Philosophy of the Occultation in Islamic Traditions
By: Ibrahim Ramadhanian
The material covered in this article can be classified into two major categories. The philosophy of the occultation is discussed first and, thereafter, the consequences and effects on the individual and community.
I. The Philosophy of the Imam’s (may God hasten his reappearance) Occultation
What is the reason for the divine Hujjah’s ccultation? Answering this question is not very easy. For this is not a rational matter that could be reasoned logically, nor is a common issue that can be understood by common and wise people. It is a devotional issue that can only be clarified through divine sources and the sayings of the Holy Prophet (P.B.) and the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.). Based on the reasons they convey , traditions can be categorized into six beneath:
The first are traditions which indicate that reason is the fear that the Imam (may God hasten his reappearance) may be killed. The Holy Prophet (P.B.) and the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.) had on every appropriate occasion told the people of the coming of the twelfth Imam and that he will fight the oppressors and spread justice throughout the land. Therefore, the enemies were waiting for him to be born so they could murder him. the second are traditions which mention that that the occultation was so that the Imam (may God hasten his reappearance) wouldn’t have to pledge allegiance to any one in order that when he comes he won’t have any pledge or allegiance on him. other traditions are those which imply that God has wanted the characteristics and features of all the prophets to be gathered in the twelfth Imam, including their occultation. It has also been mentioned in these sources that the Imam will come at a time that no Muslim is to be born from an infidel, there is the forth category which indicates that trial is another of the causes mentioned for the occultation so that the people are purified and the true believers are separated from the false claimers. In the fifth category traditions explain that the reason is to enable the Muslims to become self-sufficient in their thought and belief and strengthen Islamic power and knowledge with the help of the sayings and actions of the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.). The Ahlul-Bait have praised the Muslims that stay firm during the time of the occultation, and have considered their works and worships among the best. traditions of the last category imply that the reason is the revelation of the Imams’ (P.B.) secrets by the Muslims. A tradition from Imam Sadiq (P.B.) says: “The repose was set for a time; however, you made it public and God delayed it.”
Although all of the above has been said by the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.), they have said themselves that the occultation is one of God’s secrets. Therefore, the actual reason cannot be easily found. Hence, it must be acknowledged that the actual philosophy behind the occultation is a divine wisdom.
II. The Effects of the Occultation
Although Imam Mahdi’s (may God hasten his reappearance) occultation is a cause of great hardships and losses, it is fruitful for the true believers. One of the results of the occultation mentioned in the traditions is the strengthening of belief and piety in believers. When people know that there’s a noble person watching them and monitoring their deeds, they will be more careful of their deeds. The distinction and separation of the truth and falsehood is another result of the occultation. The readiness of the people for accepting justice and the thirst for a just government is an outcome of the Imam’s (may God hasten his reappearance) occultation as well. It has also been said in traditions that during the occultation, the reward of those believing in the sovereignty of the Imam (may God hasten his reappearance) will be more than the time of his presence, which can also be considered a result of the occultation.
 Allameh Majlesi, Biharol-Anwar, Vol. 52, P. 122, T. 4