Rafed English

The Four Special Deputies


After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) the mantle of Imamate fell on the young shoulders of Imam Mahdi (a.s).

Due to the severe restrictions imposed by the reigning Caliph, Imam Mahdi (a.s) 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 honour of acquiring this elevated status and all of them hailed from and resided in Baghdad. A part from them, there were representatives another cities also. The Shias either conveyed their messages to these representative 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.

He was from the Bani Asad clan. Due to his ancestral links, he was called as Abu Amr but on the advise of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s), 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 (a.s). The title of "Sammaan" (Oil merchant) itself is historical. He used to deliver the wealth, possessions of Imam (a.s) 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 (a.s) He (a.s) 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 messages".

After the demise of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) in 254 A.H. he became the special representative of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) 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 also says: "Stand witness that Uthman bin Saeed is my representative. His son, Mohammad Bin Uthman is Mahdi (a.s)'s representative." When a son (Hazrat Mahdi (a.s) was born to Imam Hasan Askari (a.s), he ordered Abu Mar to distribute ten thousand roties 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 (a.s) he introduced Imam Mahdi (a.s) to them. He mentioned about his Imamate and occultation's. Then he emphasized about the representation of Imam Mahdi (a.s) by Usman bin Saeed, thus "You (all) accept whatever he says for he is the representative of your Imam and affairs are with him".

He participated in all the funeral proceedings of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) and executed all orders issued unto him. In 260 A.H. after the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) he was appointed as the first special deputy of Imam Mahdi (a.s). For five years he held this auspicious position. Before his death, on the order of Imam (a.s) he appointed his son as Imam's representative infront of a group of honorable Shias and handed over all has responsibilities to him. After the death Uthman Bin Saeed his sons performed all the funeral proceeding and buried him in west of Baghdad.

Shaikh Toosi (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 (a.s). They also recognised him as the special representative of Imam Mahdi (a.s). 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 recognised him. He was a contemporary of the Abbaside Caliph, Motamid.

He succeeded his father after the latter's demise. Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) himself had emphasized for his deputyship. In his Tawqee (a signed letter) to Mohammad Bin Mahziyar, Imam Zamana (a.s) said about Mohammad bin Uthman, 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 Ibn Yaqoob Imam (a.s) said: "May God be pleased with Mohammad Bin Uthman and his father He is my confidante and reliable man. His writings are my writings". He was the special representative of Imam (a.s) 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 (Qur'an). 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 from of God and helped him gained approximately to the Imam (a.s) 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 honoured 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.

Ibn Nooh narrates from the Abu Nasr, the nephew of Abu Ja'far that he had written many books, one of which was on jurisprudence. He wrote whatever he had heard from Imam-e-Zamana (a.s) and his father Usman. One of these books was "Kitab-ul-ashrabah" which was passed on after his death to Husayn Bin-Rooh and after him, probably to Ali Ibne Mohammed Seymouri.

Shaykh Saduq (a.r) narrates the following tradition from Mohammed Ibne-Usman, "I swear by God, Saheb-ul-Amr (A.J) comes to Mecca every year to perform the rituals of Hajj He sees the people and recognizes them but they do not recognise him even after seeing him".

Mohammad Bin Usman was once asked if he had seen Imam-e-Zamana (a.s). He answered "Yes", the last time that I saw him was in the Holy Kaba, praying "O Allah fulfil 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 "O Allah" take revenge of your enemies through me". Abu Ali, Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Ahmed narrates, "One day Mohammed Ibn Uthman took me and showed him 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 Qur'anic 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 "Hussein Bin Rauh", he expired in the month of Jamdi-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.

He succeeded Mohammad Bin Uthman, He was a leading personality from the family of Nawbakht. Ali Ibn Mohammad narrates from his uncle that I was sitting besides Mohammad Bin Uthman when he was in his death-bed and talking to him. He says, Ibn-Rauh was sitting near his feet. At that moment, Mohammad Bin Uthman told m. "I have been commanded to make a Will to Husayn Ibh-Rauh" I got up and made Husayn to sit in my place and myself sat near Mohammad Bin Uthman's feet. Mohammad Bin Uthman began making a Will "Husayn Ibn Rauh Abu Ja'far, Nawbakhti, is my heir and successor amongst you after me. He is the medium and channel between you and Hazrat Saheb al Amr (A.J) You refer to him in your problems and rely on his in your affairs, I was ordered to convey this message and I've done my duty".

The First Tawqee received by Husayn Ibn Rauh, was as follow: "We know him (Husayn Ibn 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 he is bound to be happy. May Allah increase His obligations on him. Certainly, he a masterful and powerful person. Praise be to the God who has no partner. Blessings of Allah be on Mohammad (S.A) and his progeny". Sunday 6th Shawwal 305 A.H.

To appoint Husayn Ibn Rauh after Mohammad Bin Uthman, had two basic reason

(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 where about even if cut into pieces. Husayn Ibn 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 Bin Uthman stood the chance of gaining successorship.

None could even imagine that Husayn Ibn 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 Bin Uthman. Everybody considered Husayn Ibn Rauh to be a very knowledgeable person, whether friend or foe. He lived a life of dissimulation. (Taqiyyah). Many incidents concerning his discussion with the riling 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 Bayt's 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 (a.s). Abdu Sahl Nawbakht was asked as to why was Husayn Ibn 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 Shiasim, If I was knowing the whereabouts of Imam (a.s) 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".

Husayn Ibn Rauh was Imam (a.s)'s special representative for about twenty one years. He expired in Shaban, 326 A.H. and is buried in the courtyard of Ali Ibn Mohammad Nawbakth's house in Baghdad. He was a contemporary of Muqtadir and Raazi, the Abbaside Kings.

He was appointed as the fourth special deputy of Imam Mahdi (a.s) after the demise of Husain Ibn Rauh. He is remembered as one of the companions of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) and the special representative of Imam Mahdi (a.s) 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 Ibn Babway's demise.

