Imam and Imamate

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Imam and Imamate

In Shia belief, the word "Imamate" signifies leadership and guidance and the one possessing it, who is called "Imam," holds the perfect religious leadership and the unchallenged political authority of the Muslim society. Imamate is among the fundamentals of Shia. The centrality and necessity of Imam in Shia is rooted in the Holy Quran saying, "Of those We have created are people who direct (others) with truth. And dispense justice therewith" (7:181), and also in the view stressing that "God would not leave the world without some sort of 'guidance' (huda) for humanity" (EIMW 351), and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) being "the last Prophet who closed the prophetic cycle, the Shia believe that humanity still needs spiritual guidance: the cycle of imamate must succeed the cycle of prophecy" (EIMW 37). In Shia worldview, Imams have the following three qualities: first, they have been divinely designated (nass); second, they are uniquely qualified (afdal) to provide religious guidance and insight for the community; third and most importantly, they are infallible (ma'sum) (EI xxvi). The Twelve-Imam Shia (the largest division of Shia), holds that "all but one of their 12 Imams suffered martyrdom in defense of their faith and that the 12th will return after a period of concealment (ghayba) that began in 872 as a messiah (savior) to inaugurate a reign of universal justice prior to Judgment Day" (EI xxvi). During the time of the 12th Imam, Mahdi (a.s.), the Shia "jurists (mujtahids) have continued the Imam’s function of providing religious guidance and leadership to the community" (EIMW 350).

Synonyms: Imam,Imamate
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