Lives of the Twelve Imams From the Alhe Bait (AS)
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Imamate is an important part of the Islamic guidance system, yet many parents and teachers have observed that very little has been written on the subject in the English language. I had the good fortune of participating at young age, in the learning and teaching of the subject in the English language under the guidance of my late father, Syed Muhammad Husain Shamsi in Nairobi, Kenya. For the last twelve years, I have been involved with Sunday School teaching to the youth of the Muslim community in Englewood, New Jersey, and recently in Queens, New York. I have collected my own notes on the subject and have arranged them into the form of this book. Honoring the suggestions of my reviewers, I have maintained a style of simplicity and brevity without compromising the necessary facts about each of the Imams.
While extensive reference literature is available on this subject in the Arabic, the Persian and the Urdu languages, there is a dearth of translated or original works in the English language. This book was designed specifically to address this deficiency. The information has been derived from popular books of biography, history, traditions of the Prophet of Islam, as well as al-Qur’an. A classified list of references is appended at the end of this book.
The title of the book, "And The Message of Islam Continues", was chosen after considerable thought. This was in keeping with the spirit and the intention of the Messenger of Islam. The Message of Islam had continued to be delivered to all nations of mankind through the messengers of Allah, ending with Muhammad, the last messenger. Allah, with His Divine Justice, instituted the faculty of Imamate to perpetuate His Message and to provide His continued guidance to mankind. This is attested by Allah in the Quran.
All Muslims generally accept the institution of Imamate. However, it is important to know that this institution actually evolved through two main systems of belief based on the methodology and the interpretation of the Islamic Law (Fiqh). Into one of these systems belong the Shiite Muslims who follow the Fiqh Ja’fariyya. This Fiqh was formalized as a School by Imam Ja'far us-Sadiq (the Sixth Imam) and hence the eponym Ja’fariyya. The methodology of its teaching and practice was carried out by each one of the Twelve Imams of the Ahle Bait without any change. The life histories of these Imams are covered in this book. Sunni Muslims, who follow one of four of other schools of Fiqh, belong to the other system. These are the Maliki Fiqh, the Hanafi Fiqh, the Shafi'i Fiqh and the Hanbali, Fiqh, each named after its founder. The life histories, the teachings and the works of the proponents of these Schools of Fiqh will be published separately.
It is hoped that this book will be of use to teachers, students and others to learn about the lives, the mission and the sacrifices of the Twelve Imams. We welcome their comments and suggestions to help improve future works of the subject.
I thank my wife Adiba for tolerating my long hours at the computer on the weekends and late nights researching the literature for this book. I am particularly indebted to her for her critique on the contents of the text.
I thank brother Nasir Shamsi and Dr. Nazir Hasan Zaidi for their meticulous review and critique of the substance of the book. Further, I must express my gratitude to many among our youth who read the manuscript and gave me valuable suggestions on keeping the language of the text simple, brief and suitable for the young reader. I am especially thankful to Zahra Mamdani, who undertook the task of proof reading my typescript. The encouragement and support obtained from these sources sustain me in my effort to continue my search in the areas of religious knowledge and make it available to the Muslim youth.
I am grateful to my brother Syed Hadi Husain Shamsi of Sheffield, England, too and Dr. Hameed Ghilak of New York for the pictures of the mausoleums of the Imams. Brother Tajul Imam of Graphics Media, Queen, New York, designed the elegant cover of this book.
Dr. Syed Haider Husain Shamsi
Demarest, New Jersey, USA: 1998