Reply: Question 4

In these set of verses, the status of Imamate is used. In the holy Qur’an, two types of Imamate are mooted. Imamate of “fire” and Imamate of “light”.

About the Imam of fire, it says:

“And We made them Imams who call to the fire” (Qur’an, 28:41)

About the Imams of light, it says:

“And We made them Imams who guided (people) by Our command.” (Qur’an, 21:73)

If someone casts a glance into the Qur’an, he will accept Imamate. The holy Imams (a.s.) too have rationalized this very matter and said: “This lofty status is exclusively earmarked for a few because Allah says:

“O Abraham, surely I will make you an Imam of the people. Abraham (very enthusiastically) said: And of my offspring? (Allah said): My covenant does not include the unjust.” (Qur’an, 2:124)

Here, Imam Reza (a.s.) says:

“The status of Imamate is so lofty that Allah bestowed it to Abraham only after consistent tests and after bestowing him with the position of prophet hood and messenger ship and after earning the title “Khaleel”[v] So how can people select this position for themselves!?”[vi]

For this reason, this status is especially reserved for divine saints. The holy prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Imams (a.s.) have declared them to be twelve in number after the prophet (s.a.w.a.) and specified their names as well. In the Shia and Sunni traditions, their number is stated to be equal to the number of Bani-Israel leaders; equal to number of Christ’s disciples, equal to number of zodiacs, equal to number of months (which are twelve in number).

These traditions come down in Shia and Sunni books are all ‘Mutawatir’ (i.e., widely transmitted). The vital question is that who are these twelve specified persons? It’s mentioned in Shia and Sunni traditions that “all of them are from Quraish”[vii] About the twelve Imams, there are two explanations: The Sunnis speak in a scattered manner. But the Shias say: ‘As per ‘Mutawatir’ traditions from the holy prophet (s.a.w.a.), the names and specifications of these twelve persons till Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) are known and clear. We can find few of such Shia traditions, in detailed form, in “Usul-e-Kafi” Vol 1, pages 525-535 and pages 286-328.

This brief discussion clarifies that the Imamate of light, come down in the noble verses, is a special status and an exceptional station selected by Allah and nobody can acquire it by himself. The holy prophet (s.a.w.a.) has expressed in various forms their number to be twelve. All of them are from the Quraish and according to Shia and some Sunni traditions (like the ones come down in Yanabi’ul-Muwadda, page 440 as per narration of Muntakhab-ul-Athar, page 97) all their names too are specified.

Consequently, the noble verse: “و اجعلنا للمتقين إماما” (Qur’an, 25:75) differs from whatever we have said about the special status of Imamate in Qur’an. The Imamate discussed in the preceding verses is a special status and position and the Imamate in verse 75 from Chapter Furqan has been used in the literal sense to denote leadership for the pious ones.

Besides, assuming that in this verse, Imam is used in technical and not literal sense, yet it applies to the immaculate Imams (a.s.) who were specified by the holy prophet (s.a.w.a.). In other words, the esoteric interpretation of this verse concerns the holy Imams (a.s.). A tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) substantiates our viewpoint. Imam (a.s.) says:

“In verse:  “و اجعلنا للمتقين إماما” (Qur’an, 25:75) Allah has meant us.”