First Special Deputy – Janab Usman bin Saeed al-Amri (ra)

Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) was the first special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as) in Ghaybate’ Sughra. The renowned Shiite scholar, Shaykh Tusi (ra) records in his illustrious book, ‘al-Ghaybah’ ‘Among the companions that the infallible Imams (as) considered as virtuous and pious, was Janab Usman bin Saeed al-Amri (ra). Imam Ali Naqi (as) and Imam Hasan Askari (as) have spoken highly of him and he was their most trusted companion.’ (al-Ghaybah of Shaykh Tusi page 353)

His name and title

Usman was his name and his father’s name was Saeed. His name in Rejaal-e-Kashi is recorded as ‘Hafs bin Amr’, but other scholars of Ilm-e-Rejaal (science of narrators of traditions) have considered this erroneous. His name is widely recorded as Usman bin Saeed. He has been attributed with two agnomens (Kunniyat) – Abu Amr and Abu Mohammed. He was called Abu Amr since his grandfather’s name was Amr. He was called Abu Mohammed because of his son Mohammed. In books of Rejaal and traditions he is referred to as Abu Amr. However, in Safinatul Behar and Beharul Anwaar, he is referred to as Abu Mohammed. Among Shiahs Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) is known by four titles.

Samman / Zayyat (Oil Merchant)

Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) took up the profession of oil vending to camouflage his more critical duties and responsibilities of deputyship from the masses in general and the tyrant kings of Bani Abbas in particular. In this way, he protected his own life and the lives of Shiahs from the persecution of the Bani Abbas. He had a very ingenious way of operating. He would collect all the money and trusts from the Shiahs for Imam Hasan Askari (as). Out of fear of the Bani Abbas caliphs, he would conceal all money and trusts in his oil barrels so as to escape the scrutiny of the common masses. In this way, he could safely courier everything to Imam Hasan Askari (as). (al-Ghaybah of Shaykh Tusi page 354)

To keep his position of deputyship secret, he used to supply oil and other goods to the army. (Rozgar Rehai Az Kaamil-e-Sulaiman, volume 1, page 291)

Asadi

He was a member of the Bani Asad clan and was therefore also famous as ‘Asadi’.

Askari

He used to reside in Samarrah, in a place called ‘Askar’. This was the reason he was also called as Askari.

Amri

Scholars are unanimous that ‘Amri’ was one of his titles. However, scholars of Ilme-Rejaal have given differing reasons for this title. The illustrious scholar Shaykh Tusi (ra) has explained, ‘First of all he was referred to as Amri due to his grandfather whose name was ‘Amr’. Some scholars have recorded that Imam Hasan Askari (as) did not like that the names Usman and Abu Amr should combine in one person. That is why he ordered Usman to change his Kunniyat from Abu Amr to Amri or Amravi. (al-Ghaybah of Shaykh Tusi page 354)

Special deputy of three Imams (as)

Shaykh Tusi (ra) records that at the tender age of 11 years, Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) swore allegiance to Imam Ali Naqi (as) and commenced serving Imam (as). Shaykh Tusi (ra) has discussed the companions of Imam Hasan Askari (as) in detail. While mentioning about Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra), he says – He was an oil trader famous as Abu Amr. He was an esteemed and reliable companion in the eyes of Imam (as), and was also Imam’s (as) special deputy.

The statement of Shaykh Tusi (ra) makes it clear that he was deputy of three Imams (as). He further records that he was also a special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as) and enjoyed an elevated and eminent status among the Shiahs of that period. Likewise, Ibne Dawood-e-Hilli in his Rejaal, Marhoom-e-Qahyaai in his Majmaul Rejaal, Syed Mohammed Mahdi Bahrul Uloom (ra) in his Rejaal have recorded this fact. This has also been mentioned in several other books of Rejaal like Tanqeehul Maqaal, Qamoos-e-Rejaal, Mojamul Rejaalul Hadis. (Pazoohashi Piraamun-e-Zindagani Nawwab-e-Khaas-e-Imam-e-Zaman (as) by Ali Ghaffarzadeh, page 106)

Note Dr. Jasim Husain in his ‘Tarikh-e-Siyaasi -e-Ghaybat-e-Imam-e-Dawazdahum (as)’ has reported that Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) was among the companions of Abu Jafar-e-Saani – Imam Mohammed Taqi al-Jawad (as). Likewise Ibne Shahr-e-Ashob in ‘Manaqib-e-Abi Talib (as)’, Shaykh Abbas-e-Qummi (ra) in Safinatul Behar and Allamah Hilli (ra) have recounted this fact. Ali Ghaffarzadeh in his ‘Pazoohashi Piraamun-e-Zindagani Nawwab-e-Khaas-e- Imam-e-Zaman (as)’ has rejected the fact that Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) was the deputy of Imam Jawad (as).

