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Imams of Shi'a

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This article is about the twelve Imams of Shi'a. For the principle of Shi'a school, see Imamate.
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Imāms (a) of Shi'a are twelve men from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (s) who are, according to Shi'a teachings, successors of the Prophet (s) and the guardians and leaders of the society after the Prophet (s). The first Imam (a) is Imam 'Ali (a) and the other Imams (a) are his and lady Fatima's (a) sons and grandsons.

These Imams (a) are appointed by God and have divine knowledge, infallibility and the right of intercession [for people] and one can get closer to God through making tawassul to them. In addition to religious authority, Imams (a) have the political leadership of the society. Verses of the Qur'an have discussed the issue of imamate without mentioning the names of the Imams (a); such as the verses of Uli al-Amr, Tathir, al-Wilaya, al-Ikmal, al-Tabligh and al-Sadiqin.

In some narrations from the Prophet (s), the qualities, the names and the number of Imams (a) have been mentioned; such as Hadith al-Thaqalayn, Hadith of Manzila, Hadith of Safina, Hadith of Yawm al-Dar, Hadith of Madinat al-'Ilm, Hadith al-Tayr al-Mashwiy, Hadith al-Rayat, Hadith al-Kisa', Hadith of Jabir and Hadith of the Twleve Caliphs. According to these narrations, all of Imams (a) are from Quraysh and they are the Ahl al-Bayt (a) (household) of the Prophet (s) and the last Imam (a) is the Promised Mahdi (aj).

Also, there are many hadiths from the Prophet (s) in hadith references about the imamate of Imam Ali (a) who is the first Imam (a). Also, there are hadiths from the Prophet (s) and Imam Ali (a) which have explicitly mentioned the imamate of the second Imam (a). Afterwards, every Imam (a) explicitly has introduced the Imam (a) after himself. According to these explicit mentioning, Imams (a) and the caliphs after the Prophet (s) are twelve.

Name Titles Kunya Day of Birth Year of
Birth
Birth
place
Day of Martyrdom Year of
Martyrdom
Place of
Martyrdom
Imamate Duration of
Imamate
Mother's name
'Ali b. Abi Talib Amir al-Mu'minin Abu l-Hasan 13 Rajab/1 October 30 'Am al-fil/600 Ka'ba 21 Ramadan/31 January 40/661 Kufa 11/632-40/661 29 years Fatima bt. Asad
al-Hasan b. 'Ali Al-Mujtaba Abu Muhammad 15 Ramadan/4 March 3/625 Medina 28 Safar/30 March 50/670 Medina 40/661-50/670 10 years Lady Fatima (a)
al-Husayn b. 'Ali Sayyid al-Shuhada Abu 'Abd Allah 3 Sha'ban/11 January 4/626 10 Muharram/10 October 61/680 Karbala 50/670-61/680 10 years
'Ali b. al-Husayn al-Sajjad, Zayn al-'abidin Abu l-Hasan 5 Sha'ban/9 January 38/658 25 Muharram/24 October 95/713 Medina 61/680-95/713 35 years Shahrbanu
Muhammad b. 'Ali Baqir al-'ulum Abu Ja'far 1 Rajab/13 May 57/677 7 Dhu l-Hijja/1 February 114/733 95/713-114/733 19 years Fatima
Ja'far b. Muhammad al-Sadiq Abu 'Abd Allah 17 Rabi' I/24 April 83/704 25 Shawwal /18 December 148/765 114/733-148/765 34 years Fatima
Musa b. Ja'far al-Kazim Abu l-Hasan 7 Safar/12 November 128745 25 Rajab/5 September 183/799 Kadhimiyya 148/765-183/799 35 years Hamida al-Barbariyya
'Ali b. Musa al-Rida Abu l-Hasan 11 Dhu l-Qa'da/2 January 148/766 End of Safar/9 September 203/818 Mashhad 183/799-203/818 20 years Najma
Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Taqi, al-Jawad Abu Ja'far 10 Rajab/12 April 195/811 End of Dhu l-Qa'da/29 November 220/835 Kadhimiyya 203/818-220/835 17 years Sabika
'Ali b. Muhammad al-Hadi, al-Naqi Abu l-Hasan 15 Dhu l-Hijja/10 March 212/828 3 Rajab/2 July 254/868 Samarra 220/835-254/868 34 years Samana al-Maghribiyya
al-Hasan b. 'Ali al-Zakiyy, al-'Askari Abu Muhammad 10 Rabi' II/8 December 232/846 8 Rabi' I/5 January 260/874 254/868-260/874 6 years Susan
Hujja b. al-Hasan al-Qa'im Abu l-Qasim 15 Sha'ban/2 August 255/289 Samarra
Since 260/874 up to(1439)
Narjis

Position among Shi'a

The belief in the imamate of the Twelve Imams (a) is among fundamental beliefs of the Twelver Shi'a and many reports from the Holy Prophet (s) and Imams (a) in available hadiths references support it. Shi'a exegetes and theologians believe that the Holy Qur'an has referred to this belief[1] implicitly in the Uli l-Amr, al-Tathir, al-Wilayah, al-Ikmal, al-Tabligh, and al-Sadiqin verses.

