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The Dawn-Breakers: Nabíl’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá’í Revelation

  • Author:
  • Nabil

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1932 edition
  • Pages:
  • 676
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Pages li-liv


“The cardinal point wherein the Shí’ahs (as well as the other sects included under the more general term of Imámites) differ from the Sunnís is the doctrine of the Imámate. According to the belief of the latter, the vicegerency of the Prophet (Khilafat) is a matter to be determined by the choice and election of his followers, and the visible head of the Musulman 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 Khalífih of the Sunnís is merely the outward and visible Defender of the Faith: the Imám of the Shí’ahs 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 Imámate 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 Báqirís and Isma’ílís as well as the Shí’ah or lii ‘Church of the Twelve’ (Madhhab-i-Ithna-‘Asharíyyih), 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-i-Ábí-Tálib, the cousin and first disciple of the Prophet, assassinated by Ibn-i-Muljam at Kúfih, A.H. 40 (A.D. 661).
2. Ḥasan, son of ‘Alí and Fátimih, born A.H. 2, poisoned by order of Mu’áviyih I, A.H. 50 (A.D. 670).
3. Ḥusayn, son of ‘Alí and Fátimih, born A.H. 4, killed at Karbilá on Muharram 10, A.H. 61 (Oct. 10, A.D. 680).
4. ‘Alí, son of Ḥusayn and Shahribánú (daughter of Yazdigird, the last Sásáníyán king), generally called Imám Zaynu’l-Ábidín, poisoned by Valíd.
5. Muḥammad-Báqir, son of the above-mentioned Zaynu’l-Ábidín and his cousin Umm-i-‘Abdu’llah, the daughter of Imám Ḥasan, poisoned by Ibráhím ibn-i-Valíd.
6. Ja’far-i-Ṣádiq, son of Imám Muḥammad-Báqir, poisoned by order of Mansur, the Abbáside Khalífih.
7. Músá-Kázim, son of Imám Ja’far-i-Ṣádiq, born A.H. 129, poisoned by order of Harunu’r-Rashíd, A.H. 183.
8. ‘Alí-ibn-i-Musa’r-Riḍá, generally called Imám Riḍá, born A.H. 153, poisoned near Tus, in Khurásán, by order of the Khalífih Ma’mun, A.H. 203, and buried at Mashhad, which derives its name and its sanctity from him.
9. Muḥammad-Taqí, son of Imám Riḍá, born A.H. 195, poisoned by the Khalífih Mu’tasim at Baghdád, A.H. 220.
10. ‘Alí-Naqí, son of Imám Muḥammad-Taqí, born A.H. 213, poisoned at Surra-man-Ra’a, A.H. 254.
11. Ḥasan-i-‘Askarí, son of Imám ‘Alí-Naqí, born A.H. 232, poisoned A.H. 260.
12. Muḥammad, son of Imám Ḥasan-i-‘Askarí and Nargis-Khatun, called by the Shí’ahs ‘Imám-Mihdí,’ ‘Hujjatu’lláh’ (the Proof of God), ‘Baqíyyatu’lláh’ (the Remnant of God), and ‘Qá’im-i-‘Alí-Muḥammad’ (He who shall arise of the family of Muḥammad). He bore not only the same name but the same liii kunyih—Abu’l-Qásim—as the Prophet, and according to the Shí’ahs it is not lawful for any other to bear this name and this kunyih together. He was born at Surra-man-Ra’a, A.H. 255, and succeeded his father in the Imámate, A.H. 260.
“The Shí’ahs hold that he did not die, but disappeared in 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, Jábulqá and Jábulsá; and that when the fulness of time is come, when the earth is filled with injustice, and the faithful are plunged in 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 Mihdí has been invisible and inaccessible to the mass of his followers, and this is what is signified by the term ‘Occultation’ (Ghaybat). After assuming the functions of Imám and presiding at the burial of his father and predecessor, the Imám Ḥasan-i-‘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’ (Abvab). The first of them was Abú-‘Umar-‘Uthmán ibn-i-Sa’íd Umarí; the second Abú-Ja’far Muḥammad-ibn-i-‘Uthmán, son of the above; the third Ḥusayn-ibn-i-Rúh Naw-bakhtí; the fourth Abu’l-Ḥasan ‘Alí-ibn-i-Muḥammad Simarí. Of these ‘Gates’ the first was appointed by the Imám Ḥasan-i-‘Askarí, the others by the then acting ‘Gate’ with the sanction and approval of the Imám Mihdí. This period—extending over 69 years—during which the Imám was still accessible by means of the ‘Gates,’ is known as the ‘Lesser’ or ‘Minor Occultation’ (Ghaybat-i-Sughra). This was succeeded by the ‘Greater’ or ‘Major Occultation’ (Ghaybat-i-Kubrá). When Abu’l-Ḥasan ‘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 liv 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.” (Excerpt from “A Traveller’s Narrative,” Note O, pp. 296–99.)