بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وصلى الله تعالى على نبيه الكريم
وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين
A little over two years ago I published a piece on this blog arguing that the Twelfth Imam of the Ithna Ashari Shi’ah sect is a fictional character for whom there is no solid historical evidence of existence. This is extremely problematic for the Twelvers given that belief in this twelfth Imam is one of the most fundamental doctrines of their sect. In fact, it is their defining feature which differentiates them from the other sects of the Shi’ah and the Imamiyah. Just to recap, the arguments I put forward in that article were:
The splitting of the followers of the Eleventh Imam at his death into numerous factions, the majority of which altogether denied that the Eleventh Imam had a son, or those that affirmed a son for him differed regarding critical details.
Confusion as to the alleged identity of the Twelfth Imam’s mother. Since the Eleventh Imam never married, the Twelvers claim he took a concubine who birthed for him this mysterious Twelfth Imam. However, there are so many contradictory reports in their literature regarding the details of this concubine, including her very name.
The Twelvers claim there was no sign of pregnancy in the mother of the Twelfth Imam throughout the duration of her pregnancy. This especially casts doubt on the birth of a child to the Eleventh Imam.
In this second part I shall elaborate further on each of these three points, and also present some additional arguments which cast serious doubt on the existence of the Twelfth Imam.
As for the factions that emerged at the death of the Eleventh Imam – Hasan al-Zaki – al-Nawbakhti, himself a Twelver, has described them in some detail. He writes that the community split into fourteen distinct groups, but only writes concerning thirteen of them:
identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the first group
identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the second group
identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the third group
identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the fourth group
identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the fifth group. Al-Shahrastani adds that they recognize the Imamate of the Tenth Imam’s son Muhammad because he had children, so we can assume the believed the Imamate was transferred to the sons of this Muhammad.
Identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the sixth group. Al-Shahrastani explains that they believe the alleged son of the Eleventh Imam, named Muhammad, was born two years before his father died.
Identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the seventh group
identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the ninth group.
A group which affirmed the existence of a son for the Eleventh Imam, but are unsure about any of his details, including whether he was born before or after his father’s death. They believe this Twelfth Imam went into occultation.
Identical to Nawbakhti’s description of the eleventh group
A group which is unsure about the entire affair, for example, if the Eleventh Imam had a son or not.
In summary, of the thirteen factions mentioned by al-Nawbakhti, nine of them outright denied that the Eleventh Imam, Hasan al-Askari, had a son. And in al-Shahrastani’s list of eleven factions, seven outright denied that the Eleventh Imam had a son.
As for those factions that affirm a son for the Eleventh Imam, they differ as to when he was born, either before or after the Eleventh Imam’s death.
Then there are a few factions which were unsure on the question of a son being born to the Eleventh Imam. Based on this, we cannot help but conclude that the idea of the Eleventh Imam having a son is a myth, otherwise there wouldn’t have been so many factions, independent of each other, from among his original followers who would deny it. And those factions which do claim he had a son have contradictory accounts, some say he was born several years before his father died, while others say he was born eight months after his father died.
The second pillar of my argument is the confusion over the identity of the Twelfth Imam’s alleged mother. There are at least eight different names that have been narrated in Twelver literature for the concubine of the Eleventh Imam who bore him a son: Narjis, Sawsan, Saqīl, Rayhāna, Malīka, Hukayma, Maryam, Khumt. Though some Twelver apologists suggest these are all different names of the same woman, their narrations invalidate this argument. Some suggest the concubine was a Roman princess, the granddaughter of one of the Caesars, and also a descendant of Jesus’s chief disciple, Simeon Peter, while others say she was a black woman, a Nubian from the northern region of Sudan.