Principles of the Shiite denomination

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Principles of the Shiite denomination (Arabic: ) are the fundamental beliefs in Shiism, including monotheism, prophethood, resurrection, divine justice, and imamate. According to the Shias, denial of any of the first three principles (monotheism, prophethood, and resurrection), which are the principles of the religion, amounts to disbelief in (and excommunication from) Islam, but the denial of divine justice or imamate only amounts to excommunication from the Shiite denominations, and not Islam. What distinguishes Shias from other Islamic sects is that they view Imamate as fundamental to religion, which is why they are called “Imamiyya.” Moreover, the belief in the principle of divine justice distinguishes Mu'tazila and Shia from Ash'arites, which is why the Shia and Mu'tazila are called “'Adliyya.”


The principles of the Shiite denomination are the five principles (monotheism, prophethood, resurrection, imamate, and divine justice), which constitute the foundation of the Shiite denomination. The belief in all of these principles makes one a Shia, and the disbelief in any of them means that the person is not a Shia. The first three principles (monotheism, prophethood, and resurrection) are the principles of the religion (Islam), the disbelief in which amounts to one’s excommunication from Islam.

Exclusively Shiite Principles

Imamate and divine justice are the exclusive principles of the Shiite denomination.


Main article: Imamate

Imamate is the belief that imamate (leadership of the Islamic society and the succession of Prophet Muhammad (s)) is a divine position. On this doctrine, God has appointed twelve persons from the descendants of the Prophet (s) as Imams. Here are the twelve Imams in order: Imam ʿAli (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a), Imam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a), Imam al-Sadiq (a), Imam al-Kazim (a), Imam al-Rida (a), Imam al-Jawad (a), Imam al-Hadi (a), Imam al-ʿAskari (a), and Imam al-Mahdi (a).

Why is Imamate a Principle of the Denomination?

According to Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita' in his Asl al-Shi'a wa usulu-ha, Shiism is distinguished from other Islamic sects by its belief in imamate. It is because of their belief in the imamate of the twelve Imams that they are called “Imamiyya.” Thus, imamate is a principle of the Shiite denomination, the denial of which amounts to excommunication from Shiism.

Divine Justice

Main article: Divine Justice

This is the belief that God justly acts in the existential and legislative systems, and never does any injustice. ʿAdliyya (that is, Shia and Muʿtazila who believe in divine justice) believe that the goodness and badness of things are rational. In this way, to say that God is just is to say that He acts in accordance with the goodness of things and does not do injustice because of its badness. In contrast, Ashʿarites believe that the criterion for justice is God’s act; that is, whatever He does is just and good, even if it counts as unjust from the human perspective.

Why is Divine Justice a Principle of the Denomination?

According to Misbah Yazdi, a Shiite philosopher (d. 2021), divine justice counts as the principle of Shiism and Muʿtazilism because of its significance in theology. Moreover, Murtada Mutahhari, a Shiite intellectual (d. 1979), believes that divine justice is among the principles of the Shiite denomination because ideas such as the denial of human free will had become common among Muslims, which implied that it was unjust for God to punish sinful people because they had no free will and their acts were compulsory. The Shia and Muʿtazila believed that it was incompatible with divine justice to punish people without free will, which is why they came to be known as 'Adliyya (believes in divine justice).

The Common Principles

  • Monotheism: the belief in God’s existence and oneness, and the belief that He has no partner.
  • Prophethood: the belief that God appointed certain people as prophets to guide people. The first prophet was Adam (a), and the last prophet was Muhammad (s).
  • Resurrection: the belief that humans come back to life after their death and their good or bad acts will be judged.