Fourth Special Deputy: Ali Ibn Muhammad Seymouri (ra)

His name was Ali, his agomen was Abul Hasan. His father’s name was Mohammed. The fourth deputy of Imam Mahdi (as) – Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Mohammed attained this special position after Husain Ibn Rauh Nawbakhti (ra). Imam Mahdi (as) himself ordered the third deputy (ra) to appoint him to this post.

His Family

The Seymouris were among those Shiah families that were highly respected for their services to Islam in general and the Shiite cause in particular. Hence, his appointment as the fourth deputy was undisputed. Many individuals from this family like Hasan, the son of Ismail Ibn Saleh and Mohammed, the son of Ali Ibn Ziyad were owners of large estates. They had gifted the income from their estates to the eleventh Imam – Imam Hasan al-Askari (as). (Pazoohash-e-Peiramoon-e-Zindegaani-e-Nuwwaab-e-Khaas-e-Imam-Zaman (as), page 304)

Apart from this, some members of Seymouri family were amongst the supporters of Imam Reza (as). In this way, some of the companions of other Imams (as) also belonged to this family. For example, Ali Ibn Mohammed Ibn Ziyad who served as a representative of Imam Ali Naqi (as) and Imam Hasan Al-Askari (as) was from this family. He also wrote a book ‘Al-Awsiyaa’ in which he clarified doubts on the Imamate of the twelfth Imam (as). The respected Sayyed Ibn Tawoos (ra) has made a mention of this book on page number 427 of his highly acclaimed work, ‘Mohajj al-Da’waat’ (page 428 of the new edition with Persian translation). Sayyed Ibn Tawoos (ra) has brought two incidents from the book ‘Al-Awsiyaa’ that describe the end of the Abbaside Caliphs Mo’tasim and Mo’taz, the murderers of Imam Hasan al-Askari (as).

In the same manner, we find that Ali Ibn Ziyad wrote a letter to Imam Mahdi (as) seeking a shroud from him (as). Imam (as) replied, ‘You will require this only at the age of 80 (i.e. in 270 AH).’ Ali Ibn Ziyad passed away in the year 270 AH and a few days prior to his demise, Imam Mahdi (as) fulfilled his request. (Kamaluddin, volume 2, page 501-2)

These few incidents are sufficient to exemplify the importance, nobility and dignity of the members of Seymouri family. Their illustrious position does not come as a surprise given that over the years, they were active supporters and helpers of the cause of the holy Imams (as).

The Period of the Fourth Deputy

The period of Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) is remembered as one in which the oppressions and tyrannies of the ruling Abbaside government were at its peak. Consequently, like his predecessors, socially he was not very active and had deliberately limited his interaction with his representatives. However, despite these constraints, he maintained contact with the Shiahs. In fact, he continued to enjoy the same respect and position amongst the Shiahs as the preceding three special deputies. It was for this reason that the Shiahs continued to send their religious financial taxes to him through his representatives.

The details of his date of birth and life history are few and far in books of history. Nonetheless, the relatively short span of his appointment as special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as) has been reported with regular frequency in books.

Ali Ibn Mohammed – A Companion of Imam Hasan al-Askari (as)

The venerated Shaykh Tusi (a.r.) in his book ‘Al-Rejaal’ (page 432) has regarded Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) amongst the companions of Imam Hasan Askari (as). Apparently, Imam Hasan Askari (as) also corresponded with him through letters. For example, Ali Ibn Mohammed says that on one occasion, Imam Hasan Askari (as) wrote to him,’A dispute will soon arise which will misguide you such that you will lose your hands and feet. Remain alert of this corruption and safeguard yourself from it.’

After three days, Bani Hashim were involved in an incident due to which they were engulfed with hardships and sufferings. I wrote to Imam Hasan Al-Askari (as) enquiring whether this was the same incident which he had referred to in his letter. He replied, ‘No, there is yet another incident. You protect yourself completely from it.’After a few days, we were informed of the murder of the Abbside caliph Mo’taz.

(Kashf al-Ghummah, volume 3, page 207, Pazoohash-e-Peiramoon-e-Zindagaani-e-Nuwwaab-e-Khaas-e-Imam-e-Zaman (as), page 304)

This letter shows that he was in contact with Imam Hasan Al-Askari (as).

News of the Unseen – Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra)

Like his predecessors, many incidents of nobility are reported about Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra). These incidents served a dual purpose. Firstly, they established the strong relationship between him and Imam Mahdi (as) and secondly, the Shiahs who witnessed these noble actions never had the occasion to harbour any doubt about his designation as the special deputy of Imam Mahdi (as).

