After the martyrdom of Imam Hassan Askari (PBUH) the mantle of Imamate fell on the young shoulders of Imam Mahdi (PBUH).
Due to the severe restrictions imposed by the reigning Caliph, Imam Mahdi (PBUH) 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 Shi’as had the permission to meet their master whenever the need arose. They presented the problems of the Shi’as 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 Shi’as 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.
The First Deputy: Abu Amr Usman Bin Sa’eed Amri The Second Deputy: Abu Ja’far Mohammad Bin Usman Bin Sa’eed Amri The Third Deputy: Abul Qasim Hosein Bin Ruh Nawbakhti The Fourth Deputy: Abul Hasan Ali Bin Mohammad Seymouri Some Peculiarities about Deputies
The First Deputy: Abu Amr Usman Bin Sa’eed Amri
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 (PBUH), 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 (PBUH). The title of "Sammaan (Oil merchant) itself is historical. He used to deliver the wealth, possessions of Imam (PBUH) 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 Order).
Till 254 A.H. (868 BC), he was the representative of Imam Ali Naqi (PBUH). Imam (PBUH) used to say "Abu Amr is a reliable and trustworthy person, whatever he narrates, it’s on my behalf and whatever he conveys is in fact my message".
After the demise of Imam Ali Naqi (PBUH) in 254 A.H. he became the special representative of Imam Hassan Askari
(PBUH) 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 (PBUH) also says: Stand witness that Usman Bin Sa’eed is my representative. His son, Mohammad Bin Usman is Mahdi’s representative. When a son (Hazrat Mahdi) was born to Imam Hassan Askari (PBUH), 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 Hassan Askari (PBUH) he introduced Imam Mahdi (PBUH) to them. He mentioned about his Imamate and occultation. Then he emphasized about the representation of Imam Mahdi (PBUH) by Usman Bin Sa’eed, 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 Hassan Askari (PBUH) and executed all orders issued unto him. In 260 A.H. (874 BC) after the martyrdom of Imam Hassan Askari (PBUH) he was appointed as the first special deputy of Imam Mahdi (PBUH). For five years he held this auspicious position. Before his death, on the order of Imam (PBUH) 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 of Usman Bin Seed his sons performed all the funeral proceeding and buried him in west of Baghdad.
Sheikh Tusi says that till 447 A. H. (1055 BC), people paid homage to him and read his Ziyarat as a pious and righteous person and also as the foster brother of Imam Askari (PBUH). They also recognized him as the special representative of Imam Mahdi (PBUH).
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 Abbasid Caliph, Mu’tamad. The Second Deputy: Abu Jafar Mohammad Bin Usman Bin Saeed Amri
He succeeded his father after the latter’s demise. Imam Hassan Askari (PBUH) himself had emphasized for his deputyship. In his Tawqee (a signed letter) to Mohammad Bin Mahziyar, Imam Zaman (PBUH) said about Mohammad Bin 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 Bin Yaqoob Imam (PBUH) said: "May God be pleased with Mohammad Bin Usman and his father He is my confidante and reliable man. His writings are my writings."
He was the special representative of Imam (PBUH) for approximately forty years. In the very first Tawqee which he received there was a condolence message on the demise of his father. Its 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 (PBUH) 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.
Bin 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 (PBUH) and his father Usman. One of these books was "Kitab-ul-ashrabah" which was passed on after his death to Hosein Bin Ruh and after him, probably to Ali Bin Mohammad Seymouri.
Shaykh Sadouq narrates the following tradition from Mohammad Bin Usman, "I swear by God, Imam Mahdi
(PBUH) 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 Bin Usman was once asked if he had seen Imam (PBUH). He answered "Yes", the last time that I saw him was in the Holy Kaba, 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 Ka’ba and praying "O Allah" take revenge of your enemies through me". Abu Ali Abul Hasan Ali Bin Ahmad narrates, "One day Mohammad Bin 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 Hossein Bin Ruh. He expired in the month of Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 305 A.H. (918 BC). He is buried alongside his respected mother in Baghdad, near Kufa Gate where he resided. He lived during the reign of Mu’tamad, the Abbasid Kings.
