The 12th Imam in the words of Imam Ali (a.s.) in the Nahjul Balagha


Imam Ali (a.s.) addresses the topic of leadership in great depth in the Nahjul Balagha, in regards to both leadership in general and more specifically the leadership of the Prophet (pbuh) and his progeny. An example of this would be in letter 45, where Imam Ali (a.s.) describes the role of leadership as follows: “Remember that every follower has a leader whom he follows and from the radiance of whose knowledge he takes light.”

This is followed by a description of his own leadership with the following words: Realize that your Imam has contented himself with two shabby pieces of cloth out of the (comforts of the) world and two loaves for his meal. Certainly, you cannot do so but at least support me in piety, exertion, chastity and uprightness."

 In Sermon 188, the Imam emphasises the need to recognise the Imam: “Any one of you who dies in his bed while he had knowledge of the rights of Allah and the rights of His Prophet and members of the Prophet's house, will die as a martyr. His reward is incumbent on Allah."

 This is also addressed by the Imam in Saying 156: “On you lies (the obligation of obedience to the person about whom you cannot plead the excuse of ignorance.”

 The commentary on this saying by Allama Mufti Jafar Hussain is included here:

Just as Allah sent down a series of prophets by way of His Justice and Mercy to guide and direct towards religion, in the same way He laid down the system of the Imamate to protect religion from alteration and change so that every Imam may in his time save the Divine teachings from the onslaught of personal desires and give directions about the correct precepts of Islam. And just as it is obligatory to know the originator of the religion (i.e., the Prophet) in the same way it is necessary to know the protector of the religion and he who remains ignorant of him cannot be excused because the issue of Imamate is supported by so many proofs and testimonies that no intelligent person can find any way to deny it.

Thus, the holy Prophet has said:   Whoever dies without knowing the Imam of his time dies a pre-Islamic (jahiliyyah) death. (Sharh al-maqasid, at-Taftazini ash- Shafi'i, vol. 2, p.275; al-Jawahir al-mudiyyah, al-Khatib al-Hanafi, vol.2, pp. 457,509).  

It has also been narrated by `Abdullah ibn 'Umar, Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan and `Abdullah ibn al-'Abbas that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his descendants, said that:   One who dies without (knowing his) Imam and binding himself by an oath of allegiance to him will die the death of one belonging to the days of jahiliyyah, and one who withdraws his hand from obedience (to the Imam) will find no argument (in his defence) when he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgement. (al-Musnad, at1'ayliisi, p.259; as-Sahih, Muslim, vol.6, p.22; al-Musnad, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol.4, p.96; as-Sunan al-kubra, al-Bayhaqi, vol.8, p.156; at-Tafsir, Ibn Kathir, vol. 1, p.517; Majma' az-zawa'id, vol.5, pp.218, 224, 225)

Ibn Abi'l-Hadid also agrees that the personality about whom no one's ignorance can be excused is that of Amir al-mu'minin. He also acknowledges the obligation to obey him and holds that he who does not believe in the issue of Imamate will not achieve deliverance. In this connection he writes: He who is ignorant of the position of 'Ali, peace be upon him, as Imam and denies its veracity or obligatory character would, according to our associates, remain in Hell for ever, his fasting or prayers being of no avail to him, because the knowledge of this matter is among the basic principles which constitute the foundations of religion. However, we do not regard one who denies his Imamate as an unbeliever but only a sinner, a transgressor or a deviator, etc. (Sharh Nahjul Balaghah al-balaghah, vol.18, p.373)”

 Sermon 150 reiterates the importance of acknowledging the Imams with the following words: “Certainly the Imams are the vicegerents of Allah over His creatures and they make the creatures know Allah. No one will enter Paradise except he who knows them and knows Him, and no one will enter Hell except he who denies them and denies Him.”

There are also specific selections from the Nahjul Balagha in which the Imam refers to his grandson, the twelfth Imam, Imam Mahdi (a.s.). Seven are included here.

