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Chapter 32

The successorship of the Holy Imams (the Dependent/Lesser Prophets) to Muhammad (the Independent Prophet).

Based on the writings of Baha'u'llah, the Bab, Muhammad, the Holy Imams, Abdu'l-Baha and the Bible; the path of true belief in Islam after the ascension of Muhammad was: recognition and following the Holy Imams, who were the Face of God on earth (Dependent/Lesser Prophets of Muhammad). In the Kitab-i-Iqan and other writings, the station of the Holy Imams is explained. Also, there are many symbolic references to the Holy Imams in the Quran, which true believers would apprehend. Imam Ali is referred to as "The Commander of the Faithful" because true believers in Islam (obedient to Muhammad and faithful to His Covenant) recognised and followed him and the other Holy Imams. Below are a number of references relating to this. Baha'is also recognise the Bab as the twelfth Imam (Imam Mihdi).

The Quran instructs true believers to obey Muhammad, the Independent Prophet, the Most Great Infallibility (which is to obey God). This includes obeying Muhammad regarding his successor, Imam Ali, the first Dependent Prophet in the era of Muhammad, and the "Object of the covenant".

4:59 O ye who believe! Obey God, and obey the Apostle, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Apostle, if ye do believe in God and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.
-- Qur'an: 4 - AN-NISA.

And likewise in the sacred verse: "Obey God and obey the Apostle, and those among you invested with authority." By "those invested with authority" is meant primarily and more especially the Imáms -- the blessings of God rest upon them! They, verily, are the manifestations of the power of God, and the sources of His authority, and the repositories of His knowledge, and the daysprings of His commandments.
-- Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 90

Consider thou and call to mind the time when Muhammad appeared. He said, and His word is the truth: 'Pilgrimage to the House [1] is a service due to God.' [2] And likewise are the daily prayer, fasting, and the laws which shone forth above the horizon of the Book of God, the Lord of the World and the true Educator of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. It is incumbent upon everyone to obey Him in whatsoever God hath ordained; and whosoever denieth Him hath disbelieved in God, in His verses, in His Messengers and in His Books. Were He to pronounce right to be wrong or denial to be belief, He speaketh the truth as bidden by God. This is a station wherein sins or trespasses neither exist nor are mentioned.
-- Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 108

XXIV. Beware, O believers in the Unity of God, lest ye be tempted to make any distinction between any of the Manifestations of His Cause, or to discriminate against the signs that have accompanied and proclaimed their Revelation. This indeed is the true meaning of Divine Unity, if ye be of them that apprehend and believe this truth. Be ye assured, moreover, that the works and acts of each and every one of these Manifestations of God, nay whatever pertaineth unto them, and whatsoever they may manifest in the future, are all ordained by God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose. Whoso maketh the slightest possible difference between their persons, their words, their messages, their acts and manners, hath indeed disbelieved in God, hath repudiated His signs, and betrayed the Cause of His Messengers.
-- Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 59

The importance of the Quran, the revelation of God for that dispensation, is well established. In the passage below, Muhammad gives His Family (the Holy Imams) parallel importance, also indicating their fundamental importance in true Islam.

Muhammad, Himself, as the end of His mission drew nigh, spoke these words: "Verily, I leave amongst you My twin weighty testimonies: The Book of God and My Family [The Holy Imams]."
-- Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 201

In the passages below, Baha'u'llah makes reference to "Successorship" (of the Holy Imams); Imam Ali also cites Muhammad regarding his successorship, 'It is thus that the Prophet said: "I am from 'Alí and 'Alí is from Me. None can give forth My Trust but Myself and 'Alí."'

In response to thy request the Pen of Glory hath graciously described the stations and grades of the Most Great Infallibility. The purpose is that all should know of a certainty that the Seal of the Prophets [Muhammad]--may the souls of all else but Him be offered up for His sake--is without likeness, peer or partner in His Own station. The Holy Ones [The Holy Imams]--may the blessings of God be upon them--were created through the potency of His Word, and after Him they were the most learned and the most distinguished among the people and abide in the utmost station of servitude. The divine Essence, sanctified from every comparison and likeness, is established in the Prophet [Independent Prophet], and God's inmost Reality, exalted above any peer or partner, is manifest in Him. This is the station of true unity and of véritable singleness. The followers of the previous Dispensation grievously failed to acquire an adequate understanding of this station. The Primal Point [The Bab] --may the life of all else but Him be offered up for His sake--saith: `If the Seal of the Prophets had not uttered the word "Successorship", such a station would not have been created.'

