Tuesday, May 1st, 2018, marks the birth anniversary of Imam al-Mahdi (p), 15th of Shaban,…
As the month of Sha’ban has come upon us, we have a unique opportunity to reflect on the legacy of the family of the Prophet. The month is filled with joyous occasions, and one of the most significant is the birth of the Awaited Savior, Imam Mahdi (p). It is important for us to use these days to understand the Imam (p) of our time and seek closeness to him. Due to his occultation, many have long reflected on the role of the Imam (p) and our specific responsibilities towards him.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “The Mahdi is from my lineage. His name is my name. His title is my title. He is the most similar to me in my appearance and my character. He will be in an occultation which will puzzle the people. Then he will reappear and will fill the earth with justice and with equity, just as it has been filled with oppression and tyranny.”1
The Birth of the Imam
Imam Mahdi (p) was born to Imam al-Askari (p) and Lady Nargis (p) on the fifteenth of the blessed month of Sha’ban 255 AH in the city of Samarra, Iraq. Shortly after his birth, he bowed down facing the Qiblah (the direction of the Holy Kabah). When Imam Mahdi (p) was placed in the arms of Imam al-Askari (p), Imam al-Askari (p) looked at Imam Mahdi (p) and said, “Speak, in the name of God!” Upon hearing his father’s command, Imam Mahdi (p) said, “In the name of God the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. Blessings of God Almighty on Muhammad the chosen one and last Prophet of God. And on Ali the commander of the believers and the father of the Imams. And on Fatimah al-Zahra, the mother of the Imams. On Hasan and Hussain the sons of Ali, the glorious martyrs, and the chiefs of the youth of Heaven. On Ali son of Hussain, on Muhammad son of Ali, on Jafar son of Muhammad, on Musa son of Jafar, on Ali son of Musa, on Muhammad son of Ali, on Ali son of Muhammad, and on my father Hasan son of Ali.”2 The imam’s first words were glorifying God and sending blessings on the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) and his family.
The Imam’s speaking at infancy is not surprising, as we see individuals like Prophet Jesus who also spoke from the cradle. God states, “She [Mary] pointed to the baby (and referred them to him for their answer). They said, ’How can we talk to a baby in the cradle?’ He said, ‘I am the servant of God. He has given me the Book and has appointed me to be a Prophet.’”3
Moreover, the birth of the Imam (p) remained a secret for his first five years due to the socio-political situation at the time. The Abbasids were very much aware that there would be a child born to Imam al-Askari (p) who would end all kinds of corruption and injustice. They wanted to kill him as soon as he was born. For this reason, Imam al-Askari (p) only showed his son to those whom he trusted so that they would follow Imam Mahdi (p) after Imam al-Askari’s death.
Minor occultation: After being poisoned by Mutamid, the Abbasid caliph at the time, Imam Hasan al-Askari (p) passed away on the eighth of the month of Rabi al-Awwal 260 AH. At the age of five, Imam Mahdi (p) led the funeral prayer of his father where all the Muslims gathered behind him to offer the prayer. “When the holy body of Imam Hasan al-Askari (p) was buried, and the people were dismissed, the caliph and his comrades started their efforts to search for his son [Imam Mahdi (p)] and inspected the houses carefully.”4 When they completed their search, the Imam (p) was nowhere to be found. This is when the minor occultation began which lasted for sixty-nine years.
During the minor occultation, the Imam (p) kept in contact with his followers through four of his most trusted followers. These deputies were:
- Uthman son of Said Umari;
- Abu Jafar Muhammad son of Uthman;
- Abul-Qasim Hussain son of Ruh Nawbakhti; and
- Abul-Hasan Ali son of Muhammad Simmari.
The Imam (p) answered all the questions and concerns of his followers through them.
A few days before the death of the fourth deputy, he received one final letter from the Imam (p). In this letter, the Imam (p) wrote, “In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. You are going to pass away in six days. May God grant patience to your brothers in faith on your departure. Be prepared, but do not appoint anyone to take your place. From the day of your death, the period of my major occultation will begin.”
