• 22 Apr 2021
  • Online

Agents of the Hidden Imam: Forging Twelver Shi'ism (850-950 CE)

The traditional account of the early occultation-era Imami Shiʿi community depicts a series of four agents as mediating for the hidden Imam between 874 and 940 CE. Hitherto, scholarship has taken the authority of these agents for granted. However, to understand the formation of Twelver Shiʿism, we must understand the ways in which the authority of the agents and other community leaders was contested. Then, it becomes clear that there was no inevitable assumption of authority by the agents.

Instead, authority was contested through different social and intellectual fields: including the legal-theological mastery of scholars; the institutional power of the agents; the leverage of courtiers operating within the supposedly hated Sunni government; and the appeal of charismatic esoteric “gateways” (bāb) to the divine. The crisis of Occultation was contested through institutions, but also caused them to mutate as they were applied to legitimize new models for the era without a visible Imam.

Date: 22 April 2021
Time: 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm GMT
Location: Online (Zoom)

Q&A: At any time during the lecture, attendees can submit questions to the speaker through the Q&A option at the bottom of the control panel. As time allows, the speaker will address as many questions as they can during the Q&A session at the end of the presentation.

Discussants: Dr Fârès Gillon (The Institute of Ismaili Studies, UK), Dr Karen Bauer (The Institute of Ismaili Studies, UK), Dr Mushegh Asatryan (University of Calgary, Canada).


Dr Edmund Hayes

Edmund Hayes is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leiden. He works on early Islam, focusing on the intersection of religious, intellectual and social history. Recent research projects include studies on the letters of the Shiʿi Imams and the institutions of the Imamate; fiscal policy and religious protest in early Islam; Islamic canonical revenues especially ṣadaqa, zakāt and khums; institutions of excommunication in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He recently completed a monograph, also entitled Agents of the Hidden Imam: Forging Twelver Shiʿism, 850-950 CE, to be published by Cambridge University Press. He gained his doctorate with honours from the University of Chicago in 2015.