The people aforetime joined partners with God [rejected the Holy Imams as the Face of God], though they professed belief in His unity; and although they were the most ignorant amongst men, they considered themselves the most accomplished. But, as a token of divine retribution upon those heedless ones, their erroneous beliefs and pursuits have, in this Day of Judgement, been made clear and evident to every man of discernment and understanding.
-- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 123

This is that which Salmán[2] and 'Abú Dharr[3] related of the utterances of the Commander of the Faithful, 'Alí - Peace be upon Him!

'Alí said:

He whose acceptance of my guardianship is based on external reality more than internal truth, he is that one "whose balance will be light"[4] Those whose scale will be light, their souls will be in perdition.[5] O Salmán! The faith of no believer will attain perfection unless and until he recognizeth Me with luminousness. If he attaineth unto this, then he hath truly attained faith; he is the one whose heart is tested with true faith, whose breast is dilated in true Islám and whose faith is based on discernment. He who is convicted of shortcoming in this cognition - he will be a doubter, immersed in disbelief.

O Salmán! and O Jandáb![6] In truth, recognition of Me in luminousness is the recognition of God,[7] and Recognition and knowledge of God is indeed knowledge of Me; this is what is meant by sincere devotion.[8] Mankind was not ordered by God to seek naught except to attain unto this unity.[9] They were commanded to worship but One God.[10] And they have been commanded no more than this: "To worship God, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith), to establish regular prayer; and to practice regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight."[11]

"Worshipping God" is belief in Divine Unity. "Sincere devotion" and "being true in Faith"[12] is confession of the Prophethood of the Prophet. "Establishing Prayer" is my Guardianship and Friendship.[13] He who pledges fealty and friendship unto Me hath truly established the obligatory prayer. Yet, this matter is hard, exceedingly hard! "Regular charity" in the above verse is confession to the Imámate. All this is the true religion.[14]

The Holy Qur'án hath testified that true Faith is recognition of divine unity and confession to both the Prophet and the Imámate. He who attaineth unto both hath fulfilled his faith. A true believer is the one who does not reject any matter pertaining to Us, for God Himself hath dilated His Breast such that He may accept all. He will not doubt or be mistrustful. He who cavileth why and wherefore becometh a disbeliever. We are, verily, the Cause of God![15]

O Salmán! O Jandáb![16] Verily, God hath made me His Trustee over His creation and His Vicegerent on His earth, in His territories, and over His servants. He hath given Me what no artist can depict and no man of understanding can truly comprehend. If thou wert to know Me in this fashion, thou shalt attain unto true belief.[17]

O Salmán! God, exalted be He saith: "Nay, seek God's help with patient perseverance and prayer: it is indeed hard except to those who bring a lowly spirit."[18] "Patient perseverance" is Muhammad and "Prayer" is my Wilayat.[19] Thus, that is why God hath declared it is hard. He doth not reveal the Two[20] are hard. In truth, My Guardianship is perplexing only to those who bring a lowly spirit. These latter are they who have sought discernment using the light of My guidance.

O Salmán! We are the Mystery of God[21] that shalt not remain hidden. We are His light that shalt never be extinguished, His Grace that is expected from none other save Him. Muhammad is our first, Muhammad our last, Muhammad our all![22] Muhammad is our first, Muhammad our last, Muhammad our all. He who recognizeth Us in this regard hath, in truth, consummated his Faith.

O Salmán, and O Jandáb! Muhammad and I were the Light that was voicing forth the divine eulogy before any other reality started to praise Him. We were the cause of illumination unto all creation. This one Light was divided by God into two portions, the Chosen "Mustafa"[23], and His Vicegerent, "Murtada"[24], and vouchsafed unto creation. God, exalted be His Glory, said to each half, "Be Muhammad!", "Be 'Alí!"[25] It is thus that the Prophet said: "I am from 'Alí and 'Alí is from Me. None can give forth My Trust but Myself and 'Alí."[26] This refers to our unity in the worlds of Light and Spirit. Similar is this divine utterance: "and If He dieth or is slain."[27] "Dieth" refers to the passing away of the Prophet. "Slain" refers to the martyrdom of the Successor[28], for the Two are one Entity, one Signification and one Light. Their unity is in purpose and attributes. They are different in Their corporeal entity and their Names. But in the world of spirit, They are One Spirit. In Spirit, He said, "Thou art the Spirit within My Limbs." In the world of bodies, He saith: "Thou art of Me and I am of Thine. Thou shalt inherit after Me."
-- Imam Ali, The Sermon of Ma'rifat bin-Nurániyyat (Recognition with Luminousness). Translation by K. Fananapazir.
Full text available at:

Baha'u'llah refers to the trumpet-call of Imam Ali, and the requirement that people recognise his station as a of God, a Prophet (Dependent).

