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Shi’ism—A Belief Not Grounded in the Qur’an

Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an:

O you who Believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end. (Qur’an, 4:59)

In the preceding verse Allah, the Exalted, said that if you are truly believers in Him and the Last Day refer any matter of dispute to Allah (i.e., the Qur’an) and the Prophet (i.e., the sunnah, which are the collections of his sayings, actions, and silent approvals.)

A very important article of faith for the Shias is belief in the imams (i.e., the divinely-chosen successors or leaders from among the descendants of the Prophet, upon whom be peace). They are discussed in the same category as belief in Allah and His prophets.

Imam Khomeini, in his book al-Hukoomat ul-Islamiyah (The Islamic Government), claims that the twelve imams are infallible. He raises them to a level above the heavenly angels and the prophets of Allah. He stresses:

The spiritual status of the imam is the universal divine vicegerency that is sometimes mentioned by the imams (peace be upon them). It is a vicegerency pertaining to the whole of creation, by virtue of which all the atoms in the universe humble themselves before the holder of authority (imams). It is one of the essential beliefs of our Shia school that no one can attain the spiritual status of the imams, not even the cherubim or the prophets.10

Allah, the All-Wise, says in the Qur’an, “These are revelations of a lucid book.”(Qur’an, 28:2.)Any objective reader of the Qur’an, whether Muslim or not, can tell you that the Qur’an is a book that explains matters of faith in very unambiguous and clear terms. It is very clear that a Muslim should believe in “Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the books and the Prophets, and give his wealth for the love of Him.” (Qur’an, 2:177.)There are many other verses in the Qur’an that mention the tenets of faith, for example 2:285.

Thus, it is very clear what a Muslim should believe in. Now the question is: If the role of the imam is so important, as the Shia scholars claim, why is it that the Qur’an does not call for belief in the imams?

The word “imam” means “leader or chief” in Arabic, and there are verses in the Qur’an that mention this word. For instance :

And We bestowed upon him [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob as a grandson. Each of them we made righteous. And We made them chiefs [imams] who guide by Our command. (Qur’an, 21:72–73)

And [remember] when his Lord tried Abraham with [His] commands, and he fulfilled them. He said, “Lo! I have appointed you a leader [imam] of mankind.” (Qur’an, 2:124)

But unless we first color our thoughts with the beliefs of the Shia and then read the verses, it would be difficult to conclude that the word imam could mean more than the chief or leader. And, of course, there is not a single verse in the entire Qur’an that asks for belief in the imams!11

There are many different types of Shia, such as the Four Imam Shia (Zaydism), Seven Imam Shia (Isma’ilism), and Twelve Imam Shia (Ja’afary or Ithna ‘Ashari). There are also other groups, which are considered heretics and disbelievers by the Shia scholars. Among them are the Batinis, Mustalis, Druze, Muqannaah, and Nusairies. Their deviations range from believing in ‘Ali as God to considering adultery lawful.12

Even among the “nonheretic” Shia, a difference of opinion exists as to the qualities of the imams and the number of divinely appointed imams that one must believe in. Thus the question arises: Why is it that Allah, the All-Knowing, has not only not mentioned the belief in the imams but why is it that He did not make the number of imams to believe in clear for us—four, seven, twelve, or even more?

A few quotes from al-Kaafi, which is the source of knowledge for Twelve Imam Shia, will illustrate some of their beliefs. Below are reproduced some of the chapter headings from this renowned work :

The Imams possess all the knowledge granted to angels, prophets and messengers.

The Imams know when they will die, and they do not die except by their own choice.

The Imams have knowledge of whatever occurred in the past and whatever will happen in the future and nothing is concealed from them.

 The Imams have knowledge of all the revealed books, regardless of what languages they were revealed in.

There is not a single truth possessed by people save that which originated with the Imams, and everything which did not originate with them is falsehood.

All of the earth belongs to the Imams.13

And there are many other qualities that the imams possess. Imam Khomeini wrote, “It is one of the essential beliefs of our Shia school that no one can attain the spiritual status of the imam, not even the cherubim or the Prophets.”14

A very important point to keep in mind is that, as stated in the Qur’an, only Allah knows when a person dies. Only Allah knows the future. No human being, unless given such information by Allah Himself, would have such information. As stated in the 112th Chapter of the Qur’an, “And there is none comparable to Him.” Thus, no one is comparable to Allah in His unique attributes and anyone who puts forward such claims is setting up as a partner with Allah. And we know that setting up as a partner with Allah is the greatest sin anyone can commit. As Allah warns us in the Qur’an:

Surely Allah will not forgive the association of partners with Him, but He forgives [sins] less than that of whomever He wishes. (Qur’an, 4:48)

This verse refers to the Day of Judgment. On that Day, Allah may forgive someone all of his/her sins, even if he/she never repented. However, if one never repents from associating others with Allah (Shirk) and dies, Allah will not forgive him/her on the Day of Judgment.

