2. In his work on the subject of al-Ghayba called al ュMashyakha, al-Hasan b. Mahbub al-Sarrad (d. 224/838) records several anedoctes which are often attributed to the Imams. This work has been lost but several quotations from it are included in the available Imamite sources.

3. Al-Fadl b. Shadhan al-Nisaburi (d. 260/873) was a wellュknown Imamite scholar and secured the trust and the praise of the eleventh Imam. He also compiled a book called al-Ghayba(1), but most of its material seems to have been quoted from the work of al-Hasan b. Mahbub(2). Since al-Fadl died two months before the death of the eleventh Imam in 260/874, the importance of his work lies in the traditions he recorded indicating that the Twelfth Imam would be al-Qa段m. Many later writers like al-Tusi in his own work entitled al-Ghayba, relied on al-Fadl's work. Baha al-Din al-Nili (d. 790/1388) also compiled a work entitled al-Ghayba by summarising al-Fadl's work(3). Despite the fact that the actual work of al-Fadl is lost, the works Kifayat al-Muhtadi fi Ma`rifat al-Mahdi by Mirlawhi (d. 12th/18th century) and Kashf al-Astir by Mirza Husayn al-Nuri (d. 1320/1902) seems to be copies of his work(4). Therefore it is not unreasonable to make use of these later sources for our present purposes.

1.2. Books on the Question of the Ghayba written between the years 260-329/8'74-941

During the years of the short occultation (260-329/874-941) many books reflecting different views were composed on the question of al ュGhayba. These were mainly collections of anecdotes based on works written before 260/874. Their authors were either jurists or propagandists and they participated in the activities of the underground organization of the Imamites led by the Twelfth Imam himself. Thus they recorded important information, which cannot be found in books on history compiled during the same period.

In 262/876, Ibrahim b. Ishaq al-Nahawandi (d. 286/899) claimed to be the representative of the Twelfth Imam in Baghdad(5).

 He composed a book about the Ghayba reflecting the view of the extremists (al-Ghulat). Later al-Nu`mani (d. 360/970) used alュ Nahawandi's information extensively in composing his well-known book al- Ghayba.(6)

`Abd Allah b. Ja`far al-Himyari (d. after 293/905) wrote a book entitled al-Ghayba wa-l-Hayra. The importance of his work lies in the fact that he was one of the close associates of the tenth and the eleventh Imams and later became the agent of the first two deputies (Saf段rs) of the Twelfth Imam. Unfortunately this work and the work called al-Imama wa-l-Tabsira min al-Hayra by Ibn Babawayh (d. 329/940) are not extant. However, the latter's son, al-Saduq (d. 382/991) and al-Tusi (d. 460/1067) made thorough use of these works.

Al-Kulayni (d. 329/940) devoted much space in the section entitled al-Hujja of his book al-Kafi to the question of the occultation. He backs up this study with important information on the general situation of the Imamites between the years 260-329/874-940 with special emphasis on the role of the Saf段rs of the Imam in this period. He recorded many traditions attributed to the Imams concerning the concealment of the Twelfth Imam. He quoted this information from the earlier Waqifite and Imamite authors like al-Hasan b. Mahbub (d. 224/838), `Abbad b. Ya'qub al- `Asfari (d. 250/864) and al-Hasan b. Suma`a (d. 263/877). Moreover the agents of the Twelfth Imam were the main source of his information on the underground activities of the Imamites.

1.3. Books on the question of the Ghayba written after 329/941 

The occurrence of the second occultation in 329/941 led to a state of confusion among the Imamites. Hence several works were composed to justify the Twelfth Imam's occultation and to explain the reasons for its prolongation. Five works of this period can be considered the basis for all later Imamite opinions concerning the occultation. Since these primary sources have been widely used in this book, it is worth evaluating the information they contain in some detail.

1. Al-Nu`mani, Muhammad b. Ibrahim b. Ja`far, known as Ibn Abi Zaynab, was a native of the town of Nu`maniyya, one of the districts of Wasit. He moved to Baghdad where he was educated in Hadith transmission under the supervision of al-Kulayni (d. 329/940) and Ibn `Uqda (d. 333/944). He then went to Syria where he died around the year 360/970.

Because of the confusion which had spread amongst the Shi段tes after the death of the eleventh Imam, al- `Askari, in the year 260/874, al-Nu`mani wrote a book entitled al-Ghayba. He tried to prove the necessity of the Twelfth Imam's occultation by relating traditions on the authority of the Prophet and the Imams predicting its occurrence. He acquired most of his information from early authors who wrote on this subject, irrespective of their doctrinal views. Among such early authors are al-Hasan b. Mahbub, an Imamite (d. 224/838), alュ Fadl b. Shadhan, an Imamite (d. 260/873), al-Hasan b. Suma`a, a Waqifite (d. 263/877), Ibrahim b. Ishaq al-Nahawandi, an extremist (d. 286/899), al-Kulayni, an Imamite (d. 329/940), the well-known Zaydite jurist Ibn `Uqda (d. 333/944), and al-Mas'udi (d. 345/956)(7).