Shaykh Tusi (ra) based on reports from his teachers, narrates an incident from Husain Ibn Ali Ibn Babwayh Qummi (ra) – brother of Shaykh Sudooq (ra). He reports, ‘Some members of Qum which included Imran Saffaar, Alwaiya Saffaar and Husain Ibn Ahmad Ibn Idrees (may Allah have mercy upon them) reported to me that in the year in which my father Ali Ibn Husain Ibn Musa Ibn Babwayh (the father of Shaykh Sudooq- ra) passed away, they were present in Baghdad.

They report that Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) asked each one of us about the health of Ali Ibn Babwayh and we replied to him that we have received a letter from him that he is fine. Till the time of his death, he kept enquiring about Ali Ibn Babwayh and we kept replying that he was well. One day, he (Ali Ibn ‘Mohammed Seymouri) asked us the same question and we replied that we had not received the reply to our letter from him. To this, he said, ‘May Allah grant you patience on his demise!’

We noted the day, month and time of his statement. After about seventeen or eighteen days, we received the news of the death of Ali Ibn Mohammed Babwayh and it was at exactly the same day and time when Abul Hasan Seymouri (ra) had paid condolence to us. (Beharul Anwar, volume 51, page 163, tradition 8, from Al-Ghaybah of Shaykh Tusi (ra))

Shaykh Sudooq (ra) heard this incident about his father 10 years after his demise through reports from Abul Hasan Saleh Ibn Shoaib Taleqani. Taleqani reported this incident from Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim Mukhallad who heard Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) say, ‘May Allah have mercy upon Ali Ibn Husain Ibn Musa Ibn Babwayh Qummi.’ (Kamaluddin, volume 2, page 305, tradition 23)

Tawqee – A Signed Letter from Imam Mahdi (as)

The last Tawqee that was issued during the minor occultation (Ghaybate’ Sughra) bore tremendous historical importance. Not only did this letter declare the conclusion of the era of special deputies and herald the onset of major occultation (Bhaybate’ Kubra), but it also carried with it a profound and deep rooted message.

This letter was issued by Imam Mahdi (as) six days before the demise of the fourth deputy and can be found with minor variations in the books of traditions. Prior to his death, Ali bin Mohammed Seymouri (ra) was asked about his successor. In reply to this question, he placed the following letter before the people:

‘O Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri! May Allah increase the reward of your brothers concerning you (i.e. your demise)! Death will come to you within the next six days. So you complete your works and do not nominate any person after you. The sequence of special deputies will come to an end and the Ghaybate’ Kubra will commence with your demise. Now the reappearance will occur only with the permission of Allah, after a prolonged period and after the hearts of people are hardened. And such a period will emerge on my Shiahs when people will claim that they have seen me. Whoever makes such a claim before the advent of Sufyani and the heavenly voice, is a liar, an impostor. There is no strength and power save that of Allah, the High, the Great.”

As stated above, when the people enquired from Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) about his successor, he advanced this letter unto them. Shaykh Tabarsi (ra) narrates that some of these people noted down the contents of the letter and left. They returned on the sixth day and found Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri in a state of illness, grappling with death pangs. They enquired once again,

‘Who is your successor?’ He replied,

‘To Allah belongs the affair (of succession), He will fulfill it.’

These were the last words of his life.

One can refer to the following books for this Tawqee:

Al Ghaybah by Shaykh Tusi (ra), page 593; Kamaluddin volume 2, page 615; Al Ehtejaaj, volume 2, page 874; Beharul Anwar volume 51, page 63, volume 25, page 151 and volume 35, page 813; E’laamul Waraa’ page 714; Yaumul Khalas (Persian tr.) volume 1, page 403; Ayanush Shiah (Persian tr.) page 55; Muntakhabul Asar (Old Edn.) page 993; Yanaabiul Mawaddah (Urdu) page 517.

Analysis of the Tawqee

A meaningful investigation of the above Tawqee indicates that Imam (as) has drawn the attention of Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) towards various important aspects. Apart from this, this Tawqee is also a conclusive proof of the existence of the Imam (as) for those who deny it and ridicule the Shiahs for it.

