Last updated
Mughal Imams in discourse Govardhan. A Discourse Between Muslim Sages ca. 1630 LACMA.jpg
Mughal Imams in discourse
Prayer in Cairo, painting by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1865 Prayer in Cairo 1865.jpg
Prayer in Cairo , painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1865

Imam ( /ɪˈmɑːm/ , Arabic : إمام, imām; pl.: أئمة, a'immah) is an Islamic leadership position. For Sunni Muslims, Imam is most commonly used as the title of a prayer leader of a mosque. In this context, imams may lead Islamic prayers, serve as community leaders, and provide religious guidance. Thus for Sunnis, anyone can study the basic Islamic sciences and become an Imam.


For most Shia Muslims, the Imams are absolute infallible leaders of the Islamic community after the Prophet. Shias consider the term to be only applicable to the members and descendants of the Ahl al-Bayt , the family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In Twelver Shīʿīsm there are 14 infallibles, 12 of which are Imams, the final being Imam Mahdi who will return at the end of times. [1] The title was also used by the Zaidi Shia Imams of Yemen, who eventually founded the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen (1918–1970).

Sunni imams

Sunni Islam does not have imams in the same sense as the Shi'a, an important distinction often overlooked by those outside of the Islamic religion. In everyday terms, an imam for Sunni Muslims is the one who leads Islamic formal (Fard) prayers, even in locations besides the mosque, whenever prayers are done in a group of two or more with one person leading (imam) and the others following by copying his ritual actions of worship. Friday sermon is most often given by an appointed imam. All mosques have an imam to lead the (congregational) prayers, even though it may sometimes just be a member from the gathered congregation rather than an officially appointed salaried person. Women cannot be an imam in the presence of men, but allowed to be an imam to other women in the case if no man is available. The person that should be chosen, according to Hadith, is one who has most knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah (prophetic tradition) and is of good character.

Title of scholarly authority

Another well-known use of the term is as an honorary title for a recognized religious scholarly authority in Islam. It is especially used for a jurist (faqīh) and often for the founders of the four Sunni madhhab s or schools of jurisprudence (fiqh), as well as an authority on Quranic exegesis (tafsīr), such as Al-Tabari or Ibn Kathir.

It may also refer to the Muhaddithūn or scholars who created the analytical sciences related to Hadith and sometimes refer to the heads of Muhammad's family in their generational times due to their scholarly authority. [2]

Imam Ibrahim Hawlery
Occupation type
Activity sectors
CompetenciesKnowledge of Quran and Sunnah, religious devotion
Education required
Madrassa, İmam Hatip school or university education
Fields of
Related jobs

The position of imams in Turkey

Imams are appointed by the state to work at mosques and they are required to be graduates of an İmam Hatip high school or have a university degree in theology. This is an official position regulated by the Presidency of Religious Affairs [3] in Turkey and only males are appointed to this position, whilst female officials under the same state organisation work as preachers and Qur'an course tutors, religious services experts, etc. These officials are supposed to belong to the Hanafi school of the Sunni sect.

A central figure in an Islamic movement is also called an imam, like Imam Nawawi in Syria.

Shia imams

In the Shi'a context, an imam is not only presented as the man of God par excellence, but as participating fully in the names, attributes, and acts that theology usually reserves for God alone. [4] Imams have a meaning more central to belief, referring to leaders of the community. Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a believe that these imams are chosen by God to be perfect examples for the faithful and to lead all humanity in all aspects of life. They also believe that all the imams chosen are free from committing any sin, impeccability which is called ismah . These leaders must be followed since they are appointed by God.


