The Structure of the Doctrine of Imamate in Shiite Thought: A Developmental Approach

Document Type : Research Paper


Full Professor, Department of Study of Religion, University of Religions and Denominations, Qom, 13357, Iran


In this article, I provide an overview of the idea of Imamate in Shiite thought and its development through Kalami (theological) debates and literary works. To achieve this goal, I have limited my study to the early basic books and have organized my discussion into five parts: (1) the structure of the discussion of Imamate within Shiite and the Sunni communities, (2) the concept of Imamate, (3) the relation between Imamate and the principles of faith, (4) the necessity of imamate, and (5) who the Imam is in person, and the traits of the Imam. Indeed, we cannot discuss or understand 
Shia thought and theology without comprehending the idea of Imamate. Therefore, this idea has held a central position in Shia thinking throughout Islamic history, and numerous books have been written both in defense and in criticism of this concept. In this article, adopting a semi-phenomenological and developmental approach, I provide a clear and comprehensive depiction of the idea of Imamate by drawing upon the primary Shia sources. Furthermore, I aim to open a new area for approaching this Shiite doctrine through a different lens.