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 the minor occultation, some very special and selected people among the Shias had the permission to meet their master whenever the need arose. They presented the problems of the Shias in the service of Imam who provided answers to them and conveyed them back to the people. Such selected people were called as special representatives, deputies, doors of 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 shias 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.
(1) The First Deputy: Abu Amr Usman Ibne Saeed Amri (a.r.)
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 (A.S,)’s Order)
Till 254 A.H. 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 A.H. 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 (AS) also says:
Stand witness that Usman Ibne Saeed is my representative. His son, Mohammad Ibne Usman is Mahdi (AS)’s representative, when a son (Hazrat Mahdi (AS)was born to Imam Hasan Askari (AS), he ordered Abu Amr 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 A.H. 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 Shias and handed over all his responsibilities to him.
After the death Usman Ibne Saeed his sons performed all the funeral proceeding and buried him in west of Baghdad. Sheikh Tusi (a.r.) says that till 447 A. H. 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.
(2) The Second Special Representative: Abu Jafar Mohammad Ibne Usman Ibne Saeed Amri (a.r.)
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) to Mohammad Ibne Mahziyar, Imam Zaman (a.s) said about Mohammad Ibne Usman, thus: “May God 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 Mohammad 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 (Quran). 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 Nooh 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-e-Zamana (AS) and his father Usman. One of these books was “Kitab-ul-ashrabah” which was passed on after his death to Husain Ibne Rauh and after him, probably to Ali Ibne Mohammad Seymouri. Shaykh Saduq (a.r.) narrates the following tradition from Mohammad 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”.
Mohammad Ibne Usman was once asked if he had seen Imam-e-Zamana (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 catching the curtain of Mustajaar, a door opposite to the main door of Kaaba and praying “0 Allah” take revenge of your enemies through me”.
Abu Ali Abul Hasan Ali Ibne Ahmed narrates, “One day Mohammad 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 Husain Ibne Rauh. He expired in the month of Jamadi-ul-Awwal,305 A.H. 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 Kings.
(3) The Third Special Representatives: Abul Qasim Husain Ibne Rauh Nawbakhti (a.r.)
He succeeded Mohammad Ibne Usman. He was a leading personality from the family of Nawbakht. Ali Ibne Mohammad narrates from his uncle that I was sitting besides Mohammad Ibne Usman (a.r.) when he was in his death-bed and talking to him. He says, Ibne Rauh was sitting near his feet. At that moment, Mohammad Ibne Usman (a.r.) 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 Mohammad Ibne Usman’s feet. Mohammad 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 Husain Ibne Rauh (a.r.), 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 Mohammad (P.B.U.H.) and his progeny”. Sunday 6th Shawwal 305A.H.
To appoint Husain Ibne Rauh after Mohammad Ibne Usman had two basic reasons: (1)
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.
(2) To remove the doubt in some people’s minds that only those who had blood relations or proximity with Mohammad Ibne Usman stood the chance of gaining successorship. None could even imagine that 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 Mohammad Ibne Usman.
Everybody considered 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 Bait’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 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 Shiaism, 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”.
Husain Ibne Rauh was Imam (AS)’s special representative for about twenty one years. He expired in Shaban, 326 A.H. and is buried in the courtyard of Ali lbne Mohammad Nawbakth’s house in Baghdad. He was a contemporary of Muqtadir and Raazi, the Abbaside Kings.
(4) The Fourth Special Representative: Abul Hasan Ali Ibne Mohammad Seymouri (a.r.)
He was appointed as the fourth special deputy of Imam Mahdi (AS) after the demise of 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 truncated tenure. One of his extra ordinary feats was his prediction of Ibne Babway’s demise. The last Tawqee from Imam (AS) received by Ali Ibne Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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, Ali Ibne Mohammad Seymouri left this world in Shaban 329 A.H. 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 A.H. till 329 A.H., 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 74years. That is because they calculate it from the birth of Imam (AS) in 255 A.H. 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
1) The names of the special deputies were not mentioned in the Tawqee. This was done in order to prevent the Abbaside King’s from knowing their names. Also, because this relationship was based on sheer trust and reliability, there arose no particular need to mention the names.
2) 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.
3) All of the affairs of the deputies were conducted in Baghdad for the following reasons:
a) 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 (AS) letter from him.
b) Their apparent involvement was in business, therefore, they did nothave the time to go out of Baghdad.
c) These deputies were rarely engaged in social work due to the following reasons:
• By indulging in social work one’s identity doesn’t remains 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.
4) They performed only those tasks which were ordered unto them
5) They were informed of the Hidden knowledge only with the permission of Hazrat Wali-e- Asr (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.
About the Tawqees one can say :-
• They follow the pattern of traditions.
• They were answer to questions.
• Writing and concepts were fixed.
• They were coming about 2-3 days after the questions.
These deputies were keeping themselves concealed from public eyes and lived in dissimulation (Taqaiyyah). For example when 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, Mohammad Ibne Husain had appointed ten deputies in Baghdad to collect the offerings, among them was Husain Ibne Rauh.
The aims of Special representation can be summed up in the following words:
1) To prepare the people for the major occultation and habituate them to live with their Imam in concealment.
2) To take some steps in solving the problems and reformation of the Shia Society.
All references can be found in “Kitab-ul-Ghaibah”, of Shaykh Tusi (a.r.) and “Kamaaluddin” of Ibne Babuwayh (a.r.).