Chapter Four – The Doctrine of the Mahdi and Occultation

Appendix
October 26, 2017
Evidence for the Occurrence of the Ghaybah
November 3, 2017

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Chapter Four

 

The Doctrine of the Mahdi and Occultation

 

In this chapter, with the help of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, I will endeavour to discuss the doctrine of the Mahdi and his occultation according to the Shia in general. Thereafter I will shed light upon the inception of this doctrine in the Twelver dogma specifically. Subsequent to that I will present an overall understanding of this doctrine according to them, the evidences they present in substantiation thereof, the arguments they present to defend the extended period of the occultation of their Mahdi, who is now in occultation for more than eleven centuries and a brief analyses thereof.

Thereafter I will make mention of the utopian state which the Shia envisage will come into existence after the emergence of their Mahdi; a state based merely upon their imaginations which they have expressed in the form of narrations which they attribute to the Ahlul Bayt in order to accord them sanctity and reverence in the sight of their followers. Hence I will present what they say regarding his Shari’ah, his personal life and his army.

Subsequently, I will present what the Shia believe regarding the period of occultation, the principles that they have invented for this period, the many rulings of Shari’ah which they have rescinded because of this doctrine and the endeavour of their scholars to make up for the absence of their Mahdi by contriving the doctrine of the representation of the Mahdi.

I will thereafter end this discussion with a general analyses and critique of these doctrines.

 

The Doctrine of the Mahdi and the Occultation According to the Various Sects of the Shia

The idea of believing in a hidden and absent Imam exists in majority of the belief structures of the various Shia denominations. After the death of its Imam each of them believes that he did not die; each one asserts that he will live forever, he is in hiding and he will return to the people as the Mahdi in the future. These sects, in actual fact, only differ regarding the identity of the Mahdi whom they assume will return to the world, which is akin to the difference which they have regarding the personalities of the Imams one among who is the Mahdi.

The Saba’iyyah (followers of ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’) are considered to be the first people, as is asserted by al Qummi, al Nawbakhti, al Shahrastani, and others; to believe in the re-emergence of ‘Ali[1] and his occultation.[2] They would claim thus:

 

إن عليا لم يقتل و لم يمت ولا يقتل ولا يموت حتي يسوق العرب بعصاه ويملأ الأرض عدلا وقسطا كما ملئت ظلما و جورا

‘Ali has not been assassinated, nor has he died; and he will not be killed and he will not die till he drives the Arabs with his stick and fills the land with justice just as it was previously filled with injustice and oppression.[3]

 

And when ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ was informed of the demise of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu whilst he was in Mada’in he said:

 

كذبت لو جئتنا بدماغه في سبعين صرة، و أقمت علي قتله سبعين عدلا لعلمنا أنه لم يمت ولم يقتل ولا يموت حتي يملك الأرض

You are lying. If you bring me his brains in seventy bags and you establish seventy upright people as attesters to his assassination we will still have confidence that he has not passed away or been killed. And he will not die till he establishes dominion over the entire world.[4]

 

The Saba’iyyah continued to anticipate the re-emergence of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu from his hiding. Thereafter this doctrine spread from them to some of the sub-sects of the Kaysaniyyah like that of the Kurabiyyah[5]. When Muhammad ibn al Hanafiyyah passed away they claimed the following regarding him:

 

حي لم يمت و هو في جبل رضوي بين مكة والمدينة عن يمينه أسد و عن يساره نمر موكلان به يحفظانه إلي أوان خروجه و قيامه

He is alive and has not passed on. He is currently in the Radwa Mountain between Makkah and Madinah. On his right there is a lion and on his left there is a cheetah who are both appointed to safeguard him till the time of his re-emergence.[6]

 

They would also claim that he was the awaited Mahdi;[7] they would assert regarding him that he is gone into occultation for a period of seventy years in the mountain of Radwa and will appear thereafter and establish a kingdom for them, and kill the tyrants of the Banu Umayyah.[8] However, when seventy years passed and none of their hopes materialised some of their poets endeavoured to make this belief seem plausible to the followers and convince them to anticipate his return even if the ‘Mahdi’ was gone into hiding for the duration of the age of Nuh ‘alayh al Salam.[9]

From here onwards the doctrine of the Mahdi, his occultation, and his re-emergence became a salient belief of the other Shia denominations as well. Hence after the demise of each Imam of the Ahlul Bayt there would emerge a new sect from among his followers who would make this claim regarding him and anticipate his return. This is why we find that the Shia sects have differed tremendously as to the personality of the Imam who they terminate the line of Imamah on and whose return they anticipate. Hence al Sam’ani says:

 

ثم إنهم في انتظارهم الإمام الذي انتظروه مختلفون اختلافا يلوح عليه حمق بليغ

From the mammoth differences which the Shia have regarding the anticipation of the Imam who they await, their outright dim-wittedness is completely clear.[10]

 

To the extent that even a sub-sect of the Zaidiyyah, i.e. the Jarudiyyah, were influenced by the devious belief of awaiting the return of their Imam who passed away. The adherents of this sub-sect then differ regarding the actual person whom they await, as is asserted by al Ash’ari,[11] al Baghdadi,[12] al Shahrastani,[13] and others.[14] Therefore the claim of some like Ahmed Amin[15] and the suggestion of some like Goldzhier[16] that the Zaidiyyah refute this doctrine is not correct.

This is the backdrop of the doctrine of occultation according to the various sects of the Shia. It was a doctrine which they held regarding known members of the Ahlul Bayt who did actually exist in history and who lived their lives like all other people. But when they died the Shia made these claims regarding them because they were not willing to accept their death and claimed that they went into hiding and will return after some time.

As for this doctrine based on its Twelver conception, it is different in the sense that it is linked to a fictitious person who did not exist at all according to the Shia who lived and witnessed the era of its inception. According to them he is more like a figurative person who the people did not see and did not know, whose whereabouts they were not aware of due to him disappearing immediately after his birth. Even the birth itself was not witnessed by anyone and transpired in complete secrecy and inconspicuousness. In fact even the family of this person, its representatives, and the closest people thereof did not know of his conception and his birth. Therefore they all denied his existence. Added to that, the Shia did not come to know of his existence but by way of people who claimed to be his representatives and have contact with him.

This figurative personality is the personality of the Mahdi according to them, and believing in him is one of the cornerstones of their dogma and the fundamental doctrine of their faith. For after the demise of Hassan al ‘Askari, believing in the occultation of his alleged son became the basis of their beliefs and the foundation of their creedal assertions which keeps their doctrinal edifice from collapsing.

But how did this doctrine come about in the Twelver dogma? This will be investigated ahead.

 

The Inception of the Doctrine of Occultation according to the Twelvers and its Development

 

The Condition of the Shia after the demise of Hassan al ‘Askari

In order to discuss the inception of this doctrine it is first necessary to examine the condition of the Shia after the demise of Hassan al ‘Askari due to its very strong link with the inception thereof.

After the demise of Hassan (their eleventh Imam) in 260 A.H, he was not known to have left a successor or a son. Hence his inheritance was distributed and shared by his brother Jafar and his mother,[17] as is asserted by the books of the Shia themselves.

This caused major consternation in the Shia world and disunited them, because they were left without an Imam on whose existence their dogma is based; due to him being the evidence of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala upon the land according to them.[18] To the extent that not even the Qur’an is evidence unless it is coupled with the Imam, as has passed already, and upon him is based the existence of the world. For, as it appears in a narration, if the world is left without an Imam it will sink.[19] Furthermore, he is a source of security for the people. Hence if the Imam is taken from this world it will sway with its inhabitants just as the ocean sways with those who travel upon it.[20] However, the Imam dies without issue and the earth is deprived of an Imam but none of these catastrophes transpired. The Shia were thus gripped with confusion and they disputed greatly in the greatest and most crucial principle of their dogma, i.e. the appointment of an Imam. The Shia thus further diversified either into fourteen sects, as is asserted by al Nawbakhti,[21] or fifteen sects, as is asserted by al Qummi,[22] notwithstanding that both these scholars were Twelvers and were from amongst those who witnessed the divergence of the various sects due to them both being from the third century. Hence their input with regards to what had actually transpired after the demise of Hassan is invaluable.

Subsequent to their era, the difference increased. Hence al Mas’udi, a Shia who died in 346 A.H, mentions what reached him regarding the division which transpired after the demise of Hassan and states that the divergent sects had reached twenty.[23] You can well imagine what happened after his time.[24]

These sects all assumed different positions regarding Imamah, some said that:

 

إن الحسن بن علي حي لم يمت، و إنما غاب وهو القائم ، ولا يجوز أن يموت ولا ولد له ظاهر، لأن الأرض لا تخلو من إمام

Hassan ibn ‘Ali is alive, he did not pass away, he has just disappeared and he is the Mahdi. For it is not possible for him to pass away without leaving a known son, for the earth can never be void of an Imam.[25]

 

So this sect stopped at Hassan al ‘Askari and claimed that he is the Mahdi, as was the wont of the Shia after the demise of each individual whom they take as their Imam.

Yet another sect was inclined to his death but claimed that he came back to life after his death, however, due to being in occultation he will only re-emerge at a later stage.[26] Whilst we find another sect averring that Imamah had shifted from him to his brother Jafar[27] and still another sect opining that his Imamah was invalid due to him dying without issue.[28]

As for the Twelvers, they opined that Hassan al ‘Askari had a son whose birth and affairs he had kept a secret due to difficult times and the ruler of the time being in search of him. As a result, his son did not come to the fore during his lifetime nor did majority of the people come to know about him after his demise.[29]

Converse to all of these views was another view which suggested the following:

 

إن الحسن بن علي قد صحت وفاة آبائه بتواطيء الأخبار التي لا يجوز تكذيب مثلها، و كثرة المشاهدين لموته، وتواترذلك عن الوالي له والعدو،وهذا ما لا يجب الارتياب فيه، وصح بمثل هذه الأسباب أنه لا ولد له، فلما صح عندنا الوجهان ثبت أنه لا إمام بعد الحسن بن علي، وأن الإمامة انقطعت..كما جاز أن تنقطع النبوة بعد محمد فكذالك جائز أن تنقطع الإمامة، لأن الرسالة والنبوة أعظم خطرا و أجل

The demise of Hassan ibn ‘Ali and his forefathers is a confirmed fact which is established by way of incontrovertible reports, the testimony of hordes of people who have testified to their deaths and the unanimity of friends and foe in this regard. Hence there is no room for any doubt in this regard whatsoever. Likewise by way of similar evidences it is established that he did not have a son. When both these aspects are well established, it is obvious that there is no Imam to come after Hassan ibn ‘Ali and that Imamah has reached its end. Hence, just as Nubuwwah terminated after the demise of Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, so is it possible for Imamah to end. Because nubuwwah is higher in ranking, it is more indispensable for the creation than Imamah, the evidence of Allah through its medium is more complete and the excuses for disbelief much more minimal; also keeping in mind that with Nubuwwah came along clear-cut evidences and awe-inspiring personalities, but it still came to an end. Likewise it is possible for Imamah to come to an end.[30]

 

This is how their views differed and their standpoints diversified and they split into groups and sects, each sect happy with what it believed. The confusion at that time was so overwhelming that some actually chose neutrality:

 

نحن لا ندري ما نقول في ذلك وقد اشتبه علينا الأمر

We do not know what to say in this regard for the issue has become convoluted upon us.[31]

 

This was a broad outline of the differences that occurred after the demise of Hassan among the Shia.

