Ghaibat (occultation) of the last Imam (AS)

Ghaibat (occultation) of the last Imam (AS)

zeeshan.jpg By Maulana Zeeshan abidi

(Panel ulema AQYouth)






Mohammad Yaqub Al-Kulayni has said that ghaibat is a test from Allah to test the
steadfastness of belief in Imam.
If he is to remain in Ghaibat, what is the use of his existence?
Belief creates hope giving strength to the oppressed.
It is a deterrent for the committing of injustice as one is always aware of the
constant presence of the Imam.

Why Ghaibat al-Sughra?

To make the Shias used to approaching scholars instead of Imam himself. It started
during the time of the 10th Imam who was under almost constant house arrest in
Samarra and continuing through.

GHAIBAT AL-SUGHRA (160 A.H. to 329 A.H.)
During Ghaibut-us-Sughra, the Imam (AS) appointed four deputies/representatives to
represent him among the people. After the death of the fourth deputy, the Imam (AS)
went into Ghaibut al-Kubra (major occultation). This was on the 10th Shawal 329 A.H.

The 4 representatives were :

1. Uthman bin Saeed Umravi (AR)

It is said that at the age of 11 years he was a servant in the house of the 9th Imam
later to enjoy the confidence of Imam. He occupied the same position of trust with
the 10th and 11th Imam who told their Shias that after him they would not see the
12th Imam and would have to obey Uthman. After the 11th Imam’s martyrdom Uthman
moved to Baghdad and disguised as a butter seller he set up the collection of khums
for Imam. He served the 12th Imam for 5 years and received a letter near his death
from Imam (AS) telling him to appoint his son Mohammed as the next representative.

2. Mohammad bin Uthman bin Saeed Umravi (AR)

He continued in his fathers footsteps also acting as a butter seller. He managed to
keep Imam’s existence a secret from the Abbasids until the early years of the reign
of Al-Mutadid. The rulers then started searching hard for Imam and killed countless
mu’mineen with even the slightest resemblance to Imam. Spies were set up to probe
the khums network. Imam issued an order for Shias not to take his name nor show
mas’ala of khums to anyone until absolutely sure of them. As instructed by Imam he
appointed Husayn bin Rawh as the next representative after his death in 305 A.H. He
served the Imam (AS) for 40 years.
3. Husayn bin Rawh (AR)
His kuniyya was Abul Qasim. His sociable nature won him respect even from the
Ahlul-Sunnah. He managed to keep his activities a secret from the rulers whilst
maintaining good relations with them. It is to him that we address the ‘Arizah’ to be
delivered to Imam. He served faithfully until he died in Sha’ban 326 a.h. revealing
the appointment of Ali bin Mohammad Samry after him. He served for 21 years.
4. Ali bin Mohammad Samry (AR)
He served for only three years. A week before his death he received a

letter from the Imam (AS) telling him of his forthcoming death and that there would
be no representative after him and that Imam (AS) was now going into
Ghaibat al-Kubra (major occultation). Imam (AS) would then appear when Allah(swt)
wills it. Ali bin Mohammad Samry (AR) died on 15th Shabaan 329 A.H. after serving
for 3 years.

GHAIBAT AL-KUBRA (329 A.H. to present)

Imam’s ghaibat is described by the Aimma like that of Prophet Yusuf (AS) who was
amongst his brothers yet they did not recognise him.

Imam is known to meet a believer on 3 occasions:
1. At the time of trouble.
2. He is present at every Hajj.
3. He attends the funeral of every believer who has no religious
obligations pending on him/her e.g. Khums.
During this time he continues to guide. Numerous letters have been
received from him by (to quote a few) Ishaq bin Yaqub, Sheikh Mufeed…
It is reported that 30 people all over the world meet with him

Responsibilities During Ghaibat al-Kubra

1. Pray for the safety of Imam (AS) at all time.
2. Be in waiting for Imam (AS) at all times.
3. Give Sadaqa for Imam (AS).
4. Pray for his re-appearance.
5. Whenever faced with difficulty (whether small or big) ask for assistance from
Imam (AS).
6. Whenever his name is heard or recited, one should stand if possible, send salaams
on him, put hand on head and bow.
7. If possible perform Hajj/Umra for Imam (AS). (Hajj-After own Wajibat)
It is customary among the Muhibban al-Ahle-Bait (AS) to write a letter of
Imam al-Zaman (AS) in the early morning of 15th Shaban. This letter is known as
Arizah and is written with a lot of love and care using safron as ink and wrapping
the letter in pure clay or flour. In the letter, momineen and mominaat present their
salutations and praises to the Imam (AS) and also write their problems and worries.
This wrapped letter is then thrown usually in lakes or river or ocean in the name of
one of his representatives (one of the 4 described above – usually Hussain
ibn al-Roh) recalling the methodology which was in place during the Ghaibat al-Sughra.

