This faction constituted the majority of the Imamites who had accepted the Imamate of al- `Askari, such as Abu Sahl Isma`il b. `Ali al-Nawbakhti, al-Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti, Sa'd b. `Abd Allah al-Ash'ari al-Qummi (the author of Kitab al-Maqalat wa-l-Firaq), `Uthman b. Said al- Umari and his son Muhammad(1).

1.6 Schism V: The Cessation of the Imamate

This group held that from the moment al-`Askari died there was no longer an Imam. Al-Nawbakhti, al-Mufid and al-Shahristani considered this group as one faction, whereas Sa`d al-Qummi was presumably more accurate when he divided it into two(2), since the partisans of this schism agreed on the death of al-`Askari and the cessation of the Imamate, while they differed on the dogma of al-Qa段mal-Mahdi as follows:

i) The first group deemed that it had been confirmed by successive transmission that al-Askari would die without leaving a successor. For this reason there was no Imam after al-`Askari and the Imamate ceased. This, they contended, was reasonable and permitted. Since the cessation of the prophecy after Muhammad was possible, the cessation of the Imamate was also possible. They established their doctrine on a transmission attributed to the sixth Imam, Ja断ar al-Sadiq, which states that the earth cannot be without a Proof unless Allah becomes angry at the sins of His creatures and retains him from them for as long as He wills. This group did not believe in the rising of al-Qa段m al-Mahdi(3).

ii) The people of the second group held the same doctrine as the previous faction, but they separated from them over the dogma of al-Qa段m al-Mahdi They said that since al-`Askari had passed away without leaving a successor, the Imamate had ceased until Allah raised the Qa'im from among the Imams who had died, such as al-Hasan al- `Askari, or from among any of his descendants. Furthermore the rising of al-Qa段m al-Mahdi was inevitable because this was confirmed by successive tradition. They considered the period after the death of al- `Askari and the rise of al-Qa段m as an interval of time devoid of prophecy and Imamate, like the period between Jesus and Muhammad(4).

There is some evidence that many people from various countries doubted the existence of the Twelfth Imam, such as Muhammad b. Ali b. Mahzayar al-Ahwazi from al-Ahwaz(5), and many of the persons from Banu Taalib in Medina who had been agents of the eleventh Imam(6).

1.7 Conclusion

This historical and theological survey suggests that on the death of al- Askari, the Imamites fell into problems similar to those which had beset them after the death of the seventh Imam, Musa al-Kazim. They split into al-Waqifa, Muhammadiyya, Ja断ariyya and Qat段yya. Possibly the causes of this split were as follows:

i) Although the bulk of the Imamites accepted the Imamate of alュ`Askari, they retained their cultural and sectarian backgrounds. For example, al- Askari himself had allowed his adherents to accept the traditions related by the Banu Faddal, who belong to the Waqifa Musa al-Kazim, but had urged them to reject their doctrine. The influence exerted by these cultural ties can be noted in the traditional arguments held by the Imamites after the death of alュ`Askari, arguments which led to the rise of the Waqifa at al-`Askari and the encouragement of the Ja断arites.

ii) Despite its developed system the Imamite organization (alュ-Wikala) did not widely disseminate the testament of Imam al- Askari concerning his successor amongst the populace and the lower missionaries. The organization may have acted in this way because of the tense political situation. Thus no successor was openly indicated by al-`Askari, nor was any well-known to the general mass of the Imamites.

For this reason the Imamites who knew nothing about alュAskari's testament had recourse to the traditions adopted by the majority of the Imamites to determine who was to be the Twelfth Imam. The interpretation of these traditions led to various different points of view which, in turn, led to new sub-divisions amongst the Qat`iyya and the Muhammadiyya.

iii) The third cause contributing to these divisions was the personal ambition of al-`Askari's brother, Ja断ar, who claimed the Imamate during the lifetime of al- `Askari. Ja断ar became more powerful after the death of his brother, because he was encouraged by the Fathiyya, in order to vindicate their doctrine, and especially by Banu Faddal in Kufa. However Ja`far's success did not continue, because his followers differed as to how he gained the Imamate, and because their arguments in the field of traditions were weaker than those of the Qat`iyya.

Thus, as al-Mufid and al-Tusi state, all these divisions and splits gradually vanished, except for the Qat段yya, who became the Twelvers in the fourth/tenth century(7).

2. The Question of the Birth of the Twelfth Imam

The possibility that the Twelfth Imam was born and his birth was kept hidden is supported by a number of narrations. The fact that there were already narrations about the Twelfth Imam as al-Qa段m al-Mahdi gave rise to other narrations which can only be described as hagiographical. But from the time of al-Saduq onwards, even these were accepted by the Imamites as historical facts. Nevertheless, other early narrations present his birth as a purely historical fact without the embellishment of miraculous reports.

