Tradition on 'Ghaibat' (Occultation)

The author of "Yanabi-ul-Muwadda" (page 447) narrates from the book "Fara'ed-us-Semtain" a tradition from Imam Muhammad Baqir (A.S.) who narrates from his father who narrates from Ali-ibn-Abi Talib who narrates from the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) as such: "Mahdi is from my progeny. There shall be an occultation for him. When he emerges, he will fill the earth with equity and Justice just as it had been filled with cruelty and oppression."

In the same book, on page 448 its author narrates from Saeed-ibn-Jubair who narrates from Ibn-Abbass that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) said: "Ali is my 'Wasi' (legatee) and from his progeny shall come the Expected Qaem, Mahdi who shall fill the earth with equity and Justice just as it had been filled with cruelty and oppression. I swear by Allah Who appointed me as a Warner and Glad-tider that whose belief will be firm in the Imamat of Mahdi during the period of his occultation will be rarer than red matches."

Jaber-ibn-Abdullah Ansari stood and said: "O Messenger of Allah! Shall there be an Occultation for your 'Qaem' from your progeny?" He replied: 'Yes, I swear by Allah that He shall test the believers and destroy the un-believers (by means of Mahdi's Occultation) Thereafter he said: 'O Jabir, this affair is a divine affair and this secret is a divine secret. So be on guard against any kind of doubt in this affair, because suspicion in divine affair is blasphemy.

Again, on the same page of the afore-mentioned book, the author narrates from Hassan-ibn-Khalid who narrates from Ali-ibn Musa Ridha as such: 'Allah shall erase from the earth every cruelty and oppression by the hands of my fourth son from my progeny who shall be the son of the greatest and the best slave-girls. He is the same one in whom the people doubt about his birth. He is the same one who shall go into concealment. When he emerges the earth shall be illuminated by the light of his Lord...

Once again, in the same book (on page 454) the author has narrated from Ahmad-ibn-Zaid who in turn has narrated from Debel-ibn-Ali Khuza'ee who with regards to his own presence before Imam Ridha and recitation of one elegy ending in (???) narrates that Imam Ridha said: - "The Imam after me is my son Muhammad and the Imam after him will be his son Ali. After him will follow Hassan and after Hassan shall come Hujjat Qaem the one for whom the people will await during his occultation and the one who will be obeyed during his reappearance. He will fill the earth with equity and Justice just as it had been filled with cruelty and oppression. About his uprising, my father has narrated from my grandfathers who in turn have narrated from the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) that: "The example of (emergence of) Mahdi is like the example of Qiyamat which shall occur all of a sudden."

The author of the afore-said book (on page 488) has narrated from the book "Ghayat-ul-Maram" which in turn has narrated from the book "Fare'ed-us-- Semtain" that Jaber-ibn-Abdullah Ansari has quoted the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) as saying: "Mahdi shall come from my progeny. His name and agnomen shall be the same as my name and agnomen. Amongst all the people, he shall resemble me the most in appearance and character. There shall occur an occultation for him due to which nations shall deviate. Mahdi will emerge like a twinkling star and fill the earth with equity and justice to the reverse extent it had been filled with cruelty and oppression.

Again on the same page of 'Yanabi-ul-Muwadda' he (i.e. Shaikh Qunduzi) narrates from 'Fara'ed-us-Semtain' from Imam Muhammad Baqir from his grand-fathers from Ali-ibn-Abi Talib that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) said: Mahdi is from my progeny. There shall occur an occultation for him due to which nations shall deviate... He shall fill the earth with equity and Justice just as it had been filled with cruelty and oppression.

On page 493 of the same book he has narrated from the book 'Manaqib' which in turn has narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) has said: "Blessed is the one who perceives the 'Qaem' from my Ahl-e-Bayt and believes him to be the Imam during his concealment (i.e. before his emergence) and befriends his friends and alienates his enemies. Such a person shall be amongst my lovers and companions and they are the best of my people on the Day of Judgement.