 

Impetuses for believing in occultation

Perhaps the reader will be appalled at the adamancy of believing in the Imamah of a specific individual of the Ahlul Bayt to the extent of denying the death of the one who died, claiming his life after his demise, or imaginatively contriving a son for a person who had no children. Very few among them reverted to guidance after the obscurities crystallised after the demise of the Imam without issue, abandoned their fanaticism and ‘partisanship’, and became of the opinion that Imamah had reached its culmination and continued with life. Probably it was this batch of people who were really the sincere partisans of the Ahlul Bayt all along, but when the issue became clear and the obscurities were revealed they stepped back.

The most crucial reason for this adamancy becomes clear from the disputes of these sects in order that each sect supports its viewpoint and succeeds with the largest followership (for every sect would lay claim to a ‘Mahdi’ and would refute the claims of the others) and amidst all of this the reality leaks out so that we may come to know of it. For example, we come to know of what the Twelvers (who believe in the termination of Imamah upon the alleged son of Hassan al ‘Askari) say in exposing the reality of the claim of another sect which believed in the occultation and termination of Imamah upon Musa al Kazim. The Twelvers says:

 

مات أبو إبراهيم (موسي الكاظم) وليس من قوامه أحد إلا وعنده المال الكثير. وكان ذلك سبب وقفهم وجحدهم موته طمعا في الأموال. كان عند زياد بن مروان القندي سبعون ألف دينار وعند علي بن أبي حمزة ثلاثون ألف دينار.

The father of Ibrahim (Musa al Kazim) passed away and there was none among his representatives but that he possessed a huge sum of money. Hence the reason why they stopped at him and denied his death was due to their greed for wealth; Ziyad ibn Marwan al Qandi had seventy thousand Dirhams and ‘Ali ibn Abi Hamzah had thirty thousand Dirhams.[32]

 

There are many similar narrations which feature in their books in this regard which divulge the reality of the matter.[33] Hence the underlying reason for the claim of the occultation of the Imam and the anticipation of his return was the greed of wealth. There were always groups of people who benefitted tremendously from their deceiving claims of ‘partisanship for the Ahlul Bayt’ by entrapping the laity and amass their wealth with the pretence of being the representatives of the Imams. And when the Imam would pass away they would deny his death so that the money that they amassed would remain in their possession and so that they may continue to amass wealth with the pretence of Khums (one fifth) for the hidden Imam. In this way did the proceedings of usurpation and larceny come to being. Unfortunately it is the laity and the riffraff who are the victims, who give their wealth to those whom they assume are the representatives of the Imam in the Islamic countries, to people who have found this easy amassment of booty very plausible. Hence they continue to kindle in the hearts ‘love for the Ahlul Bayt’ and deep resentment for the ‘oppression’ that they suffered from by continuously talking about the tribulations of the Ahlul Bayt and claiming their rights. All of this with the intention of disuniting the Ummah and amassing wealth in order to nourish their clandestine movements and organisations which are working toward the destruction of the Muslim empire.

Another reason perhaps for believing in a ‘Mahdi’ and his occultation was the desire of the Shia to establish an independent political system different to that of the Islamic empire. This is what we can gather from the importance they lend to the doctrine of Imamah. But when their aspirations remained unfulfilled and they were overpowered, dominated, and debased they endeavoured to run away from reality and resort to dreams and false hopes, more of a psychological escape for themselves from frustration and for their followers from despondency. Hence they started to evoke hope in the hearts of their followers assuring them that the end result will be in their favour. Therefore, believing in a ‘Mahdi’ and his occultation provides enough of impetus for his false propagators to contend with the overwhelming causes of despondency and the loss of morale, the monetary benefits that come along notwithstanding.

Similarly, Shi’ism has always been the convenient abode for people of variant religions and denominations. For in it they find the suitable milieu wherein they can accomplish their goals and find basis for their devious beliefs. Hence different types of people, holding extreme views and beliefs, joined the caravan of Shi’ism. This amalgam of people then slowly drove the ‘Shia’ back to their devious inherited beliefs, especially after the Shia had separated themselves from the core beliefs of the Ummah and its unanimity.

Therefore, it can safely be said that the belief in the ‘Mahdi’ and his occultation, based on its Shia conception, has its roots in other religions and devious sects due to which it is not difficult to assert that the adherents of these religions played a pivotal role in entrenching this belief in the hearts and minds of the Shia.

Hence some of the Orientalists are of the opinion that this doctrine has its roots in Judaism, because the Jews believe that Elijah was raised to the heavens and he will return at the end of time. He is thus fit to be an exemplar for the Imams of the Shia who are in hiding.[34]

However, according to me this is insufficient to show Judaic origins, because in Islam ‘Isa ‘alayh al Salam was raised to the heavens and he will return at the end of time. So this ideology that they have presented is not foreign to the principles of Islam, but because the Orientalists do not believe in the idea of a Mahdi they have made this assertion. The Judaic influences on the Shia dogma, however, can be noted in many other ways, one being that the idea of occultation was founded by Ibn Saba’ who was a Jewish rabbi.

Likewise, one of the Shia poets has averred that the doctrine of the Mahdi is sourced from the narrations and tales of Ka’b al Ahbar who was a Jew prior to Islam. This is emphatically clear in the poem of Kathir ‘Izzah, a poet of the Kaysaniyyah, which he said regarding Ibn al Hanafiyyah:

 

هو المهدي خبرناه كعب أخو الأحبار في الحقب الخوالي

He is the Mahdi, of that Ka’b informed us, who was the friend of the Rabbis in the time that has passed.[35]

 

And Van Vloten says, “As for us, the people of the west, the doctrine of the awaited Mahdi has attracted the attention of especially the Orientalists amongst us.”[36]

He then goes on to establish a link between this doctrine and the Israelite narrations and eventually concludes that it is originally from Judaism and Christianity. He avers this because it falls under the realm of prophecies regarding certain individuals and specific events. And these types of prophecies are abundantly found in the books of the Israelites and were not commonly known among the Arabs initially, but it reached them through the medium of the Jews and the Christians who accepted Islam.[37]

It is obvious that this link that he creates between this doctrine and Judaism and Christianity merely because it falls under the realm of prophesising regarding aspects of the unseen, which was unknown to the Arabs as he alleges, is a very weak link. Simply because one of the miracles of the Arabian Hashimi prophet of Islam salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was foretelling some of the events of the unseen. However, these people try to resolve these issues based on their disbelieving mentality and their negative viewpoint regarding the prophethood of Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

My preference in this regard is that the Twelver doctrine of the Mahdi and his occultation originated from Zoroastrians because most of the Shia were from Persia and one of the prevalent religions of Persia back then was Zoroastrianism. And the Zoroastrians claim that they have an awaited leader who is alive and will be rightly guided, he is from the children of Bishtasif the son of Bahrasif and his is known as Abshawathan. He is in a very big fort which is somewhere between Khorasan and China.[38]

This is in accordance with the very core of the Twelver dogma.

 

The Founder of the Doctrine of Occultation According to the Twelvers:

If Ibn Saba’ was the founder of the doctrine of Nass, emphatic nomination, regarding ‘Ali, as is documented in the heresiography books of the Shia and the others, there was another Ibn Saba’ who contrived the substitute for the doctrine of Imamah after it had effectively ended with the termination of the posterity of Hassan al ‘Askari, or he was one among those who contrived this substitute, but surely a key role player in its invention. This person was known as ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id al ‘Amri.[39] He played his role very secretively, for he was a businessman who dealt in butter in order to keep the conspiracy a secret. He would collect the monies which were collected from the followers with the pretext of Khums and the right of the Ahlul Bayt and place them in bags and skins of butter exercising precaution and due to fear.[40] In his claims he alleged that Hassan had a son who went into hiding at the age of four[41] and that no one could meet him besides him due to him being the representative between him and the Shia; his duty was to collect their wealth, and take details of their queries and problems and present them to the Imam.

What is astonishing is that the Shia claim that they do not accept the edicts of anyone besides the infallible Imam, to the extent that they are willing to abandon the consensus of the Ummah if the infallible Imam is not part of it. But here in one of its most crucial beliefs it embraces the claims of a fallible individual, notwithstanding that they were other people also who made similar claims as him, each one claimed that he is the Bab (door) to the hidden Imam and the bickering that ensued because of that was outrageous. Each one of them would produce an endorsed letter which he claimed was the letter of the awaited hidden Imam which entailed the refutation of the other claimants and curses upon them. Al Tusi has made mention of their names under the chapter ‘mention of the impugned who claimed to be the Bab may Allah curse them’.[42]

And as the books of the Shia record, ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id had representatives in most of the Muslim metropolises who would claim the Imamah of this fictitious Mahdi and allege that ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id was the Bab to him. Ibn Babawayh al Qummi has listed these representatives, the most exhaustive list of them according to Muhammad Baqir al Sadr.[43] Besides these representatives there were others as well who were not approved of by ‘Uthman and his comrades, mention of seven of whom al Tusi has made under the title, ‘mention of the impugned among the representatives of the Imams’.[44]

The difference, according to them, between the Bab and the representative is that the Bab meets with the hidden Imam and the representative meets with the Bab and does not have any access to the Imam. He merely serves as a link between the Shia and the Bab.[45]

After the demise ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id, the first reliable Bab according to the Twelvers, his son Muhammad was appointed. However some people were not happy with his appointment owing to which disputes and mutual imprecation ensued.

Hence when one of the opponents who was known as Ahmed ibn Hilal al Karkhi was asked:

 

ألا تقبل أمر أبي جعفر محمد بن عثمان وترجع إليه وقد نص عليه الإمام المفترض الطاعة؟ فقال لهم: لم أسمعه ينص عليه بالوكالة ولست أنكر أباه-يعني عثمان بن سعيد- فأما أن أقطع أن أبا جعفر وكيل صاحب الزمان فلا أجسر عليه. فقالوا: قد سمعه غيرك فقال: أنتم وما سمعتم… فلعنوه وتبرؤوا منه

“Do you not accept the appointment of Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman and resort to him whereas he was emphatically appointed by the Imam whose obedience is mandatory.”[46]

He said, “I did not hear him emphatically appointing him to the station of representation. I do not deny the station of his father, but I will not take the courage of asserting that Abu Jafar is the representative[47] of the man of the time.”

They retorted, “But others besides you heard it.”

To which he responded by saying, “I leave you to what you heard…”

Hence they eventually cursed him and disowned him.[48]

 

Some of their documents reveal the reason for this dispute. Al Tusi, for example narrates from a person by the name Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Bilal who refused to accept the Bab status of Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman al ‘Amri because of which the famous dispute ensued between the two of them, as he alleges. The underlying reason was that the former hoarded the wealth that he had of the Imam and refused to hand it over and claimed that he was the representative till eventually the people disowned him and cursed him.[49]

So as you can see, he was ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id’s partner in the representation, but when ‘Uthman died he took the wealth for himself. These disputes and quarrels regarding being a Bab and being a representative were due to amassing wealth. For if there really was an absent Imam who was controlling the affairs of his followers through the intermediary of the Babs all this wealth would not have ended up in the possession of this cunning person, and he would not have been the confidant of the Imam, the man of the time, due to him having knowledge of the past and the future. Why did the Imam not issue a warning against this person from the very beginning in order not to allow him to collect the wealth of the people? The reality is that there was no Imam, rather there were groups of people who were falsely devouring the wealth of the people under the pretext of Shi’ism and Islam, and were quarrelling because of the wealth as well.

