« PreviousContinue »
"Mysterious being! none can tell
The general idea is, that long before the creation of the world, God took a ray of light from the splendour of His own glory and united it to the body of Muhammad, to which He said: "Thou art the elect, the chosen, I will make the members of thy family the guides to salvation." Muhammad said: "The first thing which God created was my light, and my spirit." The body of the Prophet was then in some mysterious way hidden. In due time the world was created, but not until the birth of Muhammad did this ray of glory appear. It is well known to all Musalmáns as the "Núr-i-Muhammadí"-light of Muhammad.
This "Núr" is said to be of four kinds. From the first kind God created His Throne, from the second the Pen of Fate, from the third Paradise, and from the fourth the state, or place of Spirits and all created beings. According to a statement made by 'Alí, Muhammad said that he was created from the light of God, whilst all other created beings were formed from the "light of Muhammad.”2
This "light" descended to 'Alí, and from him passed on to the true Imáms, who alone are the lawful successors of the Prophet. Rebellion against them is sin; devotion to them the very essence of religion.
The doctrine of the Imámat has given rise to endless discussion and dissension, as the numerous sub-divisions of the Shía'h sect will show. They are said to be thirty-two in number. The Shía'h proper is the largest and most influential of them. The following are the Shi'ah tenets regarding the Imám, based on one of their standard books of
1. Sharh-i-'Aqáíd-i-Jámí, p. 123.
2. Kisas-ul-Anbiya.-" Lives of the Prophets."
The Faith of Islám.
divinity.1 The Imám is the successor of the Prophet, adorned with all the qualities which he possessed. He is wiser than the most learned men of the age, holier than the most pious. He is the noblest of the sons of men and is free from all sin original or actual: hence the Imám is called ma'sum (innocent.)2 God rules the world by wisdom, hence the sending forth of prophets was a necessity; but it was equally necessary to establish the Imámat. Thus the Imám is equal to a prophet. 'Alí said: "In me is the glory of every prophet that has ever been." The authority of the Imám is the authority of God, for (I quote the Hyát-unNafís) "his word is the word of God and of the Prophet, and obedience to his order is incumbent." The nature of the Imám is identical with the nature of Muhammad, for did not 'Alí say: "I am Muhammad, and Muhammad is me." This probably refers to the possession by the Imám of the "light of Muhammad." The bodies of the Imáms are so pure and delicate that they cast no shadow.3 They
2. The Shía'hs in claiming freedom from sin for the infallible Imáms are more logical than the Romanists, thus:
"If we are to believe in the inerrability of a person, or a body of persons, because it is, forsooth, necessary for the full preservation of the truth, we must then also believe in all besides that can be shown to be needful for the perfect attainment of that end. Now, the conservation of all spiritual truth is not a mere operation of the intellect. It requires the faultless action of the perceiving power of the spirit. That is to say, it requires the exclusion of sin; and the man or body that is to be infallible, must also be a sinless organ. It is necessary that the tainting, blinding, distorting power of sin should be shut out from the spiritual eye of the infallible judge." Gladstone's Gleanings, vol. iii. p. 260.
3. It is a common Musalmán belief that the body of a prophet casts no shadow. A similar idea regarding necromancers was widely spread over Northern Europe. It is alluded to by Scott in the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," where speaking of the father of the Ladye, who in Padua, had learned the art that none might name," he says:—
"His form no darkening shadow traced
It is said that at a certain stage of initiation candidates for magical honours were in danger of being caught by the devil. Now if the devil could only catch the shadow, and the man escaped, though so nearly
The Tenets of the Shia'hs.
are the beginning and the end of all things. To know the Imáms is the very essence of the knowledge which men can gain of God. "The Holy God calls the Imáms His word, His hands, His signs, His secret. Their commands and prohibitions, their actions too, He recognises as His own." As mediums between God and man they hold a far higher position than the prophets, for "the grace of God, without their intervention, reaches to no created being." These extravagant claims for the Imáms culminate in the assertion that "for them a pillar of light has been fixed between the earth and heaven, by which the actions of the Faithful are made known to them." The Imám is the supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of God on earth. The possession of an infallible book is not sufficient. The infallible guide is needed. Such wisdom and discernment as such a guide would require can only be found amongst the descendants of the Prophet. It is no longer, then, a matter of wonder, that in some cases, almost, if not entirely, divine honour is paid to 'Alí and his descendants.1
The Usúl, or fundamental tenets of the Shía'h sect are five in number. (1) To believe in the unity of God, (2) To admit that He is just, (3) To believe in the divine mission of all the prophets, and that Muhammad is the chief of all, (4) To consider 'Alí the Khalíf next in order after Muhammad, (5) To believe 'Ali's descendants from Hasan to Mahdi, the twelfth Imám, to be his true successors, and to consider all of them in character, position and dignity as raised far above all other Muslims. This is the doctrine of the Imámat.
captured, he became a great magician. This is evidently a legend to explain a previous belief. Muhammadan ideas in the middle ages were prevalent in the Universities of Southern Europe, and Salamanca and Padua were the universities, in which it was supposed that the greatest proficiency in magic was obtained. The superstition has evidently some connection with the Musalmán belief regarding the shadows of prophets.
