The Minor Occultation

The oppressive Abbasid caliphs tried very much to arrest His Eminence, Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and put him to death. Therefore the Almighty Allah (SwT) bestowed a great favor and mercy on His Eminence, the Awaited Imam (a.s.) and kept him away from the eyes of the Abbasids, just like He had concealed the great grandfather, the Prophet of Islam (S) from the view of the Quraish who had gathered to assassinate him and the Holy Prophet (S) came out from among them and they did not see him.

In the same way His Eminence, Imam Mahdi (S) was among Abbasides but they were not able to see him. In the forthcoming discussion we would present some details about the period of the Minor Occultation.

Period of Minor Occultation

The period of minor occultation commenced from the time of the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) in 260 A.H.1 After the passing away of his respected father, His Eminence (a.s.) disappeared from the view of people and only some believers, righteous persons and trustworthy gentlemen met His Eminence (a.s.) as we shall discuss in the forthcoming pages.

Place and Situation of Minor Occultation

His Eminence (a.s.) disappeared in his house in Samarrah where the holy graves of holy grandfather, His Eminence, Imam Ali al Hadi (a.s.) and his father, His Eminence, Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) are situated.

Lies and Allegations

Shias and followers of the school of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) are made targets of unjust calumnies and allegations. And many false things are heaped upon those who have always served the religion of Islam and helped in its spread.

One of these concocted and shameful allegations is regarding the Awaited Imam (a.s.). According to them Shias claim that His Eminence (a.s.), had disappeared into the cellar and in this also there are two statements, one of them mentions a cellar in Babel and another in Samarrah.

1. Cellar in Babel

1. Cellar in Babel2

Ibn Khaldun has mentioned the location of the cellar to be in Babel. He says: The Shias think that their twelfth Imam is Muhammad Ibn Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) and that his title is Mahdi. He entered the cellar of his house in Hilla with his mother and disappeared from there. And he will reappear in the last period of time and fill the earth with equity and justice.

The Shias quote the tradition that Tirmidhi has recorded in his book regarding Mahdi. And they (the Shias) still await for him and that’s why they refer to him as “the Awaited Imam” and every evening after the sunset prayers they wait outside the entrance of this cellar with a steed calling him by his name and urging him to reappear. They continue till the stars fade from the sky and then disperse to return again the next day.

This statement of Ibn Khaldun is a lie and calumny and full of malice and hatred towards the Holy Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and their followers. We shall point out some of the factual errors of Ibn Khaldun as below:

Firstly: On the basis of his statement quoted above, Ibn Khaldun has rejected the existence of His Eminence, the Awaited Imam (a.s.) whereas there are numerous traditions and narrations of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S) regarding His Eminence (a.s.) and his reappearance. Such that they reach to the level of Tawatur (widely narrated) and certainty.

The well-known scholar and teacher-researcher, Agha Ahmad Muhammad Shakir has explained the weakness of the statements of Ibn Khaldun and he says:

“Ibn Khaldun has followed a thing about which he has no knowledge and has put himself in a way that is full of difficulties and it is not a way traversed by knowledge of narrators. His involvement in political affairs of the rulers and governments has hindered him. That is why he has conjectured that the belief of Mahdi is a Shiite belief. And in his book, Muqaddimah, he has written a detailed chapter: Section regarding the Fatimi when people go to him by his command.”3

The belief of Shias and all the Muslims regarding His Eminence, Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is a part of the Islamic Messengership. Whoever denies it, has in fact denied Islam as some scholars of Ahle Sunnat have explained it. We shall discuss this also in the coming pages.

Secondly: In this statement the errors and factual mistakes of Ibn Khaldun is that he says: The Awaited Imam (a.s.) entered the cellar with his mother and disappeared from there. This allegation is one that exposes his weakness, because:

A. The mother of His Eminence, Imam Mahdi (a.s.) had died two years prior to the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.), as we have already mentioned in the beginning chapters of this book.

B. No Shia or non-Shia historian has ever written that His Eminence (a.s.) was arrested or that the Abbaside ruler had got power over them. Neither at Hilla nor anywhere else. What Ibn Khaldun has quoted regarding the Shias is pure calumny and an allegation, and it inverts the beliefs of the Shias.

Thirdly: Among the allegations of Ibn Khaldun against the Shias is that Shias gather before the entrance of the cellar in Hilla and present a mount for him and pray for his advent and reappearance.

Shias are present in all parts of the world and such a thing has never been heard or seen. And they are aloof from all kinds of such lies. Yes, such types of calumnies and allegations have been concocted by Ibn Khaldun, who himself possessed not a single merit or virtue.

2. Existence of Cellar in Samarrah

Some Ahle Sunnat historians have written that Shias say the Awaited Imam (a.s.) disappeared into the cellar in his house in Samarrah.

