SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Your question can be diversified into sub-questions and each one should be studied alone to reach up a complete and perfect answer.
1- Does the verse in the chapter of Al-Kahf refer to the origin of building mosques over graves or not?
2- Is it possible that there are some particular sites of a particular value that makes them places of blessing?
3- Does praying to Allah (swt) beside graves contradict with worshiping Him, even when we consider that the grave is in the direction of the prayer? What is the opinion of the Shiite in this issue with regards of what the Imams say about that?
Concerning the first part related to the verse 21 of the chapter of Al-Kahf; which the questioner referred to mistakenly as 33, the verse obviously declare that the believers insisted on building a mosque over the cemetery of the people in the cave, there was no objection or criticism of that in the Quran. If this act contradicts with the creed and principles of religion, the Quran would have rebuked them for doing it, and would refer to their deviancy from truth. Besides, this historical fact is related in the books of the Sunnis as well; in some of these books and after the exegesis of the verse «We verily shall build a place of worship over them» there are traditions mentioned denote the fact of the prohibition of building mosques over graves. Similarly, such traditions are related in the books of the Shia.
This caused a dispute amongst the scholars and thinkers, trying to resolve the issue without disregarding the clear denotation of the verse which authorizes the building of mosques over graves, and simultaneously take into consideration these related traditions which on the other hand prohibit this act. There should be a joining of the verse and the traditions to avoid the contradiction.
Some Sunni scholars justified the prohibition of building mosques over graves as follows: those who built a mosque over the graves of the people of cave are infidels (disbelievers), even if they were believers, their act is considered undesirable. In joining them in such a manner it appears that the surface meaning of the verse is being avoided and it is an attempt to cancel the whole issue. But as said before, not rebuking those people for this act is an evidence that the Quran upholds them.
Al- Majlisi, a great Shia scholar, joined the verse and the related tradition as follows:
(May the Jews and the Christians be damned for making their prophet's graves places of worship), they used to direct their prayer towards these graves, as if they are idols. However, those who build mosques beside the grave of a righteous man or pray in a cemetery intending to gain a blessing from that and not for the purpose of glorifying the dead in the grave will not be wronged. Do you not realize that Ismail's grave is in the sacred sanctuary and the prayer performed in its spot is greatly rewarded?).
Other Sunni scholars took this issue into consideration, saying that these traditions do not contradicts with the permissibility of building mosques over graves and seeking blessing in them.
To conclude, the purpose of building mosques over graves should not be to take them as places of idolatry and paganism, a fact emphasized in the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh): (Oh Allah, let not my grave be an idol of worship).
However, building mosques around the graves and praying inside them in the direction that Allah (swt) has decreed for us is not a problem.
The other evidence that could sustain this matter is that the Prophet and two of his companions were buried in a spot near the Prophet's mosque. In the last enlargement, the graves became inside the sanctuary, yet no scholar prohibited praying inside the mosque on account of the three graves, and no one referred to any of the prohibitive traditions as well. In addition to that, the prayer performed in the sanctuary of the Prophet's mosque does not differ from that being performed in the Imams' shrines.
In viewing the second part of the question there should be a thorough study and analysis of some issues. As Muslims we believe that:
1- Allah (swt) is not restricted to a certain place or direction, «Unto Allah belong the East and the West, and whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's Countenance».
2- Allah (swt) has defined a particular place for people to orient themselves to in the prayer on account of organizing their worship. Muslims in the time of the Prophet prayed in two different directions, one of them being towards the sacred mosque in Jerusalem, the other being towards Mecca. In other words, the direction of the prayer does not retain a value in itself, but its value comes from its being a means to worship and obey Allah (swt); a fact that has been explicitly referred to in the Quran.
3- We, as Muslims, never prostrate to any one but Allah (swt) as the Imams enjoined us to do. And as for prostrating towards a person or a definite thing, it does not mean that we worship that thing; our prostration towards the Kaaba does not signify that we are specifically worshiping it. Do we intend to worship Allah (swt) or the Kaaba when we prostrate towards it? And when Allah (swt) enjoined the Angels to prostrate before Adam, was that to lead them to associate with him (Allah forbids); therefore, Satan is the only monotheist when he refuses to prostrate and he is the only one to succeed in this test, while the Angels abandoned the worship of Allah (swt) and turned to be Adam's worshippers?!
We believe that prostration is an act that shows obedience to Allah (swt), and when He orders us to perform it before someone else we submit to that, considering it to be part of our submission to Him and disobeying Allah (swt) in doing that means that we are associating with Him. Besides, our obedience in directing our prayer towards the Kaaba does not mean that our prostration is not for Allah (swt).
4- We also believe, as Muslims, that the heavens and the earth belong to Allah (swt) and that performing some acts of worship in some particular sites brings back much greater reward than their being performed in other places, such sites are the sanctuary in Mecca and the Prophet's mosque in Medina, where they have privilege over other places in regard to the worship being performed in them. The Prophet says in that: (A prayer performed in my mosque is much rewarded than in any other mosque except for the Sacred Sanctuary).
In the Shiite creed, the prayer and the worship bring greater reward once they are done in the Imam's (a) shrines as well as the sites mentioned above. And the restrictions in which these acts are shaped in show no sign of association with Allah (swt).
It is not relevant to mention the benefits of visiting these shrines, as it is not part of your question but if you have any interest in being acquainted with them you may go to the research that has been done regarding this matter; one of them is question number 3295 in this website.
As for the third part of the question we may point to some traditions related to this topic:
1- (Al-moqdadi narrated that Imam Zain Al- Abedeen (p) arrived in Kufa and entered its mosque, where Abu Hamza Al-Thumali was there; one of the most devoted worshippers in Kufa. He prayed and supplicated, until he said: then I followed him to the wilderness of Kufa, where I saw a black slave with a camel, I asked: O slave! who is this man? He replied: Have not you recognized him? He is Ali Bin Al-Hussain (a). Abu Hamza said: I knelt down at his feet kissing them, then he raised my head and said: (No, Abu Hamza, prostration is only before Allah (swt) be He Glorified, I said: O son of Prophet why did you come to us? He said: Because of what I have seen, had the people known the great reward in it they would have crept to attain it) 
2- (Abu al-Yessa narrated: a man asked Abu Abdullah and I was listening, he said: If I arrived at Al-Hussein's grave (p) shall I make it the direction of my prayer? He said: step aside the grave).
3- There are traditions which indeed recommend the visitors of the shrines to stand in the side of the head when praying in the sanctuary, which means that if someone is honored by visiting the Imams, it is good for them to know that the side of the head is the best to perform the prayer in. The purpose behind that is to show reverence to the Imams because standing to pray where the grave is behind you is a sign of disrespect to those great people. Apparently some people understood that to be enjoining the visitors to prostrate before the graves, while in reality people are praying near the shrines in the direction decreed for them to follow by Allah (swt); which is the Kaaba. These traditions aims at denoting that showing respect to the Prophet and the Imams is a desirable thing whether in their lives or after their deaths. It also believed that their position and rank are much greater than that of the martyrs mentioned in the Quran to be alive.
Based on what is said previously we think that the Prophet and the Imams listen to us when we visit them, and reply to our greeting, which is not to say that we are heedless of Allah (swt). The Imams commanded the believers to begin the recitation of the Al-Jamia prayer (الزیارة الجامعة) with the reptition of (Allah is the Greatest) a hundered times.
Moreover, respecting The Prophet and the Imams and visiting their graves after their death do not intermingle with worshipping Allah (swt).
Finally, we reach up to a result that performing the prayer or even supplicating near the shrines of those great people is permissible, being aware of the nessecity to reflect at their lives and struggles as they are elevated people.
What you said about the direction of the prayer and its being sometimes in the same direction of the graves is right. But do you think that a person who is praying in the sanctuary should change his place; though he is directing his prayer to the Kaba, just to keep praying beside the shrine while the sanctuary is crowded with people and he can barely find a foothold? This has not been even confirmed by any of the Muslims sects. There are strong related Traditions which order us not to make the graves the intended direction we are praying to, and yet no one talked about the prayer being unrighteous in such cases.
If the worshippers in the shrines prayed in the direction of the graves forming a circle as the worshippers do in the sanctuary of the Kaaba then it is possible to accuse them and consider them to be prostrating before the graves. But when they are performing their prayer in a shrine where the grave happened to be in the direction of the prayer, then it is not a problem at all, and insisting to accuse them is unfair as well as arrogant. What would you say about the people praying with Ibrahim's place facing them? Do we say that they are praying before the place or the Kaaba?
There are some ignorant people who deviate completely from the direction of the Kaaba; their prayer is not only considered wrong by the Shiite, but they are also condemned and avoided from doing that and having such rare cases is not to say that they only belong to the Shiite sect.
 Tabari, Abu Jafer Mohammed bin Jareer, Jame Al Bayan Fi Tafseer al Quran, vol 15, pg 149, Al Ma’arif Publishing, Beirut, 1412 H.
 Qurdubi, Mohammed bin Ahmed, Al Jame Le Ahkam Al Quran, vol 11, pg 379, Naser Khosro publishing, Tehran, 1364 H S.
 For example: Refer to: Al Sheikh Al Sadooq, Man la yahdoroho al faqeeh, vol 1, pg 178, Tradition 532, Islamic publishing institution, Qum, 1413 H.
 Qurdubi, vol 11, pg 379.
 Ibn Katheer, Exegesis of the great Quran, vol 5, pages 133 - 134, Scientific Books Publishing, Beirut, 1419 H.
 Majlisi, Mohammed Baqer, Bihar Al Anwar, vol 79, pg 56, Alwafa Publishing, Beirut, 1404 H.
 Al Modheri, Mohammed Thanaa Allah, Al Modheri exegesis, vol 6, pg 25, Roshdiya library, Pakistan, 1412 H.
 Qurdubi, Mohammed bin Ahmed, Al Jame Le Ahkam Al Quran, vol 11, pg 379.
 Chapter Al Baqara, 115.
 Chapter Al Baqara, 142 - 145.
 Chapters: Al Baqara, 34; Al Araf, 11; Al Esra, 61; Al Kahf, 50; etc….
 Qurdubi, Mohammed bin Ahmed, Al Jame Le Ahkam Al Quran, vol 10, pg 372.
 Al Horr Al Ameli, Mohammed bin Al Hacen, Wasael As Sheaa, vol 14, pages 407 - 408, Tradition 19474, Ahlulbayt institution, Qum, 1409 H.
 Ibid, vol 14, pg 519, Tradition 19731.
 Ibid, vol 14, pg 519, Tradition 19730, and pg 520, Tradition 19732.
 Chapter Al-Emran, 169.
 Majlisi, Bihar Al Anwar, vol 99, pg 127.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Subsequent to mentioning the story of rescuing Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Lut and granting Ibrahim (as) righteous children, the Quran reflects on the imamah and leadership of this great Prophet and a number of values, plans and qualities pertaining to this divine position: “And we made them leaders, guiding (mankind) by our command, and we inspired in them the doing of good deeds, performing salat, and the giving of zakat and of us (alone) they were worshippers.”
The above ayah indicates that the five qualities of the imam are as follows:
1. Calling the people to God.
2. Aspiring to do good and righteous deeds.
3. Upholding the ritual of prayer (salat).
4. Giving of zakat (charity).
5. Only worshipping Allah.
Precisely speaking, imamah is the manifestation and fulfillment of all divine plans, in other words, it is the implementation of takwini (generative) and tashri’i (legislative) guidance, which can be portrayed as the sun, that cultivates each and every living creature with its light.
