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Sachedina - A Treatise on the Imam's Occultation

Sachedina - A Treatise on the Imam's Occultation

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Published by: Mulid Sahaya on Dec 07, 2012
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02/28/2013

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Maisonneuve & Larose
A Treatise on the Occultation of the Twelfth Imāmite ImamAuthor(s): Abdulaziz SachedinaSource:
Studia Islamica,
No. 48 (1978), pp. 109-124Published by: Maisonneuve & LaroseStable URL:
Accessed: 30/03/2009 05:34
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=mal.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
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ATREATISEONTHEOCCULTATIONOF THETWELFTH MAMITE MAM
INTRODUCTIONInthehistoryoftheShl'itesectsinIslam,one findsthatabeliefinthe futurecomingofanImam,fromamongthedescendantsoftheProphet,termed theMahdi(rightly guidedone),isasalient feature.Al-Mahdl,ingeneralIslamictradition,is atitle reservedfor amessianicrestorer of thefaith. In ImamiteShl'lsm,the beliefinthe messianicImam(thetwelfthandthelastImam)becomes notonlyabasictenet ofthecreed,but alsothefoundation onwhich theentirespiritualedificeofthe Imamitereligionrests.The Imamitesmaintainthat theirtwelfthImam,Muhammadb.al-Hasanal-'Askari,whodisappeared (or,astheywouldphraseittechnically,'went intooccultation')around256/873-874,isthepromisedMahdi,who willappearbefore thedayofJudgement,to restorejusticeandequityonearth.Thebeliefinthe Mahdiism of the twelfthImammaywellinlargemeasure have been the outcomeoftheprolongedoccultationof thisImam,whowas,initially,supposedtoreappear shortlyafter hehaddisappeared,toavengethewrongscommittedagainstthefamilyoftheProphet (ahlal-bayt)andestablishtherule ofjustice.But thishopeintheearlyreturn oftheImamresultedindisappointmentfortheImamites,becausetheImamwasreportedtohave enteredCompleteOccultation
 
(al-ghaybalal-ldmmah)andtheknowledgeofthe timewhenhewouldreappearwasonlywith God. TheImamiteleaders,atthattime,whowerebelievedtohave beendirectlydesignatedbytheImamhimself,mayhaveprudentlycombined the ideaof theImaminghaybahwith the traditions thenincirculation,traditionsattributedtotheProphet,about thefuturereappear-anceof the restorerofthefaith, al-Mahdi;atanyrate,theyproclaimedthe twelfthImam tobethatpromisedMahdi(al-mahdtal-maw'ud)who wouldappearat theendofTime,whentherewould be violentupheavals, plagueandmanyothernaturalcatastrophes,and mostimportantly,when therewould occurageneraldefectionfromGodandHisreligion.Theprimarysourcesinthestudyofthe doctrinal evolutionof theideaofthe HiddenMahdiinIm5amShfi'smremainthoseworks whichhistorians have tendedtoregardwithparticularcontempt.Thereislittle doubtthat thesearetheverysourceswhich canmakean essential contributiontoanunder-standingof theperiodinwhich the ideaofthe HiddenMahdibecamecrystallizedinthe Imamitedogma.The sourcesreferredto are thepiousliterature whichcan bebest describedashagiographicalmaterial,and thetheologicalwritingsofthefollowersofthisparticularbranchof Shi'ism.Thisliteraturehasnot been consideredworthyofattentionby manyscholars,whoundertaketointerpretthe Imamite ideaoftheHiddenImambyrelyingalmostexclusivelyon non-Imamitewritings.TheImamitewritingsonthissubjectareinvaluablekeystoanunderstandingofthe forceswhichbroughtabout thetrans-formationof theImamiteHiddenImamto becomethePromisedMahdi,andhencetheydeserveprofoundanalysisand serious
discussion.
TheShi'ite Imamsfromtheveryearlydaysseem to havehandeddownthisgenreofpiousmaterial,whichwascompiledbytheImamitescholarsduringthe tenthcentury.To thehistorianofreligionthisso-called"traditional"materialis ofgreatvalue,and careful examinationand evaluationof itisindispensableifoneistodetectthe differentstagesintheevolutionofanydoctrine,includingthedoctrineofthe HiddenMahdi.Afterall,it isthisprimitivemodeofpiousbelief
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A.SACHEDINA

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