2.1 The Origin of the Mother of the Twelfth Imam

The earliest Imamite scholar to give an account of the Twelfth Imam's mother is al-Mas'udi. He reports that she was a slave-girl called Narjis(8). Al-Shahid (d. 786/1384) states that her name was Maryam b. Zayd al-`Alawiyya(9), and other reports give her name as Rayhana, Saqil and It is possible that her name was in fact Narjis and the other names, except Saqil, were given to her by her owner Hakima bint Muhammad al-Jawad. People at that time used to call their slave-girls by different names as a form of flattery, and Narjis, Rayhana and Sawsan are all names of flowers.

The earliest report concerning the nationality of the Twelfth Imam's mother goes back to the year 286/899. This was written down for the first time by al-Saduq, on the authority of Muhammad b. Bahr al-Shaybani, who attributed his narration to Bishr b. Sulayman al-Nakhkhas. According to this report she was a Christian from Byzantium who had been captured by Islamic troops(10).

She was sold as a slave and bought by al-Nakhkhas in the slave-market in Baghdad. Al-Nakhkhas sent her to the tenth Imam, `Ali al-Hadi, in Samarra. After this, however, the narration begins` to lose much of its credibility and becomes hagiographical. It is related that she was Malika b. Yashshu', the granddaughter of the Emperor of Byzantium, whose mother was a descendant of Simon (Sham' un) the disciple of Jesus. When Malika was in her grandfather's palace, she dreamt that she saw Jesus's mother, Mary, and Muhammad's daughter, Fatima. In this dream Fattima converts her to Islam and persuades her to allow herself to be captured by Islamic troops(11).

The authenticity of this narration is questionable in many aspects, the most doubtful points being found in the last part.

Firstly there was no major battle between the `Abbasids and the Byzantines after 242/856(12) and there is no indication in the sources that the Emperor of Byzantium appealed to the `Abbasids to liberate his granddaughter.

Secondly, the early Imamite authors, particularly al-Qummi, al-Nawbakhti, al-Kulayni and al-Mas'udi, who were contemporaries of al-Shaybani, the narrator of this report, do not refer to it in their works. In addition, al-Kashshi, who was a companion of al-Shaybani, and the later scholars al-Najashi and Ibn Dawud claim that he was an extremist(13).

Thirdly, al-Kulayni states that al-Qa段m's mother was a slave-girl from al-Nawba, the northern province of Sudan(14). Moreover alュ-Nu'mani and al-Saduq related other narrations which indicate that al-Qa段m's mother was to be a black slave-girl(15). It may be that the later Imamites ignored these transmissions and considered the narration of al-Shaybani as authentic because the latter makes al-Qa段m痴 mother of noble ancestry and high social status.

They would have been particulary attracted by the connection the report establishes between the Twelfth Imam, al-Qa段m, and Jesus, since prophetic traditions state that the two of them will rise together to rid the world of tyranny(16).

In the light of these three points the narration of-Muhammad b. Bahr al-Shaybani can be rejected despite the fact that al-Tusi and Ibn Rustam al-Tabari consider it reliable(17).  Possibly the correct account of the origin of al-Qa段m's mother is given by al-Mufid, who states that she was a slave-girl brought up in the house of Hakima, the sister of the tenth Imam. According to his report the Imam saw her one day and predicted that she would give birth to someone with special Divine blessing(18).

 According to al-Saduq she died before the death of her husband, al-Hasari al-`Askari, in 260/874.(19) But al-Najashi's report indicates that she was alive after this year hiding at the house of Muhammad b. `Ali b. Hamza, one of the close associates of her husband al-`Askari(20).

2.2 The Birth of the Twelfth Imam

Since the eleventh Imam died without leaving an obvious son, most of his followers, who held that he had in fact left a successor, based their belief on traditions attributed to the preceding Imams concerning al-Qa段m al-Mahdi and his occultation(21).  The following statements, some of which we have already had occasion to relate, are examples of these traditions: The world cannot be void of a Proof, either manifest and well-known, or hidden because of fear(22).

The Imamate cannot be vested to two brothers after al-Hasan and alュHusayn(23). According to al-Sadiq, the "Master of the Command" (Sahib al-Amr) will have two occultations. One of them will be so prolonged that some will say that he has died and others will say that he has been killed, and finally only a few of his followers will remain faithful to his Imamate. No one will become cognizant of his whereabouts and his affairs except his intimate partisans, who will look after his affairs(24).

It is worth mentioning that this last tradition had also been recorded before the death of al-`Askari in 260/874 by the Sevener Imamites, the Waqifa who had applied these traditions to the seventh Imam Musa al-Kazim(25).

Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti reports that al-`Askari had intimate partisans who used to narrate traditions concerning Islamic law on his authority and were his deputies. When al-`Askari died in 260/874 all of them agreed that he had left a son who was the Imam. Al-Nawbakhti adds that they forbade their adherents to ask about his name or to reveal his existence to his foes, who were at that time trying to arrest him(26).

