As the Prophet Mohammad was returning from his last pilgrimage in 632 A.D. (10 A.H.) with tens of thousands of Muslims, he halted the caravan at a place called Ghadir Khumm, gathered the returning pilgrims around him, and recited the following verse:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا
This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (5:3).
As cited in numerous hadiths and other sources, the Prophet called Hazrat Ali to his side and said:
I leave two very important Gifts among you. One is the Holy Book of God (Qur’an), and the other is my family (Etrat).[i]
Then Prophet Mohammad took Hazrat Ali’s hand and raised it up declaring:
For whomever I am the authority and guide, Ali is also the authority and guide.
Oh God! Be friendly with the friends of Ali and be enemy of his enemies.[ii]
The Imams (spiritual Guides) descended through the family of the Prophet. The Imam possesses the esoteric knowledge of religion and the secrets of the Holy Qur’an. The knowledge was passed on from the Prophet Mohammad to Hazrat Ali as “Vali” (Friend and Guardian), and the first Imam, and then to his descendants, and the great Pirs (Arifs).
The Prophet of Islam had frequently emphasized the importance of the Book and his Etrat (decedents). The Holy Qur’an and Etrat are two inseparable principles of Islam. Each complements the other. Etrat refers to the chosen Imams of God who have been bestowed with the Divine knowledge. They have cognized the teachings of Islam inwardly in the core of their beings in their hearts. Their way is the Way of Prophet. The book of God can not be read without a spiritual teacher who is bestowed with the Devine knowledge. Imam enables us to open the book of our own being and reveal the knowledge within.
- Abol-Gasem Payandeh. (1957). Nahj-ol-Fasahat, The collection of narrations of Hazrat Mohammad, the prophet of Islam. 6th Edition, Tehran, Iran: Javidan Publications. p.107
- Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn. Shi’ite Islam. Houston, TX: Free Islamic Literatures.