Thereafter, in the year 304 A.H/305 A.H Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id[50] died after having presided over the position of the Bab for approximately fifty years[51] wherein the people would bring their wealth to him and he would produce fully approved letters with the handwriting with which these letters would appear during the lifetime of Hassan. In these letters was contained the important affairs of din and this world and eerie answers to the questions people would come with.[52]

After him a person by the name Abu al Qasim Hussain ibn Rawh presided over this position. Towards the latter part of the life Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman, according to their narrations, he would carry out the responsibilities of the Bab due to being entrusted by him to collect the wealth of the followers. Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al Aswad says:

 

كنت أحمل الأموال التي تحصل في باب الوقف إلي أبي جعفر محمد بن عثمان العمري فيقبضها مني فحملت إليه شيئا من الأموال في آخر أيامه قبل موته بسنتين أو ثلاث. فأمر بتسليمه إلي أبي القاسم الروحي فكنت أطالبه بالقبوض. فشكا ذلك إلي أبي جعفر (محمد بن عثمان) فأمرني ألا أطالبه بالقبوض وقال: كل ما وصل إلي أبي القاسم فقد وصل إلي. فكنت أحمل بعد ذلك الأموال إليه ولا أطالبه بالقبوض.

I would take the monies which would accumulate at Bab al Waqf to Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman al ‘Amri and he would collect them from me. At one occasion I took some monies to him toward the end of his life, about two to three years before his demise, and he told me to hand them over to Abu al Qasim al Rawhi. At times I would ask him to give me receipts, of which he complained to Abu Jafar (Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman) who told me not to ask him for any receipts and said, “Anything that reaches Abu al Qasim reaches me.” Hence I would take those monies to him and I would not ask him for receipts.[53]

 

And when one of them hesitated in submitting his wealth to Abu al Qasim ibn Rawh, Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman al ‘Amri became angry with him and the following ensued:

لم لم تمتثل ما قلته لك

Why did you not comply with what I told you?

 

The man fearing that he would produce and endorsed letter with an order to curse him and disown him, tried to pacify him and speak to him leniently saying:

لم أجسر علي ما رسمته لي

I did not have the courage to do what you prescribed for me.

 

However he answered him angrily saying:

 

قم كما أقول لك. فلم يكن عند غير المبادرة. فصرت إلي أبي القاسم بن روح وهو في دار ضيقة فعرفته ما جري فسر به وشكر الله عزوجل ودفعت إليه الدنانير وما زلت أحمل إليه ما يحصل في يدي بعد ذلك من الدنانير

“Go and do as I tell you to do.”

The man says:

I had no other option but to comply immediately. Hence I went to Abu al Qasim ibn Rawh who was at that time seated in a very small house and told him what had happened. He was delighted and thanked Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. I gave him the Dinars and thereafter continuously submitted all the Dinars that came into my possession.[54]

 

You can see the sanctity, infallibility, and the compulsory compliance that the Shia accord to their symbols and signs, so much that a person who does not comply is cursed and disowned.

Likewise, you will have noticed that the prevalent language in the endorsed letters which they attribute to the Mahdi, and which were conveyed via the communication of the Babs and the representatives, was that of money.

The reason why Abu al Qasim was chosen is that he preserved the secret of the whereabouts of the Mahdi very well. This was because the election of a Bab materialised at the hands of the Shia offices after having fulfilled specific requirements. The most important of which was probably being able to keep the secret and not let it come to the fore. This is understood from a narration which al Tusi cites in his al Ghaybah, it reads as follows:

 

إن سهلا النوبختي سئل فقيل له: كيف صار هذا الأمر إلي الشيخ أبي القاسم الحسين بن روح دونك؟ فقال: هم أعلم وما اختاروه, ولكن أنا رجل ألفي الخصوم وأناظرهم ولو علمت بمكانه كما علم أبو القاسم وضغطتني الحجة علي مكانه لعلي كنت أدل علي مكانه. وأبو القاسم فلو كانت الحجة تحت ذيله وقرض بالمقاريض ما كشف الذيل عنه.

Sahl al Nawbakhti was asked, “How did Abu al Qasim ibn Rawh become the incumbent of this position and not you?”

He said, “They know better whom they have chosen.[55] I am, however, a person who meets with the opponents and debates with them. And if I knew the exact place of the Mahdi just as Abu al Qasim knows and if in a debate I would be pressurised to furnish evidence regarding his whereabouts I would direct the people to his place. As for Abu al Qasim, even if the Hujjah (the Mahdi) was right beneath his garb he would not expose him even though he be cut into pieces with scissors.[56]

 

Despite all of this, the election of Abu al Qasim ibn Rawh gave rise to much controversy among the secretive movements of the Shia. As a result, many of their leaders defected and claimed to be the Babs for themselves subsequent to which mutual imprecation ensued.

Some among them eventually gave away the secret of what the reality of being a Bab actually was due to not succeeding with a very good followership. Among them was Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al Shalmaghani who was killed in 323 A.H,[57] he was one of those who claimed to be the vicegerent of the Mahdi of the Shia and vied with Abu al Hassan in that regard. He exposes them by saying:

 

ما دخلنا مع أبي القاسم الروح إلا ونحن نعلم فيما دخلنا فيه. لقد كنا نتهارش علي هذا الأمر كما تهارش الكلاب علي الجيف

We did not enter this affair with Abu al Qasim but after fully knowing what we were getting ourselves into. We would quarrel over this matter just as dogs quarrel over carrion.[58]

 

Commenting on this narration Ahmed al Kisrawi al Irani (a Shia formally) says:

 

لقد صدق فيما قال فإن التخاصم لم يكن إلا لأجل الأموال. كان الرجل يجمع المال ويطمع فيه فيدعي البابية لكيلا يسلمه لآخر

He has uttered the truth in what he has said, for their dispute was really only over money. A person would gather wealth and would have greed for it due to which he would claim being the Bab so that he would not have to hand it over to someone else.[59]

 

Moving on, Ibn Rawh died in the year 326 A.H, and the station of the Bab, due to his bequest, moved on to a fourth person who goes by the name Abu al Hassan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al Samarri.[60] He had assumed the position after seventy years had already lapsed since the occultation of the Mahdi and the anticipation of the Shia had been of no avail thus far, despite their eagerness for his emergence.

The promises of the Shia regarding the emergence of the Mahdi did not materialise due to which doubt started to engulf the Shia circles and reality gradually began coming to the fore after a very virulent dispute ensued between the Bab claimants. Hence the vibrancy of the last Bab came to a complete stop, which is why you will not find any endorsed letters, which they attributed to the Mahdi, attributed to his time as you would find them attributed to his predecessors before him. One of the Shia scholars has acknowledged this, even though by evadingly averring that it was due to the immense pressure that was on the Shia at that time.[61]

Al Samarri presided over this artificial position for three years[62] and probably he was gripped by compunction and realised the trivialness of his post as the vicegerent of the hidden Imam.[63] Hence when he was asked upon his death bed as to who would be his successor after him he said:

 

لله أمر هو بالغه

Allah has a plan in place which he is to complete.[64]

 

In this manner did the claims of direct communication with the Imam end. Because the false letters and documents came to the fore due to there being intense competition around them.

As a result, the idea of occultation reached a dead end due to the idea of the Bab not being successful. But the scholars of the Shia, nevertheless, produced an endorsed letter ascribing it to the Mahdi via the medium of al Samarri stating that direct contact with the Imam has reached its end and it will now be replaced with general representation which will be for the scholars of the Shia in general, as will come ahead.

Hence after this change, the idea of the occultation of the Mahdi was rescued, the disputes around the position of the Bab were diffused, the wealth was distributed among all involved equally and the idea of general representation was established which we will discuss in depth after having dealt with the doctrine of the Mahdi.

These four Babs: ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id, Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman, Ibn Rawh, and al Samarri are the founding fathers of the doctrine of the Mahdi and his occultation. Or in other words, they played a pivotal role in contriving the doctrine of the Mahdi based on its Shia conception. The period wherein they presided over the artificial position of the Bab is known as al Ghaybah al Sughra, the minor occultation which remained for a period of seventy years or more.[65]

Ahead we will have a look at the doctrine of the Mahdi and his occultation as it appears in the books of the Twelvers and we will delve into some of its discussion because today it has become the cornerstone of the Shia dogma.

 

A Broad Overview of the Story of the Mahdi According to the Twelvers

The story of the Mahdi which appears in the books of the Shia is indeed a very strange one. The threads thereof are weaved by imagination which reaches its wildest limits in sketching the related events. The story has thus transformed into one of the greatest fictitious stories for which there is no room of acceptance according to reason or sound human disposition. No wonder it was rejected by majority of the Shia sects which witnessed its inception.[66] Hereunder I shall present a broad overview of the incident, starting from Hassan choosing the mother of the Mahdi, to his birth, his occultation, his return, and finally his personal conduct.

As for the meeting of Hassan with the mother of the Mahdi, the books of the Shia have sketched its events in a manner that resembles the love tale of a thousand nights. For the choosing of Hassan of the concubine, to who they attribute the son, materialised, based on the Shia reports, by way of having access to the knowledge of the unseen. The details go as follows:

Hassan sends his slave to the bazaar where concubines are being sold, he gives him the details of the required concubine, her clothing, the conversation she will strike when purchasing her, and what will happen when bidding for her. He sends with him a letter in the Roman language, of which he informs him that when she will see it she will cry profusely and rub her body with it. Then when the slave goes and is astonished at all the happenings, she discloses her identity and tells him that she is Malikah, the daughter of Yusha’ ibn Qaisar—the king of Rome. She goes on to tell him her entire life story and of the difficulties that she had to encounter before her marriage and the proposal to it. She tells him that in a dream she saw that Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came to propose for her to ‘Isa ‘alayh al Salam and said to him, “O the mercy of Allah! I have come to you to propose for the daughter of your apostle Sham’un, Malikah, for this son of mine,” indicating with his hands toward the father of Muhammad (i.e. Hassan al ‘Askari). She continues to see such visions till one day the mother of Hassan al ‘Askari visits her and with her comes along Maryam, the daughter of ‘Imran, and a thousand maidens from the maidens of Jannat. Maryam says to her, “This is the queen of the women of Jannat, the mother of your husband Abu Muhammad ‘alayh al Salam.” The mother of the Mahdi thus clings to her crying and complaining of the resistance of Hassan al ‘Askari from visiting her. And the mother of Hassan tells her, “My son, Muhammad, cannot visit you whilst you ascribe partners to Allah.”[67] The story continues till eventually she accepts Islam due to the effects of these dreams and thus subsequently Hassan al ‘Askari starts to visit her in her dreams. She then goes on to tell the slave of how she was imprisoned by the Muslims, why she had chosen the name Narjis in order to conceal her identity and how she had exhorted her master not to sell her to anyone besides the one whom she is pleased with (the person who came with a full description of who she was regarding whom she was informed in her dreams). She then meets with Hassan and does not experience any strangeness when meeting him due to previously knowing him and communicating with him in her dreams. He subsequently gives her the glad tidings of a child who will in the future rule the world from the east to the west and who will fill the land with justice and fairness.[68]

As for her conception with the Mahdi, it is even more astonishing and weird. This is due to the fact that there were no signs of pregnancy whatsoever despite Hakimah bint Muhammad,[69] as they allege, trying to confirm her pregnancy; She jumps toward her, as their narrations allege, and turned her from front to back but could not discern any signs of pregnancy. She returns to Hassan and informs him, but he assures her that conception has taken place and tells her, “When Fajr time comes the child will be born.”[70] What is even more astonishing is that the mother of the child herself did not know of her conception till the night of delivery, to the extent that she said to Hakimah, “O my mistress! I do not see any signs of this in me.”[71]

Apparently, denying any signs of pregnancy upon her was a ploy or an endeavour to avoid a fact confirmed even according to the Shia regarding Jafar (the brother of Hassan al ‘Askari) confining all the wives and concubines of Hassan (after his demise) in order to ascertain whether their wombs were occupied or not. Consequently, it became evident to the judge and the ruler that their wombs were empty which led to the distribution of the inheritance of Hassan.[72]

Astonishingly, the very narration which denies the signs of pregnancy being visible even to the mother of the child contradicts itself and towards the end states that the child was speaking in the womb of his mother. Hakimah says:

 

فأجابني الجنين من بطنها يقرأ مثل ما أقرأ سلم علي

The child responded to me from her womb by reading whatever I was reading and greeting me.[73]

 

Likewise, al Tusi narrates from Hakimah herself that when Hassan called her to his house to oversee the birth of the Mahdi from his concubine she said:

جعلت فداك يا سيدي الخلف ممن هو؟ قال: من سوسن- تقول- فأدرت نظري فيهن فلم أر جارية عليها أثر غير سوسن…

“May I be sacrificed for you, O my master! Your deputy, from who is he?”