In like manner, two of the people of Kufih went to Ali, the Commander of the Faithful. One owned a house and wished to sell it; the other was to be the purchaser. They had agreed that this transaction should be effected and the contract be written with the knowledge of Ali. He, the exponent of the law of God, addressing the scribe, said: "Write thou: 'A dead man hath bought from another dead man a house. That house is bounded by four limits. One extendeth toward the tomb, the other to the vault of the grave, the third to the Sirat, the fourth to either Paradise or hell.'" Reflect, had these two souls been quickened by the trumpet-call of Ali, had they risen from the grave of error by the power of his love, the judgment of death would certainly not have been pronounced against them.

In every age and century, the purpose of the Prophets of God and their chosen ones hath been no other but to affirm the spiritual significance of the terms "life," "resurrection," and "judgment." If one will ponder but for a while this utterance of Ali in his heart, one will surely discover all mysteries hidden in the terms "grave," "tomb," "sirat," "paradise" and "hell." But oh! how strange and pitiful! Behold, all the people are imprisoned within the tomb of self, and lie buried beneath the nethermost depths of worldly desire! Wert thou to attain to but a dewdrop of the crystal waters of divine knowledge, thou wouldst readily realize that true life is not the life of the flesh but the life of the spirit. For the life of the flesh is common to both men and animals, whereas the life of the spirit is possessed only by the pure in heart who have quaffed from the ocean of faith and partaken of the fruit of certitude. This life knoweth no death, and this existence is crowned by immortality. Even as it hath been said: "He who is a true believer liveth both in this world and in the world to come." If by "life" be meant this earthly life, it is evident that death must needs overtake it.
-- Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 119

91:1 By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;

91:2 By the Moon as she follows him;

91:3 By the Day as it shows up (the Sun's) glory;

91:4 By the Night as it conceals it;
-- Qur'an: 91 - ASH-SHAMS.

The Prophet [Independent Prophet] is the Sun and Imam Ali is the Moon. The Day refers to the Imams and the Night to the Caliphate which "covered" Imam Ali. (From the writings of the Imams as cited in "Introduction to Shi'i Islam" by Moojan Momen, p. 151-153).

The following passage on the "station of pure abstraction and essential unity" of the Manifestations of God includes Muhammad, Adam, Noah, Moses and Jesus, who are Independent Prophets; and Ali [Imam Ali] and the Imams, who were Dependent/Lesser Prophets of Muhammad. True believers recognise and follow the Manifestations of God, including the Holy Imams, who appeared after the ascension of Muhammad, as foretold in the Quran and in Muhammad's oral statements.

These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if thou callest them all by one name, and dost ascribe to them the same attribute, thou hast not erred from the truth. Even as He hath revealed: "No distinction do We make between any of His Messengers!"[1] For they one and all summon the people of the earth to acknowledge the Unity of God, and herald unto them the Kawthar of an infinite grace and bounty. They are all invested with the robe of Prophethood, and honoured with the mantle of glory. Thus hath Muhammad, the Point of the Qur'án, revealed: "I am all the Prophets." Likewise, He saith: "I am the first Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus." Similar statements have been made by Ali. Sayings such as this, which indicate the essential unity of those Exponents of Oneness, have also emanated from the Channels of God's immortal utterance, and the Treasuries of the gems of divine knowledge, and have been recorded in the scriptures. These Countenances are the recipients of the Divine Command, and the day-springs of His Revelation. This Revelation is exalted above the veils of plurality and the exigencies of number. Thus He saith: "Our Cause is but one."[2] Inasmuch as the Cause is one and the same, the Exponents thereof also must needs be one and the same. Likewise, the Imams of the Muhammadan Faith, those lamps of certitude, have said: "Muhammad is our first, Muhammad our last, Muhammad our all."
[1 Qur'án 2:285.]
[2 Qur'án 54:50.]
-- Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 152

In the passage below, Imam Ali, the first Dependent Prophet of Muhammad, is named a Temple, and is the first of the angels referred to in Qur'án 2:210: "Will they wait until Allah comes to them in canopies of clouds, with angels (in His train)." "angels (in His train)" refers to the Holy Imams, who appeared in succession after Muhammad for a period of over two centuries. "Allah comes to them" is also a reference to the fact that the Holy Imams are Manifestations of God (Dependent Prophets of Muhammad, one of the two classes of Prophets). Those who rejected Imam Ali, a Manifestation of God, brought their own perdition.

