The Importance of Imamate (Leadership of Ahlulbayt)

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The Importance of Imamate (Leadership of Ahlulbayt)
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Nearly all Muslims, both Sunni and Shi‘a, believe in Imamate, although there are some exceptions, such as the Khawarij. However, Sunnis and Shi‘as differ on this subject in three ways: 
1) the significance and extent of Imamate, 
2) the role of the Imam, and 
3) the way the Imam is selected. 
In principle, nearly all Muslims believe in Imamate and various versions of the same narration (hadith) by Prophet Muhammad (s) indicate so:
Whoever dies while he does not know the Imam of his age, he dies a death of the Age of Ignorance.1

A person who does not know the Imam of his age is likened to a person who died before Islam, or more specifically, the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah). In any case, the saying “Whoever dies while he does not know the imam of his age” indicates the necessity of an Imam and the responsibility Muslims carry to identify, know, and believe in him.

A person who does not know the Imam of his age is likened to a person who died before Islam, or more specifically, the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah). 
In any case, the saying “Whoever dies while he does not know the imam of his age” indicates the necessity of an Imam and the responsibility Muslims carry to identify, know, and believe in him. If not, he is categorized with those who died before Islam. 
Another version available in Sunni sources indicates the same:
Whoever dies while he has not paid allegiance to the Imam of the age is like someone who died in the Age of Ignorance.
Thus, having an Imam or even knowing an Imam is not enough; one must also pay allegiance to and follow him. Imamate is like the spirit of Islam and someone whose faith lacks this spirit is likened to a person who lived and died in the pre-Islamic era.
Knowing the Imam of your age is a dynamic and an ongoing process. You can believe in God and the Prophet and this can be kept for generations without any change, but in the case of Imamate, every generation must discover the Imam of his own age and what he actually wants from him in that particular age.

Knowing the Imam of your age is a dynamic and an ongoing process. You can believe in God and the Prophet and this can be kept for generations without any change, but in the case of Imamate, every generation must discover the Imam of his own age and what he actually wants from him in that particular age.

There were people who believed in Imam Ali (a) but had difficulties during the time of Imam Hasan (a) and did not follow him. It was not enough to believe in Imam Ali (a) unless they died during his time. But when Allah gave them a chance to live after Imam Ali (a), their responsibility was to find out the Imam of their own age and then follow him.
There were some Shi‘a who believed in Imam Ali (a), Imam Hasan (a), Imam Husayn (a) and Imam Sajjad (a), but they failed to believe in Imam Baqir (a). Some believed in all six Imams, but not in the seventh, Imam Musa al-Kazim (a). There were even Waqifids who believed in the 7th Imam but not the 8th. So every person, in addition to all other beliefs, and in addition to the truth laid down by the Prophet, must find the Imam of his own age.
In this regards the example of a believer is like a compass that shows all the time the direction or the qiblah. The pointer must be able to adjust itself at any time and not get stuck with one condition or location. A true Shi‘a is the one that is directed towards the Imam of his age no matter which time period or geographical place he lives in.
The Shi‘a attach more significance to Imamate than their fellow Muslims to the extent that they have taken it as one of the five principles of their faith, along with unity of God, divine justice, Prophethood, and resurrection.

The Shi‘a attach more significance to Imamate than their fellow Muslims to the extent that they have taken it as one of the five principles of their faith, along with unity of God, divine justice, Prophethood, and resurrection.

These five have been historically chosen by Shi‘a scholars, as five principles that can identify their faith. The reason for this choice is that there have been controversies among Muslim theologians on issues such as faith (iman), free-will and predestination, successorship to the Prophet and Imamate.
This gave each denomination the task of finding and defining their identity. Each school of Islam tried to find some important elements in their understanding of Islam; whoever believes in them can be considered as a full believer in their school of thought. Shi‘a scholars assert that whoever believes in the abovementioned five principles is considered a Shi‘a and that someone who merely believes just in some of these five principles is not a true Shi‘a.

• 1. ‘Allamah Majlisi in Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 8, p. 368 recognizes this hadith as mutawatir for both Sunni and Shi‘a. This means that this hadith has been so frequently mentioned in every generation of the narrators of hadith that leaves no chance for anyone to question its authenticity.

 

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Daily Hadith
مَن شَرُفَت هِمَّتُهُ عَظُمَت قِيمَتُهُ.
He whose ambition is lofty his value is heightened.