He said, “From Sawsan.”

She further says, “I had a brief look at all the concubines and I found that none had any signs of pregnancy besides Sawsan.”[74]

 

So according to this narration she could easily discern the signs of pregnancy, but in the narration of Ibn Babawayh she tilted her from front to back but still could not see any signs. Likewise in this narration her name is Sawsan whereas in the previous narration her name was Narjis. And in other narrations she is recorded with other names.[75] Each one adds his own details to the narration and the books of the Twelvers encompass all the various narrations.

Nonetheless, when he was born the following ensued:

 

سقط… من بطن أمه جاثيا علي ركبتيه رافعا سبابتيه إلي السماء ثم عطس فقال: الحمد لله رب العالمين وصلي الله علي محمد وآله. زعمت الظلمة أن حجة الله داحضة لو إذن لنا في الكلام لزال الشك

He fell from the belly of his mother straight on his knees, raising both his index fingers to the heaven. He then sneezed and said, “All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the universes, may his peace be upon Muhammad and his household. The oppressors claim that the evidence of Allah has been defeated, if we were given the permission to speak all doubts would have vanished.”[76]

 

In another narration it appears that he fell into prostration before Allah reciting the Tashahhud and praying thus:

 

اللهم أنجز لي ما وعدتني

O Allah fulfil the promise you have made to me.[77]

 

He is then taken to the heavens with the conveyance of green birds, and when his mother Narjis cries out of fear over him Hassan placates her by saying:

سيعاد إليك كما رد موسي إلي أمه

He will be returned to you just as Musa was returned to his mother.[78]

 

As for his development, it was completely against the principles of Allah in his creation, it violated all the rules of nature through which every living organism grows and reaches it culmination. This is easily understood from the narration narrated by Hakimah in this regard, she says:

 

لما كان بعد أربعين يوما دخلت علي أبي محمد عليه السلام فإذا مولانا الصاحب يمشي في الدار فلم أر وجها أحسن من وجهه ولا لغة أفصح من لغته. فقال أبو محمد عليه السلام: هذا المولود الكريم علي الله عزوجل. فقلت: سيدي أري من أمره ما أري وله أربعين يوما. فتبسم وقال: يا عمتي أما علمت أنا معاشر الأئمة ننشأ في اليوم ما ينشأ غيرنا في السنة

When forty days had passed since his birth I went to visit Abu Muhammad and behold! I saw our master walking around the house. I did not see a face more beautiful than his, nor did I hear language more eloquent than his.

Abu Muhammad told me, “This child is very dear to Allah.”

I thus asked him, “O my master! I am seeing what I see of him and he is only forty days old.”

He smiled and said, “O my aunt. Don’t you know that we the Imams grow as much in a day as others besides us grow in a year?”[79]

 

And the narration of al Qummi mentions:

 

إن الصبي منا إذا كان أتي عليه شهر كان كمن أتي عليه سنة. وإن الصبي منا يتكلم في بطن أمه ويقرأ القرآن ويعبد ربه عزوجل عند الرضاع. تطيعه الملائكة وتنزل إليه صباحا ومساء

A child from amongst us is such that when a month passes upon him he, in his development, is like the one who a year passes upon. A child from amongst us speaks in the womb of his mother, reads the Qur’an, worships Allah in his infancy, and the angels obey him[80] and descend upon him morning and evening.[81]

 

Surprising indeed! This child who came with a host of all these extraordinary phenomena is not known to anyone nor is there any trace of his whereabouts. What then was the benefit of all these miracles?

Shortly thereafter he disappeared and no one knew of his affair and his occultation besides Hakimah who, as the narration allegedly claims, said that Hassan ordered her not to divulge the matter of this child until she sees the dispute of his followers after his demise. He is reported to have ordered thusly:

 

فإذا غيب الله شخصي وتوفاني ورأيت شيعتي قد اختلفوا فأخبري الثقات منهم فأن ولي الله يغيبه الله عن خلقه ويحجبه عن عباده فلا يراه أحد حتي يقدم له جبرئيل عليه السلام فرسه ليقضي الله أمرا كان مفعولا

When Allah makes my body disappear and gives me death and you see my followers quarrelling, then tell the reliable among them (regarding the Mahdi). For verily Allah makes his friend disappear from his creation and obstructs them from him so that no one is able to see him till Jibril ‘alayh al Salam will present his horse to him so that Allah may fulfil a matter which is bound to happen.[82]

 

Hence the issue of the Mahdi and his occultation leaked out to the Shia through the medium of Hakimah, as the narration of al Tusi suggests. I do not know how the Shia so readily accept the narration of a lone fallible woman regarding the very core belief of their faith, whereas they are at times willing to part with the unanimity of the Ummah if an infallible Imam is not part of it, even though it be pertaining to a secondary issue.

You will have noticed that the Imam ordered that the matter of the Mahdi be kept a secret but from his reliable partisans, whereas according to them a person who does not know the Imam is equal to a person who knows and worships gods other than Allah,[83] and a person who dies in this condition dies a death of disbelief and hypocrisy.[84]

As to the time of his disappearance, the narrations of the Shia are contradictory in this regard. So al Tusi narrates the following from Hakimah:

 

فلما كان بعد ثلاث (من مولده) اشتقت إلي ولي الله فصرت إليهم فبدأت بالحجرة التي كانت سوسن فيها. فلم أر أثرا ولاسمعت ذكرا فكرهت أن أسأل فدخلت علي أبي محمد عليه السلام فاستحييت أن أبدأ بالسؤال فبدأني فقال: هو يا عمة في كنف الله وحرزه وستره غيبه حتي يأذن الله له

After three had passed upon his birth, I was desirous of seeing the friend of Allah, so I went to them. I started with the room in which Sawsan was and saw no sign and heard no mention. I disliked querying and thus went to Abu Muhammad and there also I felt ashamed of initiating the probing. But he spoke first and said, “O aunt, in the mercy of Allah, His protection, His concealment, and His knowledge till when He grants him permission.”[85]

 

A second narration mentions that she did not see him after seven days,[86] whilst a third narration mentions that she saw him walking in the house after forty days and did not see him subsequent to that.[87] And yet another narration mentions that Hakimah would frequently go to the house Hassan al ‘Askari, she would visit after every forty days. A few days before his demise (when the age of the Mahdi was five at most)[88] she went to their house as was her wont. She says:

 

رأيته رجلا فلم أعرفه فقلت لابن أخي عليه السلام من هذا الذي تأمرني أن أجلس بين يديه؟ فقال لي: هذا ابن نرجس هذا خليفتي من بعدي وعن قليل تفقدوني فاسمعي له وأطيعي

I saw a person whom I did not recognise. So I said to my nephew, “Who is this person who you are ordering me to sit in front of?”

He said, “This is the son of Narjis, this is my successor. Soon you will miss me so listen and obey.”[89]

 

In this manner did the Mahdi disappear and no one knew of his matter besides Hakimah who only dispensed the information of his occultation to the reliable Shia as their narrations suggest.

As to the place of his occultation, it was kept a secret, and when the Shia eventually got to know of his alleged occultation they tried to search for his place. The Bab, however, who claimed to have a link with him refused to divulge any information about him and sufficed on producing an endorsed letter attributing it to the Mahdi which stated:

 

إن عرفوا المكان دلوا عليه

If they know of the place they will inform others of it.[90]

 

So this narration states that he was in a specific place and in a hiding spot of which no one was aware besides the Bab and that the reason for concealing his occultation from his Shia was his fear of them informing others of his whereabouts.

But surprisingly some narrations of al Kafi inform us of the town wherein he sought to hide. A narration for example mentions:

 

لا بد لصاحب هذا الأمر من غيبة. ولا بد له في غيبته من عزلة ونعم المنزل طيبة

It is incumbent for the person of this affair to go into occultation. And in his occultation it is necessary for him to be in seclusion. And what a wonderful place is Taybah.[91]

 

So this narrations states that he is hiding in Madinah Munawwarah, for Taybah is one of its names.[92] This is supported by another narration wherein Hassan al ‘Askari was asked the following:

 

إن حدث بك حدث فأين أسأل عنه؟ قال: بالمدينة

“If anything happens to you then where should I ask about him?”

He said, “In Madinah.”[93]

 

On the hand al Tusi in his al Ghaybah narrates that he is residing in the Radwa Mountain. He says in his narration:

 

عن عبد الأعلي مولي آل سام: قال خرجت مع أبي عبد الله عليه السلام فلما نزلنا الروحاء نظر إلي جلها مطلا عليها فقال لي: تري هذا الجبل يدعي رضوي من جبال فارس أحبنا فنقله الله إلينا. أما إن فيه كل شجرة مطعم ونعم أمان للخائف مرتين: إما إن لصاحب هذا الأمر فيه غيبتين: واحدة قصيرة الأخري طويلة

‘Abd al A’la, the ally of the people of Sam says, “I went with Abu ‘Abdullah ‘alayh al Salam. When we halted at al Rawha’[94] he gazed at its mountain and said to me, ‘Do you see this mountain? This mountain is known as Radwa[95] from the mountains of Persia. Due to its love for us Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala moved it near us. Behold on it is every nourishing tree and what a pleasant abode of amnesty it will be for the fearful at two occasions. The Man of the time will hide in it at two instances, the first will be short and the next will be long.’”[96]

 

Whilst some other narrations suggest that he is hiding in the valleys of Makkah. Hence in Tafsir al ‘Ayyashi the following narration is narrated from Abu Jafar:

يكون لصاحب هذا الأمر غيبة في بعض هذه الشعاب-ثم أومأ بيده إلي ناحية ذي طوي

“The man of this affair will disappear in some of these valleys,” he then pointed with his hand toward Dhi Tawa.[97][98]

 

However, it should be noted that their narrations regarding invocations and visitations of the tombs of the Imams suggest that he is residing in the basement of Samarra’,[99] this is understood from the following:

 

ثم اءت سرداب الغيبة وقف بين البابين ماسكا جانب الباب بيدك ثم تنحنح كالمستأذن وسم وانزل وعليك السكينة والوقار. وصل ركعتين في عرضة السرداب وقل… اللهم طال الانتظار وشمت بنا الفجار وصعب علينا الانتصار. اللهم أرنا وجه وليك الميمون في حياتنا وبعد المنون. اللهم إني أدين لك بالرجعة بين يدي صاحب هذه البقعة. الغوث الغوث الغوث يا صاحب الزمان. قطعت في وصلتك الخلاف وهجرت لزيارتك الأوطان وأخفيت أمري عن أهل البلدان لتكون شفيعا عند ربك وربي

Then go to the basement of occultation and stand between the two doors, holding the sides of the doors with your hands, then cough as if seeking permission, take the name of Allah, and sit with utmost tranquillity and sobriety. Thereafter read two raka’at towards the breadth of the basement and supplicate thus, “O Allah, the anticipation has become lengthy, the enemies are rejoicing at our misfortune, and combatting them has become difficult upon us. O Allah, show us the countenance of your blessed friend, during our lifetime and after our demise. O Allah, I acknowledge his return for you in front of the man of this land. Help! Help! Help! O the man of the time. In wanting to visit you I have ended all disputes, I have left my homelands and I have concealed my matter from the people of the cities so that you may intercede for me before your Lord and mine… O my master, O the son of Hassan ibn ‘Ali; I have come to you to visit you.”[100]

