SHAFAQNA – Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim – All Praise is due to the One Who Illumined the Universe with His Lamps: the Holy Prophet, the Chosen One, and His Purified Progeny, the Last of Whose Light is Shining Still if only we could open our eyes to see it.
This talk looks at some of the attributes of Imam-e Zaman (ajfs) and some of the signs of his coming, based upon the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (as). There is a narration which reports that, in the realm of pre-existence ‘God made the prophets take an oath, saying to them, “Am I not your Lord? Is not Muhammad (s) here My Messenger, and is Ali not the prince of believers? The prophets answered, ‘Yes’, and prophetic status was firmly established for them and God made ‘those who are endowed with firm resolution’ take an oath, saying “I am your Lord, Muhammad is My Messenger, Ali is the prince of believers, his heirs (awsiya’hu) are, after him, the responsible directors of My Order and the guardians of the treasures of My Knowledge, and the mahdi is he through whom I will carry My religion to victory, through whom I will show My power, through whom I will take vengeance on My enemies, and through whom I will be worshipped, whether they will or not.” The prophets of firm resolution answered, ‘We so affirm and bear witness.’ (Moezzi, p. 34). Just as the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) was sent as a mercy, so the Last Imam will be sent as an avenger, to right the wrongs that have proliferated over the centuries. Imam al-Sadiq (as) ‘Any time one of you has the desire to see al-Qa’im, then you should desire that while you are in a good spiritual state, since surely Allah (swt) sent Muhammad (s) as a mercy, but will send al-Qa’im as an avenger.’ (al-Kafi, Vol. 8, in Bhimji, p. 118). Imam Zayn al-Abdin (as) said: ‘Al-Mahdi (as) has many similar attributes to the seven Prophets: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Job, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (as). The attributes of Adam and Noah are their longevity; of Abraham his secret birth and living in seclusion; of Job the relief after difficulties, Moses his fear and occultation; of Jesus, people’s different opinions about him and of Muhammad (as) his fight for justice.’ (Ali Hussain, p. 82)
Imam Mahdi (as) has been appointed by Allah (swt), just as the Holy Prophet (s) was appointed by Allah (swt). Imam al-Baqir (as) said ‘Allah has named the Mahdi al-Mansur (one who enjoys support of Allah), just as he has named the Prophet (s) Ahmad, Muhammad and Mahmud.’ (p. 93). Imam al-Sadiq (as), when he was asked the reason for the Qa’im being named al-Mahdi (the guided), said ‘Because he is guided to every hidden issue.’ A Shi‘a asked Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (as) why he called the final Imam ‘al-Qa’im’, and Imam al-Jawad replied ‘He is named al-Qa’im because he will stand up after the majority of his Shi‘a have regressed.’ The man asked ‘Why are you then calling him the expected one?’ He said, ‘He is the expected one because during his occultation there will many signs and only the pure Muslims will be saved.’ (Ali Hussain, p. 84). Imam Mahdi (as) is also known as baqiyatullah: the Remnants of Allah (swt), since he is the last remaining hujja, and proof, and test on this earth. Imam al-Baqir (as) said: ‘When he emerges he will lean his back against the Ka’ba, and three hundred and thirteen men will assemble with him, and the first thing he will utter will be the verse, “What remains of Allah’s provision is better for you, if you are believers.’ He will then say, ‘I am the remains of Allah, His proof and His vicegerent over you.’ None will salute him except by saying, ‘Peace be upon you O baqiyat fi ardhihi: O remaining sign of Allah in His Land.’