The author of the same book narrates from Abu Baseer who narrates from Imam Jafar Sadeq who narrates from his great grandfather who in turn narrates from Amir-ul-Mumineen that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) has said: Mahdi is from my progeny. His name shall be the same as mine and his agnomen too shall be the same as my agnomen. Amongst all the people he shall resemble me the most in appearance and character. There shall be an occultation for him due to which people will get deviated in their religion. Then Mahdi will emerge like a twinkling star and will fill the earth with equity and Justice just as it had been In the same book, a similar tradition from Abu Baseer can be seen but with this difference: Mahdi shall emerge like a twinkling star and will bring along with himself the provisions of the Prophet.

(Till the end) The author of "Yanabi-ul-Muwadda" (on page 494) has narrated from Abu Baseer who in turn has narrated from Jabir-ibn-Yazid Ju'afi as such: I heard Jabir-ibn-Abdullah Ansari saying: The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) told me: 'O Jabir! My legatees and the Imams of the Muslims after me are Ali, Hassan, Hussein, Ali-ibn-Hussein, Muhammad-ibn-Ali, famous as Baqir. O Jabir! You shall meet him and when you do so send my greetings upon him. After Baqir will come Jafer-ibn -Muhammad, Musa-ibn-Jafer, Ali-ibn-Musa, Muhammad- ibn-Ali, Ali-ibn-Muhammad, Hassan-ibn-Ali and 'Al-Qaem' whose name and agnomen are the same as my name and agnomen. 'Qaem' is the son of Hassan- ibn-Ali. Mahdi is the very person who shall gain victory over the East and West.

Mahdi is the very person who will go into concealment from his companions views. No one shall remain firm in his Imamat except for those whom Allah has tested their heartly faith.

Mahdi and the Manner of His Occultation

Ibn-Babwiyah has imputedly narrated from Sa'adibn-Abdullah (the one who had been present at the time of Imam Hassan Askari's death and burial ceremony) as such: "Countless number of people had gathered during Imam Hassan Askari's burial such that it was impossible for anyone to come together and forge a lie."

The narrator says: In the year 288 when eighteen years or more had passed from Imam Hassan Askari's demise, we presented ourselves before Ahmad-ibn- Obaidullah-ibn-Khaqan. He was the Caliph's representative in Qum responsible for collecting the tribute. He was amongst the severe enemies of the progeny of Abu-Talib. In that gathering discussion took place about the progeny of Abu- Talib who were the residents of Samerra and their faith, piousness and bravery were such matters, which were mooted before the Caliph. Ahmad-ibn- Obaidullah said: In the city of Samerra and amongst the Alaw is, I have never come across a person like Hassan-ibn-Ali-ibn-Muhammad -ibn-Ridha and I have not heard anyone amongst the kings and all the Bani-Hashim possessing such chastity, nobility, magnificence and munificence like him.

He was given more priority than (ever) the aged peoples. Similarly the commanders, Ministers, writers and common people respected him very much. Ahmad-ibn-Obaidullah says: One day I stood besides my father who was in the state of dying. Suddenly, a guard approached my father and said: "Ibn-Ridha (i.e. Imam Hassan Askari) is standing besides the door." My father shouted loudly and said: "Allow him to enter.

" Suddenly I saw a young man possessing and appalling presence approaching us. As soon as my father saw him, he went forward to welcome him. I had never seen my father doing the same for any of the Bani-Hashim or the leaders and companions of the Caliph. When Imam Hassan Askari came near, my father hugged and kissed his blessed face and hands. He caught hold of Hazrat's hands and offered him his own place. He himself sat facing Imam Askari and began to converse with him. He would address Imam by his agnomen (i.e. he would say 'O Abu Muhammad) and would often express his willingness to sacrifice his life for him.

