They considered it a sort of wrong analogy (qiyas fasid) similar to that which was established and implemented by non-shi'ite jurists.

The prolongation of the Twelfth Imam's concealment, which was attacked by Zaydite scholars and others, led the Imamite jurists to introduce rational arguments in order to defend their belief in the existence of the Twelfth Imam(1)

Men who had been mere narrators of traditions became scholastic theologians (Mutakallimun). This change in the role of the Fuqaha' can be seen in al-Mufid's works. His works mark a break with earlier Imamite writing like al-Saffar and alュKulayni's works which are purely collections of traditions, whereas al-Mufid's are mainly treatises written in defence of the Imamite doctrine, in particular, the belief in the Twelfth Imam's occultation.

Al-Mufid also was a narrator of traditions (Muhaddith),but since he gave priority to the theological issues he was named the speaker of the Shiites (Mutakallim al-Shi'a). Moreover with the passing of time new situations arose to which the shari`a had to be applied, and since direct communication with the Twelfth Imam had come to an end, someone had to be found to give an answer to these questions. Thus the Imamite Fuqaha' expanded their role by undertaking Ijtihad(2) to answer such questions and to fill the vacuum which had been brought about by the concealment of the Twelfth Imam. Al-Mufid may have been the first jurist to practice Ijtihad. Then al-Tusi (d.460/1067) gave a definite shape to it.(3)

Secondly, in light of the first point it is clear that during the last quarter of the fourth/tenth century the Imamite Fuqaha' acquired authority to give legal judgements (fatwa) to a much greater extent than those who had been contemporary with the beginning of the second occultation and the dissolution of the underground organization. It has already been noted that after the death of alュSammari in 329/941 the Imamite agents and such fuqaha' as Muhammad b. Ahmad b. al-Walid were expecting the Imam's reappearance with the sword in the near future, and for this reason they refused to receive any of the khums supposing that it was forbidden for them to do so.(4)

But ever since the time of al-Mufid the fuqaha' have granted themselves authority to receive the sadat share of the khums in order to distribute it amongst the needy of the Prophet's kindred. Since nothing was stipulated concerning the direct deputyship of the Twelfth Imam(5), the Imamite fuqaha' gradually gained enough authority to act as his indirect representatives. They based their new position on traditions which lay down the role they were to have while the Imam was in hiding. Below are the main traditions which have been used in supporting the authority of the fuqaha':

i) The Twelfth Imam issued a pronouncement (Tawqi) in reply to Ishaq b. Ya`qub via his second Saf段r:

As for the events which will occur, turn to the narrators of our traditions, because they (the narrators) are my proof to you, while I am the proof of Allah to them.(6)

ii) Al-Tabarsi mentions this tradition attributed to the eleventh Imam:

It is obligatory for the populace to follow the jurist who refrains from committing wrong, mentions his faith, opposes carnal desire, and obeys Allah's command.(7)

iii) Al-Tabarsi reports another transmission on the authority of the tenth Imam concerning the role of the fuqaha':

After the occultation of your Qa'im a group of the `ulama' will call people to believe in his (al-Qa段m's) Imamate and defend his religion by using proofs sent by Allah, so that they might save the weak-minded faithful from either the deceptions of Satan and his followers, or the deceptions of the anti-`Alids (al-ュNawasib). If none of these ` ulama' remain, then everyone will stray from the religion of Allah. However, as the pilot holds the rudder of the ship, the `ulama' will hold firmly onto the hearts of the weak-minded Shiites, preventing them from straying. Those 爽lama' are the most excellent in the view of Allah the Exalted.(8)

It is clear from the above traditions that the fuqaha' must possess two qualities before they can acquire the right to be the deputies of the Imam without direct stipulation. Firstly they should be knowledgeュable in the law. Secondly they should be just. Then, irrespective of their family, whether they are from the progeny of al-Husayn or not, they are entitled to be deputies. It is worth repeating that the four Saf段rsof the Twelfth Imam were not descendants of `Ali. This may indicate that the Twelfth Imam wanted to train and raise his followers to accept, after his complete occultation, the leadership of the just and knowledgeable fuqaha',even if they were not `Alids. Moreover, it can be noted that after the beginning of the complete occultation, the majority of able fuqaha' were not from the progeny of `Ali. Among such fuqaha' were al-Nu'mani (d. 360/970), al-Saduq (d. 381/991), al-Mufid (d. 413/1022).

