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As an imamite ( Arabic الامامية, DMG al-Imāmīya ) those Shiites are referred to in Islamic doxography who , after the end of the Umayyad caliphate, continued the Imamate in the Hussainid line of the descendants of ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib and regarded the Imam as an omniscient leader, but were quietistic at the political level behaved. Several of them taught that their respective imams had been raptured. In non-Imamitic sources these groups are also summarized under the derogatory term Rāfidites . The Arabic term imāmīya appears for the first time in a Zaidite source cited by Abū l-Hasan al-Ash alarī (d. 935) and probably dates from the first half of the 9th century.

Most of the Imamitic groups went under in the Middle Ages , the only Imamitic group that has survived to the present day is the Twelve Shia . That is why the term imamites is mostly used today as a synonym for the twelve Shiites.

The Imamites according to Ash-Shahrastani

Ash-Shahrastani lists the following groups among the imamites in his book Religious Parties and Schools of Philosophers :

  • the Bāqirīya and the standing Jafariya. They are named after Muhammad ibn ʿAlī al-Bāqir and his son Jaʿfar as-Sādiq (d. 765) and said of these persons that they did not die, but only were raptured.
  • the Nāwusīya. The followers of this group also assumed that Jafar is still alive and will return as a Mahdi .
  • the aftahīya. They worshiped the eldest son of Ja'far, al-'Abdallāh Aftah that the murji'ah drew to as the seventh imam.
  • the Shumaitīya. They were the followers of Yahyā ibn Abī Shumait and believed that the Imamat inherited after Jafar through his fourth son Muhammad al-Dībādsch.
  • the Mūsāwīya and the Mufaddalīya. They claimed that after the death of Jafar, the imamate passed to his son Mūsā al-Kāzim . Some left the imamate with him.
  • the Ismāʿīlīya standing still. In their view, the Imamate passed to his son Ismāʿīl after Jafar's death, but ended with him or his son Muhammad. Ash-Shahrastani distinguishes these Ismailites from the "known" later Ismailis, who continued the Imamate through hidden persons and who regarded the Fatimid caliphs as heirs of this Imamate.
  • the Twelve Shia ( al-Ithnāʿašarīya ). They emerge from those Imamites who continued the Imamate via Mūsā al-Kāzim to Hasan al-Askari . When the latter died childless, great uncertainty spread among the Shiites. A number of different doctrines about succession in the Imamate emerged. Ash-Shahrastani lists a total of eleven different groups. The Twelve Shiites, his sixth group, claimed that Hasan al-ʿAskarī had left behind a young son who, however, had withdrawn into secrecy for fear of being killed. This son by the name of Muhammad is the expected imam.

Imamite traditionarians and theologians

In the early Abbasid period, various Imamite scholars began to compile hadith collections . They contain words, deeds and traditional behavior of the Prophet , the Imams and the Prophet's daughter Fatima . The oldest Shiite hadith collections are the 400 Uṣūl (principles), which were compiled by disciples of the sixth Imam Jaʿfar as-Sādiq. From these 400 Uṣūl there are individual extracts that were compiled during the imams' lifetime. Another well-known Imamite traditionarian was Yūnus ibn ʿAbd ar-Rahmān (743-821). He was one of the followers of Mūsā al-Kāzim.

Around the middle of the 8th century, Imamite scholars began to study the Kalām more intensively . Among the leading Imamite Kalam scholars of the late eighth century were Shaitan at-Taq (d. 796; often called "Mu'min at-Taq" by imamites themselves) and Hisham ibn al-Hakam (d. After 795). By the middle of the ninth century, Muʿtazilite views found their way into the Imamite Shia. Those who promoted this trend included the philosophically oriented scholar al-Hasan ibn Mūsā an-Naubachtī and the scholars Abū ʿAbdallāh Muhammad ibn ʿAbdallāh Ibn Mumlak al-Isfahānī and Abū Dschaʿfar Ibn Qiba ar-Rāzī) (d both began as Muʿtazilites, but then passed over to the Imamite Shia.

Ibn Bābawaih (d. 991) wrote Iʿtiqādāt al-Imāmīya, the first Imamitic confessional document , around the middle of the 10th century . After him the leadership of the Imamite Shia passed to al-Sheikh al-Mufid (d. 1022).


  • Josef van Ess : Theology and society in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Hijra. A History of Religious Thought in Early Islam. Volume 1. de Gruyter Berlin et al. 1991, ISBN 3-11-011859-9 , pp. 272-403.
  • Toufic Fahd (ed.): Le Shî'isme imâmite. Paris, 1970.
  • Heinz Halm : The Schia. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1988, ISBN 3-534-03136-9 , pp. 34-47.
  • Etan Kohlberg : From Imāmiyya to Ithnā-ʿAshariyya in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 39 (1976) 521-534. - Reprinted in Abdullah Saeed (ed.): Islamic Political Thought and Governance. Critical Concepts in Political Science . 4 Vols. Routledge, London and New York, 2011. Vol. I, pp. 319-332.
  • Etan Kohlberg: Belief and Law in Imami Shi'ism . Variorum Reprints, Aldershot, 1991.
  • Hossein Modarressi: Crisis and Consolidation in the formative period of Shiʿite Islam. Abū Jaʿfar ibn Qiba al-Rāzī and his contribution to Imāmite Shīʿite thought. Darwin Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1993.
  • Moojan Momen: An Introduction to Shiʿi Islam. The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiʿism. Yale University Press, New Haven CT et al. 1985, ISBN 0-300-03499-7 .
  • W. Watt: "The Significance of the early stages of Imāmī Shiism" in Nikki Keddie (Ed.): Religion and Politics in Iran. Shiʿism from Quietism to Revolution . New Haven 1983. pp. 21-33.

supporting documents

  1. See Halm: Die Schia. 1988, pp. 34 and 49.
  2. See Kohlberg: From Imāmiyya to Ithnā-ʿAshariyya , 2011, p. 328.
  3. Cf. Abu-'l-Fath 'Muhammad al-Schahrastâni's religious parties and schools of philosophers. For the first time completely translated from Arabic and provided with explanatory notes by Theodor Haarbrücker. First part. Schwetschke und Sohn, Halle 1850, pp. 184–199, available online here .
  4. Cf. Momen: An Introduction to Shiʿi Islam. 1985, p. 54.
  5. Cf. Momen: An Introduction to Shiʿi Islam. 1985, p. 55.
  6. Cf. van Ess: Theology and Society . 1992, pp. 336-382.
  7. See Modarressi: Crisis and Consolidation. 1993, pp. 115-117.
  8. Cf. Abū Ǧaʿfar aṭ-Ṭūsī : al-Fihrist . Ed. Muḥammad Ṣādiq Āl Baḥr al-ʿUlūm. al-Maktaba al-Murtaḍawīya, Naǧaf, o. DS 157f. Digitized .