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In the Name of God بسم الله


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    ElAhmed reacted to Hameedeh for a blog entry, Minimalism   
    Two years ago I became a minimalist. I'm not talking about music, sculpture or painting, but minimalism in my life. I read about creating a minimalist home, but I did not buy the book:
    So, I am thrifty and I buy very little. Whenever I am shopping and see a dozen things I want to own, I question myself. Do I have storage space for this? Is this really necessary? Will I really love it or is it just something that I never had before and always wanted to have one? Just wanting to possess something is not a good reason to buy it. Could I take a photo of it and just look at it, without spending my money? This must be a good reason to join Pinterest, to have all the things you want to look at, but never need to buy, store or move them. 
    As you have seen, my ShiaChat blog is minimalist by nature. I usually say very little, because if there is one thing that I know, it is that I recognize great writing when I see it, but I am not a good writer. I hope to become a better writer some day, and in the meantime, I invite you to my tumblr. Please, if you can, start at the last page which shows my first post (a prayer for the safety of 12th Imam AJ) and then scroll your way up, and over to previous pages in chronological order, the way my brain was working. 
    ♥ May your days be sunny, your nights restful, and your heart satisfied with the blessings that Allah has given you. Think Positive. ♥
  2. Like
    ElAhmed reacted to ShiaMan14 for a blog entry, 10 Days in Iran   
    I had been planning to go to Iran for a long time and finally made it a priority for me in 2016. Since I wanted to mix in sightseeing and pilgrimage in the same trip, I decided to go on my own instead of in a group.
    As it turned out, getting an individual visa for Iran when traveling from the US is a real hassle. We need to get permission from the Iran Foreign Ministry and then apply for the visa at the Iran Mission housed within the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC. After struggling for almost 3 weeks, I was able to find Taha Ziyarat Group (tahaziyarat@gmail.com) based out of Toronto that obtained the necessary approval for me for $90.
    Once I got my approval, I sent my passport off to the Iran Mission in Washington. I did have to follow up with them almost daily to ensure they processed my visa application expeditiously. I received my passport 4 days before flying out.
    While I was waiting for the visa approval, I booked my flights on Qatar Airways for a bargain price of $700 return to/from US-Tehran. For in-country arrangements, I know a maulana (NAJ) there who arranged everything for me based on my budget.
    Finally, the big day came and I left for Iran on Wed Mar 23rd arriving in Tehran late Thu evening (Mar 24th). NAJ had arranged for a driver to pick me up and drive straight to Qum instead of spending the night in Tehran. The drive from IKA (Imam Khomeni Airport) to Qum took about 90 minutes. The driver barely spoke English but knew where to pick me up from and where to drop me. We arrived at Qum International Hotel around 1245am (Fri Mar 25th). The hotel was about a *** US hotel, higher for Iran.
    Day 1 (Fri):
    We prayed fajr in our room and went back to bed. Since breakfast was included in our price, we went down for breakfast around 9a – nice long buffet.
    NAJ contacted me around 10am and picked me up from the QIH around 1030a to take me to the Roza of Masooma-e-Qum. We walked to the roza and were there at 1035a. The hotel is the closet one to the roza.
    NAJ showed us around the haram and provided us some background about Masooma and her roza. From 1130a – 2p, we were on our own to recite ziyarat, salah-e-jumah and dua. I wandered around the roza and made my way to the masjid adjoining the roza. It is an absolutely beautiful mosque.
    They had beautiful recitations of the quran and then some speeches followed by Azaan. The Jumah khutba was recited by an Ayatollah in Farsi (of course) and then namaz-e-jumah. Although I did not understand most of the khutba, one thing that was unmistakable was the ‘marg-al-Amreeka’ chants (down with America or death to America). They were loud and boisterous.

    Shrine of Bibi Masooma Qum (as).
    After salah-e-jumah, NAJ took us to the Suffrah of Masooma where were had a decent meal of rice with spinach with potatoes.
    We went to our hotel after lunch for some R&R and then returned to the haram for maghribain. After namaz, NAJ took us around the bazaar outside the haram. The clothing looked like they were from the 70s and 80s. Religious paraphernalia including irani chador were well stocked and affordably priced. Almost evey other shop sold halwa-suhan.
    Day 2 (Sat):
    We spent most of this day driving around to the various ziarats around Qum.

    Bait Al-Noor. Musallah of Masooma (as). This is where she spent time praying.

    Shrine of an Imamzadeh (Son of an Imam).

    Shrine of Hz. Hamza bin Musa Kazim (as).

    Day 3 (Sun):
    This was by far the most hectic day of the trip. We left around 5am to drive from Qum to Isfahan. It was about a 4-hour drive. I was surprised how much of the Iranian country was desert. The deserts in the Middle East countries (UAE, Saudi) have a lot of fine yellow sand. Iranian deserts are more rocky than sandy.

    Upon entering Isfahan, we visited the shrine of Masooma Zainab bint Imam Musa Khadim (as) – Masooma Qum’s younger sister.

    Next stop was the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan. We spent a few minutes here and then walked to Allama Majlisi’s tomb nearby. His house and surrounding are well preserved.
    Next was the more secular part of the Ishafan visit.

