The Just Leader of Humanity 6
When I heard this from my master Ja'far b. Muhammad the truth became evident for me. I apologized to him for the erroneous belief that I held before that and composed a poem on the subject.
Hence, the story of occultation of the Mahdi was not invented by 'Uthman b. Sa'id. It was God who foreordained it for him, and the Prophet and the Imams had informed the people about it before his father Imam Hasan 'Askari was born. Tabarsi, in his book on the history of the Prophet and the Imams entitled, I'lam al-wara, writes:
The traditions about the ghaybat of the twelfth Imam were in circulation before his, his father's, and his grandfather's birth. They were recorded and cited by the Shi'i traditionists who lived during the time of Imams Baqir and Sadiq. Among these highly trusted traditionists is Hasan b. Mahbub. He wrote a book entitled Mashikha a century before the occultation of the twelfth Imam in which he recorded traditions about the occultation. One of the traditions published in this book included the following hadith reported from Abu Basir, who relates: I asked Imam Sadiq: "Abu Ja'far [Imam Baqir] said, 'The Qa'im among the descendants of Muhammad will have two occultations, one long and the other short.'" Hearing this Imam Sadiq said, "Yes, that is so. One of the two occultations will be longer."
Tabarsi then draws his conclusion and writes:
Do you see how with the materialization of the two occultations for Imam Hasan 'Askari's son the prediction in the hadith came to be true?
Muhammad b. Ibrahim b. Ja'far Nu'mani was born during the Short Occultation (ghaybat-i sughra), and when he wrote his book on Ghayba the twelfth Imam was eighty and some years old. He writes the following on page 6:
The Imams had foretold the occurrence of the occultation. If the occultation had not occurred, this very point would have become the source of falsification of the belief of the Shi'a Imamiyya (i.e., the Twelvers). But God manifested the truthfulness of the Imams' predictions by means of causing the Imam to go into occultation.
The Books on the Subject of the Occultation before the Birth of the Twelfth Imam
The story of the Mahdi and the twelfth Imam's occultation was told by the Prophet, 'Ali b. Abi Talib, and the rest of the Imams from the very early days of Islam. It was well known among the early companions to the extent that some scholars and narrators of hadith-reports, including the close associates of the Imams, had written books on the subject long before the twelfth Imam or his father and grandfather were born. In these books the hadith about the promised Mahdi and his occultation were recorded. The names of these authors and the titles of their works are preserved in the biographical dictionaries (kutub al-rijal). Thus, for instance:
(1) 'Ali b. Hasan b. Muhammad Ta'i, a companion of Imam Kazim, wrote a book on ghaybat. He was a jurist and was regarded as reliable in his transmission of hadith.