The book ‘Al-Ghaybah’ is among the most valuable legacies of our religion. The book is on the subject of Imamate, which is our central and fundamental belief.This invaluable book was practically lost but for an old manuscript. Even there, the errors of the copier had caused confusion in concepts. Around thirty years ago a pious scholar undertook the task of editing this book and got it published.
Before discussing the book, it is necessary to present a short introduction of the author. His name, Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Jafar (al-Nomani), is included in the list of the early traditionalists of the fourth century hijri. He was the student of the ‘pillar of Islam’ – Shaikh Yaqub al-Kulayni (ar), (whose book ‘al-Kafi’ is among the four main books of the Shias) and he (al-Nomani) learnt the subject of ‘hadees’ under his guidance. He got the honor of noting down the traditions (Ahadith) narrated by his teacher and hence he became renowned by the title of ‘al -Kaatib’.
The book ‘Kitabul Ghaybah’ which is commonly known as ‘Ghaybat-e-Nomani’ contains twenty six chapters. It is published by ‘Maktab al-Sadiq’ of Tehran and it contains 332 pages. Its date of publication is not mentioned but it was entirely edited in the year 1397 AH
This chapter contains 58 traditions and deals with the topic of concealing the secrets of Ahlul Bayt (as) from the unworthy people. For instance, the Motezalah who accept the distinction of Ameerul Momeneen (as) over all others but at the same time believe that an inferior person can be chosen over a superior person.
…. Is He then Who guides to truth worthier to be followed, or he who himself does not go aright unless he is guided What then is the matter with you, how do you judge? (Surah Yunus, verse 35)
Whether it is the Motazelah or the Ashairah or other enemies of Ahlul Bayt (as) – all of them are blind and biased. They are not able to distinguish truth from falsehood. Thus it is necessary that we don’t narrate such traditions to these kinds of people. Otherwise they will go to the extent of refuting and rebelling against Allah, His messenger (sawa) and our holy Imams (as).
Imam Sadiq (as) says in one tradition, “Some people consider me as their Imam, but I’m certainly not their leader. May Allah curse them! Because the things that I conceal, they reveal it among the people. I say “so and so” (without taking any names) and they say “certainly Imam was referring to so and so person (they take the name).” Then Imam (as) says, Certainly, I’m the Imam of the one who obeys me. (Al Ghaybah, chapter 1, tradition no. 8 )
The second chapter is based on the Tafseer (exegesis) of verse 102 of Surah Aal-e-Imran in which Allah says, “And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited.” (Surah Aal-e-Imran, verse 102)
A person came to Holy Prophet (sawa) and said ‘I have heard that Allah has told the people to hold His rope (covenant) steadfastly. Then which is that rope (covenant) with whom we have to attach ourselves And about which breakup and separation have we been cautioned. Holy Prophet (sawa) bowed down his head for a while. He (sawa) then raised it and while pointing towards Ameerul Momeneen Ali (as) said,He is the one who is the ‘rope (covenant) of Allah.’ The one who adheres to him will remain safe in this world and in the Hereafter too, he shall not be deviated. (chapter 2, tradition 1)
The traditions concerning Imamate and Caliphate have been narrated in this chapter. The appointment of the Imam and his successor are Allah’s prerogative and privilege.
Once a group of around twenty people were present with Imam Sadiq (as). He (as) said, You may be under the impression that appointing an Imam is the responsibility of our family and we can appoint anyone whom we desire. By Allah! It is not as you think. This is a covenant from the side of Allah that He revealed on Holy Prophet (sawa). In it is the name written of every Imam in sequence. (chapter 3, tradition 1)
This chapter includes those traditions that mention that Imams (as) shall be only twelve and they are appointed by Allah. Hazrat Jibrael (as) came in the presence of Holy Prophet (sawa) and said, Allah (s.w.t.) has ordered you to get your daughter Fatemah (sa) married to Ali (as). Thus Holy Prophet (sawa) did as he was instructed by Allah. (chapter 4, tradition 1)
This chapter contains the traditions which discuss about those people who have falsely claimed the exalted rank of Imamate and also about those people who have forsaken the rightly appointed Imams (as) and have chosen to follow the false claimants.
Imam Sadiq (as) says, There are three groups of people with whom Allah will not speak on the day of Judgment nor shall He purify them. And He has destined a severe chastisement for them. The first group is of those people who falsely claim the divine status of Imamate for themselves. The second group is of those people who reject the divinely appointed Imam. The third group is of those people who consider the first two groups as correct and believe that Islam is benefited by them. (chapter 5, tradition 3)
In this chapter, the author has collected those traditions of Holy Prophet (sawa) that mention his successors and which the famous scholars have collected in their books. The narrators of all these traditions are the revered & respected companions of Holy Prophet (sawa).
