Imamah (Ismaili doctrine)

The doctrine of the Imamate in Isma'ilism differs from that of the Twelvers because the Isma'ilis had living Imams for centuries after the last Twelver Imam went into concealment. They followed Isma'il ibn Jafar, elder brother of Musa al-Kadhim, as the rightful Imam after his father, Ja'far al-Sadiq.[1] The Ismailis believe that whether Imam Ismail did or did not die before Imam Ja'far, he had passed on the mantle of the imamate to his son Muhammad ibn Isma'il as the next imam.[2]

The Seven Imāms

Main articles: Qarmatians and Sevener

Qarmatian - Imamāte of Seven Imāms

According to some early Isma'ilis, the Seveners, as well as the Qarmatians, a splinter group, the number of imams was fixed, with seven Imams preordained by God. These groups considers Muhammad ibn Isma'il, the foundation Imam of the Isma'ili branch of Shia Islam, to be the Mahdi and to be preserved in hiding, which is referred to as the Occultation.[3]

The Twelver Shia also believe their final Imam is the Mahdi and in the Occultation.

Imam Personage Period
1 Ali (632–661)
2 Hasan ibn Ali (661–669)
3 Husayn ibn Ali (669–680)
4 Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (680–713)
5 Muhammad al-Baqir (713–733)
6 Ja'far al-Sadiq (733–765)
7 Isma'il ibn Jafar (765 - 775)
Mahdi Muhammad ibn Isma'il (775-813)

Early beliefs

According to the early Seveners and Qarmatians, God sent seven great prophets, known as nātiq "speakers", in order to disseminate and improve Islam. All of these great prophets has an assistant, the Sāmad (Silent) Imam. After six silent imams, a nātiq was sent to reinvigorate Islam. After Adam and his son Seth, and after six “Nātıq” (Speaker) – “Sāmad” (Silent) silsila[4] (NoahShem), (AbrahamIshmael), (MosesAaron), (JesusSimeon), (Muhammad bin ʿAbd AllāhAli ibn Abu Tālib); the silsila of “Nātıqs and Sāmads have been completed with (Muhammad bin Ismā‘īl as-ṣaghīr (Maymûn’ûl-Qaddāh[5]) – ʿAbd Allāh Ibn-i Maymûn[6] and his sons).

The first seven Mustaali and Nizari imams

Main article: List of Ismaili imams

Taiyabi Mustaali and Nizari imams

The Nizari and Mustaali have several Imams in common; the Nizari consider Ali the first Imam and his son Hasan a pir while the Mustali label him al-Asās or "the Foundation" and call Hasan the first Imam.

Nizari Musta'li Personage Period
1 Asās/Wāsīh Ali (632–661)
Pir 1 Hasan ibn Ali (661–669) Mustaali
2 2 Husayn ibn Ali (669–680) (Mustaali)
(661 - 680) (Nizari)
3 3 Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (680–713)
4 4 Muhammad al-Baqir (713–733)
5 5 Ja'far al-Sadiq (733–765)
6 6 Isma'il ibn Jafar (765 - 775)
7 7 Muhammad ibn Isma'il (775-813)

Imams after Muhammad ibn Isma'il


  1. Rise of The Fatimids, by W. Ivanow. Page 81, 275
  2. Ismaʿilism xvii. The Imamate In Ismaʿilism at Encyclopædia Iranica
  3. MUHAMMAD BIN ISMAIL (158-197/775-813)
  4. Encyclopedia Iranica, DAWR (1)
  5. Öz, Mustafa, Mezhepler Tarihi ve Terimleri Sözlüğü (The History of madh'habs and its terminology dictionary), Ensar Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2011. (This is the name of the trainer of Muhammed bin Ismā‘īl ibn Jā’far. He had established the principles of the Batiniyya Madh'hab, later.)
  6. Encyclopaedia Iranica, "ʿAbdallāh b. Maymūn al-Qaddāḥ: Legendary founder of the Qarmatian-Ismaʿili doctrine and alleged forefather of the Fatimid dynasty"
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