There is no doubt that today’s Muslims are more divided than they have ever been. The divisions are so prevalent that in the political and economic sense of the word the Muslims of the world have ceased to be the “ummah” spoken about in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. A closer look at the condition of today’s Muslims and we realize that these divisions are related to disputes and disagreements that have become throughout the ages what appear to be irreconcilable differences.
Looking at the meaning of the greater occultation, the purpose that an occulted Imam [AS] may be said to fulfil. And certain peripheral modes of communication with the Imam [AS] even during the period of the greater occultation. With respect to the purpose of the Imam [AS], what purpose does he fulfil during the greater occultation? Two common metaphors are commonly adduced in explanation and justification of the greater occultation.1
Not surprisingly the greater occultation just like the lesser occultation precipitated a new crisis within the Shi’ah community, for an obvious reason that now very basic questions such as the utility - the very purpose of an Imam [AS] who is not simply inaccessible to the majority of his followers but no longer present on the physical plain, such basic questions came forward occasioning considerable doubt and hesitation both within and beyond the Shi’i community.1
When running through some of the different groups that existed among the Shi’ah after the death of the 11th Imam [AS] in the apparent absence of any physical offspring there were also the Qat’iyyah who stand at opposite extremes to the la adriyyah those people who contented themselves in saying we do not know what happened. The Qat’iyyah are those by contrast who are certain, Qat’iyyah meaning ‘those who profess certainty’.1
The 11th Imam [AS] had an offspring who after a relatively short period disappeared from the physical plain in what is called the occultation. Before considering the life and circumstances of the 11th Imam [AS] a few additional remarks can be made concerning the immediate background, the circumstances of the Shi’ah in general, the institution of the Imamate in particular in this period, the period of the 9th, 10th and 11th Imams [AS], the period leading up to the occultation.1
The life and legacy of the 8th Imam – Imam Ali al-Rida [AS]. As was always the case, the death of the preceding Imam [AS] Imam Musa al-Kazim [AS] was accompanied with a degree of uncertainty and division within the community about the identity of the successor. On this occasion however the disagreement and confusion was relatively minor and short lived, almost the entirety of the Shi’i community came to accept Imam Ali al-Rida [AS] as the 8th Imam [AS] and as the successor to Imam Musa al-Kazim [AS].1