I was surprised by my father's behaviors. At that moment, the guard once again approached my father and said: "M (who was the Caliph) has come." Whenever M would come to meet my father it was customary for my father's guards and other special men to line up in two rows right from the place of my father's sitting until the doorway of Caliph until M would come and then return back. In spite of realizing that the Caliph was going to come my father was still looking at Hazrat's face and conversing with him until the Caliph's special servants were seen. At that moment, my father told Imam as such:

"May I be sacrificed for you. Whenever you wish, you may go." My father commanded his servants to take Imam Askari from behind the rows so that the Caliph would be unable to see him. Once again my father hugged and kissed his blessed face and hands and then allowed him to go.

I told my father's door - keepers and servants as such: 'Woe be upon you all. Who was this man that my father respected and honored him so much?! They replied: "This man is from the Alawis whose name is Hassan-ibn-Ali and is famous by the title of Ibn-Ridha." My astonishment increased. I passed the whole of that day thinking about the great man, about my father and the actions which had displayed until night approached. After the Isha (night) prayers it was always my father's habit to sit and look over the letters and petitions. After he finished reading the letters, I went and sat besides him. My father said: 'O Ahmad, what do you want? I replied: 'I wish to ask you a question by your permission. He said: "Ask me whatever you wish to ask."

I said: Who was that man whom you respected, honored, glorified and paid tribute so much so that you expressed your willingness to sacrifice your own life and your parents' lives for him? He replied: "He was Ibn-Ridha, the Imam of the Shi'ites." After a moment's silence my father continued and said: If the Caliphate is taken away from the Bani-Abbassids, no person is more worthy to it than this man because of his majesty, chastity, good behavior, self-continence, piety, worship, good morals and virtuous deeds. If you had seen his father you would have found him to be a great, glorious and benevolent man.

By listening to these talks, I plunged myself deeper into the sea of thought and amazement and became furious of my father for speaking in this manner. Later on, I did nothing but inquired about Imam Hassan Askari and his affairs. Regarding him, all and all - i.e. leaders, writers, judges, jurisprudents and the common people expressed his grandness, nobleness, dignity and high personality. Moreover they gave him priority over Bani-Hashim, the aged and all other classes of people. All of them would say: "He is the Imam of the Shi'ites."

This great man's position and dignity increased in my view because, none from the friends and enemies said anything but good things about Imam Hassan Askari.

A person who was from the Ashar'ites said: 'O Abu Bakr! How is this man Jafar, the brother of Imam Hassan Askari? He replied: 'Jafar is not a man to be asked or rather compared with Imam Hassan Askari. Jafar is a transgressor, adultere, wine-drinker and an ill behavior personality. I have found fewer people like Jafar who are disgraceful and ignorant.

I swear by Allah that when news of the demise of Imam Hassan Askari reached the Caliph and his companions I witnessed some unexpected scenes, which was very astonishing for me. The incident was as follows: When Imam Hassan Askari fell ill, the Caliph called for my father to inform him about Imam's illness. My father immediately rushed for the Capital and soon returned back. He came back with five special and trusted men of Caliph who were all reliable to him and one of them was Nuhrair Khadem. He ordered these five men to protect Imam's house and inquire of his health. He called for several doctors and charged them with the responsibility of looking after Imam every morning and night. Two days later, news came of Imam's deteriorating condition. My father rushed to visit him and commanded the doctors not to leave Imam alone. Afterwards, he called for the Chief Judge and ordered him to bring ten of his companions who were reliable from the view - point of faith, trustworthiness and piety. The Chief Judge summoned those ten men to Imam's house and ordered them to remain besides Imam day and night. They too remained at Imam's service until he passed away.

Imam Hassan Askari (A.S.) passed away in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal 260 A.H. and a tumult took place in the city of Samerra. The Caliph sent several of his men to Imam's house and they in turn searched Imam's rooms and sealed off everything they could find. They also searched for Imam's son (i.e. Imam of the Age). They brought mid - wives in order to examine the slave-girls (of Imam Hassan Askari). One of the mid - wives said: "So and so slave-girl is pregnant." The Caliph charged Nurair Khadem, his companions and other women to keep watch over her.