1)         Sermon 98: This sermon begins with the Imam bearing witness to the Oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The sermon proceeds with very meaningful statements about the Ahlulbayt, and remembrance of the twelfth Imam, which are included here:

“He left among us the standard of right. Whoever goes further from it goes out of Faith, whoever lags behind it is ruined. Whoever sticks to it would join (right). Its guide is short of speech, slow of steps, and quick when he rises. When you have bent your necks before him and pointed towards him with your fingers his death would occur and would take him away. They would live after him as long as Allah wills, till Allah brings out for you one who would collect you together and fuse you after diffusion. Do not place expectations in one who does not come forward and do not lose hope in one who is veiled, because it is possible that one of the two feet of the veiled one may slip while the other may remain sticking, till both return to position and stick. Beware!

The example of the descendants of Muhammad (S.A.) is like that of stars in the sky. When one star sets another one rises. So you are in a position that Allah's blessings on you have been perfected and He has shown you what you used to wish for.”

2)        Sermon 136: In this sermon, Imam discusses the future in regards to the reappearance of the 12th Imam.

"He will direct desires towards (the path of) guidance while people will have turned guidance towards desires, and he will turn their views to the direction of the Qur'an while the people will have turned the Qur'an to their views.

A part of the same sermon: (Before the Enjoiner of Good, matters deteriorate) till war will rage among you with full force, showing forth its teeth, with udders full of sweet milk but with a sour tip. Beware, it will be tomorrow and the morrow will come soon with things which you do not know. The Man in power, not from this crowd, will take to task all officers for their ill deeds and the earth will pour forth its eternal treasures and fling before him easily her keys. He will show you the just way of behaviour and revive the Quran and sunnah which have become lifeless (among people). "

3)         Sermon 148: In this sermon, the Imam describes the progeny of the Prophet as lanterns in the times of darkness and hardship, and clearly indicates the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.):

 "They took to the right and the left piercing through to the ways of evil and leaving the paths of guidance. Do not make haste for a matter which is to happen and is awaited, and do not wish for delay in what the morrow is to bring for you. For, how many people make haste for a matter, but when they get it they begin to wish they had not got it. How near is today to the dawning of tomorrow.

O' my people, this is the time for the occurrence of every promised event and the approach of things which you do not know. Whoever from among us will be during these days will move through them with a burning lamp and will tread on the footsteps of the virtuous, in order to unfasten knots, to free slaves, to divide the united and to unite the divided. He will be in concealment from people. The stalker will not find his footprints even though he pursues with his eye. Then a group of people will be sharpened like the sharpening of swords by the blacksmith. Their sight will be brightened by revelation, the (delicacies of) commentary will be put in their ears and they will be given drinks of wisdom, morning and evening."

4)         Sermon 180: This is the last sermon during the life of the Imam, quoted by Nawf-al-Bakali, which includes a description of the qualities of his grandson, and the justice of his reign:

"He will be wearing the armour of wisdom, which he will have secured with all its conditions, such as full attention towards it, its knowledge and exclusive devotion to it. For him it is like a thing which he had lost and which he was then seeking, or a need which he was trying to fulfil. If Islam is in trouble he will feel forlorn like a traveller and like a (tired) camel beating the end of its tail and with its neck flattened on the ground. He is the last of Allah's proofs and one of the vicegerents of His prophets."

 5)         Saying 147: This saying is from a discussion of the Imam with his faithful companion, Kumail ibn Ziyad.  

"O my Allah! Yes; but the earth is never devoid of those who maintain Allah's plea either openly and reputedly or, being afraid, as hidden in order that Allah's pleas and proofs should not be rebutted. How many are they and where are they? By Allah, they are few in number, but they are great in esteem before Allah. Through them Allah guards His pleas and proofs till they entrust them to others like themselves and sow the seeds thereof in the hearts of those who are similar to them.  

Knowledge has led them to real understanding and so they have associated themselves with the spirit of conviction. They take easy what the easygoing regard as hard. They endear what the ignorant take as strange. They live in this world with their bodies here but their spirits resting in the high above. They are the vicegerents of Allah on His earth and callers to His religion. Oh, oh, how I yearn to see them!"

 6)         Saying 209: The Imam describes events following the reappearance of the 12th Imam.

The world will bend towards us after having been refractory as the biting she-camel bends towards its young. Then Amir al-mu'minin recited the verse; And intend We to bestow (Our) favour upon those who were considered weak in the land, and to make them the Imams (guides in faith), and to make them the heirs. (Quran, 28:5)

7)         Saying 1 from the section of sayings of Imam which require explanation:

When the situation is like this, then the head of religion will rise and people will gather around him as pieces of rainless cloud collect during autumn.