    We went to Naqsh-e-Jahan (half of the world) which is the main plaza of Isfahan. The weather was great and since the Nawroz holidays were still going on, it was packed with people.
    Within Naqsh-e-Jahan is the Ali Qapu Palace

    Panamoric View from Ali Qapu Palace Balcony of Naqsh-e-Jahan

    Since it was almost lunch time, we stopped by a street restaurant selling A’ash

    After lunch, we went to the Vank Cathedral. This Christian monastery was established in 1606. It contains some amazing art work.


    From here, we went to Khaju Bridge for some more sightseeing.

    At this point, we were too tired to do anything else so we headed back to Qum – 4 hour journey mostly spent napping.
    Day 4 (Mon):
    After a hectic day, sleep was going to be the primary thing on the agenda for this day but there was too much to do. We prayed fajr at the mosque next to Masooma-e-Qum’s shrine:

    Mosque adjacent to Masooma-e-Qum's shrine
    And then went back to our hotel for more sleep. We had breakfast and got ready for another fun-filled travel day.
    We started off by going from Qum to Mashad-e-Ardehal. This site contains the tomb of Sultan Ali son of Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) and brother of Imam Jafar Sadiq (as). Sultan Ali was brutally killed here by his enemies.

    From here we drove to a hilltop/mountaintop with streams running down. We had to walk down about 500 meters and got a great view of a waterfall.
    The most distinct feature of this area of the smell of rose water distilleries all over the place. You could get rose water for a variety of needs including simple hot rose water tea. The other distinct item being sold was fresh bee hives dripping with honey. And yes, we tried hot rose water tea with honey.
    From here, we went to the city of Kashan. Our first stop was an ancient archeological site called Tepe Sialk. The Sialk ziggurat
    Note: Entrance for most places have an Iranian Rate and a Foreigner rate (up to 3X in places). We had our driver buy the tickets and we would walk in with him talking to us in Farsi. Yes – very sneaky indeed. I excused myself by convincing myself that since both my wife and I are of Iranian descent, we qualify for the discount.  
    Final stop of our day trip to Kashan was to the oldest extant garden in Iran known as the Bagh-e-Fin or Fin Garden.
    Although this was a less hectic day than the trip to Isfahan, we were still pretty tired so we drove back to Qum, had a 12-in falafel sandwich, prayed maghraibain at the haram and went to bed.
    Day 5 (Tue):
    The past couple of days had left us tired so we decided to take it easy.
    We went to the haram for fajr then went back to bed. We woke up just in time to catch breakfast and then went to the local market (wish I took pictures). From there we went for zohrain at the mosque adjacent to Masooma’s shrine.
    After a quick bite to eat, we left for the Koh-e-Khizr aka Mountain of Khizr. What was supposed to be a light day in terms of exercise became a very intense and steep climb to the top of Koh-e-Khizr. It was well worth it in the end because we got a great view of the entire city of Qum if not the whole province.
    Got more daunting as we got closer.
    For the record, the old gentleman in the pic IS NOT ME
    City/Province of Qum.
    Needless to say the climb down was nowhere near as arduous as the climb up. There was a small food vendor about half from the top. On our way up, we bought some water from him and then ice cream on the way down.
    After resting by the car for a few moments, we drove nearby to the Masjid-e-Jhamkaran, located on the outskirts of Qum. A brief history of this grand mosque is that it  has long been a sacred place, at least since 373 A.H., 17th of Ramadan (22 February 984 C.E.), when according to the mosque website, one Sheikh Hassan ibn Muthlih Jamkarani is reported to have met Muhammad al-Mahdi along with the prophet Al-Khidr. Jamkarani was instructed that the land they were on was "noble" and that the owner — Hasan bin Muslim — was to cease cultivating it and finance the building of a mosque on it from the earnings he had accumulated from farming the land.
    As we had been told, the mosque starts getting filled up from about 5pm and gets fuller and fuller as the evening progresses. I am not sure if it was because of Nawruz season but it definitely had a very 'carnival' and festive feel to it. People had spread out their rugs all across the mosque courtyard and were reveling with family and friends. There was hot tea brewing and koobideh with naan being shared by one and all.
    Quran and then different duas were being recited, followed by maghribain and then more duas. We left around 830p to go back to our hotel.

    Mosque sparely populated around 4pm.

