E. G. Browne's
"A Traveller's Narrative:" Note O[page 296]
ON CERTAIN POINTS OF SHI'ITE DOCTRINE REFERRED TO IN THE TEXT.
1. The Occultation of the Twelfth Imám. The cardinal point wherein the Shi'ites (as well as the other sects included under the more general term of Imámites) differ from the Sunnites is the doctrine of the Imámate. According to the belief of the latter, the vicegerency (~~~) of the Prophet is a matter to be determined by the choice and election of his followers, and the visible head of the Musulmán world is qualified for the lofty position which he holds less by any special divine grace than by a combination of orthodoxy and administrative capacity. According to the Imámite view, on the other hand, the vicegerency is a matter altogether spiritual; an office conferred by God alone, first by His Prophet, and afterwards by those who so succeeded him, and having nothing to do with the popular choice or approval. In a word, the Caliph (~~~) of the Sunnís is merely the outward and visible Defender of the Faith: the Imám of the Shi'ites is the divinely-ordained successor of the Prophet, one endowed with all perfections and spiritual gifts, one whom all the faithful must obey, whose decision is absolute and final, whose wisdom is superhuman, and whose words are authoritative. The general term Imámite is applicable to all who hold this latter view without reference to the way in which they trace the succession, and therefore includes such sects as the Bákirís and Isma'ílís as well as the Shi'ites or "Church of the Twelve" (~~~), as they are more specifically termed, with whom alone we are here concerned. According to these, twelve persons successively held the office of Imám. These twelve are as follows:-
1. 'Alí ibn Abí Tálib, the cousin and first disciple of the Prophet, assassinated by Ibn Muljam at Kúfa, A.H. 40 (A.D. 661).
2. Hasan,son of 'Alí and Fátima, born A.H. 2, poisoned by order of Mu'áwiya I. A.H. 50 (A.D. 670).
3. Huseyn, son of 'Alí and Fátima, born A.H. 4, killed at Kerbelá on Muharram 10th, A.H. 61 (Oct. 10th, A.D. 680).
4. 'Alí,son of Huseyn and Shahrbánú (daughter of Yezdigird the last Sásánian king), generally called Imám Zeynu'l-'Ábidín, poisoned by Walíd. [See also note 3 on p. 139.]
5. Muhammad Bákir, son of the above-mentioned Zeynu'l-'Ábidín and his cousin Umm 'Abdi 'lláh the daughter of Imám Hasan, poisoned by Ibrahím ibn Walíd.
6. Ja'far-i-Sádik, son of Imám Muhammad Bákir, poisoned by order of Mansúr the 'Abbáside Caliph. [See note 3 at foot of p. 24.]
7. Músá Kázim, son of Imám Ja'far-i-Sádik, born A.H. 129, poisoned by order of Hárúnu 'r-Rashíd A.H. 183.
8. 'Alí ibn Músá er-Rizá, generally called Imám Rizá, born A.H. 153, poisoned near Tús in Khurásán by order of the Caliph Ma'mún, A.H. 203, and buried at Mesh-hed, which derives its name and its sanctity from him.
9. Muhammad Takí, son of Imám Rizá, born A.H. 195, poisoned by the Caliph Mu'tasim at Baghdad A.H. 220.
10. 'Alí Nakí, son of Imám Muhammad Takí, born A.H. 213, poisoned at Surra-man-Ra'a A.H. 254.
11. Hasan 'Askarí, son of Imám 'Alí Nakí, born A.H. 232, poisoned A.H. 260.
12. Muhammad, son of Imám Hasan 'Askarí and Narjis Khátún, called by the Shi'ites "Imám Mahdí", "Hujjatu 'lláh" ("the Proof of God"), "Bakiyyatu 'llah" ("the Remnant of God"), and "Ká'im-i-ál-i-Muhammad") ("He who shall arise of the family of Muhammad"). He bore not only the same name but the same kunya - Abu'l-Kásim - as the Prophet, and according to the Shi'ites it is not lawful for any other to bear this name and this kunya together. He was born at Surra-man-Ra'a, A.H. 255, and succeeded his father in the Imámate A.H. 2601. The Shi'ites hold that he did not die, but disappeared in
1 It is worthy of note that the 'Manifestation' of Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad the Báb took place exactly one thousand years after this date.