The first quality of the imam is that: he guides the people to our noble cause (یهدون بامرنا), not only does he direct them to the right path; he actually walks those worthy through the path all the way to the final destination.
The second, third and fourth endowment and quality of the imam is that we inspired in them the doing of good, performance of prayer and giving of zakat (و اوحینا الیهم فعل الخیرات و اقام الصلوة و ایتاء الزکاة).
This type of revelation can be a matter of tashri’i revelation, meaning that we included a variety of good deeds, the act of prayer and zakat in their religious doctrine, or it can be a matter of takwini revelation, indicating that we granted them the tawfiq (i.e., the opportunity), ability and strength to perform such things.
And in the fifth and last phrase, the Quran reflects on their obedience, saying: And of us (alone) they were worshippers (و کانوا لنا عابدین).
Additionally, the expression (کانوا), that which implies continuance and persistence on this particular matter, suggests that they were pious and righteous believers prior to becoming prophets or imams and that it was for this very dedication to the divine that prepared them for new blessings from God.
 Anbiya’:71 and 72.
 “و جعلناهم ائمة یهدون بامرنا و اوصینا الیهم فعل الخیرات و اقام الصلوة و ایتاء الزکوة و کانوا لنا عابدین” Anbiya’:73.
 Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 13, pg. 455, with some alteration.
 Ibid, pg. 456, with slight alteration.
 For further reading, see: Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 13, pp. 451-157; Pasdare Eslam Magazine, no. 298, Sept. 2006, pg. 10, article on the imams and leaders of guidance.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Imamate literally means leadership and Imam means anything that is followed, whether it is human or not and whether it leads to good or evil, in other words, it generally refers to any leadership. But in theology Imamate means the leadership of the Islamic society after the prophet of Islam.
From Shia theologians’ point of view Imamate is, similar to prophethood, one of the Usul al-Din (Fundamental beliefs) and is a divinely ordained status. An Imam assumes all the responsibilities of a prophet with the exception of Nubuwwah (receiving revelation).
Being appointed by Allah, infallibility and being the greatest individual of his time are the three key factors in Imamate. There are many narrative evidences and logical reasons that support this viewpoint.
The comprehensive and precise definition of Imamate would be: “الامامة قیادة عامة الهیة فی امور الدین و الدنیا لشخص کامل من الانسان فی کل عصر، خلافةً عن الرسول (ص)” which means: Imamate is the exhaustive, comprehensive and holy leadership in all spiritual and worldly issues that is granted to perfect humans during different times as the successors of the prophet of Islam.
Imamate in the Quran:
We must examine the following issues in this regard:
A: The meaning of Imamate in the Quran: The meaning of Imamate in the Quran is as same as its literal meaning which is general leadership, and an Imam means a leader and one who is followed.
B: The verses of Imamate: There are twelve verses in the Quran that relate to Imamate in which the words “Imam” and “Ai’ma” have been used. The meanings in which the word Imam has been used are different. In eight verses the word Imam refers to a human, in two it refers to a book, in one verse to the ‘Protected Tablet’ (al-Lawḥ al-Maḥfūdh) and in another to a path and way.
C: The different types of Imamate (Leadership of society) in the Quran:
There are two types of Imamate mentioned in the Quran: First “The Imams of light” who are the pious and righteous leaders and second “The Imams of fire” who are the heads of Kufr and deviation.
D: The features of the Imams of light in the Quran:
The verses related to the features of pious Imams fall into four categories; First: verses in which the features of the Imam are clearly mentioned Second: verses that are allusive and explain features of pious imams when examined along with the ahadith of the Ahlul-Bayt Third: verses that exclusively point out the virtues of Imam Ali Fourth: verses that specifically allude to the virtues of Imam Mahdi.
First group of verses: We will mention a few examples for this group of verses (verses in which features of an Imam are clearly mentioned):
1- “وَ إِذِ ابْتَلىَ إِبْرَاهِمَ رَبُّهُ بِکلَِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ قَالَ إِنىِّ جَاعِلُکَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا قَالَ وَ مِن ذُرِّیَّتىِ قَالَ لَا یَنَالُ عَهْدِى الظَّالِمِینَ”
When his Lord tested Abraham by means of [certain] words, and he fulfilled them, He said:" I am going to make you into a leader for mankind." He said:" What about my offspring (Will there be leaders from among them)?" He said:" My pledge does not apply to evildoers.(Only those of your children will be leaders that are pious and infallible)."
2- “وَ جَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئمَّةً یَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا وَ أَوْحَیْنَا إِلَیْهِمْ فِعْلَ الْخَیرَْاتِ وَ إِقَامَ الصَّلَوةِ وَ إِیتَاءَ الزَّکَوةِ وَ کاَنُواْ لَنَا عَبِدِینَ”
We made them leaders who guided (others) by Our command and We inspired them to perform good deeds, keep up prayer, and pay the welfare tax. They have been serving Us.
3- “وَ جَعَلْنَا مِنهُْمْ أَئمَّةً یهَْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا لَمَّا صَبرَُواْ وَ کَانُواْ بَِایَاتِنَا یُوقِنُونَ”
We even set some of them up as leaders to guide [people] at Our command, once they were patient and convinced about Our sign.
4- “قُلْ هَلْ مِن شُرَکاَئکمُ مَّن یهَْدِى إِلىَ الْحَقِّ قُلِ اللَّهُ یهَْدِى لِلْحَقِّ أَ فَمَن یهَْدِى إِلىَ الْحَقِّ أَحَقُّ أَن یُتَّبَعَ أَمَّن لَّا یهَِدِّى إِلَّا أَن یهُْدَى فَمَا لَکمُْ کَیْفَ تحَْکُمُون”
Say:" Does any of your partners guide one to Truth?" Say: “God guides to Truth. So is someone who guides to Truth worthier to be followed than someone who does not guide unless he himself is guided? What is the matter with you? How do you decide things?”
Taking these and other verses of the Quran into consideration, the following features are understood for the pious and spiritual imams:
1- Being appointed by Allah; because in all of these verses appointing the Imam has been attributed to Allah and in the verse of Ibtilā’ (the first verse mentioned) the Almighty has considered Imamate a holy and godly pledge and covenant. Therefore, it is Allah who is the other side of the covenant and should appoint the individual that assumes this responsibility. Also, according to these verses, the Imam must be infallible and he must be the greatest and highest individual among all people of his time. Obviously, no one other than Allah can know about these innate and inner virtues and excellences. Therefore, the Imam should be appointed by Allah. The purpose behind appointing pious Imams by Allah is for them to guide and lead society.
2- Infallibility of an Imam; because the verses indicate that an Imam should be pure and protected from all sins, mistakes, faults, forgetfulness and any other negative features.
3- Being the greatest individual; because according to the second and third verses, an Imam guides towards truth by the command of Allah, and one who guides to the truth must be greater than everyone else. Therefore, an Imam should be the greatest individual of his time in terms of knowledge, religion, belief, piety and all human virtues and values.
4- Being guided: One of the Imams’ features is that they are guided.
5- Divine guiding: One feature of an Imam is that he guides people through divine light and guidance.
6- Having belief: Having strong and firm belief is another feature of the Imams that is mentioned in the Quran.
8- Praising and worshipping Allah
Second group of verses
The verses that are allusive to a feature of the pious Imams when examined along with the ahadith of the Ahlul-Bayt. There is a great number of these ahadith, therefore, we will suffice to mentioning a few of them:
“الصراط المستقیم” (al-Ṣirāt al-Mustaqīm): al-Ṣirāt al-Mustaqīm or the straight path means the path that one can rely on and will lead man to his intended destination. The Quran says: “اهدنا الصراط المستقیم”“Guide us to the straight path”. When interpreting this verse, Imam Sadiq says: “والله نحن الصراط المستقیم” “By Allah we (the Ahlul-Bayt) are the straight path.”
“الشاهد” (Shāhid): Shāhidor the witness is one of the features Allah has mentioned for the Imams. The status of witnessing is a very lofty and great one, because the inevitable result of having the status of being a witness is for one to witness the acts, deeds and conduct of Allah’s servants. Therefore, the Imams oversee the deeds of Allah’s servants and observe them. The Quran says: “کَذلِکَ جَعَلْناکُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطاً لِتَکُونُوا شُهَداءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَ یَکُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَیْکُمْ شَهیداً” “Thus We have made you a middle nation that you may be witnesses to the people, and that the Apostle may be a witness to you”. Imam Sadiq stated: “...نحن شهدا الله علی خلقه...” “We are Allah’s witnesses over his servants.”
“باب الله” (Bābullāh): Another feature of the Imams is that they are the doors (pathways) to Allah, meaning that whoever wants to benefit from Allah’s beneficence must enter from its doors and the Imams are the doors to Allah’s mercy and beneficence. The Quran says in this regard: “وَ لَیْسَ الْبرُِّ بِأَن تَأْتُواْ الْبُیُوتَ مِن ظُهُورِهَا وَ لَاکِنَّ الْبرَِّ مَنِ اتَّقَى وَ أْتُواْ الْبُیُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَابِهَا وَ اتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ لَعَلَّکُمْ تُفْلِحُون”
It is not piety that you come into houses from their rear; rather piety is [personified by] one who is God wary, and come into houses from their doors, and be wary of Allah, so that you may be felicitous. Imam Baqir stated: “...آل محمد ابواب الله و سبیله...” “The household of Muhammad are the doors to Allah and his path...”
“السابق” (Sābiq): This word is used for those who precede others in terms of belief and good deeds. The Quran says: “و منهم سابق بالخیرات......” “and some of them are those who take the lead in all the good works.” Imam Ridha explained: “السابق بالخیرات، الامام” “It is the Imam who takes the lead in good deeds”.
“المیزان” (Mīzān): The Mizan or balance of deeds which is the touchstone by which people’s deeds are evaluated. The Quran says: “و نضع الموازین القسط لیوم القیٰمه فلا تظلم نفس شیئاً” “We shall set up the scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection, and no soul will be wronged in the least.” Imam Sadiq says: “الموازین الانبیاء و الاوصیاء” “The scales of justice are the prophets and their successors.”
“النجم” (Najm): Najm or Star which refers to the state of illumination and enlightenment is one of the features of an Imam. The Quran says: “و هو الذی جعل لکم النجوم لتهتدوا بها فی الظلمات البّر” “It is He who made the stars for you, so that you may be guided by them in the darkness of land and sea.” It is mentioned in the Tafsir of Ali Bin Ibrahim that: the “Stars” are the household of the prophet.
“الصادق” (Ṣādiq): Truthful. The Quran says: “یا ایهّا الذین آمنوا اتقوا الله و کونوا مع الصادقین” “O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah, and be with the Truthful.” Imam Baqir says: “ایانا عنا” “Allah is referring to us in this verse”
Being firmly grounded in knowledge: Some verses point out the depth of an Imam’s knowledge, such as this verse: “و مایعلم تأویله الّا الله و الراسخون فی العلم” “But no one knows its interpretation except Allah and those firmly grounded in knowledge.”
Therefore, a firmly rooted individual in knowledge is one who has dwelled in the seas of knowledge and has tasted the sweetness of it.
Imam Sadiq says: “The Firmly rooted in knowledge are Imam Ali and the Imams after him.”