    Crowded!!! (730pm).
    Day 6 (Wed):
    Today was the big day when we would finally make our way to Mashad. We had packed the previous night so we left right after fajr – and yes, I skipped breakfast!!!
    First stop was First stop was an almost 2 hour drive to Ayatollah Khomenei’s mausoleum.   It is located to the south of Tehran in the Behesht-e Zahra (the Paradise of Zahra) cemetery. Construction commenced in 1989 following Khomeini's death on June 3 of that year. It is still under construction, but when completed will be the centerpiece in a complex spread over 5,000 acres, housing a cultural and tourist center, a university for Islamic studies, a seminary, a shopping mall, and a 20,000-car parking lot. The Iranian government has reportedly devoted US$2 billion to this development. It is definitely one of the largest and most beautiful mausoleums I have come across.
    Visitors reciting fatiha for Ayatollah Khomenei.
    Please recite surah fatiha for Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini.
    Next stop was the Astana Bibi Shehr Bano. On the ground level there is a cave which according to legends was the place where Zuljinah brought Bibi from Kerbala, and she was there until hostile people to Bani Hashim got news of her being there, and they tried to catch her. She climbed the hillock and then vanished in a mountainous wall. Now a zarih has been constructed together with prayer rooms for men and women.
    Zarih of Hz. Shehr Bano.                                                                    View of other side of Tehran.
    who was a fifth generation descendant of Hasan ibn ‘Alī and a companion of Muhammad al-Taqī. A piece of paper was found in his pocket outlining his ancestry as being: ‘Abdul ‘Adhīm son of ‘Abdillāh son of ‘Alī son of Husayn son of Zayd son of Hasan ibn ‘Alī.Shah Abdul AzeemNext stop was the Shrine of
    Adjacent to the shrine, within the complex, include the mausolea of Imamzadeh Tahir (son of the fourth shia Imam Sajjad) and Imamzadeh Hamzeh (brother of the eighth Twelver Imām - Imām Reza).

    From here, we drove around the City of Tehran including the famed part known as Rey. I am fairly well traveled but I have to say that Tehran is one of the most picturesque cities I have visited. Situated in close proximity of the Alborz range and its majestic peak Mount Damavand , being the highest in Iran with a height of 18,550 feet ,it is a mega city of about Thirty Million People.

    You can see hundreds of buildings at the foot of the mountain. Not a bad view to wake up to every morning.
    After driving around for a couple of hours, our driver dropped us of at Tehran’s Mehrabad Intl Airport which is primarily used for domestic travel. The airport is in the heart of Tehran or at least within the city.
    The airport has a small cafeteria that serves hot meals of the local variety. They also have a coffee shop and ice cream parlor.
    After a 2-hour wait, we finally boarded our short (1-hr) flight to Mashad. The flight was as uneventful as all flights can be. I did enjoy a small boxed-meal they offered everyone despite the short flight. It made up for the breakfast that morning J.
    Naj had arranged a friend of his (Ali) to be our tour guide for the stay in Mashad. Since Ali’s English was a little weak, he brought along his sister (Afsanay) who was quite fluent in English.
    We checked into our Hotel (Hotel Omid). It is definitely one of the nicer hotels in Mashad.
    View of shrine from our hotel room balcony.
    We quickly refreshed and headed over to the Shrine of Imam Reza (as). Much to our pleasant surprise, the shrine was not as packed with zawar as we expected. It could have been the weather or Nawruz.

    About to enter the main hallway of the Shrine for the first time. Goose bumps.

    As salaam alai ka Ya Ghareeb Al Ghuraba (as)

    One of the many courtyards within the Shrine Complex of Imam Ali Reza (as).
    Day 7 (Thu):
    Although our intention was to go to the haram in Imam Al-Reza (as) for fajr, it was raining too hard with heavy winds to walk so we prayed in our rooms and went back to sleep.
    We woke up to this view:
    After a world class buffet breakfast, we met up with Ali and Afsanay to go to Nishapour. Once again, it was a very scenic drive. The mountain-desert country just has a certain serenity about it. On the way, we saw small villages celebrating nawroz in their own way.
    Our first stop was at the Qadamgah – where the footprints of the Holy Imam Al-Reza (as) can be found. Adjacent to it is a small stream said to bring benefits of all kinds to the zawar.
    Panoramic view of the building housing the footprint.
    Just before entering the area of the qadamgah is a small caravansary which use to house people back in the day.

    There were probably abour 20-25 room like the one shown above. Very basic room with a hearth in the middle. The rooms were considered high end. Outside the caravansary, there was just the open shelter (pretend there is no room just the outer part).
    Next stop was to the mausoleum of Bibi Shatitay. The legend goes that Imam himself came there and led the Namaz-e-janaza prayers for her.
    We made a brief stop at the historic Shah Abbas Inn/Caravansary which has been converted into several small shops selling jewelry or souvenirs. Nishapur is famous for its turquoise stone (firoza).
    Next stop was the shrines of Imamzade Mahruq bin Muhammad Al-Baqir bin Sajjad (as) and Ebrahim bin Ahmad bin Moosa bin Jafar (as). 
    A short walk from here was the tomb of Omar Al-Khayam – one of the most influential thinkers of the Middle Ages. He wrote numerous treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy and astronomy.

    A short drive from here was the mausoleum of Abu Hamid bin Abu Bakr Ibrahim aka Attar Nishapuri - a Persian Muslim poet, theoretician of Sufism, and hagiographer from Nishapur who had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism.

    If memory serves me right, next to Attar’s tomb was an archeological site from thousands of years ago. It was going through extensive renovations at the time.

