Although some Muslims may be dismissive of the belief in Ghaibat (occultation) of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) and even ridicule the Shias over it, there was a critical juncture in the history of Islam, when Ghaibat was advanced as an argument by a senior companion and future ruler.
Did the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) die or go in Ghaibat?
When the news of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise reached Umar, he simply refused to accept the news and instead offered his own version of events:
‘The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is alive and not dead. He will return (like Moosa a.s. returned after meeting his Lord). Go out after those who spread lies about him, cut off their hands and strike their necks and crucify them.’
- Tarikh al-Tabari v 9 p 187 (English) under ‘Events of the Year 11 AH – An account of the day on which the Messenger of God died and his age’
This leads one to conclude that when circumstances suit their interests Ghaibat is not just acceptable but is shoved down their throats with threats of dire consequences for the deniers.
But when it comes to Ghaibat of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.), a fact recorded in the most reliable books, there is scepticism and ridicule.
It is clear to the unbiased reader that the problem is not with the belief in Ghaibat, rather the personality in Ghaibat, in this case Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.), from the infallible children of Fatima (s.a.) and Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).