The last Tawqee from Imam (a.s) received by Ali Ibn Mohammad announced the termination of the period of minor occultation Its contents are as follows:


O Ali Ibn Mohammad Seymouri May increase the reward of your brothers on account of the difficulties born by you. You will die within six days. Regulate your affairs and sum them up. Do not make a will to any body. After you, this chain (of special deputyship) will end and it will mark the beginning of the major occultation. Now, I will re-appear 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 (a.s) in the minor occultation. After three years of deputyship, Ali Ibn Mohammad Seymouri left this world in Shaban, 329 A.H. He is buried on the Khanlanji High way near Bab-jul-Mahool on the bask 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 (a.s) and his followers. This duration is called as the Minor occultation. Some people deem this duration to be 74 years. That is because they calculate it from the birth of Imam (a.s) in 255 A.H. It is certain that the birth of Imam (a.s) in 255 A.H. It is certain that the Imam Mahdi (a.s) did not shoulder the responsibility of Imamat in the life time of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s). Therefore, there was no need for Imam Mahdi (a.s) 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 Mahdi (a.s).

Some peculiarities about special Representation:

1). The name of the special deputies were not mentioned in the Tawqeeaat. This was done in order to prevent the Ababside 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 (a.s)'s martyrdom, those people who had come from Qum to Sammarra, were told that some-one would be appointed in Baghdad so that they could give their offerings to him and received Imam (a.s) letter from him".

b) Their apparent involvement was in business, therefore, they did not have the time to go out of Baghdad.

c) These deputies were rarely engaged in social work due to the following reasons

(i) By indulging in social work one's identity doesn't remains secret. And they did not intend to reveal themselves.

(ii) 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'ism.

4). They performed only those task which were ordered unto them.

5). They were informed of the Hidden knowledge only with the permission of Hazrat Vali-e-Asr (a.s).

6). 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 (a.s) and people followed them diligently.

7). About the Tawqees one can say:-

a) They follow the pattern of traditions.

b) They were answer to questions.

c) Writing and concepts were fixed.

d) They were coming about 2-3 days after questions.

8). These deputies were keeping themselves concealed from public eyes and lived in dissimulation (Taqaiyyah). For example where when Husayn Ibn 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.

9). 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 Ibn Husayn had appointed ten deputies in Baghdad to collect the offerings, among them was Husayn Ibn Rauh.

The aims of Special representative can be summed up in the following words:

(I) To prepare the people for the major occultation and habituate them to live with their Imam inconcealment.

(ii) To take some steps in solving the problems and reformation of the Shia Society. Note: All reference can be found in "Kitab-ul-Ghaibah" of Shaykh Toosi and "Kamaaluddin" of Ibn Babuwayh.


In the history of Islam, we find many personalities, who due to their beliefs or propaganda or both, were able to influence the society to such an extent that the common people were carried away by them. Erudite scholars and renowned thinkers too were not exempted. One such person was Abul Mugees al Husain Bin Mansur Muhammi Al Bayzaawi Al Hallaj, a well-known SufI. AI-Hallaj is also known in Persian, Turkish and Urdu literature as 'Mansur'. He was born in 244 A.H. in the district of Pars at a place called "Tur' which is to the north - east to 'Al Bayza'. It is said that Hallaj was the grandson of a fire-worshipper and was from the progeny of Abu Ayyub, a companion of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). His father was a (cotton) carder but he himself was not. His father left Tur for Waasit. Waasit is a town which was founded by the Arabs whose inhabitants were mostly Hanbalis. Some extremist Shias (Ghalis) also resided in it's rural areas. In such an environment, Hallaj lost touch of Persian conversation. An important Madressa of Quranic recitors existed there. Here, he memorised the whole Quran before the age of twelve. Even in that tender age, he was inclined to search for it's hidden meanings. He aligned himself with the Sufi school of Sahl-e-Tustari. At the age of twenty, he left Sahl-e-Tustari for Basra where he joined the Sufi order of Amr bin Uthman Al Makki and wore the sufi dress (kharqa). He married Ummul Husain, the daughter of Abu Yaqoob Al Aqta. From her, he had three sons and a daughter. Due to his wedlock with Ummul Husain, Uthman Al Makki became jealous of him and began to oppose him. Although Hallaj is accused to be a Ghali Shia at one time, a deep research into the matter clearly shows that all along he ascribed to the Sunni faith. (Ref: The History of Islamic Philosophy by M. M. Sharif, Vol. I, p. 346) Hallaj was also in contact with the famous Sufi, Junaid. He went to Baghdad for exchange of thoughts with him. Although Junaid persuaded him to stay there, he refused. For, he was completely fed up with the dispute between his father-in-law Al-Aqta and Amr al-Makki. Therefore, he left Baghdad after the uprising of Zanjies was quelled. From Baghdad, he came to Mecca where he performed his first Haj. He vowed to remain inside the holy precincts for a year, praying and fasting. In this way, he kept testing his personal method for "divine unification". And opposing the principle of "Hifz-e-Sirr" (Protection of Divine Secrecy-a Sufi doctrine), started propagating his own ideologies. Amr al- Makki dissociated himself from him. Yet, Hallaj managed to collect more disciples around him. After he returned to Khuzistan, he ceased wearing the Sufi dress. He began to dress like the common people to enable him to speak and propagate more freely. His method of propagation raised doubts and suspicions. The main plank of his campaign was that each man should be made capable of finding Allah in his own heart [It was for this that he received the title Halla) ul Asrar (the Carder of Distinctions)] Hallaj gained popularity in different towns under different titles in different periods of time. According to lbn Kathir, he is known to Indians as Abul Mugees, the Khorasanis remember him as Abul Mameez, the people of Pars as Abu Abdullah Az Zahid, the Khuzistanis Hallaj ul Asrar, the Baghdadis as Mustalim and the Basraites as Al Muhayyar. (Al Bidaya wan Nihaya, Vol. II, p. 133) But he also acquired notoriety for a number of reasons. Scholars, both Shia as well as Sunni, accused him of cheating and showing false miracles. He performed his second Hajj with four hundred disciples. There some of his former friends and Sufis accused him of sorcery, magic and being in contact with the Jinns. Even after this Haj), he made a long tour of Turkey and India. There he came in contact with the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. (Ref: Tazkiratui Awliya : Essay on Husain Bin Mansoor Al Hallaj) Around 290 A.H. he performed his third and last Hajj. This time, he had a patched shawl on his shoulders and an Indian Lungi tied to the lower part of his body. On the plains of Arafat, he invoked, "0 Allah, annihilate me. Make me wretched in the eyes of the people." After completing this Hajj, he returned to Baghdad and made a replica of Kaaba in his house. At nights, he prayed on tombs and graves and during days, he roamed the bazaars and streets, displaying his mad love for Allah. He used to show himself as a wretched man in the eyes of the people and also expressed his wish to die. He implored, "0 Muslims! Save me from Allah. He has permitted you to shed my blood. Kill me!" Muhammad Bin Dawood Az-Zaaheri was infuriated with this statement. He convicted Hallaj and wanted him to be put to death. But the Shafaae jurist, lbn Surrayyij was of the view that the position and condition of the Sufis was beyond the courts of law. It was during this period that Hallaj announced his infamous slogan "Anal Haq" (I am The Truth, [read God]) in the mosque of Al Mansur in the presence of Ash-Shibli. In the last part of 290 A.H., the revenue officer of the young Abbasid Caliph Muqtadir, Al Furat arrested Hallaj and filed a case against him. Hallaj was brought to Baghdad. Here, he was subjected to the ire of Hamid (a Sunni) and kept in jail for nine years. In 301 A.H., lbne Isa, nephew of a minister who was Hallaj's disciple, dismissed the case against him. He also freed the jailed supporters of Hallaj. In 303 A.H., Hallaj cured successfully the chronic fever of the caliph. In 305 A.H., he brought to life the dead parrot of the crown prince. The Mutazelis denounced him as a charlatan and a sorcerer. During the period of 304-306 A.H. the charge of lbn Isa's ministry was taken up by lbn Furat. He was a sworn adversary of Halla) but the Caliph's mother did not allow him to revive the case against Hallaj. It seems that two important writings of Hallaj belong to this period.

