After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (AS) the mantle of Imamate fell on the young shoulders of Imam Mahdi (AS).
Due to the serve restrictions imposed by the reigning Caliph, Imam Mahdi (AS) was forced to conceal himself from the eyes of the people. In the initial stages of the minor occultation, some very special and selected people among the Shia had the permission to meet their master whenever the need arose. They presented the problems of the Shia in the service of Imam who provided answers to them and conveyed them back to the people.
Such selected people were called as special representatives, deputies, doors of Imam etc. Four persons had the honor of acquiring this elevated status and all of them hailed from and resided in Baghdad. Apart from them, there were representatives in other cities also. The shia either conveyed their messages to these representative or directly to the special ones for it to reach to the Imam. These special deputies performed innumerable extraordinary feats in the minor occultation that are preserved in different traditional and historical books.
(1) The First Deputy:
Abu Amr Uthman Ibne Saeed Amri:
He was from the Bani Asad clan. Due to his ancestral links he was called as Abu Amr but on the advice of Imam Hasan Askari (AS), he changed his title from Abu Amr to Amravi. He was also addressed as Askari and some even called him as “Sammaan” (oil merchant).
He was also famous as the representative of Imam Ali Naqi (AS). The title of “Sammaan (oil merchant) itself is historical. He used to deliver the wealth, possessions of Imam (AS) in an oil can (In order that the intelligence personnel of the Government could not detect his activities, he posed himself as a businessman on Imam (AS)’s order)
Till 254 A.H. he was the representative of Imam Ali Naqi (AS) He (AS) used to say “Abu Amr is a reliable and trustworthy person, whatever he narrates, its on my behalf and whatever he conveys is in fact my message”.
After the demise of Imam Ali Naqi (AS) in 254 A.H. he became the special representative of Imam Hasan Askari (AS) who used to say “Abu Amr is a reliable and trustworthy person. He was relied upon evey by the previous Imams and in my life as well as after my death, he is reliable whatever he narrates is on my behalf and his messages are actually my messages”.
Imam (AS) also says: “Stand witnesses that Uthman bin Saeed is my representative. His son, Mohammad Bin Uthman is Mahdi (AS)’s representative. when a son (Hazra Mahdi (AS) was born to Imam Hasan Askari (AS), he ordered Abu Amr to distribute ten thousand reties and ten thousand pieces of meat among the Bani Hashim and also sacrifice sheep and goats for Aqeeqah.
In a congregation of forty reliable and selected people of Imam Hasan Askari (AS) he introduced Imam Mahdi (AS) to them. He mentioned about his Imamate and occultation. Then he emphasized about the representation of Imam Mahdi (AS) by Usman bin Saeed, thus “You (all) accept whatever he says for he is the representative of your Imam and affairs are with him”.
He participated in all the funeral proceedings of Imam Hsan Askari (AS) and executed all orders issued unto him. In 260 A.H. after the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (AS) he was appointed as the first special deputy of Imam Mahdi (AS). for five years he held this auspicious position. Before his death, on the order of Imam (AS) he appointed his son an Imam’s representative in front of a group of honorable Shia and handed over all his responsibilities to him.
After the death Uthman Bin Saeed his sons performed all the funeral proceeding and buried him in west of Baghdad. Shaikh Toosi (A.R.) says that till 447 A.H. people paid homage to him and read his Ziyarat as a pious and righteous person and also as the foster brother of Imam Askari (AS) They also recognized him as the special representative of Imam Mahdi (AS).
This shows that the extent to which hsi deputyship was concealed that even after a passage of two hundred years, it was difficult for the people to recognize him. He was a contemporary of the Abbaside Caliph, Motamid.
(2) The Second Special Representative:
Abu Jafar Mohammad Bin Uthman Bin Saeed Amri. He succeeded his father after the latter’s demise. Imam Hasan Askari (AS) himself had emphasized for his deputyship. In his Tawqee (a signed letter) to Mohammad Bin Mahaziar, Imame Zamana (a.s) said about Mohammad bin Uthman, thus: “May God Protect him, He was our trustworthy person even during his father’s life time. May God be pleased with him and his father and bless their souls. He is the successor to his father and has taken his place. Whatever he says on our behalf, are our quotes and he follows our orders dutifully. May God help him. Deeply follow his instructions and seek our opinion through him”.
In his Tawqee to Ishaq Ibn Yaqoob Imam (AS) said: “May God be pleased with Mohammad Bin Uthman and his father He is my confidante and reliable man. His writings are my writings.”
He was the special representative of Imam (AS) for approximately forty years. In the very first Tawqee which he received there was a condolence message on the demise of his father. It’s contents were as follows: “We have come from Allah and unto Him shall we return (Quran).
We accept his orders and are satisfied with His commands. Your father passed a decent life and faced a decent death. May God have mercy upon him and enumerate him among His servants (Imams). He was always engrossed in their work. He always strove unceasingly in those works which elevated him in front of God and helped him gained approximately to the Imam (AS) May God make him happy and condone his sins. May God increase your rewards and accept your difficulties. You are grief stricken, so are we, is death has affected us an much as it has affected you. May God make him happier in that life. It was due to his sincerity and decency that he was honored with a son like you who has become his heir and successor.
My a God send mercies upon him I praise the Almighty whose existence is clean from all indecencies of disbelief (and polytheism) whatever God has been entrusted to you by him, He will help you to achieve it. He will help you and grace you, for He is the Master, the Protector and the Suffice. Ibn Nooh narrates from the Abu Nasr, the nephew of Abu Jafar that he had written many books, one of which was on jurisprudence. He wrote whatever he had heard from Imam-e-Zamana (AS) and his father Usman. One of these books was “Kital-ul-ashraban” which was passed on after his death to Husayn Bin-Rooh and after him, probably to Ali Ibne-Mohammad Seymouri.
Shaykh Saduq (A.R.) narrates the following tradition from Mohammad Ibne-Usman, “I swear by God, Saheb-ul-Amr (A.J.) comes to Mecca every year to perform the rituals of Hajj He sees the people and recognizes them but they do not recognize him even after seeing him”.
Mohammad Bin Usman was once asked if he had seen Imam-e-Zamana (AS). He answered “Yes”, the last time that I saw him was in the Holy Kaaba, praying “O Allah fulfill what you have promised Me”, then I saw him catching the curtain of Mustajaar door opposite to the main door of Kaaba and praying “O Allah” take revenge of your enemies through me”. Abu Ali, Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Ahmed narrates, “One day Mohammad Ibn Uthman took me and showed his grave and said “I will die on such day. I will be buried here and this tablet will be with me” (the tablet was inscribed with some Quranic verses and the names of Imams).
When asked about the cause of showing his grave, he replied “I have been ordered to finish all my duties and set things straight”. A few years before his death whenever he was asked about his successor he used to send them to “Husayn Bin Rauh”, he expired in the month of Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 305 A.H. He is buried alongside his respected mother in Baghdad, near Kufa Gate Where he resided. He liver during the reign of Motamid, Mukhtafi and Muqtadir, the Abbaside Kings.