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An imam ( , ) is an Islamic leadership position, often the leader of a mosque and the community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads the prayer during Islamic gatherings. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have an Islamic question. In smaller communities an imam could be the community leader based on the community setting.

Shi'a imams

In the Shi'a context, imam has a meaning more central to belief, referring to leaders of the community. Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a believe that these Imams are chosen by God to be perfect examples for the faithful and to lead all humanity in all aspects of life. They also believe that all the Imams chosen are free from committing any sin and have a status directly parallel to those of a prophet, infallibility which is called ismah. These leaders must be followed since they are appointed by God.


Here follows a list of the Twelvers Imams:

Number Name
Importance Birthplace (present day country) Place of death and burial
1 Ali ibn Abu Talib
علي بن أبي طالب
Abu al-Hassan
أبو الحسن

Amir al-Mu'minin
(Commander of the Faithful)
Birinci Ali
The first Imam and the rightful successor of the Prophet of all Shia; however, the Sunnis acknowledge him as the fourth Caliph as well. He holds a high position in almost all Sufi Muslim orders (Turuq); the members of these orders trace their lineage to Muhammad through him. Meccamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker Assassinated by Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam, a Kharijite in Kufamarker, who slashed him with a poisoned sword. Buried at the Imam Ali Mosquemarker in Najafmarker, Iraqmarker.
2 Hassan ibn Ali
الحسن بن علي
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد

Ikinci Ali
624–680----3–50 He was the eldest surviving grandson of Muhammad through Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah Zahra. Hasan succeeded his father as the caliph in Kufamarker, and on the basis of peace treaty with Muawiya I, he relinquished control of Iraqmarker following a reign of seven months. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker Poisoned by his wife in Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker on the orders of the Caliph Muawiya. Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
3 Husayn ibn Ali
الحسین بن علي
Abu Abdillah
أبو عبدالله

Sayed al-Shuhada
Ūçüncü Ali
626–680----4–61 He was a grandson of Muhammad. Husayn opposed the validity of Caliph Yazid I. As a result, he and his family were later killed in the Battle of Karbala by Yazid's forces. After this incident, the commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali has become a central ritual in Shia identity. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker Killed and beheaded at the Battle of Karbala. Buried at the Imam Husayn Shrinemarker in Karbalamarker, Iraqmarker.
4 Ali ibn al-Hussein
علي بن الحسین
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد

al-Sajjad, Zain al-Abedin

----Dorduncu Ali
658-9 – 712----38–95 Author of prayers in Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, which is known as "The Psalm of the Household of the Prophet." Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker According to most Shia scholars, he was poisoned on the order of Caliph al-Walid I in Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker. Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
5 Muhammad ibn Ali
محمد بن علي
Abu Ja'far
أبو جعفر

al-Baqir al-Ulum

(splitting open knowledge)

----Besinci Ali
677–732----57–114 Sunni and Shia sources both describe him as one of the early and most eminent legal scholars, teaching many students during his tenure. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker According to some Shia scholars, he was poisoned by Ibrahim ibn Walid ibn 'Abdallah in Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker on the order of Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik.. Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
6 Ja'far ibn Muhammad
جعفر بن محمد
Abu Abdillah
أبو عبدالله

(the Trustworthy)
----Altinci Ali
702–765----83–148 Established the Ja'fari jurisprudence and developed the Theology of Shia. He instructed many scholars in different fields, including Abu Hanifah and Malik ibn Anas in fiqh, Wasil ibn Ata and Hisham ibn Hakam in Islamic theology, and Geber in science and alchemy. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker on the order of Caliph Al-Mansur.. Buried in Jannat al-Baqi.
7 Musa ibn Ja'far
موسی بن جعفر
Abu al-Hassan I
أبو الحسن الاول

al-Kazim----Yedinci Ali 744–799----128–183 Leader of the Shia community during the schism of Ismaili and other branches after the death of the former Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq. He established the network of agents who collected khums in the Shia community of the Middle East and the Greater Khorasan. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker Imprisoned and poisoned in Baghdadmarker, Iraqmarker on the order of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Buried in the Kazimayn shrinemarker in Baghdad.
8 Ali ibn Musa
علي بن موسی
Abu al-Hassan II
أبو الحسن الثانی