Other verses indicate the massiveness of their knowledge, such as this verse: “قل کفی بالله شهیداً بینی و بینکم و من عنده علم الکتاب” “Say," Allah suffices as a witness between me and you, and he who possesses the knowledge of the Book.” Imam Baqir says: “ایانا عنی و علی اولنا و افضلنا وخیرنا بعد النبی” “The verse is referring to us and the best and foremost and highest of us after the prophet is Imam Ali.”
“الطیب” (Ṭayyib): The word Tayyib can have many meanings such as: pleasurable, what Allah has considered permissible, what is clean and pure or what doesn’t bother one’s body or soul.
And when it comes to an Imam, all of these meanings can be intended. The Quran says: “...الم تر کیف ضرب الله مثلاً کلمة طیبة” “Have you not regarded how Allah has drawn a parable? A good word is like a good tree”. Imam Sadiq stated: “The roots of the tree are the prophet, its body is Imam Ali and its branches are the rest of the Imams.”
“الحکیم” (Ḥakīm): Knowledgeable and wise; the Quran says: “أَمْ یَحْسُدُونَ النَّاسَ عَلى ما آتاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ فَقَدْ آتَیْنا آلَ إِبْراهیمَ الْکِتابَ وَ الْحِکْمَةَ وَ آتَیْناهُمْ مُلْکاً عَظیما” “Or do they envy the people for what Allah has given them out of His grace? We have certainly given the progeny of Abraham the Book and wisdom, and We have given them a great sovereignty.” Imam Sadiq said: “By Allah we are the ones who are envied.”
“الوارث” (Wārith): The Quran says: “ان الارض لله یورثها من یشاء من عباده و العاقبة للمتقین” “The earth indeed belongs to Allah, and He gives its inheritance to whomever He wishes of His servants, and the outcome will be in favor of the God wary.” Imam Baqir said: “We are the heirs of the earth and we are the God wary.”
The third group of verses which are the ones that point out the features of Imam Ali:
“الشجاعه” (Shujāʻah): Shujāʻah, i.e., courage, is one of the features of the Imam. The Quran says: “و من الناس من یشری نفسه ابتغاء مرضات الله و الله رؤف بالعباد” “And among the people is he who sells his soul seeking the pleasure of Allah, and Allah is most kind to [His] servants.” Imam Sajjad says: “This verse was revealed when he (Imam Ali) slept in the prophet’s place instead of him.”
“المنفق” (Munfiq): Giver or donator; the Quran says: “انما ولیکم الله و رسوله و الذین آمنوا الذین یقیمون الصلوة و یؤتون الزکاة و هم راکعون” “Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give zakat while bowing down.” The prophet stated: “Ali is the person that prayed and gave zakat while he was performing ruku’.”
ایمان و جهاد (Iman and Jihad): Believing in Allah and carrying out Jihad in the path of Allah is one of the Imam’s features. “اجعلتم سقایة الحاج و عمارة المسجد الحرام کمن آمن بالله و الیوم الاخر و جاهد فی سبیل الله” “Do you regard the providing of water to hajj pilgrims and the maintenance of the Holy Mosque as similar [in worth] to someone who has faith in Allah and [believes in] the Last Day and wages jihad in the way of Allah?” The Shia Quranic commentators and narrators have mentioned many ahadith that prove that this verse was revealed in regard to Imam Ali.
From among Sunni scholars, Tabari, Tha’labi, Tafsir Khazin, Wahedi in Asbab al-Nuzul, Allamah Baghawi in Ma’alim, Maghazili in Manaqib, Ibn Asir in Jami’ al-Usul and Fakhr Razi in his tafsir as well as his other books have mentioned the same thing.
خیر البریة(Khayr al-Bariyyah): The best of all creation; The Quran says: “ان الذین آمنوا و عملوا الصالحات هم خیر البریه” “Indeed those who have faith and do righteous deeds it is they who are the best of creatures.” Imam Baqir narrates from the prophet that he addressed Imam Ali saying: “Verily these individuals are you and your followers.”
رحمة الله (Raḥmatullah): Allah’s mercy; “قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَ بِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَالِکَ فَلْیَفْرَحُواْ هُوَ خَیرٌْ مِّمَّا یجَْمَعُون” “Say," In Allah's grace and His mercy let them rejoice in that! It is better than what they amass.” Imam Baqir said: “Allah’s grace is his prophet and Allah’s mercy is Ali Bin Abi Taleb.”
“الصالح” (Ṣāliḥ): The Quran says: “و لقد کتبنا فی الزبور من بعد الذکر ان الارض یرثها عبادی الصالحون”“Certainly We wrote in the Psalms, after the Torah:" Indeed My righteous servants shall inherit the earth.” Imam Baqir narrates from the prophet that he stated: “Allah will choose a righteous servant from among my household that will fill the earth of justice as it is full of injustice and oppression.”
واسطة النور (Wāsiṭah al-Nūr): “و اشرقت الارض به نور ربها....” “And the earth will glow with the light of her Lord”. Imam Sadiq says: “When our ‘standing one’ [Imam Mahdi (aj)] rises, he will spread the light of Allah and people will no longer be in need of the sun’s light.”
The Imams of fire
Taking what was said about the Imams of fire into consideration, one can conclude that they are leaders that pay no attention to Allah and his commands and act according to their pulse and desire. They are the foremost in Kufr and deviation and have reached the furthest degree in this regard and can be considered as Imams and leaders in this path. This is why Allah has considered them the leaders of Kufr, deviation and sinning. Examples of the Imams of fire mentioned in the Quran would be the Pharaoh, his people and heads of Arab polytheists.
The features of the Imams of fire are as follows: rebellion, causing corruption and destruction, deviation, leading to the Hellfire, oppression, arrogance, causing division, humiliation and trickery.
The corrupted Imams’ reaction to the holy prophets was mockery, accusation, threatening and denying them and breach of practs.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 21.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 134.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 177.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 4, pg. 361.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 3, pg. 430.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 75.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 2, pg. 280.
 Al Imran:7.
 Usul al-Kāfī, vol. 1, pg. 213.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 2, pg. 522.
 Majma’ al-Bahrain, vol. 2, p. 111, Nur al-Hidayah Software.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 2, pg. 535.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 491.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 2 pg. 56.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 204.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 644.
 al-Burhan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol. 2, pg. 748.
 See: Tafsir Nemooneh, vol. 7, pg. 322; Kitab Ihqaq al-Haqq, vol. 3, pp. 122-127.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 5, pg. 645.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 2, pg. 307.
 Majma’ al-Bayan, vol. 7, pg. 106.
 Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 4, pg. 504. Adopted from the book Yeksado Panjah Mozu az Qurane Karim, Dehqan, Akbar, The Cultural Center of Lessons of the Quran, second edition, 1998, printed by Mehr Press, Qum.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The fourteen infallibles are fourteen shining stars at the highest point of spiritual ranks and human perfection. All of them possess divine knowledge and perfection, while deficiency and misguidance have no way in them: “Verily, Allah's will is to remove away impurity from you, the people of the messenger's household and to purify you a thorough purification”. So all of these glorious individuals are at the climax of human perfection and salvation.
Nevertheless, the messenger of Allah (swt) is the highest and most complete of them all; possessing characteristics and advantages that no other infallible shares with him, as Imam Sadiq (as) has stated in the same hadith you have questioned about: “The imams are all like the messenger of Allah (swt), the only difference being that they aren’t prophets, thus what is halal for the prophet isn't halal to them (they can't have more than four wives), but they are like him in everything else.”
Imam Sadiq (as) has been narrated saying that the prophet of Islam was the first to answer Allah’s (swt) call in the realm of Dhar and was the closest of all to Him and obtained the highest spiritual rank that even none of the special messengers and closest angels to Allah’s (swt) dominion had ever reached. He is so close to Allah (swt) that He [Allah] says in the Quran: “Until he was within two bows’ length or even nearer”. He is the one who ascended the many levels of spirituality, all in one night, during the Mi’raj. Out of all of the infallibles, he is the only one to have received revelation directly from Allah (swt). The Holy Quran was revealed onto him, the most complete religion ever to come from Allah (swt) was given to him and was entrusted with conveying it to the people. He is the one who has reached the highest levels of morality and the only one whom Allah (swt) sends his continuous salawat [blessings and mercy] upon and makes the salawat, the salawat of the angels and all believers solely his.
Each one of these advantages by itself is enough to show how unique and high of a rank the prophet (pbuh) possessed and as Imam Baqir (as) beautifully explains the rank of every infallible: “The “good tree” is the prophet (pbuh)…the branch of the tree is Ali (as), the trunk of the tree being Fatimah (as) and its fruit the children of Ali (as) and Fatimah (as).”
In this valuable narration, the rank of each of the infallibles has been portrayed in a very beautiful manner.
In the end, one thing that needs to be pointed to is that knowing the rank of the infallibles is a very important matter which needs to be thoroughly and correctly fulfilled; both neglecting to do so and going beyond the limits about it are dangerous and are means of misguidance. Imam Ali (as) states in the Nahjul-Balaghah: “Two categories of people will face ruin on account of me; he who loves me with exaggeration and exceeding the bounds [by saying that I am God], and he who hates me intensely.”Therefore, we are obliged to recognize the ranks and importance of the infallibles and follow their footsteps to salvation and felicity along with putting aside negligence and excessiveness regarding them.
Hopefully, we will all by the mercy and grace of Allah (swt) be lead to the straight path and be protected from going astray.
 عِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِنَا عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنِ الْحُسَیْنِ بْنِ سَعِیدٍ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ بَحْرٍ عَنِ ابْنِ مُسْکَانَ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع یَقُولُ الْأَئِمَّةُ بِمَنْزِلَةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ص إِلَّا أَنَّهُمْ لَیْسُوا بِأَنْبِیَاءَ وَ لَا یَحِلُّ لَهُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَا یَحِلُّ لِلنَّبِیِّ ص فَأَمَّا مَا خَلَا ذَلِکَ فَهُمْ فِیهِ بِمَنْزِلَةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صOsul Kafi, vol.1, pg.270; Mir’atul-Uqul, vol.3, pg.161.
 Bihar, vol.5, pg.236.
 انما بعثت لاتمم مکارم الاخلاق Bihar, vol.16, pg.210.
 ان الله و ملائکته یصلون علی النبی یا ایها الذین آمنوا صلوا علیه وسلموا تسلیماً Ahzab:56.
 Referring to the verse: کشجرة طبیه اصلها ثابت و فرعها فی السماء Ibrahim:24.
 Tafsirul-Qummi: أَبِی عَنِ ابْنِ مَحْبُوبٍ عَنْ أَبِی جَعْفَرٍ الْأَحْوَلِ عَنْ سَلَّامِ بْنِ مُسْتَنِیرٍ عَنْ أَبِی جَعْفَرٍ ع قَالَ سَأَلْتُهُ عَنْ قَوْلِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى مَثَلًا کَلِمَةً طَیِّبَةً الْآیَةَ قَالَالشَّجَرَةُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص وَ نَسَبُهُ ثَابِتٌ فِی بَنِی هَاشِمٍ وَ فَرْعُ الشَّجَرَةِ عَلِیُّ بْنُ أَبِی طَالِبٍ ع وَ غُصْنُ الشَّجَرَةِ فَاطِمَةُ ع وَ ثَمَرَاتُهَا الْأَئِمَّةُ مِنْ وُلْدِ عَلِیٍّ وَ فَاطِمَةَ ع شجرة رسول الله نسبة ثابت فی بنی اثم و فرع الشجرة علی بن ابیطالب و غض الشجرة فاطمه (س) و ثمراتها الائمة من ولد علی و فاطمه (ع) و ... Biharul-Anwar, vol.9, pg. 218.
