The Meaning of Imamah in Islam
Posted October 2, 2008on:
“The most detrimental and divisive problems the Muslims face today is that so many ignorant, but rich, Muslims are trying to give opinions on Islamic issues for which they are not qualified to do. This is a situation which effects even the non-Muslims, who are generally left to form totally inaccurate concepts which are looked upon as dogma or authentic.”
The conditions of the Imamate are actually based on the Divine Permission from Allah Ta’ala, and commissioned from Sayyidina Rasulullah (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam), the Holy Last Messenger. What this means is that with the physical departure of the Holy Last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad bin Abdullah (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) the station or rank of Risalah (Messengership) and also the Divine Revelation sent to Messengers (Wahi) from Almighty Allah are complete, and discontinued. The Creator has promised in His Revelations sent to man through His Messengers that He will not leave man without Guidance (which comes in the form of true dreams and pious beholdings), which we know as Mubashirat and Mushahidat (respectively). Also, the Creator has promised not to leave mankind without leadership, which would come in the form of the Imamate, that had been established by the progenitor of all religions, Nabi Ibrahim (alaihis-Salaam) in the Du’aa (prayer) that he made while building the Holy Ka’bah with his son, Hadrat Isma’il (alaihis-Salaam):
When Ibrahim was tested by his Rabb (Allah) in certain matters and completed it (the test with success), (it was) said (unto him by Allah): “I shall raise ye as Imam of Mankind.” (Ibrahim said): “And from my descendants too?” (Allah) said, “My Promise shall not be for Zalimeen (evil doers).” (Holy Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah, ayat 124)
Mind it, he was already a Messenger, therefore Imamate is total leadership, unlike Risalah of many Messengers, whose message or mission was restricted to a particular clan, community, social, or religious aspect of life. Imamate is a function in totality, and it is not necessary for every Messenger to be an Imam, or every Imam to be a Messenger.
Thus, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala chose the house of Hadrat Ibrahim for Imamate, and amongst his descendants a majority of them were either Messengers or Imams, until the manifestation of the one for whom Sayyidina Ibrahim (alaihis-Salaam) had made Du’a, the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam), who Allah Ta’ala raised as Imam of Mursaleen (Messengers) and gave Hikmah (Wisdom), Rahmah (Mercy), and Generosity through his descendants, and made them Imams of all mankind, and thus purified them of all spiritual diseases, such as polytheism, worldly lusts, etc. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
“Allah Desires to remove Rijis (spiritual impurities) O’ Ye Ahlul-Bayt, so as to keep you pure (outwardly and inwardly). (Surah al-Ahzab, ayat 33)
Therefore, the Imamate by Divine Right must come from the righteous Imam, a descendant of the family of Hadrat Ibrahim (alaihis-Salaam) and his eldest son, Hadrat Isma’il (alaihis-Salaam), and through the finality of Messengerhood, Sayyidina Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) and continuing through his family, namely, by the marriage of his cousin, Hadrat Ali Murtaza to his daughter, the most blessed of ladies, Hadrat Sayyidah Fatimah az-Zahra, the Lady of Paradise (Radiy Allahu ta’ala ‘anhuma). Any person laying claim to the Imamate although such an individual is not of the family of the Holy Last Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) through either of his noble grandsons, The Imamain Sayyidain, Hadrat Imam al-Hasan and Hadrat al-Husain [millions of Salaams be upon them], has laid a claim of falsehood.
We find twelve famous A’immah of the Ummah issuing forth for the establishing of Shari’ah, and discipline of Tariqah. Other than Imamian Hasan and Husain (Radhiyallahu ‘anhuma), from amongst them were: Imam Zainul-Abidin Ali ibn al-Husain ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib (i.e., the grandson of Hadrat Ali), who was followed by Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, Imam Musa al-Kazim, Imam Ali al-Reza, Imam Muhammad al-Taqi, and Imam Ali al-Naqi (radiyallahu ‘anhum). All of the Twelve Imams were highly honored leaders of Muslims who fought against tyrants and oppressors. The majority of them were martyred, and all Muslims revere and honor them.
The Holy Last Messenger (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) has said:
“Verily, I am leaving among you two things to which if you adhere, you will never be misguided after me. One of the two is greater than the other: The Book of Allah, a rope extended from Heaven towards the Earth; and my ‘Itrit (descendants), the people of my house (Itrit; i.e.,Ahlul-Bayt). And they will never become separate till they have come to the Fountain (al-Kauthar). So see how you should differ from me about them.” (Tirmidhi)
Thus, the righteous descendants will always be chosen by Allah Ta’ala as Imam. Now we see that the role of Imamate is very distinctive, and follows a pattern already illustrated by the Holy Last Messenger (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam). Mercy, generosity, and tolerance appear as an uppermost and salient feature of their character.
It has been narrated by Hudhaifa bin al-Yaman, who said he asked the Holy Messenger (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam):
“Will there be a bad time after good time (era).” He said “Yes.” I said, “How?” whereupon he said: “There will be leaders who will not be led by my Guidance (Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Nabi Muhammad, Sallallahu alaihi wa Sallam), and who will not adopt my way. There will be among them (so-called leaders and Imams) men who will have hearts of devils in the bodies of human beings.” I said: “what shall I do, Ya Rasulullah, if I happen to live in that time?” He replied: “You will listen to Amir (Commander) and carry out his order, even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should hear and obey.”
The true Imam never interprets the Law according to his own desires, nor does he change the Law to accommodate the people (special interest groups) nor will he endeavor to make the law palatable to them. The main characteristic of the Allah-chosen Imam is that in him rests the epitome of the Mercy of Allah Almighty for all the people, regardless of color, national origin, or Madhhab.
These are the immutable factors that establish the Imamate. With all the factors in place and the individual fulfilling all specifications the station or rank of the individual is that of “Imam,” or “Mujaddid,” and verily it is a station which the enemies of Allah, the Angels, and Jinn obey. They (the enemies of Allah) fear the station because it is divine, and has nothing to do with man’s choice, nor does the Allah-chosen Imam need or seek the approval of man. So this Divinely-arranged support is manifested, and it becomes necessary for the oppressors of men to rise in opposition of the Murshid-e-Kamil (Perfect Guide). Keeping this in mind, one can easily understand why the unjust heathens of the world are struggling so desperately to install and support the ideology of these false Imams.