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Imamat in the Holy Qur’an?

Several verses of the Qur’an are cited by the Shi’ah in connection with Imamat. One of them is the verse which begins with the words, “Your guardian can be only Allah”. Incidentally in all these cases there exist Sunni traditions which support the Shi’ah point of view.

In the Qur’an this verse runs as follows: “Your guardian can be only Allah and His messenger and those who believe, who establish prayers, pay the zakat while bowing.” (Surah Mai’dah, 5:55)

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ۥ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَيُؤۡتُونَ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَهُمۡ رَٲكِعُونَ  (Surah Mai’dah, 5:55)

The word used in this verse is Wali, which means a guardian. Hence Wilayat means guardianship. According to the teachings of Islam zakat is not paid while bowing in prayers.

Hence the payment of zakat while bowing cannot be called a general rule applicable to many individuals. This verse refers to a particular incident, which took place only once and which has been reported both by the Shi’ah and the Sunnis.

Once Imam Ali was bowing while offering prayers when a beggar appeared and began to ask for alms. Imam Ali beckoned and called his attention to his finger.

The beggar promptly drew Imam Ali’s ring from his finger and left the place.

In other words Imam Ali did not wait till his prayers were finished. He was so particular to give alms, that while he was still praying he told the beggar by gesture that he might pull out his ring, sell it and spend the money to meet his needs.

Both the Shi’ah and the Sunnis agree that Imam Ali did so, and that this verse was revealed on this occasion. It may be noted that giving alms while bowing in prayers is not included in the teachings of Islam.

It is neither an obligatory nor a commendable act. Hence it cannot be said that several persons might have done so. Therefore (those who do so) is an obvious reference to Imam Ali.

The Qur’an at several places has used the expression, ‘they say. . .’, while that thing was said by only one individual. Here also ‘those who do so’ means the individual who did so. Therefore by means of this verse Imam Ali was appointed the guardian of the people.


One of the verses revealed in connection with the event of Ghadir says: “0 Messenger! Make known that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, for if you do it not, you will not have conveyed His message.” (Surah al-Mai’dah, 5:67)

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلرَّسُولُ بَلِّغۡ مَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيۡكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ‌ۖ وَإِن لَّمۡ تَفۡعَلۡ فَمَا بَلَّغۡتَ رِسَالَتَهُ ۥ‌ۚ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡصِمُكَ مِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ‌ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَہۡدِى ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ (Surah al-Mai’dah, 5:67)

The tone of this verse is as serious as that of the tradition: “He who died and did not recognize the Imam of his time, died a pre-Islamic death.” Briefly it may be said that the verse itself shows that its subject is so important that if the Prophet does not make it known, that would mean that he has not conveyed the message of Allah at all.

The Shi’ah and the Sunnis agree that Surah al-Mai’dah is the last surah (chapter) revealed to the Holy Prophet, and this verse is one of the last verses of this surah. In other words it was revealed when the Holy Prophet had already conveyed all other injunctions and teachings of Islam during his 13 years’ stay in Makkah and 10 years’ stay in Medina as the Prophet.

This verse was among the last instructions of Islam. Now the Shi’ah ask what that instruction could be which was so important that if it was not conveyed all that the Holy Prophet did in the past would become void. You cannot indicate any subject connected with the last years of the Holy Prophet’s life which may be so important. But we say that it is the question of Imamat, which is so important that if Imamat is lost, nothing remains. Without Imamat the whole structure of Islam would crumble down. Moreover, the Shi’ah cite the reports and the traditions of the Sunnis themselves in support of their claim that this verse was revealed in connection with the Ghadir Khum event.

In Surah al-Ma’idah itself there is another verse which runs as follows: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour to you and have chosen Islam for you as religion.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:3)

This verse shows that on that day something happened, which was so important that it perfected religion, completed Allah’s Favour to mankind and without which Islam could not be as Allah wanted it to be. The Shi’ah argue that the stringent tone of the verse shows that the thing to which it refers is so important that the very existence of Islam as a true religion depends on it. Now the question is what that thing can be. The Shi’ah say that they can point out that thing; whereas others cannot. Furthermore, there are reports which confirm that this verse was revealed in connection with the question of Imamat. We have put forward these three verses as the gist of the Shi’ah arguments.

Updated on December 8, 2016

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