The purpose of this article is merely to demonstrate that Shia views about the special importance and the leadership of Ahlul-Bayt do not come out of the blue. In this way, I hope to contribute to better understanding among Muslims and hence help to reduce some people’s hostility against the followers of the Members of the House of the Prophet (PBUH&HF). The fact that we (Shia) have adopted a creed which differs from that of the Ash’arites as far as the fundamental beliefs are concerned, and differs from the four schools of Sunni jurists as far as the laws, rites, and observances are concerned, is not due to any sectarianism or prejudice. It is rather the theological reasoning which has led us to adopt the creed of those Imams who belong to the Ahlul-Bayt of the Holy Prophet, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF).

We have, therefore, wholly and solely bound ourselves to them in our observances as well as our beliefs; in the derivations of our knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet; and in all our material, moral and spiritual values on the grounds of theological and logical proofs. We have done this in obedience of the Holy Prophet and in submission to his Sunnah. Had we not been convinced by these proofs to disallow all Imams except the Ahlul-Bayt, and to seek to draw near to Allah only through them, we might have inclined towards the creed of the majority for the sake of unity and fraternity. But incontrovertible reasons command a believer to follow the truth regardless of all other considerations. The majority of the Muslims are unable to produce any argument to show which of their four different jurists is the best. It is impossible to follow all of them, and therefor, before one can say that it is “compulsory” to follow them, one has to prove which one must be followed. We have pondered over the arguments of the Hanafis, the Shafi’is, the Malikis and the Hanbalis with the eyes of a seeker of truth and we have searched far and wide, but we have found no answer to this, except they were all acclaimed as very great jurists and honest and just men.

But you are fully aware that jurist’s capacity, honesty, justice and greatness are not monopoly of these four persons only. Then, how can it be “compulsory” to follow them only? We do not think that anyone can hold that these four Imams are in any way better than our Imams, the pure and holy descendants of the Prophet (PBUH&HF), the Ark of Salvation, the Gate of Repentance, through whom we can attain protection against disagreement in religious matters; for they are the emblems of guidance, and the leaders towards the straight path. But alas, after the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF), politics began to play its part in the affairs of religion and you know what took place in the heart of Islam as a result. During all these periods of trials, the Shia continued to hold fast to Quran and the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt whom the Holy Prophet left among us as the two most weighty things (al-Thaqalain). There have been some extremists sects (al-Ghulat) which appeared every now and then in course of the history of Islam; nonetheless, the main body of the Shia have never deviated from this path since the time of Imam Ali and Fatimah (peace be upon them) up to the present day.

The Shia existed when Ash’ari and all the four Sunni Imams were unborn and unheard of. Up to the first three generations since the Holy Prophet’s time, Ash’ari and the Sunni Imams were unknown. Ash’ari was born in 270 AH and died in 320 AH; Ibn Hanbal was born in 164 AH and died in 241 AH; Shafi’i was born in 150 AH and died in 204 AH; Malik was born in 95 AH and died in 169 AH. Abu Hanifa was born in 80 AH and died in 150 AH. The Shia, on the other hand, follow the path of Ahlul-Bayt which include Imam Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan and al-Husain (peace be upon them all) who were all contemporaries of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF) and raised in his House. As far as the knowledge of the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt is concerned, it is sufficient to say that Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (AS) was the teacher of the two Sunni Imams, i.e., Abu Hanifa al-Nu’man , and Malik Ibn Anas.

Abu Hanifa said: “Except for the two years Nu’man would have starved,” referring to the two years he had benefited from the knowledge of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (AS). Malik also confessed straightforwardly that he had not met anyone learned in Islamic Jurisprudence better than Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (AS). The Abbasid Caliph, al-Mansoor, commanded Abu Hanifa to prepare for Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (AS) a number of hard questions concerning the Islamic Law and to ask the Imam those questions in the presence of al-Mansoor. Abu Hanifa prepared forty difficult questions and asked Imam Ja’far about them in al-Mansoor’s presence. The Imam not only answered all the questions but also informed about the opinions of the Iraqi as well as the Hijazi Scholars. Abu Hanifa commented on this episode saying: “Certainly, the most knowledgeable among people is the most knowledgeable of their different opinions.”(1)

Abu Hanifa described his feelings (when he entered the palace of al-Mansoor and found Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (AS) sitting with him) by saying: “When I saw Imam Ja’far, I felt his personality commands more respect than that of the Caliph himself. Yet the Caliph was ruling the Muslim World, and Imam Ja’far was a private citizen.”(2) Malik (the other Sunni Imam) said: “I used to come to Ja’far Ibn Muhammad (AS) and went to him for a long time. Whenever I visited him, I found him praying, fasting, or reading the Quran. Whenever he reported a statement of the Messenger of God, he was with ablution. He was a distinguished worshipper who was unconcerned with the material world. He was of the God fearing people.” (3)



1. Sunni reference:
Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah in his book “al-Imam al-Sadiq”, p27

2. Sunni reference:
Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah in his book “al-Imam al-Sadiq”, p27

3. Sunni reference:
Shaikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah in his book “al-Imam al-Sadiq”, p66