Is Imamate Hereditary​?

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Question: Why has the position of imamate been transferred from generation to generation, from father to son in our religion?

Brief Answer:

The position of imamate is bestowed only upon those who posses [specific] conditions, such as infallibility, abundant knowledge, etc., and no one except God has knowledge and awareness of these conditions and who truly possesses them. Thus, even before the creation of the Imams, their names and characteristics were disseminated by God, and the Prophet (pbuh) had been notified. But, regarding the secret behind why imamate, caliphate or prophethood is sometimes placed in the progeny of the previous prophet, it must be said that only God is fully aware of why, nonetheless, by considering two points, a fruitful response to the question is projected, to some degree:

1. The prophets, with their prophethood and perfections, won a place in the hearts of the people and gained special popularity among them. Also, when people love someone, they also love his righteous family members, and anyone who is in love, seeks the obedience of his [beloved’s] requests. Therefore, the best people for imamate, succession or prophethood, are the offspring and descendants of that prophet, although, we do not consider this unconditional, rather there are some constraints and conditions, that include infallibility, being superior, etc., which are all necessary in an imam.

2. From among the offspring and descendants of the prophets, there have also been [some] unrighteous individuals, however, the impact of good and pure food (that has been obtained through means Allah swt is happy with) and a pure womb should not be forgotten in the training of competent descendents; even the role of inheritance (genetic issues), etc., shouldn’t be ignored in the transfer of ethical qualities and competences. Therefore, the selection of an imam is based on merits and conditions, mentioned [above], and it is likely that hereditary factors do play a role in the transfer of these conditions and provide necessary grounds for it. It is for this same reason that a person of illegitimate birth is deprived of certain social positions – such as being imam of congregational prayer.

Detailed Answer:

The proposed question, is indeed, a well-known allegation against Shias, that is, Shias believe imamatee is hereditary; while:

1. Shia belief is that conditions, including infallibility, being superior in various qualities, divine knowledge, etc., are necessary for an imam. These conditions are nothing but expressions of competencies, and, obviously, only God has knowledge of these competencies. Accordingly, the only way to determine an imam is through direct appointment from God, the Most High, and an introduction from the Prophet of God (pbuh) and the infallible imams. The Shias believe that, from the beginning, the names and characteristics of the Imams were known to God. Before they entered the World, through Gabriel, God informed the Prophet (pbuh) the names of all of them and the Prophet (pbuh) narrated their [total] number, order and names in several ahādīth.

2. After Imam Hassan (as), his brother Imam Hussain (as) became the Imam and after him the son of Imam Sajjād (as), while Mohammed ibn Hanafiyya, a brother of Imam Hussain (as), was still alive and was among the children of the Imams (as). Sometimes, rather than the older children, the younger children attained imamate, all of this indicating that imamate is an innate competence, that God has bestowed to those who deserved this prominent position.

3. In sura Baqarah, verse 124, hereditary and genealogical rule, has not been completely denied, but has been denied specifically from the evil doers in the offspring and descendants of Abraham (pbuh). Hence, provided the offspring and descendants of Abraham (pbuh), and every other prophet, are not oppressors, whether oppression against God, or creation or the self, and possess the necessary competence, they can take the position of imamate and leaders of society. Obviously, the request of Moses (pbuh) was also based on the merit of his brother, Aaron. Is there a difference between Prophet [Mohammad] (pbuh) and other prophets, when their hereditary rule is based on merits and qualifications they bore, rather than just mere genealogy?

In continuation, it is necessary and essential to point out that although it must be said that the secret behind imamate, caliphate, or prophethood, is something that only God is fully aware of, even if we say all of these are dependant on competency and qualities, but it still seems correct to say:

1. The prophets, with their prophethood and their perfections, won a place in the hearts of the people and gained special popularity among them. Also, when people love someone, they also love his righteous family members, and anyone who is in love, seeks the obedience of his [beloved’s] requests. Therefore, the best people for imamate, succession or prophethood, are the offspring and descendants of the Prophet (pbuh), although, we do not consider this unconditional, rather there are some constraints and conditions, that include infallibility, being superior, etc., which are all necessary in an imam.

2. From among the offspring and descendants of the prophets, there have also been [some] degenerate and unrighteous individuals, like the son of Prophet Noah (pbuh) and Jafar Kadhāb, however, the impact of good and pure food (that has been obtained through halal means that Allah swt is happy with), and a pure womb should not be forgotten in the training of competent descendents. The role of inheritance (genetic issues), etc., is also something that cannot be ignored in the transfer of ethical qualities and competences. The selection of an imam is based on merits and conditions, mentioned [above], therefore it is likely that hereditary factors do play a role in the transfer of these conditions and provide necessary grounds for it. It is for this same reason that a person of illegitimate birth is deprived of certain social positions – such as being imam of congregational prayer, etc.

The reason that the criteria for imamate is merit and competency, and that the imams possessed these qualities in abundance, is that, as we know, the imams had more than one son, yet imamate only reached one of them. Moreover, the accusation against the Shias, of imamate being hereditary is raised and fuelled today by the Wahābīs. They say that the Shias believe that imamate is hereditary, while we see them harbouring support for and living under the state’s and government’s control; the formation of which has been based on hereditary rule; such as the governments around the Persian Gulf. They also endorse governments, that have been formed based on inheritance and the source of their original establishment was based on inheritance, without any condition and merit in the ruler, to the extent that they have even been content with the rule of some of these rulers’ children; rulers’ whose original rule was based on being hereditary; like the government of the Umayyids and Abbasids.

So why is it that when it is the Ahlulbayt’s (as) turn, they take the flag of opposition and attack the Shia, despite all the conditions that are apparent in the imams that the Shias believe in and that history has proven the validity of, so far as not a [single] weakness can be observed in them, even though they had and have many enemies?

Read 2538 times