The Four Deputies

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The Four Deputies or Gates (Arabic: أبواب‎, i.e. Bāb)[1], in Twelver Shia Islam, were the four individuals who served as messengers between the community and the twelfth and final Imam, upon his going into the Minor Occultation. The deputies are also referred to with the Arabic terms Safir (emissary), Na'ib (deputy)[2] or Wakil (advocate).[3][4]

Historical view[edit]

al-Kulayni some vague points to the letters of the al-Mahdi that received to the Shia. Abu Sahl Ismail Al-Nobakhti wrote in his book(Al-Tanbih) that most of the close friends of al-Askari died 20 years after his death. They were in communication with al-Mahdi.[5] The Safir's name originally appeared in al-Numani book(Al Ghaybah) then Ibn Babawayh recorded the names of four deputies in Kamal al-din.[5] Most reports about activities of deputies are in Tusi's book (Al Ghaybah).[6]

According to Abdulaziz Sachedina, it publicly has been pointed to deputies in primary sources such as al-Kulayni and Ibn Babawayh(Al-Saduq) who has mentioned several people that they had connected with al-Mahdi. Sachedina concludes by reviewing hadiths of Ibn Babawayh that the term "Special Deputies" has been created in explaining the Minor Occultation for the later periods.[7] Sachedina also concludes that no early Twelver sources concerning the ghayba, including by authors al-Kulayni, ibn Babuya and Shaykh Tusi, confined the names and number of deputies purely to the four that would later be exclusively legitimised; rather, this was later accepted for expediency’s sake.[8] There were also deputy claimants who were officially rejected by the Imami community, such as Ibn Nusayr.[9][10]


Twelver tradition holds that four deputies acted in succession to one another from 873–941 CE:

1) Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Asadi († 873-80)

Uthman was the deputy of al-Askari. According to Shia, he was directly was determined as deputy by al-Askari and was responsible for organizing of Samarra Shia. Uthman brought money from the Iraqi Shia to Shia in Samarra (who they were under the severe control of the Abbasid caliphs). He performed Funeral of the al-Askari after his death.[5][11]He died in Baghdad and was buried there.[12]

2) Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Asadi († 917)

After the death of Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Asadi, the first deputy and the father of Abu Ja'far, he was appointed as the second deputy of Muhammad al-Mahdi.[13]He received a letter of consolation ascribed to the Twelfth Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi at the death of Uthman ibn Sa'id.[14][15]According to Umm Kulthum, daughter of ibn Uthman:" Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Uthman has written books on Ja'fari jurisprudence[16].He died in the year 304 AH.[17]

3) Abul Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh al-Nawbakhti († 938)

According to Tusi, Husayn ibn Ruh was appointed as deputy in 917 CE. He was presenting letters from Mahdi and was answering the questions of the Ulama of Qum. It would seem that Husayn ibn Ruh was more popular than other deputies for Shia in that time. The al-Nawbakhti family had the most effect on society in addition to he had a good influence on Abbasid Caliphate. He explained the possibility to happen Occultation by providing rational reasons and hadiths.[5]When Muhammad ibn Uthman was about to die, he introduced Husayn ibn Ruh as his successor.[18][19]

4) Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri († 941)

According to a historical view, only deputies had been accepted by the public during the time of the Nobakht family and this acceptance had become a week at the time of the al-Samarri.[5] Following his death, the Major Occultation began.[16]

The Major Occultation began following the death of the last deputy and, according to the Shia doctrine, will continue until the return of the Mahdi.[5]


At first, wikalah were responsible to made the relation between Imams and Shia and collected religious taxes (Khums, Zakat, etc.)[20][21] As well as they were responsible to guide Shia and delivered letters containing religious questions. In addition to, they were responsible for the introduction of the next Imam after the death of the previous Imam.[22][14] According to Abdulaziz Sachedina the Network of agents (Wikalah) were responsible to collect religious taxes (Khums, Zakat, etc.) in the era of the Imams and Uthman ibn Sa'id al-Asadi was one of the al-Askari's deputies. In the situation which the last Imams were confined and surveilled by the Abbasids, deputies were responsible for managing the society[23] and they took virtual leadership to care of Shia. Deputies were responsible to guide the Shia in the religious thought of sociality.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Iranica (2011). BĀB (1)
  2. ^ Fitzpatrick, Coeli; Walker, Adam Hani, eds. (2014). Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God [2 volumes] (illustrated ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 644. ISBN 9781610691789.
  3. ^ Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi. Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism, The: The Sources of Esotericism in Islam. SUNY Press. p. 100. ISBN 9780791494790.
  4. ^ The Essence of Islam. Concept Publishing Company. 2012. p. 195. ISBN 9788180698323.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Klemm, Verena(December 15, 2007). "ISLAM IN IRAN ix. THE DEPUTIES OF MAHDI".
  6. ^ Brill, E J. "The Encyclopaedia of Islam VIII".
  7. ^ Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdulhussein. Islamic Messianism: The Idea of Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism. SUNY Press (June 30, 1980). p. 86 & 87,90 & 91. ISBN 978-0873954426.
  8. ^ Islamic Messianism: The Idea of Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism, by Abdulaziz Sachedina, pp. 86–8.
  9. ^ An Introduction the Modern Middle East: History, Religion, Political Economy ... - David S. Sorenson - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  10. ^ The Voyage and the Messenger: Iran and Philosophy - Henry Corbin - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  11. ^ Ra’isi, Zahra. "The Special Deputies of Imam Mahdi (as)". Ahlul Bayt World Assembly.
  12. ^ Shabbar, S.M.R. "Story of the Holy Ka'aba And its People". Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  13. ^ Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i (1975). Shi'ite Islam. SUNY Press. p. 210.
  14. ^ a b Hussain, Jassim M. The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam (A Historical Background). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 12, 2014). ISBN 978-1502797506.
  15. ^ Mohammed Raza Dungersi. A Brief Biography of Imam Muhammad bin Hasan (a.s.): al-Mahdi. Bilal Muslim Mission. p. 20.
  16. ^ a b The Fourth Special Deputy: Ali Ibn Muhammad Samari (r.a.). Association of Imam Mahdi.
  17. ^ Ebrahim Amini, Abdulaziz Sachedina. Al-Imam al-Mahdi, The Just Leader of Humanity. Ansariyan Publications - Qum.
  18. ^ Mohammed Raza Dungersi. A Brief Biography of Imam Muhammad bin Hasan (a.s.): al-Mahdi. Bilal Muslim Mission. pp. 19–21.
  19. ^ Seyyed Hossein Nasr; Hamid Dabashi; Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr (26 April 1989). Expectation of the Millennium: Shi'ism in History. SUNY Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-88706-844-7.
  20. ^ Hussain, Jassim M. The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam (A Historical Background). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 6, 2013). p. 29. ISBN 978-1494350987.
  21. ^ Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdulhussein. Islamic Messianism: The Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism. SUNY Press; 1st edition (June 1, 1981). ISBN 978-0873954587.
  22. ^ Jabbari, Mohammad Reza. "Preparing the Shi'a for the Age of Occultation Part 2". Ahlul Bayt World Assembly.
  23. ^ Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdulhussein. Islamic Messianism: The Idea of Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism. SUNY Press (June 30, 1980). p. 89. ISBN 978-0873954426.