Al-Ghayba (by al-Nu'mani)

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Al-Ghayba (by al-Nu'mani)
Bibliographical Information
Bibliographical Information
AuthorMuhammad b. Ibrahim al-Nu'mani
Original titleالغيبة
SubjectOccultation and the Reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a)
PublisherQom, Nashr al-Madyan

Al-Ghayba (Arabic:الغيبة) is among important Shi'a works on the issue of Occultation and the Reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a) written by Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Nu'mani at the beginning of the Major Occultation period. The total number of narrations in this book is 478 presented in twenty six chapters. This book is a reference for many other references and sources of Shi'a scholars.


Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Ibrahim b. Ja'far al-Katib al-Nu'mani known as "Ibn Abi Zaynab" is among the greatest Shi'a transmitters of hadiths at the early fourth/tenth century. As well as being famous for his intellect and power of judgment, he also had an extensive knowledge in rijal and hadiths.

He was among students of Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni and had acquired much of his knowledge from him. Al-Nu'mani was also regarded as the transcriber of al-Kulayni's speeches and thus had a special respect and fame before Shi'a scholars in jurisprudence and other sciences.


Al-Nu'mani organized twenty six chapters in three parts of "basics of occultation", "period of occultation" and "time of the reappearance and its signs". He benefited from books of hadith collections, especially previous published books on occultation.

He wrote al-Ghayba in 342/953-4 when he was in Aleppo. Bibliographers have mentioned al-Nu'mai's al-Ghayba and some, referring to its content, say that its name is "Mala' al-'ayba fi tul al-ghayba". After mentioning an issue about imamate of Imam al-Mahdi (a), al-Shaykh al-Mufid says, "there are many hadiths in this regard which narrators have collected and have mentioned them in their books including Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Ibrahim Nu'mani who has extensively mentioned those hadiths in a book he has written about the Occultation."

Reason for Writing

In the first half of the fourth/tenth century when the Occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a) had prolonged, especially after the demise of Abu l-Hasan Samuri (d. 329/941), the last of Four Deputies, towards the end of the Minor Occultation, a great chaos emerged in the thoughts and beliefs of Shi'as and many people doubted the existence of Imam (a) and some rose to criticize and deny Imam (a). Al-Nu'mani was living at that time, and wrote al-Ghayba to reinforce intellectual foundations of Shi'a and also to answer their ideological questions regarding imamate and the secret of the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam (a). This book contains narrations from the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) on the issue of occultation and its related issues. In the introduction to the book, al-Nu'mani mentions some points about the situation of his time and the reason for compiling al-Ghayba.

In a lengthy introduction, he explains it as deviation of some groups of Shi'a regarding the occultation of the Tewlfth Imam (a) and mentions weakness of faith and lack of attention towards available hadiths on the issue of Occultation as one of the causes of such deviation.


The only narrator of al-Nu'mani's al-Ghayba is his student, Abu l-Husain Muhammad b. Ali al-Bajali or al-Shuja'i and although he is not famous, others have recited the book before him and then his son, Husayn b. Muhammad al-Shuja'i has presented the version of the book recited before the author as well as other books of his father to al-Najashi and this way it has become available.


The total number of hadiths in the book is 478 hadiths explained in twenty six chapters and the number of hadiths in each chapter is different. The author intended to narrate hadiths throughout the book, and he has rarely added an explanation from himself and does not repeat narrations in different chapters.


Discussions of al-Nu'mani's al-Ghayba have been trusted by Shi'a scholars in references of the fourth/tenth century and later. Great scholars such as al-Shaykh al-Mufid in al-Irshad, al-Irbili in Kashf al-ghumma, al-'Allama al-Hilli in al-Mustajad and later scholars such as al-Majlisi in Bihar al-anwar and Al-Hurr al-'Amili in Ithbat al-hudat have narrated from al-Nu'mani's al-Ghayba.


Chapters of the book are organized in three parts: primary chapters about primary discussions on the Occultation, Age of Occultation, Age of the Reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and its signs which sum up the 26 chapters:

  1. On keeping the secret of Al Muhammad from non-trustworthy ones
  2. News on holding to the Rope of God
  3. Discussion of imamate
  4. The twelve Imams (a) in the Qur'an, the Bible and the Torah
  5. About those who claimed imamate
  6. Hadiths on imamate narrated through Sunni scholars
  7. About one who has doubts about Imams (a)
  8. Necessity of existence of the Proof of God on the earth
  9. That if there are two people on the earth, one of them will be Imam (a)
  10. What has been received about occultation from all Imams (a)
  11. Enduring hardships and expecting deliverance
  12. Hardships and trials of Shi'a during occultation
  13. Attributes and conduct of Imam al-Mahdi (a)
  14. Signs before the Reappearance of Imam (a)
  15. Disorganized situation of the society before the Reappearance
  16. Prohibition of timing for the Reappearance
  17. Hardships and trials of Imam (a) made by the ignorant toward the Reappearance
  18. Emergence of Sufyani
  19. Banner of Imam al-Mahdi (a) is the banner of the Prophet (s)
  20. Jaysh al-ghayb (unseen army)
  21. Condition of Shi'a toward the Reappearance
  22. New invitation
  23. Age of Imam (a) toward his imamate
  24. Narrations about Isma'il, son of Imam al-Sadiq (a)
  25. Knowing Imam al-Mahdi (a)
  26. Duration of the government of Imam al-Mahdi (a) after his rising


Multiple versions some of which are close to the time of the author add to its authenticity and credit. The oldest version of the book is available in the library of Astan Quds Razavi.