 “هلک فیّ رجلان محب غال و مبغض قال” Nahjul-Balaghah, Short Sayings, no.113.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- In contrast to the Sunni school of thought, the Shia believe that the imam is equal to the prophet in all matters other than receiving revelation. Therefore, he has to be infallible from sin and mistake just like the prophets. Nevertheless, Sunnis believe imamate to be a social rank, not a divine one, which is given to the imam by the people through their choice. As a result, they don’t believe infallibility to be one of its main conditions.
The logical and traditional (hadithic) reasoning of the Shia:
1- The sound mind easily comprehends that the imam, who is to explain and preserve religion, must be capable of being totally trusted by the people, and infallible from all sin and mistake, enabling him to fulfill his responsibility and preserve religion. The reason being that the goal in sending messengers and imams is to teach and train the laity, which calls for abundant and profound knowledge given by Allah (swt), that they must transfer without any alteration to the people. This can only be done thoroughly if they are infallible. In addition to this, the reason for why it is necessary for Allah (swt) to appoint who will be imam, and that it isn't up to the people, is another reason for their infallibility.
2- There are both verses and correct and authentic hadiths that tell us of the infallibility of the imams, such as the verses of Tathir, Imamah, Ita’ah, and the hadiths of Thaqalain and Manzilah.
Also, the Shia believe that imamate, which is succession to the prophet (pbuh), as with prophethood, is a rank that is appointed by Allah (swt), not one that the people have a say in. In other words, the infallible is one who is never subject to error and also, never commits sins, neither openly, nor secretly, making the only way to be able to identify him, divine appointment.
1- “Imam” literally means leader; Raghib says that an imam is a person followed by others.
2- In theological terms, there are different definitions for who the imam is.
Sunnis believe that imamate is a universal leadership that is responsible for encouraging the people to preserve both their worldly and otherworldly benefits and to refrain from what is to their loss and harm.
But according to the Shia school of thought, imamate is a general and universal leadership regarding the people’s worldly and otherworldly affairs, as a succession to the prophet (pbuh).
3- The meaning and concept of infallibility: Ismah or infallibility literally means to protect and block something and in theology, refers to an inner state [of the individual] that not only doesn’t allow one to sin and disobey divine orders, but also blocks him/her from even being subject to error.
To put it another way, the infallible is one who never accidentally nor purposely disobeys a religiously obligatory act, although he/she has the power and choice to.
The Shia believe that imamate is a continuation of prophethood, the only difference being that the prophet (pbuh) is the founder of religion and receives revelation, while the imam is responsible for explaining, clarifying and preserving religion. Therefore, the imam is equal to the prophet (pbuh) in everything except in receiving revelation. Everything that the prophet (pbuh) must possess such as a profound knowledge of the fundamentals and branches of Islam and its teachings, are also possessed by the imam; one of those requirements being infallibility and invulnerability to sin and even error. Since there is no way for us to be able to identify one who is infallible, there is no choice but for Allah (swt) or the prophet (pbuh) to do so and introduce him, as goes with prophethood. Therefore, both prophets and imams have to be appointed by Allah (swt).
On the other hand, the Sunni account is that society and the people are the ones to determine who is to have the important social and religious rank of imamate and authority, not Allah (swt). These two approaches can be deduced from the two definitions there are for imamate.
Here we would like to point to some of the reasoning the Shia have for their claims:
1) Rational reasoning for why the imam must be infallible
a) Since the imam is to preserve and explain religion and train individuals, he should be able to be trusted one hundred percent and such can only be accomplished if he is infallible.
b) In the case of an imam sinning, he will lose his respect and admiration and will no longer be followed, defeating the whole purpose of having an imam in the first place.
c) If the imam wasn’t to be infallible and was to be prone to sin, his condemnation would be obligatory upon others as a form of ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’, while such an encounter with the imam would first of all once again defeat the purpose of imamate and secondly, be in contradiction with verse 59 of surah Nisa’, because in this verse, the absolute obedience of the imam and respect for his rank has been demanded.
d) As with the prophet (pbuh), the imam is a protector of religion, hence the necessity of his infallibility. The reason being that both theoretical and practical protection are his responsibility, which can clearly only be achieved through infallibility from both sin [for the practical part] and error and forgetfulness [for the theoretical part]. If the imam was not to be infallible, he would surely at least make mistakes [if not sin] and that would mean his failure in protecting and explaining a portion of religion, which would mean that portion isn't of importance to Allah (swt), while we are sure that isn't the case, because all of religion is important to Him and that is why He has sent the prophet (pbuh); to transfer it in its entirety to us.
e) As was said, one of the reasons for having an imam is for him to guide the people and prevent them from making mistakes which usually ends in their misguidance and straying from the straight path; if the imam is to also make mistakes then how is he supposed to help others? In that case, he himself will be in need of another imam to notify him of his own mistakes, and so will the next imam and so on so forth. This series of imams must eventually end with an imam that is actually infallible and possesses the capability of guiding others without being vulnerable to error or sin himself.
2- Traditional Reasoning
Some verses can be found in the Quran on the infallibility of the prophets and imams, namely:
a) The verse of imamate: “When the Creator and Nurturer of Ibrahim tried him with certain words of commands, which he fulfilled Allah stated to him:" Verily, I will, Appoint you a Divine Leader for Mankind." Ibrahim said:" And also from my offspring?" Allah stated:" My covenant does not reach the wrongdoers”. This verse clearly states that Allah’s (swt) covenant, which is the rank of imamate, does not reach the wrongdoers and as we all know, any sin, no matter how small, is wrongdoing and to the dislike of Allah (swt), as another verse says: “These are Allah's bounds, so do not transgress them, and whoever transgresses the bounds of Allah it is they who are the wrongdoers”. According to this verse, whether the sin is a great one or a small one, it is considered wrongdoing, because it is the disobedience of Allah (swt) and the crossing of His boundaries. Back to the verse before this one; two points have been clearly made by it:
i) All sins, great or small, are wrongdoing, because they are the disobedience of Allah (swt).
ii) Allah’s (swt) covenant does not reach the wrongdoers.
Conclusion: Imamate is a divine covenant and rank and the Quran says that it solely belongs to those who are totally free from wrongdoing. Therefore, the imams are totally free from any form of wrongdoing.
b) The verse of tathir or “purification”: “Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O People of the Household, and purify you a thorough purification”.
This verse indicates that the household of the prophet (pbuh) are infallible, because “impurity” which has been mentioned in the verse covers all spiritual, knowledgeable and practical impurity, in which sin is an instance of. One question that might come to mind is that in the verse, it has been said that Allah (swt) “desires” such a matter, so why don’t we say that all the verse is saying is that Allah (swt) likes them [the household of the prophet (pbuh)] to be good people and free of all impurity, just like He wants all of us to be good people; so what does this verse have to with infallibility? The answer is, what was said is true; Allah (swt) does want them to be free of all impurity, but that isn't something that He only wants from the household of the prophet (pbuh); it’s something He wants from all people. In that case, why is the Quran saying that He only wants such a thing from a small group, not everyone? This is where the significance and distinctiveness of the verse manifests; it is because Allah’s “desire” here differs from His desire in other verses of the Quran. Here His “desire” denotes Hisiradah takwiniyyah (generative will), meaning that He actually makes them free of and repels all impurity from them, or else if in the verse “desiring” was to denote iradah tashri’i (legislative will and authority), it wouldn’t make sense, because the main reason for the creation of all of us is to be free from sin an impurity, not just a certain group, hence the meaning of “generative will”.
c) The verse of ita’ah or “obedience”: “O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you”.
This verse is also one of the verses that indicates the infallibility of the imams, because it hasn’t made the obedience of the prophet (pbuh) and imams dependant on anything else and has left it absolute. The only way what this verse says can be justified is to say that their obedience is an in line with obeying Allah (swt) and that there is never any contradiction between obeying them and what Allah (swt) wants from us; such can only be achieved if they are infallible, because if it wasn’t so, and they were prone to error and sin, there would certainly be times where their obedience would be in contradiction with Allah’s (swt) command as a result of their error.
d) The hadith of thaqalain or “the two weighty and precious things”:
This hadith is a mutawatir one, meaning that it has been narrated by so many different narrators so much that one becomes certain and absolutely sure that they couldn’t have all been mistaken or agreed to forge it together, as a result one is sure that the prophet (pbuh) or imam has actually said that hadith. Both Shia and Sunni narrators have narrated this hadith: “I am leaving behind amongst you two precious and weighty things! Allah’s (swt) book and my progeny (my household); the two will never part until they come to me next to the pool of kawthar [in paradise].
According to this hadith, the prophet (pbuh) has considered his progeny and household to be equal to the Quran, saying that the two will never separate. This is also clear proof of their infallibility, because even the smallest sin accidentally is considered practically parting from the Quran. Therefore, just as mistake has no way in the Quran, it also has absolutely no way in the progeny of the prophet (pbuh) and they are totally free of it.
Now that it has been clarified that the imam, who is the successor to the prophet (pbuh) must be infallible from both sin and mistake, there is no way to identify who the infallible is unless Allah (swt) lets us know, because He is the only one who is totally aware of the insides and spirits and concealed secrets of all people.
Here, we will briefly list some of the traditions that have mentioned who the infallibles are:
One of the most direct and clearest cases in which the prophet (pbuh) has mentioned Imam Ali (as) as his successor, which is accepted by both Shia and Sunni narrators and scholars is what he has said on the occasion of Ghadir Khum, whenhe was divinely ordered to appoint Ali (as) as his successor. He said: “Whosoever I am his master, Ali (as) is his master [after me]!”
Or when the prophet (pbuh) addressed his companions saying: “Be in total submission to him [Ali (as)] in governing and ruling over the believers.”
Also on another occasion, the prophet (pbuh) raised Ali’s (as) hand and pointed at him saying: “This is Ali, my successor and the one to take my place after me, so listen to and obey him.”
There are also hadiths both by the prophet (pbuh) and the imams (as) on who is to be the following imam. For instance, concerning Imam Husain (as), the prophet (pbuh) has been narrated saying: “This is my son, an imam, the son of an imam, the brother of an imam and father to nine imams after him, the ninth being the ‘standing’ [awaiting] one. He [Imam Husain (as)] is the proof, the son of the proof, the brother of the proof, and father to nine proofs.”
To keep it short, we will leave it at this one hadith. For further information, you can refer to the following books: Ibn Meitham Bahrani, Al-Najatu fil-Qiyamah; Safi Golpaygani, Muntakhabul-Athar, Allamah Amini, Al-Ghadir, and the following subjects:
1- The infallibility of the prophets from a Quranic perspective, Question 112 (Site: 998).
2- The infallibility of normal people, Question 104 (Site: 961)
3- The reason for limiting the infallibles to a few individuals, Question 243 (Site: 1850).
 Raghib Isfahani, Mufradat Alfadhil-Quran, under the root word " امام "
 “الامامة رئاسة عامة دینیة مشتملة علی ترغیب عموم الناس فی حفظ مصالحهم الدینیة و الدنیا ویه و زجرهم عمایضرهم بحسبها” Khajeh Nasiruddin Tusi, Qawaidul-Aqaid, pg. 108.
 “الامامة رئاسة عامة فی امور الدین و الدنیا خلافة عن النبی” Ala’uddin Qushji, Sharh Tajrid, pg. 472.
 “ان العصمة ملکة تقتضی عدم مخالفة التکالیف اللزومیه عمداً و خطاءً مع القدرة علی الخلاف” Mohammad Ridha Modhaffar, Dala’ilul-Sidq, vol. 2, pg. 4.
