Message of Thaqalayn

A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Studies

Imamate and Wilayah, Part IV

It is necessary for people to have a leader and a guide who draws them nearer to righteousness and abandoning corruption. Having such a leader is a blessing and grace of God.  In Shi‘i Islam, the concept of Imamate is the necessity of having a leader who is appointed by God and will lead the ummah after the Prophet’s death.  The Imam surpasses the people in all admirable qualities such as piety, knowledge, courage, and wisdom.  He must also be infallible (ma’soum) as this trait ensures that he is trusted, obeyed, and is capable of defending divine law.  Thus, the Imam carries the role of both continuing the task of the Prophet in presenting true Islam as well as being a political leader.  An Imam is appointed only by God; the Prophet merely announces an Imam’s infallibility to the people. On the other hand, the Sunnis in theory believe that it is the responsibility of the people to appoint a caliph.  In what follows, we will refer to the appointments of the Imams by God and the particular case of who was appointed after the Prophet’s death.


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