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In the Name of God بسم الله
warisshah2012

Why Stop At Only 12 Imams? An Intellectual Query

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Salam

I am reading about Imamate and it is very interesting intellectually but here are some questions I have:

If we have a divinely appointed imam to guide us on the way of the Prophet (s.a.w.) why only stop after 12? Why not continue with one imam after another till Imam Mahdi?

I would like you to answer this without referring to the Sunni hadith books about the hadith of 12 caliphs or similar narrations in your own books but only using intellect and logic. See, I am almost convinced that the idea of a divinely appointed ruler for the Muslim Ummah, who is protected from sin is a good one and it makes sense to my intellect but since we do not know when the Day of Judgement will be and when the world will end, shouldn't there be a continuous line of imams, one after the other, until the last one (whom we can call Imam Mahdi (a.s.) ?

I am a Sunni Muslim and a member of a Sufi tariqah but have recently been reading about Shi'ism as well and this question came to me.

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Good question warrisshah. The truth is, in the school of thought of Imam Jaffer (politically speaking the Shia school of thought), we believe the 12th Imam is a present and active Imam for the last 1000 years, though most of us do not directly see him. He has guided the top scholars which most followers of this school of thought adhere to. Imam Mahdi (as) will stay in this world till the end of time, and after his death, there is no other reason for the world to remain in existence, and so Allah Almighty will start the processes for the Day of Ressurection, before the Day of Judgement

The concept of the prolonged life and the wisdom behind the occultation of Imam Mahdi (as) is a whole topic in itself, and if you search the site you will come across quite a few threads which talk about this is detail

Best of luck with your research bro/sis

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If you are talking about the number of Imams then, purely in my opinion from an intellectual way, you cannot deduce this intellectually because there are things which only Allah know, like why is there male and female, why does a human have two eyes, why is there only a day and night. But, there has to be a beginning and an end. Starting from Adam till Imam Mahdi A.S., that is all that is needed in Allah's plan. Look around you. now Islam alhamduillah is prevalent, and every doesnt just believe, they want to know intellectually why they believe. Subhanallah! Still, Islam proves to be the most intellectual religion. But if you are wondering why Imams stop at 12, because after Imam Mehdi A.S its the day of judgement. But you ave to understand the reason between Imam Mahdi's disappearance and his return. At the same time human kind is advancing, but we are losing what makes us human, morality, ethics, piety, truthfulness, justice, freedom, these are all going downhill and there will be a time where there will be consent bloodshed and injustice done upon innocent people. Islam will be the target, there would be no peace at all, this is when Allah commands Imam Mahdi to come and to restore Justice and Peace and Tranquility upon the world with the will and help of Allah. You can think of it as utopia, after this, there is no need for Imams protecting the religion because it is said when Imam Mahdi comes all will be Muslims(Shia). True Islam will be established. This is why only twelve is needed.

Hope I helped alittle...Wa Salaam

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Had the Imams been alive today, our Madhab would be all over the place, like the many divisions Ismailis have, and also the Ismaili concept of infallibility of their current Aga Khans is beyond me.

Their present Imams party it up (Yes, research, I can back it up as well) and yet they are infallible.

An Imam was to guide us, which they did, and were really infallible based on Shi'a and Sunni narratives on their pious and generous lifestyles. But their influence was severely limited (except Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (as) ) and were all murdered ruthlessly.

This harshness towards the Imams led to a breaking point by the time the 11th Imam Hassan al-Askari (as) came around, and thus, our last Imam (atfs) had to go into occultation. as it became clear that the whole bloodline would be wiped.

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(bismillah)

The question of why only 12 Imams is a difficult one to answer. I would consider this a non-rational element of our beliefs. That is to say that our rational faculty could not possibly deduce why only 12. For the same question could be posed in regards to why only 124,000 prophets. Why not keep that same system of guidance of prophethood till the Day of Resurrection. It's one that we simply do not possess the ability to rationalize. As I could say that 13 Imams would have been better and provided a case as to why it would have been so. And another person could bring forth an argument in which 1 Imam would be the best scenario. Only Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows and His Wisdom cannot be comprehended.

