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Al-Jazira al-Khadra'

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Al-Jazīra al-Khaḍrāʾ (Arabic: اَلْجَزیرَةُ ‌الْخَضْراء, literally: the Green Island) refers to an island believed in a story cited in some sources to be the place where the Twelfth Imam (a) of the Shi'a and his children allegedly live during the Major Occultation. The truth of the story is subject to serious doubts and many Shiite scholars have written works to criticize the story. Scholars who have rejected the story include Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, Shaykh Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita', Sayyid Muhammad 'Ali Qadi Tabataba'i, Muhammad Taqi Tustari, al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr, and Al-Sayyid Ja'far Murtada al-'Amili.

In Sources

It seems that the island is mentioned for the first time in an essay written by al-Fadl b. Yahya al-Tayyibi, a man from Wasit and a student of 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Irbili. It was then fully cited by al-'Allama al-Majlisi in his Bihar al-anwar. Aqa Buzurg Tihrani saw the essay with the handwriting of its author and transcribed it.

Before al-'Allama al-Majlisi, Qadi Nur Allah Shushtari (d. 1019/1610) pointed to al-Jazira al-Khadra' and its story in his discussion of some places. He said that al-Shahid al-Awwal quoted the story and wrote it with his own handwriting. Qadi Nur Allah also said that one of his contemporaries called Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Asad Allah al-Shushtari wrote a book about the philosophy and benefits of Occultation and attached a Persian version of the essay on al-Jazira al-Khadra' to it as well. Aqa Buzurg Tihrani speculated that this Persian translation of the essay is the same as the translation which is attributed to al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki (d. 940/1534) and published in India.

Story

First Version

According to the essay on al-Jazira al-Khadra', al-Fadl b. Yahya heard from a person called Zayn al-Din 'Ali b. Fadil al-Mazandarani in Hillah in 699/1299 the story of his trip to Andalusia. Zayn al-Din started his trip from Damascus and after a short stay in Egypt, he departed to Andalusia.

After some events that happened to him, he went to a land called "Jaza'ir al-Rafida" (Islands of the Rafida or the Shi'a), and after a stay there, he went to al-Jazira al-Khadra' with a ship that had carried provisions for people of the Islands. He characterized al-Jazira al-Khadra' as an island surrounded by a white sea which was inaccessible by adversaries. He described al-Jazira al-Khadra' as the most gorgeous land he had ever seen and praised its people. 'Ali b. Fadil met a religious scholar there called "al-Sayyid Shams al-Din Muhammad" whose lineage went back to Imam al-Mahdi (a) through 5 generations and served as his representative. He attended Shams al-Din's lectures.

Al-Sayyid Shams al-Din did not have a direct contact with Imam al-Mahdi (a), but he went to a glorious place every Friday morning, visiting the Imam (a) there, and after performing two rak'as of prayer, he found pieces of papers on which jurisprudential rulings needed by people were written. 'Ali b. Fadil asked Shams al-Din questions about issues such as performing Friday Prayer during the Occultation, the way the Qur'an was revealed and compiled, and why some Qur'anic verses seem irrelevant to their preceding and succeeding verses, seeing Imam al-Mahdi (a) during the Occultation, and the time and signs of his Reappearance, and wrote his replies in a book called al-Fawa'id al-Shamsiyya. He said that he wrote the book only for pure Shi'as.

Al-Sayyid Shams al-Din replied to 'Ali b. Fadil's question why he did not see Imam al-Mahdi (a) while he was a pure Shi'a of his, by saying that 'Ali b. Fadil had met Imam al-Mahdi (a) twice during his trip without noticing it. He then described the time and places of his meeting, which were recalled by 'Ali b. Fadil.

'Ali b. Fadil returned with the same ship at the command of al-Sayyid Shams al-Din, and then he went to Mecca to perform Hajj rituals. He then went to Iraq and resided in Najaf.

