“O My Master! I don’t have the opportunity to be in your presence all the time. So whom should I accept and whom should I obey?” …
This is the question that Ahmad ibn Ishaq asked Imam Askari (PBUH). This may be the question of all Shiites today. Indeed, what should we do in the time of occultation of Imam Mahdi (PBUH)?
Definitely the Shiites should have a stable social system in the world in order to stand against incident and enemies. This system is formed by the leadership of Marjas (the sources of emulation). It means that Shiites refer to clerics who are trustees of Allah (SWT) for their Islamic rules. At the time of Imam Askari (PBUH), the basis of referring to Marja was initiated. As a result of the Shiite scholars being the representatives of the Infallible Imam (PBUH), their role became much more significant.
There are many narratives describing the role of clerics among the people. In one of them, Imam Askari (PBUH) narrated from his ancestor, Imam Sadiq (PBUH):
“All the people have to emulate the cleric who is pious, takes care of his religion, acts against his carnal desires and obeys the command of his Imam.”
On this basis the scholars, who were enlightened by the guidance of Ahl al-Bayt (PBUH), undertook the affairs of community at the time of Imam al-Askari (PBUH). In some cases, these clerics would write letters to the Imam to ask for guidance concerning their problems, and the Imam would answer them in sealed letters. These sealed letters became known as “Tawaqi”. Some of these letters became very famous.
For instance, Uthman ibn Saeed Amri was one of the most important Marja at the time of Imam Askari (PBUH), and the infallible Imams (PBUT) made reference to his high ranking. He had an outstanding position in the eyes of Shiites. Moreover, Imam Hadi (PBUH) and Imam Askari (PBUH) suggested that their followers refer to him. Ahmad ibn Ishaq says in this respect,
“When Imam Hadi (PBUH) passed away, I went to Imam Askari (PBUH) and asked him, ‘O My Master! I don’t have the opportunity to be in your presence all the time. So whom should I accept and whom should I obey?’ He answered, ‘Abu Umar is a trusted and honest man in everything. What he says to you is on behalf of me and what he declares for you is on behalf of me.'”(1)
Uthman ibn Saeed and some others (2) were representatives of Imam Askari (PBUH). Because of the presence of such people during these times, the leadership of the Shia clerics was reinforced.
Thereby the leadership of Marjas can work as a political doctrine as well as a firm and stable means of calling people to Allah (SWT) and organizing a school of thought for society. This system can also serve a political system for the community as the government would be returned to its true owners (Infallible Imams).
This system is far from the quarrels of clans and partiality. From the time of the Infallible Imams (PBUT) up to now, Shiites have always lived according to this method and have benefited from the wonderful ability of this system, though sometimes there were reasons which prevented this system from making complete progress.
In conclusion it can be noted that one of the most important aspect of Imam Hassan Askari’s (PBUH) time was the consolidating of the leadership of Shia clerics. Today, during the occultation of Imam Mahdi (PBUH) this system is one of the main bases of leadership for Shiites.
(Taken from “Life of Imam Hassan Askari (PBUH)”, Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Modarresi, with summarization)
On behalf of the Roshd website, we pay our condolences upon the 8th of Rabi al-Awwal, the martyrdom of the pure and righteous Imam, Imam Hassan ibn-Ali al-Askari (PBUH).
1- Hayat al-Imam al Askri, p.155
2- For further information about these persons, refer to the book by Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Modarresi.