 

Some narrations even suggest that with him in his occultation are thirty of his friends who are there to give him company in his solitude:

 

وما بثلاثين من وحشة

There is no solitude in the presence of thirty.[101]

 

Specifically allocating prayers, communication, and seeking permission when visiting the basement smacks of what the fabricators of these narration wanted to give their followers the impression of his existence therein. Hence Ibn Khallikan says:

 

والشيعة ينتظرون خروجه في آخر الزمان من السرداب بسر من رأي

The Shia anticipate his emergence at the end of time from the basement of Surr man Ra’a.[102]

 

Likewise Ibn Athir has mentioned that they believe that their Mahdi is hiding in the basement of Samarra’.[103]

Despite the glaring evidence in this regard a contemporary Shia still claims that which is opposed to what is fact according to them. He says:

 

لم يرد خبر ولا وجد في كتاب من كتب الشيعة أن المهدي غاب في السرداب… ولا أنه عند ظهوره يخرج منه بل يكون خروجه بمكة ويبايع بين الركن والمقام

No report has reached us nor is it mentioned in any of the books of the Shia that the Mahdi disappeared in the basement nor that he will emerge therefrom. Rather he will remerge in Makkah and he will accept the allegiance of people between the Rukn (the pillar holding the black stone) and the Maqam (the stone holding the imprints of the feet of Ibrahim ‘alayh al Salam).[104]

 

But, as we have seen, the practice of the Shia is in complete contrast with this and is in harmony with what appears in their books of Ziyarat (visitation). For the Shia, as asserted by Amir ‘Ali, would till the end of the fourteenth century of the common era, wherein Ibn Khaldun compiled his magnanimous history, convene every night after the Maghrib Salah at the door of the basement of Samarra’ and would call out his name and induce him to make his appearance till the stars would become clearly visible, they would then return to their homes after a very long wait feeling crestfallen and despondent.[105]

This wait was a reason for the Shia being ridiculed by the mockers:

 
كلمتموه بجهلكم ما آنا ما آن للسرداب أن يلد الذي
ثلثتم العنقاء والغيلانا فعلي عقولكم العفاء فإنكم

The time has not come for the basement to produce the one you talk to out of your ignorance. Indeed it has not come.

Your minds have become rusty for surely you have provided a third for legendary birds and ghosts.[106]

 

Ibn Qayyim mentions:

ولقد أصبح هؤلاء عارا علي بني آدم وضحكة يسخر منهم كل عاقل

These people have become an indictment to humanity and a laughingstock for every intellectually sound person.[107]

 

It is for this reason that their prayers also smack of the fact that they have become victims of ridicule and disdain. Hence whilst addressing the awaited Mahdi each of them is required to say, “The anticipation has become long and the imposters have rejoiced at our condition.”[108]

Some of their supplications suggest the confusion which has engulfed them regarding the hiding spot of the Mahdi. Hence they call him saying:

 

ليت شعري أين استقرت بك النوي، بل أي أرض تقلك أو ثري، أبرضوي أم غيرها أم ذي طوي

If I only I knew where distance has settled you, or which ground is holding you or which under land. Is it Radwa or another place, or is it Dhi Tawa?[109]

 

Having said this, some of their narrations posit that the Mahdi is not in a steady place, rather he lives between the people, and he is present at the occasion of Hajj and sees the people but they cannot see him.[110]

This is how disparate their narrations are in stipulating his whereabouts; every group goes its own way based on the various Shia families or based on different conditions and times, or of course till forging and misrepresenting continues.

It is no surprise that they have differed, because after all the Mahdi does not exist in the real world.

Furthermore, if his hiding spot was a matter that had to be concealed, his name was also concealed from his Shia. From the endorsed letters of the Mahdi which the Bab conveyed to the people one read as follows:

 

لو دللتم علي الإسم لأذاعوه

If you inform them of the name they will popularise it.[111]

 

This narrations states that his name was unknown just as his place of residence and his birth and upbringing were unknown. In the Shia narrations, however, his name appears as Muhammad, but together with that the narrations prohibit calling him by his name. Hence in one narration the following appears:

ولا يحل لكم ذكره باسمه

It is not permissible for you to make mention of him by his name.[112]

 

Rather these narrations have dubbed a person who calls the Mahdi by his name a disbeliever. Hence a narration mentions:

 

صاحب هذا الأمر لا يسميه باسمه إلا كافر

The man of this matter, no one besides a disbeliever will call him by his name.[113]

 

Therefore you will find that when his name appears in their narrations they write each letter of his name separately as م ح م د .[114] And when they asked Hassan al ‘Askari as to how to mention him he said:

 

قولوا الحجة من آل محمد صلوات الله عليه وسلامه

Say the evidence from the family of Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.[115]

 

In the ancient Shia circles he was not known but with allusive names which were not known to anyone besides them, like Gharim (responsible) for example. This is how al Mufid comments on this name by saying:

 

هذا رمز كانت الشيعة تعرفه قديما بينها ويكون خطابها عليه السلام- كذا- للتقية

This was an allusive name which the Shia in the bygone era knew among themselves. The addressee of this name was the Mahdi ‘alayh al Salam for reasons of Taqiyyah.[116]

 

There were many allusive names which they gave to the Mahdi. To mention a few:

 

القائم، الخلف، السيد، الناحية المقدسة، الصاحب، صاحب الزمان، صاحب العصر، صاحب الأمر وغيرها

The upholder, the successor, the master, the sacred pillar, the person, the man of the time, the man of the era, and the man of the matter, etc.[117]

 

A conspiracy of this magnitude suggests that there was a clandestine movement secretively operating in the Muslim world. The adherents whereof would choose to speak allusive language and communicate by way of hints in order to understand each other. Whilst at the same time it was an effort to conceal the falsehood and keep the reality hidden. Furthermore, it defies their claim that their Mahdi is mentioned by name and description.[118]

As to the period of his occultation, the inventors of this doctrine would give their followers false hopes of his emergence in the near future. So much so that they promised their followers that his occultation will not last for more than six years at worst. A narration of al Kafi which is allegedly reported from ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu states the following:

 

تكون له غيبة وحيرة يضل فيها أقوام ويهتدي فيها أخرون

There will be an occultation for him and a confusion. Many people will go astray during this time whilst many others will attain guidance.[119]

 

And when he was asked as to how long the occultation and the confusion would last he said:

 

ستة أيام، أو ستة أشهر، أو ست سنين

Six days, six months, or six years.[120]

 

It seems as if this narration was invented in the wake of the inception of the doctrine of occultation in order to placate the uneasy hearts and console the confused people who came to realise the truth when the Imam passed away without issue and when the deceit came to the fore, the reality becoming crystal clear. Hence they associated the doctrine of occultation with this report so that it may be plausible to accept and digest, and so that they may secure immediate wealth under the pretext of the Ahlul Bayt which was to be ‘handed to the Mahdi’ as soon as he makes his appearance.

In the doctrines of Bada’ and Taqiyyah there is enough room for interpretation and retraction of verdicts in the future. Hence this is what occurred to the later scholars of the Shia regarding this narration. For one of them avers:

 

يحتمل أن يكون المراد أن الغيبة والحيرة في ذلك القدر من الزمان أمر محتوم ويجري فيهما البداء بعد ذلك

Possibly what he meant was that the occultation and confusion during that period were bound to happen and thereafter Bada’ can probably happen (i.e. it can occur to Allah otherwise and he can prolong the period).[121]

 

And others have tried to evade the issue with responses other than this,[122] but no one dared question the validity of the doctrine of occultation itself.

Likewise some of their narrations suggest that the emergence will happen within seventy years from the occultation. Thereafter it was altered and changed to a hundred and forty years and then to an unknown period.[123] And they attributed to the Imams that they could figure out the time of the emergence of the Mahdi from the Huruf Muqatta’at (disjoined letters) which appear in the beginning of the Surahs.[124]

What one gathers from their narrations is that the allusive language which kept Shi’ism going would give its adherents hope of the salvation and emergence of the hidden Mahdi in the near future, so much so that some of the Shia would expect his emergence either now or then, i.e. at any time. Hence some of their narrations mention that among them some left business transactions and work out of eagerness for the emergence of the Mahdi and eventually they complained of their condition thus:

 

لقد تركنا أسواقنا انتظارا لهذا الأمر حتي ليوشك الرجل منا أن يسأل في يده

We left our markets in anticipation for this matter, to the extent that a person from among us can be asked regarding what remains in his possession.[125]

 

But as was mentioned previously, the underlying reason for all these types of promises was to keep their game going and to remove the suspicion of their followers and scepticism. This had always been their style, i.e. they sicken the Shia with false hopes and confuse them with false promises. They have conceded this in their reports:

 

إن الشيعة تربي بالأماني منذ مائتي سنة. و سبب ذلك أنه لو قيل لهم أن هذا الأمر لا يكون إلي مائتي سنة أو ثلاثمائة سنة لقست القلوب ولرجعت عامة الناس عن الإسلام (يعني مذهبهم). ولكن قالوا ما أسرعه وما أقربه تألفا لقلوب الناس وتقريبا للفرج

The Shia are growing based on false hopes since the last two centuries.[126] And the reason for this that if they are told that this matter is not going to materialise for the next two to three hundred years, the hearts of the people would become hard and they would denounce Islam (i.e. the Shia conception of Islam). Instead they chose to tell them, “Very soon indeed,” or “How near is his time,” in order to win the hearts of the people and make the opening seem impending.[127]

 

Furthermore, the narrations which were invented to deal with the obvious predicament of specifying the timeframe of the occultation differ tremendously as well. Sometimes they demand submission and state:

 

إذا حدثناكم بحديث فجاء علي خلاف ما حدثناكم به فقولوا: صدق الله. و إذا حدثناكم بحديث فجاء علي خلاف ما حدثناكم به فقولوا: صدق الله. توجروا مرتين

When we communicate a tradition to you and the reality happens to materialise differently from what we told you, say, “Allah has spoken the truth.” And when we communicate a tradition to you and the reality happens to materialise differently from what we told you, say, “Allah has spoken the truth.” Your reward will be two fold.[128]

 

Sometimes the blame for their promises about the Mahdi failing to come to pass is put squarely upon the Shia, for having divulged his secret. For example, one of them says:

ما لهذا الأمر أمد ينتهي إليه ويريح أبداننا. قال بلي: ولكنكم أذعتم فأخره الله

“Is there no time limit for this matter at which it will end and cause us comfort?”

