How do Shia & Sunni Muslims differ in their view of the Imamate & who can be considered an Imam?
Note: We respect Shia's Imams as individuals. Shia's main reference books are full of lies in the form of fabricated narrations falsely attributed to their Imams or to Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.). Shia's Imams did not advocate the blasphemous beliefs of the Shia.
Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) as the last and final Prophet on the earth. No new prophet is prophesied to come after Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), either in Quran and in Hadith. The chain of "Wahi" revelation sent by Allah through Angel Gabriel (a.s) to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) ended upon the death of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in 11th year Hijri. However, Prophet Mohammad mentions that Jesus Christ will return to Earth and will rule the World as a Muslim, but will not bring a new holy scripture or revelation. Furthermore, Prophet Mohammad also mentions that a Muslim leader, called Al-Mahdi, will appear around the end of time before Jesus' return.
The Shia believe in Imams, consisting of Ali (cousin of Prophet Mohammad & husband of Prophet Mohammad's daughter Fatima) and a select number of his descendants. The number and identity of these Imams varies from one Shia sect to another, some of them believe in only 7 Imams while others believe in 12 Imams. The largest Shia sect (known as the Twelvers) believe in 12 Imams who are: (1) Ali, (2) Al-Hasan, (3) Al-Hussain, (4) Zain Al-Abideen, (5) Muhammad Al-Baqar, (6) Jaffar Sadiq, (7) Moosa Kazim, (8) Ali Al-Ridah, (9) Al-Taqi, (10) Al-Naqi, (11) Hassan Askari, and (12) Al-Mahdi.
The Shia believe that the final Imam, called Al-Mahdi, disappeared hundreds of years ago and went into occultation state, but he will re-appear around the end of the world, before the Day of Judgment. Shia's Al-Mahdi is very different in his characteristics from Al-Mahdi that prophet Mohammad mentions that he will appear to lead the Muslims at the end of time. Shia's Al-Mahdi based on what the Shia's reference books mention seems to be more like a Prince of Vengeance who will take revenge against the Sunnis, he will bring back to life, crucify and torture, Abu Bakr & Omar (Prophet Mohammad's closest companions) and Aisha (Prophet Mohammad's wife).
Shia's Imam Mahdi is a fictitious, imaginary character. He never existed as a child. He does not exist now, contrary to what they believe. Therefore, there will never be any person appearing in the future who will fulfil all the characteristics and signs of Shia's Imam Mahdi. Some Shia may follow the Anti-Christ, thinking he is Shia's Imam Mahdi because there are many similarities between them (click here for an in-depth analysis of this point).
The Shia believe that the Imams have a divine mission, to rule the Muslims after Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), and represent God on Earth. They claim that knowledge of the unseen belongs solely to their Imams, and it is not for the Prophet to inform us about the unseen.
Some Shia have gone so far as to claim divinity for those Imams.
Importance of the Imamate for the Shia
Al-Imama is the most important pillar of Shia's religion. Shia scholar al-Muzaffar explains:
The famous Shia Scholar, Ibn Babawaih al-Qummi, nicknamed al-Sadooq (the truthful), wrote:
Al-Mufeed, a leading scholar among Twelver Shi'ites, and who was the teacher of Abu Ja'far At-Tusi who became a top Shia Scholar, wrote as quoted by Al-Majlisi:
Muhammad bin Ali narrated from
his uncle Muhammad bin Abil-Qasim, from Muhammad bin Ali al-Kufi, from Muhammad
bin Sinaan, from Ziyad bin al-Munthir, from Sa'eed bin Jubair, from Ibn Abbas
said: The Messenger [pbuh] said:
Lies & Deception
The Shia have tendency to lie and attribute false statements and narration to their Imams. The following are 2 examples of fabricated narrations:
Muhammad bin Yahya, narrated
from Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Issa, from Muhammad bin Sinaan, from Muawiyah bin
A Shia narrator, Ali ibn Ibrahim, has narrated the following statement whom he attributes falsely to one of Shia's Imams, Imam al-Rida (a.s.):
"Thereafter, (thanking Allah) Muhammad (s.a.) was the trustee of Allah for His creatures. When he was taken away from this world we, Ahl al-Bayt inherited him, thus, we are the trustees of Allah over His earth. With us is the knowledge of the sufferings, the death, the genealogy of the Arabs and the birth of Islam. We know the man when we see him in the truth of faith or hypocrisy. Our followers (Shi‘a) are listed (with us) by their names and the names of their fathers. Allah has established a covenant with them and with us. They land wherever we would do so and enter wherever we would enter. There is no one who follows Islam except us (and our followers). We are the noble saviors and the descendents of the prophets and of the children of the successors of the prophets. We the ones to whom the book of Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, has come exclusively. We, of all people, have the first priority (closeness) to the book of Allah. We, of all people, have the first priority (closeness) to the Messenger of Allah. For us, Allah formed His religion."