According to Twelver Shi'a beliefs, the imamate of the Twelve Imams (a) began with demise of the Holy Prophet (s) in 11/632 and the imamate of Imam 'Ali (a) and have continued until now without interruption. Since 260/874, after Imam al-'Askari's (a) demise and transition of imamate to his son, Imam al-Mahdi (aj), the imamate turned from apparent state to occultation and the long term imamate of Imam al-Mahdi’s (aj) has been in occultation.

Shi'a believe that Imams (a) are infallible and have knowledge of the unseen;[2] and also believe that one can get close to God through making tawassul to them. Visiting the graves of Imams (a) is among Shi'a traditions and they are known to have the position of making shafa'a (intercession).[3]


Proofs of Imamate

Proofs for Imamate have always been an important topic of books for Twelver Shi'a and Shi'a scholars have many works with different approaches about that. Kitab Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali's written in late 1st/7th century is among the oldest works in which the Twelve Imams (a) are mentioned.[4]

About the explicit mentioning of the Twelve Imams (a), there are works such as Ibn 'Ayyash al-Jawhari's Muqtadab al-athar (d. 401/1010) and al-Khazzaz al-Qummi's Kifayat al-athar (late 4th/10th century) in which their authors have made efforts to collect narrations about the explicit mentioning of the Twelve Imams (a) from different Shi'a and Sunni sources.

In addition to the books of nusus (explicit references), other works under the general title of "Dala'il al-Imama" (proofs for imamate) about the Imams' (a) acts of wonder and miracles can be mentioned such as Dala'il al-imama attributed to Ibn Rustam al-Tabari (printed 1383/1963, Najaf), or works under the general title of "al-Wasiyya" which explain the transmission of deputyship in the chain of the Twelve Imams (a) such as al-Mas'udi's Ithbat al-wasiyya (printed Najaf, Haydariyyah library).[citation needed]

Proving the imamate of the Twelve Imams (a) based on hadith has also been a focus of Twelver Shi'a theologians and many important theological works have been dedicated to this topic.[5] Among the most famous of these hadiths are Hadith al-Thaqalayn, Hadith al-Manzila, Hadith al-Safina, Hadith Yawm al-Dar, Hadith Madinat al-'Ilm, Hadith al-Tayr al-Mashwiy, Hadith al-Rayat, Hadith al-Kisa', Hadith of Jabir, and Hadith of the Twleve Caliphs.

Hadith of the Twelve Caliphs

In addition to Shi'a hadiths, there are certain hadiths narrated in Sunni sources referring to twelve caliphs or imams after the Holy Prophet (s). During the 1st/7th century, there are hadiths narrated from some of the Companions of the Prophet (s), giving the good news about twelve imams (a) after the Prophet (s) which were being circulated in various meetings. Among those hadiths, the hadith narrated by Jabir b. Samura which is mentioned in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim is the most famous one. In this hadith, it is mentioned that emirs (imams or caliphs) after the Prophet (s) are 12 from Quraysh.[6] This hadith which is among the most famous hadiths in the Islamic world, was first mentioned in Sunni sources and then in Shi'a sources.[7]

In a lower level, a hadith narrated from Ibn Mas'ud can be mentioned which implies that the number of caliphs after the Prophet (s) are 12 as the same number of the chiefs of Banu Israel.[8] Sunni scholars give a different interpretation of these 12 imams and introduce people other than the Imams (a) of Shi'a.

Introducing the Imams (a) of Shi'a

Imam Ali (a)

Main article: Imam 'Ali (a)

Imam Ali (a), was son of Abu Talib, uncle of the Prophet (s) and an important leader of Banu Hashim. Abu Talib adopted the Holy Prophet (s) in his childhood and raised him in his house. He was alive until after beginning of the Prophet's (s) mission and supported the Prophet (s) and protected him against the threats posed by Arab disbelievers and especially Quraysh.[9]

At the time of the Prophet (s)