The Imam said, “Definitely! But Allah prolonged the period because you divulged the secret.”[129]

 

Other narrations state:

 

إن الله تبارك وتعالي قد كان وقت هذا الأمر… إلي أربعين ومائة. فحدثناكم فأذعتم الحديث فكشفتم قناع الستر ولم يجعل الله له بعد ذلك وقتا عندنا

Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had stipulated a time for this matter, a hundred and forty. but when we communicated that to you, you spread the information and divulged the secret subsequent to which Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala did not stipulate any time for him.[130]

 

Sometimes they attribute it to the martyrdom of Hussain. Abu ‘Abdullah[131] is reported to have said:

 

إن الله تبارك وتعالي قد كان وقت هذا الأمر في السبعين فلما أن قتل الحسين صلوات الله عليه اشتد غضب الله تعالي علي أهل الأرض فأخره

Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had stipulated a time for this matter within seventy years,[132] however, when Hussain ‘alayh al Salam was martyred Allah’s subhanahu wa ta ‘ala anger intensified upon the people of the earth so he prolonged it.[133]

 

And they incooperate all of this in the doctrine of Bada’. That is why al Mazindarani says:

 

توقيت ظهور هذا الأمر… توقيت بدائي فلذلك جري فيه البداء

The time stipulation of this matter is one related to Bada’ and hence Bada’ happened therein.[134]

 

And, lastly, at times they disregard the narrations of the time limitations completely. Some narrations state:

 

كذب الوقاتون، وهلك المستعجلون ونجا المسلمون

The time stipulators have lied, the hasteners are doomed, and the Muslims are saved.[135]

 

And:

كذب الوقاتون. إنا أهل البيت لا نوقت

The time stipulators have lied; we the Ahlul Bayt do not stipulate times.[136]

 

Likewise:

ما وقتنا فيما مضي ولانوقت فيما يستقبل

We did not stipulate a time in the past, nor will we stipulate a time in the future.[137]

 

Similarly:

من وقت لك من الناس شيئا فلا تهابن أن تكذبه فلسنا نوقت لأحد وقتا

Whoever stipulates a time from you from the people, do not be afraid of belying him because we do not stipulate a time for anyone.[138]

 

And lastly:

أبي الله إلا أن يخالف وقت الموقتين

Allah has refused but to violate the time of the time stipulators.[139]

 

This is how their narrations differ and contradict one another. Simply because forging happens based on conditions and occasions.

 

As to reason of his occultation, the following narration appears in al Kafi from Zurarah:

 

سمعت أبا عبد الله يقول: إن للقائم عليه السلام غيبة قبل أن يقوم. قلت: ولم؟ قال: إنه يخاف-وأومأ بيده إلي بطنه- يعني القتل

I heard Abu ‘Abdullah saying, “The Mahdi ‘alayh al Salam will go into occultation before he assumes power.”

I asked, “Why?”

He said, “He will fear,” and pointing toward his stomach he said, “Murder.”[140]

 

There are many other narrations of this sort.[141] Al Tusi has confirmed this reason in his following statement:

 

لاعلة تمنع من ظهوره إلا خوفه علي نفسه من القتل. لأنه لو كان غير ذلك لما ساغ له الاستتار وكان يتحمل المشاق والأذي. فإن منازل الأئمة وكذلك الأنبياء عليهم السلام إنما تعظم لتحملهم المشاق العظيمة في ذات الله تعالي

There is no reason that prevents him from emerging besides his fear for being killed. For if it were due to any other reason he would not have went into occultation and he would have underwent difficulties and harassment. This is because the only reason the Imams and likewise the Prophets enjoy such lofty positions is due to their perseverance upon difficulties for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.[142]

 

However, this rationale which Sheikh al Ta’ifah confirms, is inconceivable regarding the Imams, based on what the Shia believe about them. Since according to them “the Imams know when death will overtake them and they do not die but by their own choice”, as is approved by al Kulayni in al Kafi in many narrations. In fact the name of the chapter wherein he cites these narrations is the same as above.[143] Al Majlisi has also established the same in his Bihar al Anwar and he has established a chapter by the title, Chapter regarding them knowing when they going to die and that death will not occur but with their choice.[144] So how do they solve this contradiction?[145]

Similarly, the Shia believe that the Imam has knowledge of what happened and what is to happen, nothing is concealed from them,[146] as is established by al Kulayni in a chapter which goes by the same title. So it was within the capacity of the Imams to avoid danger better than anyone else.

Furthermore, why were none of the four vicegerents—who claimed to have first-hand contact with the Imam—killed despite them not being like the Imams in terms of them not dying when they decide to?

Likewise, there was ample amnesty for the Imam to make his appearance after the establishment of many Shia states, why did he not make his appearance then so that the people may be relieved by his emergence and benefit from his knowledge, his weaponry, and his strength. And later, after the fall of those states he could go back into occultation. Ahmed al Kisrawi, therefore, states:

 

إذا كان منتظرهم قد اختفي لخوفه علي نفسه فلم لم يظهر عندما استولي آل بويه الشيعيون علي بغداد وصيروا بني العباس طوع أمرهم. فلم لم يظهر عندما قام الشاه إسمعيل الصفوي وأجري من دماء السنيين أنهارا؟ فلم لم يظهر عندما كان كريمخان الزندي وهو من أكبر سلاطين إيران يضرب علي السكة اسم أمامكم ويعد نفسه وكيلا عنه؟ وبعد فلم لا يظهر اليوم وقد كمل عد د الشيعيين مليونا وأكثرهم من منتظريه.

If their awaited Imam went into occultation due to fear then why did not make his appearance when the Buyid dynasty took over Baghdad and subjugated the Abbasid rulers? And why did he not emerge when the Safawid Shah Ismail arose and made bloody rivers flow with the blood of the Sunnis? And why did he not appear when Karim Khan al Zandi, who was considered to be one of the greatest monarchs of Iran, would engrave the name of your Imam upon the currency and would consider himself his vicegerent? And even today when the amount of the Shia has reached sixty million, all waiting his return, he has not made his appearance.[147]

 

Likewise today, after the era of al Kisrawi, when the state of the scholars is well established he has still not come out to them, despite their earnest prayers and seeking help from him since the bygone centuries.

Conversely, some narrations assert that the reason for his occultation was to test the hearts of the Shia. This reasoning which those narrations portray probably was an attempt to mitigate the doubt which had creeped into the hearts of the Shia, because this doctrine had not found a way into the minds of many of the Shia which ultimately led them to denouncing Shi’ism entirely.

The Shia were similarly tired of waiting for the hidden Imam, to the extent that one of them said:

 

قد طال هذا الأمر علينا حتي ضاقت قلوبنا ومتنا كمدا

This matter has become too long for us to bear, our hearts are grieved and we are dying out of exasperation.[148]

 

The gloomy clouds of doubt and suspicion which had enveloped the Shia was attested to by their scholar Ibn Babawayh after his visit to Nisabur:

 

رجعت إلي نيسابور وأقمت فيها فوجدت أكثر المختلفين علي من الشيعة قد حيرتهم الغيبة ودخلت عليهم في أمر القائم عليه السلام الشبهة

I visited Nisabur and stayed there. I found that the majority of the people who visited me from the Shia were gripped in confusion regarding the occultation and they were having doubts about the matter of the Mahdi.[149]

 

Their narrations, which were invented to treat this problem, sketch the confusion of the Shia regarding the matter of the Mahdi, his prolonged occultation and inaccessibility of any information regarding him. The following narration appears in al Kafi:

 

عن زرارة قال: سمعت أبا عبد الله يقول: إن للغلام غيبة قبل أن يقوم… وهو المنتظر وهو الذي يشك في ولادته. منهم من يقول: مات أبوه بلا خلف ومنهم من يقول: حمل ومنهم من يقول: إنه ولد قبل موت أبيه بسنتين وهو المنتظر، غير أن الله عزوجل يحب أن يمتحن الشيعة فعند ذلك يرتاب المبطلون

Zurarah said, “I heard Abu ‘Abdullah saying, “There will be an occultation for the boy before he takes charge… He will be the awaited Mahdi and regarding his birth there will be doubt. Some will say, “His father died without issue.” And some will say, “He was conceived.” Whilst others will say, “He was born two years before the death of his father and he is the awaited.” But Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala loves to test the Shia. Hence at that trying time the deniers will doubt.[150]

 

So this variance of opinion, according to them, was a test for the Shia. The books of heresiography have recorded that this exactly what had happened to them after the demise of Hassan al ‘Askari, as has passed. So this narration and others of its type were seemingly forged to treat the confusion and doubt which had engulfed them after the demise of their Imam without issue. Hence we find plenty narrations which are along the same lines and which sketch the reality of the Shia very clearly. The following narration appears in al Kafi:

 

لا والله لا يكون ما تمدون أليه أعينكم حتي تغربلوا. لا والله لا يكون ما تمدون أليه أعينكم حتي تمحصوا. لا والله لا يكون ما تمدون أليه أعينكم حتي تميزوا. لا والله لا يكون ما تمدون أليه أعينكم إلا بعد إياس. لا والله لا يكون ما تمدون أليه أعينكم حتي يشقي من يشقي ويسعد من يسعد.

No, by Allah, that to which you raise your gazes will not happen till you are not sifted. No, by Allah, that to which you raise your gazes will not happen till you are not purified. No, by Allah, that to which you raise your gazes will not happen till you are not separated. No, by Allah, that to which you raise your gazes will not happen but after you lose hope. No, by Allah, that to which you raise your gazes will not happen till the wretched become wretched and the fortunate become fortunate.[151]

 

So they claim that the anxiety which gripped them due to the occultation of the Mahdi was due to purifying and testing them. Once that was done the Mahdi would return. They have attributed the following to Jafar al Sadiq:

 

أنه دخل عليه بعض أصحابه وهو يبكي كالثكلي، لأنه نظر في كتاب الجفر المشتمل علي علم البلايا والمنايا وعلم ما كان وما يكون إلي يوم القيامة فقال: تأملت فيه مولد قائمنا عليه السلام وغيبته وأبطاءه وطول عمي وبلوي المؤمنين من بعده في ذلك الزمان. وتولد الشكوك في قلوب الشيعة من طول غيبته وارتداد أكثرهم عن دينه

A student of his visited him and he was crying like a bereaved woman because he (allegedly) had a look at the goat skin book which contained the knowledge of calamities and deaths and the knowledge of what happened and what was to happen till the Day of Judgment and said, “I contemplated in it the birth of our Mahdi, his occultation, his delayed arrival, the confusion, and test of the believers thereafter, the creeping of doubts into the hearts of the Shia owing to his prolonged absence and the apostasy of majority of them from his creed…[152]

 

This narration which is allegedly attributed to Jafar talks of the apostasy of many of the Shia due to the occultation which was becoming too long. This narration, like others, was invented after this problem had already engulfed them in order to encourage them to remain within Shi’ism by claiming that this was a reality which the Imams foretold and it is one of the signs of the return of the absent Imam.

Their scholar al Nu’mani of the third century who lived in the early period of the Shia inception attested to this, so his attestation in this regard is of utmost importance. He attested to the doubts the Shia were experiencing at that time besides a few:

 

فإنا رأينا طوائف من العصابة المنسوبة إلي التشيع المنتمية إلي نبينا محمد وآله صلي الله عليهم ممن يقول بالإمامة… قد تفرقت كلمتها وتشعبت مذاهبها واستهانت بفرائض الله عزوجل وخفت إلي محارم الله تعالي فطال بعضهم غلوا وانخفض بعضهم تقصيرا وشكوا جميعا إلا القليل في إمام زمانهم وولي أمرهم وحجة ربهم… للمحنة الواقعة بهذه الغيبة

We have seen many groups who are affiliated to Shi’ism, to Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his household, who believe in Imamah, their unity has been shattered, their stances have diversified. They have disregarded the injunctions of Allah and stepped into the prohibitions of Allah. Some of them have steeped into extremism whilst others into negligence. They have all, besides a few, doubted the Imam of their time, the guardian of their affairs and the evidence of their lord due to the test which this occultation imposes.[153]

 

The anarchy had reached a level where they started insulting, disowning, and excommunicating one another, as the narration of al Nu’mani portrays:

لا يكون الأمر الذي ينتظر حتي يبرأ بعضكم من بعض ويتفل بعضكم في وجوه بعض فيشهد بعضكم علي بعض بالكفر ويلعن بعضكم بعضا

The matter that is anticipated will not come to being till you do not denounce each other, some of you spit in the faces of others, some attest to the disbelief of others, and you curse each other.[154]

 

This narration portrays this grave phenomenon as good because it foretells the coming of the Mahdi. It says:

 

الخير كله في ذلك الزمان يقوم قائمنا ويدفع ذلك كله

All good will prevail in that time. Our Mahdi will take charge of affairs and repel all of this.[155]

 

From these narrations it seems as if the Hadith scholars of the Shia forged these narrations and attributed them to the Ahlul Bayt in an event to combat this devastating phenomenon. They filled the content of these narrations with the alleged purification, the test, and apostasy which was going the way of the Shia in order to encourage them to remain within Twelver Shi’ism.