As Muslims, we must refer the matter to Allah, and we find no evidence in the Qur’an regarding the qualities of these so-called divinely appointed imams. It is quite evident that Shi’ism is not derived from the Qur’an. I have never met a person who has read the Qur’an for the first time and who has ended up believing in the imams or in even just a few of them. If a recent Muslim convert is reading this, I am sure they know exactly what I mean.

Thus, it is obvious that the Shia Islam has acquired these concepts about the essential tenets of their belief through a source other than Allah.15

The first part of this work focused on ‘Ali, his character, and what his reaction would have been if he had been truly nominated by the Prophet as his successor. However, ‘Ali was just one of the close Companions of the Prophet. Can we imagine men such as Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, who had sacrificed everything and lived constantly in fear of Allah and in remembrance of the Day of Judgment, suddenly turning into power-hungry politicians who would ignore the Prophet’s nomination of ‘Ali at Ghadir Khumm?

Now let us consider the following points.

  • Whose word could be better than that of Allah? The love and affection among the Companions of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, cannot be matched by any other generation. If ‘Ali felt his right was being usurped by the actions of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, as the Shias allege, why did he give his daughter, Umm Kulthum, in marriage to ‘Umar in the year 17 A.H., when ‘Umar was the khalifah?16

  • There are only a few Companions of the Prophet who are considered well-trained in Islam and pious by the Shias. Is this not an indirect way of saying that the Prophet was ineffective in the training of his Companions?

  • One of the most respected scholars and great imams was Ja’far as-Sadiq, the sixth Shia imam. He was the teacher of many scholars of his time, including Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanifi school of thought that millions of Sunni Muslims adhere to. We do not have any authentic works from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq but having looked at Abu Hanifah’s works, who was his student, one wonders how come there is no mention of the imams, the sixth of whom was his teacher? Is this not an indication that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq himself never claimed to be more than a teacher and a servant of Allah, and not a supernatural imam?

  • If the belief in the imams is not a manmade idea, would not there be at least consensus among all Shia sects as to their number and their qualities?

  • Is it sheer coincidence that not only are there many unfounded, mythical notions in Shia, but also a great many deviated, anti-Islamic sects of Shi’ism such as Nusairis, Druze, and so on?

  • I have always wondered how, in God’s name, the Shia have gone from belief in ‘Ali as khilafah to the notion of supernatural imams. Could this have been a plot by the enemies of Islam to cause deviation in and division among the Muslim nation?

Many more questions could be asked, but the above is sufficient to show some of the fallacies in the Shia faith.17

I would like to conclude this humble work by stressing the fact that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, and that there is only one way of life and one straight path acceptable to Him. And that straight path is the way of the Qur’an and the sunnah as collected in the authentic ahadith of the Prophet, upon whom be peace.

So let us ask ourselves with a sincere heart that on the Day of Judgment, when the entire humanity will be standing and waiting for the judgment, helpless and naked, facing the Creator and the Lord of the Universe, with the Qur’an being the witness, what answer shall we give when Allah, the All-Mighty, asks, “Who gave you permission to believe in the imams while I, your Creator and Sustainer, never mentioned belief in them in any of My revelations?”


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10 Imam Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomein, (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1981), p. 64.

11 Tabatabai, p. 186.

12 Id., pp. 75–85

13 Al-Kulaini, Usul Al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 255–407, quoted in Alkhutoot al-‘Areedha (Canada, 1983), p. 17.

14 Khomeini, p. 64.

15 The Shia may argue that these imams have been specified by the Prophet, upon whom be peace. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, used to preach the articles of faith over and over again, during the twenty-three years of his prophethood, peace be upon him. Anyone with some knowledge of the collection of hadith knows that the scholars of hadith would have surely reported such a matter, known by so many people. But we do not find any authentic hadith about the Imams in the entire body of hadith literature confirming them. This means that out of thousands of people who met the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and heard the articles of faith by their own ears, not even one reliable report corroborates the shia claim.

16 Dr. Majid ‘Ali Khan, The Pious Caliphs (Safat, Kuwait: Islamic Publishers, 1978), p. 98.

17 Needless to say, Imam Muhammad Baqir Sadr, Allamah Tabatabai, and Imam Khomeini, who have been quoted here, are among the most respected and reliable Shia scholars.