In short the authority of the fuqaha' became so well-established amongst the Imamites that a considerable number of the later fuqaha',such as al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli (d. 676/1277) granted the faqih complete authority over the deputyship of the hidden Imam.(9)

 He gave himself as a faqih the right to deal with the Imam's share of the khums while the early fuqaha' like al-Mufid only gave themselves authority over the part of the khums (sadat share) intended for the orphans, the poor, and the penniless travellers of the Prophet's kindred. Al-Hilli argues that if the first half of the khums (the Imam's share) is obligatory, then it must be distributed even during the Imam's occultation, because that which ,Allah has made obligatory cannot be abrogated on account of the occultation of the Imam. He continues to assert that the one who is charged with distributing the share of the Imam according to the needs of the Prophet's kindred must hold the deputyship of the Imam in legal matters i.e. that he must be one of the just Imamite fuqaha'.(10)

The extension of the authority of the Imamite fuqaha' as a result of the prolongation of the Imam's occultation was a positive factor contributing to the unity of the Imamite community. It has been noted that after the death of each Imam, the Imamites split into various factions. This trend reached its peak on the death of the eleventh Imam in 260/874, when his followers divided into fourteen groups. But after the occultation of the Twelfth Imam, the fuqaha' became united in their attempt to establish their own religious and political authority.

The force which united them was the belief in the Imamate of the concealed Imam. As a result, Shi`ism was saved from splitting into further factions. Consequently, the number of its followers increased. The death of a faqih who believed in the Imamate of the hidden Imam did not lead to a split amongst the faqih's followers, and they usually accepted the leadership of another Imamite faqih. Thus all the fourteen factions which had grown up among the followers of al-`Askari disappeared around the year 373/983 except for the one group which supported the Imamate of the Twelfth Imam, who was in a state of complete occultation.(11)

Chapter 8: Conclusion 

The conclusion of the present work can be summarized as follows:

i) The problem of the nature of the Ghayba of the Twelfth Imam is an old one in the history of Shi'ism and is closely connected with the question of the Imama. From the beginning the Shiites held that the Prophet could not have left his community without a leader to supervise the interpretation of the shari`a and its implementation in society. On the contrary, he had appointed `Ali as his successor and stipulated that the leadership of the community should pass to alュ-Hasan and al‑Husayn, and thereafter to the eldest son of each subsequent Imam from the line of al‑Husayn until the rise of alュMahdi.

However, the Imams were unable to rule the whole community after the death of the Prophet. Since political power had been usurped by others, the Imams were forced to seek to regain it according to those methods which they felt to be sound and legal, even though the political and economic resources of their opponents were stronger than their own, especially after the martyrdom of al‑Husayn. None of the Imams after al‑Husayn involved themselves directly in any obvious political activities or took part in direct incitement to revolt. In fact it seems that they restricted their activities to three major areas:

A) They encouraged the dissemination of Prophetic traditions amongst the people to acquaint them with the right of the People of the House of the Prophet (Ahl al‑Bayt) to lead the community and to show them that their exclusion from actual political leadership did not mean that they were content to adopt a purely spiritual stance, nor did it imply tacit support of the government of the day. Indeed they were totally committed to their struggle to regain control, but only when circumstances indicated the probable success of their rebellion, and when they were sure of the support of a sufficient number of faithful followers to aid the revolution and to implement Islam according to the Imamite approach.

B) From the Imamate of al‑Sadiq the Imams circulated Prophetic Hadith amongst the Imamites themselves concerning the rise of an Imam from Ahl al‑Bayt who would establish the righteous state. This Imam would be al-Qa段m al‑Mahdi, who was mentioned in the Prophetic traditions. He would first go into a state of concealment from which he would continue to direct the affairs of the Imama. Then he would go into total occultation. But the majority of the traditions did not specify which Imam this would be, nor did they stipulate a definite date for his uprising. This obscurity allowed some `Alids to use these traditions to support their own political aims, without heeding the instructions of the Imam as regards the correct circumstances for the concealment and rising of al-Qa段m al‑Mahdi. A clear example of this is seen in the case of the Isma`ilis, who broke away from the Imamites and continued to carry out their activities secretly between the years 145‑296/762‑908, until one of them managed to reach power in the year 296/908, claiming the title al-ュMahdi.

