Message of Thaqalayn

A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Studies

Imamate and Wilayah, Part I

Imamah, the concept of the universal administrator of the Islamic Nation, is one of the five principles of Shi‘i Islam. Although nearly all Muslim theologians agree on the necessity of Imamah, there are different views with respect to its significance, the leader’s role and the characteristics that qualify him to be one. As Prophet Muhammad’s functions were to teach Islam, judge and rule, the Shi‘a hold that a successor to him must also continue his functions with the exception that the Imams did not receive revelation and therefore they taught the same message which was revealed to the Prophet and they gained their religious knowledge through the Prophet. An Imam must have comprehensive knowledge, piety and leadership. On the other hand, Sunnis believe that political leadership suffices as a distinguishing quality of a leader.  In this article, the importance of Imamah in Shi‘i Islam will be discussed. In doing so, narrations of the Prophet regarding the necessity of simultaneously holding on to the Qur’an and the Ahl al-Bayt will be presented using both Sunni and Shi’a sources.


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