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Last Updated: 2010/11/22
Summary of question
Where does the Imam of Time (atf) live during the occultation?
Where does the Imam of Time (atf) live during the occultation?
Concise answer

There are three categories of reports in regards to the domicile of the Imam of Time (atf): The first category of reports does not introduce a special residence for the Imam. Although some of the narrations in this category consider the deserts and mountains as his residence, on the whole, according to the first category of reports the Imam's residence is not fixed. The second category of reports says that the Imam lives invisibly among the people. The third category of reports makes mention of specific places such as Medina or Mount Razawi in Medina or Mecca or Dhi Tuwa near Mecca.

It should be stated that the reports in this regard are not contradicting each other because the Imam lives in a regular and normal way. There is no objection whatsoever to the Imam (atf) living sometimes in Medina or Mecca and other times in mountains and on deserts, thus distancing himself from the public whenever necessary.

Detailed Answer

We have three distinct categories of reports in this regard each apparently disagreeing with the other:

A) Some of the reports do not establish a fixed residence for the Imam. According to some of the same category of reports, he is living in mountains and on deserts. One of those reports is the narration of Ibn-e Mahzyar quoted by Shaykh Tusi in his Al-Ghaybah.[1]

B) A second category of reports establish a fixed residence for the Imam (atf). Here are two examples of such reports:

1. Medina and its surroundings or Mount Razawi which is in the suburb of Medina:[2] In this regard, Allamah Shushtari says as such: “It has been stated in reliable texts that Mount Razawi is the residence of the Imam during the minor and major occultation. What Kisaniyah (name of a sect) believes about Muhammad bin Hanafiyah living in Mount Razawi does not actually negate the presence of Mahdi (atf) on this Mountain because Kisaniyah has applied the Holy Prophet’s mutawatir traditions about Mahdi (ajt) to Muhammad bin Hanafiyah. In fact, every misgiving or distraction stems from a truth that has been misused or misinterpreted.”[3]

2. Mecca and its surroundings: It is inferred from some reports that the Imam lives at a place called “Dhi Tuwa” which is located near Mecca. He will rise up from there along with his friends and companions.[4]

C) The third category of reports does not mention any specific places as the Imam’s domicile. According to these narrations, the Imam (atf) lives invisibly among the people and he associates with them.[5]

Now that we have briefly studied these three categories of narrations, we can easily come to the conclusion that there is no contradiction or inconsistency between the reports because the prime principle is that the Imam (atf) is living an ordinary life so as not to cause sensitivity, and this kind of life is also easier for the Imam to live. Indeed, there is no objection whatsoever to the Imam (atf) living sometimes in Medina or Mecca and other times in mountains and on deserts, thus distancing himself from the public whenever necessary.[6]

[1] - Shaykh Tusi, Al-Ghaybah, pg.266 quoted from Chashm be Rah Mahdi, pg.348.

[2] - Shaykh Tusi, Al-Ghaybah, Basirati Library Publications, pg.102 and 103; Behar al-Anwar, vol.52, pg.153; Usul-e Kafi, vol.1,pg.340.

[3] - A Collection of Articles and Discourses on Mahdi (atf), pg.64.

[4] - Nu’mani, Al-Ghaybah, pg.182, quoted from Chashm be Rah Mahdi, pg.350

[5] - Nu’mani, Al-Ghaybah, pg. 164. It is understood from this report that the Imam’s occultation is nominal or titular.

[6] - Vide: Chashm be Rah Mahdi, pg. 347-351.

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