For instance, Mashrooq narrates, ‘We were once with Ibne Masood when a person came to him and asked, “Has your Prophet informed you about his successors’ Ibne Masood replied ‘Yes. But you are the first person to ask me such a question while you are youngest among the people. I heard the Holy Prophet (sawa) say: The successors after me shall be equal to the Nuqaba (chiefs) of Hazrat Musa (as). (chapter 6, tradition 1)
Similarly, he (sawa) said in another tradition, They will be twelve, equal to the Nuqaba of Bani Israel. (chapter 6, tradition 3)
In a similar manner, the author has bought traditions narrated by Anas bin Malik, Jabir bin Samorah Savaee, Abu Huzefa, Samorah bin Jundab and Abdullah bin Umar.
This chapter enumerates the traditions which state that anyone who passes the night without recognizing the Imam of his time and if he departs from the world in that condition, his death will be of ‘jaaheliyah’ (the period before the advent of Islam). Similarly if a person accepts the divine religion of Islam without acknowledging the Imam, then Allah will not accept his (good) deeds.
Imam Baqir (as) says, The one who follows the religion of Allah by His worship and puts himself in difficulties for His sake, but he does not follow an Imam appointed by Allah, then his efforts will not be accepted and he will be deviated and in turmoil. (chapter 7, tradition 1)
‘The earth can never remain devoid of a divine representative’ Traditions on this topic are mentioned in this chapter.
Those traditions that say that ‘If only two people remain in this world, then one of them will be the Proof of Allah’ are mentioned in this chapter.
This chapter is devoted to the occultation of twelfth Imam – Imam Mahdi (as). It contains the tradition of Ameerul Momineen (as) which cautions us about the things that are the cause of deviation during the occultation of Imam Mahdi (as). This chapter is very vast and has quite a few sections. It starts from page 140 and ends at page 194 – a total of 54 pages devoted to this topic. It deals with a range of topics related to occultation. The researcher, Ali Akber Ghaffari has adorned this chapter by including the views of contemporary scholars. Over here we will suffice ourselves by mentioning only one tradition.
Furaat bin Ahnaf narrates from Imam Sadiq (as) who narrates from his ancestors (as) that, “During the reign of Ameerul Momineen Ali (as), the water of the Euphrates had risen to dangerous levels. Ali (as) along with his two sons – Imam Hasan (as) and Imam Husain (as) mounted their horses and reached a place by the name of Taifah-e-Saqif. When the people saw them they were relieved and knew that Imam Ali (as) would rescue them from the swelling river. He (as) addressed them and said, ‘I and both my sons shall be martyred. Certainly, during the last times, Allah will raise a person from my progeny who shall avenge our blood. He shall remain in occultation so that the misguided and irresponsible people should not be able to identify him. In fact the ignorant and fools of those times will say Allah is not in need of the progeny of Mohammed. (chapter 10, tradition 1)
In the fifth section of this chapter, traditions from other Imams (as) concerning Imam Mahdi (as) have been collected. Here, we shall mention a tradition that clearly indicates the type of people who shall have certainty during the occultation of Imam Mahdi (as). Imam Sadiq (as) says, When the Qaem shall rise, people will deny him because he will come before them as a youth. Only those people from whom Allah has taken a pledge in ‘Alam-e-Zar’ shall remain firm and steadfast. (chapter 10, Sec. 5, tradition 43)
It contains those traditions in which the followers and lovers of Ahlul Bayt (as) have been exhorted to patiently await the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (as). The narrator asked Imam Baqir (as) about the verse of Quran “…be patient and excel in patience and remain steadfast…”
Imam (as) replied, Be patient in fulfilling your duties towards Allah. Be patient and tolerant against the enemies and be attentive to your Imam (as) (i.e. be in contact with your Imam by means of awaiting.
Here, those traditions have been compiled that mention about the divisions and differences among the Shias and their trials and tribulations during occultation. For instance, Imam Sadiq (as) says, His reappearance shall not occur until some of you spit on each other’s face while some of you curse each other. Till the extent that some of you will call the others as liars.
The characteristics and traits of Imam Mahdi (as) in the light of Quranic verses and traditions of the Holy Imams (as) have been mentioned in this chapter. The attributes of Janabe Narjis Khatoon (sa) too have been mentioned. The manner and approach of Imam Mahdi (as), his judgments, signs through which he can be recognized, his clothes, attributes of his companions and soldiers and other similar details have been discussed in this chapter.
This chapter deals with the signs that will appear immediately before the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (as). One point that needs to be kept in mind over here is that we are awaiting the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (as) and not the signs preceding it. Also we should always remember that just as the day of resurrection (Qiyamat) is a definite occurrence, likewise the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (as) too is a certainty and no change (Bad’a) can take place in this matter because it is a Divine Promise and Allah does not break His promises.
In this chapter, the calamities and the tribulations before the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (as) have been explained.
Mufazzal ibn Umar says that ‘We were in the presence of Imam Sadiq (as) when a discussion arose about Imam Mahdi (as). I said ‘I hope his reappearance takes place easily.’ Imam (as) replied, This affair (of reappearance) will not actualize till (due the severe calamities) you do not separate the frozen blood from the sweat.
The difficulties before reappearance shall be so harsh that the blood of an individual shall freeze, his flesh will be separated from his bones and he will be completely engulfed in troubles and difficulties.
