The period of long occultation started. Iraq became the first centre for propagation of knowledge and wisdom. There is a strong belief that the moment believers had been waiting for has arrived and the instructions are etched in hearts that once the Last Imam (as) goes in long occultation people should start benefiting from his deputies.
It is only logical to inquire who the deputy of Last Imam (as) is. There are two known rules to get the answer – by nomination and by recognition.
Nomination means a complete introduction with name and signs of the individual for the position of the deputy (Naib) by the Last Imam (as) himself. Recognition is the identification of certain qualities and distinctions one needs to exhibit in order to qualify for the deputy’s position.
According to the first rule, history shows the names of four great holy men of the highest intellect – Abu Umro Ibn Saeed, Muhammad Ibn Uthman Umri, Abul Qasim Hussain Ibn Ruh and Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad Samri. They were all appointed by the Current Imam (as) and after the death of Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad Samri on 15th Shaaban 328 AH, he himself terminated the process of specific deputies.
Next, the period of selection by recognition started. The Prophet (S) and other Infallibles have shed some light on this process. Specifically, the following saying by Imam Hasan al-Askari (as) is a powerful argument:
“Common people should follow those theologians (fuqaha) who are in control of themselves, look after their religion and obey Allah (SWT).” This particular saying has been supported by eighteen authentic references in the previous pages of this book.
And the Current Imam (as) said, “In your lives when you face new problems never heard of before, consult with narrators of our traditions (fuqaha) to find out the rules and regulations on how to deal with the new situations. Following them is mandatory (wajib) on you because I command you to do so and following me is mandatory (wajib) on you because Allah commands you to do so.” (Refer to the chapter “Decision of Tradition”)
As a result of these great sayings our institutions of knowledge progressed. Travel began. Convoys started moving and wherever fertile land was found, the visionaries stayed; made such places exemplary hubs of knowledge, promoted them and provided the means to move on. This process resulted in establishment of world famous centers of intellect in Baghdad, Najaf Ashraf, Hilla, Karbalay Mualla and Samra in Iraq. Similar intellectual activity took root in Qum, Ri and Isfahan in Iran; and Syria, Halab and Jabale Aamil – the places in Middle East that used to be famous for Byzantine civilization – became the axis for teachings of the House of Muhammad.
The followers (Shias) of Ali Ibn Abu Talib (as) were prospering and growing in this spiritual atmosphere with the belief that none of them is tied down to certain geography, rather, they are all lovers of knowledge as knowledge is beauty.