Issues of Ghaybah [Part-1] – The hidden Imam and the need of an apparent Imam


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Peace be upon our nation and our prophet,

I have recently began reading about the topic of “Occultation” or Ghaybah, I assume all our readers know that the Twelver Shia sect believe in a hidden 12th Imam, this man was born in the year 255 hijri or so they say, they also believe his birth was secret and that no one witnessed it from the commoners, they also believe he is their leader today and that he was in hiding for the past 1200 years out of fear from the tyrant rulers. I don’t want to go on about this because as I said I assume the reader has some knowledge of  it, I began with the book of al-Shareef al-Murtada, he wrote a book called “al-Muqni` fil-Ghaybah” in which he tries to explain to his followers and opponents that this Shia belief is valid and that we all must believe in this mysterious hidden character.

I thought, why not write some of my comments and opinions on his writings and the writings of his companions, such as al-Tusi and al-Nu`mani who wrote similar books. With that I decided to open this topic, hoping that I could InshaAllah follow it with others like it.

To get to the meat of today’s issue, I begin by saying: All of us know that the belief of the early Imami Shia was that Allah (swt) has to appoint an infallible leader to lead this nation, they say it is incumbent upon Allah to provide such a guide. Yet, we see their condition today and it is sad and depressing, they have no Imam to guide them, the man they believe to be their divinely appointed leader is nowhere to be found! What a calamity!

al-Murtada being from the Imami Shia, has to defend this concept, he has to explain to us that the disappearance of the leader does not contradict the early Shia beliefs. While trying to defend his fearful savior and refute the opponents, a sentence caught my attention, he asked the following question in his book:

“Would you accept that the disappearance (Of the Imam) is permitted (In Islam and intellect) ?”

I knew he would answer positively, not because the words that followed this were:

أنا لذلك مجوز

“I permit it.”

But because this is the belief of the Shia and no way would he say anything that contradicts his sect. Of course he tries to give the excuses as to why this disappearance is not  big deal, but regardless of those philosophical arguments I still wasn’t convinced, WHY YOU ASK?

Because I know without the shadow of a doubt that the early Shia based their entire religion on ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS having an infallible Imam to lead the nation and to guide the believers, and since I know based on my research that this deviant sect fabricates narrations, I was sure that they had narrations that would conflict with the concept of having a hidden “un-available” Imam.

Imamah for the early Imami Shia was too important, they are the ones who said that it is a grace from Allah, a Lutf, and they are the ones who would say that it is a part of God’s justice.  They even said that without an Imam, the world would collapse on itself, and the earth would shake and so on and so forth…

My best bet was al-Kafi and I was not disappointed, I found narrations talking about the need of Imams and they are all pretty similar. I begin by posting two AUTHENTIC narrations from al-Kafi by al-Kulayni:

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ أَبِي عُمَيْرٍ عَنْ مَنْصُورِ بْنِ يُونُسَ وَ سَعْدَانَ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ عَنْ إِسْحَاقَ بْنِ عَمَّارٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ( عليه السلام ) قَالَ سَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّ الْأَرْضَ لَا تَخْلُو إِلَّا وَ فِيهَا إِمَامٌ كَيْمَا إِنْ زَادَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ شَيْئاً رَدَّهُمْ وَ إِنْ نَقَصُوا شَيْئاً أَتَمَّهُ لَهُمْ

[…from Ishaq bin `Ammar from abi `Abdillah (as): I heard him say: “The earth will not be without an Imam, so that he may correct the believers if they add (to the religion) and if they miss something he would complete it for them.]

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى الْعَطَّارُ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي عُمَيْرٍ عَنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ مَحْبُوبٍ عَنْ دَاوُدَ الرَّقِّيِّ عَنِ الْعَبْدِ الصَّالِحِ ( عليه السلام ) قَالَ إِنَّ الْحُجَّةَ لَا تَقُومُ لِلَّهِ عَلَى خَلْقِهِ إِلَّا بِإِمَامٍ حَتَّى يُعْرَفَ

[… from Dawud al-Raqqi from al-`Abd al-Salih (as): He said: “The Hujjah(proof) of Allah upon his creation shall not be established except with an Imam so that he may be known.]

Based on the two texts it is clear that having a hidden Imam is not an option, how would he be able to explain the divine arguments of God so that the proof of Allah and his Hujjah be established on all creation? How can we be religiously accountable without this? Also the narrations state that the need of an Imam is for a main purpose, it is so that he can guide the believers to their religion and correct any mistakes they have committed in following the godly path, yet this is not being done by the hidden “Imam” nor is a hidden leader able to achieve it. This means the 12th leader loses the initial reason for his existence.