    Our last stop was a very famous local restaurant called Emirat Restaurant. Undoubtedly the best lamb koobideh I have ever had!!! My wife and I had some very interesting conversations with Ali and Afsanay. They were both fascinated by our lives in America. They had no qualms about asking me my salary; the size and cost of our house; they were surprised if not shocked that it was okay for my wife to go grocery shopping by herself and it was perfectly safe. They were under the impression that any woman who stepped out of her house by herself was 'asking for it'. I thought it was hilarious. Now that I think about it, everything the Western media does to paint Muslims in a certain light happens in Iran too but backwards. The Western media takes 1 bad Muslim story and tries to apply it to all Muslims. The Iranian media takes a bad Western story and applies it to all Westerners. This was just my observation and nothing more.
    We had some other interesting conversations but those are for another day and another time. 
    We drove back to Mashad and spent the evening the haram of Imam Al-Reza (as).
    Day 8 (Fri):
    We prayed fajr at the haram and went back to bed; then woke up to this beautiful view.

    Beautiful view of Roza of Ima Ali Reza (as).
    Since it was Friday, we stayed in our room until 11a or so and then headed to the haram again. Good thing we went early because it was fuller than we had seen since we got there.
    So I got a good spot in the mosque adjacent to the haram. I heard the Friday sermon (understood bits and pieces) and the “Death to American” chants, then prayed juma followed by Asr.

    Mosque adjacent to Imam Ali Reza's (as) shrine.
    Next was one of the most essential parts of the trip. One may not get this opportunity all the time. We had to take our passport to the office of Pilgrims situated in the Haram of Imam Ridha’s (as). They marked our passport and gives us a ticket for the meal. At the restaurant, they feed almost 4000 Zuwar each day. Thousands of Iranians must wait for years before they get a chance to have a meal at this restaurant.

    Lunch at Imam's restaurant (dastakhawan)
    Following lunch, Ali and Afsanay picked us up for some sightseeing. We drove around Mashad, saw her university and then went to ziarat nearby

    Ziarat near Mashad

    Iranian country side. Notice the marked difference in scenery from the previous pictures.
    On our way back, we stopped at an ice cream parlor for some traditional Persian ice cream. The last stop was a nearby pewter mountain. I was amazed to see people climbing it without any concern for safety. It was rainy and slick. Mrs ShiaMan14 bought a very nice souvenir.

