Quotes about the concept of Imam

“This Imam, who is also the inheritor of Muhammad’s secret knowledge, is endowed by God with special ilm, and has perfect understanding of the outward or exoteric (zahir) and the inward or esoteric (batin) aspects and meanings of the Quran and the sacred law of Islam. Indeed the world cannot exist for a moment without an Imam, the proof (hujjah) of God on earth. Even if only two men were left upon the face of the earth, one of them would be the Imam. And there can only be one Imam at one and the same time, though there may be a silent one (samit), his successor, beside him.”

– Farhad Daftary, The Ismailies: Their History and Doctrines, pp. 86

“In Shii thought, the Imam’s all-important spiritual function of interpreting the inner meaning of the revelations announced by the Prophet is known as tawil. The term walayah, meaning devotion to the Imams, is sometimes also used in this sense. No adequate equivalent exists in any of the Western languages for sense of the term walayah, adopted in modern times especially by (Henry) Corbin, but it may roughly be translated as ‘initiation’. According to the Shiis, the cycle of prophecy (dairat al-nubuwwah), representing the deliverance of new sacred laws by different prophets came to its end with the Prophet Muhammad; but then, there arose the permanent need for the initiatic function connected with explaining the secret meaning of the Islamic message. And the person whose duty it is in every age to fulfill the function of tawil (or walayah), inseparable from the Imamate, is the rightful Imam. It is through this function that the Imams become the awilya Allah, or the friends of Allah.”

– Farhad Daftary, The Ismailies: Their History and Doctrines, pp. 87

“For each nabi (prophet), the walayah is the presupposition of his prophetic charisma, since without it there would be no grounds for seeing in him a manifestation of the Perfect Man. It is by virtue of this walayah that his heir and successor, the Imam, may be regarded in his turn as a manifestation of the Perfect Man, and it is equally the intervention of the walayah which marks the difference between the Shiite and the Sunnite conception of the Imam.”

Henry Corbin, Temple and Contemplation, pp. 62


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