1. The Sunnís esteem and respect the Imáms, as Ahl-i-Beit-men of the House, (of the Prophet); but do not give them precedence over the duly appointed Khalífs.
The first principal divisions of the Shía'h sect are the Ismá'ílians and the Imámites. The latter believe in twelve Imáms, reckoning 'Alí as the first. The last of the twelve Abu 'l-Qasim, is supposed to be alive still, though hidden in some secret place. He bears the name of Al-Mahdí, “the guided." It is expected that he will reappear at the second advent of Christ. They say that he was born near Baghdad in the year 258 A.H. He afterwards mysteriously disappeared. When he was born the words, "Say: "truth is come and falsehood is vanished: Verily falsehood is a thing that vanisheth,' ‚" (Súra xvii. 83) were found written on his right arm. When he came into the world, he pointed with his fingers to heaven, sneezed, and said: 'Praise be to God, the Lord of the world.' A person one day visited Imám Hasan 'Askarí (the eleventh Imám) and said: 'O son of the Prophet who will be Khalíf and Imám after thee?' He brought out a child and said: 'if thou hadst not found favour in the eyes of God, He would not have shown thee this child; his name is that of the Prophet, and so is his patronymic.' (Abu 'l-Qásim). The sect who believe Mahdí to be alive at present, say that he rules over cities in the far west, and he is even said to have children. God alone knows the truth."2
The other large division, the Ismá'ílians, agree with the Imámites in all particulars save one. They hold that after Sádiq, the sixth Imám, commenced what is called the succession of the " concealed Imáms." They believe that there never can be a time when there shall be no Imám, but that he is now in seclusion. This idea has given rise to all sorts of secret societies, and has paved the way for a mystical religion, which often lands its votaries in atheism.3
1. The names are 'Alí, Hasan, Husain, Zain-ul-'Abid-dín, Muhammad Báqr, Ja'far Sadiq, Musa Kázim, 'Alí Músa Razá, Muhammad Taqí, Muhammad Naqí, Hasan 'Askarí, Abu 'l-Qásim (or Imám Mahdí).
2. Rauzat-ul-Aimmah by Sayyid 'Izzat 'Alí.
3. For a good account of this movement see, Osborn's Islám under the Arabs, pp. 168-184,
The Ghair-i-Mahdí (literally "without Mahdí") are a small sect who believe that Al-Mahdí will not reappear. They say that one Syed Muhammad of Jeypore was the real Mahdí, the twelfth Imám, and that he has now gone never more to return. They venerate him as highly as they do the Prophet, and consider all other Musalmáns to be unbelievers. On the night called Lailat-ul-Qadr, in the month of Ramazán, they meet and repeat two rak'at prayers. After that act of devotion is over, they say: "God is Almighty, Muhammad is our Prophet, the Qurán and Mahdí are just and true. Imám Mahdí is come and gone. Whosoever disbelieves this is an infidel." They are a very fanatical sect.
There is another small community of Ghair-i-Mahdís called the Dá,irí, settled in the province of Mysore, who hold peculiar views on this point. About four hundred years ago, a man named Syed Ahmad collected some followers in the dominions of the Nizám of Hyderabad. He called himself the Imam Mahdí, and said that he was superior to any prophet. He and his disciples, being bitterly persecuted by the orthodox Musalmáns, fled to a village in the adjoining district of Mysore where their descendants, fifteen hundred in number, now reside. It is said that they do not intermarry with other Musalmáns. The usual Friday service in the mosque is ended by the leader saying: "Imám Mahdí came and went away," to which the people respond: "He who does not believe this is a Káfir” (infidel).
There are several Traditions which refer to the latter days.. "When of time one day shall be left, God shall raise up a man from among my descendants, who shall fill the world. with justice, just as before him the world was full of oppression." And again: "The world shall not come to an end till the king of the earth shall appear, who is a man of my family, and whose name is the same as mine." When Islám entered upon the tenth century of its existence, there was throughout Persia and India a millenarian movement. Men