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By Yusuf Abdullah
In the name of Allah who states "He it is Who sent His Apostle with the guidance and the true religion, that He may make it overcome the religions, all of them, though the polytheists may be averse" Q61:9

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His chosen servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
Imamate is the fourth fundamental after prophet hood. As such the Sheikh states in his book "the Faith Of Shi’a Islam" published and distributed by Imam Husain Foundation, Qum, Iran as translated by Dar al-Tabligh al-Islami. We revisit the topic as the world celebrates the birthday of the last Imam; Muhammad al-Mahdy (AF), and by extension, Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky’s (H), the leader of Islamic movement in Nigeria.
We believe that the imamate is one of the fundamentals of Islam (Usul al – din), and that man’s faith can never be complete without belief in it. It is wrong to imitate our fathers, family or teachers in this matter, even if we respect them, for it is just as necessary rationally to consider the Imamate as it is to consider Tauhid and Nubuwwah. If a man does not believe in it, and supposes that it is not a fundamental of Islam, he should nevertheless, examine the concept of the Imamate, if only to absolve himself of responsibility in this matter. The reason for this consideration is that, since we do receive commands concerning our religious duties directly from Allah, we must refer in this matter to someone in whom we can trust, by following whom we can trust, by following whom we may be sure that we will not be held responsible by Allah for having committed errors. According to our belief, the members of the Household of the prophet fulfill requirements.
We believe that, just as it is necessary for Allah to send someone as a prophet, so, it is also necessary for Him to appoint an Imam. It is necessary that at all times there should be an Imam to represent the prophet and that he should perform the duties of the prophet, such as guiding the people and showing them the way of goodness and prosperity in this world and the next. He also ought to hold the highest position as a public authority in all aspects of peoples’ lives, so that he may cause justice to increase among them and eliminate enmity and oppression between them. The Imamate is therefore a continuation of the prophet hood, and the reasoning which proves the former’s necessity is the same as that which proves the latter’s. It is for this reason that we may say that the appointment of someone as Imam can only be accomplished by will of Allah through the prophet or through the previous Imam. People cannot choose someone as an Imam because they have no authority to do so, and should they seek to depose him; he who dies without knowing the Imam of his time, it is as if he dies in Jahiliyyah (the time of ignorance)" It will be seen from the above that it is impossible for there to be a time without an Imam appointed by Allah, and it makes no difference if human beings deny him or not, help him or not, or if he is absent from people’s sight. Just as the prophet was absent from people in the cave and in the mountain pass, so it is possible for the Imam to be absent. It also makes no difference logically, if the absence is long or short. Allah said "And there is a guide for every people" Q13:7 "There is not a nation but a Warner has passed among them" Q35:24
We believe that, like the prophet, an Imam must be infalliable, that is to say incapable of making errors or doing wrong, either inwardly or outwardly, from his birth to his death, either intentionally or unintentionally, because the Imams are the preservers of Islam and it is under their protection. Their position in regard to Islam is the same as the prophet’s, and the reasoning which necessitates their infalliability is the same as that which necessitates the prophet’s infalliability, and there is no difference between them in these matters. An Arabic verse says; For Allah it is not impossible to unite all the world in one person"
We believe that the Imams are twelve in number; that the prophet publicly announced them by names; and that each of them announced his successor. They are:
1. Abu al – Hasan, "Ali Ibn Abi Talib, al – Murtadha, martyred in 40 A.H. 2. Abu Muhammad, Hasan Ibn ‘Ali, al – Zaky, martyred in 50 A.H. 3. Abu Abd – Allah, Husain Ibn ‘Ali, al – Shaheed, martyred in 61 A.H. 4. Abu Muhammad, ‘Ali Ibn al – Husain, Zain al – Abideen, martyred in 95 A.H. 5. Abu Ja’far, Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali, al – Baqir, martyred in 114 A.H. 6. Abu Abd – Allah, Ja’far Ibn Muhammad, al – Sadiq, martyred in 148 A.H. 7. Abu Ibrahim, Musa Ibn Ja’far, al – Kazim, martyred in 183 A.H. 8. Abu al – Hasan, ‘Ali Ibn Musa, al – Ridha, martyred in 203 A.H. 9. Abu Ja’far, Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali, al -Jawad, martyred in 220 A.H. 10. Abu al – Hasan, ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad, al – Hadi, martyed in 254 A.H. 11. Abu Muhammad, Hasan Ibn ‘Ali, al – Askary, 260 A.H. 12. Abu al – Qasim, Muhammad Ibn Hasan, al – Mahdi, from 255
The last is the Imam of our time, but he is absent and we are waiting for his re – appearance, may Allah hasten it to spread justice and equity throughout the world, filled as it is with oppression and wrong.
