"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:

  1. Ali-ibn-i-Abi-Talib, the cousin and first disciple of the Prophet, assassinated by Ibn-i-Muljam at Kufih, A.H. 40 (A.D. 661).
  2. Hasan, son of Ali and Fatimih, born A.H. 2, poisoned by order of Mu'aviyih I, A.H. 50 (A.D. 670).
  3. Husayn, son of Ali and Fatimih, born A.H. 4, killed at Karbila on Muharram 10, A.H. 61 (Oct. 10, A.D. 680).
  4. Ali, son of Husayn and Shahribanu (daughter of Yazdigird, the last Sasaniyan king), generally called Imam Zaynu'l-'Abidin, poisoned by Valid.
  5. Muhammad-Baqir, son of the above-mentioned Zaynu'l-'Abidin and his cousin Umm-i-'Abdu'llah, the daughter of Imam Hasan, poisoned by Ibrahim ibn-i-Valid.
  6. Ja'far-i-Sadiq, son of Imam Muhammad-Baqir, poisoned by order of Mansur, the Abbaside Khalifih.
  7. Musa-Kazim, son of Imam Ja'far-i-Sadiq, born A.H. 129, poisoned by order of Harunu'r-Rashid, A.H. 183.
  8. Ali-ibn-i-Musa'r-Rida, generally called Imam Rida, born A.H. 153, poisoned near Tus, in Khurasan, by order of the Khalifih Ma'mun, A.H. 203, and buried at Mashhad, which derives its name and its sanctity from him.
  9. Muhammad-Taqi, son of Imam Rida, born A.H. 195, poisoned by the Khalifih Mu'tasim at Baghdad, A.H. 220.
  10. Ali-Naqi, son of Imam Muhammad-Taqi, born A.H. 213, poisoned at Surra-man-Ra'a, A.H. 254.
  11. Hasan-i-'Askari, son of Imam Ali-Naqi, born A.H. 232, poisoned A.H. 260.
  12. Muhammad, son of Imam Hasan-i-'Askari and Nargis-Khatun, called by the Shi'ahs `Imam-Mihdi,' `Hujjatu'llah' (the Proof of God), `Baqiyyatu'llah' (the Remnant of God), and `Qa'im-i-Al-i-Muhammad' (He who shall arise of the family of Muhammad). He bore not only the same name but the same kunyih--Abu'l-Qasim--as the Prophet, and according to the Shi'ahs it is not lawful for any other to bear this name and this kunyih together. He was born at Surra-man-Ra'a, A.H. 255, and succeeded his father in the Imamate, A.H. 260.

"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. 296-99.)

                           :                              :  
                        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.

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