This chapter comprises of traditions that prohibit the fixing of a time for the reappearance of Imam (as). Muhammad ibn Muslim narrates that Imam Sadiq (as) said Don’t hesitate in refuting the one who fixes a time for the reappearance (of Imam Mahdi (as)). For, we have not fixed the time of reappearance of the Qaem (as) from our side. (chapter 16, tradition 3)
The problems that shall arise due to the deeds of ignorant and uninformed people after the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (as) have been enumerated in this chapter.
Imam Sadiq (as) says, When our Qaem shall appear, he will have to deal with ignorant and immature people. The troubles caused by them will be more severe than those caused by the infidel Arabs to Holy Prophet (sawa). The narrator asked Imam (as) ‘How is this possible’ Imam (as) replied, “Certainly, Holy Prophet (sawa) came at a time when the people were worshipping idols made of stone and wood. But when our Qaem shall appear, the people will be believing in the Book (of Allah) but they will interpret it exactly opposite to what it says and will argue with him (as) through the Book.” Then Imam (as) said, Know that his justice will enter every house just as (the heat of) summer and (the chill of) winter enters every dwelling. (chapter 17, tradition 3)
Note: It is easier to destroy the physical idols made of wood and stone than to destroy the views and opinions of an individual. They are ‘mental idols’ with whom every person is strongly attached. Then those who interpret Quranic verses according to their whims and fancies must be cautious. When Imam (as) shall appear, he will wage a war against such people.
This chapter speaks about the ‘standard’ (flag) of the Holy Prophet (sawa) that shall be carried by Imam Mahdi (as). It is the same ‘standard’ which Hazrat Ali (as) had carried in the battle of Siffin and said This is the flag that no one will raise after me except the Qaem. (chapter 18 tradition 1)
This chapter deals with the characteristics of the companions of Imam Mahdi (as). The companions of Imam (as) will be those who are in the forefront of doing virtuous and righteous acts. Majority of the companions will be young. (chapter 20, tradition 6)
Chapter Twenty One
The conditions of the Shias before and after reappearance have been mentioned in this chapter. Imam Sadiq (as) says, “When our Qaem shall appear, those who would consider themselves as the beneficiary of his reappearance (i.e. Shiahs) shall rebel against him. On the other hand, those were worshipping the sun and the moon shall join his (as) army and benefit from his reappearance. (chapter 21, tradition 1)
Note: This tradition clearly explains that we should not rest on the laurels of being a Shiah and lover of Imam Mahdi (as). Rather we should intensely guard this precious bounty and regularly recite ‘Dua-e-Ghareeq’ so that at the time of difficulty we do not forsake the love and mastership of Ahlul Bayt (as). We should not be surprised to learn that sun and moon worshippers will join the army of Imam Mahdi (as). History is a witness that people have changed their sides and have come out of darkness (of falsehood) into light (of truth). The example of Janabe Hurr (as) is one such case.
Chapter Twenty Two
This chapter deals with those traditions that state that Imam Mahdi (as) shall give a fresh invitation to the people. Imam Sadiq (as) says, ‘When the Qaem shall appear, he will give a fresh invitation (to the people). Just as Holy Prophet (sawa) had invited the people (to Islam)’
On hearing this Janabe Abu Baseer stood up from his place, kissed the forehead of Imam (as) and said ‘I testify that you are my Imam in this world and in the hereafter. I love your friends and bear enmity with your enemies. I bear witness that you are the ‘wali’ (master) from the side of Allah’ On hearing this Imam (as) said, May Allah have mercy upon you.
Chapter Twenty Three
This section deals with traditions that speak about the young age at which Imam Mahdi (as) attained the lofty rank of Imamate.
Chapter Twenty Four
This chapter is of special importance. It contains traditions in which Imam Sadiq (as) has categorically stated that after him, his eldest son Janabe Ismail will not be the Imam. Rather, Imam Moosa Kazim (as) will be his successor and the next Imam. Thus this chapter contains traditions that reject the Imamate of Janabe Ismail.
Chapter Twenty Five
This chapter talks about those traditions that say that the one who recognizes the Imam will never be harmed (in matters of faith) even if the deliverance be delayed.
Chapter Twenty Six
This is the last chapter and deals with the tenure of Imam Mahdi’s (as) government. According to the tradition of Imam Sadiq (as), the period of government of Imam Mahdi (as) is around 19 years and a few months.
O Allah! Hasten the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (as) and grant tranquility to the heart of Janabe Zahra (sa).
Read More on Books on Imam Mahdi (as)
- Has The Mahdi Been Discussed in Traditions?
- An Introduction to Beharul Anwar
- An Introduction to Kitabul Ghaybah by Nomani
- An Introduction to Kitab Al-Ghaybah by Shaykh Toosi (ar)
- An Introduction to Kamaluddin Wa Tamamun Nemah
- An Introduction to Muntakhabul Asar
- An Introduction to Yanabiul Mawaddah
- Traditions From Al Bayan Fee Akhbaris Sahebaz Zaman