Imamah (Ismaili doctrine)

The doctrine of the Imamate in Isma'ilism differs from that of the Twelvers because the Isma'ilis had living Imams for centuries after the last Twelver Imam went into concealment. They followed Isma'il ibn Jafar, elder brother of Musa al-Kadhim, as the rightful Imam after his father, Ja'far al-Sadiq.[1] The Ismailis believe that whether Imam Ismail did or did not die before Imam Ja'far, he had passed on the mantle of the imamate to his son Muhammad ibn Isma'il as the next imam.[2]

The Seven Imāms

Qarmatian - Imamāte of Seven Imāms[3]

According to some early Isma'ilis, the Seveners, as well as the Qarmatians, a splinter group, the number of imams was fixed, with seven Imams preordained by God. These groups considers Muhammad ibn Isma'il, the foundation Imam of the Isma'ili branch of Shia Islam, to be the Mahdi and to be preserved in hiding, which is referred to as the Occultation.[4]

Qarmatians believed that Muhammad ibn Isma'il was Imām al-Qā'im al-Mahdi and the last of the great messenger - prophets.[3] On his reappearance, he would bring a new religious law by abrogating the one conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad. Qarmatians recognized a series of Seven law-announcing prophets called ūlul’l-ʿazm, namely, Nūh, Ibrāhīm, Mūsā, ʿIsā, Muhammad bin ʿAbd Allāh, Ali ibn Abu Tālib, and Muhammad bin Ismā‘īl, who was the seal of the series.[3]

1Ali ibn Abi Taleb[3]
Imām and a messenger
- prophet (Rasūl) as well
2Hasan ibn Ali(661–669)
3Husayn ibn Ali(669–680)
4Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin(680–713)
5Muhammad al-Baqir(713–733)
6Ja'far al-Sadiq(733–765)
7Muhammad ibn Isma'il[3]
Imām al-Qā'im al-Mahdi also
a messenger - prophet (Rasūl)

Early beliefs

According to the early Ismāʿīlis, God sent Seven great prophets, known as nātiq "speakers", in order to disseminate and improve Islam. All of these great prophets has an assistant, the Sāmad (Silent) Imam. After six silent imams, a nātiq was sent to reinvigorate Islam. After Adam and his son Seth, and after six “Nātiq” (Speaker) – “Sāmad” (Silent) silsila[5] (NoahShem), (AbrahamIshmael), (MosesAaron or Joshua), (JesusSimeon), (Muhammad bin ʿAbd AllāhAli ibn Abu Tālib); the silsila of “Nātıqs and Sāmads have been completed with (Muhammad bin Ismā‘īl as-ṣaghīr (Maymūn al-Qaddāh[6]) – ʿAbd Allāh Ibn-i Maymūn[7] and his sons).

Early Ismāʿīlis believed that hierarchical history of the mankind is created in Seven Eras of various durations each one inaugurated by "speaker-prophet" (known as nātiq). In the first Six Eras of human history, nātiqs or ūlul’l-ʿazm had been Adam, Nūh, Ibrāhīm, Mūsā, ʿIsā, Muhammad bin ʿAbd Allāh. Qarmatians, on the other hand, originally included Ali ibn Abu Tālib instead of Adam in their list of law-announcing prophets. Later substitution of Adam in place of Ali as one of the nātiqs, and the reduction of Ali's rank from a prophet level to that of Muhammad's successor indicate the renouncement of their extremist views. Furthermore, they believed that each of the first six nātiqs were succeeded by a spiritual legatee called wāsi or foundation asās or silent sāmit, who interpreted the inner esoteric (batin) meaning of the revelation. Each sāmit in turn was followed by Seven Imāms called atimmā', who guarded the true meaning of the scriptures and the laws.[8]

The first seven Mustaali and Nizari imams

Taiyabi Mustaali and Nizari imams

The Nizari and Mustaali have several Imams in common; the Nizari consider Ali the first Imam and his son Hasan a pir while the Mustali label him al-Asās or "the Foundation" and call Hasan the first Imam.

Pir1Hasan ibn Ali(661–669) Mustaali
22Husayn ibn Ali(669–680) (Mustaali)
(661 - 680) (Nizari)
33Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin(680–713)
44Muhammad al-Baqir(713–733)
55Ja'far al-Sadiq(733–765)
66Isma'il ibn Jafar(765 - 775)
77Muhammad ibn Isma'il(775-813)

Imams after Muhammad ibn Isma'il


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