Question: Was Imam al-Mahdi’s (af) mother a Roman princess?

Question: Was Imam al-Mahdi’s (af) mother a Roman princess?

Question: Was Imam al-Mahdi’s (af) mother a Roman princess?

Concise answer: Shaykh Saduq and Shaykh Tusi (although the latter is probably referring back to the former) are the only ones who narrate that the Imam’s (af) mother was a Roman princess, the daughter of King Yusha, whose genealogy could be traced back to Caesar of Rome. From her mother’s side, her lineage could apparently be traced back to Simon Peter, the successor and apostle of Prophet Isa (as). However, the two scholars also narrate the more commonly accepted version of events; that the Imam’s (af) mother was a slave from Sudan.

Detailed Answer: The story of the Imam’s (af) mother being a Roman princess is related primarily by Shaykh Saduq (in turn, reported from Mohamed b.Bahr al-Shaybani, who was known to be an extremist/Ghulat), and has only been relayed by him and Shaykh Tusi (although he probably narrated it from Shaykh Saduq).

The other Ulama narrate that the Imam’s (af) mother was a slave:

  • Shaykh Kulayni says that the mother of the Imam (af) was a black slave from Sudan, and he narrates a hadith from the Holy Prophet (s) to this effect. In truth, this hadith may actually be referring to the 10th Imam’s (as) wife, rather than the 11th Imam’s (as) wife.
  • Shaykh Mufid narrates that she was a slave girl brought up in the house of Hakima, the aunt of the 12th Imam (af).

There are also other inconsistencies with the story of the Imam’s (af) mother being a Roman princess:

The story in brief is that Nargis Khatun had a dream in which she saw the Holy Prophet (s), the 11th Imam (as), Prophet Isa (as) and Simon Peter. The Holy Prophet (s) told Prophet Isa (as) that he had come to propose marriage of the granddaughter of Prophet Isa’s disciple to his grandson (the 11th Imam (as)). Prophet Isa (as) turned to Simon Peter and told him that he should accept this proposal, as it was a great honour and so Simon Peter accepted. The Holy Prophet (s) then married the 11th Imam (as) to Nargis Khatun.

A few days later, Nargis Khatun saw another dream, in which she saw Lady Maryam (as) with Lady Fatimah (as). Nargis Khatun asked Lady Fatimah (as) why, her husband (Imam Hasan al-Askeri (as)), had not come to meet her; to which Lady Fatima (as) replied that it was because she was not a Muslim. Nargis Khatun then embraced Islam by reciting the Shadatayn. The next night, and every night thereafter, she saw the 11th Imam (as) in her dream.

In one such dream, the 11th Imam (as) told Nargis Khatun that in a few days, her grandfather would send troops to fight the Muslims. Imam (as) told her that she should disguise herself as a servant and go with the troops. When the Muslims won, she would be taken as a prisoner of war and sold as a slave. Imam (as) would then send someone to buy her and bring her to him.

The problems with this story are manifold:

  • The whole story, including all the conversations and particularly the Nikkah (marriage), happened in a dream. The conversion to Islam occurred principally because Nargis Khatun wanted to see her husband (the 11th Imam (as);
  • The Nikkah was said to have happened before Nargis Khatun’s conversion to Islam; it seems very unlikely that the 11th Imam (as) would marry a non-Muslim;
  • Despite being a princess, Nargis Khatun was able to leave her home to join the troop of soldiers, without the permission of her father or her grandfather;
  • The story relies upon a war between the Abbasids (the rulers of the Muslim lands at the time) and the Romans, as the means by which Nargis Khatun was able to travel to Iraq and meet the 11th Imam (as). However, history does not record any major conflict between the two empires during this time.
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