Imams and Caliphs
Imam 'Ali (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b.3 BH/600 - d.40/661)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 11/632 - 40/661
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam al-Hasan (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 3/625 - d. 50/670)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 40/661 - 50/670
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam 'Ali (a)
Mu'awiya
Imam al-Husayn (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 4/626 - d. 61/680)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 50/670 - 61/680
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam 'Ali (a)
Imam al-Hasan (a)
Mu'awiya
Yazid b. Mu'awiya
Imam al-Sajjad (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 38/658 – d. 94/713)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: b. 61/680 – 94/713
Imam 'Ali
Imam al-Hasan (a)
Mu'awiya
Yazid
Mu'awyia b. Yazid
Marwan b. Hakam
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Imam al-Baqir (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 57/677 – d. 114/733)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 94/713 - 114/733
Mu'awyia b. Yazid
Marwan b. Hakam
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik
Imam al-Sadiq (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 83/704 – d. 148/765)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 114/733 - 148/765
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik
Walid b. Yazid
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Ibrahim b. Walid
Marwan b. Muhammad
Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah
al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Imam al-Kazim (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 128/745 - d. 183/799)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 148/765 - 183/799
Marwan b. Muhammad
Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah
al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Mahdi al-'Abbasi
Hadi al-'Abbasi
Harun al-Rashid
Imam al-Rida (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 148/766 – d. 203/818)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 183/799 - 203/818
Al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Mahdi al-'Abbasi
Hadi al-'Abbasi
Harun al-Rashid
Amin al-'Abbasi
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Jawad (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 195/811 - d. 220/835)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 203/818 - 220/835
Amin al-'Abbasi
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Hadi (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 212/828 - d. 254/868)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 220/835 - 254/868
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi
al-Wathiq bi Allah
al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi
al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi
al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
Imam al-'Askari (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 232/846 - d. 260/874)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 254/835 - 260/874
al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi
al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi
al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Mahdi (a)
ـــــــــــــــــ
(b. 255/869 - alive)
ـــــــــــــــــ
Duration of Imamate: 260/874 - alive
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tadad al-'Abbasi
al-Muktafi al-'Abbasi
al-Muqtadir al-'Abbasi
al-Qahir al-'Abbasi
al-Radi al-'Abbasi
...

'Ali (a), (based on the most famous reports), was born ten years before the beginning of the Prophet's (s) mission. Six years after the famine which struck Mecca and its suburbs, 'Ali (a) moved to the house of the Prophet (s) following the Prophet's (s) request and since then was adopted and raised by him (s).[10]

At the beginning of the Prophet's (s) mission, when he (s) returned from the cave of Hira to his house, 'Ali (a) and Khadija (s), the wife of the Prophet (s) accepted Islam as the first Muslims. At the beginning of the Prophet's (s) public mission, at the event of Yawm al-Dar, 'Ali (a) was the first and only person who expressly announced his faith in that gathering. He (a) never worshiped anything other than One God.[11]

'Ali (a) always accompanied the Prophet (s) until the Prophet (s) emigrated from Mecca to Medina and on the eve of his immigration, when disbelievers besieged the house of the Prophet (s) and rushed in to kill him in his bed, 'Ali (a) slept in the Prophet's (s) bed to save the Prophet's (s) life and the Prophet (s) went to Medina.[12] The cause of the revelation of the al-Ishtira' verse is this sacrifice.

'Ali (a) accompanied the Prophet (s) in Medina too, where he (a) married Fatima (s), the Prophet's (s) daughter. When the Prophet (s) was establishing the oath of brotherhood with his companions, appointed 'Ali (a) as his brother.[13]

'Ali (a) participated in all the battles the Prophet (s) attended except the battle of Tabuk when the Prophet (s) had ordered 'Ali (a) to stay in Medina in his own place. 'Ali (a) never retreated in any battle or turned away from any enemies and did not disobey the Prophet (s) in any issues, as the Prophet (s) said, "'Ali (a) never separates from the truth and the truth never separates from 'Ali (a)".[14]

After the Prophet (s)

On the day the Holy Prophet (s) passed away, 'Ali (a) was 33 years old. He (a) was superior to anyone in all religious merits and was distinguished among the companions and on several occasions, such as the event of Ghadir, when the Prophet (s) introduced him as the caliph after himself, but people him aside from caliphate with the excuse that he (a) was young and had spilled much blood in the battles of the Prophet (s) which had earned him numerous enemies. Thus he was completely removed from all public affairs. After some objections, he (a) was isolated for 25 years (which lasted to the end of caliphate of the third caliph). During these 25 years he compiled the Holy Qur'an and trained some individuals. After the Third Caliph was killed, people gave allegiance to 'Ali (a) and chose him as the caliph.[15]

He (a) was engaged in three wars during his caliphate which lasted almost four years and nine months:

  1. The Battle of Jamal: Some of the companions of the Prophet (s) who were led by Aisha, Talha, and Zubayr used the pretext of claiming the blood of the Third Caliph and rebelled and waged the battle of Jamal near Basra.
  2. The Battle of Siffin: It took place on the border of Iraq and Syria with Mu'awiya. It lasted one year and half.
  3. The Battle of Nahrawan: The last great mischief of his time was the battle with Khawarij.

Most of the time of his caliphate was spent to solve internal conflicts. Soon afterwards, he was hit on the head at the dawn of 19th of Ramadan 40/661 in the Mosque of Kufa when he was praying and passed on in the eve of 21st of the same month.[16]

Merits

As witnessed in the history and reported by his friends and enemies, Imam 'Ali (a) did not lack anything in human perfections and in Islamic merits, he was a perfect exemplar of the Holy Prophet's (s) education.[17]

In knowledge, 'Ali (a) was the most knowledgeable person among the companions of the Holy Prophet (s) and all other Muslims. He (a) was the first Muslim who used reasoning in his scientific opinions and made philosophical discussions in theological teachings and spoke about the interior of the Qur'an and to preserve its exterior, he (a) established the rules of Arabic syntax and was the most competent Arab in speech.[18]

