Encounters with the Hidden Imam in Early and Pre-Modern Twelver Shīʿī Islam


The history of Twelver Shīʿī Islam is a history of attempts to ‎deal with the ‎abrupt loss of the Imam. In Encounters with the Hidden Imam in Early and Pre-‎Modern Twelver Shīʿī Islam, ‎Omid Ghaemmaghami demonstrates that in the early years of what came to be known as the Greater Occultation, Shīʿī authorities maintained that all contact with the Imam had been sundered, forcing him to remain incommunicado ‎until his (re)appearance‎. This position, however, proved ‎untenable to maintain. Almost a ‎century after the start of the Greater Occultation, prominent scholars ‎began to concede the ‎possibility that some Shīʿa can meet the Hidden Imam. Accounts of encounters with the Imam from the Greater Occultation soon began to appear, adumbrating their exponential growth in later centuries.

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Omid Ghaemmmaghami is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Near Eastern Studies at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton.
“At a time when Shīʿite Islam is a major religious and ideological force in the Middle East, this book constitutes a very important addition to the scholarly literature on this subject. [It] is outstanding in its presentation and analysis of a wide-ranging array of sources, both primary and secondary. It is especially strong in the number and nature of the Arabic and Persian sources comprising religious treatises, Hadith compilations and biographical dictionaries (Rijāl books) pre-modern and modern. One of the best books on Shīʿite thought that I have read recently or, for that matter, at any time.”
William F. Tucker, University of Arkansas, author of Mahdis and Millenarians: Shīʿite Extremists in Early Muslim Iraq, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

“Omid Ghaemmaghami’s thoroughly researched monograph … offers a well-documented and well-argued historical contextualization of a central idea in Twelver Shiism….The strength of the book is that it combines thorough philological groundwork with broad historical contextualization….Encountering the Hidden Imam is a well-researched and a thoroughly argued contribution to the religious and intellectual history of pre-modern Islam: it explores both the big picture of political and social change and the detailed small picture of the texts where this change is reflected.”
Mushegh Asatryan, University of Calgary in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume 84, Issue 1(2021).

“Ghaemmaghami has produced a well-researched, well-argued, and clearly written book that fills a gap in the literature on Twelver Shiʿism.”
Moojan Momen, Independent researcher in: Religion, Volume 52, Issue 2(2022).

“Ghaemmaghami has brilliantly produced an interesting study that will benefit scholarship on Islam, its religious history in general, and the Shiite doctrine of authority in particular. This stimulating scholarly effort is also one more reminder of the importance of a solid, balanced philological approach when dealing with Islamic tradition, piety, and theology.”
Marco Salati, University of Cà Foscari in: Der Islam, Volume 98, No. 2(2021).

“…this work has been written with its readership in mind and provides an important examination of terms, texts and concepts to assist with gaining clarity on this fundamental issue in the Twelver Shi‘i tradition.”
Rebecca Mastertonin, The Islamic College in: Journal of Shi‘a Islamic Studies, Volume 12, No. 3-4(2019).

“In all, Ghaemmaghami has produced a well-researched, well-argued, and clearly written book that fills a gap in the literature on Twelver Shiʿism. It is also a useful addition to the literature on ‘invented traditions’ and the manner in which the ‘invented’ nature of such traditions is concealed and the traditions consolidated as well-grounded knowledge.”

Moojan Momen, Independent researcher in: Religion Volume 52 (2022).
Acknowledgments A Note on Transliteration and Style

 1 Approaches to the Question of Encountering the Hidden Imam in Sources in Western Languages
 2 Outline of the Book

1 The Unknown, the Unseen, and the Unrecognized
 1 The Hadith Compilations Attributed to al-Barqī and al-Ṣaffār al-Qummī
 2 The Exegetical Corpus: The tafāsīr of al-ʿAskarī, al-Sayyārī, al-Fūrat, al-Qummī, and al-ʿAyyāshī
 3 The Hadith Compilation of al-Kulaynī
 4 The Hidden Imam: Unseen and Unrecognized
 5 The Hidden Imam: Seen but Not Recognized

2 Hidden from All, yet Seen by Some? The Special Case of Three Hadiths
 1 Hadith 1 (and Variants): “the 30 are never lonely”
 2 Hadith 2: “[and] no one will know his location except the elite of his mawālī
 3 Hadith 3: “except the mawlā who is in charge of his affairs”
 4 The mawlā/mawālī

3 “A Lying Impostor”
 1 Ibn Abī Zaynab al-Nuʿmānī
 2 Al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq
 3 The Final Missive of the Hidden Imam
 4 “A Lying Impostor”
 5 Al-Shaykh al-Mufīd
 6 Al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā and His Students

4 From the Youth and the Stone to the Proliferation of Accounts
 1 The Earliest Accounts of Encounters with the Imam in a Wakeful State
 2 The “Invention” of a Tradition
 3 The Proliferation of Accounts and the Consolidation of a Tradition

5 Conclusion

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Index of Quran Citations
Index of Quoted Hadiths
Index of People and Places
Index of Subjects
All interested in early Islamic intellectual history, Shīʿī Islam (especially in its formative period), messianism, authority, and the history of ideas.
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