 The `Abbasids'political pressure, which forced al-`Askari to hide the birth of his son from the ordinary Imamites, may also have led the Twelfth Imam to transmit different reports concerning the date of his birth, some of which took on a hagiographical form.

Most of the Imamite sources agree that al-`Askari's son was born on Friday, the 15th of Sha'ban(27), but they differ about the year of his birth. Al-Qummi gives an account of a group of Imamites who held that al- `Askari had died and left a son called Muhammad, who had already come of age when his father died(28).

But they did not fix the year of his birth. Perhaps this group based their belief in the existence of al-`Askarl's son mainly upon the tradition which says that the earth cannot be void of a Proof. Unfortunately al-Qummi does not report any witnesses to the birth of the Imam from this group to support their opinion.

Al-Kulayni, al-Mufid and al-Tusi mention four different viewpoints concerning the date of the Twelfth Imam's birth. The first was related by `Allan al-Razi and al-Kulayni on the authority of 'Ali b. Muhammad, who states that the Twelfth Imam was born in 255/868.(29) Al-Tusi reports two narrations attributed to Hakima bint al-Jawad which support this date(30).

The second report states that he was born in 258/871. This report is attributed by Daw' b. `Ali al-`Ijli to an anonymous Persian who related that in the year 260/873 he had come to Samarra from Persia to serve in the house of al- `Askari. According to the Persian one of alュ`Askari's slave-girls had given birth and he saw the child in the arms of another slave-girl. He estimated his age at about two years(31).

Another transmission, on the authority of Muhammad b. `Ali b. Bilal, relates that al- `Askari informed him twice about his successor: once in 258/871, then three days before his death in 260/874.(32)

The narration attributed to Daw` does not mention explicitly the date of the Imam's birth nor the time when the narrator gave his estimation, whether it was before or after the death of al-`Askari. Regarding the narration of Ibn Bilal, although al-`Askari informed him about the existence of his successor in 258/871, this does not indicate or reveal that the birth of his son occurred in that year. In fact it leads us to think that the birth occurred before 258/871.






(1)Ibn al-Nadim, al-Fihrist, (Tehran, 1972), 225; Kama値, 482; Q. Maqlat, 106.

(2)Milal, 130-1; N. Firaq, 88-9.

(3)Q. Maqalat, 107-8.

(4)Q. Maqalat, 108-9; T. al-Ghayba, 147.

(5)Kama値, 485,487.

(6)al-Kafi, I, 518-9.

(7)T. al-Ghayba, 142-6; al-Fusul al-Mukhtara, 261.

(8)Ithbat, 248. For the later authors who named her as Narjis see al-Irshad, 390; T. al-Ghayba, 153, 158; 繕yun, 32-3.

(9)Bihar, LI, 28, quoted from al-Dirus.

(10)Kama値, 431-2.

(11)Kama値, 317-23.

(12)Tabari, III, 1434.

(13)Ikhtiyar, 147-8; al-Najashi, 298; Ibn Dawud, al-Rijal, 541.

(14)al-Kafi, I, 323.

(15)N. al-Ghayba, 84, 85, 120; Kama値,  329.

(16)Kama値, 280, 345; al-Marwazi, Kitab al-Fitan, Mss fol, 150-63.

(17)T. al-Ghayba, 134-9; Dala'il, 262-4.

(18)al-Irshad, 390-1.

(19)Kama値, 431.

(20)al-Najashi, 268.

(21)Ibn Qubba, Naqd Kitab al-Ashhad, quoted in Kama値, 113.

(22)al-Kafi I, 178; N. Firaq, 91.

(23)al-Kafi, I, 285-6; Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti states in his work al-Tanbih that the main argument used by the Imamites to prove the existence of the Twelfth Imam was the traditions of the preceding Imams, which had been narrated beforethe death of the eleventh Imam in 260/874; quoted in Kama値, 92-3; also see N. Firaq, 90-91; Q. Maqalat, 102.

(24)N. al-Ghayba, 90.

(25)T. al-Ghayba, 90.

(26)Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti, al-Tanbih, quoted in Kama値, 92-3.

(27)For example, see al-Kafi, I, 514; Kama値, 424; al-Irshad, 390. However, Ibn Rustam al-Tabari mentions that al-`Askari's son was born on the 8th of Sha鍛an, 257/870; Dalail, 272.

(28)Q. Maqalat, 114; al-Saduq reports a narration the authority of Ya'qub b. Manfush who claimed that al-`Askari had shown him his son, whose age at that time was between eight and ten years old; Kama値, 407.

(29)al-Kafi, I, 329; al-Irshad, 390-391.

(30)T. al-Ghayba, 150-151, 153.

(31)al-Kafi, I, 514-5.

(32)al-Kafi, I, 328; al-Irshad, 394.