an underground passage in Surra-man-Ra'a, A.H. 329; that he still lives, surrounded by a chosen band of his followers, in one of those mysterious cities Jábulká and Jábulsá; and that when the fulness of time is come, when the earth is filled with injustice, and the faithful are plunged into despair, he will come forth, heralded by Jesus Christ, overthrow the infidels, establish universal peace and justice, and inaugurate a millennium of blessedness. During the whole period of his Imámate, i.e. from A.H. 260 till the present day, the Imám Mahdí has been invisible and inaccessible to the mass of his followers, and this is what is signified by the term "Occultation" (~~~). After assuming the functions of Imám and presiding at the burial of his father and predecessor, the Imám Hasan 'Askarí, he disappeared from the sight of all save a chosen few, who, one after the other, continued to act as channels of communication between him and his followers. These persons were known as "Gates" ([~~~] See Note D, pp. 229 and 233 supra). The first of them was Abú 'Umar 'Othmán ibn Sa'íd 'Umarí; the second Abú Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Othmán, son of the above; the third Huseyn ibn Rúh. Naw-bakhtí (concerning whom somewhat will be said directly); the fourth Abú 'l-Hasan 'Alí ibn Muhammad Símarí. Of these "Gates" the first was appointed by the Imám Hasan 'Askarí, the others by the then-acting "Gate" with the sanction and approval of the Imám Mahdí. This period - extending over sixty-nine years - during which the Imám was still accessible by means of the "Gates" is known as the "Lesser" or "Minor Occultation" (~~~). This was succeeded by the "Greater" or "Major Occultation" (~~~). When Abú 'l-Hasan 'Alí, the last of the "Gates", drew near to his latter end, he was urged by the faithful (who contemplated with despair the prospect of complete severance from the Imám) to nominate a successor. This, however, he refused to do, saying (~~~) "God hath a purpose which He will accomplish" So on his death all communication between the
Imám and his Church ceased, and the "Major Occultation" began and shall continue until the Return of the Imám take place in the fulness of time. Besides these two Occultations mentioned in the text, another, called the "Least Occultation" (~~~) is recognized by Shi'ite theologians. This last, however, refers to the future, and indicates a period extending from noon on Friday to the morning of Saturday the 10th of Muharram, during which the Imám will temporarily disappear after his Return.
2. The mystical cities of Jábulká and Jábulsá. Concerning these I will confine myself to citing two passages illustrating the light in which they are regarded by Muhammadan cosmographers. The first passage is from M. Reinaud's introduction to his translation of Abu'l-fedá's Geography (Paris, 1848), and occurs at p. cclvii of that work. It runs as follows:- "Thabary, se plaŤant sous un autre point de vue, reproduit la légende sur la montagne de Caf, qui entoure la disque de la terre, et il place deux villes aux points est et ouest: Djaboulka à l'orient, et Djaboulsa à l'occident." The second passage which I wish to quote occurs in al-Kazvíní's celebrated work on cosmography. The text thereof will be found on pp. 17-18 of Wüstenfeld's edition. The translation is as follows:-
"JÁBARSÁ. A city in the remotest regions of the East. On the authority of Ibn 'Abbás (may God be satisfied with him):- he says, 'In the remotest East is a city whereof the name is Jábars, and its inhabitants are of the children of Thamúd. And in the remotest West is a city whereof the name is Jábalk, and its inhabitants are of the children of 'Ád. And in each one are remnants of these two peoples.' The Jews say that the children of Moses (upon him be peace) fled in the fight with Bukht-Nassar [Nebuchadnezzar], and God (Exalted is He) caused them to journey towards Jábars and to alight therein. And in that place they dwell; none can come unto them nor reckon their number. Again [it is related] on the authority of Ibn 'Abbás (may God be satisfied with him) that the Prophet (may God look favourably upon him and grant him peace)
