Kashf al-Astaar an wajh al-Ghaaeb an al-Absaar Unveiling the Hidden Face
Saamarrah is a city with pleasant climate in southern Iraq, at the banks of river Tigris – where a township settled in 3rd century A.H. Since this city was near the banks of river Tigris, it was the capital during the Abbasid regime. Now this land has become sacred for the believers due to the holy shrines of Imam Hadi and Imam Hasan Askari (peace be upon them), although both were forcibly brought to the city. The holy house of Imam Hasan Askari (peace be upon him) was present here which was also the house of the birth of Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (may Allah hasten his reappearance) and celestial hoories descended therein at the break of dawn. Janabe Hakimah Khatoon was witness to the divine spectacle and splendour. Neither is any tongue capable of narrating the excellences of that dawn or the house or the city where Imam-e-Zamaana (may Allah hasten his reappearance) was born nor can any pen document it. Hence, this place is visited and frequented by thousands of believers from across the world.
From the 3rd century onwards, this city was always looked upon from two perspectives: Firstly, its natural habitat, the flamboyant lives of Caliphs that was full of vain pleasures, owing to the pleasant climate offered by the banks of river Tigris. Secondly, the existence of virtuous personalities from the immaculate progeny of Prophets and Imams (peace be upon them) that always attracted people’s attention towards this city. Believers, on one hand, whose eyes were waiting for Allah’s Promised One (may Allah hasten his reappearance) and the impious people, on the other hand, intending to extinguish Allah’s effulgence. However, Allah has promised to protect this eternal radiance and will surely fulfill His promise even if the kings, who are followers of darkness, are averse to it.
With the passage of time till 13th century A.H. a brilliant and wise scholar, late Ayatullah Mirza Hasan Shirazi migrated from Najaf to Saamarrah in 1290 A.H. He revived the materialistic face of this city and made it a center that urged people for the anticipation of their Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance). Owing to his historical migration, several positive outcomes such as Islamic gatherings and preaching, overall progress of the city, services therein and frequenting of this city for Ziyaarat increased manifold. This progression continued for several decades. Moreover, the impact of this migration is evident in the city today as well.
The famous traditionalist, late Mirza Husain Noori Tabresi, the beloved and trustworthy of Mirza Buzurg Shirazi, was also present during the migration. Mirza Husain Noori remained with Mirza Shirazi until Mirza Shirazi passed away in 1312 A.H. Subsequently Mirza Noori returned to Najaf in 1314 A.H. Few book of Late Muhaddis Noori (may Allah sanctify his grave) especially “Mustadrak al-Wasaael” were written in Saamarra. Three volumes of Mustadarak were completed in 1305 A.H. 1310 A.H. and 1313 A.H. while he was in Saamarrah and then immediately he started writing “Khaatemah Mustadrak al-Wasaael” and completed it in 1318 A.H. while he was in Najaf. Mustadrak was published in 10 volumes post completion.
Ayatullah Mirza Muhammad Hasan Shirazi possessed apparently special characteristics which were practically imbibed by his students. Consequently, such characteristics are remembered as “Maktab-e-Saamarra”. Ustad Faqih Syed Muslehuddin Mahdawi narrates about the characteristics of Ayatullah Mirza Muhammad Hasan Shirazi in the following words:
- Attention to self-motivation, self-development and center of ethics and morals based on Shariat
- Devotion to practical aspects of religion and humble presence in public, cultural and social gatherings
- Knowledge of his current times and being aware of own responsibilities
- Special attention towards the Wilayat of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them)
- Special focus on the defense of the Imamate of Imam of the time (may Allah hasten his reappearance)
- Opposing the infiltration of strangers
- Defending the rights of the oppressed
One of his special characteristics was his attention and love for Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (may Allah hasten his reappearance) which is found in majority of the people trained in the Saamarrah school.
However, some so-called visionaries deemed this school as a factor which led to the foundation of Baha’ism, who spread incorrect interpretations regarding the belief in Mahdaviyyat. Nevertheless, the Saamarrah school urged its scholars to defend the correct beliefs concerning Mahdaviyyat. The reality is that the factors resulting in the rise of Baha’ism were external and not internal. Although external factors were not apparently manifested but some internal factors had reached to such an extent that this school had prepared themselves to defend the belief in Mahdaviyyat and were known as ‘defenders of Mahdaviyyat’. This was just an overview. Insha Allah, a comprehensive research on this topic at some other time.