It is a strong Shiite belief that the letter reaches the Imam (AS) and he addresses
the worries and problems of his shiites becausse they are resolved in many many
cases. That is the reason why this practice has continued for long period and is
still very emotionally and religiously in practice





Sunni Documantation on Imam Mahdi (AS)

For our respected Sunni brothers, there are six authentic collections of traditions based on the Sunni standards for verifying the authenticity of a tradition. These six books are: Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Ibn Majah, Sunan Abu Dawud, and Sahih al-Nisa’i. I just quote few traditions from these six books to prove that a knowledgeable Sunni brother/sister can NOT deny that:

1. Mahdi is going to come in the last days to make a universal Government,
2. Mahdi is from the Ahlul-Bayt of Prophet,
3. Mahdi is from the children of Fatimah (AS), the daughter of Prophet,
4. Mahdi is different than Jesus (the messiah),
5. Jesus will be one of the followers of Imam Mahdi and prays behind him.

The following are only some of the traditions out of many, about Imam Mahdi, and are ALL traditions that the Sunnis admit to their authenticity and existence:

The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Even if the entire duration of the world's
existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left before
Doomsday (Day of judgment), Allah will expand that day to such a
length of time, as to accommodate the kingdom of a person out of my
Ahlul-Bayt who will be called by my name. He will then fill out the
earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice
and tyranny before then."

Sunni References:

1. Sahih Tirmidhi, V2, P86, V9, PP 74-75
2. Sanan Abi Dawud, V2, P7
3. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, V1, P376 & V3, P63
4. Mustadrak al-Sahihain, by al-Hakim, V4, P557
5. Al-Majma', by Tabarani, P217
6. Tahdhib al-Thabit, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, V9, P144
7. Sawaiq al-Muhraqa, Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, P167
8. Fathul Bari, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, V7, P305
9. al-Tathkirah, by al-Qurtubi, P617
10. al-Hawi, by al-Suyuti, V2, pp165-166
11. Sharh al-Mawahib al-Ladunniyyah, by al-Zurqani, V5, P348
12. Fathul Mughith, by al-Sakhawi, V3, P41
13. al-Hafidh Abul-Hasan Muhammad Ibn al-Husayn al-Sijistani al-Aburi
14. al-Shafi'i (d. 363/974). (who said the above hadith is related by
numerous authorities and were spread far and wide by many narrators).
and also in the works of Ibn Habban, Abu Nua'ym, Ibn Asakir, etc.


The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Al-Mahdi is one of us, the members of the
household (Ahlul-Bayt)."

Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4085

As we see Imam Mahdi is from the Ahlul Bayt of Prophet Muhammad, so he can not be Jesus (the Messiah; al-Maseeh). Mahdi and Messiah are two different personalities but they come at the same time, Mahdi as Imam and Jesus as his follower. The following tradition clearly mentions that Imam Mahdi is one of the children of the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HF):

The Messenger of Allah said: "Al-Mahdi is one of the children of
Fatimah (the Prophet's daughter)."

Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4086

Special specifications of Imam Mahdi (AS)

Shia believe that Imam Mahdi is the only son of Imam Hasan al-Askari (the 11th Imam) who was born on 15th of Sha’ban 255/869 in Samarra, Iraq. He became the God-appointed Imam when his father was martyred in 260/874. Imam Mahdi went into occultation (disappearance; leaving among people while they can’t recognize him) at the same time. He will re-appear when Allah wills. More specifically:

His title is “al-Mahdi” which means “The Guided One.”

His name is Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan (AS).

