This Ph.D. Dissertation by Edmund Hayes seeks to answer why the doctrine of the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam was successful, among all the possible solutions to the crisis in the Imamate that were proposed in the first few years after the martyrdom of the Eleventh Imam.
In 260 AH/ 874 CE, the Eleventh Imam of the Imami Shiʿa martyred, precipitating a succession crisis that was ultimately solved by replacing this line of living, visible leaders with a messianic figure, hidden from humankind who will return at the end of time to rule in peace and justice. This dissertation seeks to answer why this the doctrine of the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam was successful, among all the possible solutions to the crisis in the Imamate that were proposed in the first few years after the death of the Eleventh Imam. I show how the financialsacral institutions that had increasingly surrounded the Imams and mediated their presence to the community in the pre-Occultation era came to replace the authority of the Imam after 260/874. I analyze the textual sources for the earliest phase of development of Twelver Occultation ideas against the backdrop of the contestation of authority between members of the family of the Imam (especially the mother and brother of the Eleventh Imam) as well as the household retainers of the Imam, and the agents (wakīls) of the financial-sacral system. These contestations clustered around a number of key events, the meaning of which were shifted and erased according to the requirements of later doctrine, but which still leave residual traces throughout our sources. Of particular importance was the succession dispute over the inheritance the Eleventh Imam, claims to which were associated with the spiritual legacy of the Imamate. The success of the Imam’s dissolute brother, Jaʿfar ‘the Liar’, in winning the inheritance dispute led to a split in the Imami elite between those who followed Jaʿfar, and the financial agents who opposed Jaʿfar and claimed to preserve the legacy of the old Imam on behalf of the hidden Twelfth Imam, in particular the obscure agent Ḥājiz b. Yazīd. A further crisis ensued after the deaths of the old guard. However, quasi-Imamic authority was gradually arrogated to a single pre-eminent representative of the class of financial-sacral agents of the Imam: the so-called ‘Envoy’ (Ar. safīr), Abū Jaʿfar al-ʿAmrī (d. 305/917). His authority was contested both by members of the old guard of fiscal agents, and also by charismatic bābs associated with the gnostic tradition.
The authority of Abū Jaʿfar was institutionalized when his death gave rise to a succession process, through which Ibn Rawḥ al-Nawbakhtī laid claim to his legacy as the Envoy after him. Ibn Rawḥ’s authority as Envoy was challenged by a number of difficulties including difficulty in collecting the canonical taxes, and the claims to spiritual authority of various gnostic bābs whose radical claims upset various members of the Imami elite. Ultimately, such difficulties prevented the stable institutionalization of the office of Envoy, and soon after Ibn Rawḥ’s tenure of office, the Imami elite declared the end of the institution of Envoy, asserting that anyone who claimed to be the direct representative for the Imam was an imposter. However, though leadership of the Imami community then passed to the more diffuse epistemic authority of the scholars, the legacy of the Envoys became an important theological support, and founding myth for the Twelver Shiʿi community. Meanwhile, the messy conflicts of the early Occultation period came to be largely erased by the canonical doctrine of the “Four Praised Envoys” of the Hidden Imam.
Title: The Envoys of the Hidden Imam: Religious Institutions and the Politics of the Twelver Occultation Doctrine
Author: Edmund Hayes
Publisher: ProQuest LLC
Length: 560 pages
Pub. Date: August 2015