A contemporary of al-Kulayni was Abu al-Qasim al-Balkhi, a Mu'tazilite, who died around the year 301/913. He held that the eleventh Imam had died heirless and gave expression to these opinions in his work al-Mustarshid, which is a refutation of Ibn Qubba's book al-Insaf. Unfortunately his work has been lost. However judging by the quotations recorded in the book al-Mughni by al-Qadi `Abd al-Jabbar (d. 415/1024), it appears that al-Balkhi relied on al-Hasan al-Nawbakhti (d. ca. 310/922) for information concerning the divisions among the Imamites after the year 260/874.(1)

As for al-Ash`ari (d. 324/935), he depended on al-Balkhi for his information about the Imamites. In fact after al-Ash'ari's conversion to the group of Ahl al-Hadith, later to be the Sunnites, his books became the main source for the later Sunnite writers, such as alュ Baghdadi (d. 429/1037) in his work al-Farq bayn al-Firaq(2) , the writer Ibn Hazm (d. 456/ 1063) in his work al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa-l-Ahwa' waュ l-Nihal and later al-Shahristani (d. 548/1153) in his work al-Milal waュ l-Nihal(3).

However the information contained in the latter works concerning the Imamite schisms after the death of al- `Askari is so far removed from the original expostion of al-Balkhi and al-Nawbakhti that one has to be careful about relying upon it.

2 The Biographical Works

Among the primary sources of this study are the books of al-Rijal, which deal with the scientific biographies of the narrators and compilers of traditions by estimating the degree of their authority and deducing their reliability from their dogmatic and political inclinations.

The Imamites compiled four main biographical works concerned with the domain of the present study in the 4th-5th/10th-11th centuries.

1. The first is Ma'rifat al-Naqilin `an al-A'imma al-Sadiqin, compiled by Muhammad b. `Umar al-Kashshi. He was a native of the town of Kashsh near Samarqand, where he was brought up under the auspices of the Imamite scholar Muhammad b. Mas'ud al ュSamarqandi and where he spent the whole of his life. According to al ュTusi he died in 368/978(4).

Al-Kashshi quoted his information from fifty-three narrators, but his main source was `Ali b. Muhammad b. Qutayba of Nishapur(5), who was contemporary with the short occultation and had close ties with the agents of the Twelfth Imam in Khurasan. Ibn Qutayba provides important information concerning the evolution of the underground organization of the Imamites (alュ-Wikala) after al-Sadiq (d. 148/765) and the reason behind the rise of the Waqifite groups after the death of the seventh Imam in 183/799.

Al-Kashshi's work became an important source for later Imamite scholars like al-Tusi (d. 460/1067), who summarised it and gave it the title Ikhtiyar Ma`rifat al-Rijal.

2,3. Al-Tusi's works, al-Fihrist and al-Rijal, are two of the four main Imamite books of al-Rijal. He cites different chains of transmitters (isnad) regarded as authentic and enables us to discover the links between the Imamite scholars and the agents during the short occultation.

4. The fourth Imamite work on al-Rijal is Fihrist Asma' Musannifi al-Shi`a, which was written by Ahmad b. 'Ali al-Najashi (d. 450/1058), a native of Kufa. He received his Shi段te education there and then moved to Baghdad, where he was one of the leading Imamite scholars along with al-Murtada (d. 436/1044). His residing in these two cities enabled him to establish close contact with fortyュfive Imamite scholars who had in their possession documents related to the period of the short occultation. These documents cast light on the different ranks within the Imamite organization and provide useful information on works on the Ghayba compiled before and after 260/874.

Al-Barqi (d. 278/891), in his work on al-Rijal, provides valuable reports concerning the relationship between the Imams and their followers in particular the tenth and eleventh Imams, since he was their contemporary.

Despite the fact that the work of al-Dhahabi (d. 748/ 1347) entitled Mizan al-I`tidal is a later source, it contains some reports which elucidate the background of the Ghayba and its connection with the rise of al-Qa段m.

3 The Books of General History

Al-Tabari (d. 310/922) lived during the periods of the short occultation. His work Tarikh al-RUsul wa-l-Muluk is devoid of any information on the activities of the representatives of the Twelfth Imam, which points to the fact that their activities were underground.

