There is a question: what is the most important difference between these two Absences? May be the main difference between these two Absences is that he had some deputies during the first one. They took people’s questions, mails, donations, and other things to Imam and brought back their answers. Imam had four deputies who lived in Baghdad and were buried there too. They were called “Novab e Arbae” which means four deputies, also they had lots of wonders and miracles. The first deputy was “Osman bin Saeed Amri” and he died around 265 Hejri. Before he became Imam Mahdi’s deputy, he was Imam Askari’s assistant. The second one was the first one’s son, “Mohammad bin Osman Amri”, who died on 304 Hejri, and he was one of Imam Askari’s assistant too. When a group of 40 Shiites came into Imam Askari’s house after his birth, Imam Askari told them about deputation of these two during Imam Mahdi’s Absence. The third one was “Abolghasem Hussein Bin Rooh Nobakhti” who died on 18th of Shaban 326 Hejri and his ancestors were from Iran. The forth and last one was “Ali bin Mohammad Samori” who died on 15th of Shaban 329 Hejri. Just six days before he passed away, Imam Mahdi sent him a letter and announced him about his death and starting of Longer Absence era.
During the Longer Absence, which has come about eleven hundred years up to now, Imam has not had any deputy. So what should people do? Whom they should ask their questions? According to a statement which came through Imam, they should ask their questions from “Maraaje” (the referred scientists of Islam). That is why people call this group of Scientists as “Novabe Aam” that means General Deputies. Imam Mahdi wrote in a letter:
During this time, although most people do not have access to Imam and can’t see him face to face, but with God’s permission, some people have had chances to come over and visit him. We have lots of stories about the people who had this chance. “Mohades Haji Noori” brought hundred of these stories in the seventh volume of his book “Najm o Sabegh”.
O God! We believe in Imam Mahdi and his manifest weather or not we exist when he appears, we want you to be our witness, and let us recognize him and be one of his companions, Amen.
 Quran, Baghare, Ayah 3. [Back]
 “Algheyba”, Nomani, page 170, Statement 1 & 2; in Sunnite references: “Eghdol Dovar”, Moghadasi Shafeie, Page 133 &134. [Back]
 “Ehtejaj”, Tabarsi, Volume 2, Page 193. [Back]
"Kamal al Din", Pages 484, Statement 4. [Back]
"Kamal al Din", Pages 253, Statement 3. [Back]