Here follows a list of the Twelvers Shia imams:

(Arabic/Turkish) [5]
(CE/AH) [lower-alpha 1]
ImportanceBirthplace (present day country)Place of death and burial
1 Ali ibn Abi Talib
علي بن أبي طالب
Abu al-Hassan or Abu al-Husayn
أبو الحسین or أبو الحسن
Amir al-Mu'minin
(Commander of the Faithful) [6]
Birinci Ali [7]
600–661 [6]
23 BH–40 [8]
The first imam and successor of Muhammad in Shia Islam; however, the Sunnis acknowledge him as the fourth Caliph as well. He holds a high position in almost all Sufi Muslim orders (Turuq); the members of these orders trace their lineage to Muhammad through him. [6] Mecca, Saudi Arabia [6] Assassinated by Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam, a Kharijite in Kufa, who slashed him with a poisoned sword. [6] [9] Buried at the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq.
2 Hassan ibn Ali
الحسن بن علي
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد
İkinci Ali [7]
624–670 [10]
3–50 [11]
He was the eldest surviving grandson of Muhammad through Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah Zahra. Hasan succeeded his father as the caliph in Kufa, and on the basis of peace treaty with Muawiya I, he relinquished control of Iraq following a reign of seven months. [12] Medina, Saudi Arabia [10] Poisoned by his wife in Medina, Saudi Arabia. [13] Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
3 Husayn ibn Ali
الحسین بن علي
Abu Abdillah
أبو عبدالله
Sayed al-Shuhada
Üçüncü Ali [7]
626–680 [14]
4–61 [15]
He was a grandson of Muhammad. Husayn opposed the validity of Caliph Yazid I. As a result, he and his family were later killed in the Battle of Karbala by Yazid's forces. After this incident, the commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali has become a central ritual in Shia identity. [14] [16] Medina, Saudi Arabia [14] Killed on Day of Ashura (10 Muharram) and beheaded at the Battle of Karbala. [14] Buried at the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, Iraq.
4 Ali ibn al-Hussein
علي بن الحسین
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد
al-Sajjad, Zain al-Abedin [17]
Dördüncü Ali [7]
658–9 [17] – 712 [18]
38 [17] –95 [18]
Author of prayers in Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, which is known as "The Psalm of the Household of the Prophet." [18] Medina, Saudi Arabia [17] According to most Shia scholars, he was poisoned on the order of Caliph al-Walid I in Medina, Saudi Arabia. [18] Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
5 Muhammad ibn Ali
محمد بن علي
Abu Ja'far
أبو جعفر
al-Baqir al-Ulum

(splitting open knowledge) [19]

Beşinci Ali [7]
677–732 [19]
57–114 [19]
Sunni and Shia sources both describe him as one of the early and most eminent legal scholars, teaching many students during his tenure. [19] [20] Medina, Saudi Arabia [19] According to some Shia scholars, he was poisoned by Ibrahim ibn Walid ibn 'Abdallah in Medina, Saudi Arabia on the order of Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. [18] Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
6 Ja'far ibn Muhammad
جعفر بن محمد
Abu Abdillah
أبو عبدالله
al-Sadiq [21]

(the Trustworthy)