In bravery, he (a) was an exemplar and he was unique in piety and worshiping God. There are many stories about him showing mercy to his subordinates and showing sympathy and generosity towards the poor.[19]

Imam al-Hasan (a)

Main article: Imam al-Hasan (a)

Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a) and his brother, Imam al-Husayn (a), were two sons of Imam 'Ali (a) and Lady Fatima (s). The Prophet (s) frequently is quoted saying, "al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a) are my children".[20]

Imam al-Hasan (a) was born in 3/625 in Medina. When he was 7 years old, he lost his grandfather, the Holy Prophet (s), and soon afterwards he lost his mother, lady Fatima (s).[21]

After the martyrdom of his father, he became the Imam following the God's commmand and the will of Imam 'Ali (a) and for six months, he managed Muslims' affairs as the caliph of Muslims. During his caliphate, Mu'awiya who was a great enemy of 'Ali (a) and his family and had fought for years (seeking caliphate firstly through claiming revenge for the Third Caliph's death and then overtly claiming caliphate itself), moved his army towards Iraq which was the capital of Imam al-Hasan's (a) caliphate and waged a war against him.

Mu'awiya gradually lured commanders of Imam al-Hasan's (a) army by giving them substantial amounts of money and tempting offers and made Imam's (a) army revolt against him so he (a) had to make peace with Mu'awiya and to hand the caliphate to Mu'awiya under the conditions that after the death of Mu'awiya, caliphate would return to Imam al-Hasan (a) and that his family and followers would be safe from any type of harm or offence.[22]

At the beginning of his caliphate, Mu'awiya broke his promise for observing the conditions. During Mu'awiya's caliphate which lasted 10 years, Imam al-Hasan (a) lived having great hardships and not being safe even in his own house. He was finally poisoned and martyred in 50/670 by his wife who was encouraged by Mu'awiya.[23]

Imam al-Husayn (a)

Main article: Imam al-Husayn (a)

Imam al-Husayn (a), known as "Sayyid al-Shuhada'" (English: Master of the martyrs), the second son of 'Ali (a) and Fatima (s), was born in 4/626 and became Imam after martyrdom of his brother, Imam al-Hasan (a), following the order of God and the will of Imam al-Hasan (a).[24]

Imam al-Husayn (a) was Imam for 10 years and except the last 6 months, his imamate coincided with the caliphate of Mu'awiya, during which he (a) lived under great hardships and severe conditions. During the last 6 months of Imam al-Husayn's (a) imamate, Mu'awiya tried to establish the caliphate of his profligate son, Yazid. In the middle of 60/680, Mu'awiya died and his son acceded to power.[25]

Imam al-Husayn's (a) Journey from Medina to Karbala

Quickly, Yazid ordered the governor of Medina to take Imam al-Husayn's (a) allegiance with Yazid, otherwise sends his head for him. When the governor of Medina delivered the message of Yazid to Imam al-Husayn (a), he (a) asked for time to think about that and moved towards Mecca at night and took refuge in al-Haram al-Makki(which is the common refuge in Islam) for four months.[26]

Meanwhile, the Imam (a) received a stream of letters from Iraq and especially from Kufa, who were asking him to go there and lead the people and rise up against injustice. During the rituals of hajj, Imam (a) was informed that some of the agents of Yazid had entered Mecca wearing the clothes of hajj pilgrims and were ordered to kill the Imam (a).[27]

In the gathering of people, Imam (a) delivered a short speech and informed them of his travel towards Iraq, mentioned his martyrdom and asked them to help him in his goal and to spend their blood on the way of God. The next day, he (a) moved towards Iraq accompanied by his family and some of his companions.[28]

Some of the distinguished people tried to stop him on his way advising and reminding him of the risk of such a movement, but in reply, the Imam (a) told them, "I would not give allegiance and do not approve the government of injustice and I know that wherever I go, they will kill me. And I leave Mecca to save it from being disrespected by spilling of my blood in it. "[29]

In Karbala

Main article: Event of 'Ashura'

Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions were besieged by the army of Yazid about 70 kilometers away from Kufa in the desert of Karbala. During these eight days, the siege became tighter and tighter and the number of the enemy's army increased. Soon, Imam al-Husayn (a), his family and his few companions were surrounded by circles of 30,000 armed soldiers.[30]

During those days, the Imam (a) strengthened the position of his companions and refined them. He (a) gathered them at night, made a short speech and said, "we have nothing ahead but martyrdom and they have nothing to do with anyone except me. Here, I waive my rights to your allegiance with me, so anyone can benefit the darkness of night and save his life from this horrible danger. "[31]

At the end of 9th day of Muharram, the enemy gave the Imam (a) the final deadline and he (a) asked them for one more night and kept the night vigil and worshiped. The 10th of Muharram 61/680, the Imam (a) and his few companions (less than 90 people, 40 of whom were old companions of the Imam (a), thirty some others joined the Imam (a) from the enemy's army and the rest were Hashimi relatives of the Imam (a), including his children, nephews and cousins) stood against the countless number of enemy's army and the war began.[32]