Despite all these testimonies and acknowledgements, the doctrine of occultation which the Shia were compelled to believe in caused great upheaval which had the potential to destroy it from its very basis in the Shia circles. Despite all of this they still say:

 

لم علم الله أنهم يرتابون ما خيب الله حجته طرفة عين

If Allah knew that they would be uneasy he would not have disappointed his evidence even for the winking of an eye.[156]

 

Can there be any uneasiness worse than the doubting of the majority with the exception of a few and disunity and mutual imprecation.

The excessive belying of Shia of the doctrine of occultation is clearly noticeable in these narrations, especially in its stages of development. Perhaps the reason for this was that the falsehood thereof had become manifest to the people who had lived in its era and witnessed the condition which gave birth to it. And hence the architects of this belief rose to block those gaps wherefrom the winds of doubts would blow, and those niches wherefrom the falsity thereof would become evident. So they treated the factual phenomena of refutation, imprecation, and division by forging narrations which primarily communicated the happening of these phenomena as a glad tiding for the near and imminent arrival of the Mahdi. However, all these phenomena ensued and the Mahdi still did not make his appearance. Likewise they treated what had reached the Shia regarding the family of Hassan belying the doctrine in question by forging narrations which stated that “The Mahdi will go into occultation and his family will deny it,” and when Zurarah, the person to whom this narration is falsely attributed[157] asked as to the reason for this denial Abu Jafar said, “They will fear.” And he pointed to his stomach.[158]

Likewise another niche wherefrom this doctrine could easily be denied was the fact that the family of Hassan, nor anyone else, knew of his birth and his upbringing. Hence they forged narrations such as:

 

يبعث الله لهذا الأمر غلاما منا خفي الولادة والمنشأ

Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala will send a boy from amongst us for this matter. His birth and upbringing will be unknown.[159]

 

If someone has to study these narrations from this perspective he will definitely be gripped by surprise.

Furthermore, on the other hand they forged narrations which glorified the anticipation of the Mahdi and stated that it is the best of actions. This was to repel the anxiety of such a profoundly prolonged existence and the despondency and deprivation which was beginning to creep into the hearts of the people. This can be gaged from the following narration of al Kafi:

 

أقرب ما يكون العباد من الله جل ذكره وأرضي ما يكون عنهم إذا افتقدوا حجة الله جل وعز ولم يظهر لهم ولم يعلموا مكانه وهم في ذلك يعلمون أنه لم تبطل حجة الله جل ذكره ولاميثاقه. فعندها فتوقعوا الفرج صباحا ومساء

The closest the bondsmen can ever be to Allah and the most happiest Allah can ever be with them is when they anticipate the evidence of Allah and he does emerge to them nor do they know of his whereabouts. But they are confident that the evidence of Allah and his promise have not been violated. When this happens, then wait for relief, either in the morning or the evening.[160]

 

In this narration they have made the occultation a sign of relief being imminent, whereas today more than a thousand and a hundred years have passed to the occultation have passed and none of these promises have come to being. So what impression will these narrations leave in a person who reads these empty hopes of the Shia? Will not the doubt increase in his heart till he eventually will leave the fold of Islam and search for another religion purely because he is deceivingly told that this Mahdi is unanimously accepted by the Sunnis and the Shia?

They have many other narrations regarding the doctrine of anticipation, al Majlisi has cited 77 narrations under a chapter which he has titled, Chapter regarding the virtues of anticipation and praising the Shia during the era of occultation and what is to be done in it.[161] To the extent that they even forged a narration and attributed it to Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:

 

أفضل إعمال أمتي اتنظار فرج الله عزوجل

The best deed of my Ummah is to wait for relief from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.[162]

 

They have made anticipation the most beloved action to Allah and the people who anticipate the best people of every era,[163] and they claim that Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam told his companions:

 

سيأتي قوم من بعدكم الرجل الواحد منهم له أجر خمسين منكم. قالوا يا رسول الله نحن كنا معك ببدر وأحد وحنين ونزل فينا القرآن فقال: إنكم لو تحملوا ما حملوا لم تصبروا صبرهم.

“A people will come after you, the reward of one person among them will be equal to that of fifty among you.”

They asked, “O Rasul Allah! We were with you in Badr, Uhud, and Hunayn; and regarding us the Qur’an would come down.”

He said, “If you were tested as they will be, you would not be able to persevere as they will.”[164]

 

The status of the Sahabah, according to the Shia, clearly did not occur to the forgerer of this narration.

Likewise there are narrations which mitigate the anxiety the Shia have to see the emergence of the Mahdi, hence one narration states:

 

من عرف هذا الأمر ثم مات قبل أن يقوم القائم عليه السلام كان له مثل أجر من قتل معه

The one who acknowledged this matter and then passed away before the emergence of the Mahdi will receive the reward of those who will be martyred with him.[165]

 

Coupled with these rewards on one hand, on the other hand there are narrations which threaten with excommunication and eternity in Jahannam any person who denies the occultation of the Mahdi, to the extent that they have equated it to denying the prophethood of Nabi Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Rather they have considered it to be equivalent to the disbelief of Iblis. Al Saduq narrates the following with his alleged chain of transmission from Abu Ya’fur:

 

عن أبي يعفور قال: قال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: من أقر بالأئمة من آبائي وولدي وجحد المهدي من ولدي كان كمن أقر بجميع الأنبياء وجحد محمدا صلي الله عليه وآله. فقلت يا سيدي: ومن المهدي من ولدك؟ قال الخامس من ولد السابع يغيب عنهم شخصه ولايحل لهم تسميته

Abu ‘Abdullah said, “That person who acknowledges the Imams from my forefathers and children and denies the Mahdi of my progeny is like a person who acknowledges all the Prophets and denies the Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.”

So I asked, “O my master, who is the Mahdi of your progeny?”

He said, “The fifth from the children of the seventh, he will disappear from them and it will not be permissible for them to mention him by name.”[166]

 

They have also allegedly attributed the following to Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:

 

من أنكر القائم من ولدي فقد أنكرني

The one who denies the Mahdi of my progeny is like the one who denies me.[167]

 

And al Saduq said:

مثل من أنكر القائم عليه السلام في غيبته مثل إبليس في امتناعه في السجود لآدم

The one who denies the Mahdi in his absence is like the Iblis in his denial to prostrate before Adam ‘alayh al Salam.[168]

 

Furthermore, the doctrine of occultation has, because of the scholars of the Shia, become a source of enmity for the Sahabah and those who followed them diligently. Their scholar al Jaza’iri said:

 

إني كلما أشكلت علي مسألة أوجبت علي نفسي لعنهم لآنهم سبب في استتار الحجة

Whenever I find it difficult to understand an issue I make it compulsory for myself to curse the Sahabah because they were the cause of the evidence going into occultation.[169]

 

As you can see, they are trying to channel the resentment and the enmity which is seated deep down in their hearts due to their embittered anticipation of the Mahdi who is defeated, subdued, and contested in his rightful position,[170] and due to the Shia being victims of bloodshed and looting at the hands of the enemies of Allah.[171] Thus the avenue that they choose to channel this resentment is the best generation ever known to humanity and those who followed them.

 

NEXT⇒ Evidence for the Occurrence of the Ghaybah


[1] I.e. they did not claim the continuation of Imamah after him.

[2] Al Qummi: al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 19-20; al Nawbakhti: Firaq al Shia p. 22; al Shahrastani: al Milal wa al Nihal 1/174.

[3] Al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 19; Firaq al Shia p. 22; Maqalat al Islamiyyin 1/86.

[4] Firaq al Shia p. 23; al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 21.

[5] Kurabiyyah: the followers of Abu Kurayb al Darir (a brief analyses of the Kaysaniyyah has passed previously).

[6] One of their poets has also said the following poem in this regard:

 
ولاة الحق أربعة سواء إلا إن الأئمة من قريش
هم الأسباط ليس بهم خفاء علي والثلاثة من بنيه
وسبط غيبته كربلاه فسبط سبط إيمان وصدق
يقود الخيل يقدمها اللواء وسبط لا يذوق الموت حتي
برضوي عنده عسل وماء تغيب لا يري عنا زمانا
 

Behold the Imams are from Quraysh, they are the guardians of the truth and are four.

‘Ali and three of his sons, they are his posterity without there being any ambiguity regarding them.

One son was a son of faith and truthfulness, and Karbala’ made the second son disappear.

And the third son will not taste death, till he drives the horses who will be led by a flag.

He has disappeared from us and will be seen for a period of time, in Radwa where he has honey and water.

See: Masa’il al Imamah p. 26; Maqalat al Islamiyyin 1.92-93; al Farq Bayn al Firaq p. 41. The books of heresiography contain the poems of other poets as well, see: Masa’il al Imamah p. 26, 27, 28, 29. Al Baghdadi has composed a few poems in refutation of these. See: al Farq Bayn al Firaq p. 41-43.

[7] Masa’il al Shia p. 26; Maqalat al Islamiyyin 1/92; al Farq Bayn al Firaq p. 39; al Tabsir Fi al Din p. 18-19.

[8] Masa’il al Imamah p. 27.

[9] One of their poets says:

منا النفوس بأنه سيؤوب ولو غاب عنا عمر نوح أيقنت
قد كان يأمل يوسفا يعقوب إني لأرجوه وآمله كما

Even if he stays away from us for the duration of the lifespan of Nuh, our hearts are determined to believe that he will return.

I have hope in him and await him, just as Ya’qub anticipated Yusuf.

 

Masa’il al Imamah p. 29.

[10] Al Ansab 1/345.

[11] Maqalat al Islamiyyin 1/141-142.

[12] Al Farq Bayn al Firaq p. 31-32.

[13] Al Milal wa al Nihal 1/158-159.

[14] Nashwan: al Hur al ‘In p. 156.

[15] Duha al Islam 3/243.

[16] Al ‘Aqidah wa al Shari’ah p. 211.

[17] Al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 102; Firaq al Shia p. 96: therein it is mentioned that no successor of his was seen.

[18] Usul al Kafi 1/188.

[19] Ibid. 1/179.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Firaq al Shia p. 96; al Mufid: al Fusul al Mukhtarah p. 258.

[22] Al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 102.

[23] Muruj al Dhahab 4/190. See also: al Sawa’iq al Muhriqah p. 168

[24] According to me the emergence of new sects only stopped after al Samarri allegedly claimed to be the representative of the Mahdi, as will come ahead, and devised the idea of Babiyyah

[25] Firaq al Shia p. 96; al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 106.

[26] Firaq al Shia p. 97; al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 107.

[27] Al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 110.

[28] Al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 109; Firaq al Shia 100-101.

[29] Al Irshad p. 389.

[30] Al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 107-108; Firaq al Shia p. 105.

[31] Al Maqalat wa al Firaq p. 108; Firaq al Shia 105.

[32]Al Tusi: Al Ghaybah p. 42-43.

[33] See: the aforementioned reference p. 43, onwards; Rijal al Kashshi: Narrations no. 759, 871, 888, 893.

[34] Goldzhier: al ‘Aqidah wa al Shari’ah p. 192.

[35] Diwan Kathir ‘Izzah 1/275.

[36] Al Siyadah al ‘Arabiyyah wa al Isra’iliyyat p. 110.

