In reply to this proper and appropriate query, we have to say that not only one but numerous traditions have come down from the holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in which one can find the names and qualities of Imams. Even in some cases, the characteristics of their companions are described too.
For the sake of brevity, we confine ourselves to the precious book,“Usul-Kafi” . This book, that was written during the minor concealment i.e., between 260 A.H. and 329 A.H., was thus closer to the time of scholars of Hadith and narrators, and the traditions narrated therein are reliable and authentic.
In this book, twenty traditions have come down about the twelve Imams and their characteristics. However, we shall restrain ourselves by only one famous tradition named as Hadith-e-lauh:
Abu-Baseer quotes from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that:
“One day, my father said to Jabir-ibn-Abdullah Ansari, ‘I have some private work with you.”
‘Jabir replied, ‘Whenever you wish, I am at your service.’
So one day, when my father found Jabir alone, he said, ‘O Jabir, inform me about the Lauh (tablet) that you saw in the hands of my mother, Hazrat Fatemah (a.s.). What did Fatemah (a.s.) say and what was written in that Lauh (tablet)?
Jabir said, ‘I swear by Allah that during the holy prophet’s time, I entered Hazrat Fatemah’s house and congratulated her on the occasion of Imam Husain’s birth. I saw in her hands a green emerald coloured tablet (Lauh) with sparkling white writings, like the colour of sun. I said, ‘May my father and mother be your ransom, O the daughter of Allah’s Messenger. What is this Lauh?
She replied, ‘It’s a Lauh gifted by the Almighty Allah to my father. There is mentioned the name of my father, my husband, my two sons, and the names of my offspring who are the divine Guardians. My father has gifted this to me.”
Jabir said, ‘(O Baqir al-Uloom) Thereafter, your mother, Hazrat Siddiqah (a.s.), gave that tablet to me. I read that tablet and made a copy of it.
My father (Imam Baqir) said to him, ‘O Jabir, show it to me.’
He replied, ‘I will do it with pleasure’.
Then my father accompanied Jabir to his house. Jabir brought a writing inscribed on a deer’s hide (or paper) and showed it to Imam Baqir (a.s.). Hazrat said, ‘Jabir! Look into your writings and I will read out to you whatever is written in it.
Jabir checked his writings while my father read its contents. Not a single word was missed out. Jabir said, ‘I take Allah as witness that I found the same in Fatemah’s Lauh with the following contents:
“This is writing from the Almighty and Wise Allah to Muhammad, His prophet, envoy, and guide. The Trusted Spirit (Ruh’ul-Amin) descended on him, on behalf of the Lord of the universe. Muhammad! Honour My Names, and be grateful for My bounties, and do not deny them. I am “Allah” , with no partner- Who shall shatter the oppressors, overcome the difficulties of the oppressed ones, and requite on the Resurrection Day.
Verily, I am“Allah” with no partner. I shall punish severely the one who has hope but not in My Grace; and fears but not from My Justice! My punishment would be unprecedented.
O Muhammad! Worship Me only and rely on Me only. Verily, I did not appoint a prophet nor completed his task until I set for him a Wasi (legatee). I made you superior over all other messengers and your successors exceed over all other successors. I honoured you with two lion cubs named Hasan and Husain, your daughter’s two sons.
I made Hasan the fountainhead of My Knowledge after his father, and set forth Husain as treasurer of My revelation. I gave him deliverance with the throne of martyrdom and he is the most superior of all martyrs. I have placed in him the ‘Kalemah-Taammah” (the lofty realities of Imamate and Ma’aref) as well as all My clear proofs. My reward and punishment would revolve around his kin and offspring. The first of his kin is Ali, the master of all worshippers and the ornament of My past friends. His offspring is Muhammad, with same name as his great grandfather. He is the splitter of knowledge and the treasure of wisdom. Soon, the doubters in the Imamate of Ja’far (Sadiq) would perish. Denying him is like denying Me. It’s My firm decree that I would honour his position and I would please him with his followers and friends. After him, a conspiracy would gloom over Moses; My covenant would never tear apart and My Proof never concealed. (Imamate and Wilayat) and My friends would be satiated with overflowing cup. Anyone rejecting them has rejected My Favour and anyone changing a verse from My Book has labelled Me a liar.
After My slave and My chosen one i.e., Moses, would come Ali, My friend and patron. Woe to those liars who deny him. He is one upon whom I would lay the heavy burden of prophethood (in Imamate) and would test him through their (i.e. the enemies) triumph. He would be killed by the arrogant demon (Ma’mun) and would be buried besides the worst creature (Harun-ul-Rashid) in a city built by a virtuous slave (Zul-Qarnain). Verily, I will please him through his son Muhammad, his successor and inheritor of his knowledge. Thus, he is the treasure of My knowledge and the place of My secrets for the people. I would make his followers dwell in paradise and will accept his intercession for seventy of his follower’s family-members while they were all worthy of the Fire. And I will raise salvation for him through his son Ali, My Wali, My friend, My proof among the creatures and My trust in revelation.
I will create from his offspring Hasan, the one who would call (the people) towards Me, and the one who is the treasurer of My knowledge.
I will perfect him by his son “ م ح م د” such that love and affection would cover the whole world. He possesses the perfection of Moses, the radiance of Jesus and patience of Job.
During his era (his concealment), My friends will be despised and their severed heads would be gifted like the heads of Turks and Deylam (atheists and polytheists). They would be killed and burned and fear and terror would constantly accompany their lives. Their blood would colour the land their women would wail and cry aloud.
Truly, they are My friends. I shall cast aside the gloomy curtains of conspiracies and lift away the earthquakes and heavy chains of burden. Greetings of their Lord be upon them and they are the guided ones.”
Abdul-Rahman-ibn-Salem related from Abu-Baseer that, ‘If you hear no other tradition save this one, it would suffice you. So protect and keep it secret except from the deserving ones.