Fraudulent Representatives of the Hidden Imam
When the 12th Imam supposedly went into Lesser Occultation, various people set themselves up as the representatives of the Imam, and who were in control of a network covering various parts of the Islamic empire–a network for the purpose of collecting money in the name of the Hidden Imam.
All followers of the Imams were obliged to pay one fifth of their income to the representatives of the Imams. This is called Khums, which is a Wajibat of Shia faith. At the head of this network was a man who self-appointed himself as the Khums collector; his name was Uthman ibn Said al-Amri. (Note: This practice of Khums continues to this day: the Shia of Iran pay a religious tax that goes in the coffers of their Ayatollahs.)
- Death of the 11th Imam
The predicament at the time was that the 11th Imam, Hasan Al-Askari, had died without any offspring. Uthman ibn Said resolved this predicament in an interesting manner: Uthman ibn Said declared that Hasan al-Askari had left behind a son before he died. This child was supposedly four years old and was named Muhammad. According to Uthman ibn Said, this son went into occultation and nobody but Uthman ibn Said himself could have any contact with the Hidden Imam. And from that point onwards Uthman ibn Said would act as the wakeel (representative) of the Hidden Imam and collect money in his name.
The truth is that Hasan al-Askari did not have any son, and there is an overabundance of historical evidence to prove this. All secular historical accounts attest to this fact, and indeed, many sects of the Shia in fact admit that Hasan al-Askari did not have a son. It is only the Ithna Ashari Shia and a few other branches of the Shia which believe in this mysterious son.
Hasan al-Askari’s own family were completely ignorant of the existence of any child of his, and Hasan al-Askari’s estate had been divided between his brother Jafar and his mother (instead of any to the son). If Hasan al-Askari really had a child, then why did his own family not give a share of the inheritance to him? To deal with this discrepancy, Uthman ibn Said and his ilk responded by denouncing Jafar (Hasan al-Askari’s brother) as al-Kadhab (the Liar). Moojan Momen writes in “An Introduction to Shi’i Islam” (London, 1985, p. 162) that, “Jafar remained unshakable in his assertion that his brother (Hasan al-Askari) had no progeny.” In this manner, the Shia accuse Jafar of being a thief who stole from their Hidden Imam. (It should be noted that Jafar, according to the Shia belief, would also be part of Ahlel Bayt, since he was the brother of Hasan al-Askari. The Ithna Ashari Shia thus abandon Jafar, a member of the Ahlel Bayt, and instead follow Uthman ibn Said.)
Uthman ibn Said spread this wonderous fairytale of a son who was born to Hasan al-Askari. In due time, a fantastic story was brought into circulation about the union between the 11th Imam and a Roman slave-girl, who is variously named as Narjis, Sawsan or Mulaykah. She is mentioned as having been the daughter of Yoshua (Joshua), the Roman emperor, who is a direct descendant of the apostle Simon Peter.
But history shows that there never was a Roman emperor of that name. The Roman emperor of the time was Basil I, and neither he nor any other emperor is known to have descended from Peter.
The story goes on to tell of the Roman slave-girl’s capture by the Muslim army, how she eventually came to be sold to Hasan al-Askari, and of her supernatural pregnancy and the secret birth of the son of whom no one–aside from Uthman ibn Said and his clique–knew anything of. Everything about the child is enveloped in a thick and impenetrable cloud of mystery.
- The Four Representatives
Uthman ibn Said remained the “representative of the Hidden Imam” for a number of years. In all that time, he was the only link the Shia had with their Imam. During that time, he supplied the Shia community with tawqiat, or written communications, which he claimed were written to them by the Hidden Imam. Many of these communications, which are still preserved in books like at-Tusi’s Kitab al-Ghaybah, had to do with denouncing other claimants to the position of representative. In fact, many people had come to realize exactly how lucrative a position Uthman ibn Said had created for himself, but Uthman ibn Said blocked their efforts by the tawqiat which called them liars and frauds. The Shia literature dealing with Uthman ibn Said’s tenure as representative is replete with references to money collected from the Shia public (i.e. Khums).
When Uthman ibn Said died, his son Abu Jafar Muhammad produced a written communication from the Hidden Imam in which he himself is appointed the second representative, a position which he held for about fifty years. He too, like his father, had to deal with several rival claimants to his position, but the tawqiat which he regularly produced to denounce them and reinforce his own position ensured the removal of such obstacles and the continuation of support from a credulous Shia public.