Some of these aspects are noted here:

  • The prophecy made by Imam (as) about the demise of Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) within six days. The accuracy of the prophecy proved that the Tawqee was issued from none other than Imam Mahdi (as).
  • Imam (as) ordered Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) not to appoint any person as his successor. With this decree, Imam (as) sealed the only door for a person to meet him directly. The decree was a pointer to the fact that in the future (during the major occultation), none would be able to meet Imam (as) as and when he pleased. It also implies that there would be no ‘designated’ special deputy during the major occultation, thus falsifying any claimant to that position.
  • The Tawqee marked the commencement of the major occultation.
  • Imam (as) will not reappear but with the permission of Allah.
  • It made it abundantly clear that any person who claimed to meet or to be able to meet Imam (as) at will would be a liar, an impostor.

An Objection

There is a seeming contradiction in the Tawqee – on one hand we see that if a person claims to meet Imam-e-Zamana (as), he is a liar. However, on the other hand, there are numerous incidents and events reported in books where not only scholars, but also ordinary people have met Imam (as) and have reported such meetings.

Reply

Allamah Majlisi (ra) has replied to the above objection at two places in his book, Beharul Anwar. His reply is beneficial even to the scholars after him. We clarify his position on the above issue as follows:

As reported by illustrious scholars, one reason could be that the one who claims to have met Imam (as) would position himself as a medium between Imam (as) and the people. Since there are several incidents of people having met Imam (as), it is clear that the scholars believe that the Tawqee does not reject the possibility of meeting and seeing Imam (as). It only rejects the appointment of a special deputy after Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra).

It is also possible that the one who contends to be able to see Imam (as) is a liar and an impostor if he maintains that he can get a meeting with Imam (as) at will. Anyone who makes such a claim in the major occultation is a pretender and deserves to be snubbed.

So, meeting Imam (as) is not rejected outright in the Tawqee. It is just that in the major occultation, meeting Imam (as) voluntarily is not possible. Rather Imam (as) will meet whosoever he wants and hence, the choice of the meeting lies with Imam Mahdi (as) and not with the people.

The conclusion of the chain of Special Deputies

Ayatullah Baqar Al-Sadr (ra), writes, “The transformation of the minor occultation into the major occultation signifies that the objectives and aims of the minor occultation had been adequately fulfilled. This elaborate programme protected the Shiahs from the difficulties arising from the occultation of Imam (as) and gradually, they made a mental shift from the special deputies and accustomed themselves to referring their religious matters to the scholars. Thus the responsibility to represent the Imam (as) in the major occultation fell upon the just, religious scholars and it became obligatory for the people to follow their rulings in worldly as well as religious matters.”

This viewpoint is endorsed by the famous tradition of Imam Mahdi (as) which is regularly quoted, ‘If any fresh incident occurs (in matters of religious issues), then refer them to the narrators of our traditions. For surely, they are my proofs upon you and I am Allah’s Proof.’

This tradition is attributed to a Tawqee issued to the second special deputy Mohammed Ibn Usman Al Amri (ra) and many traditionalists have quoted it as such. However, the author of ‘Yaumul Khalaas’, Kaamel Sulaymani has credited this tradition to the last days of the minor occultation and has attributed it to the fourth deputy Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra). (Yaumul Khalaas (Persian tr.) volume 1, page 303)

Note: It is possible that the tradition may have been reported twice and there is nothing wrong with that. We can understand clearly that the unmistakable message in the tradition is towards the solution of issues and dilemmas that would arise during the major occultation.

The Conclusion of the Chain of Special Deputies

The fourth special deputy passed away on 15th Shabaan, 329 AH. His demise was accurately prophesied by Imam (as) in his Tawqee wherein he informed him of his death within six days.The period of his deputyship lasted for approximately 3 years from 326 AH to 329 AH. His age coincided with the reign of two Abbaside caliphs – Al-Raazi Billah and Muttaqi.

His grave

Shaykh Abbas Qummi (ra) writes in volume 6, page 234 of his renowned book ‘Safinatul Behar’, ‘The illustrious Shaykh Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (ra) was the successor to Husain Ibn Rauh (ra) and shouldered the responsibilities of deputyship for a period of 3 years. He passed away in the year 329 A.H., marking the onset of the major occultation. His grave is in Baghdad near the tomb of Shaykh Kulaini (r.a.

Shaykh Tusi (ra) records that his grave is in Baghdad at the Khalatji Road off the Abu Etaab river. Nowadays this area is more popular as Sooqul Kutub which is on the eastern bank of the river Dajlah.

For centuries, lovers of Imam Mahdi (as) have been visiting his grave and reciting salutations: ‘Peace be upon you – O Ali Ibn Mohammed. I bear witness that you are the door to our Master (Imam (as)). Certainly you fulfilled the trust presented to you by Imam (as) and returned the trust to him (as).’

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