6) That the caliphate which was contemporary with the Imams (peace be upon them) used to consider their spiritual leadership as a great threat against its existence and its destiny. Because of that it deployed all of its efforts for the sake of disintegrating that leadership and bore a lot of negativism in that respect, sometimes appearing under the guise of cruelty and transgression when its security was at stake. The campaigns of persecution and victimization w ere a permanent event with respect to the Imam, in spite of what that left behind of sadness and disgust among the Muslims and their supporters from the different classes of society.

If we take these six points into consideration knowing that they are all historical facts, it leaves no room for doubt, and we come out with the following result: That the phenomenon of the early Imamate was a fact and not an illusion. Because the Imam who emerges while still young and declares openly that he is the spiritual and the intellectual leader of the Muslim community as a whole, and whom that wide trend pledges its loyalty, must surely be in possession of a remarkable, let alone a very wide knowledge and agnosis and a very wide horizon as well as a proficiency in jurisdiction, exegesis and the articles of faith, otherwise the popular bases would not be convinced of his spiritual leadership. We should also bear in mind the fact that the Imams took certain positions that made the interaction with their bases possible and threw different lights on their way of life and personality.

Do you think then that a young child who declares his Imamate (spiritual leadership) and hoists out of it a flag for Islam, with the full knowledge of the masses among his popular bases who believe in him and are prepared to sacrifice their lives and security without taking the trouble to discover his condition, or without being incited by the phenomenon of the early Imamate to inquire about the validity of the situation and the establishment of the worth of this young Imam?
Now supposing that people did not attempt to assess the situation , would it then be possible that after days, months or even years, the whole affair would go unnoticed without its truth coming to the surface, although there has been a natural and constant interaction between the young Imam and the rest of the people? Is it rational that the worth of a young child's way of thinking and knowledge would not be obvious after this long interaction?

Therefore, if we assume that the popular bases of the Imams of Ahlu'l-bayt (descendants of the Prophet) were not able to discover the truth of the matter, why did the existing caliphate keep silent and did not attempt to find out, if it were for its benefit?

Nothing could have been easier for the authorities then if the Imam had been a child, quite immature in his education and way of thinking, the normal case in all children.

No plan would have been more successful than to present this child to his supporters (the Shi'ah) and others and prove to them that he was not fit for the Imamate and the intellectual and spiritual leadership.

If it is indeed difficult to convince people of a man in his forties or fifties, already in possession of a great deal of education for the role of the Imamate, there can be no difficulty in convincing them of the incapacity of an ordinary child for the same role, in the sense that the Shi'ah know, regardless of his intelligence and awareness.

All this would have been possible and easier than the complicated means of suppression and recklessness which the authorities resorted to in these times.

The only explanation for the caliphate's hesitation in playing this card, is that it realized that the early Imamate was a real phenomenon and not an invented idea. The truth is that it had realized the fact after it had attempted to play that card but failed. History relates to us many of these attempts and their failure, while it does not mention at all the occurrence of a situation in which the phenomenon of early Imamate was put into question, where the Imam was confronted with difficulties or complications which surpassed his ability or shook people's trust in him.

This is what we mean when we said earlier that the early Imamate is a real phenomenon in the life of Ahlu'l-bayt (descendants of the Prophet), moreover this phenomenon has similar roots and situations in the Divine heritage that stretched over all the messages and the Divine leadership. It is enough to cite one example of an early leadership of Ahlu'l-bayt (peace be upon them) in the case of Yahya (peace be upon him) when Allah said: .

"O Yahya take the Book with strength,"
and We have given him wisdom when he was young.
(Qur'an, 19:12)

Now that the early leadership has been proved as an existing and real phenomenon in Ahlu'l-bayt's life there is no more objection to the leadership of al- Imam al-Mahdi (peace be upon him) nor to his succession to his father while very young.

* * * * *


Now we have reached the fourth question which is: Supposing that the hypothesis of the Expected Leader and all that it comprehends of prolonged life, early leadership and a silent absence, is possible, that would not be enough proof for his existence, thus, how can we indeed believe in the existence of al-Mahdi? Would some narratives related in books on the Great Messenger (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny) be enough for perfect conviction in the existence of the Twelfth Imam, in spite of what this supposition bears of peculiarity and deviation from the norms? Or rather, how can we prove that al-Mahdi had a true historical existence and that he is not only an assumption, for which psychological circumstances have been combined to confirm his existence in many people's minds?