Testifying to existence and bearing his occultation is one of the tests of the true believers, and it is a means by which the true faithful are sifted from those who lack understanding. Imam al-Sadiq (as) has said ‘Certainly this rule [of al-Mahdi] will not come to you until after you have despaired. No by Allah, in order that you may be differentiated from one another.’ Imam al-‘Askari (as), when asked about the hujja of Allah and the Imam after him said, ‘My son Muhammad will be the Imam and the hujja after me. Whoever dies without acknowledging him [as the Imam] has died a death of jahiliyya. Know that certainly he will have an occultation, about which the ignorant will be left confused, the insulters will be ruined and whose who predict a specific time [for his reappearance] will lie. Then he will emerge and it is as if I can see the white flags hovering above his head in Najaf.’ The Holy Prophet (s) also said: ‘By Him who has sent me down as the bearer of good news, certainly, certainly those who are steadfast in their belief in him during his occultation are dearer than red sulphur (al-kibrit al-ahmar).’ This demonstrates that being steadfast in belief is by no means something to be taken lightly, or to be valued lightly. It also shows that remaining steadfast is not something easy; in fact, so difficult is it, that those who remain firm are considered rare and precious. Imam Ali (as) has said ‘When the preacher perishes and the master of the time deviates, when both thriving hearts and empty hearts fluctuate, when the hopeful ones will perish and those who are destined to fade away will fade away, the believers will remain, and they will be few in number, three hundred or more: the band that fought with the Prophet (s) on the day of Badr will fight alongside them, neither being killed nor dying.’ Imam al-Sadiq (as) has also said: ‘Very few Arabs will be with al-Qa’im’, at which someone said, ‘But in fact those who describe this matter from among them are many!’ He said, ‘People must be purged, distinguished, and sifted, and many people will fall through the sieve.’ And he said ‘When al-Qa’im emerges many from among those who considered themselves to be with him will leave his command.’ Still, even if there are a handful of true believers, this will be sufficient. Imam al-Kadhim (as) said ‘If there were among you people as many as the numbers at Badr, our Qa’im would rise.’
From the narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) can be seen that the designation of a true believer is not one who remains indifferent to Imam-e-Zaman (ajfs), rather, as Imam Ja’far (as) has said ‘I swear by Allah that your Imam will go into an occultation for a number of years… during that period the eyes of the true believers shall be filled with tears [from being separated from him].’ (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 51). Imam al-Sadiq (as) has also said, in reference to the verse ‘We will surely test you’, that this refers to the believers who will be tested before the reappearance of al-Qa’im.’ (2:155)
We are often told that anticipating the return of the Imam and praying for the hastening of his return is not only recommended but is also an act of worship and the sign of being one of his true followers. Indeed, such is the preciousness of this act that we can see the nature of its reward in the words of Imam al-Sadiq (as), who said: ‘One who dies anticipating this rule [of al-Mahdi] is as one who will be with al-Qa’im in his tent. Not only that, but he possesses the rank of one who fought with the sword in the presence of the Prophet (s).’ Imam al-Sadiq (as) has also given advice on how we may remain steadfast in our iman during this period. He said: ‘You will be afflicted with an obscure matter that will leave you with no sign to indicate the solution, nor a leader to guide the way. None shall be saved from it except the one who recites the Supplication of the Drowning Person’. Someone asked the Imam ‘What is the Supplication of the Drowning Person?’ The Imam replied, ‘Ya Allah, Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, Ya Muqallab al-Qulub wa al-Absari, thabbat qalbi ‘ala Dinika.’
So as a reminder to ourselves, what are the signs of his coming? Recently there
has been some speculation that his reappearance is due soon. Some people have named 2012 as a significant date. Yet in truth, none of us can know. It is worth remembering that Imam al-Baqir (as) said ‘Those who foretell a specific time are lying.’ Nevertheless, we can already see some of the signs. Imam al-Sadiq (as) said ‘At the time al-Qa’im (as) a believer in the East can see his Muslim brother in the West, and the one who is in the West can see his brother who is in the East.’ (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 52). Another narration by Imam al-Sadiq (as), which could refer to those who over the centuries have converted to Islam, says: ‘Al-Qa’im (as) will never reappear until Allah’s deposits [believers born of unbelievers] rise up. When they rise up, he will win over those who revolt from among the enemies of God.’ We can also see how many different types of Government and Rule have come and gone over the centuries: from absolute monarchy, to democratic government, communist rule and fascist rule. Yet none of them have been able to be truly just, even though they have promised justice. To this Imam al-Sadiq (as) said ‘This rule [of al-Mahdi (as)] will not take place until every single type of people will have ruled over people, such that no one will be able to say ‘Indeed were we to rule, we would be just!’ And then al-Qa’im will stand with the truth and justice.’