Mirza Husain Noori, a defender of the boundaries of beliefs and the one who exposed the external and internal innovations in religion, was born on 18th Shawwal 1254 A.H. in a village near the radiant city of Mazandaran called ‘Yaalu’. While he was eight years old, his father Mirza Muhammad Taqi Noori passed away. After attaining puberty, Maulavi Muhammad Ali Mahallaati took care of him and he was instrumental in making Muhaddis Noor a scholar, jurist, pious, devout and noble person. Subsequently, he visited Iraq numerous times. In 1273 A.H. he stayed with Shaikh Abdul Rahim Burujerdi for 4 years. In 1278 A.H. he travelled and met the great scholar and jurist Shaikh Abdul Husain Tehrani and both went to Karbala. For two years, he was in Kazimain. In 1280 A.H. he benefitted by staying with Shaikh Murtuza Ansari for 6 months, which were the last 6 months of the latter’s life. Then, in 1286 A.H. he returned to Najaf and till 1312 A.H. stayed with Mirza Shirazi in Najaf and Saamarrah till the end of the latter’s life and Muhaddis Noori was included among his special trustworthy ones. In 1314 A.H. he returned to Najaf from Saamarrah and in 1320 A.H. at the age of 66 years, he passed away.
In this article, our aim is to introduce his book, “Kashf al-Astaar”. Therefore, let us curtail this and move to our topic. In order to read more about the intellectual struggles and other writings of Muhaddis Noori, refer to Al Muntazar special issue of Sha’baan al-Mo’azzam 1416 A.H., pp. 21-24.
In the month of Rabi al-Saani 1317 A.H., a panegyric written by Mahmood Shukri Aalusi, reached Najaf al-Ashraf and became famous as “Qaseedah al-Baghdadiyyah”. Its beginning was as follows:
O scholars of the time, for whom it is known
That their intellect is always baffled in (solving) delicate issues
Aalusi wrote 25 couplets in this panegyric which raises objections on the existence, long life, occultation and other special attributes of Imam-e-Asr (may Allah hasten his reappearance). When this poem reached Najaf-e-Ashraf, Muhaddis Noori (may Allah sanctify his grave) was preoccupied in writing “Khaatemah al-Mustadrak”. In those days, he had kept all other requests for other books on hold with the condition of completing “Khaatemah al-Mustadrak”. This is also mentioned in the preface of his book “Lulu wa al-Marjaan” wherein he wrote that “Syed Murtuza Jaunpuri from India has requested me several times to compile traditions and Maqtal for the convenience of those reciting from the pulpits. However, since I was busy with Mustadrak I delayed my reply to him.” In short, after compiling “Khaatemah al-Mustadrak” in 1318 A.H. “Lulu wa al-Marjaan” was completed in 1319 A.H.
During those strenuous days, he encountered the poem of Aalusi, and as you know by now, he had delayed all other assignments for Mustadrak. But the story here was different. An important pillar of religion was challenged and that too in a poetic form, whose words had an intense impact on the Arabs. Hence, Muhaddis Noori gathered his might and gave a fitting reply to the doubts of Aalusi in a short span of two months. The book “Kashf al-Astaar an wajh al-Ghaaeb an al-Absaar” was completed on 9th Jamaadi al-Saani 1317 A.H. which means this book took precedence over Mustadrak. Keeping in mind the importance of the book, Muhaddis Noori took it upon himself to publish it and on 17th Jamaadi al-Awwal 1318 A.H. it was printed by Tehran’s ‘Haaj Ahmed Muayyad al-Ulema’ publications.
This book includes a preface, two chapters, conclusion and sources of references. The preface consists of the reasons for writing this book and its content includes Qaseedah al-Baghdadiyyah. The first chapter (pp. 37 – 154), Muhaddis Noori has mentioned about the opinions of Muslims on the birth of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance). He has proved that Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) is the torch bearer of universal salvation and this is based on the reliable narrations. But in the following two instances, the Imamiyyah scholars differ from some Ahle Tasannun writers:
- Whether Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) is Hasani or Husaini?