On the other hand, the majority of Sunnis are not so sure that he has been born yet. They believe he will be born some time before his mission. The name of Imam Mahdi is Muhammad (which is the same as what Shia believe). There is however one single Sunni report which adds that the name of the father of Imam Mahdi is Abdullah.Now let us see what is the argument of each side:

Question 1:Some Sunnis question Shia that how a five year old boy can become an Imam for the people? And why attribute all this importance to him?

Answer 1:First, we must question whether or not in the history of religion, the phenomenon of young leaders has a parallel. Undoubtedly, there is. The Quran strikes two examples which are worthy of mentioning:We have the example of Jesus (AS) who became Prophet and spoke people when he was a baby in the cradle:”But she pointed to the baby.  They said: `How can we talk to one who is a CHILD in the cradle?’ He said: `I am indeed a servant of Allah. He HAS GIVEN me Scripture and ASSIGNED me a Prophet, and He has made

me blessed wherever I be, and has enjoined on me Prayer and zakat
as long as I live.'" (Quran 19:29-31)

Thus Jesus (AS) became Prophet and received revelation and book while he was less than two years old!

Furthermore, in few verses before, Quran mentions the case of Prophet Yahya (John), to whom Allah (SWT) said:

"`O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with might:' And We gave him the
appointment (of prophethood) in his CHILDHOOD." (Quran 19:12)

So if a two-year old boy can become a prophet and receives revelation, then why can not a five-year old boy become Imam?

Have you ever heard of prodigies? They are kids between the ages of four to 18 that exhibit signs of exceptional skills that are usually found in highly qualified adults only. Here are some examples from history:

“John Stuart Mill (1806-73), a 19th-century English philosopher and economist, advocated utilitarian reforms in his many writings and as member of Parliament. A child prodigy, Mill had mastered Greek by the age of 7 and studied economics at the age of 13. His works express his social thought with great clarity and thoroughness. (The Bettmann Archive)”

“The French thinker, mathematician, and scientist Blaise Pascal, b. June 19, 1623, d. Aug. 19, 1662, has been credited not only with imaginative and subtle work in geometry and other branches of mathematics, but with profoundly influencing later generations of theologians and philosophers. A prodigy in mathematics, Pascal had mastered Euclid’s Elements by the age of 12. Pascal invented and sold the first calculating machine (1645).”

“Wolfgang was the greatest musical child prodigy who ever lived. He began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9.”

“Beethoven’s own talent was such that at the age of 12 he was already an assistant to the organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, with whom he studied.”

“Sarah Caldwell, born Maryville, Mo., Mar. 6, 1924, is a conductor and producer. A child prodigy in both mathematics and music, before reaching the age of ten.”

While not exhaustive, the list serves the purpose of demonstrating that this phenomenon occurs naturally among normal human beings from all walks of life. So scientifically speaking, it is quite possible that a child demonstrates abilities that adults can not. Also religiously speaking anything Allah desires will happen no matter how strange. Indeed Allah (SWT) asserts unequivocally in Quran that if He wanted something, all He has to do is to say to it: “Be! and it will be!”.

Question 2:Every body is mortal. How can he live so long?

Answer 2:Yes, in fact Imam Mahdi will die too. But the difference is the length of life in this world. In fact Quran and the prophetic traditions tell us that some people have had/are having long life in this world. So it is possible to see this phenomena again.Are you aware that according to the Quran (see 29:14), Prophet Noah has just been prophet for 950 years? In fact, he was alive even more than that because we should add his age before prophethood to the above number. Who knows how much it was.

Do you agree that Prophet Jesus (AS) is still alive? He is in fact 1,994 years old now. Of course, he is not living on Earth right now; he is living in the Heavens. But according to Muslim’s belief, he will come back to Earth, and will pray behind Imam al-Mahdi (AS).

Do you agree that al-Khidr (AS) is still alive? Quran mentions his story with Moses (AS). He existed before the birth of the Prophet Moses (AS), so al-Khidr (AS) is now more than 3000 years old. He lives right here on this Earth, but we can not recognize him (fairly similar to the case of Imam Mahdi). He serves Allah (SWT) as one of His agents.

No doubt Allah has the ability to give a very long life, but He also has assigned a death time for every body (including the above mentioned individuals) which can be so soon or so late.

