Appointment of a Successor by the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
By: Allamah Syed Muhammad Husain Tabataba'i
The Holy Prophet (S) did not content himself with only general remarks concerning Imamah and wilayah of the affairs of Muslims after his demise, rather he explicitly explained the subject of Imamah, along with Tawhid and Nubuwwah, from the very beginning of his call and announced the wilayahand Imamah of 'Ali (as) for the affairs of the religion and the world as well as for all the affairs of the Muslims.
According to a hadith narrated by Sunni and Shiah on the first day of his call to the people to Islam 'ulama', the Holy Prophet (S) invited his relatives to gather publicly for a meeting. At this meeting, he explicitly substantiated and established the ministry, wilayah, and succession of the Leader of the Faithful, 'Ali (as).
In the last days of his life, too, in Ghadir Khumm, the Holy Prophet (S) lifted 'Ali (as), holding his hand, among the gathering of one hundred and twenty thousand Muslims and stated: "Anyone for whom I am the guardian and leader, this 'Ali (as) is his guardian and leader as well."
Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (S) has specified the number, the names, and all the characteristics of Imams and leaders who will be succeeding him.
In a well-known hadith narrated by Shi'ah and Sunni 'ulama', the Holy Prophet (S) has stated: "There are twelve Imams, all of whom are from the Quraysh." According to the famous hadith, the Holy Prophet (S) said to Jabir al-Ansari: "There are twelve Imams." Then he mentioned their names one by one and told Jabir: "You will meet the fifth Imam. Say my salam(greetings) to him."
Besides, the Holy Prophet (S) h as specifically appointed the Leader of the Faithful, 'Ali (as), as his successor. Hadrat 'Ali (as) has also nominated the next Imam as his successor. In the like manner, each Imam has appointed the next Imam to serve as his successor.
The 'Ismah of Imam
From what has already been discussed, it became clear that like the Prophet (S), the Imam must be immune from error and sin; otherwise, the religious call will remain defective and the divine guidance will become ineffective.
The Moral Virtues of Imam
The Imam must be endowed with moral virtues such as boldness, bravery, chastity, generosity, and justice, because whosoever is ma'sum and free from sin will strictly follow and practice religious laws and since the possession of praiseworthy ethics is essential for religion, the Imam must surpass all the other people in moral virtues, for it makes no sense for a man to lead those who are better and superior than him in virtues. Surely, Allah's justice is not in conformity with such an idea.
The Knowledge of Imam
Since an Imam is the guardian of religion and the leader of the inhabitants of the world, he must have a thorough knowledge of all matters concerning this world and the Hereafter, namely, the matters related to man's prosperity. Since having an ignorant person as a leader is not rationally permissible and is meaningless from the viewpoint of general divine guidance.
The Fourteen Ma'sumin
The Holy Prophet (S), his honorable daughter, Fatimah al-Zahra' (as), and the twelve infallible Imams are called the "Fourteen Ma'sumin. The first five from among the fourteen Ma'sumin, namely, the Holy Prophet (S), 'Ali (as), Fatimah (as), al-Imam al-Hasan (as) and al-Imam al-Husayn (as) are called "Ahlal-'Aba" and "Ashab al-Kisa'" (the family and companions gathered under the sheet of cloth). They are called Ashab al-Kisa' because one day the Holy Prophet (S) covered himself with a sheet of cloth, gathered these four members under it, and prayed to Allah.
The Almighty Allah revealed the following Qur'anic verse of taharah in their honour: "Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanliness from you, O Ahl al-Bayt, and to keep you tahir - a (thorough) taharah (33:33)".
The Guiding Imams (as)
The guiding Imams (as) who are the successors of the Holy Prophet (S) and the leaders of people of the world and the Islam are twelve in number.
The Names of the Infallible Imams (as)
1. Al-'Imam 'Ali (as) (Amir al-Mu'minin)
2. Al-'Imam al-Hasan (as) (Al-Mujtaba)
3. Al-'Imam al-Husayn (as) (Sayyid al-Shuhada')
4. Al-'Imam 'Ali (as) (al-Sajjad)
5. Al-'Imam Muhammad (as) (Al-Baqir)
6. Al-'Imam Ja'far (as) (Al-Sadiq)
7. Al-'Imam Musa (as) (Al-Kazim)
8. Al-'Imam 'Ali (as) (Al-Rida)
9. Al-'Imam Muhammad (as) (Al-Taqi)
10. Al-'Imam 'Ali (as) (Al-Naqi)
11. Al-'Imam al-Hasan (as) (Al-'Askari)
12. Al-'Imam Muhammad (as) (Al-Mahdi), al-Hujjat ibn al-Hasan).