(1) Taaseenul Azal - which is a treatise on the argumentation of lblis.

(2) A discussion on the Meraj (ascension) of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). He expressed that due to the spiritual experience of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.), it is possible for man to be merged with Allah. Due to the influence of Husayn lbn Rauh Nawbakhti, the case was revived. It was debated upon in the years 308-309 A.H. Hallaj claimed, " (The real) Kaaba is inside the heart. It is more important to circumbulate it seven times."

Due to this, he was convicted of being from the Qeraametah (who were in favour of it's demolition). The Maliki judge of this case, Qazi Abu Umar bin Yusuf passed, the following verdict, "It is lawful to shed your blood." At last, the Abbasid caliph Muqtadir signed the warrant for sending him to the gallows. On 24th Zilqad, at the gate of Khorasan, Hallaj (who had a crown on his head) was lashed to unconsciousness infront of a huge crowd. When he was nearly dead, he was hung at the gate. The order for beheading him was received from the caliph late at night. Actually the verdict of his crucification was postponed for the morrow. All those who had signed the verdict said loudly, 'Whatever has been done is under the Islamic law. We are responsible for his death." Later, Hallaj was beheaded and his body charred by putting kerosene on his body. His ashes were consigned to the river from a high tower. According to the eye-witnesses, his last words were: "The most important thing for a Gnostic is, by the permission of Allah, the Almighty, to achieve perfect physical unification (with Allah)" During the case, Hallaj was accused of various conspiracies against the religious and economic policies of the government. He was accused of defaming Allah and propagating the concept of assimilation (with Allah). His theory of giving importance to the religious symbols only from the aspect of it's hidden meaning showed the confusion and commotion of his mind. It also indicated that he was advocating their destruction. Regarding assimilation, Hallaj had actually written, "Your (Allah's) soul has merged with my soul like amber fuses with the fragrant musk." (Diwan-e-Hallaj translated by Massinon, p.41) He really took the cake by claiming, "We are two souls who are put in one body..." (Ibid) The above quoted statement clearly proves that Mansur Hallaj who lived during the minor occultation of Imam-e-Zamana (A.S.) was a polytheist. he had evidently violated the belief of Tawheed.


Mansur Hallaj was one of those who had falsely claimed the special deputyship during the minor occultation (Ghaibat-e-Sugra). lt is narrated by Husain bin lbrahim Abul Abbas Ahmed Bin Ali Bin Nuh, from Abu Nasr Haibatullah bin Mohammed, the scribe of lbne Binte Umme Kulsum binte Abi Jafar Amn: "Allah intended to expose the fallacies of Hallaj and that he may be degraded and insulted. Abu Sahl bin Ismail bin Ali Nawbakti (R.A.) was among those who had become aware of the plots and deceit of Hallaj. Hallaj thought that Abu Sahl was ignorant (of his charialanism) and hence went to him to convince him of his claim. First, he wrote to Abu Sahl that he (Hallaj) was the representative of Imam-e-Asr (A.S.) and that the Imam had ordered him to correspond with the former. He offered Abu Sahl to help him in his work so that the heart of Abu Sahl may rest in peace. Abu Sahl replied, "I have a small problem which only you can solve. I know that it is nothing in comparison to the extraordinary feats that you have performed, I am highly desirous of young girls but they are repulsed by my greying hair. And I find it too cumbersome to apply henna (herbal dye). If you can make my hair permanently black, I shall help and assist you, and do whatever you desire". When Hallaj received this reply, he at once realised that Abu Sahl had seen through his fraud and discontinued the correspondence. Shaikh Sadooq says, "Hallaj went to the city of Qom. There he wrote to the relatives of my father and invited them to his cause. The relatives forwarded his letter to my father, who tore up Hallaj's letter and wrote to them, "What is this nonsense ! Which fool is trying to deceive you? Who is this cheat who has instigated you?" - Due to these blatant assertions, Hallaj was disgraced and expelled from the city of Qom. On account of his false claims and nonsensical beliefs, Vali-e-Asr Imam-e-Zamana (A.S.) cursed him and issued a Tawqee to denounce him. It read as follows:

"We seek refuge in Allah and His Prophet (S.A.W.) from him (Hallaj). We invoke one curse after another on him. secretly as well as openly, at all times, in all conditions and on everyone who follows him despite getting our message." (Kalematui Imam al-Mahdi p. 282)

After examining the above Tawqee, it becomes clear that in the school of Ahiul Bayt la.s.], there is no place for evil people like Husain Bin Mansur Hallaj. It was the impact of this tawqee that during the minor occultation and till the later centuries, Shia scholars continued to denounce Hallaj. But in the seventh century, some people began to defend Hallaj, ignoring the Tawqee of Imam (A.S.). They began to call Hallaj, Wali of Allah. As if this was not enough blasphemous, they even composed eulogies glorifying him. Like him, they also repeated the words of "Anal Haq' (I am God). Allah alone knows which facet of Mansur's personality has attracted them that they ignored the clear Tawqee of an infallible Imam cursing Hallaj and followed and expressed their love for this deceiver and cheat. Imam (a.s.) has clearly stated that whosoever follows Hallaj is also accursed.

