Sometimes there are some amusing questions, which make us not resting until finding their answers. Some of these questions are: Why Imamate is so important to Shia? Is belief in the absent Imam so important? Is Imamate a major principle of our beliefs or a minor one?
Finding the answers to these questions needs reflection, and of course is rooted in a correct and deep theology. If someone knows Allah (SWT) well, i.e. knows he has a God, he should logically submit to Him. In fact, a theist is one who has reached the level of submission, and has accepted Allah (SWT) as his Lord.
Such person must also submit to the gates of Allah (SWT) (the only ways to recognize Allah’s (SWT) orders), namely Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and the Imams (PBUT). Indeed, he has to believe in them and the status in which Allah (SWT) has placed them so that his monotheism would be acceptable. In other words, believing in the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Imamate of the Imams (PBUT) are inevitable results of believing in Allah’s (SWT) Divinity. As it is narrated in some Hadiths, accepting the Ahl al-Bayt’s Wilayah is a prerequisite for Monotheism: “The believers in Allah (SWT) and His worshippers are only those who know Allah (SWT) and the Imams from us, the Ahl al-Bayt; by Allah those who do not know Allah and do not know us, the Ahl al-Bayt, have recognized someone other than Allah (SWT), and worshipped someone other than Him in a devious way.”(1)
We can clearly conclude from these Hadiths and similar ones that in Shiism, a monotheist is one who believes in Allah (SWT), Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and the Imams (PBUT), and is among the believers in Wilayah. Knowing the Imam is the fruit of the tree of Monotheism. In fact, Monotheism is recognized through Imamate, as every tree is recognized by its fruit. Monotheism will not be fruitful unless it leads into believing in the Imams; otherwise, it would not be a true Monotheism.
Therefore, knowing the Imam of time is not only a prerequisite for knowing Allah (SWT), but also the sole sign of it. In fact, it is the only sign by which a Monotheist could be differentiated from a disbeliever. If some other signs for Monotheism have been mentioned in the Hadiths of the Ahl al-Bayt (PBUT), they are considered as branches of this principle. The fundamental principle of the religion is the Wilayah of the fourteen infallibles (PBUT). This principle is also firmed in the field of knowing Allah (SWT); this is to the extent that when someone asked Imam Hussain (PBUH) about the meaning of knowing Allah (SWT), Imam (PBUH) replied: “Knowing Allah (SWT) is knowing the Imam of each time, whose obedience is mandatory for people.”
In fact, since Monotheism is not recognized and achieved without knowing the Imam of the time, Imam Hussain (PBUH) interpreted Monotheism as knowing the Imam of the time. As such, knowing the Imams, meaning believing in them, is an inseparable component of Monotheism. If someone’s Monotheism does not result in knowing the Imams, he could not be recognized as a Monotheist.
Shiites and Sunnis have both narrated this Hadith from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that, “Whoever dies while he does not know the Imam of his time has died as if he has lived in ignorant era.”(3) The Prophet has explicitly stated that those who do not know the Imam of their time have not survived from ignorance and polytheism.
Therefore, if Monotheism does not lead into knowing our contemporary Imam, Imam Mahdi (PBUH), it will not make a person religious. In the other words, by failing to recognizing the Imam and not submitting to him, a person will lose everything; whereas all of the blessings and good deeds would be beneficial by knowing Imam.
(Selection taken from “Aftab Dar Qurbat (The Sun in Exile)” by the Dr. Sayyed Muhammad Bani Hashemi)
The Roshd website congratulates all lovers and those waiting for Imam Hujjat Ibn al-Hassan al-Askari (PBUT), upon the 15th of Sha’ban, the birthday anniversary of the Imam of humankind and their hope, the Imam of our time, the link between the heavens and the earth.
1. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 181
2. Ilal al-Shara’ei
3. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 277