Infallibility of the Imams
The Shia consider the Imams to be completely infallible, do not make even the slightest error. Hence following these Imams, according to Shia's creed, is obligatory on all true Shia Muslims until the Day of Judgment. In fact, reverence for these Imams is so great amongst the Shia that the Imams are believed to be on a level above even the Prophets or the highest ranking angels; A level wherein even the particles of the universe are subservient to them.
Khomeini asserts in his book, Al-Hukumah Al-Islamiyyah:
"Certainly the Imam has a dignified station, a lofty rank, a creational caliphate, and a sovereignty and mastery over all the atoms of creation. It is definitely a basic belief in our school of thought, that our Imams occupy a rank unattainable by either an angel or a major Prophet. And, according to our narrations of Hadith, before the creation of the universe, the greatest Prophet SAWS, and the Imams - peace be upon them - were in the form of light which Allah made orbit His throne and gave them rank and proximity known only to Him. As was narrated in the hadith on Miraaj, Angel Gabriel said, 'If I were to have come an inch closer, I would have been burnt up.' - that is, by the intensity of the Imam's light. It has also been narrated by them (the Imams) - may peace be on them - that, 'We have certain states in relation to Allah not allowed to an angel or a great Prophet.' A similar status is accorded to Fatima Al-Zahra (Prophet Mohammad's daughter) - may peace be on her..."
In the same book, Khomeini also states regarding the Imams:
"...because we cannot imagine the Imams being forgetful or negligent, and we believe that they perceive all things which could benefit Muslims..." and "The Imam's teachings are like the Qur'an...they must be implemented and followed."
This last statement finds its support in a chapter of Al-Kafi entitled: "Surely people have no Truth except what came from the Imams and everything which did not come from them (the Imams) is false."
The Shia believe that the Imams have absolute and infinite knowledge. This contradicts what Allah says in the Quran; "Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah (alone). It is He who sends down rain, and it is he that knows what is in the wombs. Nor does anyone know what it is that he will earn tomorrow, nor does anyone know in what land he is to die. Verily with Allah is full knowledge and He is acquainted (with all things)" (Quran 31:34)
Characteristics of the Imams
Below are some of the lies that the Shia tell about their 12 Imams, as some of you might have already known that the Shia's beliefs differ significantly in many aspects from Islam:
1. "All the Imams are infallible just like the prophets. The Shia derive their religion from their immaculate (infallible) Imams" (Usool al Kafi, p. 22) Well this is a clear statement of kufr from the Shia, as you can see they admit that they derive their religion from their Imams, well this means that if a Shia Imam declares something as forbidden that in the Qur'an is permissible, the Shia would follow their Imams... by this statement the Shia have taken themselves outside Islam.
2. "By listening to the voice of a person, the Imams can tell if the person was destined to go to hell or to heaven; they would thus answer his questions accordingly" (Usool al Kafi, p.185) As you can see the Shia make their Imams out to be some God-like being, can't they see that this is Shirk (worshipping other than Allah, or associating partners with him).
3. "The Imams possess all the knowledge granted to angels, prophets and messengers" (Al-Kulaini, Al-Kaafi, p.255.) Well here is more shirk from the Shia... How can an Imam, who is just a human, know the Unseen??? Only Allah knows the Unseen, and think about this. The Imams were not even alive at the time of all of the prophets so here is a major contradiction in the Shia faith!
4. "The Imams know when they will die, and they do not die except by their own choice" (Ibid, p: 258) Now, this is a clear statement of blasphemy. Only Allah knows when a man will die! And these Shia say that their Imams have control over the timing of their death. This is major blasphemy and "shirk" (polytheism) for any one to believe in all the things that the Shia say about their Imams!
5. "The Imams have knowledge of whatever occurred in the past and whatever will happen in the future, and nothing is concealed from them" (Ibid, p. 260.) Only Allah knows the future for any person to say that these Imams know the Unseen is committing "Shirk" (polytheism) and takes himself outside Islam.
6. "The Imams have knowledge of all the revealed books, regardless of the languages in which they were revealed" (Ibid, p. 227) As you can see these Shia have elevated their Imams to a God-like level, and the Shia say that there is nothing wrong with this!!!
7. "No one compiled the Qur'an completely except the Imams, and they encompass all of its knowledge' (Ibid, p. 228) So since the Qur'an was not compiled by the Imams then does that mean that the Quran is fabricated??? These Shia want to even destroy Islam... look at what they say, they even insult the Qur'an!! And it is a well known fact that the Shia have their own Qur'an
8. "Signs of the prophets are possessed by the Imams" (Ibid, p. 231) The Shia have once again elevated their Imams to a very high level. The Imams they refer too are only human! So why do the Shia worship them.