Many people have narrated from the prophet concerning the reappearance at the end of time of the Mahdi, who is descendent of his daughter Fatima and how he will spread justice and equity throughout the world, after it has been overcome by injustice and oppression. All sects of Muslims have accepted this good tiding, but with different interpretations.
It is not a new opinion or idea that has come into existence only among the Shi’ah, and in which they were prompted to believe by oppression, dreaming of someone who would come to clear the world of injustice, as some malevolent sophists have suggested. On the contrary, the concept of the reappearance of the Mahdi has been well known among all Muslims, and they have believed in it. Proof of this is that some persons falsely called themselves Mahdi during the first century after the advent of Islam; such were the leaders of Kaysaniyyah, the Abbasids and the Alawiyyah. Only because people believed in the Mahdi could these persons, exploited their belief and seized power. So they made their claims in order to impress the people and spread their influence. We the Shi’ah on the one hand, believe in the truth of the Islamic religion as the last divine religion, and have no expectation of another religion to come and reform humanity. But, on the other hand, we observe oppression and corruption spreading day by day throughout the world, resulting in a total lack of justice and improvement anywhere in the inhabitable countries of the globe. We have also witnessed Muslims forsaking every Islamic principle, commandment and law in every single Islamic country. We know that we must wait for the reestablishment of Islam in all its power, to reform this world, drowned as it is in oppression and corruption.
Naturally, with such diversity of opinion among people pretending to be Muslim as we see today, it is impossible that the superiority of Islam should return, unless a great reformer appears to protect it, and through divine providence unite people and eradicate the error, perversion and wrong which has become admixed with Islam. To be sure, this guide must possess such a great position, such general authority and such supernatural power as to fill the earth with justice and equity when it is full of evil, injustice and wrong.
In short, the observation that humanity is in a pitiful condition, the assertion of the truth of Islam, and its position as the last religion leads to the expectation of such a great reformer (Mahdi) to bring salvation to the world. All Muslim sects and the people of other religions believe in this expectation, the difference being that the Imamate sect believes that this reformer is a definite person, that he is the Mahdi, and that he was born in 255 A.H. (870 CE), that he is alive now, the son of Imam Hasan al – Askari and that his name is Muhammad. Many narrators have passed to us Ahadith (pl. hadith) from the prophet and his household concerning his birth and absence.
The Imamate must continue uninterrupted, although the Imam may live hidden among mankind until Allah wills that he reappear on a certain day, a divine mystery only known to Him. The fact that he had lived for such a long time is a miracle granted to him by Allah, and it is no more amazing than the miracle of the start of his Imamate for humanity at the age of five, when his father’s life was taken away. Nor is it any more surprising than the miracle whereby Isa talked with people from his cradle, and was appointed a prophet when still an infant. From the physiological point of view, it is quite certain that to live more than the natural span of life, or more than the imagined natural span, is not impossible, even though medical science is not yet able to prolong human life as much as possible. But while medicine is unable to do this, Allah can, for He is All – Powerful and Omnipotent. For the Qur’an states that prophet Nuh lived to a very old age, and that prophet Isa is alive now, and once one has accepted Islam, there can be no denying what the Qur’an says. It is incomprehensible that a Muslim should dispute the possibility of these things, while at the same time alling himself a believer in the Glorious Qur’an. We should remember at this point that the expectation of this saviour and reformer, the Mahdi, does not mean that Muslims should stand idle in their religion or abandon their religious duties, but that they should perform all the divine commandments and make every endeavor to seek out the way of truth. It is an obligation, for them to fight for Islam, to put the principle of Islam into practice, to order others to do likewise and to prohibit them as far as possible from doing wrong. As the prophet said "everyone of you is a shepherd, and everyone is responsible for his flock". Therefore, it is wrong for a Muslim to pay no attention to his religious duties, and to abandon them because he is expecting the Mahdi, the one who brings good tidings; because such an expectation must not induce us to have no responsibility or duty, or to postpone any of our actions, and it will not leave people aimless like animals"
While expressing gratitude to Allah for witnessing the event and sparing the life of the Sheikh (H), we congratulate him and his family on the occasion. May the Almighty Allah hasten the reappearance of the Imam and emancipate the sheikh and his disciples from the illegal detention.
Wassalamu alaikum.