al-Rida, Reza----Sekizinci Ali 765–817----148–203 Made crown-prince by Caliph Al-Ma'mun, and famous for his discussions with both Muslim and non-Muslim religious scholars. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Mashadmarker, Iranmarker on the order of Caliph Al-Ma'mun. Buried in the Imam Reza shrinemarker in Mashadmarker.
9 Muhammad ibn Ali
محمد بن علي
Abu Ja'far
أبو جعفر

al-Taqi, al-Jawad----Dokuzuncu Ali 810–835----195–220 Famous for his generosity and piety in the face of persecution by the Abbasid caliphate. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker Poisoned by his wife, Al-Ma'mun's daughter, in Baghdadmarker, Iraqmarker on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tasim. Buried in the Kazmain shrinemarker in Baghdad.
10 Ali ibn Muhammad
علي بن محمد
Abu al-Hassan III
أبو الحسن الثالث

al-Hadi, al-Naqi----Onuncu Ali 827–868----212–254 Strengthened the network of deputies in the Shia community. He sent them instructions, and received in turn financial contributions of the faithful from the khums and religious vows. Surayya, a village near Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Samarramarker, Iraqmarker on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tazz. Buried in the Al Askari Mosquemarker in Samarra.
11 Hassan ibn Ali
ألحسن بن علي
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد

al-Askari----Onbirinci Ali 846–874----232–260 For most of his life, the Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mu'tamid, placed restrictions on him after the death of his father. Repression of the Shi'ite population was particularly high at the time due to their large size and growing power. Medinamarker, Saudi Arabiamarker According to Shia, he was poisoned on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tamid in Samarramarker, Iraqmarker. Buried in Al Askari Mosquemarker in Samarra.
12 Muhammad ibn al-Hassan
محمد بن الحسن
Abu al-Qasim
أبو القاسم

al-Mahdi, Hidden Imam, al-Hujjah----Onikinci Ali 868–unknown----255–unknown According to Twelver doctrine, he is the current Imam and the promised Mahdi, a messianic figure who will return with Christ. He will reestablish the rightful governance of Islam and replete the earth with justice and peace. Samarramarker, Iraqmarker According to Shia doctrine, he has been living in the Occultation since 872, and will continue as long as God wills it.

Fatimah, also Fatimah al-Zahraa, daughter of Muhammed (615–632), is also considered infallible but not an Imam. Many Shi'a believe that the last Imam will one day return.

See Imamah for Ismaili list of Imams

Sunni imams

The term is also used for a recognized religious leader or teacher in Islam, often for the founding scholars of the four Sunni madhhabs, or schools of religious jurisprudence. It may also refer to the imams of the sciences related to Hadith or to the heads of the Prophet's descendants in their times. In other words, Imam Ali is a phrase used by both Shi'a and Sunni Muslims, though with different connotations.

The Sunni sect does not have imams in the same sense as the Shi'a sect. The imam in the Sunni sect of Islam is the leader of prayers; the sermon is most often given by the

However, there are some people whom Sunnis call "Imams" who are not prayer leaders. They are not Imams in the Shi'a sense of the word, but they are those who started the four Sunni Madhabs.List:

Madhhab Aqidah Science of hadith
Imam Abu Hanifa Imam al-Ashari Imam Bukhari
Imam Malik Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi Imam Abu Dawood
Imam Shafi'i Imam Fakhr al-Razi
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal
Imam Abu Dawood

Zaidi imams as rulers of Yemen

In the Zaidi Shiite sect, Imams were temporal as well as spiritual leaders who held power in Yemenmarker for more than a thousand years. In 897, a Zaidi ruler, Yahya al-Hadi ila'l Haqq, founded a line of such Imams, a theocratic form of government which survived until the second half of the 20th century. (See details under Zaidi, History of Yemen.)

See also



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