Moreover, scientifically speaking, there are NO objections whatsoever to the extended life span assertion. A group of scientists conducted a series of experiments at the Rockefeller Institute in New York in 1912 on certain “parts” of plants, animals, and humans. These scientists included Dr. Alex Carl, Dr. Jack Lope, and Dr. Warren Lewis and his wife, among others. Among the experiments conducted was one that directly treated the nerves, muscles, hearts, skin, and kidneys of human beings. These organs were not in a human body, they were independent organs that were perhaps donated for the experiment. It was concluded by the scientists that these “parts or organs” CAN continue to live almost indefinitely as long as they are nourished properly, and as long as they are shielded from external negative interactions like microbes and other obstacles that might inhibit the growth of these organs; furthermore, the assertion was made that the cells would continue to grow normally under the above conditions, and that the growth is directly related to the nourishment provided. Again, aging had no effect on these organs, and they grew every year without any signs of deterioration or aging. The scientists concluded that these organs will continue to grow as long as the patience of the scientists themselves is not exhausted, causing them to abandon the nourishment process.

Question 3:Where is Mahdi (AS) right now? Is he in cave?

Answer 3:Imam Mahdi disappeared in 260/874 when he became Imam. The last time that he was seen, was in the cellar of his father’s house in Samarra, Iraq. That is what is rumored regarding Shia that they believe Mahdi is in the cave!!!

Shia do NOT believe that Imam Mahdi is in the Cave or Cellar! He was just seen there for the last time. He can be anywhere Allah wishes. However one thing is clear is that he lives on the earth among people while people around him do not perceive.

Second, with regards to the occultation of al-Mahdi (AS), the Quran does NOT rule out such an occurrence at all. Again, the examples of Jesus (AS) and al-Khidr (AS), who are both in occultation, are worthy of mentioning.

Question 4:What about his mother? Provided that Shia is right in their assertion that al-Mahdi’s (AS) mother was a slave or bondwoman, isn’t it shameful that he (AS) should be born to a slave-girl?

Answer 4:The answer would be in the form of the following questions: Wasn’t Hagar (AS), the Prophet Abraham’s wife, a bondwoman? Did she not bear Isma’il (Ishmael) (AS), whom the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HF) is a direct descendant of? If it is acceptable for the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HF), the Seal of Prophethood, to be a descendant of Isma’il (AS) who was born to a bondwoman, then why not al-Mahdi (AS)?

I need to mention that the birth of al-Mahdi (AS) was an event surrounded with secrecy, because the authorities (The Abbasids) knew that the Mahdi who is to bring about a revolution is going to be the son of Imam Askari, and were awaiting his coming, to capture him for execution. Owing to that, Imam Hasan Askari (AS), the Mahdi’s father, could not behave conspicuously by revealing who the mother of the Mahdi (AS) was. The Imam Mahdi’s mother was Narjis and was a roman slave who married to Imam al-Askari (AS). Notwithstanding, what has created the confusion among the critics of Shia is the fact that Imam al-Askari (AS) did not refer to her (AS) with one name. A variety of names were used in an effort to fool the authorities, and to prevent them from recognizing who she was. That was part and parcel of the plan to protect the Mahdi (AS). Had the father (AS) been slightly negligent in protecting his son, it is clear that al-Mahdi (AS) would not have survived. The story of birth of Imam Mahdi is like that of the Moses. All the women were being regularly inspected by female specialists of Abbasids to find out if anybody is pregnant. The Imam Mahdi’s mother did not have any sign of pregnancy to the last hours, similar to Moses’s mother. But no doubt that what Allah wishes will certainly take place.

Given these adverse conditions and hardships, the birth of the Imam (AS) was kept in utmost secrecy, that even the closest people to Imam al- Askari (AS), the father of the Mahdi (AS), did not know of the time of his (AS) birth. Only VERY FEW close associates were notified. The obvious contention is that the birth of al-Imam al-Mahdi (AS) constitutes a direct threat to the continuance of the corrupt government to rule. This situation is best understood when we refer back to the first few days of Islam when the Prophet (PBUH&HF) preached the religion in utmost secrecy among a few loyal followers. The Prophet (PBUH&HF) feared for the lives of these believers, and, as such, forbade them from revealing any information that might jeopardize the entire mission.


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