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Religion & Belief Prophethood & imamate

We pray for our Holy Prophet in obedience to the command of Allah: - The benefit of ‘Salawat’ returns to us as the Holy Prophet has said: ‘Whoever among you sends one Salawat to me, I pray for him 10 times.” The Mercy and Grace of Allah is limitless. Our Holy Prophet was already bestowed with Grace of Allah more than any one else. But it does not mean that the Grace has reached its limit: it has no limit. Therefore, we pray for him so that Allah may bestow him with His ever-new Graces and Mercies. Moreover, we praise and thank Allah and pray before him, though He has no need of our prayers, thanks and praises. But by doing so, we express and show our relation and gratitude to Him. Likewise, the Holy Prophet has no need of our ‘Salawat’; but by ordering us to recite ‘Salawat’ Allah wants us to express our relation with, and gratitude to, the Holy Prophet.
Holy Prophet oflslam (s.a.w.) combined all the three aspects in his personality. The legislation prescribed by Allah was promulgated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w); he was the final judicial authority; and the supreme Head of the Islamic Community. The Imams inherited all these functions from him except that they had no authority to change any law brought by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.); rather their function was to elaborate and interpret that law. So far as judicial and executive aspects are concerned, there was no difference between the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and his 12 successors.
To show us the Straight Path, Allah has been sending His representatives to the mankind. They are called nabii (Prophet) and rasul (Messenger). The rank of the Messengers was higher than the Prophets. Every Messenger was also a Prophet but not vice versa.
To lead the people to the Straight Path, and to preserve the religion of Islam, Allah appointed twelve successors - one after another - of the Prophet of Islam. They were from the progeny of the Prophet. Those successors are called Imams. Imam literally means leader. As mentioned above, first of them was 'Ali, son of Abu Talib, and the last one is al-Mahdi (a.s.).
It is a well known hadith, accepted both by the Sunnis and the Shi'as. For Shi'a books, please see 'A.llama Majlisi's "Biharul-Anwar': 7th volume (Vol.23 in the new printing in which original 25 volumes have been printed in 110 handy volumes), chapter 4: "Chapter of recognising the Imam, and that people shall not be excused if they discard the Wilayah; and that he who dies without recognising his Imam, or having doubt about him, dies the death of Jahiliyyah, disbelief and hyprocrisy". There you will find more than 30 traditions to this effect narrated from the Prophet (s a.w.a.) and the Imams, in various words (New edition, vol. 23. p.76-95). As for the Sunnis references, at present I can give you the reference of Kanzul-'Ummal, (by Mulla 'Ali al-Muttaqi, 5th ed.1985, Beirut), pt Vol. p.103, Hadith 'No.463 and 464. Hadith No.463: (Abdullah) ibn 'Umar narrates: "He who dies without (doing) bai'at dies the death of Jahiliyyah:' It is quoted from al-Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. No. 464: Mu'awiyah narrates: "He who dies without an Imam, dies the death of Jahiliyyah". It is quoted from al-Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and al-Mu'jam al-kabir oflmam at-Tabarani.

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