He writes, ‘Anyone who is even briefly acquainted with the lives of the Imams (as) and Ghaybate’ Sughra will know that Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) was not a deputy nor a companion of Imam Jawad (as). This is not an established fact of history and there is no chain of narration to support such an idea.’ After making this claim, Ali Ghaffarzadeh has outlined the names of scholars who have recorded in their books that Janab Usman bin  aeed (ra) was not a companion of Imam Jawad (as).

  1. Haaj Mohammed Ardabeli (ra) in his book ‘Jaameul Rowaat’
  2. Shaykh Abdullah Uqaani (ra) in ‘Tanqeehul Maqaal’
  3. Allamah Shustari (ra) in ‘Qaamoosul Rejaal
  4. Ayatullah Uzma Khoie (ra) in ‘Mojamul Rejaal’

After referring to the books of these scholars Ali Ghaffarzadeh concludes that Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) was not among the companions of Imam Jawad (as). (Pazoohashi Piraamun, pg. 109-10)

It is possible that he did spend a few years under the Imamat of Imam Jawad (as), but may have been too young to qualify for companionship.

His (ra) status in the words of Imams (as)

Ahmed bin Ishaaq Qummi (ra) narrates, ‘I was in the presence of Imam Ali Naqi, al-Hadi (as). I said, ‘O my master! At times I have the good fortune of meeting you and at times I am deprived of this blessing. It is not always possible for me to be in direct contact with you. Under such circumstances, who should I contact and whose commands should I obey?’ Imam (as) informed me, ‘This man – Abu Amr (Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra)) is a reliable, upright and trustworthy person. Whatever he relates to you is  from my side. Whatever he gives to you is from us.’ (Beharul Anwaar, volume 51, chapter 21)

Imam’s (as) narration in favor of Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) underlines the level of Imam’s (as) trust and confidence in him. Moreover, it underscores another important fact – Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) performed some critical duties i.e. to convey Imam’s (as) message and commands to the Shiahs. The duty of the Shiahs was to accept this communication and implement it.

After Imam Hadi’s (as) martyrdom, Ahmed bin Ishaaq Qummi (ra) once again approached Imam Hasan Askari (as) and repeated his previous query who responded thus: ‘This man – Abu Amr (Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra)) is a reliable, upright and trustworthy person. He was dependable for the previous Imam and is dependable and reliable even for me in my lifetime and even after my death. Whatever he conveys to you is from our side and everything he gives to you is from us.’ (Beharul Anwaar, volume 51, chapter 21)

Deputyship of Imam Mahdi (as)

Imam Hasan Askari (as) appointed Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) as the first special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as) in the presence of 40 Shiahs.  Some Shiahs like Jafar bin Mohammed bin Malik-e-Fazari, Ali bin Bilal, Ahmed bin Helal, Mohammed bin Muawiyah bin Hakeem, Hasan bin Ayyub bin Nuh have all narrated that they approached Imam Hasan Askari (as) specifically to inquire from him about his successor. They recount – In addition to us, there were 40 other people who were present with Imam (as). Then Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) rose and asked Imam Hasan Askari (as), ‘O son of Allah’s Apostle! We wish to ask you a question of which we are sure you are aware.’ Imam (as) replied, ‘O Usman, be seated.’ All of a sudden the expression on Imam’s (as) face changed and he went out of the room after ordering us to stay in our places and not follow him outside. We did as Imam (as) commanded us.

After some time, Imam (as) called out Usman bin Saeed’s (ra) name and the latter rose. Then Imam (as) said, ‘Should I inform you about the reason why you all are here?’ All of us said, ‘O son of Allah’s Apostle! Please inform us.’ Imam (as) revealed, ‘So that you may know who is the Imam after me.’ The members in the assembly replied, ‘Yes. We just saw a young child whose face was beautiful like the moon and looked very similar to you.’ Imam (as) informed, ‘After me, he is your Imam and my successor. Obey him and do not scatter in confusion about him else your religion will be destroyed. After this meeting you shall never see him again until his appointed time. That is why take whatever news you get from Usman bin Saeed (ra). ‘He is the deputy of your Imam and deputyship is for him alone.’ (Beharul Anwaar vol. 51, chapter 31)

Abul Abbas Ahmad bin Ali bin Nav Sairafi narrates from his own authority that Mohammed bin Ismail and Ali ibne Abdullah Husain narrates that we were at Samarrah in the house of Imam Askari (as). The Shiahs of Imam Askari (as) were sitting there. Meanwhile Badr, a servant of Imam (as) entered and said, “Master a group in a bad condition (with mud on themselves) has come to our house.” Imam (as) said, “They claimed to be our Shiahs in Yemen … Go and send Usman bin Saeed to me.” Within no time Usman bin Saeed reached Imam (as) who told him, “O Usman! you are my vakil (representative) and reliable to receive wealth of Allah, go and accept the wealth brought by this people of Yemen … Be a witness he is my vakil and his son Mohammad is vakil of my son, Mahdi.” (Mahdi-e-Mauood page 670)