Altıncı Ali [7]
702–765 [21]
83–148 [21]
Established the Ja'fari jurisprudence and developed the Theology of Shia. He instructed many scholars in different fields, including Abu Hanifah and Malik ibn Anas in fiqh, Wasil ibn Ata and Hisham ibn Hakam in Islamic theology, and Jābir ibn Hayyān in science and alchemy. [22] Medina, Saudi Arabia [21] According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Medina, Saudi Arabia on the order of Caliph Al-Mansur. [21] Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
7 Musa ibn Ja'far
موسی بن جعفر
Abu al-Hassan I
أبو الحسن الأول [23]
al-Kazim [24]
Yedinci Ali [7]
744–799 [24]
128–183 [24]
Leader of the Shia community during the schism of Ismaili and other branches after the death of the former imam, Jafar al-Sadiq. [25] He established the network of agents who collected khums in the Shia community of the Middle East and the Greater Khorasan. [26] Medina, Saudi Arabia [24] Imprisoned and poisoned in Baghdad, Iraq on the order of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Buried in the Kazimayn shrine in Baghdad. [24]
8 Ali ibn Musa
علي بن موسی
al-Rida, Reza [27]
Sekizinci Ali [7]
765–817 [27]
148–203 [27]
Made crown-prince by Caliph Al-Ma'mun, and famous for his discussions with both Muslim and non-Muslim religious scholars. [27] Medina, Saudi Arabia [27] According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Mashad, Iran on the order of Caliph Al-Ma'mun. Buried in the Imam Reza shrine in Mashad. [27]
9 Muhammad ibn Ali
محمد بن علي
Abu Ja'far
أبو جعفر
al-Taqi, al-Jawad [28]
Dokuzuncu Ali [7]
810–835 [28]
195–220 [28]
Famous for his generosity and piety in the face of persecution by the Abbasid caliphate. Medina, Saudi Arabia [28] Poisoned by his wife, Al-Ma'mun's daughter, in Baghdad, Iraq on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tasim. Buried in the Kazmain shrine in Baghdad. [28]
10 Ali ibn Muhammad
علي بن محمد
Abu al-Hassan III
أبو الحسن الثالث [29]
al-Hadi, al-Naqi [29]
Onuncu Ali [7]
827–868 [29]
212–254 [29]
Strengthened the network of deputies in the Shia community. He sent them instructions, and received in turn financial contributions of the faithful from the khums and religious vows. [29] Surayya, a village near Medina, Saudi Arabia [29] According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Samarra, Iraq on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tazz. [30] Buried in the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra.
11 Hassan ibn Ali
الحسن بن علي
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد
al-Askari [31]
Onbirinci Ali [7]
846–874 [31]
232–260 [31]
For most of his life, the Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mu'tamid, placed restrictions on him after the death of his father. Repression of the Shi'ite population was particularly high at the time due to their large size and growing power. [32] Medina, Saudi Arabia [31] According to Shia, he was poisoned on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tamid in Samarra, Iraq. Buried in Al Askari Mosque in Samarra. [33]
12 Muhammad ibn al-Hassan
محمد بن الحسن
Abu al-Qasim
أبو القاسم
al-Mahdi, Hidden Imam, al-Hujjah [34]
Onikinci Ali [7]
868–unknown [35]
255–unknown [35]
According to Twelver doctrine, he is the current imam and the promised Mahdi, a messianic figure who will return with Isa (Jesus). He will reestablish the rightful governance of Islam and replete the earth with justice and peace. [36] Samarra, Iraq [35] According to Shia doctrine, he has been living in the Occultation since 872, which shall continue as long as God wills it. [35]

Fatimah, also Fatimah al-Zahraa, daughter of Muhammed (615–632), is also considered infallible but not an Imam. The Shi'a believe that the last Imam, the 12th Imam Mahdi will one day emerge on the Day of Resurrection (Qiyamah).


See Imamah (Ismaili doctrine) and List of Ismaili imams for Ismaili imams.


See details under Zaidiyyah, Islamic history of Yemen and Imams of Yemen.

Imams as secular rulers

At times, imams have held both secular and religious authority. This was the case in Oman among the Kharijite or Ibadi sects. At times, the imams were elected. At other times the position was inherited, as with the Yaruba dynasty from 1624 and 1742. See List of rulers of Oman, the Rustamid dynasty: 776–909, Nabhani dynasty: 1154–1624, the Yaruba dynasty: 1624–1742, the Al Said: 1744–present for further information. [37] The Imamate of Futa Jallon (1727–1896) was a Fulani state in West Africa where secular power alternated between two lines of hereditary Imams, or almami. [38] In the Zaidi Shiite sect, imams were secular as well as spiritual leaders who held power in Yemen for more than a thousand years. In 897, a Zaidi ruler, al-Hadi ila'l-Haqq Yahya, founded a line of such imams, a theocratic form of government which survived until the second half of the 20th century. (See details under Zaidiyyah, History of Yemen, Imams of Yemen.)

Ruhollah Khomeini is officially referred to as Imam in Iran. Several Iranian places and institutions are named "Imam Khomeini", including a city, an international airport, a hospital, and a university.


