The Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism

The Sources of Esotericism in Islam

By Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi
Translated by David Streight

Subjects: Sufism
Paperback : 9780791421222, 279 pages, September 1994
Hardcover : 9780791421215, 279 pages, October 1994

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Table of contents



Chapter I. Introduction: Return to the Earliest Sources

Hiero-Intelligence and Reason

Esotericism and Rationalization

The Sources

The Nature and Authority of Imamite Traditions

Chapter II. The Pre-Existence of the Imam

The Worlds before the World. The Guide-Light

Adamic Humanity. The "Voyage" of the Light

Excursus: "Vision with the Heart"

Conception and Birth

Chapter III. The Existence of the Imam

Comments on the "Political" Life of the Imams

The Sacred Science

Notes on the "Integral Qur'an* "

The Sacred Power

Chapter IV. The Super-Existence of the Imam

Imamite Points of View on the Ancientness of the Information

The Imam and His Occultation: Esoteric Aspects

The Return and the Rising: Esoteric Aspects



Some Implications of the Occultation: Individual Religion and Collective Religion



General Index


The Imam, the Divine Guide, is the central point around which the Shi'ite religion turns. The power of Shi'ism comes from the actions of the Imam. This title is reserved exclusively for the sucessors of the prophets in their mission. The author shows that from the beginning of Shi'ite Islam until the tenth century, the Imam was primarily a master of knowledge with supernatural powers, not a jurist theologian. The Imam is the threshold through which God and the creatures communicate. He is thus a cosmic necessity, the key and the center of the universal economy of the sacred.

The author presents Shi'ism as a religion founded on double dimensions where the role of the leader remains constantly central: perpetual initiation into divine secrets and continued confrontation with anti-initiation forces. Without esotericism, exotericism loses its meaning. Early Imamism is an esoteric doctrine. Historically, then, at the beginning of esotericism in Islam, we find an initiatory, mystical, and occultist doctrine. This is the first book to systematically explore the immense literature attributed to the Imams themselves in order to recover the authentic original vision. It restores an essential source of esotericism in the world of Islam.

At the Sorbonne, Professor Amir-Moezzi is professeur d'islamologie a la section de sciences religieuse de l'Ecole Pratique des Haute Etudes.