Thereafter, they became busy in Imam's funeral and the entire city came to a standstill. The Bani-Hashim, the commanders, writers and all the common people attended Hazrat's funeral. On that day, the city of Samerra resembled the day of Judgement. As soon as Imam's body was given the ritual wash and was shrouded, the Caliph sent forward Abu Isa Mutawakkil to recite prayers over Imam's dead-body. When Abu Isa came close to Imam's dead-body, he lifted the shroud and exposed his face to the Bani-Hashim, (who was from the Alawites) Abbassids, commanders, writers, judges, juisprudents and the common people and then said: This man is Imam Hassan Askari who has died a natural death. During the entire period of his illness, so and so doctor, so and so judge, so and so trusted person and so and so just person had been present and they can all bear witness on this affair.

After this, he covered Imam's face and recited prayers over his dead-body and in his prayers he recited five times 'Takbeer' (inaugural phrase). By his commands, Imam's dead-body was taken out from his house and was laid buried in his great grand- father's house. After Hazrat's burial and the people's dispersal, the Caliph and his companions engaged in seeking the whereabouts of his son (Imam of the Age). They properly searched various houses. They desisted from distributing Hazrat's inheritance. Those people who were charged with the responsibility of keeping watch over the slave-girl continued their task for two years until they realized that she had not been pregnant. Thereafter, they distributed Hazrat's inheritance between his mother and brother (Jafar-e-Khazzab). Imam Hassan Askari's mother claimed that she was the legatee of Imam and the same too was proved before the Judge. Meanwhile, the Caliph was still in pursuit of the Imam of the Age.

After distribution of the inheritance, Jaffar-e-Khazzab approached my father and said: "Grant me the status of my father and brother (i.e. the position of Imamat) and I Will in turn, give you twenty thousand dinars." On hearing this, my father became furious and said:

"O stupid person! The Caliph strikes the people with his sword and lashes them with his whip in order to take back their belief in the Imamat of your father and brother. In this regard, he has strived a lot but has remained unsuccessful till today. If, in the eyes of the Shi'ites you are the Imam, then you are no more dependent on Caliph or others for giving you the position of Imamat.

Conversely, if you are not the Imam before the Shi'ites, the Caliph and others cannot procure this position to you.

When my father realized his stupidity and ignorantly ordered his men not to allow him from attending his gathering any more. Thenceforth, he did not attend until my father died. At present too, the Caliph is still in pursuit of the Imam of the Age but with no trace of him."

Muhammad-ibn-Yaqoub Kulaini has imputedly narrated the afore-mentioned tradition in the first volume of his book "Usul-e-Kafi" in the chapter "Birth of Imam Hassan Askari" (A.S.) Muhammad-ibn-Hassan Tusi in his book 'Fehrest' in the chapter "Life of Ahmad-ibn-Obaidullah - ibn Yahya" has also narrated the afore-mentioned tradition but with a minor difference. Ahmad-ibn-Abbass-ibn-Muhammad-ibn-Abdullaha Najashi has also narrated the same tradition in his book "Fehrest". The author says: "Shaikh Mufid in his book 'Irshad', Fazl-ibn-Hassan Tabarsi in his book 'El'am-ul-Warah' and Muhammad-ibn-Mohsin (Faiz-Kashani) in his book 'Wafi' have narrated the afore-said tradition from Muhammad-ibn-Yaqoub Kulaini."

