Imam in Quran
Imam in Quran
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad (saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Allah mentions the word imam many times in the Holy Quran; and the word imam has several meanings in the Arabic language, depending on the context in which it has been used.
Basically, an imaam is used to mean a leader or a guide, but Allah has also used the world imaam to mean Book (Chapter 11 Surah Hud verse 17 and Chapter 36 Surah Ya Seen verse 3) , or a way (Chapter 15 Surah Hijr verse 79).
In spoken Arabic, Imam also means one who leads, just like every person who leads the congregational prayer is called an Imam.
Now, to your specific question:
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 17 Surah Israa verse 71:One day We shall call together all human beings with their (respective) Imams: those who are given their record in their right hand will read it (with pleasure), and they will not be dealt with unjustly in the least.
It is a natural phenomena and fact that every people or every community has a leader. And the main leader or imaam of the Islamic Ummah will be the Prophet of Allah (saws). Then, after the death of the Prophet of Allah (saws), whoever took over the leadership of the believers, and then so on and so forth until the end of time.
What Allah is portraying to us is something that will happen on the Day of Judgment in His Court. He will gather all mankind together, and group them with their respective imams or leaders.
Thus, to understand or picturize the concept of the gathering of the people with their respective leader or Imam as used in aayah 71, it will be like a army is gathered in a parade in this world. The Messenger of Allah (saws) will be the Supreme Imam or leader of the Islamic Ummah and he will have the whole Ummah of the believers behind him. Then there will be smaller imams or leaders within the ranks whom the people followed, just like behind the Generals in the Army there are smaller positions like a Major, a Captain, a Lieutenant, and then each leader has a battalion of foot soldiers behind the leader.
Thus, if the leader that one follows is a true god-fearing leader, he would have done right and called on his people to obey Allah and the Messenger (saws), and will lead himself and his followers to success in the hereafter.
But if a leader was a fraud, and was more interested in earning the paltry gains and profits of the world, he would have guided his followers to falsehood and told them to invoke and worship him and his ancestors in their graves or other things, without any authority from Allah and His Messenger (saws); these leaders and imams will lead themselves and their followers into the Hell Fire. This can be better understood from the continuing verse 72 of the same Surah Isra:
And the one who leads his life in this world as if he were blind (to the Signs of Allah), shall be (raised up) blind in the Hereafter too. Nay! He shall fare even worse than a blind person in finding the Way.
There are many aayahs in the Holy Quran where Allah show how these false leaders and imams will lead their followers into Hell Fire, and the conversations that these false leaders will have with their congregation in the Fire of Hell, when they will openly oppose and curse and blame each other for their state.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 11 Surah Hud verses 96-98:And We sent Moses with Our Signs and a manifest authority of appointment to Pharaoh and the chiefs of his kingdom. But they followed the command of Pharaoh, and unrighteous was Pharaohs command! On the Day of Resurrection, he will head his people and lead them to Hell! What a wretched goal for one to reach!!!
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 40 Surah Mumin verse 47-48:Then imagine the time when these people will be disputing with one another in Hell. The weak ones will say to the haughty ones, We were your followers! Now, can you save us from some part of our punishment in Hell? The haughty ones will say, We are all in the same state here, and Allah has already passed judgment between His servants.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 33 Surah Ahzab verse 66-68:On the Day their faces are rolled about on the Fire, they will say, Would that we had obeyed Allah and His Messenger! And they will say, O our Lord, we obeyed our CHIEFS and our GREAT MEN, and they led us astray from the Right Path. O our Lord, give them a double chastisement and curse them severely.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 19 Surah Maryam verses 81-82:These people have set up other gods that Allah, so that they may become their supporters! There will be no supporters! They will not only disown your worship, but also become their opponents.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter16 Surah Nahl verses 86-87:When the people who had committed shirk in this world will see those whom they had made associates with Allah, they will say, Our Lord, here are those associate-deities whom we used to invoke besides You. At this their deities will retort, You are liars! At that time, all of them will proffer submission before Allah, and all that they used to forge in this world shall vanish from them.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 25 Surah Furqan verses 17-19:And on that Day, (Your Lord) will gather all these people together as well as those whom they used to invoke besides Allah and ask them, Did you mislead these servants of Mine, or did they themselves go astray? Those associate-deities will answer, Glory be to You! We dared not take any auliya besides You. You did give them and their forefathers all the good things of life till they forgot the Admonition, and incurred the punishment. Thus will your deities deny all that you are professing today! Then you shall neither be able to repel your punishment, nor shall you be able to get any help from anywhere. And whoever is guilty of iniquity among you, We shall make him taste a severe torment!
There, we must always be careful to choose our leaders. We must choose good righteous leaders, who call us to worship Allah and obey and follow the commands of Allah and His Messenger (saws). But if we choose false leaders and obey them in invoking and worshipping others besides Allah Subhanah, we will be raised up with them and thrown together with them in the Hell Fire for denying the Truth from Allah and His Messenger (saws).
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your Brother in Islam,