Hasan ibn Hasan al-'Alawi said:
"I went to see Imam Hasan (al-'Askari) in Samarra' and
congratulated him on the birth of his son."
And 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas al-'Alawi also said:
"I visited Imam al-'Askari (a.s.) in Samarra' and
congratulate him on the birth of his son."
Yes, in this manner was the Imam of the Age (Imam-e
Zaman) born and kept hidden from the reach of
strangers. On some occasions only were virtuous Shi'ites
allowed to see him, until the year 260 A H., when the
Eleventh Imam expired, and by Divine decree the office
of Divine Leadership (Imamate) was vested in the Master
of the Authority (Sahibu 'lAmr).
(12) THE MINOR OCCULTATION
When Imam Hasan al-'Askari ( a.s.) died, the office of
Divine Leadership (Imamate) was transferred to the Last
Luminous Pearl of the Household of the Holy Prophet,
Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) Although His Eminence did not
appear amongst the people, some persons in whom he had
trust and confidence were allowed to visit him and
present him the problems and questions of the Shi'ites
And they communicated to the people the guidance and
commands of the Divine Luminous Light.
From the point of view faith, confidence and virtue,
these were distinguished persons among the Muslims who
were mediators between the Imam and the people And in
due time they conveyed the guidance of His Eminence to
By studying the degree of the character and perception
of the belief and piety of these individuals, not only
does the greatness of their personalities become clear
to us, but we become more familiar with the Imam of the
Age, because, among the sayings of these distinguished,
trustworthy and reliable companions of the Holy Imams,
one finds the signs of the greatness of His Eminence
(Imam al-Mahdi - a.s.).
Among the companions of Imam-e Zaman, four became his
most famous and confidential deputies who acted as
mediators between the Imam and the people, and they are
known as the Nawwab al-arb'a ah (the four
In order to know more about the dignity and greatness of
their positions, we give below a brief description of
each one of them:
1) 'Uthman ibn Sa'id 'Umari: This honourable figure was
not only a deputy (na'ib) of Imam-e Zaman
but he was also a representative (wakil) of Imam
Hasan al-'Askari (a.s.) and Imam 'Ali an-Naqi (a.s.) He
settled and organized many affairs of the Shi'ites The
Tenth Imam (al-Hadi -a.s ) said to his followers
"This Abu 'Umari is a reliable and trustworthy person.
Whatever he says to you he says so on my behalf, and
whatever he does he does on my behalf."
This representation continued till 254 A H when Imam al-Hadi
(a.s.) died. Then, the Eleventh Imam is reported to have
praised the character of Abu 'Umari as having his high
esteem in his address to his Shi'ites, saying:
"This AbU 'Umari is a reliable and trustworthy person.
He had the confidence of the preceding Imam, and has
also my confidence in my lifetime and after my death.
Whatever he says to you he says so on my behalf, and
whatever he does he does on my behalf."
Likewise, with this certificate of admiration, he became
the deputy (Na'ibu 'l-Imam) of the Twelfth Imam
after the demise of Imam Hasan al-'Askari ( a s ).
On the death of Abu 'Umari, the Lord of the Age (Sahibu
'z-Zaman) himself sent condolences to his son,
Muhammad ibn 'Uthman saying:
"Verily, we belong to Allah and verily to Him shall we
return We submit to His command and are pleased with His
decree. Your father has lived in good fortune and has
died with dignity. May Allah's mercy be upon him, he has
joined his friends and masters. He was always
endeavouring to search for whatever would bring him near
to Allah and His friends. May Allah make strengthen his
2) Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Uthman: This man was the
second special deputy of Imam-e Zaman He was also
a deputy of the Eleventh Imam, about whom the latter
"The greatness of his dignity and the exaltation of his
status among the Shi'ites is so famous that there is no
need to explain or dispute it."
Regarding him and his father, 'Uthman ibn Sa'id, Imam
Hasan al-'Askari (a.s.) said to one of his companions:
"'Umar and his son are both trustworthy Whatever they do
they do on my behalf, and whatever they say to you, they
say so on my behalf Therefore, listen to their words and
obey them, because both of them are reliable and
trustworthy to us."
