One of the questions raised by the skeptics against belief in Imamat is that it violates the belief of the Muslims in ‘Finality of Prophethood’ (Khatm Nubuwwat). They maintain that the traits, signs, and titles of the Imam are similar to those of the prophets, so effectively prophethood is continuing with the Imams and goes against Finality of Prophethood.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is not just a Prophet / Messenger (Nabi / Rasool). He is also a Caliph appointed by Allah like Adam and Dawood before him (s.a.w.a.):
- And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a Caliph (Surah Baqarah (2): 30)
- Dawood! Surely, We have made you a Caliph in the land… (Surah Saad (38): 26)
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is also an Imam appointed by Allah like Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) before him:
- …Surely I will make you an Imam of men… (Surah Baqarah (2): 124)
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) is the last prophet, superior to all creation and obviously owns every virtue in its highest form. So, virtues and titles of past prophets are inherited by Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in its ultimate form.
In his person, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) combines many titles / roles like Nabi, Rasool, Caliph, Imam, Basheer, Nazeer, Shahid (witness over nation’s actions) among others.
Prophethood is separated from Caliphate and Imamat. They may or may not combine into one person.
Adam and Dawood were Caliphs but not Imams, which is the highest rank created by Allah i.e. Imamat.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was granted all the ranks by Allah –Abd (worshipper), Nabi, Caliph, Imam – which shows his esteemed position near Allah.
Just like Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.), who was declared an Abd by Allah, then a Nabi, Rasool, Khaleel, Imam. (Al-Kafi v 1 p 175)
With Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) death (martyrdom) only roles related to Wahy (revelation) have been terminated like Nubuwwat and Risalat, his other roles of Caliph and Imam transferred to his successors beginning with Ali (a.s.). His demise resulted only in the Finality of Nubuwwat, not the Finality of Caliphate and Imamat.
As Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) declared in the famous Sermon of Ghadeer recorded and acknowledged by Muslims:
إِنِّي أَدَعُهَا إِمَامَةً وَ وِرَاثَةً فِي عَقِبِي إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَة
Surely, I entrust Imamat and successorship in my posterity till the Day of Judgement. (Al-Ehtejaj v 1 p 56-66)
Imamat does not violate Finality of Prophethood, as they are two separate positions. An Imam from Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) progeny achieves Imamat (ultimate stage) as a trust from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The Imam does not pass through the intermediate stages of prophethood (Nubuwwat) and messengership (Risalah).
Successor of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) like the successor of Prophet Esa (a.s.)
If belief in Imamat of Ali (a.s.) and other infallible Imams (a.s.) violates Finality of Prophethood, what does one say about the successor of Prophet Esa (a.s.). With the passing (raising to the skies) of Prophet Esa (a.s.), revelation came to an end temporarily, marking the interval between two prophets ‘fatrah’. There was no prophet after Esa (a.s.) in the ‘fatrah’, yet he had successors who did not violate the ‘Interval of Prophethood’.
That is why Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) compares Ali (a.s.) to successor of Prophet Esa (a.s.) among others:
O people…Ali (a.s.) is the Sham’oon (successor of Esa) of this nation.
- Ithbaat al-Hudaat v 3 p 54
- Tafseer al-Burhaan v 2 p 239 under Surah Maidah (5): 3
- Tafseer al-Burhaan v 5 p 421 under Surah Tahreem (66): 4
- Manaaqib Aal-e-Abi Talib (a.s.) v 3 p 90
- Behaar al-Anwaar v 38 p 93, 216
Like others before Ali (a.s.), who were successors without being prophets and therefore did not violate Finality of Prophethood, he (a.s.) and his infallible sons (a.s.) were likewise successors and Imams and caliphs, without violating Finality of Prophethood.
Is Infallibility (Ismat) limited to Prophethood?
Another objection of the skeptics is that Shias attribute infallibility to the Imams, while infallibility according to them is limited to prophethood and has ended with Finality of Prophethood. So, by attributing infallibility to the Imams, the Shias reject the Finality of Prophethood.
Infallibility is not linked to prophethood. Lady Maryam bint Imran (s.a.), mother of Prophet Isa (s.a.), was not a prophet but she was infallible and an ayat (Sign of Allah) according to all Muslims. The Holy Quran says:
وَجَعَلْنَا ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَأُمَّهُ آيَةً
And We made the son of Maryam and his mother a Sign… (Surah Mominoon (23): 50)
Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) is a bigger (biggest) sign (ayat) than Lady Maryam, since she is the Chief of all Women of Paradise.