On that day, they fought from dawn to sunset and the Imam (a) and all his soldiers were martyred. Among the martyrs were two very young sons of Imam al-Hasan (a), a baby and Imam al-Husayn's (a) infant.[33]

Captivity of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) of the Imam (a)

Main article: Captives of Karbala

After the war finished, the army of enemy looted the tents of the Imam (a) and took the heads of martyrs and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) of the Imam (a) to Kufa and then to Damascus to Yazid.[34]

The Battle of Karbala, captivity of women and girls, taking them from one city to another, speeches made by Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Zaynab (a), daughter of Imam 'Ali (a) who were among the captives disgraced Umayyads and neutralized Mu'awiya's previous propaganda, so that even Yazid publicly renounced the acts of his agents. The Battle of Karbala was so effective in the history of Islam in a way that in a long term it caused the government of Umayyads to be toppled. It also strengthened the roots of Shi'a. Among its short term effects were the revolutions and revolts which lasted 12 years and not a single person who participated in the murder of the Imam (a) were able to escape the revenge.[35]

Imam al-Sajjad (a)

Main article: Imam al-Sajjad (a)
The tomb of four Imams of Shi'a in Maqbarat al-Baqi' before its destruction in 21 April 1926. The bodies of Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a), and Imam al-Sadiq (a) are buried in this tomb.
The graves of four Imams of Shi'a in al-Baqi' after the destruction. The graves from left to right belong to 1. Imam al-Sadiq (a), 2. Imam al-Baqir (a), 3. Imam al-Sajjad (a), 4. Imam al-Hasan (a), 5. al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib.

Imam 'Ali b. al-Husayn (a) titled as "Sajjad" and "Zayn al-'Abidin" was the third child of Imam al-Husayn (a), whose mother was Shahr Banu, daughter of Yazdegerd III, the last emperor of the Sassanid dynasty of Iran. His other three brothers were martyred in the Battle of Karbala, but he (a) was very sick so he could not go to the war and was sent to Syria together with other captives.[36]

After passing the term of captivity, Imam al-Sajjad (a) was returned to Medina respectfully by the order of Yazid to avoid the public rage. He (a) was once again arrested and chained by the order of the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Malik and brought from Medina back to Syria and returned to Medina later again.[37]

After returning to Medina, the fourth Imam (a) stayed at home, closed the door to strangers and engaged in worshiping God and did not accept to meet anyone except certain Shi'a such as Abu Hamza al-Thumali, Abu Khalid al-Kabuli and alike. However, these certain people circulated the teachings they learned from the Imam (a) among Shi'a and doing so, Shi'a was promoted so that it bloomed at the time of the fifth Imam (a).[38]

Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya is a collection of 57 of his supplications. After 35 years of his imamate, Imam al-Sajjad (a) was poisoned and martyred in 95/713 by Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik following the inducement of Hisham, the Umayyad caliph.[39]

Imam al-Baqir (a)

Main article: Imam al-Baqir (a)

Imam Muhammad b. 'Ali (a), known as "Baqir al-'Ulum". This is a title the Holy Prophet (s) had given him. Imam al-Baqir (a) was born in 57/733 and was 4 years old in the Battle of Karbala. After his great father, he (a) became the imam following the command of God and as his forefathers had mentioned. He (a) was martyred in 114/733 or 117/735. According to some hadiths from Shi'a, the Imam (a) was poisoned by Ibarahim b. Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik, the nephew of Hisham, the Umayyad caliph.[40]

At the time of the fifth Imam (a), there were frequent fights and revolts due to oppressions of the Umayyads and these challenges kept the government busy and away from annoying the Ahl al-Bayt (a). On the other hand, the occurrence of the Battle of Karbala and that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) were oppressed, made Muslims attracted to them and brought the Imam (a) such good opportunities to distribute Islamic teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) that none of the Imams (a) had in the past and this is proved by the many hadiths narrated from him.[41]

Imam al-Sadiq (a)

Main article: Imam al-Sadiq (a)

Imam Ja'far b. Muhammad (al-Sadiq), son of the fifth Imam (a) was born in 83/702 and was poisoned and martyred by the inducement of Abbasid caliph Mansur at the age of 65.[42] Except for Imam al-Mahdi (aj) who is in occultation, Imam al-Sadiq (a) was the oldest imam.

During his imamate, due to revolutions in Islamic countries and especially the uprising of al-Musawwida (people in black clothin) made to overthrow the Umayyad caliphate, and bloody wars took place which led to the fall of the caliphate of Umayyads. Therefore, the good grounds that the fifth Imam (a) had prepared by distribution of Islamic teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) during the 20 years of his imamate, brought up more opportunities and better atmosphere to spread religious teachings.[43]