However, what we can do, like you mentioned in your post, is to rationally concluded that an Imam must exist and that he must be infallible (at the very least in regards to his action and words). So, rationally speaking, we could say that Allah ( سبحانه و تعالى) must provide us with Divine Guidance at all times and for that to be relatable to humans (i.e. The guidance must also come in human form). With this, we try and live according to the famous and widely-acknowledged hadith of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The hadith which states that one must adhere to two forms of Divine Guidance in order to stay clear from error, The Noble Qur'an and the Ahlul Bayt (as). This reaffirms our rationally-derived statement that Allah ( سبحانه و تعالى) must provide us with humans who can guide us to the right path. And His Book to act as a miracle proving the veracity of their claim as "heirs to the Prophet (pbuh)" (i.e. they must not contradict the dictates of His Book).

So, yes we can conclude that an Imam must exist at all times to guide the Ummah. However, such questions as to how he guides the Ummah, how many Imams there are, who exactly are they, how much knowledge do they have, what is their status and position, along with thousands of other theological queries cannot be rationally-derived. For these questions, we must refer to the traditions that have so far reached us. Hope this helps.

(wasalam)

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Salam alaikum brother

It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to interact with someone who demands logic and reason, just as the Qur'an demands from us.There are multiple functions of the Imams but among the most important are two.

1) To serve as protectors of Islam, both in keeping the teachings pure (which has been successful most prominently due to the events with the third Imam at Karbala, Hussein ibn Ali, and the other Imams that were able to spread their teachings to such an extent that it would not leave the people such as Imams Jaf'ar ibn Muhammad and Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir) and in serving as mercies for those who have the chance to interact with them.

2) To give people a chance to have leader, and thereby a government and a source of knowledge, that will serve to show the true potential of a human being, and demonstrate to us that we ourselves are capable of being mahsum (pure and sinless).

The question as to why twelve Imams, and why an occultation is similar to the question, why was Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) sent so late after Hazrat Isa (peace be upon him)? Could not Allah (Swt) simply send the last message earlier so as to help more people? The non-Muslims often ask this question, and it is a perfectly valid one to think over. Allah (Swt) has not sent the Qur'an, The Prophet (or any prophet), or the Imams as a necessity for ourselves to understand the principles of Islam. That is to say, if we had our divinely established intellect but no Qur'an we would be capable of fulfilling our purpose in life, but if we had no intellect and a Qur'an we would be unable to make use of it. And as Allah (Swt) says in the Qur'an: "They will also say, 'Had We listened or used our minds, we would not have become the dwellers of hell.'" (67:10) The Qur'an in of itself acknowledges that the faculty of our intellect is on par with the Qur'an, and the Qur'an's constant call to ponder on its verses demonstrates that the intellect is the means by which you distinguish truth from falsehood. So then, these three things (Qur'an, etc.) are mercies given to us to rid us of our excuses on Judgement Day and to assist on our journey towards the Almighty. The gap between Hazrat Isa and Muhammad is the same as the gap between Mahdi's occultation and his return from occultation. If Muhammad had come at any other time and at any other place in history he would have been killed, and you can see this by observing the perfection of the timing and location when he came between two dying empires and among a community ripe for something new. Likewise, if any Imam were to be appointed now they would be killed, and the occultation continues not due to the reservations or fear of the Mahdi but due to the fact that in general the people are not ready. Whether there be 12 or not is irrelevant to these previous factors being the case. Hadiths and things like the fact that Allah (Swt) has always instituted leaders (not just prophets) and not allowed the people to be the ones doing so (a good example is the story of Talut in Surah Baqarah) serve as reinforcement for what we see philosophically.

Salam.

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Thanks for the replies but I believe you brothers, being 12ers, are back-projecting your belief to answer the question. i.e starting from the premise that there

are 12 imams (as per your belief) and working backwards. As a neutral--i.e. I am not Shia neither 12er nor 7er nor 5er (Zaydi) --I cannot see why Imamate had to stop

with the Occultation. If Allah had divinely appointed someone surely He will protect them too--after all, He protected the first 11 without them going into Occultation.

So, why not a 13th and a 14th...until Imam Mahdi comes and rules the whole world (as per Sunni and Shia belief).

You mention the Aga Khani Ismailis and yet their position seems to be more logical. They have an Imam going back all the way to Imam Ali (a.s.) and you cannot

say he is not from Aal Muhammad (s.a.w.) Also, if He is divinely-appointed then doesn't he have the right as Imam to make any changes he likes to the interpretation off the Deen?

