Hawzah News Agency – Knowledge of the Imam can be attained in the following two ways:
(a) the Prophet, under divine command, specifically refers to the Imamate of the designated individual; (b) the present Imam indicates the identity of the Imam to succeed him.
The Imamate of the twelve Imams of Shi’ism has been established by both of the above methods. According to certain hadiths, the Prophet referred to the Imamate of these twelve leaders; also, each Imam made known who was to be his successor.
For the sake of brevity, we shall restrict ourselves to citing just a single hadith in this regard.103 The Prophet not only established the rank of ‘Ali, rather, he said that there would be twelve leaders through whom the dignity of the faith would be upheld. ‘The religion (din) will always remain unassailable through [thanks to the presence of] twelve khalifas.’ In another recension we have: ‘The religion (din) will always remain glorified through [thanks to the presence of] twelve khalifas.’ It should be said that this hadith, indicating the existence of twelve caliphs, is found in some of the most authentic canonical collections of the Sunnis.105 Evidently, these twelve caliphs, to whom the dignity of Islam is attached, are not other than the twelve Imams of Shi’ism. For neither the Umayyad nor the Abbasid caliphs were sources of dignity for the faith; and, additionally, their number does not correspond to that given in the hadith. The twelve Imams of Shi’ism are as follows:
1. Imam ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, Amir al-Mu’minin, ‘Commander of the Faithful’(born two years before the beginning of the Prophet’s mission; died 40/660); buried in Najaf.
2. Imam Hasan b. ‘Ali, al-Mujtaba, ‘The Chosen’ (3–50/624–670); buried in Jannat al-Baqi’, Medina.
3. Imam Husayn b. ‘Ali, Sayyid al-Shuhada’, ‘Lord of the Martyrs’(4–61/625 -679); buried in Karbala.
4. Imam ‘Ali b. al-Husayn, Zayn al-’Abidin, ‘Prince of the Worshippers’ (38–94/658–711); buried in Jannat al-Baqi’.
5. Imam Muhammad b. ‘Ali, Baqir al-’Ilm, ‘He who Splits Open Knowledge’ (57–114/675–732); buried in Jannat al-Baqi’.
6. Imam Ja’far b. Mu˙ammad, al-Iadiq, ‘The Sincere’ (73–148/ 692–765); buried in Jannat al-Baqi’.
7. Imam Musa b. Ja’far, al-Kazim, ‘The Self-controlled’(128–183/ 744–799); buried in Kazimayn, Baghdad.
8. Imam ‘Ali b. Musa, al-Rida, ‘The Content’ (148–203/765–817); buried in Mashhad.
9. Imam Mu˙ammad b. ‘Ali, al-Jawad, ‘The Magnanimous’ (195–220/809–835); buried in Kazimayn, Baghdad.
10. Imam ‘Ali b. Muhammad, al-Hadi, ‘The Guide’ (212–254/ 827–868); buried in Samarra.
11. Imam Hasan b. ‘Ali, al-’Askari, ‘The Warrior’ (232–260/845–872); buried in Samarra.
12. Imam Muhammad b. Hasan, al-Hujja / al-Mahdi, ‘The Proof/ The Guided’ (255/869). This is the twelfth Imam of the Shi’a, who is deemed to be still living, but in a state of occultation (ghayba), until the time when God commands him to come forth and—according to clear promises given in the Qur’an (in the following verses: Sura al-Nur, XXIV: 54; al-Tawba, IX: 33; al-Fath, XLVII: 28; al-Saff, LXI: 9) and the most authentic hadiths —he will establish the authority of Islam throughout the entire world.
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.