A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LIVES OF THE TWELVE IMAMS
Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i
The previous discussions lead us to the conclusion that in Islam, after the death of the Holy Prophet, there has continuously existed and will continue to exist within the Islamic community.
(ummah), an Imam (a leader chosen by God). Numerous prophetic hadiths33 have been transmitted in Shi'ism concerning the description of the Imams, their number, the fact that they are all of the Quraysh and of the Household of the Prophet, and the fact that the promised Mahdi is among them and the last of them. Also, there are definitive words of the Prophet concerning the imamate of Ali and his being the first Imam and also definitive utterances of the Prophet and Ali concerning the imamate of the Second Imam.
In the same way the Imams before have left definitive statements concerning the imamate of those who were to come after them.34 According to these utterances contained in Twelve-Imam Shi'ite sources the Imams are twelve in number and their holy names are as follows: (1) Ali ibn Abi Talib; (2) Hasan ibn Ali; (3) Husayn ibn 'Ali; (4) Ali ibn Husayn; (5) Muhammad ibn Ali; (6) Ja'far ibn Muhammad; (7) Musa ibn Ja'far. (8) Ali ibn Musa; (9) Muhammad ibn Ali; (10) Ali ibn Muhammad; (11) Hasan ibn Ali; and (12) the Mahdi.