I am finding it hard to believe why a Divinely Chosen leadership for all the Muslims would have to stop at a fixed number and not continue till Qayamat.

Thanks for the replies so far they've been food for thought.

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Thanks for the replies but I believe you brothers, being 12ers, are back-projecting your belief to answer the question. i.e starting from the premise that there

are 12 imams (as per your belief) and working backwards. As a neutral--i.e. I am not Shia neither 12er nor 7er nor 5er (Zaydi) --I cannot see why Imamate had to stop

with the Occultation. If Allah had divinely appointed someone surely He will protect them too--after all, He protected the first 11 without them going into Occultation.

So, why not a 13th and a 14th...until Imam Mahdi comes and rules the whole world (as per Sunni and Shia belief).

You mention the Aga Khani Ismailis and yet their position seems to be more logical. They have an Imam going back all the way to Imam Ali (a.s.) and you cannot

say he is not from Aal Muhammad (s.a.w.) Also, if He is divinely-appointed then doesn't he have the right as Imam to make any changes he likes to the interpretation off the Deen?

I am finding it hard to believe why a Divinely Chosen leadership for all the Muslims would have to stop at a fixed number and not continue till Qayamat.

Thanks for the replies so far they've been food for thought.

Allah guides in his own ways...Why did Allah take Jesus, why did Allah take him into hiding? most of the prophets and all the imams got killed by people, did Allah protect them? Allah protects in his own way, death must come upon us one way or another, how ever it may be...

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To throw hadith out doesn't entirely have philosophical backing since the idea of Imamate is not a philosophical requirement for discovering Truth, and therefore the idea in of itself is presented through hadith and Qur'an. I'm personally a convert to Islam so insha'Allah I do not believe I have any bias except that the ones among men I have found worthy of being Imams are those twelve and no other, it would not bother me in the slightest if someone proposed new imams to me if it is true it should be accepted, if false it should not.

Surely Allah (Swt) is fully capable of protecting the Imam should he emerge, however this would only be done with one of two options:

1) Enslave the vast amount of people who would oppose him

2) Kill them

Otherwise, the vast amount of people (even Muslims) would be constantly attempting to kill him. The other alternative is magic shield or what have you.

What then is the point of giving the people this opportunity of guidance present within Imamate if it is to be predicated by ridding the majority of human beings with the free will that is the crux why our existence is important. It would require that Allah (Swt) violate His own principles in His own book 'there is no compulsion in religion'.

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OP: first answer first two questions stated below. Answering the two below might help in answering the limit of 12 questions.

I liked it the limitations.. let's don't refer to Quran and Hadith. Let's prove is using Aql (reasoning, logic).

1. Why limit to one God? Why not 2 03 3 or many..

2. Why the limit on the prophet hood? Why the nabuwa stopped at the Khatim ul Anbiuya (pbuh)?

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Salam

I am reading about Imamate and it is very interesting intellectually but here are some questions I have:

If we have a divinely appointed imam to guide us on the way of the Prophet (s.a.w.) why only stop after 12? Why not continue with one imam after another till Imam Mahdi?

I would like you to answer this without referring to the Sunni hadith books about the hadith of 12 caliphs or similar narrations in your own books but only using intellect and logic. See, I am almost convinced that the idea of a divinely appointed ruler for the Muslim Ummah, who is protected from sin is a good one and it makes sense to my intellect but since we do not know when the Day of Judgement will be and when the world will end, shouldn't there be a continuous line of imams, one after the other, until the last one (whom we can call Imam Mahdi (a.s.) ?

I am a Sunni Muslim and a member of a Sufi tariqah but have recently been reading about Shi'ism as well and this question came to me.

There is never any answer to 'WHy' in this world. We can only answer 'WHAT' and 'HOW'.

These are our limitations as humans, we can do nothing about it.

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Thanks for the replies but I believe you brothers, being 12ers, are back-projecting your belief to answer the question. i.e starting from the premise that there

are 12 imams (as per your belief) and working backwards. As a neutral--i.e. I am not Shia neither 12er nor 7er nor 5er (Zaydi) --I cannot see why Imamate had to stop

with the Occultation. If Allah had divinely appointed someone surely He will protect them too--after all, He protected the first 11 without them going into Occultation.