The Third Deputy: Abul Qasim Hosein Bin Ruh Nawbakhti
He succeeded Mohammad Bin Usman. He was a leading personality from the family of Nawbakht. Ali Bin Mohammad narrates from his uncle that I was sitting besides Mohammad Bin Usman when he was in his death-bed and talking to him. He says, Bin Ruh was sitting near his feet. At that moment, Mohammad Bin Usman told me. "I have been commanded to make a will to Hosein Bin Ruh" I got up and made Hosein to sit in my place and myself sat near Mohammad Bin Usman"s feet.
Mohammad Bin Usman began making a will, "Hossein Bin Ruh Nawbakhti, is my heir and successor amongst you after me. He is the medium and channel between you and Imam Mahdi (PBUH). 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 Hosein Bin Ruh, was as follow:
"We know him (Hossein Bin Ruh) 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 is masterful and powerful person. Praise be to the God who has no partner. Blessings of Allah be on Mohammad (s.a.w.a.) and his progeny".Sunday 6th Shawwal 305 A.H.
To appoint Hossein Bin Ruh after Mohammad Bin Usman had 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. Hosein Bin Ruh, was very sincere.
To remove the doubt in some people"s minds that only those who had blood relations or proximity with Mohammad Bin Usman stood the chance of gaining successorship. None could even imagine that Hosein Bin Ruh 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 Bin Usman.
Everybody considered Hosein Bin Ruh 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 (PBUH) 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 (PBUH).
Abd Sahl Nawbakht was asked as to why was Hosein Bin Ruh 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 knew the whereabouts of Imam (PBUH) 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 cut into pieces but would not show his Imam to the enemies".
Hosein Bin Ruh was Imam"s special representative for about twenty one years. He expired in Sha’ban, 326 A.H. (938 BC) and is buried in the courtyard of Ali Bin Mohammad Nawbakth’s house in Baghdad. He was a contemporary of Muqtadir and Raazi, the Abbaside Kings. The Fourth Deputy: Abul Hasan Ali Bin Mohammad Seymouri
He was appointed as the fourth special deputy of Imam Mahdi (PBUH) after the demise of Hosein Bin Ruh. He is remembered as one of the companions of Imam Hasan Askari (PBUH) and the special representative of Imam Mahdi (PBUH) 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 Bin Babway"s demise.
The last Tawqee from Imam (PBUH) received by Ali Bin 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 Bin 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 (PBUH) in the minor occultation. After three years of deputyship, Ali Bin Mohammad Seymouri left this world in Sha’ban 329 A.H. He is buried on the Khalanji Highway near Bab-ul-Mahool on the banks of the AbiEqaab River. His last words were "For God is the Affair and He will himself execute it". He lived during the reign of Muttaqui, the Abbasid Caliph.
For 69 years between 260 A.H. till 329 A.H. (874 to 941 BC), four people acted as the medium between Imam (PBUH) 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 (PBUH) in 255 A.H. (869 BC). It is certain that the Imam Mahdi (PBUH) did not shoulder the responsibility of Imamate in the life time of Imam Hasan Askari (PBUH). Therefore, there was no need for Imam Mahdi (PBUH) 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 (PBUH).
Some Peculiarities about Deputies:
The names of the special deputies were not mentioned in the Tawqee. This was done in order to prevent the Abbasid 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.
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 reasons:
Ø At the time of Imam Hasan Askari (PBUH)"s martyrdom, those people who had come fromQum to Samara were told that someone would be appointed inBaghdad so that they could give their offerings to him and received Imam (PBUH) letter from him.
Ø Their apparent involvement was in business; therefore, they did not have the time to go out ofBaghdad.
Ø These deputies were rarely engaged in social work due to the following reasons:
Ø By indulging in social work one"s identity doesn"t remains secret. And they did not intend to reveal themselves.
Ø 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 Shi’a.
They performed only those tasks which were ordered unto them .
5-They were informed of the Hidden knowledge only with the permission of Imam Mahdi (PBUH). All the tawqees received during the time of the four special deputies, had only one hand-writing and people were recognizing it. This similarity in writing proved that all these letters were from Imam (PBUH) and people followed them diligently.
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