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The Imams and Leaders of Islam

The previous discussions lead us to the conclusion that in Islam, after the death of the Holy Prophet, there has continuously existed and will continue to exist within the Islamic community (ummah) an Imam (a leader chosen by God). Numerous prophetic hadiths 1 have been transmitted in Shi ism concerning the description of the Imams, their number, the fact that they are all of the Quraysh and of the Household of the Prophet, and the fact that the promised Mahdi is among them and the last of them. Also, there are definitive words of the Prophet concerning the Imamate of 'Ali and his being the first Imam and also definitive utterances of the Prophet and 'Ali concerning the Imamate of the second Imam the same way the Imams before have left definitive statements concerning the Imamate of these who were to come after them. 2 According to these utterances contained in Twelve-Imam Shi' ite sources, the Imams are twelve in number and their holy names are as follows: (1) 'Ali ibn Abi-Talib; (2) Hasan ibn 'Ali; (3) Husayn ibn 'Ali; (4) 'Ali ibn Husayn; (5) Muhammad ibn 'Ali (6) Ja'far ibn Muhammad; (7) Musa ibn Ja'far (8) 'Ali ibn Musa; (9) Muhammad ibn 'Ali; (10) 'Ali ibn Muhammad; (ii) Hasan ibn 'Ali; and (12) the Mahdi.
1 "Jdbir ibn Samarah has said that the he heard the Prophet of God say, `Until the time of twelve vicegerents (khalifah), this religion will continue to be powerful.' Jabir said, `The people repeated the formula 'Allah is Great' and cried. Then the Prophet said something softly. I asked my father, 'Oh Father, what did he say?' My father answered, 'The Prophet said, 'All the vicegerents will be from Quraysh.'" Sahib of Abu-Dawud, Cairo, 1348, vol. II, pp. 207; Musnad Ahmad, vol. V, pp. 92. Several other hadiths resembling this are also found. And Salman Farsi said, 'I came upon the Prophet and saw Husayn—upon whom be peace—on his knees as he was kissing his eyes and mouth and saying, 'Thou art a noble man, son of a noble man, an Imam, son of an Imam, a 'Proof' (hujjah), son of `Proof,' the father of the nine `Proofs' of which the ninth is their `Support' (qa'im).'" Yanabi al-Mawaddah, pp. 308.

2 See al-Ghadir; Ghayat al-Maram, ithbat al-Hudat of Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Hurr al-'Amili, Qum, 1337-39; Dhakha'ir al-'Uqba; Manaqib of Khwarzmi, Najaf, 1385; Tadhkirat al-Khawas of Sibt ibn Jawzi, Tehran, 1285; Yanabi al-Mawaddah; al-Fusul al-Muhimmah; Dala'il al-Imamate of Muhammad ibn Jarir Tabari, Najaf, 1369; al-Nass wa 'l-Ijtihad of Sayyid Sharaf al-Din Musawi, Najaf, 1375; Usul al-Kafi vol. I; and Kit?b al-Irshad of Shaykh Mufid, Tehran, 1377.

Adapted from: "Shi'ah" by: "Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i"

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