 The prophet of Islam (pbuh) said to Ali (as): “You compared to me are like Harun (pbuh) compared to Musa (pbuh), except that there is no prophet after me.” (انت منی بمنزلة هارون من موسی الا انه لانبی بعدی) Sirah ibn Hisham, vol. 2, pg. 52.
 Mohammad Ridha Modhaffar, Dala’ilul-Sidq, vol. 2, pp. 8-10.
 Mohammad Hosain Mokhtari Mazandarani, Emamat va Rahbari, pg. 59.
 “و اذا بتلی ابراهیم ربه... قال لاینال عهدی الظالمین” Baqarah:124.
 “تلک حدود الله فلاتعتدوها و من یتعد حدود الله فاولئک هم الظالمون…” Baqarah:229.
 So it has nothing to do with the choice of the people, but is granted by Allah (swt) to those who are qualified and deserve such a rank. Of course, for this rank to be accepted by the people, it depends on their choice and allegiance to the imam.
 Infallibility doesn’t mean that for instance, the angel Jibra’il takes their hand and doesn’t allow them to do so (although if he did, they surely wouldn’t), what is meant is that infallibility is a result of faith. If a person has faith in Allah (swt) and sees and feels Him with his heart, sinning becomes impossible. Not that he is forced to, he just can't, because it is like he is seeing Allah (swt) and seeing the bad and harsh consequences of the sin. After being created from the purest materials, as a result of self-discipline and obtaining great virtues, the infallibles continuously see themselves in the presence of Allah (swt) (who is All-Seeing and All-Knowing). Imam Khomeini, Nobovvat az Didgahe Imam Khomeini (Prophethood from Imam Khomeini’s Perspective), Tebyan, pg. 124.
 “... انما یرید الله لیذهب عنکم الرجس اهل البیت و یطهرکم تطهیرا” Ahzab:33.
 Ahzab:33; Ma’idah:6 in the part of the verse that is speaking of Wudhu and says: “but Allah wishes to purify you”. (In these verses, Allah (swt) is addressing all people and telling them that He wants to purify them).
 Jafar Subhani, Manshoure Aqa’ede Emamiyyeh, pp. 168-169. It should be noted that when Allah (swt) makes the imams infallible, it doesn’t mean they are deprived of free will and choice, just like how the prophets aren't deprived of it as a result of their infallibility.
 “یا ایها الذین آمنوا اطیعوا الله واطیعوا الرسول و اولی الامر منکم...” Nisa:59.
 Mohammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, Amouzeshe Aqa’id, pg. 203.
 “من کنت مولاه، فهذا علی مولاه” Allamah Amini, Al-Ghadir, vol. 1, pg. 207; Ibn Meitham Bahrani,Al-Najatu fil-Qiyamah fi Tahqiq Amril-Imamah, pg. 81.
 “سلموا علیه بإمرة المؤمنین” Ibid.
 “هذا خلیفتی من بعدی فاسمعوا له و اطیعوا” Ibid.
 “ابنی هذا امام ابن امام اخوا امام ابوائمه تسعة، تاسعهم قائمهم، حجة ابن حجة اخو حجة ابو حجج تسع” Ibn Meitham Bahrani, Al-Najatu fil-Qiyamah fi Tahqiq Amril-Imamah, pg. 167.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Allah’s (swt) wisdom is what calls for Him to appoint imams after the final prophet (pbuh) in order to carry on his responsibilities so that the main goal of sending all previous prophets and the perfection of man remain possible. It is because of this that the Shia believe that the imams are directly appointed by Allah (swt) and that all of the prophet’s (pbuh) responsibilities (other than receiving revelation) rest on their shoulders; governing the Muslim nation being one of them. Therefore, the existence of the imam itself is a grace, regardless of whether he ever possesses political power or not.
Our Sunni brothers see the imams the same as they see other normal rulers and kings and don’t believe they have a rank that differs from theirs. It is because of this that they think the major role the imam plays is to manage the people’s everyday worldly affairs, resulting in them saying that if an imam never comes to power, his being an imam is pointless and isn't considered a grace from Allah (swt). But according to the Shia, the imam is one to take the place of the prophet (pbuh) in everything other than receiving revelation, as both Shias and Sunnis narrate the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) addressing Imam Ali (as) saying: “You compared to me are like Prophet Harun (pbuh) compared to Prophet Musa (pbuh), the only difference being that no prophet and messenger is to come after me.” On this basis, Imam Ali (as) was to be the first imam after the prophet (pbuh), followed by eleven other imams, who were to succeed the prophet (pbuh) in every rank and responsibility he had. It is also because of this same reason that the imam must be an infallible individual and invulnerable to any form of sin and even mistake, and since identifying the infallible individual is beyond man’s capability, he needs to be directly appointed by Allah (swt), because although after the prophet’s (pbuh) death, revelation ceased, but all of his other main and very important responsibilities were still there; responsibilities such as being a reference for the people on religious matters, explaining Islamic rulings and laws, explaining Quranic verses, removing religious doubts and answering religious questions, training the people, enjoining good and forbidding evil at its highest and presenting consultation to the Muslims, being a refuge for those seeking it, leading the people, judging between them, etc. Yes, we also agree that one of the responsibilities of the imam is the leadership of the Muslim nation, but it isn't the main reason for having an imam. It is totally baseless to say that being an imam means to have political power, so if a person doesn’t possess it, you can be sure he isn't an imam. This is the reason why the Shia believe imamate to be one of the pillars of Islam and consider there being an imam a grace from Allah (swt) that He must fulfill for the people. Government and political power are very small branches of imamate[, not its roots].
It is because all of these pivotal duties that the existence of the imam is grace and entails many blessings for society and the people, even if he never comes to power.
One of the important things an imam living amongst the people does is that he plays an important role in them having the tendency to live righteous lives and stay away from sin and badness. This is also considered grace.
Why is that? It is because they are all infallible, while all other than them aren't and might be influenced by their personal desires and cross the boundaries of humanity and commit sins; they are always in need of others to help them stay away from straying from the straight path.
For further information, see: The Logical Reasoning for Imamate, Question 614 (site: 671).
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - What hadiths tell us is that Imam Mahdi’s (aj) war with the oppressors and tyrants will take eight months and after that, all countries will fall under his rule and a just universal government will be established, eliminating all kufr, shirk and hypocrisy. This will result in no other unjust ruler ever ruling again, and many social sins not taking place anymore. The earth will give out all of its hidden treasures and the poor will be given back their rights that have been taken away by the rich, to the extent that there will no longer be any need for giving charity to anyone, because all are rich and needless.
Belief in the return of Imam Mahdi (aj) and the incidents that will take place afterwards is considered one of the instances of belief in the unseen that can only be obtained and learned of through authentic hadiths. At the same time, since many hadiths have been subject to dissimulation by the Shia themselves, who feared for their or others’ lives, or have been altered and forged by their enemies, or have just simply been forgotten and wrongly narrated, or have been lost as a result of their not being recorded and taken care of due to lack of resources it isn't possible for the truth-seeking Shia to reach a sure conclusion on the details of the incidents before and after the dhuhur (emergence) of Imam Mahdi (aj) the way that a true Shia would like, especially since there are unjustifiable and unsolvable contradictions between some of the hadiths on this subject. This results in not being able to give a certain and sure answer to your question, especially the first part, and all we can do is make strong conjectures using the hadiths we have at hand. Also, in order to answer your question, it needs to be broken down into separate questions; each question being answered independently.
1- After the rise of Imam Mahdi (aj), how long will it take for his government to be established?
Imam Baqir (as) says: “The twelfth imam (aj) will carry his sword for eight full months, killing the enemies of Allah (swt), until Allah (swt) is pleased.” According to hadiths we have, he will emerge from Mecca and after his chosen ones and companions join him there, they will move towards Iraq and after that Sham (current Syria), then to Beytul-Muqaddas (Jerusalem), and from then on to Europe, Turkey, China, Afghanistan and the rest of the countries, conquering all of them as they go. After eight months of continuous fighting, his government will be established and peace and security will take root all over the world. There is a great difference in hadiths regarding the time span of his rule:
19 years and some months, 7, 40, 10 and 309 years in which each year is equal to 20 or 40 years, and it has been said that after his martyrdom or death (there is a debate whether he will be martyred or will have a natural death), 40 days will pass and then it will become the Day of Judgment and the skies and earth will be gathered so that the hereafter commences.
2- Can poverty still be found after Imam Mahdi’s (aj) government is established?
When the imam (aj) rises and establishes his just government, the earth will give out all of its treasures (plants, minerals etc.) putting them at the disposal of the imam (aj). Everything that is the right of the poor will be returned and divided amongst them justly, to the extent that there will be no poor people left to give charity to. Imam Sadiq (as) says: “As justice is served, the world will thrive; the sky will pour its rain, the trees will give out their fruit and the earth will send out its plants, decorating them for its inhabitants.” Imam Mahdi (as) will order someone to call out to the people asking all of those who are needy to stand. No one will stand other than one person who will stand and say: “I [am in need].” The imam (aj) will tell him: “Go to my treasurer and tell him that the Mahdi (aj) orders you to give me some money.” The treasurer will then say: “Bring your garment.” He will then spread the garment and fill it. When the man throws the full garment over his shoulder, he will regret it and say: “Why should I be the most selfish of the nation of Muhammad (pbuh)?! Why should I not have the humility that everyone else does? He will then return the money to the treasurer, but it will not be received by him, and the imam (aj) will say: “We don’t take back what we have given away.”
The holy prophet of Islam (pbuh) says: “The people will seek individuals in need so that they can give a gift (charity) to them, they separate the alms (zakat) of their wealth, but have no one to give it to, because [at that time], all are made needless by Allah's (swt) grace.”
3- Can any oppressors and tyrants be found at that time?
The agenda of the universal government of Imam Mahdi (aj) will be to establish peace, security and justice everywhere, and to eliminate all traces of corruption, oppression and tyranny; as has been the goal of all prophets; the only difference being that they weren’t able to fully and wholly accomplish those goals, nevertheless they all foretold of a day that would come that such would actually take place. The nature of all human beings, regardless of what time they lived in, has also always been in anticipation of such a day.
Therefore, since Allah (swt), the prophets and the imams are all infallible, and when they make a vow, it is fulfilled and they don’t give their followers false and useless hope and don’t keep them waiting, this promise will also certainly be fulfilled; this promise is so important that it can be considered the goal of creation; the day when all people will unite into one nation under the flag of tawhid, eliminating all traces of kufr, shirk and hypocrisy. The hadiths that directly or indirectly point to this matter are many in number. Imam Askari (as) has been narrated telling his son (aj): “My son! It is as if I see you when Allah's (swt) aid is revealed upon you and the way for relief has been paved and your greatness and magnificence has reached its highest…it is then that the sun of the government of truth will rise and the darkness of falsehood will go away. Allah (swt) will break the backs of tyrants with your hand, revive the sacraments of religion, enlighten the horizons of the world, establish peace and security from coast to coast…your enemies will be made miserable and helpless and your friends will be made glorious and victorious. No oppressors, criminals, rebellious deniers and transgressing enemies and opposers will remain on the face of the earth, because [the Quran says]: “And whoever puts his trust in Allah, He will suffice him. Indeed Allah carries through His command. Certainly Allah has set a measure for everything”.
4- Are there chances of sinning taking place during the reign of the imam?