    We came back, rested for a bit and then went to the haram for salah.
    Day 9 (Sat):
    This was the day to head back to Tehran. We spent the entire night at the haram until fajr. Then came back to get some rest. We got up after a couple of hours, had some breakfast and packed. We took all our luggage downstairs and went back to the haram for zuhrain. We also did the farewell ziarat, rushed back to the hotel since Ali was waiting for us.
    We got to the Mashad International Airport around 245pm for a 530p flight - plenty of time.
    Just as Ali left us, NAJ gave me a call informing me that my flight had been cancelled so he booked me on the last flight to Tehran (happened to be the cheapest option). This is when panic set in. If the last flight got cancelled, I  would miss my flight from IKA to Doha and the subsequent flight to US.
    I could see on the monitors that there were several flights from the time now until my new flight time although all of them were on a different airline than mine. I called NAJ to ask if my ticket could be changed and he said it would not be possible. So I saw the flight I wanted about 1.5 hours later and went to their sales office. First, they couldnt understand why I wanted another ticket when I already had one. My farsi and their english were too awful to understand each other but nevertheless they allowed me to buy 2 tickets. 
    Next problem - I did not have any Iranian Rials on me and the INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT did not have a Money Exchange! So I had to call Ali back to see if he had any rials that he could give me in exchange for dollars. By this time, he was about 20 minutes away so we had to wait for him to come back. In the meanwhile, the Sales Agent agreed to take my dollars at a fairly decent exchange rate. Basically, I bought 2 one-way tickets from Mashad to Tehran for about $100. Just as we finalized the transaction, Ali came back and I had to explain the whole thing to him as well. He, too, was confused as to why I would buy another ticket when I already had one. 
    Anyway, we finally put all that behind us, checked-in and were on our way to Tehran.
    After an uneventful journey to Tehran, we drove all the way to Qum to sepnt about 3-4 hours in Qum at NAJ's house. We freshened up, ate a really nice meal and got ready to leave.
    Day 10 (Fri):
    We left Naj's house around 1am and reached IKA by 215am. Since this was the last or day after Nawruz holidays, the airport was jam packed. It took an hour to check-in, the security lines were considerably shorter so in another 15 minutes, we were at our gate. Boarding started just around fajr, so we prayed quickly and boarded our Qatar Airways flight to Doha.
    I was a bit nervous about returning to the US from Iran but had no problems whatsoever.
    A very placid end to a very hectic but thoroughly enjoyable trip.
    Iranians are a very joyous and happy people. There was no patch of grass where we didn't see a family setting up a picnic be it as a roadside or a courtyard of a shrine. I really wish relations between Iran and the West improves so the people can really experience the rich, colorful and impressive history, geography and culture Iran has to offer.
    Our entire 10 day trip cost about $1,600/pp. It was money well spent.
  3. Like
    ElAhmed reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, The Light Behind the Cloud   
    The Light behind the Cloud
    Qa'im Muhammad
    “He will be walking in their market and treading between them until Allah permits him.”
    Succession in the institution of Imamate was a contentious matter during the formative period of Imami Shiism. The doctrine of Imamate “evolved gradually” during the first century AH, and was given a “definitive shape” by the death of Ja`far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (c. 148 AH).[1] While Madelung attributes this shape to Hisham b. al-Hakam,[2] a Kufan champion of Imami theology and companion of Ja`far as-Sadiq, a pantheon of Shiite personalities influenced and codified the development of this institution. An examination into Twelver Imamate would be incomplete without an inquiry into its culmination: the occultation. The disappearance of the last Imam, or the Mahdi, is a belief that was upheld by many sects during the infancy and formative period, including the Kaysaniyya, the Nawusiyya, the Fat`hiyya, the Mubarakiyya, the Waqifa, and the Twelvers. The doctrine of occultation grew in sophistication between the first and third Islamic centuries through the sayings and writings of different personalities, schools, and sects. This article will explore the historical development the concept of occultation, its influences, and its implications in classical Shiism.
                    Disagreements over who would inherit the Imamate would demonstrate a popular uncertainty in the expected number of Imams. In the lifetime of Ja`far as-Sadiq, it became clear to the growing Imami community that a rightful Imam would need to be explicitly designated (nass) by his paternal predecessor, and that he would have the right to the Caliphate and the leadership of the Muslim world.[3] Although Ja`far as-Sadiq was certainly not the originator of the concept of Imamate, his chiefly place amongst Medinan scholars and his relative freedom vis-à-vis other Imams allowed him to elaborate on the subject to his principal Kufan students. He taught that the Imam was not only a contestant to political authority, but also as a legal and spiritual guide of Muslims everywhere.[4] The death of Ja`far as-Sadiq would mark a major split in the Shiite community over his succession. The triumph of the Abbasid revolution made it difficult for Ja`far as-Sadiq to articulate his designation; and upon his death, the Shiites flocked to several descendants of his, including `Abdullah al-Aftah, Muhammad b. Isma`il, Musa al-Kadhim, and even the deceased Isma`il b. Ja`far. Soon afterwards, the Fat`hiyya would mostly join Musa al-Kadhim, either as Imamis, or as ardent upholders in the Imamate of `Abdullah al-Aftah. One group, the Nawusiyya, held that Ja`far was the living Mahdi in occultation. Later, after the death of Musa al-Kadhim, a faction led by `Ali b. Abi Hamza claimed that Musa was indeed the living Mahdi in occultation.
                    This crisis poses a dilemma: the final number of Imams and the sequence of who would take office was perhaps unknown to major students of Ja`far as-Sadiq and the Shiite populace in general. Still, the split demonstrates that a number of important doctrines were upheld by all of the groups, including:
