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Why Did Not the Occultation Become Complete from the Beginning?

The group met at Dr. Jalali's house. The session began on time. Everyone was anxious to hear Dr. Jalali's questions.

Dr. Jalali: What was the purpose of the Short Occultation? If the twelfth Imam was going to be in occultation, why did he not do so immediately following the death of Imam Hasan 'Askari? Why did he not become completely cut off from his followers?

Mr. Hoshyar: You must realize that the disappearance of the Imam and the leader of the community for a long time is an uncommon event and would be hard for the people to believe and get used to. It was for this reason that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and the Imams decided to make the people aware of such a phenomenon gradually. Hence, from time to time they related the events connected with the occultation, they spoke about the difficulties people would face in the absence of the Imam, and described the condition of those who would reject the idea and the losses they would suffer, and praised the condition of those who would remain firm and the rewards they would reap. At times, through their own inaccessibility they demonstrated a situation which resembled the era when the last Imam would be living an invisible life.

Mas'udi, the famous historian, in his book Ithbat al-wasiyya describes this gradual introduction of the notion of the Imam's occultation. He says that Imam Hadi, the tenth Imam, met very little with the people and, except for some of his special associates, did not maintain contacts with others. When Imam Hasan 'Askari assumed the Imamate, most of the time he spoke with the people from behind a curtain so that his followers would be get used to the idea and be prepared to accept the disappearance of the twelfth Imam.1

If the complete occultation had begun immediately following the death of Imam Hasan 'Askari, then, in all likelihood, the fact about the existence of the twelfth Imam would have been ignored and in time people would have completely forgotten that there exists an Imam in occultation. Consequently, it was the Short Occultation with which the event of the disappearance of the Imam occurred. During this period the Shi'a were able to contact the Imam through his special deputies and were witness to the signs and miraculous deeds that appeared in the hands of these prominent followers of the Imam. When the notion of occultation and the Imam's ability to provide the necessary guidance through his deputies in that state became firmly accepted, the Complete Occultation occurred.

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1 Ithbat al-wasiyya, p. 206.

Adopted from the book : "Al-Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.); the Just Leader of Humanity" by : "Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini"

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