[37] Ibid. 112.

[38] Tathbit Dala’il al Nubuwwah 1/179.

[39] Muhibb al Din al Khatib is of the opinion that the person who invented the idea of occultation was Muhammad ibn Nasir, one of the clients of Banu Namir (al Khutut al ‘Aridah p. 37). In the books of the Twelvers it appears that he was the one who claimed to be the Bab (the door) to the absent Imam. Prior to him a person known as al Shari’i made a similar claim and many others followed him in making similar claims. (See: al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 244.

[40] Al Ghaybah p. 214-215; Muhammad al Sadr: Tarikh al Ghaybah al Sughra p. 396-397.

[41] Al Ghaybah p. 258. They have differed greatly as to the age wherein he went into occultation due to their disparate narrations in this regard, as will come shortly. Al Majlisi says: Most of the narrations suggest that he was a less than five years old by a few months or by a year and a few months (Bihar al Anwar 25/123).

[42] Al Ghaybah p. 244.

[43] Tarikh al Ghaybah al Sughra p. 60.

[44] Al Ghaybah p. 213-214.

[45] Tarikh al Ghaybah al Sughra p. 609.

[46] They are referring to the hidden Imam. Because they consider what the first Bab said to be the edict of the Imam due to him being the Bab to him and his only vicegerent. Hence his appointment of his son was treated as holy and from the Imam the denier of which deserves to be cursed.

[47] It should be noted that the narration calls him a Wakil, a representative, whereas the Twelvers call him the Bab and they differentiate between the Wakil and the Bab.

[48] Al Ghaybah p. 245.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Al Ghaybah p. 223; Rijal al Hilli p. 149.

[51] Al Ghaybah p. 223; Rijal al Hilli p. 149.

[52] Al Ghaybah p. 223.

[53] Ibid. p. 225-226.

[54] Al Ghaybah p. 224.

[55] Note that he ascribed the election of the Bab to the scholars of the Shia whereas according to them that is purely the purview of the Mahdi.

[56] Al Ghaybah p. 240.

[57] For more details regarding him see: al Ghaybah p. 248; al Bidayah wa al Nihayah 11/179; al Kamil 8/290.

[58] Al Ghaybah p. 241.

[59] Al Tashayyu’ wa al Shia p. 33.

[60] Al Ghaybah p. 244

[61] Muhammad Baqir al Sadr: Tarikh al Ghaybah al Sughra p. 414

[62] Because he died in 329 A.H. See: al Ghaybah p. 243; Tarikh al Ghaybah al Sughra p. 413.

[63] Ronaldson: ‘Aqidah al Shia p. 257.

[64] Al Ghaybah p. 242.

[65] One of their scholars and their Ayats Jafar al Najafi says that the Ghaybah Sughra lasted for about seventy four years (see: Kashf al Ghita’ p. 13). However, it seems as if this time frame is not unanimously accepted among them. In Tanqih al Maqal of al Mamaqani it is debated. He says, “The seventy four years that is said to be the period of the occultation is an oversight without a doubt, unless it is considered from the time of birth (i.e. the birth of the Mahdi).” He then says that it lasted for sixty eight or sixty nine years minus a month. (Tanqih al Maqal 1/189). Al Sadr on the other hand mentions that it was seventy years (see: Tarikh al Ghaybah al Sughra p. 345).

[66] See The Inception of the Doctrine of Occultation according to the Twelvers and its Development

[67] Abu Muhammad does not visit her because of her disbelief, but the queen of the women, Maryam, and the maidens of Jannat visit her in this state.

[68] See: Ibn Babawayh: Ikmal al Din p. 395-400: Chapter regarding what had been narrated regarding the Narjis the mother of the Mahdi.

[69] Hakimah bint Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Musa ibn Jafar al Sadiq.

[70] Ikmal al Din p. 404.

[71] Ibid. p. 404.

[72] Al Ghaybah p. 74.

[73] Ikmal al Din p. 404.

[74] Al Ghaybah p. 141.

[75] For example: Rayhanah and Saqil (see: Ikmal al Din p. 408).

[76] Ibid. p. 406; see also: al Ghaybah p. 147.

[77] Ikmal al Din p. 404-405.

[78] Ibid. p. 405.

[79] Al Ghaybah p. 144.

[80] This is what appears in the manuscript. Maybe it ought to be ‘feed him’.

[81] Ikmal al Din p. 144.

[82] Al Ghaybah p. 142.

[83] Usul al Kafi 1/181.

[84] Ibid. 1/184.

[85] Al Ghaybah p. 142.

[86] Ibid. 142.

[87] Ibid. 144.

[88] Because according to their narrations he was born in 255 A.H and al ‘Askari passed away in 260 A.H.

[89] Ikmal al Din p. 405-406.

[90] Usul al Kafi 1/333.

[91] Ibid. 1/340; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 125; Bihar al Anwar 52/153.

[92] Mujam ma Ustu’jim 2/900.

[93] Usul al Kafi 1/328. In the commentary of this narration al Mazindarani mentions, “Probably he meant Surr Man Ra’a.” (see: Sharh Jami’ 6/208). However, this possibility does not seem very plausible in the first narration.

[94] Al Rawha’ is a village belonging to the Muzaynah tribe, between it and Madinah are 41 miles. (See: Mujam ma Ustu’jam 1/681).

[95] It is a mountain in Madinah which has a lot of trees, treasures, and lots of water. It is the very mountain regarding which the Kaysaniyyah assert that Muhammad ibn al Hanafiyyah is living in and is being sustained. (See: Mujam al Buldan 3/51).

[96] Al Ghaybah p. 103.

[97] Dhi Tawa: A valley in Makkah.

[98] Tafsir al ‘Ayyashi 2/56; al Burhan 2/81-82; Bihar al Anwar 52/341.

[99] Yaqut says, “Samarra’ is a town on the shores of the Euphrates River, it is north of Baghdad and the distance between them is thirty Farsakhs (one Farsakh is approx. five kilometres). It was initially known as Surr man Ra’a, but the people abbreviated it and called it Samarra’ Therein is the basement of the Jami’ Masjid wherefrom the Shia claim that their Imam will emerge. (See: Mujam al Buldan 3/173).

[100] ‘Ali ibn Ta’us: Misbah al Za’ir p. 229; Muhammad al Mashhadi: al Mazar al Kabir p. 216; Bihar al Anwar 102/102-103; al Shirazi: Kalimah al Mahdi p. 471-472.

[101] Usul al Kafi 1/340.

[102] Wafayat al A’yan 4/176.

[103] Al Kamil 5/373.

[104] Muhsin al Amin: al Burhan ‘ala Wujud Sahib al Zaman p. 102.

[105] Amir ‘Ali: Ruh al Islam 1/210; see also: Muqaddamah Ibn Khaldun 2/531-532; al Manar al Munif p. 152.

[106] Al Sawa’iq al Muhriqah p. 168; al Manar al Munif p. 152-153.

[107] Al Manar al Munif p. 152-153.

[108] The narration has passed. Click Here

[109] Bihar al Anwar p. 102-108.

[110] Usul al Kafi 1/337-338; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 116.

[111] Usul al Kafi 1/333.

[112] Ibid. 1/333; al Irshad p. 394; Ikmal al Din p. 608.

[113]Usul al Kafi 1/333; Ikmal al Din p. 607.

[114]Usul al Kafi 1/329.

[115]Usul al Kafi 1/333; al Irshad p. 394.

[116] Al Irshad p. 400.

[117] Usul al Kafi 1/333. One of their scholars is of the opinion that not clearly stating the name is specific of the era of fear and Taqiyyah (see: al Mazindarani: Sharh al Jami’ 6/216-217).

[118] Usul al Kafi: chapter regarding Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala emphatically appointing the Imams one by one: 1/286, onwards.

[119] Usul al Kafi 1/338.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Al Mazindarani: Sharh al Jami’ 6/237.

[122] Some said, “Possibly he intended to confine the confusion to this period and not the occultation.” (Ibid) Whereas the confusion lasted alongside the occultation, as will become obvious to you from the books that have been compiled in this regard and from the fact that these books were written because of this very confusion and doubt which had engulfed many a people. (See: Ikmal al Din of Ibn Babawayh p. 2).

[123] See: Usul al Kafi (coupled with its commentary of al Mazindarani) 6/314; al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 263; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 197.

[124] Tafsir al ‘Ayyashi 2/2; al Burhan 2/3; Bihar al Anwar 52/106-109.

[125] Rawdah al Kafi 8/80; ‘An Miftah al Kutub al Arba’ah 3/331.

[126] Usul al Kafi 1/369; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 198; al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 207-208; Bihar al Anwar 52/102. The narration is allegedly reported by ‘Ali al Rida.

[127] Ibid.

[128] Usul al Kafi 1/369; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 197; Bihar al Anwar 52/118.

[129] Al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 194; al Tusi: al Ghaybah 263; Bihar al Anwar 52/117.

[130] Usul al Kafi 1/368; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 197; al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 263; Bihar al Anwar 52/117.

[131] Obviously the doctrine of occultation only came about after the demise of Jafar, but the Shia attribute narrations regarding it to all the Imams.

[132] The commentator of al Kafi says, “Apparently seventy years from the time of occultation (al Mazindarani: Sharh Jami’ 6/314).

[133] Usul al Kafi 1/368; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 197; al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 263; Bihar al Anwar 52/117.

[134] Sharh Jami’ 6/314; al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 263-264.

[135] Usul al Kafi 1/368; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 198; al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 262; Bihar al Anwar 52/103-104.

[136] Usul al Kafi 1/368; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 198.

[137] Al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 262; Bihar al Anwar 52/103.

[138] Al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 195; al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 262; Bihar al Anwar 52/104.

[139] Usul al Kafi 1/368; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 198.

[140] Usul al Kafi 1/338; al Nu’mani; al Ghaybah p. 118; Ikmal al Din p. 449.

[141] See: Usul al Kafi 1/327, 340; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 118; Ikmal al Din p. 449.

[142] Al Tusi: al Ghaybah: chapter regarding the reason preventing the Mahdi from emerging p. 199.

[143] Usul al Kafi 1/258.

[144] Bihar al Anwar 27/285.

[145] I referred to al Mazindarani’s commentary of al Kafi in order to see how he explains the narrations which mention the reason for his occultation as being the fear to be killed… But he avoids making any comments on them and passes clean.

[146] Usul al Kafi 1/260.

[147] Al Tashayyu’ wa al Shia p. 42.

[148] Al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 120.

[149] Ikmal al Din p. 2.

[150] Usul al Kafi 1/337.

[151] Usul al Kafi 1/370.

[152] Al Tusi: al Ghaybah p. 105-106.

[153] Al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 11.

[154] Ibid. p. 137-138; Bihar al Anwar 52/114-115.

[155] Al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 138; Bihar al Anwar p. 115.

[156] Usul al Kafi 1/333; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 107.

[157] Because he passed away before the doctrine of occultation came into existence.

[158] Al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 188.

[159] Usul al Kafi 1/341-342; al Nu’mani: al Ghaybah p. 112.

[160] Usul al Kafi 1/333; Bihar al Anwar 52/145.

[161] Bihar al Anwar 52/122-150; see also: Ikmal al Din p. 603, onwards.

[162] Bihar al Anwar 52/122.

[163] Ibid.

[164] Ibid.

[165] Ibid. 52/130.

[166] Ikmal al Din p. 288.

[167] Ibid. p. 390; Lutf Allah al Safi: Muntakhab al Athar p. 492.

[168] Ikmal al Din p. 13.

[169] Sharh al Sahifah al Sajjadiyyah p. 37.

[170] Ikmal al Din p. 12.

[171] Ibid.

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