Let us pray to the Almighty Allah that may He give us the ability to discern falsehood from 'truth. That we may not be misled by any false claimant or charlatan. Amen.

1. A Brief Study of the Wikala Before the Twelfth Imam

The Imams faced a critical situation whic was brought about by the Abbasids which forced the Imams to search for a new means to communicate with the members of their congregation. The Imamit e sources indicate that the sixth Imam al-Sadiq was the first Imam to employ an underground system of communication (al-Tanzim al-Sirri) among his community.

The main purpose of the Wikala was to collect the khums, the zakat, and other kinds of alms for the Imam from his followers. Although the Wikala may have had other purposes at that time, the sources rarely record them. Al-Sadiq directed the activities of the organization with such care that the Abbasids were not aware of its existence. As part of his prudent fear (al-Taqiyya), he used to ask some of his followers to carry out certain tasks for the organization without informing them that they were in fact his agents. Al-Tusi reports that Nasr b. Qabus al-Lakhmi spent twenty years working as an agent (wakil) for al-Sadiq, without knowing that he had actually been appointed as one.

Al-Sadiq's most important agent in Iraq was Abd al-Rahman b al-Hajjaj, who continued in this office until his death, after the time of the eighth Imam al-Rida. Mu'alla b. Khunays was al-Sadiq's agent in Media. In 133/750 he was arrested by the Abbasids and sentenced to death because he refused to reveal the name of the Imamite propagandists.

Despite the difficulties which faced the Wikala in its early stages, the areas covered by the agents and their training were extended during the time of al-Kazim as activities were intensified. The rite of pilgrimage was used as a means to communicate with each other. Al-Kazim's agent in Egypt was Uthman b. Isa al-Rawwasi. He also had agents in numerous other places, such as Hayyan al-Sarraj in Kufa, Muhammad b. Abi Umayr in Baghdad, and Yunis b. Ya'qub Al-Bajli in Medina. Al-Mas'udi's report suggests that all the agents received their instructions from Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj, who was then resident in Baghdad.

The agents faced another campaign of arrests in 179/795 instigated by the caliph al-Rashid. It caused the Imamite organization considerable damage. The agent in Baghdad, Muhammad b. Abi Umayr, was arrested and tortured in the unfulfilled hope that he would reveal the names and location of al-Kazim's followers, while his sister was put in jail for four years. Another agent, 'Ali b. Yaqtin, who used to send money and letters to the Imam through an individual called Isma'il b. Salam, was also arrested and spent the rest of his life in prison. According to the Imamite sources the campaign of arrests led to the arrest of al-Kazim himself and to his death in prison. sixty other 'Alids also died under torture in prison.

After the death of al-Kazim the members of the Imamite organization found themselves faced wit an internal theological and political question involving the doctrine of al-Qa'im al-Mahdi and his occultation. Al-Kazim's agents, such as al-Rawwasi in Egypt, Ziyad al-Qindi in Baghdad, 'Ali b. Abi Hamza and Hayyan al-Sarraj in Kufa, and al-Hasan b. Qayama in Wasit, had received many traditions attributed to al-Sadiq concerning al-Qa'im al-Mahdi and his occultation, but these traditions did not explicitly state his identity. Perhaps for this reason, they applied these traditions to the seventh Imam al-Kazim by denying his death and contending that he was al-Qa'im al-Mahdi, but that he had gone into occultation. Consequently, they rejected the Imamate of his son al-Rida and split into a new group called the Waqifa, using the money of the organization to their own ends. As a result al-Rida lost a considerable number of trained agents and over 100,000 dinars. Between the Years 183-202/799-817 al-Rida managed to solve this problem at least partially by clarifying to the members of the Waqifa the true nature of al-Qa'im al-Mahdi, as transmitted on the authority of the previous Imams. According to al-Kashashi, he seems to have been able to persuade some of the members of the Waqifa, like al-Rawwasi and his followers to recognize his Imamate.

Meanwhile the role of the Wikala was expanded to embrace the new needs and tasks of the congregation. Al-Rida's agents were 'Abd al-'Aziz b. al-Muhtadi in Qumm, Safwan b. Yahya in Kufa, 'Abd Allah b. Jandab and 'Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj in Baghdad, Along with another eighty agents 'Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj controlled the leadership of the organization through the time of the ninth Imam, al-Jawad, who achieved considerable success in protecting the organization from new schisms. Moreover the tactics of his agents developed in new directions especially in widening the sphere of al-Taqiyya (prudent fear) by allowing some of his partisans to participate in the administration and the army of the 'abbasids.

During the long Imamate of the tenth Imam, al-Hadi (220-254/835-868) new trends emerged amongst the Imamites due to historical circumstances, trends which were later to play a dangerous role during the time of the twelfth Imam.

As we pointed out above (Ch. II, pp 48-53), al-Mutawakkil practiced the policy of al-Ma'mun, who had made al-Rida and his son al-Jawad join his courtiers so that their links with their partisans could be restricted and closely watched. Al-Mutawakkil did the same with al-Hadi. In 233/874 he summoned him from Medina to Samarra, where he spent the rest of his life. The absence of direct contact between the Imam and his followers led to an increase in the religious and political role of the Wikala, so that the agents of the Imam gained more authority in running its affairs. Gradually the leadership of the Wikala became the only authority which could determine and prove the legitimacy of the new Imam. For example the ninth Imam, al-Jawad, gave hiss testament concerning his successor to his chief agent Muhammad b. al-Faraj. He told him that in case he should die, he should take his orders from al-Hadi. When al-Jawad died in 220/835 the prominent leaders of the organization held a secret meeting at the house of Muhammad b. al-Faraj to determine the next Imam, who was proved to be al-Hadi.