Ali (a.s.), who is equal (Kufw) of Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and her Imam, is likewise an (incomparable) ayat of Allah and an infallible – and likewise the sons of Ali (a.s.) who inherited Imamat.
By being infallible or signs (ayaat) of Allah, the Imams are not transformed into prophets. Infallibility and being signs are not specific to prophets, non-prophets like Lady Maryam bint Imran can also be bestowed with these features, as evidenced in the Holy Quran.
It is for the Muslim nation to reflect how they easily testify to the virtues of others but when it comes to Aal Muhammad (a.s.) they object to every virtue, a fact Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) points out:
O people, what is wrong that when progeny of Ibrahim is mentioned, your faces light up. But when the progeny of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) is mentioned, your faces go red like pomegranate seeds with anger.
- Al-Amali of Shaikh Tusi (r.a.) p 308
- Mustadrak al-Wasail v 1 p 155
- Basharah al-Mustafa (s.a.w.a.) p 204
- Behar al-Anwar v 27 p 171
Is divinely gifted knowledge limited to prophethood?
The skeptics limit attributes like divinely gifted knowledge to the prophets. They believe with the Finality of Prophethood, the chain of divinely gifted knowledge, which they claim is passed on through revelation, has come to an end. Shias by claiming divinely gifted knowledge for the Imams (a.s.) are disputing the Finality of Prophethood.
The Abd al-Saleh in the Quran (Khizr) was (is) bestowed with favours like divinely gifted knowledge (Ilm Ladonni) even though he had no responsibilities of prophethood nor a divinely revealed book nor Imamat nor a duty to guide the people nor was his obedience compulsory.
- Behar al-Anwar v 51 p 222-223
Even an ordinary person like Balam Ibn Baor was gifted with knowledge, a fact acknowledged by all Muslims.
- Surah A’raf (7) 175-176)
Shias believe that for a Wasi (Successor) of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to be equipped with all necessary knowledge to guide the nation is a must. This knowledge of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was inherited by Imam Ali (a.s.) in the lifetime of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) so it is not against Finality of Prophethood / Revelation. Likewise, the knowledge that descends on the Imams (a.s.) in every Lailah al-Qadr does not run counter to Finality of Prophethood, another fact accepted by all Muslims from Surah Qadr.
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) has never claimed that he received revelation. On the contrary, he asserts that revelation did not descend on him, as this report states:
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) declares from the pulpit of Kufa mosque pointing at his belly:
Ask me before you lose me.
Inside me is gathered all knowledge
Here is the saliva of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) (that he fed me)
Here is the knowledge that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) fed me from revelation without the revelation descending on me.
- Manaqib of Khwarazmi p 91 (Ahle Tasannun)
- Kashf al-Ghummah v 1 p 116
- Kashf al-Yaqeen p 56
Does belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) contradict Finality of Prophethood?
Finally, we have a question of our own for those who criticize Shias for rejecting Finality of Prophethood. What is their view on Imam Mahdi (a.s.)? Does belief in Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) violate Finality of Prophethood? After all, he is an Imam, Caliph, Wasi, infallible, gifted with divine sciences – in fact he will be gifted with all sciences, more than anyone before him. Do all these titles and attributes become unsuitable for Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) because supposedly only a prophet can possess them?
No Muslim believes that to be the case – they accept that Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) will possess everything that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) possesses except for revelation. That is our view on all the eleven Imams (a.s.) preceding Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.).
Belief of Shias in Finality of Prophethood
While the skeptics are quick to fire accusations against Shias on subjects like Finality of Prophethood, clearly, they lack insight in the basics of Islam and knowledge of Shia and Ahle Tasannun reports on the topic.
One of the most important sources / reports on the Imamat of Ali (a.s.), Hadith-e-Manzelat is also a definitive source / report on the Finality of Prophethood and Bukhari and Muslim have quoted them in their books.
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said to Ali (a.s.): Will you not be pleased that you are to me like Haroon to Moosa, but there will be no prophet after me.
- Sahih al-Bukhari trad 3,706, 4,416
- Sahih al-Muslim trad 2,404
Shias which have many more versions and sources of this report, believe in Ali (a.s.) as successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) like Haroon was successor of Moosa, and there is no prophet after Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
On what grounds are the skeptics accusing Shias of violating Finality of Prophethood that is clearly pointed out in Hadith Manzelat?! On the contrary, they themselves do not observe Hadith Manzelat which instructs Muslims to take Ali (a.s.) as Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) brother and successor.