Muhammad-ibn-Muhammad-ibn-Nu'man (i.e. Shaikh Mufid) in his book 'Irshad' says: Imam Hassan Askari fell ill on the first day of Rabiul-Awwal in the year of 260 A.H. and passed away on the Friday the eighth of Rabiul-Awwal of the same year. At the time of his demise, Imam Hassan Askari (A.S.) was twenty-eight years old. He was laid to rest in the same house, which he had in Samerra and where his great-father was buried and appointed his son for the establishment of the just government. Imam Hassan Askari (A.S.) would keep secret the birth of his son and would conceal his affairs because situation of that time was unfavorable. The Caliph of that time searched severely for Imam's sons and strived to know about their affairs because belief on Mahdi had become widespread amongst the Shiah Imamiah and who were expecting him to come. During his life, Imam Hassan Askari never disclosed his son in public and after his demise too, the enemies never got the chance of recognizing his son.

Jafar-ibn-Ali (i.e. Jafar-e-Kazzab) took away Imam Hassan Askari's inheritance and strived hard to imprison his wives and slaves. He rebuked and reprimanded Imam's companions just because they were awaiting his son's appearance and had faith in his Imamat. He even encouraged the people against them so that in this manner he would be able to strike fear in their hearts and bring pressure on them. As such, Ima's followers were subjected to all sorts of persecution like arrest, imprisonment, threat, insult, abasement and objectness.

On the other hand, the Caliph did nothing to assist them. Apparently, Jaffar-e-Kazzab derived inheritance of Imam Hassan Askari and strived to take his brothers place and become the Imam of the Shi'ites. However, none of the Shi'ites accepted his Imamate. Thereafter, he sought the Caliphs help and asked him to bestow the position of Imamate on him. He even agreed to donate huge sums of money but all these were of no avail.

Mahdi and His Place of Occultation The circumstances of Occultation of Abul-Qasim Muhammad-ibn-Hassan Mahdi (A.S.) (which we have previously mentioned) is correct in the views of we Shiah-Imamiahs and the manner of his concealment is the same as what the great scholars and traditionists (whom we trust and rely on their saying) have narrated. However what some of the common Shia's say in this regard and the Sunni scholars attribute them to us is lacking in any evidence and proper transmission. What we had previously mentioned about the circumstances of Mahdi's occultation is correct in our view but such matters like: where was Mahdi at the time of his father's demise? Where did he go into concealment or in which portion of his house he concealed himself? Whether he went over the top of his house or went down in the 'Sardab' (Cellar)? Whether he hid himself in the house or fled from its door? Are all uncertain.

Verily, what appears customary is that he should have remained in the house besides his great father at the time of his father's demise why shouldn't it be so, especially if we consider that Mahdi at that time was only a child (apparently) and besides had no other place other than his parents' house. Perhaps this matter can be inferred from the tradition of Ahmad-ibn-Obaidullah-ibn-Yahya-ibn- Khaqan because Hazrat at that time was in his own house and he disappeared without the people being aware of him. Although the Caliph and his followers and helpers were in search of him, yet they could not find him. Previously it was mentioned that the Caliph had put his trusted men in charge of looking over Imam Hassan Askari at the time of his illness pretending to be his helpers because on that day none were present except 'Aqid' the servant and 'Siqal' who was Mahdi's mother.

The Caliph had appointed ten of his trusted men under the pretext of serving Imam (A.S.). However his only purpose was to get information about Mahdi's whereabouts because it was normal for a child like Mahdi to be present in his parents' house especially at that time when his father was on the verge of departing from this world. However Allah did not wish that they should become informed of Mahdi and so kept his affairs concealed from them. Verily, the One who protected Musa-ibn-Imran in the middle of the sea while the waves were driving him to the left and right and the God Who protected Musa (Moses) in his infancy in Firaun's house is Powerful enough to protect our Master Mahdi in his own house.

The God Who protected his great grand-father on the day when he fled from the enemies hands towards the cave and kept secret his trace from the enemies and saved him by His Power and Strength is not helpless in protecting our Master, Mahdi (AS.) who was then five years old living with his parents. I do not deny this matter that protection of our Master, Mahdi at the age of five or six is something unusual. Rather, I am forced to say: Protection of Hazrat at that time was through unseen channels and even if it was through ordinary channels we are compelled to say: These channels are rare and impracticable for majority of the people.

