By Shafeen Ali
Imam Mustansir Bi’llah II (A.S.), our 32nd Imam:
“It is obligatory and necessary for the true believer to recognize his Creator who is manifest in this world in the form of a human being, and to see Him here in order to see Him also in the hereafter.” 
“Is Imam God?” It is perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions in the hearts of many believers of Shia Ismaili Islam, often the youth, who have been challenged by their friends, by social media, or their own self-reflection to arrive at this question. Usually, they are seeking a “Yes” or “No” response. If the answer arrived at is “Yes”, the immediate next question is: “Isn’t that shirk (associating partners with God), a major sin in Islam?” If the answer arrived at is “No”, a barrage of questions follow: “Why, then, do we pray to the Imam?” “Why do we have his pictures in our homes and places of prayer?” “Why do we treat the Imam like we would treat God?”
Often, a concept, which was recited, in the old Ismaili Du’a (regular prayer), of “Ali Allah” or “Ali Sahi Allah” (Sahi implying the meaning “right” or “true”) is invoked to support the “Yes” argument. It is countered often times, by those holding the “No” position, by the concept of “Shafa’a” or “Intercession”, where Allah is seen as transcendent and the Prophets and Imams are seen as “ladders” or “ropes” designated by God for mankind to reach Him.
It is in light of this divisive background that I have attempted in this essay to address the question of the divinity of the Imam. My attempt is MINE ALONE; it is NOT intended as an official or institutional position on this question. I hope that my brothers and sisters will forgive me my shortcomings and I hope this essay will help each find his/her own answer.
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Shafeen Ali is a Shia Ismaili Muslim who has been a faith-based teacher and speaker for the last 10+ years. He has delivered more than 150 presentations and workshops throughout the world on faith and religious education. To contact, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit website: www.shafeenali.com