See also


  1. The abbreviation CE refers to the Common Era solar calendar, while AH refers to the Islamic Hijri lunar calendar.


  1. Corbin 1993 , p. 30
  2. Dhami, Sangeeta; Sheikh, Aziz (November 2000). "The Muslim family". Western Journal of Medicine. 173 (5): 352–356. doi:10.1136/ewjm.173.5.352. ISSN   0093-0415. PMC   1071164 . PMID   11069879.
  3. "Presidency of Religious Affairs".
  4. Amir-Moezzi, Ali (2008). Spirituality and Islam. London: Tauris. p. 103. ISBN   9781845117382.
  5. The imam's Arabic titles are used by the majority of Twelver Shia who use Arabic as a liturgical language, including the Usooli, Akhbari, Shaykhi, and to a lesser extent Alawi. Turkish titles are generally used by Alevi, a fringe Twelver group, who make up around 10% of the world Shia population. The titles for each imam literally translate as "First Ali", "Second Ali", and so forth. Mattar, Philip (2004). Encyclopedia of the modern Middle East & North Africa. Detroit, Mich: Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN   9780028657691.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. "Ali". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Mattar, Philip (2004). Encyclopedia of the modern Middle East & North Africa. Detroit, Mich: Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN   9780028657691.
  8. Tabatabae (1979), pp.190-192
  9. Tabatabae (1979), p.192
  10. 1 2 "Hasan". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  11. Tabatabae (1979), pp.194–195
  12. Madelung, Wilferd. "Hasan ibn Ali". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
  13. Tabatabae (1979), p.195
  14. 1 2 3 4 "al-Husayn". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  15. Tabatabae (1979), pp.196–199
  16. Calmard, Jean. "Husayn ibn Ali". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Madelung, Wilferd. "'ALĪ B. AL-ḤOSAYN". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 Tabatabae (1979), p.202
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 Madelung, Wilferd. "AL-BAQER, ABU JAFAR MOHAMMAD". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  20. Tabatabae (1979), p.203
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 Tabatabae (1979), p.203-204
  22. "Wāṣil ibn ʿAṭāʾ". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 1 January 2019.
  23. 1 2 Madelung, Wilferd. "'ALĪ AL-HĀDĪ". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-11-09.
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 Tabatabae (1979), p.205
  25. Tabatabae (1979) p. 78
  26. Sachedina (1988), pp.53–54
  27. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tabatabae (1979), pp.205–207
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 Tabatabae (1979), p. 207
  29. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Madelung, Wilferd. "'ALĪ AL-HĀDĪ". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  30. Tabatabae (1979), pp.208–209
  31. 1 2 3 4 Halm, H. "'ASKARĪ". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  32. Tabatabae (1979) pp. 209–210
  33. Tabatabae (1979), pp.209–210
  34. "Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Hujjah". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  35. 1 2 3 4 Tabatabae (1979), pp.210–211
  36. Tabatabae (1979), pp. 211–214
  37. Miles, Samuel Barrett (1919). The Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf. Garnet Pub. pp. 50, 437. ISBN   978-1-873938-56-0 . Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  38. Holt, P. M.; Holt, Peter Malcolm; Lambton, Ann K. S.; Bernard Lewis (1977-04-21). The Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge University Press. p. 365. ISBN   978-0-521-29137-8.

Works cited

General references

Related Research Articles

Shia Islam is the second-largest branch of Islam. It holds that the Islamic prophet Muhammad designated ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib as his successor (khalīfa) and the Imam after him, most notably at the event of Ghadir Khumm, but was prevented from succeeding Muhammad as the leader of the Muslims as a result of the choice made by some of Muhammad's other companions (ṣaḥāba) at Saqifah. This view primarily contrasts with that of Sunnī Islam, whose adherents believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor before his death and consider Abū Bakr, who was appointed caliph by a group of Muhammad's other companions at Saqifah, to be the first rightful (rāshidūn) caliph after Muhammad. Adherents of Shīʿa Islam are called Shia Muslims.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hasan ibn Ali</span> Grandson of Muhammad and the second Shia Imam (625–670)

Hasan ibn Ali was an Alid political and religious leader. The eldest son of Ali and Fatima and a grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, Hasan briefly ruled as caliph from January 661 until August 661. He is considered as the second Imam in Shia Islam, succeeding Ali and preceding his brother Husayn. As a grandson of the prophet, he is part of the Ahl al-Bayt and the Ahl al-Kisa, and also participated in the Event of Mubahala.