So, why not a 13th and a 14th...until Imam Mahdi comes and rules the whole world (as per Sunni and Shia belief).

You mention the Aga Khani Ismailis and yet their position seems to be more logical. They have an Imam going back all the way to Imam Ali (a.s.) and you cannot

say he is not from Aal Muhammad (s.a.w.) Also, if He is divinely-appointed then doesn't he have the right as Imam to make any changes he likes to the interpretation off the Deen?

I am finding it hard to believe why a Divinely Chosen leadership for all the Muslims would have to stop at a fixed number and not continue till Qayamat.

Thanks for the replies so far they've been food for thought.

(bismillah)

Of course, everybody is going to carry some preconceived notions with them into a discussion. So, there is no way of getting around that. However, what you should do is consider the arguments on their own merit.

Like I mentioned in my earlier post, you cannot get a rational answer as to why only 12 Imams. You can only rationally derive a proof for the necessary existence of an Imam (a representative of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) on the Earth). You can't demand a certain method of proving a particular claim when its impossible. It's like what atheists demand of us. That we provide by empirical evidence the existence of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). Not going to happen.

For the sake of this discussion, let's put the issue of Imamate aside for now.

I'm sure that you agree with me that there were roughly 124,000 prophets that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) sent to mankind. Of whom, the last was our Beloved Prophet (pbuh). Now, how did we come to know this? It is through the prophetic traditions themselves. And even if you disagree with this number you would agree that our Prophet (pbuh) was the "Seal of prophets". So, this implies a finite number of prophets from Prophet Adam (as) to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). And there has not been another prophet for almost 1400 years since the demise of our Prophet (pbuh). Now, with the same issue that you bring forth regarding Imamate, how do you explain the finite number of prophets? Why did Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) only send a certain number of prophets? Why did he not send any more after our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)? If you only accept Prophethood but not Imamate, how do you explain why Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) would leave us without someone to guide us to the right path at all times? Could you please give me an objective and rational answer to this question (i.e. without referring to the traditions)?

I am simply pointing this out to you to show that we prove Imamate in almost the same way that we prove Prophethood. The only exception is that the number and identity of the Imams must be given to us by the Prophet (pbuh) himself (i.e. the Imams were not given the ability to prove their own claim through miracles). So, we must refer to the traditions. The objections that you raised regarding Imamate can also be applied to the concept of Prophethood. And if you do that, you're essentially saying that Prophethood also cannot be rationally established (or at least the prophethood of our Beloved Prophet (pbuh)).

(wasalam)

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Thanks for the replies but I believe you brothers, being 12ers, are back-projecting your belief to answer the question. i.e starting from the premise that there

are 12 imams (as per your belief) and working backwards. As a neutral--i.e. I am not Shia neither 12er nor 7er nor 5er (Zaydi) --I cannot see why Imamate had to stop

with the Occultation. If Allah had divinely appointed someone surely He will protect them too--after all, He protected the first 11 without them going into Occultation.

So, why not a 13th and a 14th...until Imam Mahdi comes and rules the whole world (as per Sunni and Shia belief).

You mention the Aga Khani Ismailis and yet their position seems to be more logical. They have an Imam going back all the way to Imam Ali (a.s.) and you cannot

say he is not from Aal Muhammad (s.a.w.) Also, if He is divinely-appointed then doesn't he have the right as Imam to make any changes he likes to the interpretation off the Deen?

I am finding it hard to believe why a Divinely Chosen leadership for all the Muslims would have to stop at a fixed number and not continue till Qayamat.

Thanks for the replies so far they've been food for thought.

(salam)

We do believe that the world till Qiyama will never be free of Divine Leadership, so whatever number it stops at isn't quite the point. If it stops at 12 or 1000, the world will never be free of a leader, and our narrations clearly and explicitly confirm this. In fact the presence of a divine leader is what allows the world to subsist, and were there not a divine leader, the world would cease to exist.

Secondly and more importantly (because this is where the confusion seems to have arisen for you), the divine leader does not have to be physically seen for him to have a role in this world. The Imam plays a vital role, and as mentioned earlier, the world ceases to exist if he was not there, what greater role than that could be found?! We believe the Imam, despite the occultation, influences, helps, guides and has an active role in this world. The occultation - reasons of which we perhaps cannot understand due to Divine Wisdom - does not negate the presence or understate the role of the Imam [ajtfs].

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