Historians like:

(A) Suwaidi

He says: “The Shias believe that the Awaited Imam (a.s.) disappeared in the cellar of his house in Samarrah in 260 A.H. and the protectors protect him.”4

(B) Ibn Taiymiyah

He thinks that Shias believe that the Awaited Imam (a.s.) is alive in a cellar in Samarrah and that they are awaiting his reappearance from that same cellar.5

(C) Ibn Hajar

He has also mentioned the same thing and on the basis of the view of Ibn Khallikan he has associated it to Shias and quoted from Ibn Khallikan that: “The Shias believe that Imam Mahdi (The Awaited Imam (a.s.)) is the inmate of the cellar and in the last age he would reappear from that same cellar in Samarrah.” He says: “The Awaited Imam (a.s.) entered the cellar in 265 A.H. while his mother saw him do it.” Then he has quoted two couplets in his praise as follows:

Is it not time for the cellar that it should show up the one whom you have made a human on the basis of your ignorance?

Then may locks be on your senses because you have concocted a third, after the griffon (legendary bird) and ghoul (legendary desert demon).6

May a handful of mud be upon the faces of these poets who have criticized that in which the Shias have no belief. This poet and others like him have heaped calumnies against Shias. And all this is due to the hatred and malice they harbor against the Shias. And this is not only against the Shias, it is also against the Imams of guidance (a.s.), those from whom Allah (SwT) has removed all impurities.

(D) Qaseemi

Abdullah Qaseemi has also alleged falsehood against the Shias regarding the Awaited Imam (a.s.) as follows that the readers may also note. It is nothing but a false word and lie of Qaseemi.

“In fact the greatest stupid and dogmatic are those who have made their Imam in the cellar and kept the Quran and their scrolls concealed with him. And it is the same people, who every night, take their horses and asses in front of the cellar and await for the Hidden Imam (a.s.) and they call him to reappear. They follow the same ritual since the last thousand years.”7

Allamah Muhaqqiq Amini has written a gloss on these black words of Qaseemi as follows: “The calumny of the cellar is the worst of allegations, though before this some writers of Ahle Sunnat have mentioned the same allegation in their books, but Qaseemi has added to it. It is that he has added horses and asses to it. And also claimed that the Shias have a custom of standing before the cellar with their horses and asses since a thousand years.

While the Shias do not believe that the occultation of the Imam (a.s.) was in the cellar and neither was it that the Shias have made him disappear in the cellar. They also do not believe that he would reappear from the cellar. Rather the belief of the Shias that is supported by traditions of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) is that His Eminence (a.s.) would reappear in Mecca next to the Holy Kaba. None have said that he is in the cellar.”8

Investigation in this Matter

Here it is necessary that we have a brief discussion on this topic. Because a cellar which is besides the graves of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) and Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) is revered by all the Shias. Just as the Abbaside caliph, Nasiruddinollah also considered it holy because it was the place of prayers of three Imams: His Eminence, Hadi (a.s.), His Eminence, Askari (a.s.) and His Eminence, the Proof (Hujjat (a.s.)), and thus he put a grill on it.

And none of the Shia scholars and historians have said that His Eminence, the Awaited Imam (a.s.) has disappeared into the cellar, whether it be a cellar in Samarrah or Hilla or Baghdad. Let us see the view of some Shia scholars.

Muhaddith Noori

Muhaddith Noori the complier of Mustadrak says: “Though we have scanned history we do not find what they say. Actually there is no mention of the cellar in the traditions.”9

Allamah Sadruddin

Allamah Sadruddin says: “Most Sunni scholars say that Shias believe that the Imam of the time (a.s.) disappeared in the cellar. But this claim of Sunnis has no firm basis and we find no such thing in existence among the Shias.”10

Muhaqqiq Arbili

Muhaqqiq Arbili says: “Those who say that His Eminence (a.s.) exists do not say that he is in the cellar. Rather they say that like others he walks and lives on the earth.”11

Muhaqqiq Amini

A while before we had mentioned some statements of Allamah Amini that he had boldly issued against those allegations. The following is the final portion of his discourse in this regard.

“Alas! These allegation-makers on the topic of cellar. If only they had sufficed on one allegation it would not have exposed their fallacies further. Ibn Batuta would not have said that this cellar is in Hilla and Qirmani would not have claimed that it is in Baghdad and others would not have remarked that it is in Samarrah. And then after this Qaseemi would not have remained perplexed and astonished and he would have simply mentioned the word of “Cellar” without stating anything about its location and town, so that his defect would have remained concealed.”12

Therefore the disappearance of His Eminence, the Awaited Imam (a.s.) in the cellar is a piece of fiction that none has mentioned it in the whole history of Shias. Rather the haters and enemies of the Shias have concocted it and attributed it to the Shias.

  • 1. Miraatul Jinaan, 2/462; Tarikh Khamis, 2/ 347; Tarikh Ibn Wardi, 1/319
  • 2. Al-Muqaddimah, Pg. 359
  • 3. Sharh Musnad Imam Ahmad, 5/197
  • 4. Sabaikuz Zahab, Pg. 78
  • 5. Minhajus Sunnah
  • 6. As-Sawaiqul Mohreqa, Pg 100
  • 7. Al-Sirah bainal Islam Wal Wathinina, 1/ 374
  • 8. Al-Ghadeer, 3/308
  • 9. Kashful Astar
  • 10. Al-Mahdi, Pg 155
  • 11. Kashful Ghummah, 3/283
  • 12. Al-Ghadeer, 3/309