As per historical narration, the reliable and trustworthy persons who frequently visited Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) mainly during the lesser concealment were manifold. But the most famous amongst them were four in number:
Abul-Hasan Ali-ibn-Muhammad-Samori (or Samari or Semmari)
These envoys of Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) and their deputyship possessed the same power and authority as the one given to them by Imam Hadi (a.s.), and Imam Askari (a.s.). In order to make the people habituated with Imam-e-Zaman’s concealment, they too would fulfil the people’s task and affairs through their own appointed agents.
During the 69 years of Imam’s minor concealment period, these envoys, while protecting the secrets of Imamate, would fulfil the needs of the Shias related to their beliefs and ordinances through Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). During this period, the place of Hazrat Mahdi as well as the envoys was never revealed and thus nobody was arrested. These envoys kept secret this matter to such extent that it’s said if their flesh was cut to pieces so that they would reveal Imam’s place, they would never do so.
Aside from their secret-keeping and trust worthiness, these envoys were special friends of the household of Imamate and Vilayat and they were wise, intellectual and pious. The people would put forward their queries and receive correct replies from their living Imam through these envoys and via letters. Besides, by means of some letters that were written by pen without ink, they would gain certainty about the connection these envoys had with Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). Now we shall set forth a short description about each of these envoys:
Uthaman-ibn-Saeed was among the students and followers of the tenth and eleventh Imams and had the mandate from those Imams (a.s.). He gained the honour of serving the prophet’s household from age eleven and won the confidence and trust of three Imams (a.s.). He lived in a military place close to Imam Hadi and Imam Askari. He was Imam-e-Zaman’s envoy for several years. He died and was buried in Baghdad. It is said he died after 260 A.H.
Muhammad-ibn-Uthman son of first envoy. He died in 305 A.H. and was buried in Baghdad. He was amongst the followers of eleventh and twelfth Imam and was praised by both Imams (a.s.). He held the post of deputyship for approximately forty years.
Hazrat Baqiyat’ullah (a.t.f.s.) issued several ‘Tauqeehs’ (decrees) in honour of the second envoy and his father which can be found in their proper sources. These ‘Tauqeehs’ reveal the lofty position of these two envoys in the eyes of Imam-e-Asr (a.t.f.s.).
Husain-ibn-Rouh-Naubakhti belonged to the family of Bani-Naubakht. This envoy of Iranian nationality died in 326 A.H. He won the confidence of Muhammad-ibn-Uthman and helped him during the last two years of his life. As per Imam-e-Zaman’s (a.t.f.s.) instructions, Muhammad-ibn-Uthman assigned him the post of deputyship.
Ali-ibn-Muhammad-Samori died in 329 A.H. (start of major concealment) and was buried in Baghdad. He is contemporary to Muhammad-ibn-Yaqub Kulaini author of Al-Kafi.
These envoys would receive queries and problems from the Shias and present them before Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). Later, they would submit the replies to the people. Due to fear from the ruling caliph’s tyranny they lived in dissimulation and didn’t reveal their relationship with Imam (a.t.f.s.) except to the noble Shias and wise secret-preserving followers. During the last stage of the fourth deputy’s life, he received a letter from Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) stating:“…….the major concealment has begun and there wouldn’t be any deputyship any longer. Do not appoint anyone to the post of deputyship and you would die within six days.”
The following is the text of this letter (‘tauqeeh’):
“In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”
“O Ali-ibn-Muhammad Samori,
May Allah give rewards to your brothers in the matter of your death! You will depart from this world within six days. So arrange and complete your affairs and do not appoint anyone as your successor because, ‘The major Ghaibat’ (concealment) shall commence and ‘Zuhoor’ (Reappearance) wouldn’t occur except if the Almighty Allah gives permission and that would be after long years of darkness when hearts will turn into stones and the land filled with injustice and cruelty. Soon, some will claim to our Shias about our meeting. Before the rise of Sufyani and the heavenly cry, such malicious claimers will fabricate lies and there is no power and might but that of Almighty Allah.”
On the one hand, the content of this ‘Tauqee’ closes the chapter of special deputyship and informs the people about the commencement of major concealment. On the other hand, it rejects the claims during major concealment by those claiming to know Hazrat’s place and their ability in visiting Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) whenever they desire so. Of course, this does not mean that Hazrat wouldn’t manifest himself before his fascinated lovers and the door of visitation would come to a close.
After six days, Imam’s prediction turned into a reality. He departed this world and from that day ( 329 A.H.) the major concealment commenced.