The Shia Imams
The foundation of the Shia faith is the belief that the spiritual and temporal leadership of all muslims after the demise of the Prophet is vested in the Imam, who is appointed, like the Prophet himself, by Allah, and who enjoys all the distinctions and privileges of a Prophet. In fact, the Shias regard their Imams as superior to all of the Prophets aside from Prophet Mohammed.
Furthermore, the Shias believe that Imamah, unlike Prophethood, can never come to an end. A famous Shia hadith says “the world cannot exist without an Imam,” and another which says: ”if the earth were to be without an Imam for a single day, it would sink.” Imam is the Hujjah, the Proof of God on Earth. It is essential for God to designate and maintain at all time His Proof upon his Creation. The Universe cannot exist with God’s Hujjah.
First Imam designated by Prophet Mohammed on the order of Allah is Imam Ali. When Ali left this world, his son Hasan succeeded him as Imam. His brother Hussain in turn succeeded him.
When Hussain was slain at Karbala, he left his son Ali Zainulabideen as fifth Leader of the Believers. On his death, his son Mohammed al-Baqir was the Imam. When al-Baqir died, he made his son Jafar al-Sadiq as the sixth Imam. After his death, his son Musa al-Kazim was the Imam of Shia Muslims. When he died, he made his son Ali al-Raza the eighth Imam. After him, came his son Mohammed al-Jawad (at-Taqi), and after him his son Ali al-Hadi (an-Naqi). At his death, his son Hasan al-Askari was the eleventh Imam. When he died at the age of 28, his appointed his son Mohammed as the twelfth and final Imam. But the son went into occultation to return in later days with the Command of Allah. These were Twelve Imams of Shia Muslims.
Prophet Mohammed had said that there would be twelve leaders or caliphs after him. Bible also prophesises that there will be Twelve Princes. Sunni muslims do not know whom the Prophet meant. They do not have twelve leaders. They only look accept the first Imam.
Prophet has also said, I am leaving behind for you two great things, the Koran and my descendents (progeny), if you hold on to both of them, you will never go astray.
This tradition shows that just like Koran is perfect and perfect, the holy members from lineage of the Prophet must also equally be from God, and his family would also be errorless and best guides for humanity.
Shias believe that only God Almighty has the right to decide the leadership. Sunnis choose their own favourite men to lead them.