Shi'a Islam
The Position of an Imam is Higher than That of a Prophet

The superiority of an imam over a prophet may sound surprising to some, yet the Qur’an regards the imamate as a higher position than that of prophecy. This discussion will establish the loftiness of the position of the imam in response to those who believe that the imam can be just about anyone who takes over political control of the nation. The Qur’an says:

And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. [ Allah ] said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.” [Abraham] said, “And of my descendants?” [ Allah ] said, “My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.”

2:124

It is obvious that Abraham (ع) became an imam long after he had been chosen as a prophet (nabi). This is because when he was selected as an imam, Abraham (ع) asked whether the imamate would also be granted to his descendants or not. The Qur’an is clear that Abraham (ع) did not have descendants until he was very old and long after he had been selected as a prophet, as Abraham (ع) said, “Praise be to Allah Who has bestowed on Ishmael and Isaac on me in my old age.”

Another reason that clearly shows that Abraham (ع) was selected as an imam after he was selected as a prophet is that in order for the conversation between Abraham (ع) Allah regarding his imamate to proceed, Abraham (ع) must have been a prophet to begin with. It is therefore that Abraham’s (ع) status as an imam was granted after his prophecy. Thus, the status of imamate is higher than that of prophecy.

This, however, should not be taken to mean that all imams are prophets. Rather, it implies that the imamate is a degree not bestowed upon all of Allah’s prophets, just as prophecy is not bestowed on all imams. Indeed, none of the Shi’ah Imams were bestowed with prophecy, as Muhammad (ص) was the final prophet. The fact that the position of imam is higher than that of prophet should not be taken to mean that the Shi’ah imams are superior to the Prophet (ص), as he was both a prophet and an imam and the most superior of all of Allah’s creation. Rather, the lofty position of imam shows the fact that such a position is not a simple matter to be held by any corrupt leader who ascends the throne.

According to the Qur’an:

And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. [ Allah ] said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.” [Abraham] said, “And of my descendants?” [ Allah ] said, “My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.”

2:124

This verse is absolutely clear that imams from the progeny of Abraham (ع) must be pure from sin because Allah’s covenant, regarding the imamate does not apply to the oppressors. According to the Qur’an, any sin is a form of oppression: “And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah does truly oppress his own self (zalama nafsah)”. Therefore, those from among Abraham’s (ع) offspring who commit sins cannot be legitimate imams, as they will never have a binding covenant with Allah with respect to holding the imamate.

Shi’ah Islam: Proofs from the Qur’an, Sunnah and History. p. 460-461

(Source: shiaislam)

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