We humans have a habit of following and looking up to those who are better than us. They are our role models and examples we must follow. Allah has introduced the best of His creation in the Quran. He is Prophet Muhammad (s), the one with the best character, mercy on the people of the worlds, and the Messenger and confidante of Allah. Let us together go over the lives and character of the fourteen infallibles whom we must follow and try our best to be like them.
No. 1 Prophet Muhammad (s)
The very first infallible is Prophet Muhammad (s). He was the last prophet of Allah who brought the religion of Islam and the book of Allah the Quran to the whole world. Prophet Muhammad (s) was born in the year of the elephant, 571 CE. He preached Islam to people for 23 years. He went through many hardships while propagating Islam. Eventually, he formed an Islamic government that spanned much of the Arabian Peninsula. He was martyred in the year 632 CE by poisoning.
No. 2 Imam Ali (a)
The second infallible, Imam Ali (a), was the paternal cousin of Prophet Muhammad (s) and the first Shia Imam. He was born on Rajab 13, 23 years before Hijra. Prophet Muhammad (s) himself raised Imam Ali (a) as a child. The Prophet (s) had said that Ali (a) to me is like Aaron (a) was to Moses (a). Imam Ali (a) was always by the Prophet’s side and tremendously helped him. Prophet Muhammad (s) married his daughter Fatima (a), another infallible, to Imam Ali (a). Ultimately, the Prophet (s) announced Imam Ali (a) as his successor and ruler of all Muslims after him. However, Imam Ali’s right to caliphate was usurped. He eventually became the third caliph and formed a unique government based on justice. He was martyred on Ramadan 21, 40 AH.
No. 3 Lady Fatima (a)
The third infallible, Lady Fatima (a), was the only daughter of Prophet Muhammad (s). She was born on Jumadi al-Thani 20, eight years before Hijra. She was a special gift for the Prophet (s). The Prophet’s pure progeny, the remaining eleven infallibles would be born from her and Imam Ali (a). A whole surah of the Quran was revealed in her honor: Surah al-Kawthar. She was a very noble woman, the most pious woman of her time, an infallible. She stood up for her husband’s right to the caliphate, which was divinely ordained. She was injured by her and her husband’s enemies. Ultimately, she was martyred on Jumada al-Thani 3, 11 AH due to the grievous wounds that were inflicted on her.
No. 4 Imam al-Hassan (a)
The fourth infallible, Imam al-Hassan (a), was the first son and grandson of Imam Ali (a) and the Prophet (s) respectively. Allah chose his name, Hassan, meaning beautiful or good. He is also an infallible and the second Imam of the Shia. In fact, there were five infallibles who lived at the same time. They were the Prophet (s), Imam Ali (a), Lady Fatima (a) Imam al-Hassan (a), and Imam al-Hussain (a). The verse of Tathir, which is verse 33 of Surah al-Ahzab, was revealed in honor of the five infallibles, announcing that they are free from any impurity, sin, and defect. Imam al-Hassan (a) succeeded his father Imam Ali (a) and became the caliph of Muslims. However, the people of that time did not obey him and he was forced to sign a peace treaty with the adversary of his time, Muawiyah. Imam al-Hassan (a) was poisoned and thus martyred on Safar 28, 50 AH.
No. 5 Imam al-Hussain (a)
Imam al-Hussain (a) was the second grandson of the Prophet (s) and son of Imam Ali (a). He was born on Shaban 3, 4 AH. He was only six months younger than his brother Imam al-Hassan (a). Imam al-Hussain was very obedient to his brother Imam al-Hassan (a) so long that he was the Imam. After his brother was martyred, Imam al-Hussain (a) succeeded him as the third Imam of the Shia. When Muawiya died, his son Yazid succeeded him. Unfortunately, the government was not under the control of Imam al-Hussain (a). Yazid demanded Imam al-Hussain’s allegiance to him. However, Imam al-Hussain refused because Yazid was annihilating Islam with his anti-Islamic and immoral conduct. Eventually, Imam al-Hussain (a) rose against Yazid and fought his army in Karbala. Imam al-Hussain (a) was brutally martyred in the Battle of Karbala on Muharram 10, 61 AH. He is known as the savior of Islam. Islam would have fallen into oblivion if he did not rise up.
No. 6 Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain Zaynul Abidin (a)
Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain (a), known as Zayn al-Abidin, which means the beauty of worshippers, was born on Shaban 5, 38 AH. He was the second son, or as some say the first son of Imam al-Hussain (a). He was about 23 years old when he accompanied his father Imam al-Hussain (a) in Karbala. However, Imam Zaynul Abidin (a) could not participate in the battle owing to his severe illness. This was Allah’s plan so that the successor of Imam al-Hussain wouldn’t be martyred, and so that the line of imamate continued through him. Imam Zaynul Abidin (a) was extremely devout and was known for his sincere acts of worship. He was martyred on Muharram 25, 95 AH in Medina by poisoning.
No. 7 Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a)
Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir (a) is the fifth Imam of the Shia. He is the son of Imam Zaynul Abidin (a). Some say he was present at the Battle of Karbala as a child. During his imamate, there was an ongoing conflict between the Umayyads and Abbasids. Imam al-Baqir (a) took advantage of this opportunity and began a cultural movement. Imam al-Baqir (a) was very knowledgeable. His title al-Baqir, means the splitter of knowledge. He narrated many hadiths from the Prophet, the Imams before him, and himself. He knew various sciences, especially Islamic ones. Ultimately, he was poisoned and thus martyred on Dhu al-Hijja 7, 114 AH.
No. 8 Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq (a)
Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq (a) is the sixth Imam of the Shia. He is the son of Imam al-Baqir (a). Imam al-Sadiq (a) continued his father’s path and took advantage of the situation where the Umayyads and Abbasids were fighting for power. Imam al-Sadiq (a) trained thousands of students who were both Shia and Sunni. He narrated thousands of hadiths. About 50-70 percent of the hadiths of the Shia are narrated from Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a). Imam al-Sadiq (a) was poisoned and thus martyred at the hands of the tyrant of his time, Mansur Dawaniqi, on Shawwal 25, 148 AH in Medina.
No. 9 Imam Musa al-Kazim (a)
Imam Musa al-Kazim (a), meaning the one who contains his anger, is the seventh Imam of the Shia. He is the son of Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq (a). He was born on November 8, 745, in Abwa’ between Mecca and Medina. He became the Imam after his father’s martyrdom and led the Shia community for 35 years during the Abbasid caliphate of al-Mansur, al-Hadi, al-Mahdi, and Harun al-Rashid. Imam al-Kazim (a) practiced taqiyya, advised Shias to do the same, and expanded the Wikala network, appointing deputies in different areas. He was known for his piety, worship, and generosity, earning titles like “al-Kazim” and “al-‘Abd al-Salih.” His life coincided with the formation of various Shia sects and witnessed debates, especially with Sunni scholars, and imprisonment before his eventual martyrdom in 799 CE.
No. 10 Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Rida (a)
Imam Ali b. Musa al-Rida (a) is the eighth Imam of Twelver Shias. He was born in Medina in the year 148 AH/765 CE and martyred in Tus, Iran in 203 AH/818 CE. Imam al-Rida (a) was brought to Khorasan by force by al-Ma’mun al-Abbasi and was made heir apparent. He engaged in famous debate sessions with personalities of other religions and schools of thought. The holy shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) is located in Mashhad, Iran, and is visited by millions of Muslims from various countries. Imam al-Rida (a) only had one son who was born to him when he was in middle age. Before the birth of his son, people thought to themselves that Imam al-Rida (a) would have no offspring. However, with the birth of his son, all doubts were dispelled.
No. 11 Imam Muhammad al-Taqi al-Jawad (a)
Imam Muhammad b. Ali al-Jawad (a) is the ninth Imam of Twelver Shia, born on Rajab 10, 195 AH/April 8, 811 CE in Medina, Arabia. He became Imam at a young age and served for 17 years until his martyrdom on Dhu l-Qa’da 30, 220 AH/November 25, 835 CE in Kazimiya, Iraq. His father was Imam Ali al-Rida (a), and his mother was Sabika. He had the teknonym Abu Ja’far and was known as al-Jawad. Imam al-Jawad was married to Umm al-Fadl, the daughter of al-Ma’mun. He did not have any children from her, but had children from another wife named Samana. He engaged in scientific debates and was known for his theological and jurisprudential knowledge, with the Shia following his imamate due to his scholarly excellence despite his young age.
No. 12 Imam Ali al-Hadi al-Naqi (a)
Imam Ali b. Muhammad al-Hadi (a) is the 10th Imam of the Shia. He was born on Dhu al-Hijja 15, 212 (March 6, 828) in Sarya and became Imam on Dhu l-Qa’da 30, 220 AH (November 25, 835 CE). His imamate lasted for 34 years and was marked by close surveillance by Abbasid rulers, including al-Mutawakkil. This was because the Abbasids knew that the promised Mahdi would be born from Imam al-Hadi’s son, based on the narrations that had been reported by the Prophet (s). Imam al-Hadi was known by titles such as al-Naqi, al-Hādī, and his teknonym was Abu al-Hasan. Imam al-Hadi (a) was martyred on Rajab 3, 254 AH (June 28, 868) by poisoning, and his shrine is located in Samarra. Imam al-Hadi dictated one of the most comprehensive ziyarahs called Ziyarah Jami‘at al-Kabirah. In this ziyarah, he mentions the merits and virtues of the Ahlul Bait (a).
No. 13 Imam al-Hassan al-‘Askari (a)
Imam al-Hasan b. Ali al-Askari (a) was the 11th Imam of Twelver Shia and the father of Imam al-Mahdi (a). He was born in Medina in Rabi’ al-Thani 8, 232 AH (December 2, 846) and martyred on Rabi’ al-Awwal 8, 260 AH (January 1, 874) in Samarra due to poisoning. He had several titles, including Imam al-Askari, Ibn al-Rida, al-Hadi, al-Naqi, al-Zaki, al-Rafiq, al-Samit, and more. He had special agents like Uthman b. Sa’id to communicate with the Shi’a due to severe restrictions on his life. The holy shrine of al-Askariyyayn was attacked and destroyed two times by terrorists. However, Shias did manage to repair it and replace the golden dome and the mausoleum (ضَرِيح).
No. 14 Imam al-Hujjat ibn al-Hassan al-Mahdi (a)
Imam Hujjat ibn al-Hassan al-Mahdi (a) is the 12th Imam in Twelver Shi’ism and the promised savior who will bring peace and justice to the world. He has been in occultation since his early years, and he is the Imam of the present age, with titles like “Imam al-Muntazar” (the Awaited Imam) and “Wali l-‘Asr” (the Guardian of the Age). He was born on Sha’ban 15, 255 AH (July 29, 869) in Samarra and assumed the imamate from Rabi’ al-Awwal 8, 260 AH (January 1, 874) after the martyrdom of his father, Imam al-Hassan al-‘Askari (a). There is a prohibition in mentioning his name according to some hadiths, and various names have been attributed to his mother, with one account suggesting she was a Roman princess. Imam al-Mahdi’s long life is extraordinary, and he will reappear in the future to establish justice.