During his 34 years of imamate, Imam al-Sadiq (a) distributed religious teachings and educated many scholars in different traditional and rational sciences such as Zurara, Muhammad b. Muslim, Mu'min al-Taq, Hisham b. Hakam, Aban b. Taghlib, Hisham b. Salim, Hariz, Hisham Kalbi Nasaba, Jabir b. Hayyan and others and even some Sunni scholars were honored to benefit from his classes such as Sufyan al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa (leader of Hanafi school), Qadi Sakuni, Qadi Abu l-Bakhtari and others. It is famously reported that 4000 hadith narrators and scholars were educated in his (a) classes. The hadiths narrated from al-Sadiqayn (the fifth and the sixth Imams (a)) are more than all hadiths narrated from the Prophet (s) and the other 10 Imams (a).[44]

Al-Mansur al-'Abbasi ordered his agents to arrest Imam al-Sadiq (a) in Medina. Imam (a) was arrested once before by the order of the Abbasid caliph Saffah and brought to Iraq and before that, he (a) was also arrested in the presence of Imam al-Baqir (a) by the order of the Umayyad caliph Hisham and brought to Damascus. Al-Mansur kept Imam al-Sadiq (a) under surveillance for a while and wanted to kill him but finally let the Imam (a) return to Medina and the Imam (a) lived the rest of his life in isolation, practicing Taqiyya. He was finally poisoned and martyred by the order of al-Mansur.[45]

Imam al-Kazim (a)

Main article: Imam al-Kazim (a)

The seventh Imam (a) lived contemporarily with al-Mansur, al-Hadi, al-Mahdi and Harun, in a very dark and difficult time and practiced Taqiyya. When Harun went to Medina during the time of hajj, ordered to arrest and chain Imam al-Kazim (a) when he (a) was praying in the mosque of the Prophet (s) and prison him. Then he took him (a) from Medina to Basra and from Basra to Baghdad. He (a) was taken from one prison to another for many. He (a) was finally poisoned and martyred in the prison of Sandi b. Shahak and was buried in a place called "Maqabir Quraysh" which is now located in the city of Kadhimiya.[46]

Imam al-Rida (a)

The shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) in Mashhad, Iran
Main article: Imam al-Rida (a)

The eighth Imam, 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida (a) was son of Imam al-Kazim (a) who was (according to most historical references) born in 148/765 and was martyred in 203/818.[47]

He (a) became the Imam (a) after his father by the command of God and following the report of his forefathers. His period of imamate was partly contemporary with the Abbasid caliph Harun, then with his son al-Amin and later with Harun's other son al-Ma'mun.[48]

After his father, al-Ma'mun had challenges with his brother al-Amin which led to bloody wars and al-Amin was finally killed. Until then, the policy of the Abbasid caliphate towards supporters of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) was aggressive and every once in a while one of the 'Alawi movements made an uprising and it was a trouble for the government. Even though the leaders of Shi'a did not cooperate with such uprisings, Shi'a who had a great population always regarded the Imams (a) as their religious leaders and considered the caliphate an impure system far away from the holiness of their leaders.[49]

Continuity of such a condition was dangerous for the caliphate, therefore al-Ma'mun thought to put an end to these troubles that his forefathers could not solve in 70 years. He decided to announce Imam al-Rida (a) as his heir apparent, because when 'Alawis found a link to the caliphate, they would not make any uprising against it anymore. On the other hand, when Shi'a saw their Imam's (a) connection with the caliphate and its rulers that he (a) had regarded as impure before, they will lose their belief and spiritual love for Imams (a) and thus their religious organization would fall and there would be no more threats from their side for the caliphate.[50] After such an achievement, killing Imam (a) would not be difficult for al-Ma'mun.

To actualize this plot, he summoned Imam (a) in 200/816 from Medina to Merv. He first offered caliphate and then succession to power to the Imam (a), but for both, the Imam (a) brought excuses and refused his offer. However, al-Ma'mun forced the Imam (a) to accept the latter, thus the Imam (a) accepted it provided that he (a) would not interfere in appointing or dismissing anyone. Soon afterwards, when al-Ma'mun saw the swift progress of Shi'a, he realized his mistake and poisoned and martyred the Imam (a). Imam al-Rida (a) was buried in Tus which is now located in the suburb of Mashhad, in North-east of Iran.[51]

Imam al-Jawad (a)

Main article: Imam al-Jawad (a)

Imam Muhammad b. 'Ali (titled as, Ibn al-Rida, al-Taqi, al-Jawad), son of the eighth Imam (a) was born in Medina in 195/811. According to Shi'a hadiths, he (a) was poisoned and martyred by his wife, daughter of al-Ma'mun induced by al-Mu'tasim. He (a) was buried in al-Kazimiyya beside his grandfather, Imam al-Kazim (a).[52]

He (a) became the imam after his father by the command of God and following the report of his forefathers. Upon the demise of his father, Imam al-Jawad (a) was in Medina. Al-Ma'mun summoned him to Baghdad, where at the time, was the capital of caliphate. He pretended to love him (a) so much that he married her daughter to Imam (a). Then, al-Ma'mun kept the Imam (a) in Baghdad and in fact wanted to keep him under full surveillance both in his house and the outside. After a while, the Imam (a) returned to Medina and stayed there until the end of al-Ma'mun's rule. After al-Ma'mun died, al-Mu'tasim acceded to power and again summoned the Imam (a) to Baghdad and kept him under surveillance. Finally, the Imam (a) was poisoned and martyred by his wife induced by al-Mu'tasim.[53]