The Zaydites also used these traditions in their attempts to gain control, but lacked the precaution and careful planning of the Isma段lls and the Imamites. In fact the obscurity of these Hadiths, related from al‑Sadiq was one of the reasons that some Imamites believed that the concealed Imam was Musa al‑Kazim, who would rise as al-Qa段m al‑Mahdi These people were called the Waqifa.

C) The early Imams believed that any of them could be al-Qa段m al‑Mahdi if the conditions were right but after the failure of their intended revolt in 140/757, they decided that it would be illュadvised to fix a particular date for another uprising. In this way the Imams hoped to encourage their followers in religious activities which would pave the way for more political matters at the appropriate time. At the same time they also secretly encouraged their most faithful followers, who found that they had no option but to rebel against unjust and tyrannical rulers. One of the results of these policies was the establishment of the Wikala during the Imamate of al‑Sadiq as a means of supervising the activities of the Imamites and guiding them towards the final aim of the Imams, namely the establishment of a truly Islamic state based entirely upon the shari`a as interpreted and implemented by the Prophet and his Household.

D) The `Abbasid authorities were aware of the danger posed by the Shiites and especially by the Imamites. So they tried to turn the attention of the people away from the rights of Ahl al‑Bayt (the People of the House) by fabricating Prophetic traditions which stated that the Imam after the Prophet was al‑'Abbas and not 'Ali. Simultaneously, they worked to divide the Shiites internally by appointing men from the Jaririyya to certain sensitive posts, so that the Jaririyya could investigate the Imamites and spread propaganda against them. After the failure of this policy, from the time of al-ュMa'mun the `Abbasids instituted a new plan which was intended to curtail the revolutionary activities of the Shiites. Part of this plan was to make the Imams their courtiers so that they could watch their every move. This can be observed in the policy of al‑Ma'mun, who brought al‑Riďa from Medina to Merv and appointed him his heir apparent, keeping him under house arrest. Al‑Ma'mun followed a similar policy with the ninth Imam al‑Jawad. Later the `Abbasid caliphs followed al‑Ma'mun's lead in their attitude towards the tenth Imam, al‑Hadi, and his son al‑`Askari, both of whom were kept under house arrest in Samarra for most of their lives. It thus became extremely difficult for the Imams to have normal relations with their followers, except their closest associates with whom they held secret meetings.

It seems likely that the house arrest of the later Imams led them to expand the role of the organization, the Wikala, and to entrust the Saf段r with more authority to supervise the Imamites' activities. From the time of al‑Jawad onwards, the Imam began to guide the activities of his followers through his Saf段r. The ordinary Imamites found such a situation strange and had to be educated to accept such indirect communication with the Imam. However the role of the Saf段r during this period is not as obvious as his later position during the first occultation of the Twelfth Imam, because the Imam's whereabouts were well‑known and his position clear.






(1)al-Sahib b. `Abbad, op. cit.,211.

(2)Ijtihad, in Sunni law means the pronouncing of independent judgements on legal or theological questions based on the interpretation and application of the four principles, the Qur'an, traditions, consensus, and reason (Aql). According to the Imamites,Ijtihad is employing all one's power to arrive at speculative probability (zann) in a case or in a rule of divine law depending mainly on the Qur'an and traditions; al-Ghurayf,al-Ijtihad wal-Fatwa (Beirut,1978),9.

(3)For the role of al-Tusi in the formulation of Imamite ijtihad, see Mahmud Ramyar,Shaykh Tusi, Ph.D. thesis (Edinburgh,1977),88-92.

(4)T. al-Ghayba,270.

(5)al-Khumayni, al-Hukuma al-Islamiyya, (Beirut,1978),48.

(6)al-`Amili, al-Wasa段l, XVIII,101; Bihar, LIII,181; al-Khumayni, op. cit.,77.

(7)al-Tabarsi, al-Ihtijaj, II,. 263-4; al-`Amili,al-Wasa段l, XVIII,94-5.

(8)al-Tabarsi, al-Ihtijaj, II,260.

(9)al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli,al-Mu'tabar,298.

(10)al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, al-Mu`tabar,298.

(11)al-Fusul al-Mukhtara,261.