on the night wherein he made the night-journey said to Gabriel (upon him be peace), 'I wish to see the people concerning whom God (exalted is He) hath said, "Of the people of Moses there is a party who are guided in truth, and act justly according to the same."' [Kur'án vii, 159]. 'Between thee and them,' said Gabriel (upon him be peace), 'is a journey of six years to go and six years to return; and between thee and them is a river of sand which runs swiftly as the flight of an arrow and ceaseth not save on the Sabbath day; but ask of thy Lord.' So the Prophet prayed, and Gabriel said 'Amen'2; and God revealed unto Gabriel, 'Grant him what he hath asked.' So he mounted Burák, who took a few steps, and behold he was in the midst of the people. Then he saluted them, and they asked him 'Who art thou?' He said, 'I am the unlettered Prophet.' They said, 'Yea, thou art he concerning whom Moses was given good tidings, and verily the angels would take thy people by the hand, were it not for their faults.' 'I saw their tombs,' saith the Apostle of God, 'at the doors of their abodes, and I said unto them, "Wherefore this?" They answered, "That we may remember death morning and evening; for did we not do thus, we should only remember it from time to time,"' Then he said, 'How is it that I see your buildings equal [in height]?' They answered, 'That none of us may overlook another, and that none may shut out the air from another.' Then he said, 'How is it that I see no King or judge amongst you?' They said, 'We are just one to another and give what is due of ourselves, wherefore we need not any to deal out justice in our midst.' Then he said, 'Wherefore are your streets empty?' They answered, 'We all sow and all reap, and every man amongst us taketh what sufficeth him and leaveth what remaineth for his brother.' Then he said, 'Wherefore do I see these people laughing?' They replied, 'One amongst them hath died.' He said, 'Why then do they laugh?' They answered, 'For joy, because he hath been taken away in
2 At the suggestion of my friend Mr A. A. Bevan of Trinity College I have ventured to read [~~~] for [~~~]. [page 301]
the belief of the Unity.' He said, 'What aileth these that they weep?' They answered, 'A child hath been born unto them, and they know not in what faith he will be taken away.' He said, 'When a male child is born unto you, tell me what you do?' They said, 'We fast for a month in thankfulness to God.' He said, 'And if a girl be born unto you?' They answered, 'We fast two months in thankfulness to God, because Moses hath told us that resignation on account of a female child hath a greater reward than resignation on account of a male child.' He said, 'Do ye commit adultery?' They said, 'Doth any one do this thing whom the heaven stoneth not with pebbles from above, and whom the earth swalloweth not from beneath?' He said, 'Do ye take usury?' They answered, 'He alone taketh usury who believeth not in the provision of God.' He said, 'Do ye sicken?' They said, 'We sin not, neither do we sicken; thy people are afflicted with sickness only as an atonement for their sins.' He said, 'Have ye wild beasts and reptiles?' They answered, 'Yes; they pass us by and we pass them by, and they hurt us not.' Then the Prophet proposed unto them his Law; and they asked, 'How shall we do as regards the Pilgrimage, for between us and it is a great distance?' Then the Prophet prayed, 'and,' saith Ibn 'Abbás, 'the earth was rolled up for them so that those of them who would perform the Pilgrimage might do so with [the rest of] mankind. And when' (saith he) 'it was morning, the Prophet told this [to] such as were present of his people, amongst whom was Abú Bekr (may God be satisfied with him). And he said, "Verily it is well with the people of Moses, and God (Exalted is He) knew what was in their hearts, and revealed 'Of those whom We have created is a nation who are guided in truth and thereby act with equity.'" [Kur'án vii, 180.] And Abú Bekr fasted for a month and set at liberty a slave, because God had not preferred the Church of Moses to the Church of Muhammad (may God look favourably upon him and grant him peace).'" Such are the cities of Jábulká and Jábulsá - the Muslim 'Land of Cocagne' - wherein, according to the Shi'ite belief, the Imám Mahdí dwells.