    The rule that there would be one immaculate (ma`sum) Imam at all times, chosen by the preceding Imam. For all of the mentioned sects, this would either be a hidden Imam or an apparent one. The culmination of the Imamate with the Mahdi, a messianic figure who would fill the world with justice and peace as it would be fraught with injustice and tyranny. The expectation that the Mahdi would enter into an occultation sometime during his life, usually due to an imminent danger. While the Sunnis did not share these three ideas, they became central to Imami theology. Zaydis generally do not necessitate one Imam at all times, but they have certainly flirted with messianism.[5] The historical Zaydis carried a more nascent view of Imamate: an Imam was simply a pious leader from the Prophet’s tribe who rises with a sword to fight against the tyrannical forces. In Zaydi theology, the world can be devoid of an Imam, and there can even be multiple Imams at a given time – including lesser Imams, who are more scholastic and less revolutionary. This is reflective of the “conciliatory” role that the Zaydis took in the 2nd century AH, merging various Islamic trends, from the traditionalists of Medina and Kufa to the Mu`tazilite theologians and logicians.[6] Still, there was a great deal of nuance among Zaydi sects and personalities in their respective views on Imamate. The Husayniyya, a messianic Zaydi religious movement in Yemen, claimed that its leader was the expected Mahdi. After his death, the sect upheld that he was actually the hidden Saviour, who would soon bring justice to the Earth.[7] Abu’l Jarud (d. c. 140-150 AH), the founder of the Jarudiyya, was a prominent student Muhammad al-Baqir and a narrator of his ahadith. While some Zaydis were notably hostile towards the Twelver Imams, Abu’l Jarud relied heavily on Muhammad al-Baqir, and he transmits traditions from Abu ‘t-Tufayl `Amer b. Wathila (d. ~100 AH), the Kaysani strongman and sahabi.[8] In the Twelver hadith corpus, Abu’l Jarud even narrates traditions on the twelve Imams and the occultation of the Mahdi. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Sa`eed b. `Uqda, an esteemed Zaydi jurist in third century Baghdad, also related explicit traditions on these subjects to Nu`mani. Abu Sa`eed `Abbad al-`Asfari (d. 250 AH), a Jarudi scholar in Kufa, likewise recorded traditions on there being twelve Imams over ten years before the death of Hasan al-`Askari (260 AH). What we can extract from these four examples is that some Zaydis certainly remained loyal to Imami authorities and perhaps embraced some of their ideas on the institution of Imamate, all while the Batriyya remained suspicious of the more esoteric side of Shiism.
    Perhaps the most esoteric concept in Twelver Imamology is the occultation (ghayba). The Twelver account is that prior to Hasan al-`Askari’s death, he had secretly sired a son in either 255 or 256 AH[9] with an African bondwoman or with Narjis, the granddaughter of Bardas, the Byzantine Caesar. Although the early Twelver chroniclers recount several eyewitness reports to the child’s birth and early life, the child was concealed from the populous. The twelfth Imam’s existence was so discrete that it allowed several non-Twelver sects to arise after Hasan al-`Askari’s death amidst the perplexity caused by the apparent vacuum. At least eleven fragments made opposing claims; from upholding the Imamate of Ja`far al-Kadhab, to claiming that Hasan al-`Askari’s deceased brother Muhammad b. `Ali was the occulted Mahdi, to the belief that Hasan al-`Askari was still the living Imam, to the complete cessation of Imamate.[10] Twelver authorities found themselves trying to prove the twelfth Imam’s existence and his Qa’imiyya whilst negating the claims of imposters and deviant sects. This transition from Imamiyya to Twelverism proved difficult for chroniclers, who needed to codify a doctrine in harmony with the oral and written Shiite tradition.
    A primary source of direction in the Twelver community was the ambassadorship of the four representatives of the twelfth Imam: `Uthman al-`Amri, Muhammad b. `Uthman, Husayn b. Ruh an-Nawbakhti, and `Ali b. Muhammad as-Simuri. These ambassadors (sufara’) would oversee the headquarters (nahiya), a hierarchy of scholars and tax-collectors loyal to the later Qat`i Imams[11], and occasionally sent out letters and orders issued by the Imam. `Uthman al-`Amri was a loyal associate of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Imams, and received the explicit praise of the latter two according to two traditions in Kulayni’s collection through Ahmad b. Is`haq. His son, Muhammad b. `Uthman, would inherit the seat after his death. After Muhammad b. `Uthman died, his daughter Umm Kulthum helped secure the succession of Ibn Ruh an-Nawbakhti,[12] a charismatic theologian from the prominent family of scholars. This safir would prove to be influential even independently of the Imam, as he was asked a series of historical questions by his constituents. Several accounts survive in which Ibn Ruh discusses the virtues of Fatima, the martyrdom of Husayn, the role of prophets, the controversial death of Musa al-Kadhim, and various other issues. He would also address the chiliasts and the extremists (ghulat), and debate false claimants to the Imam’s representation – most notably, Shalmaghani. Moreover, the Hidden Imam communicated most with his adherents during Ibn Ruh’s supervision. The Imam’s epistles, which focused mostly on matters related to Islamic jurisprudence and khums taxes, became an affirmation of his existence, his Imamate, and his competence, as they were collected and brandished in the works of Kulayni, Saduq, and others. The epistles even demonstrated the miraculous knowledge of the twelfth Imam, who, on many occasions, seemed to have access to very specific information about his clients, their belongings, their future, and their enemies. This would further reinforce the idea that the Imam, in his station, had the supernatural ability to access the knowledge of the occult.
    The minor occultation was important to the triumph of Twelver Shiism over competing factions. The Twelvers would win over most of the early dissidents during the minor occultation, and, according to one account, eventually take in a repented Ja`far al-Kadhab.[13] Ja`far’s denial of the existence of his nephew, the twelfth Imam, would attract the followers of Faris b. Hatim, a renegade proselytizer and tax collector who broke away from `Ali al-Hadi’s influence during his Imamate.[14] Ja`far’s denial of his brother’s offspring was challenged by Hasan al-`Askari’s own mother, who opposed Faris’ group and Ja`far.[15] Eventually, according to an epistle of the Hidden Imam preserved by Saduq, Ja`far, in effect, became a Twelver and recognized his Imam. Although this claim cannot be independently verified, Saduq would have presented this information shortly after the events we have described, and no alternative account exists.