The main things that factor into one sinning are his urge to accumulate wealth and his need to fulfill worldly desires.
When a person has enough wealth and bears good social status and has a divine mindset and this world and everything in it becomes worthless to him and he reaches certainty regarding the truth of all of Allah's (swt) vows (even though some may not like it and may try to get in the way of some of those vows being fulfilled) and that they will indeed eventually be fulfilled and that the hereafter is for real and there will be judgment and that paradise and everything it encompasses can in no way be compared with this world and its pleasures, there will no longer be any urge and desire to commit any sin, especially since according to some hadiths and the arguments of some great scholars, the life of Shaytan will end with the rise of Imam Mahdi (aj). Also, according to some hadiths, he will be slaughtered by the prophet of Islam (pbuh) in Beytul-Muqaddas (Jerusalem), putting an end to his trickery, temptations and false embellishment [of wrong acts]. At the same time, there will be many things that will prevent the committing of sins, such as the safe and healthy environment the just universal government of the imam will create, and the fact that the people will no longer accept any corruption and sin taking place. This will all result in no one sinning anymore; there are also many hadiths that corroborate this matter as well, namely:
Imam Sadiq (as) describes the time of Imam Mahdi (aj) in such a manner: “Illegitimate relationships, intoxicants and interest (Riba) will all cease to exist, the people will turn to worship and obedience [of the Lord], they will take care of anything they are entrusted with, the bad people will all be annihilated and only the good will remain.” The prophet of Islam (pbuh) says: “Allah (swt) will solve the [Muslim] nation’s problems through the Mahdi (aj), will fill the people’s hearts with worship and obedience and his justice will encompass all. Allah (swt) will destroy lies and lying through him. He will wipe out the spirit of fighting and bestiality and will remove the degrading “collar” of slavery from their necks.”
1- The Holy Quran
2- Ibrahim Amini, Dadgostare Jahan, pg. 388 and 447.
3- Hosein Heydariye Kashani, Hukumate Adl Gostar, pp. 225 and 301.
4- Mohammad Javad Khorasani, Mahdiye Montazar, pp. 188 and 273.
5- Ali Kurani¸ Asre Zuhur, pp. 351 and 370.
6- A group of writers, Adle Montazat, saying 1 and 11.
7- Lotfullah Safi Golpaygani, Montakhabul-Athar.
8- Lotfullah Safi Golpaygani, Emamat va Mahdaviyyat, vol. 3.
9- Kamel Suleiman, Ruzegare Rahayi (translation of Ali Akbar Mahdavipour), vol. 1 and 2.
10- Majlisi, Bihar, vol. 51 and 52.
11- Mohammad Hosein Tabatabai, Tafsir Al-Mizan, vol. 14, pp. 160 and 175.
 See: Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, Navide Amn va Aman (Emamat va Mahdaviyyat), vol. 3, pp. 28-42.
 Ilzamul-Naseb, pg. 189; Gheybatu Nu’mani, pg. 165; Bisharatul-Islam, pg. 199, quoted by Ruzegare Rahayi, vol. 1, pg. 478, hadith 585.
 See: Ruzegare Rahayi, vol. 2, pg. 470 and 536; Biharul-Anwar, vol. 52, pg.309 and 392.
 Ruzegare Rahayi, vol. 2, pg. 601 and 658; Bihar, vol. 2, pg. 279 and 392.
 Bisharatul-Islam, pg. 71, quoted by Ruzegare Rahayi, pg. 639, hadith 882.
 Muntakhabul-Athar, pg. 147; Musnad Ahmad, vol. 3, pg. 37; Al-Sawa’iqul-Muhriqah, pg. 164;Yanabi’ul-Mawaddah, vol. 3, pg. 135, quoted by Ruzegare Rahayi, pg. 642, hadith 894; also, same book, pg. 596 and 598.
 Ilzamul-Naseb, pg. 230; Bisharatul-Islam, 256; Ruzegare Rahayi, pg. 598, hadith 780.
 Hud:118 and 123.
 Biharul-Anwar, vol. 5, pg. 35; Wafatul-Askari, pg.49, quoted by Ruzegare Rahayi, vol. 1, pg. 530-531; also, same book, pg. 73, hadith 5, pg. 625, hadith 844.
 See: Al-Mizan, vol. 14, under verse 36 of surah Hijr, pp. 160, 161 and 175.
 Muntakhabul-Athar, pg. 474; Ilzamul-Naseb, pg. 228; Al-Malahimu wal-Fitan, pg. 54, quoted byRuzegare Rahayi, vol. 2, pg. 600.
 Bihar, vol. 51, pg. 75; Al-Malahimu wal-Fitan, pg. 56; Gheybah of Sheikh Tusi, pg. 114, and…
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- I believe that you are asking how we can find out if someone is really an Imam or not. However, before answering this question, we should first understand why we need to believe in the concept of Imamate.
Imamate is an important issue in Islam, and it is the last stage in the evolution of humans. The rank of Imamate has sometimes even been tied to the Prophetic mission, e.g. Imamate of Prophet Abraham (a) or the Prophet of Islam (s), and sometimes it has been considered as separate from Prophetic missions, such as the case of the 12 Shia Imams (a).
Concerning the necessity of the presence of an Imam in the society, it can be said that similar to the Prophets (a) who played an important role in the evolution and growth of human beings, the Imams (a) are also regarded as essential factors for maintaining religion and continuing the mission of the Prophets (a).
Imamate is a covenant and status granted by God to an Imam, and it's only within God's authority to appoint an Imam.
In order to prove the concept of Imamate, Shias refers to both rational reasoning and verses of the Holy Quran.
Among these verses and hadiths, we can mention verses «و لکل قوم هاد», «کونوا مع الصادقین» and«اولوالامر» and some hadiths such as the hadith of Thaqalain, Safinah and the Ithna Ashar Khaliphs .
All these verses and traditions explain why we should believe in the Imams, and who we should follow.
Apparently you are asking how we can believe in someone as an Imam, and find out if he’s a true Imam. Before that, we should examine the very concept of Imamate and the reason behind why we follow the Imams.
Importance of Imamate:
Imamate plays a crucial role in Islam. From the Holy Quran’s point of view, imamate is the final stage of human evolution, to which only Messengers of God have reached. The Holy Quran says about Prophet Abraham (a): ''Remember when Abraham's God examined him with different means, and he successfully passed all those tests, so that God told him that he was appointed as the people's Imam and leader, and Abraham (a) asked God to appoint his descendents as Imams as well, but God replied that imamate could not be handed over to tyrants, and only those of his offspring who were pure and sinless would deserve such a grace.''.
This verse shows that imamate has a very high status and rank, since Prophet Abraham (a) was appointed as an Imam while he was already a Prophet. This happened only after he passed many difficult tests and trials.
The position of Imamate is sometimes combined with Prophethood, so that an eminent Prophet such as Abraham (a) becomes an Imam. Another evident reason is the combination of Prophethood and Imamate in the Prophet of Islam (s).
It also occurs that Imamate is separated from a Prophetic mission, such as what occurred in the case of the Shia Imams (a) who were only Imams, without being subject to direct divine revelation.
The Necessity of the Presence of Imams
Imams are necessary in the same way that Prophets (a) are.
Alammah Hilli, in his Commentary on Khajeh Nasiroddin Toosi's words, referred to these necessities and added:
- Prophets are necessary because they strengthen the rational knowledge of human beings by their words, because even though humans can rationally understand the majority of realities about religious principles, there are still temptations and uncertainties in their hearts which can prevent them from carrying out such principles wholeheartedly. However, when these rational perceptions are strengthened by prophetic words then all of these types of doubts and distrusts are obliterated, and humans can approach their sacred goals.
- There are some affairs whereby the common sense of human beings cannot identify their advantages and disadvantages. In cases such as these people should resort to religious leaders to help them distinguish the good from what is not.
- Many things can be useful, and some others can be harmful. Before ascertaining which is which, human beings are not able to distinguish between the good and the bad purely by relying on their intellectual power. Consequently, they feel a need for someone who can clarify these qualities and this is something which is only within the power of religious leaders who are connected to the divine through revelation.
- Humans are social creatures, and a society is only organized through rules and regulations that respect the rights of all its members, in order to lead them to the right path. However, formulation of such regulations and their subsequent implementation is only within the authority of wise and infallible leaders.
- Humans are different in respect to their understanding and acquisition of knowledge, as some are able to find the right direction and some are not. Divine leaders, on the other hand, support the former group and assist the latter to eventually understand and acquire knowledge and the right direction.
- Given the different levels of morality people have, only the infallibles can give each and every person the hand they need for enhancing their morality.
- Divine leaders are completely aware of punishments and rewards which are received for obedience and sinfulness; therefore, they can motivate others in fulfilling their duties by informing them of such realities.
Considering the fact that imamate is a continuation of the Prophetic mission, the majority of reasons for the necessity of prophets apply to infallible imams as well. In other words God, who has created human beings and has shown them the right path to perfection and felicity through the revelation to His prophets (a), will certainly appoint Imams upon the death of prophets to carry on the prophetic mission in helping human beings to find their way. Such a mission would doubtlessly fail without this provision due to a few reasons:
First: Human common sense cannot distinguish all the means to perfection, sometimes not even one tenth of it.
Second: The words and practices of Prophets (a) might be distorted for various reasons. In order to avoid such distortions, there must be infallible divine guardians who can safeguard those words and practices. God truly says about the Holy Quran, «انا نحن نزلنا...» which means, "We sent the Quran down, and we shall be its guardian and protector." Such protection can only be carried out through certain means, which has been shown to be the Infallible Imams (a).
This is exactly what Imam Sadiq (a) has said: "Among us, the members of the household of the Prophet (a), there are just people in every generation who nullify the distortion of exaggerators, and cut the hands of heretics and innovators of religion short, and prevent the wrong interpretations of ignorant people."
Elsewhere, Imam Ali (a) says, "There would always be someone who arises for the good, whether overtly or covertly out of fear, to maintain the divine signs forever."
Third: The establishment of divine rule and justice through an Islamic state, in order to help humans approach the goals they have been created for is not possible unless through the help of the Infallible Imams. This is mainly because throughout history, governments have always been in favor of the material interests of exact individuals or groups. As we have repeatedly examined, titles like democracy, human rights and the such are only used to justify the devilish acts of tyrants, through which they impose their wills on people in a cunning manner.
In the form of an example, Imam Ali (a) describes the essence of imamate this way, "The position of an Imam who is handling the affairs of the Muslims is similar to the position of a string in a rosary that holds the beads together. If the string is cut, the beads will scatter around, and may not be set into order again."
Fourth: Permanent obedience of religious commands in a society demands the presence of wise Imams (a) who are aware of all the necessary details, so as to avoid any doubt and confusion in society.
The above explanations clearly indicate the necessity of the presence of Infallible Imams (a).
These are the reasons behind our faith in the Imams and imamate. If we believe in Islam as the last religion, we should also believe in the concept of imamate as well.
Some people believe that there is no necessity for appointing Imams, and it is people themselves who are to decide about their leadership and form of government after the passing of The Holy Prophet (s). To answer this objection, the following example will be sufficient. Suppose someone sets up a factory to produce expensive and intricate jewelry, and the factory is supposed to continue working in his absence or even after his death. If the factory is full of sophisticated machinery and devices which can only be operated by the owner, is it rational to think that the factory will continue to run by itself? This would never work in reality.
Are Quranic sciences and verses, divine commands, tradition and the such, which are required to manage human life, less sophisticated than the instruments of such a factory? This also is an impossibility.
