After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (as) the mantle of Imamate fell on the young shoulders of Imam Mahdi (as).
Due to the severe restrictions imposed by the reigning Caliph, Imam Mahdi (as) was forced to conceal himself from the eyes of the people. In the initial stages of Ghaybate’ Sughra (minor occultation), some very special and selected people among the Shiahs had the permission to meet their master whenever the need arose. They presented the problems of the Shiahs in the service of Imam (as) who provided answers to them and conveyed them back to the people. Such selected people were called as special representatives, deputies or the door to the Imam etc.Four persons had the honor of acquiring this elevated status and all of them hailed from and resided in Baghdad. Apart from them, there were representatives in other cities also. The Shiahs either conveyed their messages to these representatives or directly to the special ones for it to reach to the Imam. These special deputies performed innumerable extraordinary feats in the minor occultation which are preserved in different traditional and historical books.
First Deputy: Abu Amr Usman Ibne Saeed al-Amri (ar)
He was from the Bani Asad clan. Due to his ancestral links, he was called as Abu Amr but on the advice of Imam Hasan Askari (as), he changed his title from Abu Amr to Amravi. He was also addressed as Askari and some even called him as “Sammaan” (oil merchant).
He was also famous as the representative of Imam Ali Naqi (as). The title of “Sammaan (Oil merchant) itself is historical. He used to deliver the wealth, possessions of Imam (as) in an oil can (In order that the intelligence personnel of the Government could not detect his activities, he posed himself as a businessman on Imam’s (as) order).
Till 254 AH, he was the representative of Imam Ali Naqi (as) He (as) used to say “Abu Amr is a reliable and trustworthy person, whatever he narrates, its on my behalf and whatever he conveys is in fact my message”.
After the demise of Imam Ali Naqi (as) in 254 AH, he became the special representative of Imam Hasan Askari (as) who used to say, “Abu Amr is a reliable and trustworthy person. He was relied upon even by the previous Imams and in my life as well as after my death, he is reliable whatever he narrates is on my behalf and his messages are actually my messages”.
Imam Askari (as) also said, “Stand witness that Usman Ibne Saeed is my representative. His son, Mohammed Ibne Usman is Mahdi (as)’s representative.” When Hazrat Mahdi (as) was born, Imam Hasan Askari (as) him to distribute ten thousand bread and ten thousand pieces of meat among the Bani Hashim and also sacrifice sheep and goats for Aqeeqah.
In a congregation of forty reliable and selected people of Imam Hasan Askari (as) he introduced Imam Mahdi (as) to them. He mentioned about his Imamate and occultation. Then he emphasized about the representation of Imam Mahdi (as) by Usman Ibne Saeed, thus “You (all) accept whatever he says for he is the representative of your Imam and affairs are with him.”
He participated in the funeral proceedings of Imam Hasan Askari (as) and executed all orders issued unto him. In 260 AH after the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (as) he was appointed as the first special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as). For five years he held this auspicious position. Before his death, on the order of Imam (as) he appointed his son as Imam’s representative in front of a group of honorable Shiahs and handed over all his responsibilities to him.
After the death of Usman Ibne Saeed, his sons performed all the funeral proceeding and buried him in west of Baghdad .
Sheikh Tusi (ar) says that till 447 AH, people paid homage to him and read his Ziyarat as a pious and righteous person and also as the foster brother of Imam Askari (as) They also recognized him as the special representative of Imam Mahdi (as).
This shows that the extent to which his deputyship was concealed that even after a passage of two hundred years, it was difficult for the people to recognize him. He was a contemporary of the Abbaside Caliph, Motamid.
Second Deputy: Abu Jafar Mohammed Ibne Usman Ibne Saeed al-Amri (ar)
He succeeded his father after the latter’s demise. Imam Hasan Askari (as) himself had emphasized for his deputyship.
In his Tawqee (a signed letter from Imam Mahdi) to Mohammed Ibne Mahziyar, Imam Mahdi (as) said about Mohammed Ibne Usman, “May Allah protect him, he was our trustworthy person even during his father’s life time. May God be pleased with him and his father and bless their souls. He is the successor to his father and has taken his place. Whatever he says on our behalf, are our quotes and he follows our orders dutifully. May God help him. Deeply follow his instructions and seek our opinion through him.”
In his Tawqee to Ishaq Ibne Yaqoob Imam (as) said, “May God be pleased with Mohammed Ibne Usman and his father He is my confidante and reliable man. His writings are my writings.”
He was the special representative of Imam (as) for approximately forty years. In the very first Tawqee which he received there was a condolence message on the demise of his father. It’s contents were as follows, “We have come from Allah and unto Him shall we return. We accept his orders and are satisfied with His commands. Your father passed a decent life and faced a decent death. May God have mercy upon him and enumerate him among His servants (Imams).He was always engrossed in their work. He always strove unceasingly in those works which elevated him in front of God and helped him gained proximity to the Imam (as) May God make him happy and condone his sins .May God increase your rewards and accept your difficulties. You are grief stricken, so are we; his death has affected us as much as it has affected you. May God make him happier in that life. It was due to his sincerity and decency that he was honored with a son like you who has become his heir and successor.
