Four Deputies (النُواب الأربَعَة) of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s)-4. Ali b. Muhammad al-Samuri


Full Name: Abu l-Hasan Ali b. Muhammad al-Samuri

Companion of: Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s) and Imam al-Mahdi (a.s)

Teknonym: Abu l-Hasan

Epithet: al-Samuri, al-Saymari

Place(s) of Residence: Baghdad

Death/Martyrdom: Sha’ban 15, 329/May 15, 941

Burial Place: Baghdad

Abu l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Samurī (ابوالحَسَن عَلي بن محمد السَمُري) (d. 329/941) is the fourth and last of The Four Deputies of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) serving for three years. He undertook the position after Husayn b. Ruh al-Nawbakhti. Major Occultation started after he passed away.

His correspondences with Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s) indicate that he was also a companion of this Imam (a.s). His deputyship was very short and no detailed reports are available about it. The pressure from the government was so severe that did not allow him to fulfill his mission in the Wikala network. The letter of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) to Ali b. Muhammad that predicted his death and the beginning of Major Occultation is among the important events during his deputyship following which the Shi’a lost contact with Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) and the Major Occultation started.

Birth and Death

He has been mentioned as one of the companions of Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s), however, no birth date has been mentioned for him. He passed away on Sha’ban 15, 329/May 15, 941 and was buried in Khalanji street in west of Baghdad next to al-Shaykh al-Kulayni’s grave.


Al-Samuri was from a religious Shi’a family that was famous for its service to Imamiyya. Because of the nobility, he didn’t face serious objection from other Shi’as in fulfilling his tasks.

Al-Ya’qubi believes that many of al-Samuri’s close relatives such as Hasan b. Isma’il and Muhammad b. ‘Ali, had several properties and lands in Basra, half of which they had dedicated to Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) who would receive its profit annually and correspond with them.

‘Ali b. Muhammad b. Ziyad, another relative of al-Samuri, was a deputy to the tenth and eleventh Imams (a.s). He wrote a book to prove the Imamate of the Twelfth Imam (a.s).

His Surname

The surname of the fourth deputy is pronounced al-Samari, al-Saymari or al-Saymuri. Out of these three, he is best known by the first dictation/pronunciation, and the other alternatives are not very prevalent in biographical and traditional books. However, some contemporary biographers preferred “Samuri” as the correct form, since it is derived from the name of a village between Basra and al-Wasit called: Samura. Shaykh Aqa Buzurg Tihrani has recorded the correct form as al-Samari.

Close Ties with Imam al-‘Askari (a.s)

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi has recorded ‘Ali b. Muhammad Saymari along the companions of Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s).

Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s) was in correspondence with him. ‘Ali b. Muhammad al-Samuri says: Abu Muhammad, Imam Al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s) wrote to me: “There will be some malicious moves that will misguide you, you shall be prudent and distance yourself from it.” Three days after receiving this letter, something happened in Banu Hashim that caused a lot of troubles and difficulties for them. I wrote to the Imam (a.s) asking him whether it was the same thing he had warned about before; the Imam wrote: “No, it’s something else, keep a full guard over yourselves.” After some days Mu’tazz was assassinated. It is understood from this report that al-Samuri was a close companion to Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s).

As the Fourth Deputy

According to some reports, Husayn b. Ruh appointed al-Samuri as his successor and Shi’as and followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s) accepted that unanimously.

Although we have no particular report in which the Twelfth Imam (a.s) gives Husayn b. Ruh such order, we are certain that the choice was made upon the direct command of the Twelfth Imam (a.s); since the general rule has been outlined in other narrations that: shortly before his death, every deputy assigns the next according to the command of the Imam (a.s), not his own opinion. Al-Tabarsi writes in his al-Ihtijaj: none of these men could have attained such a great position except after endorsement by the Twelfth Imam (a.s) and announcement by the former deputy.

Deputing Period

There is no report about al-Samuri’s activities during the time of preceding deputies. Details about his activities during his own deputyship have not been documented either. However, it is said that Shi’as had known him for his trustworthiness and nobility like the former deputies and accepted him for this position unanimously. According to a report of al-Shaykh al-Saduq, agents had accepted him as the rightful deputy of the Imam (a.s) and would forward khums and zakat to him.

On the other hand, the oppression and prosecution were in its peak during his time, and that is one of the reasons why he conducted his activities with more secrecy in comparison to former deputies. Based on this analysis, some scholars believe that the deputyship of the twelfth Imam (a.s) ended with al-Samuri because of the harsh prosecution implemented by Abbasid government.


Like other deputies, Ali b. Muhammad al-Samiri performed some miracles by which the Shi’as were assured of his divine appointment.

‘Ali b. Husayn b. Babawayh al-Qummi (the brother of al-Shaykh al-Saduq) narrates from a group of Qummi scholars, including: ‘Imran Saffar, ‘Alawiyya Saffar and Husayn b. Ahmad b. Idris (may Allah be pleased with them) who had gone to Kufa before the death of ‘Ali b. Husayn b. Babawayh (the father of al-Shaykh al-Saduq). These Qummi scholars said: in Kufa, ‘Ali b. Muhammad al-Samuri asked about ‘Ali b. Husayn b. Babawayh; “we have received his letters and he is fine” we replied. After some days al-Samuri repeated his question to which we gave the same reply, but he said: may Allah reward you for the time you grieve for ‘Ali b. Husayn, he’s just passed away. We recorded the exact time and date, after seventeen or eighteen days, the news of his death reached Kufa, as he had died exactly the same time and date we had recorded.

Al-Shaykh al-Saduq says: Abu l-Hasan Salihi b. Shu’ayb Taliqani narrated to me in Dhu l-Qa’da, 339/April, 951 from Ahmad b. Ibrahim b. Mukhallad who said: I participated in the session of senior scholars and heads of Shi’a tribes in Kufa. Shaykh ‘Ali b. Muhammad al-Samuri started: May Allah bless the soul of ‘Ali b. Husayn b. Babawayh al-Qummi. The scholars in the session recorded the date of that day. After some days the news reached Kufa that ‘Ali b. Husayn b. Babawayh had died the same day. These are signs for the fact that he was the rightful deputy to the Twelfth Imam (a.s) who was appointed for such position upon the Imam’s command.


Al-Samuri passed away on Sha’ban 15, 329/May 15, 941 and his body was buried on the side of Khalajani street in al-Muhawwal neighborhood which is located in northern Buratha, to the west of Baghdad. A week before al-Samuri’s demise, the following letter was issued by the Imam (a.s):

May Allah reward your brothers for they will grieve for you, since in fact you are going to depart after six days; therefore, make your preparations and do not assign anyone as your successor for the second occultation has started, for a long time there will be no reappearance before Allah’s leave, after the hearts (of people) are filled with rigidity and the world with injustice. There will come to my followers (Shi’as) people who claim they have seen me, but be aware! Whoever claims seeing me before the uprising of Sufyani and the heavenly cry, he surely is a liar.

Six days after this letter, all agents gathered on al-Samuri’s deathbed and asked him about his successor. He said: “the matter is up to Allah and he will carry it through”. This was the last word heard from al-Samuri. In other words, the minor occultation finished and the second one – according to later references, the major occultation- started.

Although it is commonly held by biographers that the fourth deputy passed away in 329/941, al-Shaykh al-Saduq and al-Tabrisi believe he passed away in 328/940.