And Imam-e Zaman himself said about him:
"He is my confident, and his letter is of the same
status as mine."
3) Abu 'l-Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh Nawbakhti: Abu Ja'far
Muhammad ibn 'Uthman, the third deputy of Imam-e
Zaman, said about him:
This Husayn ibn Ruh ibn Abu Bahr Nawbakhti is my
successor. He is a reliable and trust worthy envoy and
deputy between you and the Sahibu 'l-Amr (the
Master of the Authority). Therefore, in your affairs and
important tasks refer to him and trust him. I was given
this task; and I have announced it."
Shaykh Tusi (may Allah's mercy be upon him) said about
"Abu 'l-Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh was regarded by his friends
and opponents as the most learned man among the people."
The integrity of Husayn ibn Ruh's deputyship w as
acknowledged by his opponents too. Shalmaghani, who was
one of the pseudo-claimants to the deputyship, had to
confess his falsity when Imam-e Zaman ordered
Husayn ibn Ruh to expose him. He (Shalmaghani) said:
"It is not right between me and Allah to say anything in
the affair of Husayn ibn Ruh other than the truth.
Although his crime towards me is a big one, yet this man
was appointed by Imam-e Zaman for the task. The
Shi'ites should not turn away from him."
4) Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari: This
honourable figure was the last special deputy (Na'ibu
'l-khass) of the Holy Imam-e Zaman. His
death, coincided with the 15th of Sha'ban 329 A.H.
Husayn ibn Ruh introduced him as the deputy of the Imam.
The last letter of Imam-e Zaman (the Lord of the
Age) to the four special deputies was addressed to this
honourable man. In this order the Imam announced the
death of 'Ali ibn Muhammad and the end of the
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful You
are going to die in six days, may Allah grant patience
to your brothers in faith on your departure So, be
prepared, but appoint no one in your place, because from
the day of your death the period of my major occultation
(ghaybatu 'l-kubra) will begin. Henceforth-, no
one will see me, unless and until Allah makes me appear
My reappearance will take place after a very long time
when people will have grown tired of waiting and those
who are weak in their faith will say: 'What! Is he still
alive?' When men will become cruel and inconsiderate,
and the world will be full of injustice and violence.
Very soon some men will claim to have seen me. Beware!
Anyone who makes such a claim before the coming out of
Sufyani and the sound from heaven announcing my
reappearance, is a liar and an imposter. There is no
might nor strength except in Allah, the Magnificent."
As can be seen from this, it is the last order, in which
the door of special deputation is closed by the death of
Ali ibn Muhammad; hence, anyone who claims to be a
mediator, or claims that the Imam can be seen, is a
liar. In the period of the major occultation no - one
has made the claim that he has been in the presence of
the Holy Imam-e Zaman.
The people would not accept the deputation of the four
special deputies unless they had been shown the miracles
of the Sahibu 'l-Amr to verify their truthfulness
and accuracy, although they acknowledged them as
reliable and trustworthy and had not the smallest doubt
in their piety, faith and knowledge.
The special deputies presented to Imam-e Zaman
the problems and questions of the Shi'ite scholars, and
he answered the ones that were necessary in letter form
and delivered them through the same deputies.
In these letters, the most important and difficult
problems on different subjects of Shi'ite beliefs were
One of these problems was a question as to what would be
the responsibility of the Shi'ites who would be faced
with new events during the period of occultation, and
what should they do to face them?
In the letter issued by Imam-e Zaman to the celebrated
and distinguished Shi'ite Is'haq ibn Ya'qub he recounted
duties, methods and guidance for the Shi'ites in the
period of occultation. This direction was carried out
for many centuries, and it is one of the proofs of the
comprehensiveness and eternity of Islamic rule.
In one of the letters to Imam-e Zaman which he
sent through the second special deputy of the Imam,
Is'haq ibn Ya'qub asked him some different questions,
among which was a question which is the subject of our
discussion The Imam said that in those affairs one must
refer to those who really understands their (Imams')
sayings and have truly related them:
"But as for the problems which will occur in the future,
you should refer to the narrators of our traditions for
their verdicts as they are my proofs to you, and I am
Allah's Proof (Hujjatu 'llah) to them."