Is the outcome of religions, which is the perfection of human beings (through knowing God and worshiping Him), a replacement of the passion of chastity and anger with bravery, as well as establishment of a utopia on the basis of divine guidance, less important than the products of that jewel factory? This is an impossibility.
Then how can we believe that a religion which takes all the aspects of human life into consideration, till the end of time, has failed to appoint leaders to serve after the prophet and bring to a conclusion the prophetic mission?
Reasoning for the Imamate of the Infallible Imams
Since the Imams are appointed by God, there is a need of rational reasoning to recognize the individuals who are actually imam. For instance, human logic can distinguish between an Imam and other people by witnessing characteristics such as knowledge, justice, courage, sinlessness and so forth in the Imam, and a lack of such characteristics in others. In addition, Quranic verses and authentic traditions also prove the imamate of an individual.
The following are some verses and their interpretations which are about the issue of imamate:
1- «انما انت منذر و لکل قوم هاد», which means, "Your duty is to advise people, and there is a leader for every group."
Shia interpreters and some Sunni ones, including Imam Fakhr Razi, says, "Here the term advisor refers to the Holy Prophet (s) and the leader to Imam Ali (a), since Ibn Abbas said that the Holy Prophet (s) put his hands on his chest and said that he was the advisor, and then pointed to Ali (a) and added «و انت الهادی یا علی...» that means Ali (a) was the leader and shall continue to lead people after the Prophet (s)."
In Al-Durrul-Manthur, one of the famous Sunni commentaries, several interpretations of the above verse are introduced, in which it is written that upon the revelation of this verse, the Holy Prophet (s) put his hand on his chest and said that he was the advisor, and then pointed to Ali (a) and added that Ali was the leader.
Other similar traditions from other theologians can be found in various other sources such as from Hakem Neyshabouri in "Mostadrak", Dhahabi in "Talkhis", Fakhr Razi and Ibn Kathir in their commentaries and Ibn Sabagh Maleki in "Alfusulul-Muhimmah" and Ganji Shafei in "Kifayatul-Taleb", and Tabari in his commentary, and Ibn Hayan Andolosi in "Al-Bahrul-Muhit" and Neyshabouri in his commentary and Hamvini in "Faraed Olsamtin" and as well as many others. To become familiar with the sources of such traditions and their evidences, see the book Ihghagh Olhagh, Vol. 3, pp 88-92.
2- «با ایها الذین آمنوا اتقوا الله و کونوا مع الصادقین Which reads, "O, believers, avoid antagonism (toward God's commands) and be with the loyal people."
Imam Fakhr Razi interpreted the phrase 'loyal people' as meaning infallibles. He also added, "By infallible the verse refers to the whole nation in its entirety." This is while no Arab speaker, at the date of revelation of this verse, was using this phrase to refer to the nation; therefore, such an interpretation does not seem to be valid.
We should accept that in every era, there are loyal people who do not make any mistakes in their deeds and speeches, whom we should follow.
Moreover, many Sunni interpreters have quoted Ibn Abbas as saying that the above-mentioned verse is referring to Imam Ali (a). Allamah Tha'alabi in his book of commentary, Ganji in "Kifayatul-Taleb", Allamah Sibt Jowzi in "Tadhkirah", all interpret this verse as referring to Imam Ali (a) and his household. Ibn Abbas added, "Ali (a) is the most loyal man."
Many other traditions quoted from the members of the prophetic household confirm this same interpretation.
3- «اطیعواالله و اطیعوا الرسول و اولی الامر منکم», Says: "Obey God and obey the Messenger of God and the Holders of Authority."
Shia interpreters unanimously believe that by the ‘Holders of Authority’, the verse is referring to the Infallible Imams (a).
In addition, the Hanafi Sheikh Soleiman Qanduzi in his book "Yanabi’ul-Mawaddah" quoted the book "Mujahid" as saying that the verse refers to Ali (a) when the Holy Prophet (s) appointed him as his substitute in Madinah when he himself was involved in the Tabuk war.
It is also quoted from Imam Ali (a) as referring to this verse in a debate with the Mohajerin and Ansar, so that they admitted to the legitimacy of his rule.
In “Shawahidul-Tanzil” of Hakem Haskani, a Sunni scholar, the interpretation of the same verse includes a quotation from Imam Ali (a) as saying that he once asked the Holy Prophet (s) about the meaning of “ruler”, to which the Holy Prophet (s) replied, "You are the first of them."
Imamate in Hadiths:
The issue of imamate has been put forth in several traditions from the Holy Prophet (s), hereafter we will refer to some:
- The Hadith of Thaqalain: This account of the Holy Prophet (s) has been widely repeated in various famous Shia and Sunni books (which are first hand references). These leave no room for doubt about the authenticity of the hadith. The whole of these hadiths show that that prophet has repeated this hadiths on several occasions, which indicates its importance. In Sahih Muslim, one of the six main Sunni books of reference, Zaid Ibn Argham is quoted as saying that: "The Holy Prophet (s) stood up and started delivering a speech in a place where a water well was located called Khom (Ghadir Khom) between Medina and Mecca. He first praised God and then added that he was a human being and his time to leave the world was arriving. He then added that he was going to leave two precious things among his people, first the book of God in which they could find light and guidance, and further encouraged them to take up the book and use it as a guide, and then added that the second thing was the members of his household (the ahlul bait), and commanded that his people should follow them and repeated it three times,indicating that they had to fulfill their duties toward the members of the prophetic household."
Bringing the names of the members of the prophetic household along with the Holy Quran as two precious things, and putting emphasis on it three times, all indicate the close relationship between these two and the fate of the Muslim nation, their guidance and the protection of Islamic principles. Otherwise they wouldn't have been used alongside each other.
The Hadith of Thaqalain has been repeated in many Sunni reference books as well, including Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan Darami, Musnad of Imam Ahmad (one of Four Sunni leaders), as well as Sunan Nisaei, Mustadrakul-Sahihain, Al-Sawa’iqul-Muhriqah, also in Asadul-Ghabah fi Ma’rifatil-Sahabah written by Ibn Athir, and in Ihya’ul-Mayyit of Jalaluddin Suyuti, as well as Sunan Beihaqi, and Almu’jamul-Kabir compiled by Hafiz Tabarani.
Late Mir Hamed Hussein Hendi, in his book Kholasatu Abaqatil-Anwar, lists one hundred and twenty six books containing the same Hadith, with precise reference to the volume and page numbers.
This proves the authenticity and validity of the Hadith of Thaqalain. Moreover, its content and meaning can be detailed as below:
- The Holy Quran and the members of the Prophetic Household (a) are inseparable, therefore, those who seek the truth shall resort to them in order to achieve happiness.
- As it is mandatory for all Muslims to unconditionally follow the instructions of the Holy Quran, it is unconditionally necessary for them to obey the commands of the members of the Prophetic Household as well.
- The inseparable relationship between the Holy Quran and the members of the Prophetic Household (a), and the necessity for their unconditional obedience are all evident reasons for their infallibility and amazing characteristics.
- The Holy Prophet (s) said, "These two (The Holy Quran and my family) always come together, and someday will join me in paradise." This proves that all throughout the rule of Islam, there has been and will be an individual from the Prophetic Household who acts as an infallible leader. Just like the Holy Book which is the guiding light, they play the same role in directing people, therefore, it's upon us to seek them and to find and follow them in our age.
- This Hadith suggests that falling away from the members of the Prophetic Household (a) results in one going astray.
- They are the most honorable, knowledgeable and prominent of all people.
Interestingly, "Samhoudi Shafei", a Sunni scholar of 15th century, put a comment on the Hadith of Thaqalain in his book, Jawahirul-Aqdain, and said, "The Hadith indicates that all throughout the history until the end of time, there would be someone who is worthy of being followed and obeyed, as is the Holy Quran itself."
- The Hadith of Safinah:
This is a famous tradition on the members of the Household of the Prophet and the Infallible Imams which is frequently used in the main Sunni and Shia reference books.
The Hadith has been approved by at least 8 of the Holy Prophet's companions (Abudhar, Abousaeid Khudri, Ibn Abbas, Anas, Abdullah Ibn Zobair, Amer Bin Wathilah, Salmat Ibn Al-Akwa’ and Ali (a)).
The above tradition has also been reflected in tens of famous Sunni books.
Abudhar explains the Hadith this way, "I heard the Holy Prophet (s) to say that the members of his household were similar to Noah’s ark. Whoever boards it shall be saved, and whoever does not shall perish." In Abaqatul-Anwar, the same Hadith has been quoted from 92 books compiled by 92 famous Sunni scholars (with full details).
This authentic hadith contains many important points; some of them are detailed below:
- After the Holy Prophet (s), a flood of ignorance and depravity swept across the Islamic nation, and eventually destroyed the faith of many people.
- In order to escape such risks, there is only one hope. This is the ark of salvation which is composed of the members of the Prophetic Household, and separating from them will surely lead to misery.
- What saves us is not just their love, as some Islamic scholars believe, it is rather that the way to salvation passes through obedience to them, which is contrary to separating from them.
- The ark of the members of the Prophetic Household will be necessary until the end of time, because the floods of ignorance and depravity will keep threatening us till the end of time.
- Unconditional adherence to the members of the Prophetic Household is by itself a reliable proof that in every era there is an Infallible Imam, whom we have to obey in order to achieve salvation.
- The Ithna Ashar (twelve) Imams Hadith:
The hadith of the Twelve Imams is also another important hadith, which is present in most Sunni books of reference.
In Sahih Muslim, Jaber Bin Samarah is quoted as saying that, "I heard the Holy Prophet of God (s) say that Islam would continuously be honorable and glorious until twelve caliphs ruled over the Muslim nation. Then he added something that I didn't hear, so I asked my father about the meaning and he informed me that the prophet said all of them would be from the tribe of the Quraish. "
However, as for the content and phrasing of the hadith, there are different narration. Some narrations have the phrase “twelve caliphs (successors)”, others have “twelve amirs” while a third group speak of the guardianship and rule of twelve individuals. However, it is evident that all of them refer to rule and guardianship.
At the same time, in the majority of these traditions that have been passed to us through various ways, the phrase 'all of them would be from the tribe of Quraish’ is present, while in other traditions that 'all of them would be from Bani Hashim' has been mentioned.
Most of these traditions say that the Holy Prophet (s) whispered the last part of his words in a confidential manner, which shows there had been people present who were against the idea that all the Prophet's successors (a) would be from tribe of the Quraish or from the Bani Hashim.
Anyway, the interpretation of this tradition, which is present in reference books and approved by all legitimate Muslim scholars, is totally clear for the followers of the Ahlul-Bayt, that being the the twelve imams. However, followers of other faiths have not been successful in finding a clear interpretation for this tradition, because the first caliphs were four, the Caliphs of Banu Ummayah were 14, and the Bani Abbas Caliphs were thirty seven, none of which corresponds with the twelve mentioned leaders. No cut and paste job or mathematical operation will make these numbers correspond.
Moreover, there are traditions from both Sunni and Shia scholars which contain the name of twelve Imams as believed by the Shias. Some other traditions refer to the name of the first as "Imam Ali" (a) and the last as "Imam Mahdi" (a), while some others refer to the third "Imam Hussain" (a), stating that the Holy Prophet (s) pointed to Imam Hussain (a) and said, "This grandson of mine is an Imam, the offspring of an Imam, the brother of an Imam, and the father of nine other Imams".
Although there are plenty of authentic traditions concerning imamate, this much will suffice for our purpose here.