Say I swear by God! They to whom you attribute knowledge and have accepted them as your divines they are in the sight of God the worst of men nay the quintessence of evil flees from them. Thus has the matter been inscribed in the scrolls of God's knowledge. We testify that they have not drunk from the fountains of knowledge and they have not attained unto a word of Wisdom and have not become aware of the mysteries of Revelation and have been racing in the land of their selfish desires. Nothing of rejection and denial against a prophet or a successor of a prophet has come to pass except after their permission. Thus has always been their injunction carried out on the Countenances of holiness.

Say to them: O ignorant ones! Did We not reveal in the past: "A Day that God shall come in the canopies of clouds."[4] How is it that when He came down in the clouds of Revelation in the Temple of 'Ali [Imam Ali], you turned away and rejected Him and waxed haughty and brought about your own perdition?[5] Was it not also revealed in your Book: "the Day when Thy Lord comes or certain of the signs of Thy Lord."[6] And when He did come with evident signs wherefore did ye turn away from those signs and veiled yourselves with the veils of self?..
[4] Qur'án 2:210.
[5] Qur'án 25:18 and 48:12.
[6] Qur'an 6:158.
-- Baha'u'llah, Surih-i-Sabr (Lawh-i-Ayyúb), Surih of Patience or Tablet of Job - (Trans. K. Fananapazir)

2:208. O ye who believe! enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the Evil One; for he is to you an avowed enemy.

2:209. If ye backslide after the clear (signs) have come to you, then know that Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.

2:210. Will they wait until Allah comes to them in canopies of clouds, with angels (in His train) and the question is (thus) settled? But to Allah do all questions go back (for decision).

2:211. Ask the Children of Israel how many Clear (Signs) We have sent them. But if anyone, after Allah's favor has come to him, substitutes (something else), Allah is strict in punishment.

2:212. The life of this world is alluring to those who reject faith, and they scoff at those who believe. But the righteous will be above them on the Day of Resurrection; for Allah bestows His abundance without measures on whom He will.
-- The Qur'an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah 2.

2:26. Allah disdains not to use the similitude of things, lowest as well as highest. Those who believe know that it is truth from their Lord; but those who reject Faith say: "What means Allah by this similitude?" By it He causes many to stray, and many He leads into the right path, but He causes not to stray, except those who forsake (the path).

2:27. Those who break Allah's Covenant after it is ratified, and who sunder what Allah has ordered to be joined, and do mischief on earth: These cause loss (only) to themselves.
-- The Qur'an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah 2.

Imam Ali is the Cord of God referred to in the Quran, the bearer of the Signs of God. This is another prophecy about the division that occurred in Islam after the ascension of Muhammad..

GOD says in the Qur'án: "Take ye hold of the Cord of God, all of you, and become ye not disunited."[1]
[1 Qur'án 3:103.]
-- Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 100

3:102 O ye who believe! Fear God as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islám.

3:103 And hold fast, all together, by the rope [cord] which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God's favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth God make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.

3:104 Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.

3:105 Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty,-

3:106 On the Day when some faces will be (lit up with) white, and some faces will be (in the gloom of) black: To those whose faces will be black, (will be said): "Did ye reject Faith after accepting it? Taste then the penalty for rejecting Faith."

3:107 But those whose faces will be (lit with) white,- they will be in (the light of) God's mercy: therein to dwell (for ever).

3:108 These are the Signs of God: We rehearse them to thee in Truth: And God means no injustice to any of His creatures.
-- The Qur'an: 3 - AL-I-IMRAN,

The truth is Mine and certitude is at My side. Leadership is Mine and the righteous shall follow Me. I am the first to acknowledge faith, the Cord of God that shall not be broken, the One who will raise the world to justice even as it hath been brought low by oppression. I am the companion of Gabriel and the archangel Michael is beside Me. I am the tree of guidance, and the essence of righteousness. I shall gather together the world of creation through the Word of God that gathers together all things. I give life unto humanity and I am the treasury of all divine commands. To Me hath been given the Luminous Pen and the Crimson Camel[6].
-- Imam Ali, Sermon of Glorification (a provisional translation by K. Fananapazir).
Full text available at:

Muhammad and Imam Ali are the "two witnesses" foretold in the Bible...

