IMAMATE, DOCTRINE OF
The rudiments of the concept of the Imamate had been introduced by Ali bin Abu Talib in his speeches and Imam Hussain in his correspondence with the Shi'ites of Kufa and Basra. Soon after the event of Karbala, the political situation was changed in Islamic states, therefore, Imam Zayn al-Abidin confined his religious activities to Medina. The adherents of the Imam however spread in all Islamic regions.
The Imamate of Imam Muhammad al-Bakir and Imam Jafar Sadik coincided with turbulent period politically in the Islamic states. With the advent of the Greek philosophy in the Arabian territories, different thought of schools and sects emerged in Islam due to different interpretations. The Companions of the Prophet were also no longer alive, who had treasured in their memories the knowledge they had acquired from Ahl al-Bayt. It was a peak time to impart the followers the doctrine of the Imamate and the philosophical aspect of the tenets of Islam. Kashshshi writes in Marifat Akhbar al-Rijal (p. 28) that, "Before the Imamate of Muhammad al-Bakir, the Shi'ites knew nothing what was lawful and unlawful except what they learnt from the people; until Muhammad al-Bakir became the Imam. He taught and explained to them the knowledge and they began to impart other people from whom they were previously learning." Thus, the small nucleus established after the Karbala event by Imam Zayn al-Abidin began to develop rapidly under Imam Muhammad al-Bakir.
The fundamental principle embodied in the doctrine of the Imamate was the nass, which means the transmission of the Divine Light to the succeeding Imam. Imam Jaffar Sadik says, "Each Imam knows the Imam who is to come after him and so he appoints him as his successor" (Bihar al-Anwar, 23:73). The Imam also said, "None of us die until God has informed us of the one who is to succeed us" (Ibid. 23:71). Thus, the Imams are considered to be mansus (designated).
In explaining the position of the Imam, Imam Jafar Sadik made repeatedly declarations in unequivocal terms and proclaimed that "the Imamate is a covenant between God and mankind, and recognition of the Imam is the absolute duty of every believer" (al-Kafi, 1:318). He further said, "Whoever dies without having known and acknowledged the Imam of his time dies as an infidel" (Ibid., 1:462), "The Imams are the proofs of God (hujjatullah) on earth and their words are the words of God and their commands are the commands of God. Obedience to them is obedience to God, and disobedience to them is disobedience to God. In all their decisions they are inspired by God, and they are in absolute authority. It is to them, therefore, that God has ordained obedience" (Ibid., pp. 214-220).
Imam Jafar Sadik goes on to declare that, "The Imam of the time is the witness for the people and he is the gate to God (Bab Allah), and the road (Sabil) to Him, and the guide thereto (Dalil), and the repository of His knowledge, and the interpreter of His revelations. The Imam of his time is a pillar of God's unity (tawhid). The Imams are those from whom God has removed all impurity and made them absolutely pure; they are possessed of irrefutable arguments (dala'il); and they are for the protection of the people of this earth just as the stars are for the inhabitants of the heavens. They may be likened in this community to the Ark of Noah: he who boards it obtains salvation and reaches the gate of repentance." (Ibid., 1:207). In another tradition, "God delegated to the Imams spiritual rulership over the whole world, which must always have such a leader and guide. Even if only two men were left upon the face of the earth, one of them would be an Imam, so much would his guidance be needed" (Ibid., pp. 205,207,304).
Through such traditions, Imam Jafar Sadik in his lifetime established for his line of Imams the sanctity of the Ahl al-Bayt as an inherited quality confined only to those of the children of Fatima who were ordained to be the Imams, and in this way rejected the claims of all other Hashimites, Alids, Fatimites or Abbasids. Hence, the Shi'i community had attained an ideological unity in the period of Imam Jafar Sadik.