     Sa`d b. `Abdullah, a Twelver scholar and heresiographer of that period, also recorded the dissent of Muhammad b. Nusayr, the founder of the historical Alawite sect. Ibn Nusayr was a companion of `Ali al-Hadi and Hasan al-`Askari who then claimed to be the rightful gateway to the twelfth Imam. His main confidant was Ahmad b. Hilal, described by Saduq in Kamal ad-Deen as the only man to have converted from Shiism to nasb. While nasb is usually associated with those who have opposed the Ahl al-Bayt, the word nassab may also mean imposter, fraud, and conman. This definition would make more sense, because Ahmad b. Hilal was accused of both extremism (ghulu) and nasb. He was probably labelled an extremist due to his support for the Nusayris, who would raise `Ali b. Abi Talib to Godhood and adopt reincarnation; [16] and he was probably associated with nasb for his opposition to the Imam’s secretariat and his creation of a new sect. Beyond the Alawites, there were other extremists whom the Twelver authorities would need to deflect. Shalmaghani later nationalistically claimed that the Hashimite Imam was the devil and that the real Imam in occultation was a Persian from the House of Chosroes.[17] While the minor occultation symbolized a harmonization between the traditionalist, rationalist, and esoteric trends in Imami Shiism, explicit measures were taken against the heresies of some esotericists. In Tabrisi’s Ihtijaj, the Hidden Imam harshly condemns the ghulat; and in the epistle of Is`haq b. Ya`qub, he calls those who have denied Husayn’s death blasphemers. The latter is a reference to those who believed that Husayn and his companions were not killed, but were raised (like Jesus) to Paradise. The move of the holy seat of the Imam’s secretariat to Baghdad sometime after Hasan al-`Askari’s death[18] and the appointment of Ibn Ruh an-Nawbakhti may also be seen as pro-rationalist stances. Ibn Ruh also built strong ties with the Qummi traditionalists during his term. His administration can be seen as a grounding force that attempted to unify the Twelvers upon strong `aqli and naqli foundations whilst combatting the esoteric ghulat and millenialists that rose to prominence in the third Islamic century. This characterization can be further noted in the works of Saduq, Mufid, Murtada, and Tusi, which further focus on traditional, jurisprudential, and rational theology.
    The third ambassador died in 326 AH and he was succeeded by as-Simuri, whose period in office was brief and relatively obscure.[19] The most notable event at this time was the Imam’s announcement to as-Simuri that he would die in six days, and that no one was to be appointed in his place. This would mark the beginning of the major occultation and a new wave of perplexity (heyra) in the Twelver community.
    Confusion would permeate the major occultation when the death of as-Simuri further raised questions on the state of the twelfth Imam. Both Nu`mani and Saduq attempted to address the confusion of Shiites in this period, with the latter writing an extensive refutation of non-Twelver sects in the outset of his Kamal ad-Deen. It was at this time when narrations on the dual occultation of the Mahdi would gain utmost relevance, as they provided an explanation for the new phase of the occultation[20] that satisfied skeptics and temporarily curtailed the attitudes of chiliasts. The first to utilize these narrations were in fact the Waqifa, who identified Musa al-Kadhim’s two terms in prison as his two periods of occultation. Neither as-Saffar nor al-Barqi mention the dual occultation in their respective works, but Kulayni inserted a tradition of this genre from Ja`far as-Sadiq into his al-Kafi during the minor occultation. This demonstrates that, by the time of as-Simuri, the expectation of a second occultation may have been present in some Twelver scholastic circles. Furthermore, Nu`mani wrote his Kitab al-Ghayba shortly after the death of as-Simuri, which documented other traditions from the sixth Imam on the dual occultation.
    What was the proposed reason for the occultation? Both Kulayni and Saduq present reports from Zurara b. A`yan which say that the Qa’im would go into occultation due to his fear of being killed. The Hidden Imam, in his minor occultation, claimed that all of his predecessors were forced to pledge allegiance (bay`a) to the despot of their time, making his occultation an escape from their clutches. Other narrations cite the occultation as being part of an ambiguous test of faith, which only the truest Shiites would pass – doing away with the hypocrites and those of little faith.
                    The physical abode of the occulted Imam is also worthy of discussion. For Kaysanis, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya (d. 81 AH) was the Mahdi, and he was alive in occultation at Mount Radwa[21] protected by lions and angels. For the Waqifa, Musa al-Kadhim’s prison sentence sufficed as an occultation. One Waqifi report preserved in Tusi’s Ghayba appropriates the Kaysani idea that the Mahdi would be upon Mount Radwa and applies it to Musa al-Kadhim after his alleged “escape” from the Abbasid prison.[22] This demonstrates that the early, pre-developed idea of occultation was a physical seclusion of the Mahdi in a remote or isolated area. During the lives of the first eleven Imams, the Imamis studied the doctrine of occultation and its theological precedents through their Kaysani, Nawusi, Fat`hi, and Waqifi peers and predecessors. One of the most influential pre-occultation Imami theologians to have written on the topic was Fadl b. Shadhan (d. 260), a contemporary of the later Imams who had compiled his own Kitab al-Ghayba based on the narrations of the Imams and their students. Fadl’s reports were preserved by Tusi and would become an important source for occultation theology and eschatology. All of those who wrote about the occultation, including Fadl, relied on both Imami and non-Imami authorities in order to fully illustrate the concept.
