This article addresses the necessity of the existence of a Divine representative on the earth at all times. The references quoted in the article are from books of the Ahle Sunnah.
Two questions and our response
The opponents of Shiah argue that:
- Although Shiah consider the Imam necessary in order to expound the injunctions and verities of religion and to guide the people, the occultation of the Imam is the negation of this very purpose, for an Imam in occultation who cannot be reached by mankind cannot be in any way beneficial or effective.
- If God wills to bring forth an Imam to reform mankind, He is able to create him at the necessary moment and does not need to create him thousands of years earlier.
In answer to this, it must be said that such people have not really understood the meaning of the Imam. The duty of the Imam is not only the explanation of the religious sciences and external guidance of the people.
The Imam also bears the function of “Wilayah” (mastership) and the internal guidance of human. The divinely appointed Imam directs human’s spiritual life and orients the inner aspect of human action toward God. Clearly, his physical presence or absence has no effect in this matter.
Imam is the representative of Allah (Khalifatullah) on the earth, and is His vicegerent. He is the connection between the heavens and the earth, and is appointed by Allah as the intermediate for the rest of creatures. His existence is always necessary even if the time has not as yet arrived for his outward appearance and the universal reconstruction that he is to bring about.
Here is an example to clarify this delicate issue. Any human needs blood to continue his life, and the existence of blood is necessary in every single moment of life. This need is not, in anyway, independent of God. He is God who has created this need for human, and He is the one who has fulfilled it. Similarly the function of Imam over the rest of creatures is not independent of God.
He was Allah who created this need for the universe and He was Allah who has fulfilled it. Allah wished the inhabitants of the earth not to be able to live without the existence of His representative on the earth, the same way that Allah wished our body not to be able to survive without blood.
A divinely appointed Imam is a human, but being human does not mean that he could not have any authority over other humans by the permission of Allah. The closer the human is to Allah, the more authority he will have. Closeness to Allah is obtained through obedience and piety. When one reaches that level of perfection, he does not desire anything except Allah’s orders.
Imam is not divine, but he is fully supported by divine power. He has been given authority as the Quranic verses below testifies. This authority has come from Allah and is also controlled by Allah.
Another example would be to consider a company with a president and some managers and employees. The one who is closer to the president (in his position or any other aspects) has more authority than the others. This authority is given and is controlled by the president at any time. This authority is not in parallel with the authority of president, and remains as long as the president wishes to. The authorized person does not feel independence and can not do anything against the order of the president, otherwise the position will be taken away from him. The president has appointed that person to carry out a task.
Similarly, a divinely appointed Imam is not considered a parallel power beside Allah, and his authority is not independent of Allah since Allah does not relinquish His Majesty and Sovereignty to anyone. If He gives His righteous Servant a certain power or authority, He will still have control over that individual.
Allah appoints the Imams (as). He grants them authority
Quran testifies that Allah has assigned some Imams with authority to guide mankind:
وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ فِعْلَ الْخَيْرَاتِ
“And We assigned them Imams who guide by our authority and We have inspired in them the doing of good deeds.” (Chapter 21 verse 73)
At another place, Allah says,
وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُوا وَكَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ
“And We appointed from among them some Imams who guide by our authority since they were patient and believed firmly in Our Signs.”(Chapter 32 verse 24)
Moreover, on the commentary of Quranic verse, “And lo! verily I am forgiving toward him who repents and believes and does good deeds, and afterward he accept guidance” (Chapter 20 verse 82), Ibn Hajar mentioned that it is narrated from Imam Baqir (as) as well as Thabit al-Lubnani that, the “the guidance” mentioned at the end of verse means “he is guided to the Wilayah of the Ahlul Bayt.”(al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami chapter 11 section 1 page 235).
Allah, Exalted, also said, “O you who believe! Obey Allah, and Obey Apostle and those from among you who are given authority (by Allah).” (Chapter 4 verse 59)
Who are those Imams whom Allah gave them authority and are to be obeyed beside the Prophet?
The above verses of Quran prove beyond doubt that a divinely appointed Imam has authority and he guides. The authority of Imam is not restricted over a group of people but also covers every other creatures (see Quran 36:12 which uses the word Imam for keeping the account of everything). Again, this authority is controlled by Allah.
Allah also said in Quran:
إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُنذِرٌ وَلِكُلِّ قَوْمٍ هَادٍ
“(O Mohammed!) You are but a Warner, and for every community there exists a guide.” (Chapter 13 verse 7).