Usman bin Saeed (ra) – Chief of deputies

Imam Hasan Askari (as) wrote a lengthy letter to Ishaaq   bin Ismail Nishapouri, stating, ‘Don’t leave the city until you meet Usman bin Saeed (ra). Convey to him my salaam. He is trustworthy, pious and reliable and is most proximate to us. ‘All the wealth that is collected from various places for us, is first accumulated with Usman bin Saeed (ra) so that it reaches us safely.’ (Beharul Anwaar vol. 50, pg. 323)

Note  Imam’s (as) letter emphasizes an important point. All cities where the Shiahs used to inhabit had deputies. These deputies accumulated money by way of Khums, Zakaat, etc. from the Shiahs on behalf of Imam (as). These deputies collectively transmitted all this money to Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra), who in turn finally submitted it to Imam (as) himself.

The religious and political scenario of the time

If one casts even a cursory glance at the political and religious scenario at the time of Ghaybate’ Sughra, he will appreciate the significance of the deputyship of Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra). The government had appointed spies in every nook and corner so as to keep a close watch on the Shiahs of Imam (as), especially the trusted and reliable Shiahs who were known to be proximate to Imam (as). As if the government’s persecution was not enough, the differences between the Shiahs and outbreak of various sects only added to the confusion. Under such trying circumstances, deputyship was an impossible task. However, under Imam’s (as) constant supervision and guidance, the Shiahs were rescued from the darkness of doubt and uncertainty and were steered towards the light of guidance and certainty.

Being the special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as), Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) played a very important role in this regard. The criticality of his role can never be fully comprehended and appreciated. On the one hand, he had to unite the Shiahs who had split into many sects. On the other hand, he had to contend with Jafar Ibne Ali Naqi the government’s candidate for the role of Shiite leadership. To challenge Jafar was a monumental task. On the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (as), Jafar usurped the mantle of Imam’s (as) successorship, which gave him the right  to lead the Shiahs after Imam (as).

Shaykh Mufid (ra) writes in his book ‘Kitabul Irshad’ – ‘After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (as) when Jafar Ibne Ali Naqi (famous as ‘Jafar-e-Kazzab’) saw that their Imam (as) did not have a successor, he usurped his (as) property, imprisoned his (as) maids and the women of the household and said evil things about his (as) companions who were steadfast in their faith that Imam (as) had a son and were waiting for his reappearance. He threatened them but they did not pay attention to him. Finally, Jafar approached the Caliph of the time and sought his assistance to claim the position of his brother (Imam Hasan Askari (as)). He paid a huge amount to the government by way of bribe, but failed miserably in his evil plans.’

Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) had to face the uphill task of Jafar’s claim of Imamat, his standing to lead the funeral prayers of Imam (as) and creating doubts about the Imamat of Imam-e-Zaman (as). He provoked the government of the time to help him in his cause, he imprisoned the Ahle Bait (as) and persecuted them and sought religious dues (khums, zakat) from the people.

Under these grievous circumstances Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) with the help of Imam-e-Zaman (as) humiliated Jafar and protected the status and Imamat of Imam-e-Zaman (as). When the Shiahs heard of Jafar’s claim and his usurping Imam’s (as) property and seeking help from Bani Abbas, some of them consulted Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) and requested for a ‘Tawqee’ from Imam-e-Zaman (as) to clarify the matter and remove all suspicion and doubts once and for all.

Our readers should find the following incident very interesting. Jafar bin Ali wrote a letter to a follower of Imam Mahdi (as) – I am the Imam after my brother and I have the knowledge of the permissible and the prohibited and all other sciences with me. When the companion received the letter, he became sorrowful. He took the letter to Ahmad bin Ishaaq Ashari, a close confidante of Imam Hasan Askari (as). Ahmad bin Ishaaq wrote a letter to Imam-e-Zaman (as) enclosing Jafar’s letter. He gave it to Usman bin Saeed (as) to be forwarded to Imam-e-Zaman (as). Imam (as) gave a very strong-worded reply and refuted the Imamat of Jafar.

