The Major Occultation (Arabic:الغَيبَة الکُبری) is a term for the period of Imam al-Mahdi's (a) hidden life after the Minor Occultation. This period started from 329/941 and continues until today. In this period, Shi'as are not in direct contact with the Imam (a).
Occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a)
- Main article: Occultation of Imam al-Mahdi
The disappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a), the last and twelfth Shi'a Imam, is called the occultation of Imam Mahdi (a). According to Shi'a teachings, Imam al-Mahdi (a) has had two occultations: The Minor Occultation, which lasted sixty nine lunar years, and the Major Occultation, which continues to the present day. During the Minor Occultation, Imam al-Mahdi (a) communicated with the Shi'a through the four deputies, but during the Major Occultation this communication does not exits and the Shi'a must refer to the scholars for their religious needs.
The Beginning of the Major Occultation
From the beginning of his imamate in 260/874, Imam al-Mahdi (a) limited his contacts with the Shi'a to the relations through his specific deputies, the last of whom was 'Ali b. Muhammad al-Samuri who passed away in Sha'ban 15, 329/May 20, 941. He received the following letter from the Imam (a), one week before his death:
- "O 'Ali b. Muhammad al-Samuri! May God reward your brothers for [being patient about] your loss, because you will pass away after six days. So prepare yourself, and do not designate anyone as your successor after your death, because the absolute occultation has occurred. There will be no appearance until God gives permission, and that will be after a long time when the hearts are hardened and the world is filled with injustice. Some of my followers will claim to have seen me, but know that whoever claims to have seen me before the uprising of the al-Sufyani and the heavenly cry he is indeed a liar and a slanderer."
In this way, after the demise of al-Samuri, contacts with the Imam (a) through specific de