Holy Prophet (sawa) was a warner, and the Imams of his Ahle Bayt were each a guide for the people of their time. In fact, the following commentators of Quran from Ahle Sunnah narrated that the word “Guide” in the above verse was Imam Ali (as):
- Tafsir al-Tabari, volume 13 page 72;
- Tafsir al-Kabir, by Fakhr al-Razi, on the commentary of verse 13:7
- Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthoor, by al-Suyuti, under verse 13:7 of Quran
- Kanz al-Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, volume 6 page 157
- Noor al-Absar, by al-Shablanji page 70
- Kunooz al-Haqa’iq, by al-Manawi page 42.
If there should be a guide for each time, as the verse 13:7 testifies, then the question arises, who is this guide today? There should be an alive Imam in every instant of time, in order the above verses make sense. This is another proof for the fact that Imam Mahdi (as) is alive.
Imam Mahdi (as) is the remnant of Allah (Baqiyatullah)
بَقِيَّتُ اللَّـهِ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
That which is spared by Allah (on the earth) is better for you if you are believers. (Chapter 11 verse 86)
The above verse is another proof for the fact that there exists one individual at each era who is kept alive by Allah (Baqiyatullah) on the earth to maintain the cause of faith and he is the Imam of that age, and this position was never vacated so long as the earth carries even one human being.
This, in fact, is a doctrine of Shiah that a “Proof (Hujjah) of Allah” should always exist on earth for earth to continue its function as a living place for human being. It is NOT that Hujjah is god or life-giver, rather it is because Allah has created the world for the best of His servants. The best of Allah’s creation is the one who is the most obedient to him at each time.
Other creatures are considered to be secondary objects in the sight of Allah. Besides, there are traditions stating that if it happens that there exists only one human on the earth, he is the “Proof (Hujjah) of Allah”.
This implies that Allah never left the human on the earth without His representative. At the time of the prophets, the Hujjah were the prophets. Now that there will be no prophet after Prophet Mohammed (sawa), the proof is the living member of his Ahle Bayt at each era till the day of resurrection.
Beside the verses from Quran, here are some traditions from the books of Ahle Sunnah to support this aspect.
Earth cannot survive without a living Imam (as)
Ahmed Ibn Hanbal and many others narrated that Holy Prophet (sawa) said, The stars are amnesty for the inhabitants of the heavens, and if the stars go away (i.e., become non-existent), the inhabitants of the heavens will be destroyed. And my Ahle Bayt are amnesty for the inhabitants of the earth, and if my Ahle Bayt go away (i.e., all die), the inhabitants of the earth will be destroyed.
- Fadha’il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal volume 2 page 671 tradition no. 1145
- Dhakha’ir al-Uqba, by Muhibbuddin al-Tabari page 14
- Manaqib Ahmad and many more such as al-Tabarani, etc.
- al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami chapter 11 section 1 page 234
- Musnad, Abu Ya’ala, on the authority of Salama Ibn Awka in which the wording is, “The stars are amnesty for the inhabitants of the heavens, and my Ahlul Bayt are the amnesty for my Ummah.”
Ahle Bayt (as) should not be disobeyed
The Messenger of Allah said, The stars help prevent the inhabitants of the earth from being drowned, and my Ahle Bayt are the protectors of my community against disputes (in religious matters). Therefore, whichever groups among the Arabs opposes my Ahle Bayt, shall be split up by dissensions and will become (a party of) Satan.
- al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim volume 3 page 149, who said this tradition is authentic (Sahih).
- al-Tabarani, quoting Ibn Abbas
- Also in al-Manaqib Ahmad, as quoted by Muhibbuddin al-Tabari.
- al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami chapter 11 section 1 p234
Ibn Hajar mentioned the above two traditions as well as many other similar ones under the commentary of the following Quranic verse: “It is not for Allah to punish them while you are among them.” (Chapter 8 verse 33)
Then Ibn Hajar comments that, Ahle Bayt are amnesty for the inhabitant of the earth the same as the Messenger of Allah was amnesty for them. In the next page, after mentioning a tradition from Sahih Muslim which states that after the end of government of Justice in the last days, just before the day of resurrection Allah sends a wind which takes the souls of all the believers and only wrong-doers will remain when the earthquakes of hour of resurrection occurs.
