04 Dec Meeting with Imam Mahdi(a.t.f.s) – 11th Century
The Arabic text of the Sahifat al-kamila which forms the basis for the translation was established by al-Shahid al-Awwal. The modern Iranian editions are based mainly on the version of this text transmitted by the father of the above-mentioned Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, Mulla Muhammad Taqi Majlisi (d. 1070/1659-60), also an important scholar of the Safavid period. and another son, Mulla `Abd Allah (d. c. 1084/1673); but at least one of these editions goes back to the famous Safavid jurist, philosopher, architect, poet, and mathematician Shaykh-i Baha’i (d. 1031/1621-2). The elder Majlisi had at his disposal numerous manuscripts of the text, which he had received from the foremost Shi’ite authorities of his day. In one of his works he refers to all the chains of transmission by which he had received the Sahifa, and, we are told, these number more than a million.
The question naturally arises as to why Majlisi chose the particular chain of transmission mentioned in the preface out of the many he had at his disposal, especially since the chain itself is exceedingly weak (as indicated by the commentators and recorded in the notes to the translation). The reason for this seems to be the accuracy of this particular version going back to al-Shahid al-Awwal, as confirmed by another ‘special’ route through which Majlisi received the Sahifa. This special route is worth mentioning in detail, since it provides a good example of the aura which has surrounded the text in Shi’ite circles.
One day, lying in bed half asleep, Majlisi saw himself in the courtyard of the ‘Atiq mosque in Isfahan, and before him stood the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam. Majlisi asked him about a number of scholarly problems which he had not been able to solve, and the Mahdi explained their solutions. Then Majlisi asked him for a book which he could put into practice, and the Mahdi directed him to seek out Mawlana Muhammad al-Taj. In his vision Majlisi found the book, and it appeared to be a book of supplications. Waking up, he saw that his hand was empty, and he wept until morning at his loss. At daybreak it occurred to him that perhaps the Mahdi had meant Shaykh Muhammad Mudarris, calling him by the title `Taj’ (the `crown’) because he was so famous among the scholars.
Hence he went to see Shaykh Muhammad, and, entering his circle, saw that he held a copy of the Sahifa in his hand. He went forward and recounted his vision to Shaykh Muhammad, who interpreted it to mean that he would reach high levels of gnostic and visionary knowledge. But Majlisi was not satisfied with this explanation, and he wandered around the bazaar in perplexity and sorrow. Upon reaching the melon market, he met a pious old man known as Aqa Hasan, whom the people called, Taja (`Crown’). Majlisi greeted him, and Aqa Hasan called to him and said that he had a number of books which were consecrated for religious purpose (waqfi) but that he did not trust most of the students to put them to proper use. `Come’, he said, `and take whichever of these books which you think you can put into practice.’
Entering Aqa Hasan’s library, Majlisi immediately saw the book he had seen in his dream, so he said: `This is enough for me.’ It was a copy of the Sahifa. He then went back to Shaykh Muhammad and began collating his newly acquired copy with that of Shaykh Muhammad; both of them had been made from the manuscript of al-Shahid al-Awwal. In short, Majlisi tells us that the authenticity of his copy of the Sahifa was confirmed by the Mahdi himself