Ja'far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq was a Shia Muslim scholar, jurist, and theologian, and the sixth imam of the Twelver and Isma'ili branches of Shia Islam. Known by the title al-Sadiq, Ja'far was the founder of the Ja'fari school of Islamic jurisprudence. The hadith recorded from al-Sadiq and his predecessor, Muhammad al-Baqir, are said to be more numerous than all the hadith preserved from the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the other Shia imams combined. Among other theological contributions, he elaborated the doctrine of nass and isma, as well as that of taqiya.

In Shia Islam, the Imamah is a doctrine which asserts that certain individuals from the lineage of the Islamic prophet Muhammad are to be accepted as leaders and guides of the ummah after the death of Muhammad. Imamah further says that Imams possess divine knowledge and authority (Ismah) as well as being part of the Ahl al-Bayt, the family of Muhammad. These Imams have the role of providing commentary and interpretation of the Quran as well as guidance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zaydism</span> Branch of Shia Islam

Zaydism is one of the three main branches of Shia Islam that emerged in the eighth century following Zayd ibn Ali‘s unsuccessful rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate. Zaydism is typically considered to be a branch of Shia Islam that comes closest to the Sunni, although the "classical" form of Zaydism over the centuries had changed its posture with regard to Sunni and Shia traditions multiple times, to the point where interpretation of Zaydi as Shia is often based on just their acceptance of Ali as a rightful successor to Muhammad. Zaydis regard rationalism as more important than Quranic literalism and in the past were quite tolerant towards Sunni Shafiism, a religion of about half of the Yemenis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alids</span> Descendants of Ali, cousin of Muhammad

The Alids are those who claim descent from Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Rashidun caliph and the first imam in Shia Islam. Ali was also the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The main branches are the Hasanids and Husaynids, named after Hasan and Husayn, the eldest sons of Ali from his marriage to Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad. As the progeny of Muhammad, they are revered by all Muslims. The Alids have led various movements in Islam, and a line of twelve Alids are the imams in Twelver Shia, the largest Shia branch.

The issue of succession following the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad is the central issue in the schisms that divided the early Muslim community in the first century of Islamic history into numerous schools and branches. The two most prominent branches that emerged from these divisions are Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Sunni Islam asserts that Abu Bakr rightfully succeeded Muhammad through a process of election. In contrast, Shia Islam maintains that Ali ibn Abi Talib was Muhammad's designated successor.

Ahl al-Bayt refers to the family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In Sunni Islam, the term has also been extended to all descendants of the Banu Hashim and even to all Muslims. In Shia Islam, the term is limited to Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, his cousin and son-in-law Ali, and their two sons, Ḥasan and Ḥusayn. A common Sunni view adds the wives of Muhammad to these five.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Imamate in Twelver doctrine</span> Concept in the largest branch of Shia Islam

Imāmah means "leadership" and is a concept in Twelver theology. The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the Twelver branch of Shia Islam. According to Twelver theology, the successors to Muhammad are infallible human beings, who rule justly over the community and maintain and interpret sharia and undertake the esoteric interpretation of the Quran. The words and deeds of Muhammad and the Imams guide the community. For this, the Imams must be free from error and sin and chosen by divine decree—nass—through the Prophet.