However he does follow the militant activities of the other Shi段te groups like the Qaramita and the Isma`ilis until the establishment of their state in 296/908. He also traces the use of the prophetic traditions regarding al-Qa段m al-Mahdi by these groups in their struggle for power during the time of the short occultation.

Al-Mas'udi (d. 346/957) lived during the period of the second occultation and provides important information regarding the harsh treatment of the Imams and their followers by the `Abbasids and the effect of this policy on the occurrence of the Ghayba. This can be found in his works, Muruj al-Dhahab, al-Tanbah wa-l-Ishraf and Ithbat al-Wasiyya (attributed to him).

In his work al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Ibn al-Athir (d. 630/ 1232) provides a useful report concerning the schisms among the agents of the Twelfth Imam and the role of the extremists in these schisms, especially al-Shalmaghani. It is possible that Ibn al-Athir quotes his information from an Imamite work entitled Tarikh al-Imamiyya by Yahya b. Abi Tay (d. 630/1232). Unfortunately, however, this work is not extant.

Many other historical and geographical works and books of traditions have also been used in the present study. Before they have been employed, they have been considered with the same critical method as that used above.

Chapter 1

The Role of Traditions in the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam

After the martyrdom of al-Husayn, the Imamite Imams from `Ali b. al-Husayn to al-Hasan al-`Askari followed a quiescent policy towards the Umayyads and the `Abbasids. But they expected that all their suffering would be terminated by al-Qa段m, whose rising in arms they were awaiting. The Imamites based their expectations on their interpretation of certain Qur'anic verses and on numbers of traditions attributed to the Prophet concerning the political and religious role of al-Qa段m. So it is essential to discuss some of these Qur'anic verses and traditions in order to see their effect upon the attitude of the `Abbasids towards the Imamites, and consequently their reactions to the question of the occultation (al-Ghayba) of the Twelfth Imam.

1. The early usage of the term al-Mahdi

The term al-Mahdi, which means "the one who is guided by Allah", is the passive participle of the stem hada, "to guide". A term that occurs twice in the Qur'an is the active participle of the same stem, alュ Hada, the Guide. The first verse states, "Allah is surely the Guide of those who believe" (XXII, 53), while the second states, "But the Lord is a sufficient Guide and Helper" (XXV,33). In the usage of the Qur'an the eighth form of the same stem, ihtada, "he accepted the guidance for himself", is used strictly as a reflexive passive, whose participle is Muhtada.So Man, who is guided by Allah, is not simply guided, but reacts himself to the divine guidance (hidaya)(6), either by instinct or intellect. Through these two means he can acquire knowledge of Allah, which leads him to worship Him by following His laws on earth. However, Allah's laws cannot be discovered through these two sources of knowledge, so throughout the course of history Allah has revealed His knowledge and laws to a group of people who have been divinely guided to lead mankind towards His straight path. These people are called "Prophets" and possessed charismatic qualities which enabled them to implement the commands of Allah and to lead the people without error. Hence they are called in the Qur'an al ュHudat (sing. al-hadi), because they were already rightly guided (muhtadin) by Allah(7).

The term al-Mahdi (the guided one) has the same meaning as al-ュMuhtadi. However, it has been applied to certain individuals in the early Islamic period as an honorific title, while also being applied to al-Qa段m. Many examples can be cited showing that the term al-ュMahdi was used in these two senses. For example the poet Hassan b. Thabit (d. 54/673) applied the term al-Mahdi to the Prophet in a qasida when he says(8):

Sorrow for the Mahdi who is buried!

O best of those who walked on Earth, be not far!

The poet Jarir applies this term to Ibrahim, the prophet(9).

The Sunnites often applied it to the four caliphs after the Prophet, who were called al-Khulafa' al-Rashidun al-Mahdiyyun, the divinely guided caliphs.(10) ' Sulayman b. Surd called al-Husayn, after his martyrdom, Mahdi b. al-Mahdi(11).

