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
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.
Books on the Question of the Ghayba written between the
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)
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.
(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.
Books on the question of the Ghayba written after
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.
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
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).
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)
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
al-Galbagani, Muntakhab al-Athar (Tehran, n.d.),
Buzurg, al-Dhari'a, XX, 201.
Buzurg, al-Dhari`a, XVI, 82; al-Galbagani,
al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar (Tehran, 1395), LI,
N.al-Ghayba, 143, 156, 163, 185.
N.al-Ghayba, 82-6, 100.
Kamal, 127, 133, 187, 211, 222, 174, 381.
Sachedina, A Treatise on the Occultation of the
Twelfth Imamite Imam, Studia Islamica (Paris,
1978), XLVIII, 117-24.