Hawzah News Agency – After twenty-three years of struggle and effort in the cause of the faith of Islam, and in the endeavour to establish the Medinan community, the Holy Prophet passed away, at the beginning of the eleventh year after the Hijra.
With the departure of this great soul, the Qur'anic revelation and the cycle of prophecy came to an end; no further Prophet would arise, nor would there be any subsequent religious dispensation. However, the responsibilities that had been incumbent on the Prophet (pbuh)(apart from those pertaining to the conveyance of the Revelation) naturally did not come to an end. It was thus essential, after his death, that enlightened and upright persons should, in each succeeding age, undertake these responsibilities, as successors and vicegerents, and as Imams and leaders of the Muslims.
This much will be readily accepted by all Muslims; but there is a difference of perspective as between Shi'as and the Sunnis as regards certain qualities that are deemed necessary in the successor to the Prophet (pbuh), and also in the means of appointing him. Below, we shall address first of all the meaning of the term ‘Shi’a’ and its background, and then we shall turn to discussion of the Imamate.
Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, London • New York 2003.