubled and bewildered. If they die in this manner, then they will have died in disbelief and hypocrisy.’
‘O Muhammad! Believe me that an oppressive and tyrant leader and his followers are distant from Allah’s religion. They themselves are deviated and they deviate others. Their deeds are like that sand, which gets blown away in the wind. There is no reward and compensation for their actions. And this is the result of deviation from the true religion.’
(Miratul Uqool vol. 2 pg. 315-16 tradition 8)
It is crystal clear from this tradition that acting without the recognition of an infallible Imam is like building a structure on sand, which has no foundation. Strong winds scatter it and man’s efforts are wasted leaving him helpless and frustrated.