For more information, please refer to the following links:
- The Necessity of The Infallibles and the Ways of Identifying an Imam, No. 5548 (site: 5807).
- Infallibility of the Prophets from the Perspective of the Holy Quran, Numbers. 112 (site: 998) and 129 (site: 1069)
- The Infallibility of Ordinary People, Number 104 (site: 861)
- The Exclusive Infallibility of The Fourteen, Number 178 (site: 1395)
 Surah Baqarah, Verse 124
 This reply is adopted from the Interpretation of the Quran's Message, Vol. 9 (Imamate and Leadership in the Holy Quran)
 Surah Hijr, Verse 9
 Usul Kafi, Volume 1 Page 32
 Nahjul Balagha word 134
 Nahjul Balagha Sermon 46
7 Surah Ra’ad, Verse 7
 Tafsir Kabir, Fakhr Razi, Volume 19, Page 14
 Al-Durrul-Manthur, Jalaladdin Suyuti, Volume. 4 Page 45
 Surah Bara’at, Verse 119
 Commentary of Fakhre Razi, volume 16, Page 221
 Ihqaqul-Haqq Volume. 3 Page 297
 Commentary of Noor Al Thaqalain Volume 2 Page 280,
 Yanabi’ul-Mawaddah, Page 114 – 115 – 116
 Shawahidul-Tanzil, Volume 1, Page 148
 Sahih Muslim Vol. 4 page 1873
 Sunanun Tirmidhi Vol. 5 Page 662
 Sunanun Darmi Vol. 2 Page 432 Tabe Dai Al Fekr, Beirut
 Musnad Ahmad Vol. 182 Chap Dar Al Sadr, Beirut
 Khasayis Nasaei Page 2
 Mustadrakul-Sahihain Vol. 3 Page 109
 Al-Sawa’iqul-Muhriqah, Page 226 , Tabe Abd Al Latif, Egypt
 Asadul-Ghabah fi Ma’rifatil-Sahabah, Vol 3 Page 47
 Ihya’ul-Mayyit, which is published in the border of Al Etehaaf page 116
 Sunan Beihaghi Vol. 10 Page 114
 Al Mojam Al Kabir Page 137
 Abaqatul-Anwar summary Vol. 2 page 105
 Abaqatul-Anwar summary Vol. 2 page 285
 Al Mojam Alkabir and Al mojam Al saghir Page 78, Delhi publication Oyoon Al akhbar Dinvari Vol. 1 page 212 (Egyptian publication) Mostadrak, Neishabouri ruler Vol. 3 page 150, Mizan Al etedal Zahbi Volume. 1 page 224 Tarikh Al kholafa Siouti page 573
 Abaqat summary vol. 2 page 195 – 126
 Sahih Muslim, Volume. 3, page 1453, Tabe Beirut dar Al ehya Al taras Al arabi
 Sahih Bukhari vol. 3 ninth part, page 101
 Sahih Tirmidhi, vol. 4 page 501 Tabe Dar Al ehya Al Taras Alarabi, Beirut
 Sahih Abi Dawud, vol. 4
 Refer to Montakhabul-Athar, page 12 and Ihqaqul-Haqq, vol. 13
 Yanabi’ul-Mawaddah, page 445 chapter 77
 Kashful-Murad, page 314 (Qom Mostafavi publication)
 This answer has been prepared according to the interpretation of the Quran’s message, Vol. 9 (Imamate, Leadership, in the Holy Quran).
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The Quranic verses and also narrations (revayāt) indicate that the Imams (a.s.) are aware of our actions throughout the day and night, and that our deeds are presented to them. As for why one Imam gives advice to another Imam, it should be said that the Imams' knowledge has been bestowed upon them by God and there would be no problem if one of the Imams acquires or derives knowledge from the Infallible before him. For further information, read the detailed answer below.
In order to enter the main discussion and draw a precise conclusion, it would be necessary to first read the following preface.
Knowledge of Imam (a.s.):
If we examine the resources and teachings available concerning the traits and characteristics of the pure Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.), it is clearly inferred that the infallible Imams are informed about people's actions and deeds, and in specific situations and circumstances, they take action to guide them and mend their behavior.
Given the Imam's important responsibility in terms of Islamic insight in the system of the universe and in the Islamic society and that the people are under the obligation to follow them without question, naturally such a reality requires the Imam to have full knowledge of all religious and worldly, major and minor affairs and anything that is related to people's guidance. Even on this basis, Shia believes that: firstly, the Imam must be the most knowledgeable of people. Secondly, his knowledge must be intuitive, immediate, comprehensive and divinely-gifted. It is for the same reason that when a discussion revolves around the nature of the Imam's knowledge, terms such as "knowledge of the past, present and future" are used. For example, in his Usul-e Kaafi, late Ya'qub Kulayni has rendered a chapter entitled "The Imams have knowledge of the past and future and that nothing is concealed to them." Also, Allamah Muhammad Baqir Majlisi has related 22 narratives in the twenty second volume of Behar al-Anwar. According to those narratives, the Imam has knowledge of whatever is taking place in the heavens and the earth, Paradise and Hell until the Day of Judgment and there is nothing which the Imams (a.s.) may not have knowledge about. A careful look into the purports of these narrations will reveal the fact that the pure Imams (a.s.) are aware of the actions, conducts and even the intentions of their followers. In addition, the Imam of Time (a.s.) is quoted as having said: «لایعزب عنا شیء من اخبارکم» Nothing remains concealed from us about you. We know everything about you. Therefore, this narrative does not leave the least doubt concerning the knowledge of the Imam of Time (a.s). 
Presentation of Actions
It is easily inferable from the Quran and sayings of the infallibles that the Prophet (pbuh) and Imams have knowledge of the actions of the Ummah (nation). The Holy Quran says:
"قل اعملوا فسیرى الله عملکم و رسوله و المؤمنون»
[And say (unto them): Act! Allah will behold your actions, and (so will) His messenger and the believers.]
There are too many narrations about the infallibles' knowledge of the unseen. In regards to the above verse, it has been narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s) that he said: "All the deeds of people, good and bad, are presented every morning to the holy Prophet (pbuh), so be careful of your deeds!"
In another narration, Abdullah bin Abān says: "I asked Imam Reza (a.s.) to pray for me and my family."
The Imam said: "Am I not praying? By Allah, your deeds are presented to me every day and night, and I pray for whatever is expedient [to you.]."
Abdullah says that he was amazed to hear that the deeds were presented to him (Imam Reza) during the day and night. Seeing my amazement, the Imam said to me: "Do you not read the Quran where it says, "And say (unto them): Act! Allah will behold your actions, and (so will) His messenger and the believers." By Allah, "believers" [in the verse] refers to Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.). 
Since all of the Imams, peace be upon them, are as a single soul and they are a single light, any rule that is proved about one of them will be true with all the rest of them. The above verse which denotes the Messenger and the believers' knowledge of our deeds indicates Shia's belief in "presentation of deeds" to God's noble friends (Awlia-ullah). The presentation takes place daily, weekly and monthly. If our deeds are good, God's noble friends will be pleased with us and if our actions are bad, they will become worried and sad. Belief in this doctrine can have a very profound effect on the education and piety of individuals.
Having said that, it is important that every individual should act, as far as it lies within him, in such a way that pleases the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and the Pure Imams (a.s.). It has been reported that one day Imam Sadiq (a.s) addressed a few individuals who were in his company as such: "Why do you displease the Messenger of Allah?"
One of the people in the gathering asked: "How do we displease the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)?"
Imam Ja'far Sadiq answered: "Don't you know that all of your deeds are presented to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)? If he sees a sin in your actions, he will be unhappy and displeased? So, do not displease the Holy Prophet (pbuh) with your bad actions; rather try to please him by doing good deeds."
It is inferred from the Quranic verse and the above traditions and similar narrations about presentation of the deeds to the Imams (a.s.) that the Imams (a.s.) are aware of Shiites' deeds and actions.
It is also clear from the above that the verses and traditions are in no way contradicting each other.
There are also narrations concerning the second question indicating that our deeds are submitted to the infallibles at specific times like the nights of Qadr (destiny) and other times. These narrations do not contradict the Imams' supervision of our actions at all times. A simple example is a department's manager who is informed and aware of whatever is going on around him under his management but at the end of the week or month or other times, the reports are submitted to him to sign them.
As for the second question as to why one Imam gives advice to another Imam, it should be said that the knowledge which the Imams have is the knowledge bestowed upon them by God. Thus, there would be no problem if one of the Imams acquires or derives knowledge from the Infallible before him.It has been said that when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was on death bed, Imam Ali (a.s.) was with him. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) whispered into my ears a thing which opened to me a thousand doors of knowledge each door lead to a thousand more doors." Also, when Imam Reza (a.s) gave advice to Imam Jawad (a.s.), the latter had not yet attained the position of Imamate to have knowledge of Imamate.
 - Muzaffar, Muhammad Hussein, Ilmul Imam, vol.3, pg.17; Muzaffar Muhammad Hussein, Imamology (Imam Shinasi), vol.42, pg.11, Lesson 65 – 67. Maktabat al-Shamelah.
 - Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Behar al-Anwar, vol.53, pg.175, Al-Wafa Institute, Beirut, Lebanon, 1404 A.H.
 - For further information about the Imams' knowledge, vide: Knowledge of Divine Saints 189 (953); The Imams' Knowledge of the Unseen, 2775 (site: 3259).
 - Al-Tawbah: 105.
 - Al-Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya'qub, Al-Kaafi, vol.1, pg.219, Kitab al-Hujjah, under chapter entitled: "Presentation of Deeds to the Prophet (pbuh) and Imam (a.s)", Darul Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1986.
 - Ibid, vol.1, pg.219, hadith No.4.
 - Ibid, vol.1, pg.219, hadith No.3.
 - Balkhi Hanafi, Sulayman, Yanabi'ul Mawaddah, Sayyid Ali Jamal Ashraf al-Husseini, vol.1, pg.208, first edition, Darul Uswah Publications, 1416 A.H.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- “Miracles” in Islamic theological terms are acts that surpass normal limits that challenge others to do the same and are in accordance with the claims of the person performing them. What is meant by surpassing normal limits is that it seems contrary to the laws of nature.
Of course, when it is said that miracles surpass normal limits, not having a cause or negating the law of causality isn't intended; what is meant is that despite these phenomena having their own natural causes, these causes are unknown and inaccessible to the people. What is meant by ‘challenge’ is that the prophet performing the miracle challenges those rejecting his call and his miracle to do something similar. Miracles are done by the prophets themselves and with the permission of Allah, meaning that the miracle originates from the never ending power of Allah (swt), thus always making it prevalent. When it comes to miracles, there is no need of learning or practice, and as a result, it is unconditional and can take place no matter what. Prophets’ miracles aren't done out of amusement, etc., but are done with the intention of guiding humanity; this is what sets miracles apart from other uncommon phenomena such as the answering of prayers, etc., and magic and sorcery.
In such phenomena, there is no sign of challenges or guidance or claims of prophethood.
Our research and search yielded nothing regarding the imams denying themselves of supernatural powers; on the contrary, there are innumerous narrations of their miracles and supernatural acts, to the extent that in the book of Bihar al-Anwar, under the name of each imam, there is a chapter on that imam’s miracles, narrating all the hadiths there are in that regard.
If you ever come across a hadith that negates the supernatural powers of the imams and their ability to intervene in worldly phenomena, please inform us so that we can do necessary research on it.
For further information, see: The Definition and Verification of Miracles, Question 115 (website: 985).