There have been many wars Iraq since the end of the Abbasid period in the early thirteenth century, yet none of them could be described in the way that the Imams (as) have described until those of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Mundhir al-Jawzi said ‘I heard Imam Ja’far (as) saying ‘Before the coming of the one who will rise (al-Qa’im) (as), the people will be chided for their acts of disobedience by a fire which will appear in the sky and a redness will cover the sky. It will swallow up Baghdad, and will swallow up Kufa. Their blood will be shed and houses destroyed. Death (fana’) will occur amid their people and a fear will come over the people of Iraq from which they will have no rest.’
As we know, the famous signs also include the revolt of the Sufyani: one from the progeny of Abu Sufyan will become powerful. Could this refer to the Najdis, who adhere to the Wahhabi ideology? Scholar Ali Hussain has said that it could even refer to an ideological form of repression.
The time leading up to the coming of Imam-e Zaman (as) is a time of reversal: when the servant rules the master; when the corrupt rule the just; when lies are believed and truth is disbelieved; when immorality is deemed good and morality is deemed bad; when those who were humble build tall buildings The Holy Prophet (s) has said ‘There will come a time for people when they will not respect their scholars except for their good clothing; they will not listen to the Qur’an except for the pleasant voice; they will not worship Allah except during the Month of Fasting; there will be no shyness in their women and no patience in the poor; there will be no prosperity for the rich since they will not be content with little and they will not be satiated by abundance. They will strive only for their stomach; their religion is money; their women are their qiblah; their homes are their mosques and they run away from their scholars just as lambs run away from wolves.’ (Waqayi al-Ayyam).
It is with the coming of Imam-e Zaman (ajfs) that these reversals will be righted; that what was upside down will be turned the right way up, and this is good news for the followers of Ahl al-Bayt (as), for Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) has said ‘When Imam Mahdi (as) appears, the followers of the lower desires will be transformed into the followers of guidance, after the followers of guidance had been transformed into the followers of the lower desires; and the thoughts and opinions of the people will be in line with the Qur’an after the Qur’an had previously been put in line with the thoughts and opinions of the people.’ (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 51). Imam Zayn al-‘Abdin (as) has said: ‘When our Qa’im will rise, Allah will remove all defects from
our shi‘a. He will make their hearts like pieces of iron, and he will make the strength of a man among them equal to the strength of forty men.’ Imam al-Sadiq (as) has said: ‘At the time of the Return, God will place the hand of our Qa’im on the heads of the faithful; through this hand, they will have their ‘aql unified.’ (Moezzi, p. 10). Wherever the true believers are in the world, they will respond to the call of al-Mahdi (as), and be united with him without any difficulty. Imam al-Sadiq (as) said: ‘Verily when our Qa’im will rise, Allah will sharpen the sights and the hearing of our followers to such an extent that there will be no need for a courier between them and al-Qa’im. He will speak to them and they will hear him, and they will see him whilst he is in his own locality.’
We can see the effect upon the believers’ hearts with the arrival of the Imam. Imam Ali (as) has said: ‘When a caller calls from the sky “Certainly the truth is with the progeny of Muhammad’, that is when al-Mahdi will reappear, it being circulated on people’s tongues and they will be quenched by his love, and they will not talk about anything but him.’ A people in the East will have prepared for his arrival, and Imam Ja’far (as) said ‘The city of Qom has been named so because its inhabitants will gather with the Qa’im from Al-e Muhammad (s) and will stand alongside him, will strive to hold firm to their belief and will assist him.’ (Safinat al-Bihar).
We might ask, again, how do we know that Imam-e Zaman (ajfs) is among us? It is interesting to note that he himself has said ‘We are not regardless of considering you nor are we forgetful of you, because if it were not so, afflictions would shower upon you and enemies would eradicate you. Hence, fear Allah and obey Him, Glory be to His Majesty.’ (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 53)
Can we see him?
Imam al-Sadiq (as) said ‘A person who recites Sura Bani Isra’il (17) every Thursday night will not die unless he sees al-Qa’im and becomes one of his Companions.’ (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 86).
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