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This is a sub-article to Imamah (Shi'a doctrine).

The Ismaili view on the Imamah differs from the Twelver Shi'a view, in particular because the Imam in Ismailism is the Face of Allah. Ismailis believe that the Noor of Allah is present in the Imam, and that there is only a Zahiri (exoteric) difference between each one. Therefore Ali and every Imam are one in essence.

Like other Shi'ites the Ismailis reserve the position of Imam for descendants of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, though they reserve a special status to Ali himself.

Ismailis consider Walayah ("love and devotion") for God, the Prophets, the Imam and the dai among their Seven Pillars of the faith.

According to Ismailis, externally the Imam is a pure personality and internally a light. Externally, the Qur'an is the holy Book and internally (in the Imam) it is a light. This shows that externally Ali and the Qur'ân are separate from each other, but internally they are not only together, they are one light.[1]


The Ismailis split with the Twelvers over the succession to the Imam Jafar al-Sadiq. Ismailis contend that Jafar had designated his son Ismāʿīl as his heir, but Ismail predeceased his father. Ismailis consider the designation as binding and that the Imamah should pass through Ismail to his descendants rather than to his brothers. Therefore, Ismailis consider Muhammad ibn Ismail the rightful Imam. In contrast to this, the Twelvers say Ismail's brother Musa was the rightful Imam and successor to Imam Jafar all along.

In this context, Ismailis have set up the principle that, with the exception of the first two Imams Hasan and Ḥusayn, the Imamah can only proceed from the current Imam to a descendant, a view shared with Twelver Shia.

Position of the Imam

Old Ismaili doctrine holds that divine revelation had been given in six periods (daur) entrusted to six prophets, whom they also call Natiq (Speaker), who were commissioned to preach a religion of law to their respective communities.

Whereas the Natiq was concerned with the rites and outward shape of religion, the inner meaning is entrusted to a Wasi (Representative). The Wasi would know the secret meaning of all rites and rules and would reveal them to a small circles of initiates.

The Natiq and the Wasi are in turn succeeded by a line of seven Imams, who would guard what they received. The seventh and last Imam in any period would in turn be the Natiq of the next period. The last Imam of the sixth period however would not bring about a new religion of law but supersede all previous religions, abrogate the law and introduce din Adama al-awwal ("the original religion of Adam") practiced by Adam and the Angels in paradise before the fall, which would be without cult or law but consist merely in all creatures praising the creator and recognizing his unity.[2] This final stage was called Qiyamah.[3]

Natiq Wasi Line of Imams
Adam Seth[4] ... 7. Nuh
Nuh Sem ... 7. Ibrahim
Ibrahim Ismail ... 7. Musa
Musa Harun ... 7. Isa
Isa Sim'un as-Safa ... 7. Muhammad
Muhammad Ali ... 7. al-Qa'im

Originally, a few Ismailis considered Muhammad ibn Ismail, as the last Imam who had gone into occultation and would return as the Mahdi and Qa'im. However, the Imamat continued among the descendants of Muhammad ibn Ismail who lived in secret for a century and a half. Throughout history the identification and concept of Imam has undergone many transformations, as can be seen in the List of Ismaili Imams.


  1. ^ "Preamble of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim constitution". Salman Spiritual. 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-22.  
  2. ^ Blank, Jonah (2001). Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity among the Daudi Bohras. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 170–171. ISBN 0-226-05677-5.,M1.  
  3. ^ Halm, Heinz (1988). Die Schia. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. pp. 202–204. ISBN 3-534-03136-9.  
  4. ^ Some scholars claim that Abel was Adam's wasi.

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