Kitāb al-Ghayba (Arabic: کِتاب الغَيبَة), is the title of a book about the occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a) written by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Hasan al-Tusi known as al-Shaykh al-Tusi. This book is among important references for knowing Imam al-Mahdi (a) and his occultation. It has offered the view of Shi'a about Imam al-Mahdi (a) and has answered questions posed about his occultation using justifications from the Qur'an, hadiths and reason.
About the Author
Muhammad b. Hasan b. Ali b. Hasan (385/995 – 460/1067) known as Shaykh al-Ta'ifa (meaning "chief of the tribe/Shi'a) and al-Shaykh al-Tusi is the author of two of the Four Books of Shi'a and was among the greatest theologians, narrators of hadiths, exegetes and Shi'a scholars in jurisprudence. After the demise of al-Sayyid al-Murtada, he took the leadership of Twelver Shi'a and educated many students. He had many works. Among the fruits of al-Shaykh al-Tusi's scientific activities has been Shi'a ijtihad's achievement of independence from other Islamic sects including Sunni sects.
Title of the Book
Kitab al-Ghayba is one of tens of books written having this title. It is not known what book has been the oldest book titled as al-Ghayba, but references of bibliography have listed books titled as such after the 2nd/8th century. Among the most important books written on this topic and this title written before the book of al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Ghayba of al-Nu'mani (d. 360/970-1), Ghayba of al-Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413/1022) and Ghayba of al-Sayyid al-Murtada (d. 436/1044) can be mentioned.
About the name of the book, the author has not chosen a title, but Aqa Buzurg Tihrani called it al-Ghayba. About this book, he said, "al-Shaykh al-Tusi's al-Ghayba contains the strongest rational and traditional proofs for the existence of Imam al-Mahdi (a), the reason for his occultation and signs of his advent toward the end of the time."
Date of Writing
Al-Shaykh al-Tusi wrote this book around 447/1055-6, thirteen years before his death.
Structure of the Book
This book has been arranged in eight chapters:
- Al-Kalam fi l-ghayba: in this chapter, the author generally proves the imamate of an absent imam who is necessarily the twelfth Imam (a). To prove this issue, the author first proves prerequisites such as the necessity of existence of Imam (a) at any time, necessity of the infallibility of Imam (a) and presence of Imam (a) among people. He continues and rejects beliefs of Kaysaniyya, Nawusiyya, Waqifids, Muhammadiyya, Fathiyya and such sects about imamate. Then, he answers questions posed regarding the belief in occultation and at the end, he mentions the arguments for the occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and that he (a) is the Twelfth Imam (a) from the children of Imam al-Husayn (a) and rejects the arguments of deniers.
- The birth of Imam Hujja b. al-Hasan al-'Askari (a) and proves his birth with reasons and reports.
- About people who have met Imam al-Mahdi (a)
- Miracles of Imam (a) and some letters received from him
- Obstacles of his coming
- Reports about Imam's (a) agents (including both praised and criticized ones), mentioning the names and condemning those who claimed to be agents of Imam (a).
- Lifetime of Imam (a) and explanation of reports about his death; the unknown nature of his advent and explanation of reports which have marked a certain time for his advent; mentioning the signs of his advent.
- Mentioning some of his characteristics, attributes and conduct.
Features and Importance of the Book
- Being the reference on the issue of occultation: this book has an important position due to the importance of its author and its topic and if someone wants to write a book on Mahdism and occultation, he has to refer to this book. This has been the reason that since the past, scholars and researchers pay a special attention to this work.
- Excluding Hudud to the time of Imam's (a) presence: the author believes that Hudud can only be performed only by the Infallible and they are not applicable now.
- Those who claim deputyship: in this book, names of some of those who claimed deputyship of Imam (a) have been mentioned and their arguments have been said.
- First-hand references: al-Shaykh al-Tusi's access to first-hand references and his knowledge about hadiths has given a special value to this work.
Sources and References of the Book
References al-Shaykh has benefited from can be divided in two groups:
- References which are now accessible to us such as al-Kafi, Nu'mani's al-Ghayba, Kamal al-din wa tamam al-ni'ma, al-Shaykh al-Mufid's Arba' risalat fi l-ghayba, al-Sayyid al-Murtada's al-Dhakhira, Masa'il Ali b. Ja'far (a), Kitab-i Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali.
- References which are not available now such as Sa'd b. 'Abd Allah al-Ash'ari al-Qummi's al-Diya' fi l-radd 'ala al-Muhammadiyya wa al-Ja'fariyya, Fadl b. Shadhan's al-Qa'im and al-Raj'a, Ibn Nuh al-Sirafi's Akhbar al-wukala' al-arba'a, Shalmaghani's al-Ghayba and al-Awsiya' and Ali b. Ahmad al-'Alawi's Nusrat al-waqifa.
Versions and Prints of the Book
- For the first time, this book was printed through lithography in Tabriz together with al-Bayan fi akhbar sahib al-Zaman (a) in 1323/1905-6.
- In 1385/1965-6, it was published in Matba'at al-Nu'man in Najaf with a preface of Aqa Buzurg Tehrani in 292 pages and in the same year, it was offset by Maktabat Niniway al-hadithiyya.
- In 1409/1988-9, it was printed by Maktabat Basirati in 308 pages.
- In 1411/1990-1, it was published with a preface of 'Abd Allah Sarshar Tehrani and Ali Ahmad Nasih in 570 pages by Mu'assisat al-ma'raf al-Islamiyya of Qom. This version has a list of Qur'anic verses, names of prophets, angels and fourteen infallibles, narrators, ambiguous points, clans and sects, places and times, references for the research and thematic index.
- The material for writing this article is mainly taken from (کتاب الغیبة (شیخ_طوسی in Farsi WikiShia.