Compiled by Allamah Mohammad Baqir al-Majlesi
Book description by Parvin Neginraz
“The Book of Occultation” is a collection of traditions from various Islamic reliable sources about different aspects of Imam Mahdi’s life. This book has been compiled by Allamah al-Majlesi who was one of the prominent and influential Isna Ashari ( Twelver Shī'i) clerics in Safavid era.
In the first chapter of the book, Allamah al-Majlesi has collected different narration about the birth of Imam Mahdi, especially the date, and the story of his mother and how she came from Roma to eleventh Imam of Shia house. Among different sources used in this chapter are al-Kafi, Ikmal al-Din, Ghaiba of sheikh Tusi, etc.
In the second chapter, the writer has collected narrations about different names and titles of Imam Mahdi, and his patronym. Among different names of Imam Mahdi he has focused on “al-Qaim” and the reason for which this name has been chosen for him. The sources he has referred to in this part are “Ilal al-sharai”, Ma’ani al-Akhbar, Ikmal al-Din, kashaf al-Ghumma, etc.
In the third chapter, Allamah al-Majlesi describes the prohibition of mentioning the name of Imam Mahdi by referring to different sources. Among the sources are al-Ghaiba of al-Nemani, Al-kafi, Ikmal al-Din, etc.
In the fourth chapter, the writer provides a collection of narrations about attributes of Imam Mahdi. His hidden birth, being from progeny of Husain(a.s.), his physical feature, his place of rise, conditions for his reappearance are among these characteristics. Most of narrations in this part are from the book, al-Ghaiba of al-Nemani written by Sheikh Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ibraheem bin Ja'far al-Katib Known as Ibn Abu Zaynab An-Numani.
In the next chapter, Allamah al-Majlesi has quoted some verses from Holy Quran which refers to Imam Mahdi, just like as [hud:8], [Al-Baghara: 213], [Al-Qeses:22], [Al-Nahl: 120], [Fatir:24], etc. Some of these verses are not directly about Qaim, but using interpretation (Tafsir) the relation of these verses and Imam Mahdi will be clarified. Most of the content of this chapter is from Tafsir al-Qummi, Tafsir al-Ayashi, al-Ghaiba of al-Nemani, Kanz Jame al-Fawa’id and Ta’wil al-Ayat al-Dahira, and al-Ghaiba of Seikh Tusi, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. In this chapter of the book we can find out interesting relations among different verses of Holy Quran about the Imamate of Qaim. The writer has also referred to some traditions from Prophet Muhammad related to Imam Mahdi. In this regard the writer has used both Shi’i and Sunni sources. The main issues that have been specifically focused on in this chapter are, Mahdi being from the progeny of the prophet, the physical characteristics of Imam Mahdi and the condition of the world when he will be reappeared, his ruling procedure, and current condition of Imam.
In chapter seven the writer refers to some traditions from Imam Ali (the first infallible Imam of Shia) about Qaim. Among many different traditions I would like to refer to one of them from Al-Chooser of al-Ne'mani which says:
Sulayman Ibn Hilal says, Ja'far Ibn Muhammad narrated to us from his father, who narrated from his grandfather, who narrated from Husain lbn Ali (a.s.) saying, A man came to the Prince of the Believers (a.s.) and said "0' Prince of the Believers(Imam Ali), inform us about your Madi". The Prince of the Believers said, 'When generations come and perish, and believers become few, and the followers of righteousness and supporters of the religion go, then he shall be. He said. "0' Prince of the Believers, peace be unto you, whose son is be going to be? The prince of the Believers said "From the Children of Hashim, from the summit of the Arab mountain. He is an ocean who will water a world of oases and will not run short, a man abused when he comes to his folks and an abode of purity when all will degenerate. He will not fear when deaths charge, and will not turn away recede when the faithful surround him, and will not hesitate when warriors struggle. He will be prepared, far-reaching, a victorious lion, a reaper, an injurer, a warrior, a sword from the swords of Allah, generous, and adventurous. His head will be high in dignity, his nobility firmly rooted in the most distinguished character. No discouraging leader who will be moving towards mischief, who if speaks, is the worst speaker and if remains silent, possesses evil-should mislead you from following him-" then he talked about the Mahdi and said, "He is the best refuge, the most knowledgeable, and the kindest or you all. O’ Allah, make the pledge of allegiance to him the occasion of exit from affliction, and unite the dispersion of the Ummah through him. When it is permissible for you do it, but do not turn away from him if you find your way to him. Ah,”said the Prince of the Believers, pointing with his hand to his chest, expressing his anxiety to Sec to see the Mahdi''.
In the following chapters Allamah al-Majlesi introduces some narrations from Imam Hasan, Imam Hussain, Imam Ali Ibn Al-Husain, Imam Al-Baghir, Imam Jafar Al-Sadigh, Imam Kadhim, Imam Al-Reza, Imam Al-Javad, and Imam Al-Askari. (Infallible Imams in Shi’i school of thought)
In chapter sixteen, Allamah al-Majlesi has discussed the argument of Sheikh al-Tusi about proving the occultation issue. The discussion in this chapter proceeds based on the following two pathways:
One Is that we say, since (a) it is proved that there must be an Imam in every age, (b) and that it is not possible that the people, being fallible, be at any given time without a chief (C) and that the chief must be ascertained to be infallible, (d) and it is the case that such a chief is either manifest and known, or hidden and unbeknownst, (C) and likewise it is clear that all those for whom a manifest imamate is claimed, their infallibility is not ascertained, but rather the outward appearance of their actions contradict infallibility, it is inferred that the infallible Imam who must exist in every age is hidden and invisible. Likewise, taken into consideration that all those for whom infallibility is claimed, and are said to be invisible and hidden, such as the proclaimed hidden leaders of the Kisaniyya, Nawusiyya, Fatihiyya, the Waqifiyya, and others, their words are invalid, the Imamate of Ibn al-Hasan and his occultation and his guardianship (Wilaya) is proved. This argument relying on this premises, which are very transparent, and the fact that the truth is not outside the bounds of this Ummah, does not need take on the burden of proving his birth and explaining the reason of his occultation and proving his guardianship.
The second pathway of our argument is thus: the inquiry of the occultation of Ibn al -Hasan is secondary to proving his Imamate. Our adversary either submits to us in the question of his Imamate and inquires about the reason of his occultation, obliging us with answering him; or he does not submit to us in the question of his Imamate, in which case, to inquire about the reason of the occultation of someone whose Imamate has not been proven will be meaningless. If disputed about proving his Imamate, we prove it through our assertion as follows:
The necessity Of Imamate in every condition and age as long as Divine obligation and duties fall on the shoulders of the fallible human boings is proved through forceful proofs.
In chapter seventeen, Allamah al-Majlesi has collected traditions which are about the occultation of apostles and Imam Mahdi. Some of these traditions are about the differences and some others are about similarities of their occultation.
In the next chapter traditions about Miracles of Imam Mahdi and some Narratives from his special emissaries has been mentioned. These emissaries have been introduced in next chapter, through some narration from reliable sources.
The final chapter of the book consists of traditions about those who claim to be Imam Mahdi emissaries and gateways.
Being a collection from different prominent Shi’i and Sunni sources about Imam Mahdi, this book is really a useful source for those who intend to learn about Imam Mahdi, either Shi’i or non-Shi’i.