I follow these two narrations with two other AUTHENTIC ones from the book Basa’ir al-Darajat by their scholar al-Saffar:

حدثنا محمد بن عيسى وأحمد بن محمد عن الحسن بن محبوب عن يعقوب السراج قال
قلت لأبي عبد الله عليه السلام تخلوا الأرض من عالم منكم حي ظاهر تفزع إليه الناس في حلالهم وحرامهم فقال يا أبا يوسف لا ان ذلك لبين في كتاب الله تعالى فقال يا أيها الذين آمنوا اصبروا وصابروا عدوكم ممن يخالفكم – ورابطوا –امامكم- واتقوا الله – فيما يأمركم وفرض عليكم –

[Muhammad bin `Isa and Ahmad bin Muhammad both told us, from al-Hasan bin Mahboub, from Ya`qoub al-Sarraj that he said: I said to abu `Abdillah (as): “Would the earth be devoid from an apparent man of knowledge from among you, so that the people may seek him in their issues of Halal and Haram?” He (as) replied: “O abu Yusuf, NO. This is clear in the book of Allah: {O you who have believed, persevere and endure} against your enemies who oppose you {and remain stationed} with your Imam {and fear Allah} with what he orders you to do.”]

حدثنا محمد بن عيسى عن الحسن بن محبوب والحجال عن العلا عن محمد بن مسلم عن أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال لا تبقى الأرض بغير امام ظاهر

[Muhammad bin `Isa told us, from al-Hasan bin Mahboub and al-Hajjal, from al-`Ala, from Muhammad bin Muslim, from abu Ja`far (as) that he said: “The earth shall not remain without an apparent Imam.”]

Notice the questioner using the word “Apparent” not a hidden one, or one who is in occultation! This is because if he was hidden, then how can the believers seek his counsel and ask him in matters of Halal and Haram? How can we remain stationed with our Imam and stand by him if he is not present? The intellect rejects the occultation as well as the texts!

wal-Salamu `Aleykum wa Rahmatullah,


  1. Point One: Early Shias based their religion upon ALWAYS having an infallible Imam to guide us.

    This is true and Shias today also believe their must be Imam present, but this doesn’t mean he can’t be hidden.

    `Ali b. Ibrahim, from his father, from ibn Abi `Umayr, from Abi Ayyub al-Khazaz, from Muhammad b. Muslim.

    He said: I heard Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام say: If you hear that the Patron of this Affair has occulted, then do not deny it. (al-Kafi, Volume 1, hadith 890)

    (sahih) (صحيح)

    The reason why we need an Imam is explained in this Hadith:

    Several of our companions from Ahmad b. Muhammad b. `Isa from ibn Abi `Umayr from al-Husayn b. Abi al-`Alaa’.

    He said: I said to Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام: Can the Earth remain without an Imam therein? He said: No. I said: Can there be two Imams? He said: No, unless one of them were silent. (al-Kafi, Volume 1, hadith 442)

    (hasan) (حسن)

    The earth is only in existence because of the existence of an Imam. This is why there must be an Imam among us. This is why the first human created and put on the earth was a Hujjah.

    Second point: He quotes 4 hadiths which in summary say that the earth must have an Imam so he can correct us, so that he may be known, and he is Apparent.

    Firstly we know the Imam from our Hadiths so that is no issue at all.

    The first two are from al-Kafi and they are indeed authentic. The second two (which are the ones that say the Imam is Apparent) are from Basa’ir al-Darajat which there are disagreements about it’s authenticity, but for argument sake I will accept them as authentic.

    We all know that Hadiths are taken collectively to explain a topic however the author has neglected this concept.

    We have a Hadith which says that an Imam can be Apparent or Hidden:

    Ahmad b. Ziyad b. Ja`far al-Hamadani رضي الله عنه narrated. He said: `Ali b. Ibrahim b. Hashim narrated from his father from Abu Ahmad Muhammad b. Ziyad al-Azidi.

    He said: I asked my master Musa b. Ja`far عليه السلام about the saying of Allah عز و جل, “…and He lavished upon you His favours, both apparent (thahir) and hidden (batin)…” (31:20). He عليه السلام said: The apparent favour is an apparent Imam, and the hidden favour is an occulted Imam. So I said to him: And will there be any [Imam] who is occulted from amongst the Imams? He said: Yes, his person will be occulted from the people’s sight, but his remembrance will not be occulted from the believers’ hearts. And he is the twelfth from us. Allah eases all difficulties for him, helps him overcome all adversities, makes apparent to him the treasures of the Earth, brings close to him all that is remote, eradicates the immensely arrogant through him, and with his hand destroys every disciple of Satan. He is the child of the master of slave women; he is whose birth will be concealed from the people, and whose name is not permissible to be named until Allah عز و جل makes him apparent and fills the Earth with equity and justice as it would have been fraught with injustice and oppression. (Kamal ad-Deen)

    (sahih) (صحيح)

    The Imam who corrects us is the Apparent Imam. But the author of the article poses a question “How can we be religiously accountable without this?”

    Firstly during this time we have a command to refer to our books of Hadith:

    Muhammad b. Yahya from Ahmad b. Muhammad b. `Isa from al-Hasan b. `Ali b. Faddal from Ibn Bukayr from `Ubayd b. Zurara.