The answer is: That the idea of al- Mahdi, as the Expected Leader, who will change the world for the best, has been already mentioned in several of the narratives (ahadith) related from the Great Messenger in general, and the Imams of Ahlu'l-bayt in particular. Moreover, it has been reconfirmed, with a degree beyond doubt, in many texts. I could count up to four hundred narratives of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) which reached us through our brothers, the Sunnis, (e.g., the book al-Mahdi written by my uncle as-Sayyid Sadru'd-Din as-Sadr, may Allah bless his noble soul), as well as a great number of reports about al- Imam al- Mahdi through both the Shi'ites and the Sunnis - nearly more than six thousand narratives, (e.g., the book entitled Muntakhab al-athar fi al-Imam aththani 'ashar [Selection of traditions concerning the Twelfth Imam] by ash-Shaykh Lutfu'llah as-Safi), which is very high statistical number, not found in many of the self-evident Islamic issues.

As regards the materialization of this idea in the Twelfth Imam (peace be upon him) we do possess enough justifications to be convinced that he is the one They can be summed up into two groups of evidence - the first Islamic, and the other scientific.

By the Islamic evidence we confirm the existence of the Expected Leader.

By the scientific evidence, we can prove that al-Mahdi is not just a myth or a supposition but a reality which has been confirmed by historical experience The Islamic evidence appears in the hundreds of narratives related from Allah's Messenger (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny) and the Imams of Ahlu'l-bayt (peace be upon them), which prove that al- Mahdi will be appointed as Imam, that he is from the descendants of the Prophet and Fatimah and the ninth descendants from al-Husayn, that the caliphs (Prophet's successors) are twelve.

All of these narratives limited that universal idea by personifying it in al-Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam of Ahlu'l-bayt. Moreover they reached a great number and diffusion, although the Imams took a great precaution and care, fearing their exposure on a general level, in order to protect the righteous descendants against assassination or an unpredicted assault on his life.

However, the numerical abundance of these narratives is not the only reason for their validity, for in addition to this, there are certain virtues and coherences to be taken into account for proving their validity.

The Prophet's narratives (ahadith) about the fact that the Imams, caliphs, or amirs - depending on the style of the narrative in its different ways are twelve Some writers counted up to more than two hundred and seventy narratives taken from the most well-known books of Sunni and Shi'ah traditions such as al-Bukhari, al-Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and the collection of Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the Rectification of the Judge on the Two Sahihs (al- Hakim, Mustadrak 'ala s-sahihayn).

We should bear in mind here that al- Bukhari who had compiled these narratives, was a contemporary to both al-Imam al-Hadi and al-Imam al-'Askari which means quite a lot, since it proves that the narratives were recorded from the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny) before that the realization of their contents and the idea of the Twelfth Imam had materialized.

This means, therefore, that there is no room left for doubt, that the recording of the narratives was not influenced by the fact of the Twelfth Imam, or that it might have been a reflection of it, because the false narratives (ahadith) that are related from the Prophet ( peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny) are either a reflection or a justification for a fact occurring later in time. Now, they did not precede in their appearance and recording in the books, that fact which they came to reflect, therefore, as long as we possess the material evidence, which is that the mentioned narrative had already preceded the historical sequence of the twelve Imams, and that it had been recorded in the books of ahadith (books of traditions) before that the event took place, we can be sure that this narrative is not a reflection of an event but an expression to a truth from Allah, uttered by the one who did not speak out of fancy (the Holy Prophet) when he said: "Surely the caliphs after me are twelve". So, the event of the twelve Imams was fulfilled, starting with al-Imam 'Ali and ending in al-Mahdi, this way being the only rational interpretation to that noble narrative of the Prophet.

As far as the scientific evidence is concerned, it is formed out an experience, lived by a community of people, lasting nearly seventy years, which we call the period of the minor occultation (ghaybah as-sughra) To elucidate this point, we will pave the way by giving a brief description

This minor occultation marks the first phase in the Imamate of the Expected Leader (peace be upon him) From the time that had been predestined, from the time he assumed the role, he remained hidden from the outside world, distant from all the events that were taking place although being at the same time proximate to them in his mind and heart

We should bear in mind that had this occultation occurred suddenly, the result would have been a great shock among the popular masses, who believed in the Imamate since they were used to contacting their Imam in every period, to consulting him for solutions to their various problems. Thus, had he suddenly vanished, his supporters would have felt cut off from spiritual and intellectual leadership Such an event would have created an enormous gap which would have thoroughly shaken the whole structure and undermined its unity. Therefore, it proved necessary that the way should be paved to this occultation, so that these bases might get used to it and gradually adapt themselves to the new situation

So the plan was this minor occultation, during which al- Imam al-Mahdi vanished from the universal scene, while keeping in touch with his popular bases and supporters through his delegates or representatives and the most reliable among his companions, who acted as a link between the Imam and those who believed in his line.