3. Huseyn ibn Rúh. has been already mentioned in
this note as one of the vicars or 'Gates' of the Imám Mahdí. The following note concerning him occurs on p. 439 of Baron Mac Guckin de Slane's translation of Ibn Khallikán's Biographical Dictionary (London, 1842):- "Abû'l-Kâsim al-Husain Ibn Ruth was a holy shaikh and one of the doors leading to the Sâhib az Zamân (the lord of the time, or last grand Imâm, according to the Shiîte doctrine; see Druzes, introd. p. 65). He was chosen by Abû Jaafar Muhammad Ibn Othmân al-Omari as his lieutenant, and when the latter classed the Shiîtes according to their degrees (of initiation), Abû'l-Kâsim was authorized to enter into his presence the first of them all. - He then went to see Ibn as-Shalmaghâni" [see supra, Note D, p. 229], "and gained over so many proselytes, that the vizirs, ex-vizirs, and other persons of high rank rode (publicly) to visit him. He continued to be treated with the greatest deference till Hâmid Ibn Abbâs became vizir (to al-Muktadir) and ordered him to be arrested. He remained in prison for five years, but was liberated immediately after the deposition of al-Muktadir, A.H. 317 (A.D. 929). From that time till his death, which took place A.H. 326 (A.D. 937-8), he never ceased to be highly respected, but at the moment in which his influence had attained its utmost pitch, and his plans were ripe for execution, God preserved (the Khalifat) from his evil designs. He had been accused of inviting the Karmats by letter to lay siege to Baghdad, but he defended himself with great ability, presence of mind, and learning. He was a benefactor to the Shîites, and held a very high rank among them. - (Ad-Dahabi's Târîkh-al-Islâm, No. 646, in anno.)"
4. Ibn Mihriyár. Of this person, I can find mention only in two works of Shi'ite theology, viz. the 'Tenets of the Shi'ites' (~~~), and the 'Garden of the Shi'ites' (~~~), in each of which his name is written differently. In the first he is called [~~~], and in the second [~~~]. In both works
he is mentioned amongst those who, during the period of the "Minor Occultation," obtained access to, or corresponded with, the Imám; and in both he is described as a native of Ahwáz. What "tradition" of his is specially referred to in the text, I am unable to say.
5. The Guardians and the Helpers. These constitute two grades of a spiritual hierarchy whereof the members are called generically "Men of the Unseen World" (~~~), and at the head of which is the "Pole" (~~~). Al-Jorjání in his Definitiones (ed. Flügel, p. 266) describes the "Guardians" or "Overseers" (~~~) as follows:- "They are those who have discovered the Inward Name so that they look into the hearts of men and discern secret thoughts, because for them veils are withdrawn from the faces of mysteries. And they are of three kinds:- Superior Souls, which are embodiments of [Divine] commands; Inferior Souls, which are mundane; and Intermediate Souls, which are human essences. And in each one of them God (Exalted is He) hath a trust deposited which compriseth mysteries divine and mundane. And they are [in number] three hundred." Concerning the "Helpers" (~~~) he says (p. 259):- "They are forty, and they are engaged in bearing the burdens of creatures, generally such accidents as human strength cannot cope with. And this [they do] by reason of their abundant natural pity and mercy, neither do they desist [therefrom] save for the sake of another, for no increase of advancement is [possible] to them save by this channel." What is meant by the "flight" of these is, as I suppose, described in a passage of the 'Aká'idu'sh-Shí'a of which this is a translation:- "And amongst them" [i.e. the signs of the Return of the Imám] "are the Men of the Unseen, who are thirty or forty persons who in a week traverse the whole surface of the earth, spending each day in a different region. Every Friday they appear before His Holiness [the Imám Mahdí] for the Friday prayers......Then, when it is morning,
they traverse the earth in the twinkling of any eye and appear before His Holiness, or else come riding upon a cloud and stand in attendance on Him."
6. The Conquest of the East and West which will be effected by the Imám Mahdí on his appearance, of which it is one of the signs, needs no detailed notice.