Other letters of His Eminence (Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) were
issued during the minor occultation (ghaybatu
's-sughra), each one of them solved difficulties and
gave instruction in the boundless sea of wisdom. All
these letters were conveyed through the Holy Imam's
special deputy to the desirous seekers.
Yes, the four deputies, who were at the highest level of
faith and confidence for many years, were the blessed
mediators between the Imam and the people till in the
year 329 A. H., when this deputation was closed, and on
the basis of the Divine Will the major occultation of
Imam-e Zaman commenced. This was the very
occultation which was prophesied a long time previously
by the Holy Prophet and the Shi'ites Imams; and Muslims
keep patient in this period of test, till by the order
of Almighty Allah, the Awaited Imam will appear and the
Divine Aim will reach its fulfilment.
(13) THE MAJOR OCCULTATION
After the year 329 A H., when the major occultation
commenced the special deputation of Imam-e Zaman
terminated. If anybody claims during the major
occultation to be a mediator and a deputy, then,
according to the declaration of Imam-e Zaman
himself, that claimer is a liar.
In the Holy Imams' traditions, the purpose of the Imam's
going into occultation is compared to the sun being
behind the clouds yet being a source of vitality and
life for living creatures. Likewise, while the Imam is
behind the curtain of occultation, he is still a source
of the existence and remaining of the world.
During the major occultation, many people have had
meetings with His Eminence (Imam al-Mahdi -a.s.), and
have managed to meet him, but none of them have claimed
to be able to see him or to represent him, because only
the four special deputies (Nawwab al-khass) of
the Imam had the honour of meeting with His Eminence
whenever they wished.
Some of the names of these fortunate persons who have
had the honour of meeting the Imam are mentioned in the
authentic books. Among these personalities are - 'Allamah
Hilli -- a famous scholar and a rhetorician of the
Islamic world; Muqaddas Ardibili - the most pious person
and most knowledgeable jurist of his time; Sayyid ibn
Tawus - a pious and a virtuous narrator, Sayyid Bahru
'l-'Ulum - a distinguished scholar. and other great and
no table figures in Islam.
Yes, they saw the "sun" (Imam) with their own eyes, and
their hearts were filled with the faith of Imamu 'l-'Asr
(the Imam of the Period), and with sympathetic
explanations they informed others about their meeting
with His Eminence.
As an example, we can examine part of the will of Sayyid
ibn Tawus which he wrote to his son in the year 650 A.H
In his own words he explained to his son, implying the
truth of the matter without claiming to have perceived
"O' my son! If success in discovering the truth and
mysteries has been granted to you, then I will inform
you regarding Imam al- Mahdi (a.s.) in such a way that
you will never have any doubt, and you will not need
intellectual proofs and recorded traditions; because His
Eminence is certainly alive and exists, and as long as
Merciful Allah does not allow him to plan events, he is
excused from revealing and declaring his workings. And
this matter is not exclusively to him, but was usual
among many prophets and their successors. Then you must
know with confidence and consider it as your faith and
creed. And know that the insight of your father into His
Eminence is brighter than his knowledge of the world."
The honour of seeing Imam-e Zaman was not
exclusive to some special Shi'ite scholars only, but
many devout and illiterate people have also had this
honour. We are completely amazed when we see people who
at one time used to commit sinful and indecent acts, but
who after their repentance, and after having their
hearts filled with love for Imam-e Zaman, also
had an opportunity to meet him, and among them were also
our Sunni brothers.