The agents of the Imam gradually gained a great deal of experience in organizing their partisans into separate units. Several reports suggest that the agents divided their followers into four separate groups according to area. The first included Baghdad, Mada'in, Sawad and Kufa, the second Basra and al-Ahwaz, the third Qumm and Hamadan, and the fourth the Hijaz, Yemen and Egypt. Each area was entrusted to an independent agent, beneath whom many local agents were appointed. The workings of this system can be observed in letters of instruction attributed to al-Hadi concerning the organization's administration. It is reported that he sent a letter in 232/874 to his local agent, 'Ali b. Bilal, saying:

"I have substituted Abu 'Ali b. Rashid for 'Ali b. al-Husayn b. 'Abd Rabba. I have entrusted him with this post since he is sufficiently qualified so that no one can take precedence over him. he has been informed that you are the chief (shaykh) of your own area, since I wished to invest you with that area. However, you have to follow him and hand all the revenues to collect over to him."

In a letter to his agents in Baghdad, Mada'in and Kufa, al-Hadi wrote,

"O Ayyub b. Nuh, I am commanding you to cut off relations between yourself and Abu 'Ali. Both of you should engage yourselves with what you have been entrusted and ordered to do in your areas. If you do so you should be able to manage your affairs without consulting me O Ayyub, I am ordering you neither to receive anything from the people of Baghdad and Mada'in, nor to give anyone amongst them permission to contact me. If anyone brings you revenue from outside your area, order him to send it to the agent of his own area. O Abu 'Ali, I am ordering you to follow what I have ordered Ayyub."

This system saved the organization from otherwise inevitable damage after the harsh attack of al-Mutawakkil upon its underground political cells in 235/850. In the same way it was save from the attack of al-Musta'in in 248/862.

It should be noted that during the time of the tenth and eleventh Imams, the leadership of the organization in the four areas, was monopolized by a few individuals. Their tasks later fell to their descendants and remained under their control during the shorter occultation of the twelfth Imam. For example, 'Ali b. Mazyar was the agent of al-Jawad and al-Hadi in al-Ahwaz , while his son were the agent of the twelfth Imam in the same region. Ibrahim b. Muhammad al-Hamadani was the agent of al-Hadi in Hamadan, While his offspring inherited this post from father to son until the time of the twelfth Imam. Another agent was Isma'il b. Ishaq b. Nawbakht, Whose family later directed the members of the organization in Baghdad, While one of his relatives, al-Husayn b. Ruh, became the third safir or "representative" of the twelfth Imam.

Among the agents, the most important was 'Uthman b. Sa'id al- 'Umari, who, as we shall see, was brought up under the auspices of the tenth Imam, al-Hadi. He made him first his own agent and agent of his son, Imam al- 'Askari. After the death of the later 'Uthman controlled the whole leadership of the organization as the first representative of the twelfth Imam, and his son Muhammad later succeeded him to the post, as the second safir.

The fact that the Imam's activities were underground made it easy for certain people to claim falsely to be the representatives of al-Hadi and al-'Askari, and thus to collect money from the Imamites. It seems that the practice was carried out by the extremists (al-Ghulat) and increased throughout the time of the twelfth Imam at the expense of his rightful agnets.

2. The Main functions of the wikala

For the Twelver Imamites the series of Imams ends with the twelfth Imam, who, from the death of his father in 260/874 up to the year 329-940-1, is believed to have lived in occultation. According to al-Nu'mani this period was called the "Short occultation," al-Ghayba al-Qasira, and according to later scholars the minor occultation, al-Ghayba al-sughra. It was of decisive importance for the organization and the internal evolution of the congregation. During it the twelfth Imam is considered to have pursued his activities from behind the scenes and to have led his followers by means of four specially chosen representatives. These were called sufara (sin. safir) or "ambassadors." The first was 'Uthman b. Sa'id al-'Umari, the second his on Muhammad, the third al-Husayn b. Ruh al-the second his son Muhammad, the third al-Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti and the fourth 'Ali b. Muhammad al-Summari.

A critical study of the history of this period (260-329/874-941) reveals that the main function of the safirs was to implement certain tasks previously undertaken by the Imams so as to save him from the political pressure of the 'Abbasids. His predecessors had suffered this pressure since the time of al-Ma'mun, especially since it was widely accepted among the Imamites of that period that the twelfth Imam would be al-Qa'im bi-I-Amr li-Izalat al-Duwal, that is, "he who is to be in charge of eliminating the governments (of the oppressors by militant means)."

One of the ambassadors' tasks was to draw complete darkness over the name of the Imam and his whereabouts, not only as regards his foes, but even as regards his followers. Simultaneously the safir had to prove the existence of the Imam to his reliable adherents. This statement can be illustrated by a report of al-Kulayni. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far al-Himyari once asked the first safir whether or not he had seen the successor of the eleventh Imam. Al'Umari, the safir, confirmed that he had seen him. but he added that people were forbidden to ask about his name, because if the government discovered his name they would certainly try to arrest him. In this way the first safir led the court of the caliph, al-Mu'tamid, to think that the eleventh Imam had died without a successor. According to al-Kulayni's report, the conclusion reached by the 'Abbasids seems to have released the Imamites from the humiliation which they had suffered throughout the time of the previous Imams. The agents of the twelfth Imam began to carry out their activities without being afraid of the authorities, since they were sure of the non-existence of the twelfth Imam, and thus did not bother to investigate the Imamite's activities.

The activities of the safirs also aimed at protecting the congregation from any more schisms by proving the authenticity of the Imamate of al-'Askari's son. Towards this aim they employed those sayings of the Prophet and the Imams which indicate that the series of Imams will end with the twelfth, who would ten go into occultation. The four safirs carried out another task in the name of the Imam. They received and collected the taxes which the Imamites had previously paid to their Imams. According to the Imamite sources all the safirs performed miracles before receiving the money so that their adherents would believe in their legitimacy. According to the Imamite belief, whoever proclaimed himself a safir and did not work miracles had lied about the Imam and was driven out of the organization.