11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
11:5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
11:6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
-- Bible: Revelation,

"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three-score days, clothed in sackcloth."[1] These two witnesses are Muhammad the Messenger of God, and Ali, son of Abu Talib [Imam Ali].
[1 Rev. 11:3.]

In the Qur'án it is said that God addressed Muhammad, the Messenger of God, saying: "We made You a Witness, a Herald of good news, and a Warner" -- that is to say, We have established Thee as the witness, the giver of good tidings, and as One bringing the wrath of God.[1] The meaning of "a witness" is one by whose testimony things may be verified. The commands of these two witnesses were to be performed for twelve hundred and sixty days, each day signifying a year. Now, Muhammad was the root, and Ali the branch, like Moses and Joshua.
-- Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 48

11:8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
11:9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
-- Bible: Revelation

"And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves."

As it was before explained, in the terminology of the Holy Books three days and a half signify three years and a half, and three years and a half are forty and two months, and forty and two months twelve hundred and sixty days; and as each day by the text of the Holy Book signifies one year, the meaning is that for twelve hundred and sixty years, which is the cycle of the Qur'án, the nations, tribes and peoples would look at their bodies--that is to say, that they would make a spectacle of the Religion of God: though they would not act in accordance with it, still, they would not suffer their bodies--meaning the Religion of God--to be put in the grave. That is to say, that in appearance they would cling to the Religion of God and not allow it to completely disappear from their midst, nor the body of it to be entirely destroyed and annihilated. Nay, in reality they would leave it, while outwardly preserving its name and remembrance.

Those "kindreds, people and nations" signify those who are gathered under the shadow of the Qur'án, not permitting the Cause and Law of God to be, in outward appearance, entirely destroyed and annihilated -- for there are prayer and fasting among them -- but the fundamental principles of the Religion of God, which are morals and conduct, with the knowledge of divine mysteries, have disappeared; the light of the virtues of the world of humanity, which is the result of the love and knowledge of God, is extinguished; and the darkness of tyranny, oppression, satanic passions and desires has become victorious. The body of the Law of God, like a corpse, has been exposed to public view for twelve hundred and sixty days, each day being counted as a year, and this period is the cycle of Muhammad.

The people forfeited all that these two persons [Muhammad and Imam Ali] had established, which was the foundation of the Law of God, and destroyed the virtues of the world of humanity, which are the divine gifts and the spirit of this religion, to such a degree that truthfulness, justice, love, union, purity, sanctity, detachment and all the divine qualities departed from among them.
-- `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 52

The Holy Imams are the twelve Messengers who promoted the teachings of Muhammad, the same way the twelve Apostles promoted the teachings of Christ.

In each cycle the guardians and holy souls have been twelve. So Jacob had twelve sons; in the time of Moses there were twelve heads or chiefs of the tribes; in the time of Christ there were twelve Apostles; and in the time of Muhammad there were twelve Imams. But in this glorious manifestation there are twenty-four, double the number of all the others, for the greatness of this manifestation requires it. These holy souls are in the presence of God seated on their own thrones, meaning that they reign eternally.
[1 Rev. 11:16-17.]
-- Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 57

Thou didst ask as to the tenth to the seventeenth verses of the twenty-first chapter of Saint John the Divine's Revelation. Know thou that according to mathematical principles, the firmament of this earth's brilliant day-star hath been divided among twelve constellations, which they call the twelve zodiacal signs. In the same way, the Sun of Truth shineth out from and sheddeth its bounties through twelve stations of holiness, and by these heavenly signs are meant those stainless and unsullied personages who are the very well-springs of sanctity, and the dawning-points proclaiming the oneness of God.

Consider how in the days of the Interlocutor (Moses), there were twelve holy beings who were leaders of the twelve tribes; and likewise in the dispensation of the Spirit (Christ), note that there were twelve Apostles gathered within the sheltering shade of that supernal Light, and from those splendid dawning-points the Sun of Truth shone forth even as the sun in the sky. Again, in the days of Muhammad, observe that there were twelve dawning-points of holiness, the manifestors of God's confirming help. Such is the way of it.
-- `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 165

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