Second Version

Another story is quoted by al-Bayadi from Kamal al-Din al-Anbari in 543/1148, which is in some respects similar to the story of al-Jazira al-Khadra'. In short, the story goes like this: al-Anbari was present in a meeting where 'Awn al-Din Yahya b. Hubayra, the vizier of al-Muqtafi al-'Abbasi reproached Shiism. At this time, a man who was honored by the vizier asked him the permission to narrate a story about the Shi'a that he himself witnessed. He said: "my father and I had a commercial trip with a ship from Bahiya which was a great city. We then arrived in green islands which our captain had never seen and known. People of the islands had the best social manners and practices and were unique in their honesty, trustworthiness, and piety".

The narrator who met a number of cities in these islands referred to the rulers of the cities respectively as Tahir, al-Qasim, Ibrahim, and Hashim, adding that they all introduced themselves as children of Imam al-Mahdi (a).

Relationship with the Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle refers to a region in the Atlantic Ocean which was mythically known in the twentieth century as a place where ships and airplanes sank. The view that the Bermuda Triangle is the same as al-Jazira al-Khadra'—which was allegedly located in the Mediterranean Sea—seems irrelevant.

Objections to the Story of al-Jazira al-Khadra'

Many objections have been raised to the story of al-Jazira al-Khadra', such as the following.

  • The chains of the transmission of the story in the eleventh/seventeenth century are not connected to sixth/twelfth and seventh/thirteenth centuries in which the original story was cited. The transmitters of the story and the manuscripts of the book are unknown, and the only book that has cited the story belongs to the eleventh century. Thus, al-'Allama al-Majlisi said that he never saw the story in reliable sources, and cited the story in the section of "al-Nawadir" (curious stories) of his book.
  • Moreover, the story involves beliefs such as the distortion of the Qur'an, permanent relationship with Imam al-Mahdi (a), and his having children, none of which is believed by the Shi'a.
  • If al-Jazira al-Khadra' is taken to be the same as the Bermuda Triangle, it will give a picture of Imam al-Mahdi (a) during the Occultation according to which he has a known place of living and destroys ships and airplanes, but these are not compatible with Shiite beliefs.
  • According to some hadiths, it can be implied that Imam al-Mahdi (a) usually lives in Medina and Mecca during his Occultation.

Some Works in the Rejection of the Story

  • Dirasa fi 'alamat al-zuhur wa l-Jazira al-Khadra

In recent years, an Iraqi author, Naji al-Najjar, wrote a book about al-Jazira al-Khadra', and identified it with the Bermuda Triangle. Aliakbar Mahdipour has translated the book into Persian under Jazira-yi Khadra' wa tahqiq-i darbara-yi musallas-i Bermuda (al-Jazira al-Khadra' and an investigation about the Bermuda Triangle). Al-Sayyid Ja'far Murtada al-'Amili criticized the book. He made objections to the chains of transmissions and contents of the story, and rejected the identification of al-Jazira al-Khadra' with the Bermuda Triangle.

  • Jazira-yi Khadra': afsana ya waqi'iyyat

It is a Persian book which has criticized the story of al-Jazira al-Khadra' in more detail, showing its problems and rejecting the identification of al-Jazira al-Khadra' with the Bermuda Triangle. It is written by Abulfadl Tariqadar as a collection of objections to the story made by Muhammad Taqi Shushtari, Sayyid Ja'far Murtada al-'Amili, Ibrahim Amini, and others.

  • Other Works

Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita' has taken the story to be fiction made up by some people and then quoted by some Akhbari scholars from unknown and fabricated books. He takes the contents of the story to be at odds with principles accepted by the Shi'a. Some contemporary scholars, such as Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, Sayyid Muhammad 'Ali Qadi Tabataba'i, Muhammad Taqi Shushtari, and al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr criticized the chains of the transmission and the content of the story as well.

Ali Akbar Ghaffari takes the origin of the story of al-Jazira al-Khadra' to go back to a progeny of Isma'il, the son of Imam al-Sadiq (a), who had the same title as that of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and was the twelfth generation of Imam 'Ali (a). It seems that a group of Iraqi people who visited the land thought that he was the al-Mahdi who is mentioned in hadiths and the rulers of the islands are his progeny, because his name, teknonym, and title were the same as those of Imam Mahdi (a).

References