The Tawqi'at (written and signed answers or pronouncements) attributed to the twelfth Imam indicate that he neither gave any statement to elucidate his attitude towards the political and economic situation of his time, nor ordered his followers to implicate themselves in an open political struggle with their rivals, the 'Abbasids. In fact, it is reasonable to agree with Muhammad al-Sadr that by acting in this manner the Imam enabled his partisans to pursue their activities without attracting the attention of the 'Abbasids by statements criticizing their rule. Moreover it seems most likely that in following this policy the Imam wanted his agents and propagandists to concentrate their efforts upon strengthening the size and quality of their party, until it developed its political means and ideology to a degree which might enable it to put its goal into action. but the involvement of the agents in an immediate political struggle would have taken place at the expense of an increase in the size and the development of the ideological and political basis of the organization.

3. The Early Career of Uthman b. Sa'id

Most of the Imamite information concerning the activities of the four safirs is attributed to al-Tusi in his word al-Ghayba. The latter depended mainly on two early missing works, that is, Kitab fi Akhbar Abi 'amr wa Abi Ja'far al-'Umariyyayn by Ibn Barina al-Katib, the son of the granddaughter of the second safir, and Kitab Akhbar al-Wakila al-'Arba a by Ahmad b. Nuh, Unfortunately, the work of al-Tusi and other works give very few details concerning the background to the career of the first safir. We know that the latter was Abu 'Amr 'Uthman b. Sa'id al-Umari from the tribe of Asad. Javad 'Ali, whose opinion was followed by Rajkowki, thought that the grandfather of 'Uthman was 'Amr b. Hurayth al-Sayrafi al-Kufi, a well-known Shi'ite from Kufa who belonged to Banu Asad. According to Javed 'Ali, since both belonged to the same tribe, both are known by the epithet al-asadi. But this cannot be accepted because there is no explicit evidence leading one to link the lineage of the two individuals. Nothing is known about the safir nor of his position in the congregation. Moreover, the year of his birth and the details of is youth have not been handed down.

It is said that at the age of eleven 'Uthman b. Sa'id was contracted to become a servant in the house of the ninth Imam, al-Jawad, and that he never lift his service. Later he became his gate-keeper and chamberlain. As the Imam's "right hand", he enjoyed his entire confidence and was entrusted with the execution of all his commissions. 'Uthman b. sa'id occupied this same position of trust throughout the lifetime of al-Hadi, the tenth Imam, who was watched carefully and suspiciously by the government of the day, so that he even avoided speaking with the individual members of the community. For this reason, al-Hadi presented 'Uthman to those who found it difficult to counter suit him directly. He told tem that 'Uthman was his trusted associate and a man of honour, and that whatever he did was done in the Imam's name. Furthermore, al-Kashshi's account indicates that during the last ten years of the time of al-Hadi, the leadership of the underground organization (al-Wikala) was in 'Uthman's hands. He organized its internal affairs and systematized the relations between the centre of the organization and its branches in the remote provinces. When the agent, 'Ali b. 'Amr, came to Samarra from Qazwin with money and contacted Faris b. Hatim, without knowing that the latter had been cursed by the Imam in 250/864, 'Uthman quietly moved his lieutenants to save the money and prevented 'Ali b. 'Amr from having contact with Faris b. Hatim.

'Uthman continued to hold this position of trust under the eleventh Imam al-Askari, who appointed him using the same words as had his father. It is reported that al-Askari, who appointed him using the same words as had his father. It is reported that al-'Askari had only informed a few of his followers that 'Uthman b. Sa 'id was his agent. However, at one point a group of Yemenite Shiites brought money to al-'Askari, and he revealed to them that 'Uthman was his agent and that his son, Muhammad, would be the agent of the twelfth Imam, al-Mahdi. According to another narration al-'Askari presented his successor to forty reliable Shi'ites, such as al-hasan b. Ayyub, 'Ali b. Bilal, Ahmad b. Hilal, and 'Uthman b. Sa'id. He informed them that they would not see him again and commanded them to obey 'Uthman during the concealment of the twelfth Imam, because he would be his representative. Moreover, during the last illness of the eleventh Imam, 'Uthman looked after him and cared for him. According to al-Tusi, he performed the last rites for the dead man, washed the corpse, wrapped him in his shroud and buried him. For the Imamites these are the unmistakable signs that 'Uthman was the rightful representative safir of the hidden Imam. They contended that 'Uthman did all this on the orders of al-'Askari.

4. The Career of the First Safir

The first safir managed to satisfy the prominent Imamites who were already members of the organization that the twelfth Imam was in a state of occultation and thus safe from his enemies, while also convincing them that he was the rightful representative of the Imam.

It appears that his occupation of the leadership of the organization during the time of the tenth and the eleventh Imams encouraged the agents to accept his claim and follow his instructions, without asking him to show a miracle or proof. However, the ordinary Imamites, who had nothing to do with the organization, were confused by the occultation of the Imam and, as has been noted, held different views concerning the twelfth Imam's successor. Many Imamites refused to pay the khums to 'Uthman b. Sa'id unless he showed, by means of a miracle, that he had been rightfully appointed by the twelfth Imam. This is illustrated by a narrative of al-Kulayni attributed to Sa'd al-Ash'ari al-Qummi:

"Al-Hasan b. al-Nadr, Abu al-Saddam and a number of others spoke together after the death of Abu Muhammad (the eleventh Imam) about the agents and decided to search for the new Imam. Al-Hasan b. Nadr came to Abu al-Saddam said to him, 'I desire to make the pilgrimage.' Abu al-Saddam said to him, 'Delay it this year.' Al-Hasan b. al-Nadr said to him, 'I am frightened by my dreams, so I must go.' He made Ahmad b. Ya'la b. Hammad his executor. The latter had devoted some money to the Imam, Hearing of al-Hasan's decision, he gave the money to al-Hasan and commanded him not to hand anything over without proof. "

Al-Hasan said, "When I arrived at Baghdad I rented a house. Thereafter an agent brought me clothes and money and entrusted them to me. I said to him, "What is this?" He said to me, "It is what you see." Then another one brought similar goods, and a third one until they filled the house. Afterwards Ahmad b. Ishaq (the assistant of the safir) brought me all the goods he had. Thus I became confused. But later I received a message from al-Rajul (the Imam), peace be upon him, ordering me to take the goods to al-'Askar (Samarra) When I arrived there I received a messaged ordering me to bring the goods (to him). So I loaded them in the baskets of the carriers. When I reached the corridor of his house, I found a black slave standing there. He asked me, "Are you al-Hasan b. al-Nadr?" I said, "Yeas." He replied, "Enter." So I entered the house, and then I entered an apartment, where I emptied the baskets of the carriers There was a curtain leading to another apartment. Someone called me from behind it, "O al-Hasan b. al-Nadr, praise Allah for His grace is upon you, and do not doubt, for Satan would be pleased if you waver." Thereafter he sent out two garments for me and said, "Take them, because you will need them." So I took them and went out.'"