    The Twelvers uphold that the Hidden Imam exists “in-between time” on a higher plain – one can interact with him metaphysically through dreams and other visionary and spiritual experiences, but this does not interrupt his state of occultation.[23] In a number of narrations, the Qa’im is compared to the Biblical prophet Joseph,[24] because Joseph was presumed dead and subsequently lived in seclusion, making significant but incognito appearances to others. Likewise, the Hidden Imam’s existence was questioned, he was unseen and unrecognized by his followers, and rumours of his death arose.[25] Saduq records that during the outset of the minor occultation, `Uthman al-`Amri claimed to have seen twelfth Imam whilst at Hajj, saying that he would visibly perform the pilgrimage every year. Soon afterwards, others would claim to have met the Imam on an incidental basis.[26] These traditions challenge the former idea that the Mahdi would be restricted to a confined area during his occultation, and submits the idea that the Hidden Imam manifests himself into both material and immaterial forms, often unbeknownst to those perceiving him.
    While the Sunnis did not formalize a belief in occultation, they did have some noteworthy encounters with the concept. Immediately after the death of the Prophet, `Umar claimed that Muhammad had not died, but was still alive, and that he had “gone to his Lord as Moses went and remained hidden from his people for forty days”.[27] Although this is normally perceived to be `Umar’s emotional reaction to the death of the Prophet, it is nonetheless a strange response that may have had theological implications. Saduq would later compare the prolonging of the Mahdi’s occultation to Moses’ forty-day isolation in Kamal ad-Deen. Additionally, Qurtubi wrote in his tafsir that al-Khidr and Elijah were still alive, making occasional appearances to pious men and women. This lends credibility to the idea that righteous men can live a millennia whilst in seclusion, even after the cessation of prophethood in Muhammad.
                    One “dual occultation” tradition found in al-Kafi is supplemented with the notion that some of the Mahdi’s followers would retain contact with him during the second phase of his occultation. Here, Ja`far as-Sadiq says that the Mahdi’s “special clients” (khasat mawali) would “know his place”. The relatively ambiguous language of this hadith can perhaps be understood through its Waqifi rendition, which says that the Mahdi would be looked after by his slave (mawla) during his second occultation.[28] The letter sent to as-Simuri prior to his death condemns those who will claim to have witnessed him during the second occultation; however, this witnessing (mashahada), according to Amir-Moezzi, is referring to a claim to his ambassadorship and representation.[29] Although the meaning of this has been contested by Twelver scholarship, this interpretation can give credence to the numerous accounts of episodic appearances of the Mahdi in Shiite history.
    The Imams highlighted the need for their followers to stick to their books and the narrators of their sayings during the perplexity of the occultation. Soon after the death of as-Simuri, Nu`mani, Saduq, Mufid, Murtada, and Tusi would further develop the theology of occultation with an `aqli and naqli harmonization of the Imams’ sayings and of past events.
                    For Twelvers, an occulted Imam is not an absent Imam. Believers are still expected to recognize the Mahdi during his occultation just as they are to recognize his predecessors. Without physical access to their Imam, adherents have a unique relationship with him: praying for his well-being and for the hastening of his return, sending salutations and benedictions to him, preparing for his reappearance and weeping at its delay. In one of Kulayni’s traditions, Ja`far as-Sadiq emphasizes the intensifying need for dissimulation prior to “the affair” – the return and triumph of the Ahl al-Bayt. Another narration implies that the punishment of stoning is to be halted until the revolution of the Qa’im. Interestingly, Tusi reports a tradition from Fadl b. Shadhan that says that the misguided will enter Paradise because “the Silent One will not speak”. The “Silent One” is an occulted or inactive Imam, and so perhaps due to the difficulty in accurately recognizing him, God would not hold some deviants accountable on the Day of Resurrection. Still, in order to have cognizance of God and attain His utmost favour, recognition of His representative is necessary. All in all, perhaps the best depiction of the occultation is in an allegory that the Saviour himself presented in the epistle of Is`haq b. Ya`qub: “And as to the benefit from me in my occultation, then it is that of the Sun when it is concealed from the eyes in the clouds. And surely, I am a safeguard for the inhabitants of the earth, like the stars are the safeguards for the inhabitants of the sky. So, lock the door of questioning regarding that which is not meant for you, and do not task yourself beyond the knowledge of that which suffices you”.
    [1] Kohlberg, From Imamiyya to Ithna Ashariyya, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, pp. 521
    [2] Madelung, Hisham b. al-Hakam
    [3] Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam, pp. 197
    [4] Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam, pp. 197
    [5] Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam, pp. 186
    [6] Ibid, pp. 186
    [7] Daftary, A History of Shi’I Islam
    [8] Madelung, Abu’l Jarud Hamadani, Encyclopedia Iranica, I/3 pp. 327-328
    [9] According to two conflicting narrations in Kulayni’s al-Kafi on the birth of the twelfth Imam
    [10] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 443 footnotes
    [11] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 498
    [12] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 498
    [13] From the famous narration of Is`haq b. Ya`qub from the Hidden Imam: As to the course of my uncle, Ja`far and his son, then it is that of the brothers of [the prophet] Joseph.
    [14] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 500
    [15] Ibid, pp. 508
    [16] Tusi’s Kitab al-Ghayba, quotation of Sa`d b. `Abdullah’s Maqalat.
    [17] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 508
    [18] Ibid, pp. 502
    [19] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 508
    [20] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 440
    [21] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 492
    [22] Tusi, Fii Nusrat al-Waqifa from his Kitab al-Ghayba
    [23] Corbin, En Islam iranien, volume 4, pp. 330
    [24] There may be a connection here to the mystical Jewish concept of a Messiah son of Joseph.
    [25] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 439
    [26] Ibid, pp. 436
    [27] Tarikh Tabari, Volume 9, pp. 185-186
    [28] Tusi, Fii Nusrat al-Waqifa from his Kitab al-Ghayba
    [29] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 446
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