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Let’s Say That I Wanted to Convert to Shi’ism…

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Let’s pretend that I became convinced that we need to follow Infallible Imams and I wanted to convert to Shi’ism. Now, as a potential convert to Shi’ism, every sect of Shi’ism is telling me that I must follow their set of Infallible Imams. There are at least 70 different sects of Shi’ism, each following their own lineage for their Imams. There are the Druze, Bohras, Nizaris, Zaydis, Jarudis, Sulaymanis, Butris, Ismailis, Kaysaniyyas, Qaddahiyyas, Ghullat, Aga Khanis, etc. Even amongst the Ithna Ashari Shia, there are many different sects, including the Usulis, Akhbaris, and Shaykis. All in all, there are dozens upon dozens of Shia sects, each with their own lineage of Imams.

As a Seeker of Truth, how do I know which of these lineages is correct? This is a monumental decision. According to the Shia belief system, ascribing false Imamah to a person is Kufr (disbelief). Hence, if I pick the wrong lineage to follow, then I become a Kaffir (disbeliever) destined for Hell-Fire. So I have to be very careful when I pick which of these sects I want to follow and which of the Imams is the right one. Each of these sects has their own set of Hadith which show that their set of Imams is the correct one. Some of these sects have very divergent beliefs, but there are also many sects which are virtually identical with the exception of following a different Imam, or branching the lineage at a different place [i.e. taking a second son as the Imam instead of the third, etc].

Please tell me how I am supposed to proceed to find the true path? I wish I could go to the Quran for answers, since Allah has called it the book of ultimate guidance. Unfortunately, the Quran does not mention the names of any Imams, which is weird, because wouldn’t that be important stuff to put in a book of guidance? The Quran clearly said to follow Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) who is the messenger of Allah, and yet I can’t find a single verse about following any of these Imams, let alone with their names mentioned.

So now I’m forced to look at the “Hadith” from the various sects. Each of them have their own Hadith and each of them declare the other sect deviant for following the wrong Imam and false Hadith. I’m so confused! How exactly am I supposed to scientifically determine which Hadith is the authentic one and which is fabricated? Does Allah really expect me to do this?

I know that Ithna Asharis are the most populous Shia group right now. But some quick research showed me that this was only a recent phenomena: Shah Ismail I came to power during the Safavid Empire and he just happened to convert to the Ithna Ashari sect, and then he forced all the Persians to convert to it by the penalty of death. Before that, there were other Shia sects which were more influential. If I had lived in the Fatimid Empire (which was Ismaili Shia), then it would have been Ismailism which was the majority for the Shia. The point is that we can’t simply follow the Ithna Ashari sect because it is the largest, namely because it wasn’t always so.

If you are part of the Ithna Ashari Imami Usooli sect, I’m betting you were probably just born that way. Had Shah Ismail I converted to a different sect of Shi’ism and followed another set of Imams, then you’d probably have been born to that sect instead. In any case, just because Ithna Ashari is the majority, does that mean I should follow it? Historically, the Shia believe that the majority of Muslims rejected the Imam and only a handful of people were loyal to him. What if the real followers of the Imam are a really small and obscure Shia sect? How am I supposed to find them then? Which one of the dozens of Shia sects is the right group to ascribe to?

I am lost. Where can I turn to for guidance? If I want to convert to Shi’ism, then which sect should I follow and which chain of Imams is the correct one? Can the Ithna Asharis give me one reason why they chose their set of Imams as opposed to another sect’s set of Imams?

The truth of the matter is that there is absolutely no way for a person to decide which is the right set of Imams to follow, since the Imams are not mentioned in the Quran. What is mentioned in the Quran is to follow Prophet Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم), and this is what we should do. Since the belief of Imamah is absent from the Quran, we must reject it.

Article Written By: Ibn al-Hashimi, www.ahlelbayt.com

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