9. "When the Imams' time comes, they will rule in accordance with the laws of prophet David and his dynasty. These Imams will not need to ask for presentation of evidence before passing their judgments" (Ibid,p. 397) The Shia even believe that their Imams can do what ever they want!! Here they say that their Imams can just pass judgment on anybody! And they say that their Imams will not rule according to the Qur'an, but will rule by the laws of David!! (All Muslims must rule by the Qur'an and Sunnah). This is a proof that the awaited Imam of the Shia is not the one that Muslims believe in, but he is indeed the Anti-Christ (Al-Dajjal). The one that all Jews are waiting for him to be their leader.
10. "There is not a single truth possessed by people, save that which originated with the Imams. Everything which did not originate from the Imams is false" (Ibid, p.277)
Let us examine what the Shia's main reference books say about their Imams:
1. Imam Ali is God. (Jila-ul-A'yoon, Vol. 2, p. 66, pub. in Pakistan)
2. There is no difference between Ali & Allah (meaning they are the same person/ entity). (Jila-ul-A'yoon, Vol. 2, p. 85)
3. Wherever the Quran mentions "Rab" (meaning Lord/God), according to this Shia book, that word should be substituted with Imam Ali's name. (Jila-ul-A'yoon, Vol. 2, p. 66)
4. Imam Ali & his descendants are omni-present (everywhere & anytime) and omni-scient (have unlimited knowledge) and these attributes are theirs alone, and therefore are not attributes of Allah. (Jila-ul-A'yoon, Vol. 2, p. 85)
5. Imam Ali & his descendent Imams know everything that:
(a) happened in the past,
(b) is happening now, and
(c) will happen in the future.
(Usool Kaafi, Vol 1, p260 & Vol. 2, p. 10)
6. It is a fundamental principle of faith that our (Shia) Imams have ranks higher than the ranks of angels & God's prophets. (Khomeini's book, Hukuma Islamiya, p. 52)
7. The Imam possesses more attributes than a Prophet. (Usool Kaafi, Vol.1, p. 388)
8. All Imams are equal in rank and status to Prophet Muhammad (s.a. w). (Usool
Kaafi, Vol. 1, p. 270)
15. An Angel provides divine revelations to the
Imams in the Night of Power. (Shab-e-Qadar, p.569)
18. Imam Hussain said "By God, Muawiyah is better than the Shia: they have
tried to killed me". (Al-Ehtijaj, Vol. 2, p. 290)
29. The Imams are NOT born like ordinary human beings from
their mothers' wombs. (Jila-ul-A'yoon, Vol 2, p.474)
33. There was no horse named Zuljinah in
Karbala. (Zabhan Azeem, p. 223)
37. All Prophets had to recognize and accept the Wilayat of Ali (meaning that Ali is Wali of Allah) before they were appointed as prophets. (Tareekh-e-Shia, p. 18)
38. Imam Ali ( R.A. )
was the creation of angel Jibreel (Gabriel). (Al-Majalis Al-Fakhra, p. 128)
Is there an Imama concept in Islam that Sunni Muslims accept? Who can be considered an Imam, from Sunni Muslims perspective?Let us initially define the term Imama:
In Arabic, an Imam is a leader whom others follow, such as one who leads the prayer, who heads a group or even the Caliph. Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.) is the Imam of all the Imams. Furthermore, the title Imam can be used for one who is an expert of a certain field. To illustrate, it is said that al-Bukhari is an Imam of Hadith, Malik, Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi'i, Ibn Hanbal are Imams in Islamic Jurisprudence, and so on.
Allah [s.w.t.] says in Quran 2:124 :
" Recall that Abraham was put to the test by his Lord, through certain commands, and he fulfilled them. (God) said, "I am appointing you an Imam (leader or role model) for the people." He said, "And also my descendants?" (God) said, "My covenant does not include the transgressors." "
Another example is Allah's [s.w.t.] saying in the Quran 21:73 :
"And We made them Imams (leaders) who guide by Our command, and We inspired in them the doing of good deeds, the observance of regular prayers, the giving of Zakat (required charity), and they were our devoted worshippers."
Quran 9:12 says:
"If they violate their oaths after pledging to keep their covenant, and attack your religion, you may fight the Imams (leaders) of disbelief- surely, they have no regard for their oaths - so that they may desist."
Quran 28:41 says:
"And We made them Imams who invite/lead (people) to HellFire, and, on the Day of Resurrection, they will have no help."
From the above definitions, we can understand the reason why the Khalifah (Caliph) is called an Imam too. Imam Abu Zahra explained: