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The Prophet Mohamad (pbuh&hp) and his Progeny are the salvation for the world

Do the Zaidis believe in the infallibility of their imams? If so, what is their proof?


We must first highlight the Zaidi belief of infallibility (‘isma). We will draw from an article written by Kāžim az-Zaidi, may Allah reward him. It is divided into four perspectives. The first is that infallibility is divided into individual infallibility and collective infallibility. Individual infallibility can only be ascertained by explicit designation (nass) of the Qur’an and the authentic narrated traditions. This individual infallibility was conferred upon each of the Five Companions of the Cloak, upon them be peace. This is proven by the explicit verse: {Verily Allah only desires to keep thee away from filth, O People of the House, and purify thee with a thorough purification} (Q. 33:33). I don’t want to get into how or why this is a proof for their infallibility; however, it suffices for us that this was the opinion held by the imams of Ahl al-Bayt, upon them be peace. For example, it is recorded in Al-Jāmi’ al-Kāfi that Imam Ahmed b. Isa (as) was asked whether it was permissible to accept the testimony of just one person. He replied: “No. Unless that person was ‘Ali, al-Hasan or al-Hussein.”  When he was asked “How is that?” he replied “Because they were infallible (ma’sumeen).” Hāfiz Muhammad b. Suleiman al-Kufi narrated in his Manāqib Amir al-Mumineen with a chain of narrators to Imam Zaid b. Ali (as) that the latter said: “The infallibles are five: the Prophet, Ali, Fātima, al-Hasan and al-Hussein.” Ibn Asākir also narrated this statement of Imam Zaid (as) in his Tārikh ad-Dimashq. Hāfiz Muhammad b. Suleiman al-Kufi also narrated that Imam Muhammad b. Ali al-Bāqir (as) said: “To us, the infallibles are five: Allah’s Messenger, Ali, Fātima, al-Hasan and al-Hussein, upon all of them be peace.” Imam Mansûr Billah ‘Abdullah b. Hamza (as) said in his Ar-Risālat an-Nāfia:

Infallibility cannot occur in any of the sons of Ishmael that can teach us except Muhammad, Ali, Fātima, al-Hasan and al-Hussein, upon all of them be peace.


The second perspective is that infallibility for the Companions of the Cloak (as) and the Prophets (as) is a protection from the major sins. As for other than that—such as, errors not connected to the Divine Message—they are not infallible from such. This is a difference between the Zaidi belief and the 12er Shia belief. We say that since the Holy Qur’an attributes minor faults to the Prophets (as), such is also possible for the Companions of the Cloak who are considered inferior to the Prophets (as). Hāfiz Muhammad b. Mansûr al-Murādi narrated in Amāli Ahmed b. Isa on the authority of Muhammad b. Ali al-Bāqir (as):

Once, a man came to al-Hussein b. Ali concerning a need. He asked him to fulfil his need, and [al-Hussein] said: "I am in the state of 'itikaf [i.e. religious confinement to the mosque]." He then went to al-Hasan and informed him saying: "I went to Abu Abdullah to fulil a need I had and he said 'I am in the state of 'itikaf.'" Then, al-Hasan fulfilled the man's need and made his way to al-Hussein. He said to him: "O brother, what prevented you from fulfilling this man's need?" He replied: "I am in the state of 'itikaf." Al-Hasan said: "Fulfilling the need of a Muslim brother is more beloved to me than 'itikaf for a month." 

This report proves that the Companions of the Cloak are not infallible towards minor faults. This is because Imam al-Hasan (as) censured his brother Imam al-Hussein (as) for not seeing to the man's need. This of course was a minor offense not amounting to a major sin; however, it nevertheless demonstrates that infallibility does not prevent the infallible from lapses in judgment and minor faults. 


The third perspective is that the the Ahl al-Bayt have a collective infallibility in that their consensus is a proof in the religion. This is based upon many narrated traditions, such as the Hadith of the Two Weighty Things (ath-Thaqalain), the Hadith of the Ark (as-Safeena), and others. These rigorously authenticated traditions point to the fact that the Ahl al-Bayt are the sources of guidance after the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny. If they are sources of guidance then it is incumbent that they not contradict the truth. If they do not contradict the truth, then they—collectively—are infallible. Otherwise, the Prophet would have left an imperfect source of perfection. 

The fourth perspective is that the collective infallibility of the Ahl al-Bayt negates that anyone after the Companions of the Cloak is individually infallible. We do not hold that any imam after al-Hussein b. 'Ali (as) is infallible because we have no verse of Qur'an or successively transmitted (mutawātir) hadith that explicitly designates anyone else as infallible. Rather, the avoidance of major sins is one of the conditions of Imamate according to the Zaidis. We say that the committing of a major sin disqualifies a person from the imamate but it does not denote that the imam must have infallibility as an innate quality.


Some may take offense at the term “infallible” being used for non-Prophets. However, we say that since there is no explicit verse of Qur’an or authentically narrated tradition that prohibits this term being used for non-Prophets, this criticism is unfounded and unproven. We also say that since this term was used explicitly to refer to the Companions of the Cloak by our imams, Zaidis have no problem using this term to refer to Ali, Fātima, al-Hasan and al-Hussein, upon them be peace.


As we said before, our belief in the infallibility of the Companions of the Cloak (as) does not mean that we equate them to Prophets and Messengers (as). Their status is below that of the Prophets (as). It is not infallibility that differentiates Prophets from non-Prophets rather it is Divine inspiration (wahi).


And Allah knows best!

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