Basic belief in Imamat is Finality of Prophethood
It is far from the Shia to believe in an Imam who violates the Finality of Prophethood / Revelation. In fact, the basic Shia belief about the Imam is that he is not a prophet.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) informs:
The minimum recognition of the Imam is that he is equal to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) without prophethood and he is the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) inheritor and that obeying the Imam is like obeying Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) and (one must) submit to him in all affairs and refer him (always) and take his word…
- Kifayah al-Athar p 260-264
- Behar al-Anwar v 36 p 406-408
Imams (a.s.) have condemned those who attribute prophethood to them as this report states, among others:
Narrator to Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.):
Among us is a group who believe that you are messengers…
Imam (a.s.) replied: My hearing, my sight, my skin, my flesh, my blood and my hair (all) disdain such people, and Allah and His Messenger also disdains them.
They do not follow my religion and the religion of my forefathers (a.s.). Allah will never gather me with them on the Day of Judgment. The only thing from Allah for them will be His Anger.
The narrator asked: What are you then?
Imam (a.s.): We are the treasurers of Allah’s Knowledge. We are the translators of Allah’s Commands. We are infallible. Allah, the Almighty, has commanded people to obey us and forbidden them to disobey us. We are the ultimate divine authority (Hujjat) over all that is below the skies and above the earth.
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 269-270
- Ithbat al-Hudat v 5 p 374
Clearly there is no place for anyone in religion who takes the Imams (a.s.) as prophets. They have nothing to do with the Imams (and Imamat) and the Imams have nothing to do with them.
Termination of Revelation IS NOT Termination of Guidance
This is one area where the Shia and Ahle Tasannun beliefs diverge in a big way. Ahle Tasannun believe that the chain of guidance ended with Termination of Revelation / Prophethood. Shias believe that guidance continued after Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) through the Imams. In fact, there was a guide for the Muslim nation in the lifetime of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as this Quranic verse indicates:
اِنَّمَا اَنْتَ مُنْذِرٌ وَ لِكُلِّ قَوْمٍ هَادٍ
You are only a warner and for every nation there is a guide. (Surah Raad (13): 7)
It is recorded by Muslim scholars that this verse was revealed in favour of our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and the infallible Imams (a.s.) and that for every nation there was a guide followed by another guide from the progeny of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and the earth will not be devoid of them.
- Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 191; Basair al-Darajaat p 29
- Manaqib Aal-e-Abi Talib (a.s.) v 3 p 83
- Tafseer al-Ayyashi v 2 p 203
- Ghayah al-Maram, p. 235 from Faraid al-Simtain
So, while the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was only a warner, Ali (a.s.) was the guide (Hadi) of the Muslims in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as also after him. Ali (a.s.) is capacitated to guide the Muslim nation with the knowledge fed to him by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and through other knowledge and sciences that are bestowed on Lailah al-Qadr.
Others in the Muslim nation lacked this knowledge. They themselves needed guidance, so how can they be appointed as guides for others, a simple fact the Muslims failed to recognize in Saqifa.
Termination of revelation is intrinsic to Shia ideology and just as intrinsic is the crucial role of the Imams (a.s.) in guiding the nation after the Termination of Revelation, as this report reveals:
Narrator asked Imam Sadiq (a.s.): Why was Fatima Al-Zahra (s.a.) named ‘Zahra’?
Imam Sadiq (a.s.): Because Allah created her from the Light of His Magnificence. So, when she shone, the skies and the earth were illuminated by her light, and the sight of the angels were overwhelmed (by it), and the angels fell down prostrating, and they said:
Our God and our Master! What is this light?
Allah revealed unto them: This is a light from My Light. I settled it in My Sky, I created it from My Magnificence, and will be extracting it from the loins of a Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from My Prophets whom I have preferred over all Prophets, and I will bring out from that light, the Imams (a.s.) who will establish My Affair (Imamat) and guide towards My Right and I will make them Caliphs over My Earth after Termination of My Revelation.
- Elal al-Sharaae v 1 p 180
- Kashf al-Ghummah v 1 p 464
- Al-Jawahir al-Saniyyah p 474
Clearly, the Muslim majority have not properly understood and appreciated prophethood and role, titles, duties of prophet. Hence, they have trouble understanding the Finality of Prophethood and Termination of Revelation. The Shia belief of Imamat is intrinsic to Holy Quran and reliance Sunnah acknowledged by all Muslims and does not contradict any tenet of religion in any way. In fact, those who do not believe in Imamat are contradicting the Noble Quran and Sunnah.
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