The position of representative of the Imam was held in those times, by four personalities, whom the popular bases agreed as to their fear of Allah, piety and integrity. They were:

1) 'Uthman ibn Sa'id al-'Amri;
2) Muhammad ibn 'Uthman ibn Sa'id al-'Amri;
3) Abu'l-Qasim al-Husayn ibn Ruh; and
4) Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Muhammad as-Samuri.

These four individuals assumed the role of representative of the Imam (al-Mahdi) according to the above classification. So whenever one of them died, the other succeeded him, after being designated by al- Imam al-Mahdi (peace be upon him).

The representative of the Imam used to get in touch with the Shi'ahs and submit their questions and problems to the Imam and return to them with his answers. Sometimes orally and very often in a written form. So these masses who lacked the vision of their Imam, found some comfort and consolation in these indirect communications.

Moreover they could notice that the signatures and the letters were all written in the same way, during the time of the four representatives that lasted nearly seventy years The last representative, as-Samuri, declared that the period of the minor occultation, which was characterized by the designated delegates, was over; that the period of the major occultation, in which there would be no designated individuals to mediate between the Imam and the Shi'ites, had began This transition meant that the minor occultation had already accomplished its mission and achieved its goal, since it immunized the Shi'ites against the great shock and the feeling of the profound gap caused by the Imam's occultation. In that way, it enabled them to adapt themselves to the situation and gradually prepared them to accept the idea of general representation on behalf of the Imam. By this token the latter changed from a representation by a designated individual to a more general line manifested in the just mujtahid (a legalist who arrives at an independent judgement), who has a keen insight into the religious and worldly issues of the Muslims, in view of the transition from the minor to the major occultation

Now you can have an idea about the situation, in the light of what has been discussed up to now, so you can clearly realize that al- Mahdi is a reality that a community of people has lived and which has been expressed for seventy years, by the representatives and the mediators of the Imam, whom no one could suspect of cheating nor of playing on words

For can you imagine - by your Lord - that a lie could survive for nearly seventy years, which four individuals would successively assume and agree upon and continue to interact with others on its basis as if it were a reality that they lived; that nothing would escape their control, which would cause a doubt in people's minds; that there would be no particular relation between the four through which they could gain the trust of everyone and their belief in the truth of the matter, which they pretend to live and feel?

An old proverb said, "The rope of lies is short". also logic in life confirms the fact that it is impossible that a lie could survive in this way and for all time through these relations and still wins everyone's confidence.

Thus, the phenomenon of the minor occultation can be considered as a scientific experiment which has confirmed the factual objectivity of the Imam's existence, his birth, life and occultation, on account of which he has been hidden from the world and has not revealed himself to anyone ever since.

* * * * *


Why has the leader not appeared during all this long period? If he were really prepared to assume his social work? What prevented him from emerging during the period of the minor occultation or after, instead of extending it into a greater one, when the conditions for any social and transformative work were much simpler and easier and when the leader's relation with the people, owing to the minor occultation organizations, could have made it possible for him to organize the ranks and start the work with strength. Also the authorities that existed then did not have that tremendous level of strength and power which humanity has achieved thanks to its technical and scientific evolution?

The answer is: That the success of any operation of social change is bound by certain conditions and objective circumstances without which it cannot achieve its aims.

However all the operations of social change that are sent to earth from heaven are marked by the fact that the contents of their message are not bound by any objective circumstance. Since the message on which the whole operation depends is of the Lord's making and is not created by these objective circumstances, but rather relies on them on its executive side as well as for its timing, heaven waited five centuries of ignorance (al-jahiliyyah) before sending its last message into the hands the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny), since the connection that should exist between the objective circumstances and the execution required its postponement although the world had been waiting for it for a long time

Among the objective circumstances that have an effect on the executive part in the operation of change, are those that create the right climate and the general atmosphere for the intended change, while others form some details required by the movement of change in its elaboration. For example, in the case of the operation of change led by Lenin in Russia, this operation was connected to an important factor manifested in the first world war and the decline of the Tsar, which played a major part in creating the appropriate climate for the operation of change. It was also linked to partial and limited factors such Lenin's health, during his trip and when he entered Russia and led the revolution For had he met with an incident while on his way, he would have been delayed and the revolution would have lost its ability for that swift move.