Then Ibn Hajar comments, To my opinion, it probably refers to the Ahlul Bayt, since Allah created this world for the sake of the Prophet, and has made its existence conditional to the existence of his Ahlul Bayt for they have certain virtues in common with the Prophet as Fakhr al-Razi mentioned, and because the Messenger of Allah said on their virtue that: “O Allah! They are from me and I am from them” since they are a part of him as their mother, Fatemah, was a part of him. Thus they (Ahlul Bayt) are also amnesty for the earth (similar to what the above verse establishes for the Prophet himself). (al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar chapter 11 section 1 page 234)
Condition of people after Ahle Bayt (as)
In another tradition, it is narrated that, Holy Prophet was asked, What would be the condition of the people after the Ahle Bayt, and he replied, Their condition will be like that of an ass whose spine is fractured. (al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah by Ibn Hajar p143)
These traditions, therefore, leave no room for any doubt regarding to existence of Ahle Bayt in each era, and that the Imam of the time, Imam Mahdi (as), is alive.
Pay attention to the following tradition. Holy Prophet (sawa) said, Regard the Ahle Bayt among you as the head to the body, or the eyes to the face, for the face is only guided by the eyes.”
- Is’af al-Raghibeen, by al-Saban
- al-Sharaf al-Mua’abbad, by Shaikh Yusuf al-Nabahani page 31, by more than one authority
Ahle Bayt (as) will exist in every age and era
The Messenger of Allah (sawa) said, In every generation of my followers there are going to be just and righteous members of my Ahle Bayt to counteract the alterations and corruption which the misguided people will try to make in my religion, to remove the false allegations of the untruthful and contradict the misinterpretations of the ignorant. Beware! Your Imam shall be your representative before Allah, so be careful whom you adopt as your representative.
- al-Sirah, by al-Mala
- al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar chapter 11 section 1 page 231 under the commentary of verse: “And stop them, for they shall be questioned!” (Chapter 37 verse 24)
Imam Ali (as) said, I and my pure holy descendants and my virtuous household are most sober in childhood and when we grow up we are the wisest: we are the means through which Allah shall exterminate falsehood and break the teeth of blood-thirsty wolves and restore you the freedom by removing the ropes that are tied around your necks. Allah wished to commence (all things) through us, and to complete (all things) through us.
- Kanz al-Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi volume 6 page 36
- Aydah al-Ishkal, by Abd al-Ghani
The clear and unequivocal terms in which the Holy Prophet has directed us about these matters in the above-mentioned traditions cannot be surpassed or equaled in any other language.
Who are the Ahle Bayt (as)
The word Ahle Bayt can not cover all the family of the Prophet (sawa). This label applies only to those who occupy the position of Imams by Divine decree, as established by reasons and upheld by the traditions. Learned scholars from the major section of the Muslims also admit this.
Ibn Hajar writes in his al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah:
The Ahle Bayt, whom the Holy Prophet has designated as protectors are the learned men among his family, since the guidance can be attained only through them. They are like the stars through whom we are guided in the right direction, and if the stars are taken away (or hidden) we would come face to face with the signs of the Almighty as promised (i.e., the Day of Resurrection). This will happen when the Mahdi will come, as mentioned in the traditions, and the Prophet Jesus will say his prayers behind him, the Dajjal will be slain, and then the signs of the Almighty will appear one after another. (al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar chapter 11 section 1 page 234)
This is why the demise of the twelfth Imam will bring the end of the world, and this is one of the reasons that he should be alive.
At another place, Ibn Hajar writes, The traditions which describe the necessity of adherence to Ahlul Bayt until the day of Judgment, also imply that the existence of the righteous members of the family of the Prophet will NOT terminate until the day of Judgment the same way as the Book of Allah will remain. (al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah by Ibn Hajar chapter 11 section 1 page 232)
Read more about Imam Mahdi in the Ahle Sunnah
- Belief in Imam Mahdi (as) In The Ahle Sunnah
- Mahdi Is From the progeny of Holy Prophet (sawa)
- Mahdi is from me – Holy Prophet (sawa)
- Mahdi is from the Ahlul Bayt (as)
- Mahdi is from the Progeny of Fatemah (sa)
- Mahdi is from the sons of Abdul Muttalib (as)
- Mahdi will fill the earth with justice
- Mahdi will rule for seven years
- Obey Mahdi The Caliph of Allah
- One who denies the Mahdi is a disbeliever
- mam Mahdi (as) and Hazrat Isa
- Imam Mahdi (as) is generous
- Imam Mahdi’s (as) advent will be sudden
- Books of Ahle Sunnah about Imam Mahdi (as)
- Prophecies about Imam Mahdi (as) in Sihah Sitta
- Mahdi in Sihah Sitta – Part I | Part II | Part III