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'Ali b. Muhammad Samarri, the Fourth Deputy

He was the fourth deputy of the Hidden Imam (peace be upon him). His full name was Abu al-Hasan 'Ali b. Muhammad Samarri. According to Ibn Tawus, he had served under the Imam Hadi and Imam Hasan 'Askari. These two Imams were, moreover, in correspondence with him and had written a number of signed notes for him. He was undoubtedly among the most eminent faces of the Shi'a in Baghdad.1 Husayn b. Ruh, as reported by Ahmad b. Muhammad Safwani, had appointed 'Ali b. Muhammad Samarri in his place so that he could manage his affairs. When his death approached, a number of Shi'is came to see him and asked him about his successor. His response was that he had not been asked to appoint anyone to that position.2

It is related by Ahmad b. Ibrahim Mukhallad that one day 'Ali b. Muhammad Samarri, without any indication, said: "May God have mercy on 'Ali b. Muhammad b. Babawayh Qummi!" Those present at that time made note of the date of this pronouncement. Later the news came that 'Ali b. Babawayh had died on the same day. He himself died in the year 329 AH/941 CE.3

Hasan b. Ahmad relates that he was with 'Ali b. Muhammad Samarri some days before he died. A letter came from the Imam which he read for the people. The contents were as follows:

In the name of God. O 'Ali b. Muhammad Samarri, may God reward your brethren in your death, which is going to take place in six days' time. So take care of your affairs and do not appoint anyone in your place, since the complete occultation has taken place. I will not appear until God permits me to do so (may His name be exalted) and that will be after a long time and after the hearts become hard and the earth is filled with wickedness. In the near future there will be those among my followers who will claim to have seen me. Beware, those who claim this before the rise of Sufyani and the [hearing of the] voice from the sky are liars.4

This was the end of the Short Occultation and the beginning of the Complete Occultation. The deputyship of these four prominent members of the Shi'a community is famous among the believers. There were also some individuals who made false claims about being deputized by the Hidden Imam (peace be upon him). Since they could not prove their claim their falsehood became manifest and they were discredited in the community. Among this latter group were Hasan Shari'ati, Muhammad b. Nusayr Numayri, Ahmad b. Hilal Karakhi, Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Bilal, Muhammad b. 'Ali Shalmaghani, and Abu Bakr Baghdadi.

This was, in brief, the account of the special deputies. From all the sources that speak about them it is reasonable to assert that their claim to be the deputy of the Hidden Imam was defensible. There is no rational ground to doubt that they truly held that kind of highly esteemed position in the Shi'a community in the ninth-tenth century.
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1 Rijal Mamqani, Vol. 2, p. 304.

2 Bihar al-anwar, Vol. 51, p. 360.

3 Bihar al-anwar, Vol. 51, p. 360.

4 Ibid., p. 361.

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