As for the theological usage of this term, according to Rajkowski, Abu Ishaq Ka'b b. Mati' b. Haysu` al-Himyari (d. 34/654) was the first individual to speak of al-Mahdi as the Saviour(12).  But it is worth mentioning that the second caliph, `Umar b. al-Khattab, had spoken of occultation before Ka'b. When the Prophet died in 11/632, ` Umar contended that Muhammad had not died but had concealed himself as Moses did and would return from his occultation. `Umar's claim, however, was refuted by Abu Bakr, who reminded him of the Qur'anic verse revealing the death of the Prophet(13) which states: "Surely you shall die and they (too) shall surely die. Then surely on the Day of Resurrection you will contend with one another before your Lord" (al-Zumar, XXXIX, 30-1).

The follower of Ibn al-Hanafiyya (d. 81-4/700-3)(14), al-Mukhtar, who was in revolt in Kufa in 66/685, named him as claimant to the Imamate and called him al-Mahdi in the messianic context(15).

Later the name of Ibn al-Hanafiyya became associated with the Kaysaniyya sect, which denied his death and held that he was the promised Mahdi, who had concealed himself in Mound Radwa, and who would rise in arms to eliminate injustice(16).

The Kaysaniyya dogma played an important role in Islamic political history during the Umayyad period, since the `Abbasid propaganda, which brought about the collapse of the Umayyads, was in fact derived from this sect(17).

The dogma of al-Kaysaniyya can be seen in the poetry of Kuthayyir (d. 105/723) and al-Sayyid al-Himyari (d. 173/789). The latter had followed this sect, but it is said that he became an Imamite after a discussion with al-Sadiq, who clarified for him that the concealed Imam mentioned by the Prophet was not Ibn al-Hanafiyya but the Twelfth Imam from the progeny of al-Husayn(18).





(1) al-Qadi `Abd al-Jabbar, al-Mughni fi Abwab al-Tawhid, al-Imama (Cairo, 1963), II, 176, 182.

(2) al-Baghdadi, al-Farq bayn al-Firaq (Beirut, 1973), 24, 51-2.

(3) Ibn Hazm, `Ali b. Muhammad, al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa-I-Ahwa' wa-l-Nihal (Cairo, 1317-21), IV, 180, 188; al-Shahristani, al-Milal wa-l-Nihal (London, 1864),128.

(4) al-Najashi, 288; T.Rijal 458.

(5) al-Najashi, 197.

(6) EI1, art. "al-Mahdi", 112.

(7) Sachedina, op.cit., 6-7.

(8) Ibn Hisham, Das Leben Muhammads (Wustenfeld, Gottingen, 1859), II, 1024.

(9) Goldziher, al-`Aqida wa-l-Shari'a, tr. Muhammad Yusuf (Cairo, 1378/1959), 327-8, 376-8.

(10) D.Sunan, IV, 201; Ibn Maja, Sunan, I, 16; Ibn A`tham al-Kufi, Kitab al-Futuh (Hyderabad, 1972), V, 31, 34.

(11) Tabari, II, 546. Ibn A`tham reports a letter attributed to the Kufans, sent to al-Husayn b. `Ali encouraging him to rebel against the Umayyads, in which they used the title al-Mahdi for al-Husayn as an honorific adjective:

Ibn A`tham, op. cit., V, 47.

(12) Rajkowski, op. cit., 166-7. There is evidence which supports the claim that Ka`b narrated traditions attributed to the People of the Book which predict the rise of al-Mahdi It is obvious from a line of poetry attributed to the poet Kutayr that those who applied this term to Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya were influenced by Ka'b. This can be noted in Kuthayyir's saying: Huwa al-Mahdi Akhbarnahu / Ka`bun Akhu al-Akhbar fi al-Huqab al-Khawali; al-Zubayri, Nasab Quraysh (Beirut, 1953), 41.

(13) Kamal, 30-2.

(14) Al-Nawbakhti thinks that Ibn al-Hanafiyya died in 81/700 (Firaq, 24), whereas al-Saduq puts his death in 84/703; Kama値, 36; Ikhtiyar,126.

(15)B. Firaq, 33-4.

(16)N. Firaq, 25-6; Milal, 111-2; B. Firaq, 17,27-8,38.

(17) N. Firaq, 29-30, 42-3. For a full account of the fact that the `Abbasid propaganda was the outcome of a branch of the Kaysaniyya movement, see alュ Ansari, Madhdhib ibtada`atha al-Siyasa fi al-Islam (Beirut, 1973), 152-8,199ュ-214.

(18)Kama値, 32-4; al-Zubayri, op.cit., 41-2.