In short, our Master, Mahdi (AS.) apparently went into concealment either from inside or outside his own house without its particulars being known to us. Allah knows better this matter.

Here it is worth mentioning the following point: Whatever a group of learned Sunni scholars and some of the Shia writers have mentioned about the characteristics of Mahdi's occultation are all lacking authentic reference(s). How good it would have been if they had mentioned those references.

Sardab (Cellar) and Its Visitation

From the book of "Sawa'eq" it appears that the Shia Imamiah's or a group amongst them reckon that Mahdi (A.S.) has concealed himself in the cellar. They expect him to emerge from this cellar and they stop near its door with their horses and await his reappearance. How good it was if the author of "Sawa'eq" had mentioned the reference of this talk.

I think the author of "Sawa'eq" has neither emerged from the land of Hejaz nor entered the country of Iraq nor visited Samerra. Otherwise, he would have realized that this matter bears no truth. Apparently, the source of this reckoning that the Shias believe Mahdi to have disappeared in the Cellar is this that they see the Shia Ithna-Ashar visiting the holy place of 'Sardab' (Cellar). It is necessary over here to mention the reason for visiting the holy place of 'Sardab' (Cellar).

Therefore we say: As per the historical books, the holy courtyard which is the mausoleum of Ali-ibn-Muhammad Hadi and Hassan-ibn-Ali Askari and that courtyard which is behind their holy mausoleum and that courtyard in which the cellar is located were all places of residents of those eminent personalities. Some of the great Islamic scholars like Thaqatul-Islam Nuri have stressed on this matter.

Since Mahdi (A.S.) is not having any specified place to be visited, it is better to visit him in his house. On the contrary, it even seems proper to visit his house itself because visiting the friends' houses after they have left it is amongst the customs in force. (Amongst friends) In this regard, a poet says:103 Verily this matter has been the reason for the Shi'ites visiting the Cellar even though this reason is hidden and unknown to many. Visiting the 'Sardab' (Cellar) is a good trend and a cordial custom which has become the motto of the Shi'ites and how good and proper this act appears to be even though I have not seen any text or traditions in this regard.

Rather, we have not come across any of the books with any supported tradition, which command us to visit Hazrat Mahdi (A.S.) especially in the place of 'Sardab'.

103-Amongst the houses I pass over the house of Laila I kiss this wall and that wall. Love of the house has not captivated my heart but the love of the one who was residing in it has captivated my heat. We Shias believe that our Master, Mahdi (AS.) is a living being who receives his sustenance and hears words and answers.

Mahdi is the same Imam through whose obedience we should be 'upright' in the divine religion. Mahdi is the one who is the channel between God and us. His 'Ziarat' (visitation) is correct; focusing (our attention) on him is permissible; conversing with him in every place and time and in any language is permissible. In this regard the holy 'Sardab' possesses no special specifications except what we have mentioned before. Similarly, the Ziarats (visitations) which have come are not possessing any specification even though is preferable.

The houses over which tens of years have passed; the place where God has been worshipped; the place where God has been remembered; the place where prayers have been performed for days and nights and the place where the sound of recitation of Quran has been raised are worthy enough to be honored and visited and at the time when a pilgrim enters them, he remembers its dwellers. One of the main reasons as to why such holy houses and especially 'Sardab' (Cellar) are visited is this that its owners are alive - the owners who cannot reside in them and have in fact deserted them out of fear of enemies. Besides, we are in need of Mahdi (AS.) and are deprived of his favors.

Visitation of these houses with such reminiscences will naturally move a pilgrim's heart who happens to be a Shia. How often a pilgrim weeps, sends out a shriek, implores involuntarily and requests God to hasten the emergence of Hazrat. Verily, factors of intimacy and heartly - relation greatly influence a man's nature.