Hadith of the <i>thaqalayn</i> Islamic narration

The hadith of the thaqalayn refers to a statement, attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, that introduces the Quran, the principal religious text in Islam, and his progeny as the only two sources of divine guidance after his death. Widely reported by both Shia and Sunni authorities, the hadith of the thaqalayn is of particular significance in Twelver Shia, where their Twelve Imams are viewed as the spiritual and political successors of Muhammad.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shia view of Ali</span> Status of Ali in Shia Islam

Ali ibn Abi Talib was the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Ali contributed significantly to Islam in its early years and was likely the first male to accept the teachings of Muhammad. Ali is accorded an almost legendary place in Islam as a paragon of virtues, a fount of wisdom, and a fearless but magnanimous warrior. In Shia Islam Ali is regarded as the foremost companion of Muhammad and his rightful successor through divinely-ordained designation at the Ghadir Khumm.

The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Twelver branch of Shia Islam, including that of the Alawite and Alevi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ismah</span> Incorruptible innocence, immunity from sin, or moral infallibility in Islamic theology

‘Iṣmah or ‘Isma is the concept of incorruptible innocence, immunity from sin, or moral infallibility in Islamic theology, and which is especially prominent in Shia Islam. In Shia theology, ismah is characteristic of prophets, imams, and angels. When attributed to human beings, ismah means "the ability of avoiding acts of disobedience, in spite of having the power to commit them". Along with a pure constitution, excellent qualities, firmness against opponents, and tranquility (as-Sakinah), ismah is a divine grace bestowed by God.

The Fourteen Infallibles in Twelver Shia Islam are the Islamic prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatima Zahra, and the Twelve Imams. All are considered to be infallible under the theological concept of Ismah. Accordingly, they have the power to commit sin but by their nature are able to avoid doing so, which is regarded as a miraculous gift from God. The Infallibles are believed to follow only God's desire in their actions because of their supreme righteousness, consciousness, and love for God. They are also regarded as being immune to error in practical matters, in calling people to religion, and in the perception of divine knowledge. Some Twelver Shia believe the Fourteen Infallibles are superior to the rest of creation and to the other major prophets.

Shi‘a Islam, also known as Shi‘ite Islam or Shia, is the second largest branch of Islam after Sunni Islam. Shias adhere to the teachings of Muhammad and the religious guidance of his family or his descendants known as Shia Imams. Muhammad's bloodline continues only through his daughter Fatima Zahra and cousin Ali who alongside Muhammad's grandsons comprise the Ahl al-Bayt. Thus, Shias consider Muhammad's descendants as the true source of guidance along with the teaching of Muhammad. Shia Islam, like Sunni Islam, has at times been divided into many branches; however, only three of these currently have a significant number of followers, and each of them has a separate trajectory.

Ahl al-Kisa, also known as the Al al-Aba, are the Muhammad the Islamic prophet, his daughter Fatima, his cousin and son-in-law Ali, and his two grandsons Hasan and Husayn.

The verse of purification refers to verse 33:33 of the Quran, the central religious text in Islam. The verse concerns the status of purity of the Ahl al-Bayt, the last passage of which reads,

God only desires to remove defilement from you, O Ahl al-Bayt, and to purify you completely.

Twelver Shīʿism, also known as Imāmiyya, is the largest branch of Shīʿa Islam, comprising about 85% of all Shīʿa Muslims. The term Twelver refers to its adherents' belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imams, and their belief that the last Imam, Imam al-Mahdi, lives in Occultation and will reappear as the promised Mahdi.

Criticism of Twelver Shia Islam dates from the initial ideological rift among early Muslims that led to the two primary denominations of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shias. The question of succession to Muhammad in Islam, the nature of the Imamate, the status of the twelfth Shia Imam, and other areas in which Shia Islam differs from Sunni Islam have been criticized by Sunni scholars, even though there is no disagreement between the two sects regarding the centrality of the Quran, Muhammad, and many other doctrinal, theological and ritual matters. Shia commentators such as Musa al-Musawi and Ali Shariati have themselves, in their attempts to reform the faith, criticized practices and beliefs which have become prevalent in the Twelver Shia community.

The verse of obedience is verse 4:59 of the central religious text in Islam, the Quran. It reads

O you who believe! Obey God and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you differ among yourselves concerning any matter, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you believe in God and the Last Day. That is better, and fairer in outcome.