May God send mercies upon him. I praise the Almighty whose existence is clean from all indecencies of disbelief (and polytheism) whatever God has been entrusted to you by him, He will help you to achieve it. He will help you and grace you, for He is the Master, the Protector and the Sufficer.
Ibne Nuh narrates from the Abu Nasr, the nephew of Abu Jafar that he had written many books, one of which was on jurisprudence. He wrote whatever he had heard from Imam Mahdi (as) and his father Usman. One of these books was “Kitabal Ashrabah” which was passed on after his death to Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh and after him, probably to Janabe Ali Ibne Mohammed Seymouri.
Shaykh Sudooq (ar) narrates the following tradition from Mohammed Ibne Usman, “I swear by God, Saheb-ul-Amr (as) comes to Mecca every year to perform the rituals of Hajj. He sees the people and recognizes them but they do not recognize him even after seeing him”.
Mohammed Ibne Usman was once asked if he had seen Imam Mahdi (as). He answered “Yes”, the last time that I saw him was in the Holy Kaaba, praying “O Allah fulfill what you have promised Me”, then I saw him clutching the curtain of Mustajaar, a door opposite to the main door of Kaabah and praying “O Allah” take revenge of your enemies through me”.
Abu Ali Abul Hasan Ali Ibne Ahmed narrates, “One day Mohammed Ibne Usman took me and showed his grave and said “I will die on such day. I will be buried here and this tablet will be with me” (the tablet was inscribed with some Quranic verses and the names of Imams).
When asked about the cause of showing his grave, he replied “I have been ordered to finish all my duties and set things straight”.
A few years before his death whenever he was asked about his successor he used to send them to Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh. He expired in the month of Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 305 AH He is buried alongside his respected mother in Baghdad, near Kufa Gate where he resided. He lived during the reign of Motamid, Mukhtafi and Muqtadir, the Abbaside caliphs.
Third Deputy: Abul Qasim Husain Ibne Rauh Nawbakhti (ar)
He succeeded Mohammed Ibne Usman. He was a leading personality from the family of Nawbakht.
Ali Ibne Mohammed narrates from his uncle that I was sitting besides Janabe Mohammed Ibne Usman (ar) when he was in his death-bed and talking to him. He says, Ibne Rauh was sitting near his feet. At that moment, Janabe Mohammed Ibne Usman (ar) told me. “I have been commanded to make a will to Husain Ibne Rauh” I got up and made Husain to sit in my place and myself sat near Janabe Mohammed Ibne Usman’s feet.
Mohammed Ibne Usman began making a will, “Husain Ibne Rauh Nawbakhti, is my heir and successor amongst you after me. He is the medium and channel between you and Hazrat Saheb al Amr (as). You refer to him in your problems and rely on him in your affairs, I was ordered to convey this message and I have done my duty”.
The first Tawqee received by Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh (ar), was as follow: “We know him (Husain Ibne Rauh) May Allah grant him goodness, his recognition and grace. We received his letter. He is our reliable man He enjoys such a position near us with which he is bound to be happy. May Allah increase His obligations on him. Certainly, he masterful and powerful person. Praise be to the God who has no partner. Blessings of Allah be on Mohammed (s.a.w.a.) and his progeny”. Sunday 6th Shawwal 305 AH
The appointment of Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh after Janabe Mohammed Ibne Usman was for two basic reasons:
- This position was granted to only him who was sincere to such an extent that if the Imam was behind him, he would not reveal his whereabouts even if cut into pieces. Husain Ibne Rauh, was very sincere.
- To remove the doubt in some people’s minds that only those who had blood relations or proximity with Janabe Mohammed Ibne Usman stood the chance of gaining successorship. None could even imagine that Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh would bag that coveted status. Even the spies of Bani Abbas could not get a whiff of it because there were people who were very near to Janabe Mohammed Ibne Usman.
Everybody considered Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh to be a very knowledgeable person, whether friend or foe. He lived a life of dissimulation (taqaiyyah). Many incidents concerning his discussion with the ruling kings are narrated. He won the hearts of the people through his methods. Many debates are also narrated from him and the source of all his knowledge is the fountain of Ahle Bayt’s (as) knowledge. Therefore, after one debate, he said “Even if I am thrown from the sky or torn in to pieces by the vultures, I will not say a word of my own on the religion of God whatever, I say, I have learnt from the Divine Proof, God’s peace and blessing be on Him”.
Whatever he did was based only on the instructions of Imam Mahdi (as).
Abd Sahl Nawbakht was asked as to why was Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh appointed as the special representative and why not he (Abu Sahl)? He replied, “The Imams knows better whom to appoint. I have debates with the opponents of Shiahism, If I was knowing the whereabouts of Imam (as) and during a debate if I could not prove my point, I would reveal his hiding place. But Abul Qasim is not like this If Imam was hiding behind him, he would allow himself to be scissored into pieces but would not show his Imam to the enemies”.
Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh was Imam (as)’s special representative for about twenty one years.
He expired in Shaban, 326 AH and is buried in the courtyard of Ali lbne Mohammed Nawbakth’s house in Baghdad. He was a contemporary of Muqtadir and Raazi, the Abbaside caliphs.
Fourth Deputy: Janabe Abul Hasan Ali Ibne Mohammed Seymouri (ar)
He was appointed as the fourth special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as) after the demise of Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh. He is remembered as one of the companions of Imam Hasan Askari (as) and the special representative of Imam Mahdi (as) in Baghdad . For three years, he held the coveted post of deputyship. Unlike the previous deputies he could not perform any major task due to his limited tenure. One of his extraordinary feats was his prediction of Ibne Babway’s demise.
The last Tawqee from Imam (as) received by Ali Ibne Mohammed announced the termination of the period of minor occultation. Its contents are as follows, “In The Name Of God The Beneficent, The Merciful. O Ali Ibne Mohammed Seymouri! May Allah increase the reward of your brothers on account of the difficulties borne by you. You will die within six days. Regulate your affairs and sum them up. Do not make a will to anybody. After you, this chain (of special deputyship) will end and it will mark the beginning of the major occultation. Now, I will reappear on divine command. But that will be after a long time when the hearts of the people will become hardened and the world will become full of injustice, tyranny and oppression. Yes! there will be some who will claim to be my special deputes. Whoever claims to consult me before the emergence of Sufyani and the heavenly Voice, he is a deceiver and liar. There is no power and strength except that of Allah, the Al-mighty the High.”
This is the last letter received from Imam (as) in the minor occultation. After three years of deputyship, Janabe Ali Ibne Mohammed Seymouri left this world in Shaban 329 AH He is buried on the Khalanji Highway near Bab-ul-Mahool on the banks of the Abi Eqaab river. His last words were “For God is the Affair and He will himself execute it”. He lived during the reign of Muttaqui, the Abbaside Caliph.
For 69 years between 260 AH till 329 AH, four people acted as the medium between Imam (as) and his followers. This duration is called as the Minor occultation. Some people deem this duration to be 74 years. That is because they calculate it from the birth of Imam (as) in 255 AH. It is certain that the Imam Mahdi (as) did not shoulder the responsibility of Imamat in the life time of Imam Hasan Askari (as). Therefore, there was no need for Imam Mahdi (as) to be in contact with the people directly, since his respected father was executing it. Hence, the question of the commencement of minor occultation does not arise right from the birth of Imam Mahdi (as).
Some Peculiarities About Special Representation
- The names of the special deputies were not mentioned in the Tawqee. This was done in order to prevent the Abbaside caliphs from knowing their names. Also, because this relationship was based on sheer trust and reliability, there arose no particular need to mention the names.
- Alawis were kept away from deputyship and others were purposefully granted this status because the Alawis were clearly marked in the society and were under strict surveillance and scrutiny of the government.
- All of the affairs of the deputies were conducted in Baghdad for the following reason. At the time of Imam Hasan Askari (as)’s martyrdom, those people who had come from Qum to Sammarrah, were told that someone would be appointed in Baghdad so that they could give their offerings to him and received Imam Mahdi’s (as) letter from him.
- These deputies were rarely engaged in social work due to the following reasons:
- By indulging in social work one’s identity doesn’t remain a secret. And they did not intend to reveal themselves.
- If they participated in social work, they would be marked and become as special representative, while their aim was only to pose as businessmen. This is the cause for the rare information about their lives. Even historians have hardly mentioned anything about them. It is also possible that some historians have documented their biographies but these documents have been destroyed by the enemies of Shiaism.
- They performed only those tasks which were ordered unto them
- They were informed of the Hidden knowledge only with the permission of Imam Mahdi (as). All the Tawqees received during the time of the four special deputies, had only one hand-writing and people were recognising it. This similarity in writing proved that all these letters were from Imam (as) and people followed them diligently.
These deputies were keeping themselves concealed from public eyes and lived in dissimulation (Taqaiyyah). For example when Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh gave preference to the reigning caliph, on account of his dissimulation then people prayed for him and the Government could not become aware of his deputyship.
It was not necessary that everybody should have had direct contacts with the special representatives, they made their close friends and intimates as the medium between themselves and the masses. For example, Janabe Mohammed Ibne Husain had appointed ten deputies in Baghdad to collect the offerings, among them was Janabe Husain Ibne Rauh.
The aims of Special representation can be summed up in the following words:
- To prepare the people for the major occultation and habituate them to live with their Imam in concealment.
- To take some steps in solving the problems and reformation of the Shia Society.
NOTE: All references can be found in Kitabal Ghaybah of Shaykh Tusi (ar) and Kamaluddin of Shaykh Sudooq (ar).
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