7. The Ass of Antichrist. Concerning Antichrist (Dajjál), and the ass on which he is mounted, the 'Aká'idu'sh-Shí'a has the following passage:- "The forty-sixth of the signs of the appearance [of the Imám Mahdí] is the coming forth of Antichrist. And the name of that accursed one is Sá'id ibn Sayd. The traditions concerning him are various. Some imply that he has existed from the time of Adam until now, as it is related in a tradition that the Apostle of God went to one of the houses in Medína wherein was a babbling madman with his mother. The Prophet pointed him out to his companions and said, 'O people, God hath not sent any prophet without filling his church with the fear of Antichrist, whom he has respited and left until your time. And this man shall come forth with a mountain of bread and a river of water; and he will appear in a time of famine. Most of his followers will be Jews, women, Arabs, and nomads. He will enter into all quarters and regions of the earth save Mecca and its two mountains, and Medína and its two mountains. And whenever be comes forth he will claim to be God, although he is one-eyed and God is not one-eyed.' And in some traditions it hath come down that he was born in the time of His Holiness [the Prophet]; that he had a beard and spoke when he was born; that the Prophet went to his house; that he claimed the rank of a prophet and said 'I am one sent of God'; that then His Holiness [the Prophet] commanded an angel which was in the form of a great bird to carry him away and cast him into a well situated in one of the Jewish villages near Sajistán or Isfahán; and that he is chained [there] till such time as he shall receive permission to come forth. And he has an ass whereof each step covers a mile (three miles being equal to one parasang), and on the body of his ass are white spots
like a leopard. Now the characteristics of Antichrist are these:- his right eye is crushed; his left eye is in his forehead, and glitters as though it were the morning star, and in it is a piece of blood, so that it seems to be pervaded with blood; between his two eyes it is written that he is a misbeliever, so that everyone, whether learned or unlearned, can read it; he is a skilled magician, who, by his magic, descends into the oceans; with him travels the sun; before his face is a mountain of smoke, and behind his back is a white mountain, and through [his] magic it seemeth in men's eyes that they are two mountains of water and bread, though in truth it is not so, but a mere juggle; he traverseth all oceans, and over whatsoever ocean or water he passeth it sinketh down and cometh forth no more till the Day of Judgement; before him Satan dances, and the devils cause him and his ass to appear pleasing in men's eyes, and this is a mischief for the proving of mankind. And he crieth out so that the dwellers in the East and in the West, whether of jinn or of mankind, hear his voice, and he saith, 'O my friends, I am that God who created and fashioned the members and parts of the world; I am that God who predestined the affairs of [His] servants and guided and directed mankind; I am your Supreme Lord.' And most of his followers are women, Jews, bastards, and musicians. But when he cometh to 'Akaba-i-Afík, which is a mountain in Syria, His Highness the Ká'im shall slay him at the third hour on Friday, and shall cleanse the world of the filth and foulness of that Accursed One." Many other wonderful qualities are attributed to the ass of Antichrist, as, for instance, that the distance between its ears is a full mile, that each of its hairs gives forth ravishing strains of music, and the like, of which things the further enumeration appears to be unprofitable and unnecessary.
8. The appearance of Sofyán. In enumerating the signs which shall usher in the return of the Imám Mahdí, the 'Aká'idu'sh-Shí'a first mentions the appearance of Sofyán in these words:- "His name is 'Othmán the son of 'Ataba of the children of Yazíd ibn Mu'áwiya ibn Abí Sofyán. He is a thick-set man with an ill countenance, a face
pitted with small-pox, a large head, and blue eyes. He has never rendered service to God, nor seen Mecca or Medína, and his eyes seem to squint. He will appear during the month of Rajab from the direction of Mecca in a desert devoid of water and grass, and will send his army, which will cause much ruin and act right foully, westward and towards Baghdad. He will destroy the region of Najaf the Most Noble, and will plunder Medína for three days. He will sojourn in Kúfa, and will proclaim, 'Whosoever shall bring the head of one of 'Alí's sectaries, to him will I give a thousand gold pieces.' Then men will yield one another into the hand of that Accursed One, for all the chiefs of that time are base-born. And the time of his empire shall be eight months, and in his hands are five cities:- Damascus, Homs, Falastín, Ardín, and Falzín. The decline of his dominion corresponds with the appearance of the triumph of the Truth, and a great number of his army shall sink down in Beydá, which is the name of a place near Medína." A few pages further on in the same work the following passage occurs:- "At that time [i.e. at the time when the bearded woman Sa'ída and the crusader Mazíd shall appear] a man shall come forth from the direction of Mecca whose name is Sofyán ibn Harb. Perhaps he may be that same Sofyán who has been previously mentioned, whose dominion endureth eight months and continueth until the empire of the Ká'im of the race of Muhammad doth appear. And perhaps Harb may be his father and 'Ataba his grandfather."