When an infallible Imam (a.s.) passes away, it is the responsibility of his successor, also an Imam, to conduct his funeral. None other can perform this duty giving Muslims a clear picture of who is the rightful successor of the Imam who has just passed away.
Debate on Imamat
An interesting debate between Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) and a Waqifi (denier of Imam Reza’s a.s. Imamat) on the subject throws light on how only an Imam can bury another Imam. And this serves as proof of both the Imams. Even enemies of Aal Muhammad (a.s.) used this point to verify Imamat of various Imams (a.s.).
Ali Ibn Abi Hamzah, the famous Waqifi, was among the foremost skeptics of Imamat of Imam Ali Reza (a.s.). Evidently among his arguments against Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) revolved around burial of his father, Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) – since Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) was martyred in Baghdad and Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) at the time was in Medina and to cover that large a distance for burial was not possible under ordinary circumstances.
Ali Ibn Abi Hamzah: We have been informed by your forefathers (a.s.) that the Imamat of an Imam on his death passes on to another Imam like him (who conducts his burial).
Imam Reza (a.s.): Tell me about Husain Ibn Ali (a.s.) – was he or wasn’t he an Imam? If he was Imam who was his successor?
Ali Ibn Abi Hamzah: Ali Ibn Husain (a.s.)
Imam (a.s.): And where was Ali Ibn Husain (a.s.) at time of Husain’s (a.s.) burial
Ali Ibn Hamzah: He was a prisoner of Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad in Kufa
Imam (a.s.): How was he the successor of his father while he was imprisoned?
Ali Ibn Hamzah: We have been informed that he departed from Kufa without their knowledge, conducted funeral of his father, and returned to Kufa.
Imam (a.s.): When this is possible for Ali Ibn Husain (a.s.) while he was imprisoned, then it is possible for the Imam of this era while he is free man that he comes to Baghdad (from Medina) for his father’s (a.s.) burial and returns to his original location – while he is neither imprisoned nor detained.
- Rejal al-Kashi p 464-465
- Ithbaat al-Wasiyyah p 207-208
- Maqtal al-Husain (a.s.) p 319-320 of Sayyid Abdul Razzaq al-Muqarram
- Behar al-Anwar v 45 p 169, v 48 p 270
The principle of only an Imam / infallible burying another Imam / infallible has proved to be a guiding light in many a confusing moment in the history of Islam.
We first saw this principle enacted in the burial of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) when none other than his rightful successor and caliph Ameerul Momineen – Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) – conducted his funeral, while ironically others were busy in selecting the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) successor!
This principle proved equally useful at different points of time, when Muslims were confused about the Imamat of Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.), Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) and Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.).