One of the Sunni brothers was Hasan 'Iraqi who lived a
life of immorality when he was young. One day, he
suddenly awoke from the slumber of heedlessness and
asked himself, "Was I created to commit these evil
deeds?" Then he left the immoral place he was in and
went directly to the mosque. By chance, a preacher there
was speaking about Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.). 'Iraqi's fully
disturbed soul turned into a heart flaming with
enthusiastic love of the Imam Henceforth, he invoked
Allah after every prayer to give him the opportunity to
see the Living Imam (Baqiyyatu 'llah) Finally,
his prayers were answered and for seven days and nights
he learned the path of salvation in His Eminence's
Thereafter, this man became known as one of the great
scholars of Islam 'Abdu '-Wahhab Sha'rani, one of the
great Sunni scholars, and the original relater o f this
anecdote, used to call him by the title, "My great
master Shaykh 'Iraqi."
During the major occultation, letters were issued by His
Eminence to individuals and great scholars of Islam. In
those letters new difficult problems were solved, and
necessary guidance was given. Among these letters there
was one issued in the year 410 A.H. praising a
distinguished scholar of Islam, Muhammad ibn Muhammad
ibn Nu'man, alias Shaykh Mufid.
Shaykh Mufid has enjoyed a special rank for his
knowledge and devoutness, and that letter was an
acknowledgement of his efforts and worthy services. Even
after the passing of many centuries, people still ad
mire him with honour and respect.
The importance of this letter indicates the awareness of
the Imam of the mistakes and immoral actions of some of
the Shi'ites, and at the same time it gives hope in the
purpose of his existence.
"We are well informed of all your affairs and none of
them is hidden from us. We are aware of the problems
which have occupied you from the time when you found
pleasure and kept committing indecent deeds which your
predecessors had avoided. We are aware from that time
when your predecessors broke the covenant made with
them, as if they knew not about it. We will not neglect
or forget you lest calamity and troubles fall on you,
and enemies have the opportunity to overpower you.
Therefore, remember Allah and fear Him."
The valuable writings of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) during the
major occultation are the most important guidance for
his Shi'ites (followers). These writings can be referred
to in the authentic Shi'ite books.
However, we are now passing through a very sensitive
period in the major occultation.
In Islamic traditions, when the subject of the
occultation of the Twelfth Imam is discussed, reference
is made to the complex nature of this Divine test In
this Divine test, the sincere and faithful Shi'ites are
distinguished from others "and becomes as pure as a pure
In Islamic traditions, a comparison is drawn between the
sincere faith of the Shi'ites and the faith of a few
followers of the Prophet Nuh (Noah (a.s.), who remained
faithful despite their very difficult test, and who, by
boarding the ark with Prophet Nuh (a.s.), were saved
from the Deluge.
Therefore, blessed are those who have passed this Divine
test; we hope to be among their rank.
(14) THE SHI'ITES DURING THE
So now, what is a duty of a Shi'ite? What
responsibilities does he have?
Truly, are we reckoned among the real followers of His
Eminence (Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.)?
If we study the lives of the devout Shi'ites (followers)
of the Holy Imams before the Twelfth Imam, and consider
their sacrifices without the slightest hesitation, we
shall at once awake from our neglectful slumber and
realize our weakness and guilt.
Were not Salman al-Farisi, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, 'Ammar
ibn Yasir and Malik al-Ashtar the followers of the
contemporary Imam 'Ali, Amir al-mu'minin (a.s.), and are
we too the followers of the Imam of our Age?
Was not Maytham at-Tammar, who did not cease to praise
'Ali, the Lord of the faithful, a follower of His
Eminence 'Ali, and are we too, who are passing with the
Imam of our Age through a strange period, the followers
of His Eminence?
Were not the martyrs of Karbala', who with love strived
in the way of defending the Imam of their time, Husayn (a.s.),
and were martyred, the followers of His Eminence, and
are we too, who refuse to give our wealth, lives and
other means in the way of the Imam of our time, His
Is a person like Hisham ibn Hakam, who in his
extraordinary and valuable debates crushed and defamed
the opponents of the Divine Leadership (Imamate) in such
a way that he was called the "assistant of the Imam" by
Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.), a Shi'ite? And are we too, who are
sluggish in fulfilling our foremost duty to recognize
the Imam of our time, Shi'ites?
From what we read of the glad tidings in the Qur'an and
the traditions of the Holy Prophet and the infallible
Imams, the Imam of the Age (Imam-e Zaman) has
special responsibilities which other Imams did not have.