Sa'd al-Ash'ari reports that al-Hasan b. al-Nadr departed and died in the month of Ramadan, and the two garments were used as his shroud.

This event was a clear proof to al-Hasan, because both his name and his doubts concerning the validity of the agents' activities had been revealed to him. Moreover, according to Sa'd al-Ash'ari, the two garments which al-Hasan had received were a prediction of his death, which occurred a month later. If one studies carefully the circumstances surrounding al-Hasan b. al-Nadr from the time of his decision to investigate the activities of the agents until his death, one can surmise that the agents arranged them so as to remove his doubts. They would have done so because al-hasan b. al-Nadr was prominent amongst the Imamites of Qumm, and his doubts might have affected the Imamites of his area. So perhaps the agents of Qumm informed the safir in Baghdad about his arrival there. This can be understood from the act of Ahmad b. Ishaq and the other agents who brought the clothes to al-Hasan's house and later sent him a letter ordering him to send the goods to Samarra. There, it is reported, he met the Imam, who confirmed for him the validity of the agent's activities. One can discover from this example and many others not quoted here the means used by the safir to remove the doubts and confusion of the Imamites brought about by the concealment of their Imam, and to make them obey his instructions. As has already been indicated the safir forbade his partisans to ask about the name of the Imam. Perhaps, their silence along with al-'Askari's last will in which he bequeathed his endowments to his mother and placed her in charge of his affair without referring to his successor, encouraged the authorities to believe that the Imamites no longer had an Imam and, therefore, that any Imamite activities were useless. In doing so the safir gained a certain freedom to have communication with the twelfth Imam and his followers. This is illustrated by a statement attributed to the safir:

"The caliph thinks that Abu Muhammad (al-'Askari), peace be upon him, died childless. Thus his estate was divided and given to someone, who had no right in the estate but he (the twelfth Imam) kept quiet. These are his agents carrying out their activities without being afraid that someone would stop them for investigation. If the (Imam's) name is identified, the (authorities) would start searching for (his whereabouts). So, by Allah, do not ask about his name."

The belief that al-'Askari had no successor was circulated among some Sunni scholars, such as Abu al-Qasim al-Balkhi (died around 300/912). In his account of the Imamite doctrine, he states, "In our time al-Hasan b. 'Ali died and had no son. Therefore they (the Imamites) became confused." Gradually this belief was so disseminated among the non-Imamite circles that leading Sunni scholars such as Ibn Hazm (d. 456/1063) and al-Shahristani (d. 548/1153) were encouraged to view it as a matter of fact. Later al-Dhahabi believed that al-'Askari left a son but he disappeared when he was nine years old or less in 265/878, when he entered a cellar (sardab) in Samarra and was not seen again. In other words the twelfth Imam died during the lifetime of the first safir. But al-Dhahabi is a later historian, since he died in 748/1347. Moreover he does not give the source of his narration, nor does he state explicitly how al-'Askari's son died even though he presents his information concerning the concealment of the twelfth Imam in the list of people who died in 265/878 to give the impression that he had passed a way in that year. The earliest report concerning the occultation of al-'Askari's son in the cellar is given by al-kanji, who died in 658/1260, but he also does not mention the source of his information. It is therefore most likely that al-Dhahabi based his report upon a belief common among the Imamite masses, that the twelfth Imam had hidden himself in the cellar of his house. this belief spread after the fifth/eleventh century and later became popular among certain scholars, such as Ibn Khaldun.

Moreover, several reports in the early Imamite sources refute al-Dhahabi's narration and prove that the twelfth Imam was alive after 265/878. Al-Tusi mentions that many of the Imamites received written answers to their letters from the Imam in the same hand-writing as in the letters they used to receive during the lifetime of the first safir, and al-Saduq lists thirteen agents and forty-six ordinary Imamites from numerous cities who claimed to have seen the twelfth Imam both during and after the time of the first safir.

From this it is clear that al-Dhahabi's report is based on popular belief rather than upon sound historical facts. So it would be foolish to give credence to his claims concerning the death and occultation of the twelfth Imam.

5. The Opposition to the First Safir

As has been note the occultation of the Imam resulted in the gradual expansion of the role of the safir. However it also made it easier for a pretender to the deputyship (al-sifara or al-niyaba) to practice his activities among the Imamites at the expense of the Imam's rightful representative. As we have seen this was practiced mainly throughout the period of the short occultation by the extremists (al-Ghulat). That they were extremists is indicated by a number of factors. Firstly, the claimant to the sifara believed in the incarnation of God (hulul), Most of the claimants to the sifara from the time of al-Hasan al-Shari'i up until al-Shalmaghani claimed first that they were the agents of the Imam. Then when the Imam excommunicated them, they called people on their own account. Extremists had claimed to be the Imam's representative even before the occultation of the twelfth Imam, but with a slight difference. The claimant would first announce that he was the Gate (Bab) of the Imam, and then claim that he was a prophet. Al-Kashshi mentions many extremists who did so, such as Muhammad b. Furat, al-Qasim al-Yaqtini and 'Ali b. Haska.

