"The cardinal point wherein the Shi'ahs (as well as the
other sects included under the more general term of Imamites)
differ from the Sunnis is the doctrine of the Imamate. According
to the belief of the latter, the vicegerency of the
Prophet (Khilafat) is a matter to be determined by the choice
and election of his followers, and the visible head of the
Musulman world is qualified for the lofty position which he
holds less by any special divine grace than by a combination
of orthodoxy and administrative capacity. According to the
Imamite view, on the other hand, the vicegerency is a matter
altogether spiritual; an office conferred by God alone, first
by His Prophet, and afterwards by those who so succeeded
him, and having nothing to do with the popular choice or
approval. In a word, the Khalifih of the Sunnis is merely
the outward and visible Defender of the Faith: the Imam of
the Shi'ahs is the divinely ordained successor of the Prophet,
one endowed with all perfections and spiritual gifts, one whom
all the faithful must obey, whose decision is absolute and
final, whose wisdom is superhuman, and whose words are
authoritative. The general term Imamate is applicable to
all who hold this latter view without reference to the way in
which they trace the succession, and therefore includes such
sects as the Baqiris and Isma'ilis as well as the Shi'ah or
`Church of the Twelve' (Madhhab-i-Ithna-'Ashariyyih), as
they are more specifically termed, with whom alone we are
here concerned. According to these, twelve persons successively
held the office of Imam. These twelve are as follows:
"The Shi'ahs hold that he did not die, but disappeared in
an underground passage in Surra-man-Ra'a, A.H. 329; that
he still lives, surrounded by a chosen band of his followers,
in one of those mysterious cities, Jabulqa and Jabulsa; and
that when the fulness of time is come, when the earth is
filled with injustice, and the faithful are plunged in despair,
he will come forth, heralded by Jesus Christ, overthrow the
infidels, establish universal peace and justice, and inaugurate
a millennium of blessedness. During the whole period of his
Imamate, i.e. from A.H. 260 till the present day, the Imam
Mihdi has been invisible and inaccessible to the mass of his
followers, and this is what is signified by the term `Occultation'
(Ghaybat). After assuming the functions of Imam and
presiding at the burial of his father and predecessor, the
Imam Hasan-i-'Askari, he disappeared from the sight of all
save a chosen few, who, one after the other, continued to act
as channels of communication between him and his followers.
These persons were known as `Gates' (Abvab). The first of
them was Abu-'Umar-'Uthman ibn-i-Sa'id Umari; the second
Abu-Ja'far Muhammad-ibn-i-'Uthman, son of the above;
the third Husayn-ibn-i-Ruh Naw-bakhti; the fourth Abu'l-Hasan
Ali-ibn-i-Muhammad Simari. Of these `Gates' the first was
appointed by the Imam Hasan-i-'Askari, the others by the
then acting `Gate' with the sanction and approval of the
Imam Mihdi. This period--extending over 69 years--during
which the Imam was still accessible by means of the `Gates,'
is known as the `Lesser' or `Minor Occultation' (Ghaybat-i-Sughra).
This was succeeded by the `Greater' or `Major
Occultation' (Ghaybat-i-Kubra). When Abu'l-Hasan Ali, the
last of the `Gates,' drew near to his latter end, he was urged
by the faithful (who contemplated with despair the prospect
of complete severance from the Imam) to nominate a successor.
This, however, he refused to do, saying, `God hath
a purpose which He will accomplish.' So on his death all
communication between the Imam and his Church ceased,
and the `Major Occultation' began and shall continue until
the Return of the Imam take place in the fulness of time."
(Excerpt from "A Traveller's Narrative," Note O, pp.
GENEALOGY OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD Quraysh : Abd-i-Manaf _____________________________ : : Hashim Abdu'l-sh-Shams : : Abdu'l-Muttalib Umayyih : : : Umayyad Caliphs ______________________________________ : : : Abdu'llah Abu-Talib Abbas : : Muhammad : : : Fatimih Ali : ____________________ : : Hasan Husayn Umayyad Caliphs, 661-749 A.D. Abbasid Caliphs, 749-1258 A.D Fatimite Caliphs, 1258-1517 A.D. Ottoman Caliphs, 1517-19 A.D. Birth of Muhammad, August 20th, 570 A.D. Declaration of His Mission, 613-14 A.D. His flight to Medina, 622 A.D. Abu-Bakri's-Siddiq-ibn-i-Abi-Quhafih, 632-34 A.D. Umar-ibn-i'l-Khattab 634-44 A.D. Uthman-ibn-i-'Affan, 644-56 A.D. Ali-ibn-i-Abi-Talib, 656-61 A.D.