Imam al-Hadi (a)

Main article: Imam al-Hadi (a)

Imam 'Ali b. Muhammad (titled as al-Naqi and al-Hadi), son of the ninth Imam (a) was born in Medina in 212/828 and (according to Shi'a reports) was poisoned and martyred by the Abbasid caliph, al-Mu'tazz, in 254/868.[54]

Imam al-Hadi (a) was contemporary with seven Abbasid caliphs, al-Ma'mun, al-Mu'tasim, al-Wathiq, al-Mutawakkil, al-Muntasir, al-Musta'in and al-Mu'tazz.[55]

In 243/857 and following the gossips they made about the Imam (a), al-Mutawakkil summoned the Imam (a) from Medina to Samarra where was the capital at the time. When the Imam (a) entered Samarra, al-Mutawakkil apparently did not do anything against him, but he prepared the ground for all means of annoying and disrespecting the Imam (a). He summoned the Imam (a) to his palace many times to disrespect or to kill him (a). He also searched the Imam's (a) house many times.[56]

Al-Mutawakkil had no peer among the Abbasid caliphs in enmity with the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and especially a serious enemy of Imam 'Ali (a) and publicly cursed him. He even had hired a clown to mimic Imam 'Ali (a) in his parties. In 237/851, he ordered to destroy the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) in Karbala and many houses built around it and to level them to ground. At his time, the living condition of 'Alawis in Hijaz became very wretched in a way that their women did not have enough clothes to wear, and some of them had only one old chador they wore in turn at the time of prayer. Al-Mutawakkil would make the same pressure upon Alavites of Egypt as well. Imam al-Hadi (a) tolerated under tortures of al-Mutawakkil, then after he died, al-Muntasir, al-Musta'in and then al-Mu'tazz came to power until finally Imam (a) was poisoned and martyred by the plot of al-Mu'tazz.[57]

Imam al-'Askari (a)

The shrine of al-Askariyyayn (a) in Samarra, Iraq, before its destruction in 22 February 2006
Main article: Imam al-'Askari (a)

Al-Hasan b. 'Ali (titled as al-'Askari), son of the tenth Imam (a) was born in 232/846 and (according to some Shi'a hadiths) was poisoned and martyred in 260/874 by the plot of al-Mu'tamid, the Abbasid caliph.[58]

Imam al-'Askari (a) became the Imam after his father was martyred, by the command of God and following the reports of his forefathers. His imamate lasted 7 years, during which he (a) had to practice severe Taqiyya because of the caliphate's excessive harassments and closed the door of his house to the people, even to ordinary Shi'a and did not meet anyone except the elites of them. However he (a) was in prison most of his life. The first reason behind all these harassments was that the number of Shi'a had increased in that time and their power had reached a considerably high level. Also, this fact that Shi'a believed in imamate was known to everyone and Imams (a) were soon found; thus, caliphate kept them under surveillance more than before and tried to kill them in any way possible. Secondly, they knew that the elites of Shi'a believed that Imam al-Askari (a) would have a son who would be the Promised Mahdi and the Holy Prophet (s) frequently had reported through Shi'a and Sunnis about his coming.[59]

Therefore, Imam al-'Askari (a) was kept under surveillance more than other Imams (a) and the caliph of his time had decided to finish the imamate of Shi'a in any way possible. As soon as they reported to him about the illness of the Imam (a), he sent a doctor to his house accompanied by some trustworthy men of his and assigned some judges to watch his house and anything that happened in it. After the Imam (a) was martyred, the caliph ordered to search his house and to check the Imam's (a) wife and slaves to find out if they were pregnant. For two years, caliph's agents were looking for the Imam's (a) son, until they were fully disappointed.[60]

Imam al-'Askari (a) was buried in his house in Samarra near his father's grave.[61]

Imam al-Mahdi (aj)

Main article: Imam al-Mahdi (aj)

The Promised Mahdi (a) (usually titled as "Imam al-'Asr" and "Sahib al-Zaman") is son of the Eleventh Imam (a) whose name and Kunya was the same as the Prophet's (s). He (a) was born in Samarra in 256/870 and lived with his father hidden from people until 260/874 when his father was martyred and just few elites of Shi'a met him. After his father's (a) martyrdom, when he (aj) became the Imam (a), he (a) became hidden from people.

Imam al-Mahdi'a (aj) occultation is divided in two periods:

  1. The Minor Occultation, which began in 260/874 and finished in 329/940 (lasted 70 years in Hijri calendar). During this period, the Imam (aj) communicated with people through his special deputies.[62]
  2. and the Major Occultation which began in 329/940 and continues until now. In a hadith which is accepted by both Shi'a and Sunni, the Prophet (s) said that, "If there is nothing left from the life of this world but only one day, God will prolong that day until al-Mahdi (aj) from among my children reappears and fills the world with justice just like it is filled with injustice and oppression. "[63]

Sunni References

In addition to what was mentioned above, Sunnis have always remembered the Imams (a) with great respect and dignity and this respect sometimes made an inspiration for writing books regarding their merits.