The third factor indicating that the claimants were extremist is that certain links existed between the extremists active during the time of the tenth and eleventh Imams and the claimants who lived during the time of the short occultation. According to al-Kashshi, 'Ali b. Haska was the teacher of Muhammad b. Musa al-Shari'i, al-Qasim al-Yaqtini and al-Hasan b. Muhammad b. Baba. The last of these was a close follower of Muhammad b. Nusayr, who led the extremists tread during the time of the eleventh Imam, and then claimed that he was the agent of the twelfth Imam. Moreover, Ibn Nusayr was supported by some of Banu Furat, the descendants of the extremist Muhammad b. Furat. According to al-Tusi, Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Shari'i was the first to claim falsely to be the Imam's representative during the short occultation, but the Imamites cursed him and refused to accept him. Then the twelfth Imam issued a Tawqi', in which he excommunicated al-Shari'i and announced the falseness of his claim. Although al-Shari'i did not achieve immediate success, his following grew in strength and eventually he formed a strong threat to the leadership of the second safir.

6. The Imam's Wikala During the Time of the First Safir

The main problem facing any historian dealing with the period of the short occultation is that most of the activities of the twelfth Imam and his representatives were carried out underground. Perhaps for this reason, the Imamite scholars such as al-Kulayni, 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far al-Himyari, Sa'd al-Ash'ari and al-Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti rarely mention the names of the Imam's agents, or refer to their activities or links with each other: However, they do refer to those of their activities which did not attract the attention of the authorities. Therefore, the historical information concerning the underground activities of the agents is to be found scattered throughout the theological and heresiographical works much more than in the histories. Because of the nature of these works the historical information has taken on a heresiographical form. In addition, both questions asked by the Shi'ites and answers of the twelfth Imam and his safirs were collected during his time, but unfortunately, most of them have been lost. Only a few are extant, especially in works dealing with the concealment (Ghayba). For example the second safir Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. 'Uthman, collected the pronouncements of his father, but his collection is not extant. However, many anecdotes which assist us in discovering the links among the Imam's agents and the nature of their activities have been recorded.

6.1 Iraq: The Centre of the Wikala

After the death of the eleventh Imam, the first safir had not the slightest reason to remain in Samarra, which was then the capital and the headquarters of the troops of the 'Abbasid dynasty, which had opposed the Imams from the very beginning. Perhaps for this reason, 'Uthman b. Sa'id wanted to carry out the activities of the organization beyond the surveillance of the authorities in the capital. Therefore he moved to Baghdad, where he made the area of al-Karkh, which was inhabited by Shi'ites, the centre for the leadership of the organization. A part of 'Uthman's prudent fear (al-Taqiyya) was to evade the investigation of the regime by not involving himself in any open political or religious arguments. He also disguised himself as a butter-seller (samman) and, used to bring money to the Imam in a butter-sack. Consequently he acquired the nickname al-Zayyar al-Samman. Al-Kashshi reports that his name was Hafs b. 'Amr al-'Umari, which may have been a pseudonym he used when he held underground meetings with other agents.

It has been noted that the twelfth Imam was sent by his father to Medina in 259/873. However, the first safir made Baghdad the centre of the organization. He followed the traditional geographical divisions of the Islamic provinces in organizing the underground political units (cells) of the organization. Nevertheless he took into consideration the size of each factional unit, the distance of each area from the capital, and its situation on the main roads.

According to al-Kashshi, 'Uthman b. Sa'id was the head of the Wikala from the time of the eleventh Imam, in the sense that all the revenue sent by the adherents to the Imam through his agents was given in the end of 'Uthman, who in turn handed it over to the Imam. Many agents were situated below the safir in the ranks of the organization in Baghdad and in the other cities of Iraq, such as Hajiz b. Yazid al-Washsha', Ahmad b. Ishaq al-Ash'ari and Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Ja'far al-Qattan, the last two of whom were the chief assistants of the first safir.

Ahmad b. Ishaq was at first al-'Askar's agent for his endowments (awqaf) in Qumm. However, after the death of al-'Askari the sources begin to refer to his activities in Baghdad as assistant to 'Uthman b. Sa'id in the financial affairs of the organization. Al-Kulayni reports that in 260/874 some people from the east doubted the validity of the agents after al-'Askar's death and for this reason they came to Baghdad. Along with other agents Ahmad b. Ishaq managed to remove their doubts. The first safir may have summoned him from Qumm because he needed his service in Iraq after al-'Askari's death. According to Ibn Rustam al-Tabari, Ahmad b. Ishaq continued his career in the organization in Iraq until his death during the time of the second safir.

Muhammad al-Qattan was the second agent of the safir in Baghdad. In order to hide his activities he disguised himself as a cotton dealer. The agents used to bring money and letters to him hidden in cotton which he then took to the safir. Ibn Rustam reports that in 261-3/875-6 the people of Dinawar collected 16,000 dinars, which were entrusted to a certain Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Dinawari. At Qarmisin be collected 1,000 diners more and some garments. After an intensive search in Baghdad and Samarra, he received in Samarra a letter describing the money and other items and ordering him to take them to 'Uthman b. Sa'id and to follow his instructions. The latter ordered al-Dinawari to hand over the items to al-Qattan. It is reported that al-Qattan had dealings with an agent in Tus called al-Hasan b. al-Fadl b. Zayd al-Yamani. According to al-Mufid, al-Yamani used to deal with al-Qattan as if he were the safir. The third agent of the safir in Baghdad was Hajiz. His relations with a large number of agents indicate that he held a high position in the organization. He was perhaps the connecting link between the agents in the eastern provinces and the safir in Baghdad, especially since al-Saduq and al-Kulayni mention certain persons from the cities of Balkh and Marv who contacted the Imam and his safir through Hajiz.

While the first safir seems to have led the affairs of the organization in Baghdad with the help of his three assistants, he may also have directly supervised the activities of his agents in the other main cities, such as al-Mada in, Kufa, Wasit, Basra and al-Ahwaz. In the last of these the leadership of the Wikala had been in the hands of Banu Mazyar or Mahzayar from the time of the ninth Imam. Al-Kashshi reports that the agent of the Imam in al-Ahwaz, Ibrahim b. Mazyar, had collected a large amount of money. On his deathbed he revealed to his son Muhammad a special secret code and ordered him to hand the money over to the person who would disclose to him his knowledge of this code. Al-Kashshi adds that when Muhammad arrived at Baghdad, al-'Umari the safir came to him and divulged to him the exact code, so he handed the money over to him. It is clear from this report that the first safir had already agreed on the code with Ibrahim al-Mazyar so as to save the organization from infiltration and misuse by false agents. According to al-Kulayni a

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