Following is the extract of Imam’s (as) letter: ‘This defrauder (Jafar) has falsified Allah and has claimed Imamat. We do not know on what basis he has made such a claim. If he claims knowledge in the Ahkam and Fiqh of Allah’s religion, then by Allah, he is not able to distinguish between the permissible and the prohibited. He cannot distinguish between the clear and ambiguous verses of the Holy Quran. He is not even aware about the limits and timings of namaz. And if he is having certainty about his piety then by Allah he has forsaken namaz for forty days. His claim should be based on a miracle. Let him forward his miracle and if he has proof then he should explain it.’ (Pazoohashi Piraamun, pg. 128, narrating from Ehtejaaj-e-Tabarsi, volume 2, page 468)

It was with the representation of Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) that such letters could reach Imam (as) and Jafar failed in his nefarious plans. Once in a gathering Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) said ‘The caliph (Motamid-e-Abbasi) thought that Imam Hasan Askari (as) left this world without appointing his successor and gave his inheritance to such a person (Jafar) who did not deserve it. The followers of Imam (as) were patient on it and were vacillating in state of confusion. Nobody dared to recognize him and help him or to convey something to him. (Usule Kafi, volume 2, page 121, Persian edition)

Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) in Baghdad

After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (as), the first representative of Imam-e-Zaman (as) came to Baghdad from Samarrah by the order of  Imam (as). The reason being that the government vigilance and control in Samarrah was very strict and it had relatively ignored Baghdad. Samarrah was the capital of the Abbasi government. Motamid was appointed as ruler on 12th Rajab, 256 A.H. Till the end of his rule, Samarrah remained the capital. In 279 A.H., the capital was shifted to Baghdad . Till that time  Baghdad was the Shiite center. The migration to Baghdad helped Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) to keep in touch with the Shiahs residing in different places. In this way, his activities spread to different areas and were not restricted only to Baghdad . If he was in Samarrah or if Baghdad had been the capital of the Abbasides, then this would have been very difficult. (Pazoohashi Piramun, page 130)

His (ra) mode of operation

Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) had appointed some agents in Baghdad who used to coordinate with the other agents of Iraq and other areas. People met these agents in Baghdad , who collected the wealth and accepted the letters and queries from the Shiahs and forwarded them to Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) and he in turn forwarded the same to Imam (as), Hajiz bin Yazid-e-Washsha, Ahmed bin Ishaaq Ashari, Mohammed bin Ahmad bin Jafar Qattaan, Ahmad bin Ishaaq were initially the representatives of Imam Hasan Askari (as) in Qum, Iran. After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (as) they returned to Baghdad  as helpers of Janab Usman bin Saeed  (ra).

Mohammed bin Ahmad Qattaan had taken up the work of selling clothes so that nobody could cast any doubt on his real purpose. The other agents delivered the letters and wealth wrapped in a cloth to him and he forwarded it to Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra). History is replete with such incidents wherein the special representatives employed such ingenious methods to protect Imam (as) and his Shiahs. The wealth used to reach Imam (as) without anybody learning about his (as) actual abode.

Shaykh Tusi narrates in the book of Ghaybat that, from Qum and surrounding areas, some things came to Usman bin Saeed through a person. When he entered, Usman asked, “Where are the other things?”. The person said, “Nothing is left.” Usman bin Saeed said, “Two pieces of cloth are missing, so and so son of so and so gave you to give me. Where is it?”. The person said, “You are saying correct, but I could not find it and I really don’t know where it is.” Usman bin Saeed told him, “Go near so and so son of so and so cloth seller you will find …” He went to the address and found the pieces and brought them to Usman bin Saeed. (Beharul Anwar, volume 51, chapter 21)

His (ra) demise

The duration of his deputyship and the exact date of his demise has not got wide coverage in books of history and traditions. But it is clear that the combined duration of his own deputyship and that of his son – Janab Mohammed Ibne Usman (ra) was 45 years.  Janabe Bahrul Uloom (ra) has recorded in Taaleqa-e-Rijal that Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) expired in 264 A.H. or 265 A.H. Ali Ghaffarzadeh in his book has narrated from historians and scholars – the death of Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra) took place before 267 A.H. (Pazoohashi Piramun, page 144)

His grave

He is buried near western Baghdad inside Shaare Maidan in Masjid Zarab. (Beharul Anwaar, vol. 51, chapter 21)

Today there is market near his grave and one has to pass through several small lanes to reach the grave. Due to this, some visitors (Zaaireen) avoid going for ziyarat. His ziyarat has a lot of merit and it is similar to meeting him when one comes to meet Imam (as), as he was Imam’s (as) deputy.

Obituary

After the demise of Janab Usman bin Saeed (ra), Imam (as) wrote a condolence letter to his son, Mohammed: “Surely we are from Allah and we will return to Him. We submit ourselves to His command. Your father devoted his entire life to goodness and right till the end he was praiseworthy. May Allah have mercy on him and include him with His friends and the Imams (as). He continuously endeavored and struggled in the affairs of his Imams (as) till he met Allah, the High, and the Imams (as). May Allah make his face contented and happy.’ (Beharul Anwaar, vol. 51, chapter 21)

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