Imam-e Zaman will establish a Universal
Government. He will fill the earth with righteousness
and justice. He will exploit the earth's treasures and
natural resources. He will improve and develop the land,
and in this way people's awareness and understanding
Therefore, do not the followers of His Eminence have a
very particular duty? Should not the Shi'ites endeavour
to obtain the competence and merit of being His
Eminence's special companions when he reappears by
Therefore, let us see what our duties are and how we
should observe them. Undoubtedly, our first duty is to
become acquainted with him.
Recognizing Imam-e Zaman is so important and
essential that in the Holy Prophet's traditions we read:
"He who dies without recognizing the Imam of his age is
like one who had died during the jahiliyyah (the
pagan era before the advent of Islam)."
To die during the jahiliyyah means a death devoid
of Islam and faith. And it is obvious that one who dies
without recognizing the Imam of his age is counted in
the group of the faithless.
In another tradition, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) is
quoted as having said on the same subject :
"One who dies without having (accepted) the Imam, it is
as if he died in the jahiliyyah, and people are
not exempted from recognizing their Imam."
Therefore, we must endeavour to recognize His Eminence (Imam-e
Zaman) for the sake of Islam and our faith, and so
that we may be reckoned among those who have gained
salvation and among the faithful.
Another duty of the Shi'ites during the major
occultation, which the Holy Imam have alluded to, is the
question of being ready for the Saviour Hence, the first
step for salvation is to recognize the Imam of the age;
and the second step is to be prepared for the
establishment of just Government by His Eminence.
One who is waiting (muntazir) and preparing
himself for the appearance of the Imam must have the
characters and merits of the companions of Imam al-Mahdi
(a.s.), and should sacrifice his life and wealth in his
way. For this reason, Imam as- Sadiq (a.s.) said:
"One who waits for our commands is like a person who
sacrifices his own blood in the way of Allah."
Yes, he who is really ready for the Imamu 'l-'Asr
(the Imam of the Period) becomes like a martyr in the
way of Allah.
In another tradition, the same Imam told some of his
followers about the person who is really waiting for
the Imam-e Zaman, saying:
"One who dies while expecting the Government of al-Qa'im
is like one who is in the presence of al-Qa'im
(Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.)."
After a pause he added:
"But he is like one who has been struck with a sword
while accompanying him."
Then he insisted further by adding:
"Nay, by Allah! He is like one who has been martyred in
the presence of the Messenger of Allah."
Are we reckoned among those who are expecting His
Eminence? Are we at least waiting for the Divine Promise
of the Authority of Allah (Waliyyu 'llah) in the
same manner as we wait for the return of our loved ones
from a journey?
In another tradition, Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) narrated the
virtues of the companions of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.)
"If one takes pleasure in being among the companions of
al-Qa'im, then he must wait for him and must act
with good behaviour and modestly. If he dies before the
appearance of al-Qa'im, then he will be rewarded
like one who has followed him. Then act diligently, and
await, that this effort and awaiting will give you
delight, O' you who have found salvation."
So, one who is awaiting and has not ceased from good and
worthy deeds should earnestly endeavour to be in an
excellent and worthy position in such a way that Allah
may shower His blessings on him.
So, we should pray to Allah that He may include us among
those who are waiting for the Imam of the age, and that
our acts and conduct may also symbolize the truth of our
claim. Firstly, we should acquaint ourselves with His
Eminence, the Imam, and then we should guide others, his
opponents and enemies. We should gain the virtues of the
companions of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.), and should always be
in the expectation of his appearance Henceforth, we will
be able to sacrifice our worthless souls and thus to
make them worthy.
Shi'ites must have a devout link with His Eminence
during the occultation.
Their hearts and souls should be filled with love and
affection for him.
Their thoughts should be devoted to his service and
their desire should be to meet him.
Their prayers should be to ask for the blessing of Allah
to be showered on His Eminence, and their supplication
should be for salvation.
Their existence should be one welded and fused unit, and
their life should blaze with love for him