Al-Nu'mani's outstanding contribution was that he was the first compiler after al-Mas`udi (d. 345/956) to give an interpretation of those traditions attributed to the Imams by al-Kulayni, which indicated that al-Qa段m would have two occupations, the first short and the second long. Al-Nu'mani stated that the first occultation was the period of the four representatives of the Twelfth Imam, lasting from the year 260/874 until the year 329/940-1, and that the second began after the death of the fourth Saf段r in 329/941.(8)

Some of his remarks reflect how the complete occultation of the Twelfth Imam threw the Imamites into confusion and caused a massive decrease in their numbers. His interpretation became the basis for all later Imamite works on this subject.

2. Muhammad b. `Ali b. Babawayh, who is better known as al-Saduq (d. 381/991), wrote a book on the question of the Ghayba entitled Kama値 al-Di'n wa Tamam al-Ni`ma. The information contained in this work is valuable because al-Saduq relied on the Shi段te primary sources (al-Usul) which had been compiled before 260/874.(9) Thus we find that he often refers to the authors al-Hasan b. Mahbub, al-Fadl b. Shadhan, al-Hasan b. Suma`a, al-Saffar, alュHimyari and his own father, Ibn Babawayh(10), who had close ties with the third and fourth Saf段rs of the Twelfth Imam. Because his father was an eminent jurist and the Imam's agent in Qumm, al-Saduq was able to give reliable information regarding the underground comュmunications between the agents and the Imam via his four Saf段rs. However, a study of the chain of transmitters (isnad) of some of his reports concerning the birth of the Twelfth Imam indicates that al-ュSaduq obtained his information from extremists such as Muhammad b. Bahr. Consequently, one must be careful in using these reports.

3. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. al-Nu`man, who is known as al-Mufid (d. 413/1022), was at one time the leader of the Imamites. During this time the question of the occultation began to penetrate theological discussions. Hence he wrote five articles in defence of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam and also compiled an independent work entitled al-FUsul al-`Ashara fi al-Ghayba. Despite the dogmatic approach of this work, it records valuable information concerning the historical circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Twelfth Imam before 260/874.

Al-Mufid also presents an exposition similar to that of al-Nawbakhti and Sa'd al-Qummi putting forward the fifteen different views held by the Imamites after 260/874. Al ュMufid bore witness to the disappearance of all fifteen groups by 373/983, except the Twelvers who believed that their leader was the Twelfth Imam and that he was in concealment. In his book al-Irshad, al-Mufid follows the method employed by al-Kulayni and alュNu'mani in the narration of Hadith, first of all by proving the existence of the Twelfth Imam and then by vindicating the prolongation of his age beyond the life-span of an ordinary person.

4. After al-Mufid his two eminent pupils 'Ali b. al-Husayn, better known as al-Murtada (d. 436/1044), and Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Karajaki (d. 449/1057), followed his rational approach in their treatises on the prolongation of the Twelfth Imam's concealment. This approach is clear in the extant article of al-Murtada which was published in Baghdad in 1955 under the title Masa'la wajiza fi al ュGhayba and translated into English by Sachedina(11).

In 427/1035 alュ Karajaki compiled a work entitled al-Burhan `ala Sihhat Tul `Umr alュ Imam Sahib al-Zaman, in which he mentions many people whose ages had been prolonged beyond the life-span of an ordinary person. His aim in this was to prove, like al-Saduq and al-Mufid before him, that the prolongation of the Twelfth Imam's life during his occultation was not an extraordinary phenomenon. On account of the dogmatic approach of these two works they are devoid of any historical information concerning the actual career of the Twelfth Imam between the years 260-329/874-941.

5. The well-known Imamite scholar Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Tusi (d. 460/1067) deals with the question of the Ghayba of the Twelfth Imam in most of his dogmatic works. But the most important of these is Kitab al- Ghayba, in which he makes use of both tradition and reason to prove that the Twelfth Imam was al-Qa段m al-Mahdi, and that he must be in a state of occultation. Through his refutation of the other Shi段te claims, which held that 羨li b. Abi Talib (d. 41/661), Ibn al-Hanafiyya (d. 84/703), al-Sadiq (d. 148/765), Muhammad b. Isma'il, and al-Kazim (d. 183/799) were al-Qa段mand that they were in hiding, he suggests that the traditions concerning the occultation go back to the time of 'Ali.

Al-Tusi also provides reliable historical information on the underground activities of the four representatives of the Twelfth Imam, quoting from a missing book entitled Akhbar al- Wukala' al ュArba'a by Ahmad b. Nuh al-Basri. Al-Tusi's work became the main source for all the later Imamite writers regarding the concealment of the Twelfth Imam, particularly al-Majlisi (d. 1111/1699) in his work Bihar al-Anwar.





(1) al-Najashi 235-6.

(2) al-Galbagani, Muntakhab al-Athar (Tehran, n.d.), 467.

(3) Buzurg, al-Dhari'a, XX, 201.

(4) Buzurg, al-Dhari`a, XVI, 82; al-Galbagani, op.cit., 467.

(5) al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar (Tehran, 1395), LI, 300-1.

(6) N.al-Ghayba, 143, 156, 163, 185.

(7) N.al-Ghayba, 82-6, 100.

(8) N.al-Ghayba, 91-2.

(9) Kamal, 19.

(10) Kamal, 127, 133, 187, 211, 222, 174, 381.

(11) Sachedina, A Treatise on the Occultation of the Twelfth Imamite Imam, Studia Islamica (Paris, 1978), XLVIII, 117-24.