Who Are The Twelve Imams?

Who did you vote for in the last election? have they lived up to their promises? these questions plagues our society which preaches a fair system of governance.

Throughout time we have come to understand that a system of authority is better than none. Furthermore it is necessary for a form of government to hold authority over the people and protect their rights, security and fulfil their needs.

Today the authorities that be praise the democratic system as if they have found the guiding light. The key problems with this system is that it allows the people to govern over themselves, i.e it assumes that people have the capability to make their own laws and maintain a sustainable, productive, and happy way of life.

The reality is mankind needs a form of guidance which is “untouchable”. A form of governance which cannot be bribed, lobbied, or stacked to serve the purpose of minority groups, holding the remaining populace to ransom.

Allah (swt) through His grace and mercy has bestowed upon us a system of guidance and governance known as Imamate. This Imamat can only be fulfilled by specific criteria. The Imam must be selected by the creator, The Imam must be superior to all mankind, and he must be infallible.

Selection by The Creator (SWT) is essential as it is his Grace upon us to impart this system to help guide us on to righteousness, and ultimately a successful life in this world and the hereafter. The  Imam must be superior as the Holy Quran states “Say Allah guides to the truth. Is he who guides to the truth worthier to be followed, or he guides not unless he[himself] is guided?  What is the matter with you? How do ye Judge?”[1] If the Imam was inferior or needed the guidance of other men, then he would inferior and logically unfit for the position of Imam.

Finally, he must be infallible, as his actions are an example for us all and must be emulated. If the Imams actions are sinful then this must also be obeyed and emulated. This scenario obviously oozes contradiction and there for how can one obey Allah through disobedience. Confused beliefs like this beget infamous oxymoronic statements like “Our master Muawiyah, who  killed our master Hijr bin Uday” inscribed on the grave of Hijr Ibn Uday (a.s)

The system of Imamat is one that predates the universal acceptance of contemporary Islam. In fact, it has always been spoken of and prophesied. Surely verses like; ” And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”[2] Genesis 17:20, Prophesised about the great nation and the twelve princes to guide it. This verse invoked the curiosity of all people alike. Narrated that a Jew who was inspired by verses of the Like asked the Holy Prophet about the oneness of Allah. Once the Holy Prophet had clarified oneness, the Jew known as Na’thal conceded and submitted to Allah. He then proceeded to ask ” Oh Holy Prophet, every prophet has a vicegerent, our prophet Moses bin Imran, made a will for Joshua Bin Noon. Please tell me who your vicegerent (wasi)?. The Holy Prophet answered my wasi  is Ali Ibn Abi Talib; after him are Hassan, and Hussein and after them are nine Imams, who are successive descendants of Hussein.”[3]

Nathals’ curiosity didn’t end there he then contin

ued to ask the Holy Prophet their names. The Holy Prophet replied ” After Hussein, his son, Ali will be the Imam, after Him His son, Muhammad; after him his son Jafaar; after him his son Musa; after him his son , Ali; after him his son, Muhammad; after him his son; Hassan, after him his son Muhammad Mahdi will be the last Imam, There will be twelve Imams.

Furthermore, Na’thal made deeper enquires and was informed of their titles and how each of them would die. Natahl then professed his belief by saying ” I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and that you are his Holy Prophet. I bear witness that these twelve holy Imams are your vicegerents after you. What you have said is exactly what is recorded in our books and in the will of Moses.”

The Holy Prophet said ” Paradise is for him who loves them and hell is for him who is hostile toward them and opposes them.”

Of the plethora of narrations that are available and common in all the books traditions this one was selected for its specific details of these chiefs.

It is apparent that the Holy Prophet was clear and concise in his message and true to the words Of Allah in His Holy Book in chapter 13:7 ” You are only a warner, and there is a guide for every people.” The Holy Prophet not only obeyed the command of Allah and appointed a guide, in fact, he ensured the details of these guides are known so well that none would be mistaken.

In Sahih Bukhari there is a tradition narrated by Jabir ibn Samura; The Holy Prophet Said: “There will be Twelve Commanders.” He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, the Prophet added, “All of them will be from Quraysh.”[4] Glory be to Allah, it is as if this narration is a pre-emptive answer to Umar ibn al Khattab and his argument. It is narrated Umar tells Ibn Abbas that the reason he was never chosen as caliph, is because the Arabs would never accept prophethood and vicegerency from the same tribe. ‘they were reluctant to see the prophethood and the caliphate merge in your household (Bani Hashim) as in such a case you would have behaved arrogantly and bragged over your tribe and nation. For this reason, the Quraish selected a Caliph for themselves and in this selection they have traversed the true path and turned successful’![5]

Our Creator in his infinite grace and mercy has bestowed upon us a system of guidance. If the people are the ones who must choose the guide then it is implied the guidance is of the “grace” of the people. This would equate to nothing more than our run of the mill style of governance which would be devoid of all spirituality and guidance.

The Holy Prophet left the people with no room for error he completed his message and verily the truth is distinct from falsehood[6].

[1]  Holy Quran, Surat Yunus verse 35 (10:35)

[2] Holy Bible King James Version, Book of Genesis 17:20

[3] Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi, Yanabi’ Al Muwadda, Ch 76.

[4] 1. Sahih al-Bukhari (English ver.) Hadith: 9.329. Sahih al-Bukhari, (Arabic),

[5] Tarikh-Tabari 5/2770-2771; printed in Europe.

[6] Holy Quran Chapter of the Cow 225