Abu Jafar Muhammad was followed in this position by Abul Qasim ibn Rawh an-Nawbakhti, a scion of the powerful and influential Nawbakhti family of Baghdad. Before succeeding Abu Jafar Muhammad, Abul Qasim an-Nawbakhti was his chief aide in the collection of the one-fifth taxes (i.e. Khums) from the Shia. Like his two predecessors, he too had to deal with rival claimants, one of whom (Muhammad ibn Ali ash-Shalmaghani) used to be an accomplice of his. He is reported in Abu Jafar at-Tusiâ€™s book Kitab al-Ghaybah as having stated: “We knew exactly what we were into with Abul Qasim ibn Rawh. We used to fight like dogs over this matter (of being representative).”
When Abul Qasim an-Nawbakhti died in 326 AH, he bequethed the position of representative to Abul Hasan as-Samarri. Whereas the first three representatives were shrewd manipulators, Abul Hasan as-Samarri proved to be a more conscientious person. During his three years as representative, there was a sudden drop in tawqiat. Upon his deathbed, he was asked who his successor would be, and he answered that Allah would Himself fulfil the matter. We wonder: could this perhaps be seen as a refusal on his part to perpetuate a hoax that had gone on for too long? Abul Hasan as-Samarri also produced a tawqiat in which the Imam declares that from that day till the day of his reappearance he will never again be seen, and that anyone who claims to see him in that time is a liar.
Thus, after more or less 70 years, the last “door of contact” with the Hidden Imam closed. The Shia term this period, in which there was contact with their Hidden Imam through his representatives-cum-tax-collectors, the Lesser Occultation (al-Ghaybah as-Sughra), and the period from the death of the last representative onwards the Greater Occultation (al-Ghaybah al-Kubar). The Greater Occulation has lasted for over a thousand years.
When one reads the classical literature of the Shia in which the activities of the four representatives are outlined, one is struck by the constantly recurring theme of money. The representatives of the Hidden Imam are almost always mentioned in connection with receiving and collecting “the Imam’s money” from his loyal Shia followers. There is a shocking lack of any activities of an academic or spiritual nature. Not a single one of the four is credited with having compiled any book, despite the fact that they were in exclusive communion with the last of the Imams, the sole repository of the legacy of the Prophet as the Shia claim.
The Shia community at large never had the privilege of seeing or meeting the person they believed to be the author of the tawqiat. Their experience was limited to receiving what the representatives produced. Even the argument of a consistent handwriting in all the various tawqiat is at best melancholy. There is no way one can get away from the fact that the existence of the Hidden Imam rests upon nothing other than acceptance of the words of the representatives.
This concept of someone writing hidden communiques has no basis in Islam. If there was any need for this, then why wouldn’t the Prophet be the one to send these tawqiat? And in any case, the Prophet never did such a thing and this belief is a Mushrik belief adopted from the Christian concept of the Holy Ghost. Just like the Christians claim to reach out to the Holy Ghost, likewise do these Shia claim the same with their Hidden Imam. Many Shia adherents today pray to the Hidden Imam for help much like the Christians do so with the Holy Ghost. The presence of the Hidden Imam is supposedly in the room, exactly how the Christians say that they reach out to the presence of their Holy Ghost. And just like the Catholic Church gets rich off of donations from its adherents, so too do the representatives of the Imams get rich off their Shia followers.
In Iran today, the Shia Imams and Ayatollahs are multi-millionaires and even billionaires. They are exploiting religion for money, wealth, and power. These Ayatollahs claim to be representatives of the Hidden Imam. Perhaps, the greatest fraud representative of the Hidden Imam was Ayatollah Khomeini who duped the entire Shia community. Khomeini claimed Wilayat ul-Faqih and called himself Wilayat ul-Mutlaqa, meaning that he has absolute authority from Allah since he was the “representative” of the Imam in his absence. Like the Four Representatives during the Lesser Occultation who condemned rival claimants to their position, so too did Ayatollah Khomeini put so many Ayatollahs in house arrest for questioning his position as representative of the Imam. These rival Ayatollahs decried Wilayat ul-Faqih as a fraud, but Khomeini silenced any threat to his rise to power.
Indeed, the reason that the Shia Imams and Ayatollahs preach this concept of Infallible Imams is not out of reverence for their twelve Infallible Imams, but rather it is to secure their own position of prestige as representatives of these late Infallible Imams.