The books written by Sunnis about the merits of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are not few. One of the inspirational movement for writers was an ode composed by Abu l-Fadl Yahya b. Salama al-Haskafi (b. 551/1156 or 553/1158) in which he has praised every one of the Imams (a).[64]

The following are some of the books written about the merits of Imams (a) by Sunnis:

  1. Matalib al-sa'ul fi manaqib Al al-Rasul (a) written by Kamal al-Din b. Talha al-Shafi'i (b. 562/1167), published in Najaf by Dar al-Kutub al-Tijariyya.
  2. Tadhkirat al-khawas min al-umma fi dhikr khasa'is al-A'imma written by the Hanafite scholar Yusuf b. Qazawaghli Sibt b. al-Jawzi (b. 654/1256), frequently published including in Najaf 1369/1949.
  3. Al-Fusul al-muhimma fi ma'rifat al-a'imma written by Ibn Sabbagh al-Maliki (d. 855/1451) which has been frequently published including in Najaf by Dar al-Kutub al-Tijariyya, and its many issues in libraries of the Islamic world show its wide circulation in different centuries. In his work, Ibn Sabbagh has frequently quoted from Shi'a sources such as al-Shaykh al-Mufid's al-Irshad (pp. 192/807, 213/828, etc. )
  4. Al-Shadharat al-Dhahabiyya or al-A'immat al-ithna 'ashar written by Shams al-Din b. Tulun, a Hanafite scholar from Damascus (d. 953/1546), published in Beirut in 1377/1958 through the efforts of Salah al-Din al-Munjid.
  5. Al-Ithaf bi-hubb al-ashraf written by 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir al-Shibrawi, the Shafiite scholar from Egypt (d. 1172/1759) published in Cairo in 1313/1895.
  6. Nur al-absar fi manaqib Al Bayt al-Nabi al-mukhtar written by Sayyid Mu'min al-Shablanji (d. after 1290/1873) frequently published including in Cairo in 1346/1927.
  7. Yanabi' al-mawadda written by Sulayman b. Ibrahim al-Qunduzi, the Hanafite scholar (d. 1294/1877) published in Istanbul in 1302/1885.

Notes

  1. Nasir Makarim Shirazi, Payam-i Qur'an. vol. 9, p. 182 ff
  2. Tarjuma-yi al-mizan. vol. 13, p. 474
  3. Al-Tusi, al-Tibyan fi tafsir al-Qur'an. vol. 1, p. 214
  4. Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali. Kitab Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali, p. 227; Al-Najashi, Rijal, p. 440
  5. Al-Sharif al-Murtada. al-Dhakhira fi 'ilm al-kalam, p. 502-503; Al-Hilli, Kashf al-murad fi tajrid al-i'tiqad, p. 314
  6. see: al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari. vol. 8, p. 127; Muslim b. al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim. vol. 3, p. 1452-1453; Abu Dawud. Sunan. vol. 4, p. 106
  7. cf. al-Nu'mani, al-Ghayba, p. 62; al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Khisal, p. 469 ff; al-Khazzaz al-Qumi, Kifayat al-athar, p. 49 ff; Ahmad b. A'yyash al-Jawhari,. Muqtadab al-athar, p. 4
  8. see: Ahmad b. Hanbal. Musnad Ahmad. vol. 1, p. 398-406; Al-Hakim al-Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak 'ala al-sahihayn. vol. 4, p. 501; cf. al-Nu'mani, al-Ghayba, p. 74-75; al-Khazzaz al-Qumi, Kifayat al-athar, p. 33 ff; Ahmad b. A'yyash al-Jawhari,. Muqtadab al-athar, p. 3
  9. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 199
  10. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 199
  11. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 199-200
  12. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 200
  13. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 200-201
  14. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 201
  15. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 201
  16. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 201-202
  17. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 202
  18. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 202-203
  19. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 204-205
  20. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 205
  21. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 205
  22. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 205-206
  23. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 206-207
  24. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 207
  25. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 207-208
  26. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 209
  27. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 209-210
  28. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 210
  29. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 211
  30. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 211-212
  31. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 212
  32. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 212-213
  33. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 213
  34. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 213-214
  35. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 214
  36. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 215-216
  37. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 216
  38. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 216
  39. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 216-217
  40. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 217
  41. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 217-218
  42. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 218
  43. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 218-219
  44. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 219
  45. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 220
  46. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 221
  47. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 222
  48. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 222
  49. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 222-223
  50. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 223
  51. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 223-224
  52. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 224-225
  53. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 225
  54. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 225-226
  55. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 226
  56. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 226
  57. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 226-227
  58. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 227-228
  59. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 228
  60. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 229
  61. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 229
  62. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 230
  63. Tabataba'i, Shi'a dar Islam, p. 231
  64. Sibt b. al-Jawzi, Tadhkirat al-khawas, p. 365-367; Ibn Tulun, al-A'imma al-ithna 'ashar, p. 40-43

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