The existence or non existence of a concept has little to do with belief. Gods love and mercy is for all, even the people who do no believe in God. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a prophet for all mankind, even those who do not believe in his prophethood. Similarly divine imams are also imams of all, despite the lack of belief in them.
To understand the answer to this question, we have to understand what being a “muslim” actually means.
Let us discuss the concept of “muslim” first. Who is a muslim? and what makes someone a muslim? these questions have to be answered before an explanation to the topic can be understood.
A muslim is someone who submits to Gods will. If i know God wills something, and i submit to it, i am a muslim. Whereas if i don’t know what Gods will is, then it is impossible for me to submit to that will.
In the Quran, the Christians and Jews are given the glad tidings of paradise as well. Those among them who submit to the Gods will revealed to them. A christian does not know that alcohol is forbidden, He/She will not be asked about the sin of drinking. But a Muslim does know of it being a sin, hence they will be questioned on it. A child does not know right from wrong, so they are not questioned on it. It is all a matter of what is revealed to a person.
If all i knew of God was that He is one. and i lived my entire life submitting to that ONE truth. Even if i was to take part in behavior that may be considered sinful by the Quran, i will still be considered a Muslim and on the right path. Why is that? because i do not know of the Quran. The only truth i have come across in my life is the Oneness of God. And i chose to submit to that truth. That is what makes me a “muslim”.
On the other hand, the term “kafir” means disbeliever. A person who does not believe is NOT a “kafir”. But a person who Denies the belief is. One can only deny something after they have been exposed to it logically. I cannot deny the existence of Mohammad if i have not been told one thing about him! I may not “accept” that he existed, but that isn’t out of denial, that is out of lack of knowledge and revelation. However, if you were to sit down with me, give me historical evidence and logical wisdom in such a way that my logic were to accept God and Muhammad as His messenger; after the revelation of such truths to my logic, if i were to deny them, i would become a disbeliever. Or a “kafir”.
That is the reality of what it means to be a “muslim” or “one who submits”. From this, we find out that there are many people in this world who we may consider to be of other faiths, but are actually submitting to Gods will that has been revealed to them. Hence they are also muslim.
On the flip side, this also means that those who are knowledgeable about Muslim teachings because they grew up in an Islamic society, but are denying the commandments of God revealed to them, are horribly participating in the act of “kufr” despite calling themselves muslims. People such as those who justify killing innocents in the name of Allah, who justify their drinking and saying it is in line with Islam, those who justify other horrible actions in the name of Islam are active participants of “kufr”. Indeed their punishment is great.
Having said all this. We come to see that there are many people to whom the truth of imamat has not been revealed. They have grown up with misconceptions about who shias are and are not given the opportunity to seek more (which is a duty of every muslim btw). They have accepted the truth of oneness of God and Prophethood of Muhammad as it was revealed to their logic, hence they are muslims.
But those of us, to whom MORE truth has been revealed. To those who have come to find out that Imamat is in fact a part of Islam. Those whose logic has come to understand the need of Divine Imamat as well as the Prophecy of the Mahdi, simply ignoring these truth will not be in line with being a Muslim.
Such people, to whom these truths have been revealed, if they are to then “deny” these truths after their logic has accepted them, their fate is not good.
I found myself in that situation, where my logic had come to accept imamat, its need, its divinity, Gods will behind it, its prophecy, and how it goes hand in hand with the truths of “Tawhid” and “Prophethood” in Islam. How it is a third pillar, crucial to protection of Gods religion and implementation of His will. After logically accepting that, i could no longer be a “muslim” unless i was to accept those. There was more truth revealed to me to “submit to”. If i were to deny it with my mouth and tell myself it is all lies, i would have participated in “kufr”. So i chose to submit to it like a Muslim is supposed to.
I think it is important for everyone to know all this before they embark on a journey of higher learning. Will they come to accept the truths even if they go against their traditions and family? Or will they deny them because of their traditions and family? Is there a middle ground one can walk where they accept the truths but do not announce them out of fear of traditions and family? (there is). Should one just choose to ignore that call to higher learning instead and remain in ignorance? Though it might seem like a good choice, especially in this “bliss in ignorance” culture, Islam talks harshly about those who choose to remain ignorant despite having an opportunity to learn.
What do you all think? any comments or discussions are welcome.