    He said: Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام saying: Preserve your books, for verily you shall have need of them. (al-Kafi)

    (muwaththaq ka’s-sahih)

    But how can we be accountable for the mistakes?

    Ja`far b. `Ali b. al-Hasan b. `Ali b. `Abdillah b. al-Mughira al-Kufi رضي الله عنه narrated. He said: My grandfather al-Hasan b. `Ali narrated from al-`Abbas b. `Amer al-Qasbani from `Umar b. Aban al-Kalbi from Aban b. Taghlib.

    He said: Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام said to me: There will come a time where an absence will cause the people to suffer. At that time, knowledge will recede between the Two Mosques just as a snake enters its hole – meaning, Mecca and Medina. At that time, Allah عز و جل will bring out their star for their guidance. I asked: And what is the absence? He said: It is the period (fetra) and the occultation of your Imam. He said: I said to him: What shall we do in such circumstances? He replied: Remain steadfast on what you are upon until Allah brings out your star. (Kamal ad-Deen)

    (majhool kal-sahih – Teacher of Saduq) (من مشايخ الصدوق – مجهول كالصحيح)

    So basically we remain on what is within our books. This is a command for us to follow. But there can still be mistakes but will that harm us?

    `Ali b. Ibrahim has narrated from his father from Hamad b. `Isa from Hariz from Zurara.

    He said: Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام said: Know who your Imam is. When you know who he is then it will not harm you whether this affair will take place earlier or later. (al-Kafi)

    (sahih) (صحيح)

    • al-Salamu `Aleykum,

      So much to refute and so little time. I’ll reply to the main points you raised as some of what you said is un-important. You said:

      //Point One: Early Shias based their religion upon ALWAYS having an infallible Imam to guide us.
      This is true and Shias today also believe their must be Imam present, but this doesn’t mean he can’t be hidden.//

      This is CONTRADICTORY! You said they believe there must “ALWAYS” be an infallible Imam to “GUIDE US”, then you say “Doesn’t mean he can’t be hidden.” ACTUALLY YOU’RE WRONG, IT DOES MEAN HE CAN’T BE HIDDEN. As How can he “guide” without being apparent and heard? There is No person on the face of this planet today who is being guided by this Imam BECAUSE HE IS HIDDEN.

      The fact that you said that Early and Modern Shia “BASE THEIR RELIGION” on an infallible leader who is “present” and notice that you used the word “present” which is opposite of “absent”, yet your Imam is Absent regardless of whether he exists or not, fact is he is absent NOT present, thus basing you religion on that he must always guide is faulty, it is a mistake in your belief system.

      Next you said:

      //Second point: He quotes 4 hadiths which in summary say that the earth must have an Imam so he can correct us, so that he may be known, and he is Apparent.
      Firstly we know the Imam from our Hadiths so that is no issue at all.//

      You my friend just destroyed your own Madhab, your entire religion as an Imami is based on “`Aql” or “Intellect”, and your scholars have proven the need for an infallible leader to be ALWAYS present so he can explain the texts and guide to new rulings and remind them of all rulings and correct their mistakes and to reject all false narrations attributed to him and his household. What you said above “Hadith are sufficient” this is the Madhab of your opponents, Ahlul-Sunnah. We as Ahlul-Sunnah are the ones who say “After Rasul-Allah (saw) we have preserved his book and his wisdom and narrations and they are sufficient.”

      In other words, based on your above statement there is no need for infallible leaders to be always present as long as we have the Hadith protected and preserved by trustworthy reliable non-infallible people.

      Finally, you mentioned narrations speaking about “occultation”, we on know full well you have narrations about occultation, this is because your religion is a reactionary one, meaning these narrations are fabrications to solve the issue of your last Imam not being born or dying young. The matter of occultation makes no sense and this is what these articles are about, your previous beliefs about the necessity of having an all knowing infallible leader at all times, then your belief that the 12th one has been hidden for 1,200 years out of fear from some soldiers with spears.

      The proof that this entire matter makes no sense was posted by you, it’s your last narration:

      //Know who your Imam is. When you know who he is then it will not harm you whether this affair will take place earlier or later. (al-Kafi)//

      The only solution to save your Madhab was to tell people “As long as you know who he is, you’re safe.” Although you know about him just as much as I and any other person knows. This PERSIAN Qummi narration is nothing more than philosophical mumbo-jumbo they used to trick the followers. Proof is: We as Ahlul-Sunnah KNOW someone who is greater than the Mahdi, yet according to you Shia we’re “not safe”, in fact you guys say we are misguided AND going to hell-fire, We Ahlul-Sunnah know the Prophet (saw), we know him very well, we have documented all his life in detail, has this saved us from a horrible fate according to you? NO IT HAS NOT, thus “knowing” your Mahdi’s name and nothing else, will not make you safe or guided.

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