- Whether Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) is born or not?
The initial part of this chapter talks about Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) who bears the same name as Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and is the son of Imam Hasan Askari (peace be upon him), being born in 255 A.H. Therein 40 Ahle Tasannun scholars have been quoted who have testified the birth of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) and have accepted it. The position and knowledge of these scholars has been substantiated through Ahle Tasannun books of Rejaal. Some have been directly quoted from relevant and authentic sources, while some others have been quoted from the book “Isteqsaa al-Afhaam” of Late Mir Hamid Husain Hindi (Abaqaati). Some concepts in this chapter are in Persian. In the first chapter, along with brief arguments where it is mentioned that the Promised Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) is none other than Hujjat Ibn al-Hasan al-Askari (peace be upon them) and discussions concerning this topic are as follows:
Some traditions prove the Imamat of 12 Imams, either under the general discussion of 12 caliphs or sometimes clearly spelling out their names and attributes. For instance:
- Muslim has brought a tradition in his Saheeh from Haseen who narrates from Jabir Ibn Samrah who says, “I arrived in the presence of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) along with my father and heard his eminence informing, “Surely this affair will not come to an end until there are twelve caliphs in it.” Jabir says, “Then Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) whispered something which I couldn’t hear. So I asked my father about it. My father said that Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: “All of them would be from Quraish.”
(Kashf al-Astaar, p. 108)
- Bukhari has brought a tradition (from Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny)) that: “After me, there will be twelve leaders”and said that: “All of them will be from Quraish.”
(Ibid., p. 109)
- Likewise, Shaareh (in Ghaayat al-Ahkaam) has quoted from his chain of narrators that Abu Qataadah said: I heard Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) saying, “The Imams after me will be twelve equal to the chiefs of Bani Israel and the disciples of Isa (peace be upon him).”
- Imam Husain Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon them) said: “There will be twelve Mahdis from us. The first of them is Ali Ibn Abi Talib and the last of them is Qaem (peace be upon them).”
- In addition to these, it is also mentioned in other Sihaah, Masaneed and Sunan.
Muhaddis Noori proved that traditions which talk about there being twelve caliphs after the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) are authentic and all scholars unanimously agree to those. He has also proved that whatever the Imamiyyah scholars have narrated is evident for all those who are known to be just and that these prophetic traditions do not comply with anyone except the Imamiyyah sect.
All Ahle Tasannun scholars have deemed this tradition as correct. They also conform to its meaning. But they differ in its interpretation. Within themselves, Ahle Tasannun have come up with various lists of twelve Imams. For example, they brought a list that has their four “Rightly guided Calpihs” and the rulers of Bani Umayyah or the rulers of Bani Abbas. However, not a single list could conform to the necessary conditions. For example, “all of them must be from Quraish” or “religion will get honor and strength through them” or “caliph of the Prophet would be possessor of good characteristics and will be free from evil attributes”, “will be the guided one” or “will be on the truthful religion” and so on.
Muhaddis Noori (may Allah sanctify his grave) has very efficiently proved that under the light of many more authentic traditions it can be concluded that only Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) are the twelve successors of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) unto whom the Prophet has emphasised to hold fast. The Late author has also narrated Hadees al-Saqalain from Ahle Tasannun sources. For instance, Abu Saeed Khudri narrates that
“I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) inform: Surely I leave among you two precious things, two caliphs. If you take from them you will never go astray after me. One of them is superior to the other. The Book of Allah – a rope extended from the skies to the earth (or from the earth) and my progeny, my Ahle Bait (peace be upon them). Know that these two will never separate from each other until they meet me at the pond of Kausar.”
This tradition has been repeatedly mentioned by Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) on numerous occasions. During the farewell Hajj, at Mount Arafaat, at Ghadeer-e-Khum, during the final stages of his life in Medina when his house was brimming with companions, in the sermon delivered after returning from Taa’ef and numerous other occasions. In short, with regards to the belief in Twelve Imams, Muhaddis Noori has not only refuted the objections of the Ahle Tasannun from their own sources but also proved that only Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) are the successors of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and accordingly Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) is alive and present even today.