“Henceforth, no one will see me, unless and until God makes me appear. My reappearance will take place after a very long time, when people will have grown tired of waiting, and those who are weak in their faith will say: ‘What! Is he still alive?’ When men will become cruel and inconsiderate, and the world will be full of injustice and violence…There is no might nor strength except in Allah, the Magnificent.”5
Abul-Hasan Ali son of Muhammad Simmari passed away in Sha’ban of the year 329 AH. This is when Imam Mahdi’s major occultation began. The Imam (p) is still in this occultation now. He will reappear when God Almighty wishes.
The Role of the Imam after His Reappearance
The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “The world will not come to an end until a man from my family, who will be called al-Mahdi, raises to rule my community.”6 “He will fill the earth with equity and with justice, just as it has been filled with tyranny and oppression.”7
Imam Mahdi (p) will rise to establish justice and equality all over the world. Poverty will be dissolved, as the Imam (p) “shall distribute the wealth equitably among the inhabitants of the earth.”8 The world will live in peace and harmony and be receptive to divine blessings. Imam Ali (p) said: “When our Qaim rises, the sky will send down its drops, the earth will grow its plants, enmity will come out from the servants’ hearts (in order that they live in peace and brotherly love), and savages and beasts will continue to live together peacefully.”9
Furthermore, the Imam (p) will give the people some of his wisdom and teachings to facilitate progress in the world. Imam al-Baqir (p) said, “Our Qaim [the one who rises with Divine Authority]…will provide them [the people] with intellectual development and complete their patience and insights.”10
Our role as we Wait for the Imam’s Reappearance
Some of our duties while we wait for the Imam’s reappearance include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Purify Our Hearts: One of the most important things we need to do during the period of occultation is to make our best effort to become the best people we can be. We cannot be receptive to the Imam (p) if our hearts are not pure. We should, at the very least, do our best to stay away from committing sins. If our hearts are not sincere, we will not be worthy of our Imam’s (p) service, nor will he accept it from us if we are filled with sins and unable to receive his teachings. To be in the company of the Imam (p), we can take lessons from the companions of Imam Hussain (p). Imam Hussain (p) said, “I am not aware of any companions more faithful and honest than my companions.”11 They were known for their ethics, loyalty, courage and strong love for God and the family of the Prophet (pbuh&hp).
2. Call upon the Imam (p) as an intercessor: For us to truly reach God and fulfill our responsibility to Him, we need to identify those whom God has given the power of intercession, as He commands us. God says, “Believers, have fear of God. Find the means to reach Him and strive hard for His cause so that you may have everlasting happiness.”12 Without a doubt, amongst the best means of reaching God is utilizing the best of His creation, whom He has sent with divine authority (wilayah). For us, that requires us to seek God by the intercession of the Imam of our time (p).
3. Pray for the Imam (p): A hadith from the Imam (p) himself states, “Increase in supplication for the hastening of the Imam (p), for surely in that lies your success.”13 It is imperative to plead to God on behalf of our Imam, because when we pray for someone else, it demonstrates our love for them. This is an important quality to have when it comes to our relationship with the Prophet and his family.
4. Increase our knowledge: This will help us to have a better understanding of the religion we adopt and the world we live in and deal with. Without free thinking and questioning we might choose darkness instead of true guidance. Blind faith is not enough; it needs to be bound with knowledge. The Quran states: “God will raise the position of the believers and of those who have received knowledge.”14
5. Practice good ethics. God addresses Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) when He says in the Holy Quran, “You have attained a great moral standard”15 and the Prophet(pbuh&hp) himself said: “I was sent to complete the [system of] high ethics.”16 Ethics has a major impact on all walks of life and is part of human nature If we do not practice good ethical values, then we will not be welcomed among the companions of Imam al-Mahdi (p).
6. Achieve different skills. Higher learning can increase one’s contributions to society. Becoming a professional or achieving advanced education in areas such as health, science, and education, just to name some examples, enables believers to excel in the way they serve not just the community, but their Imam (p) as well.
7. Connect with the Marjaeya (religious authority). Imam Mahdi (p) commanded his followers to follow the most knowledgeable and most pious jurists in the seminaries during his occultation. Otherwise, following the religious opinion of unqualified individuals will not only lead the believers astray, but also cause suffering. It is an essential obligation upon all believers to choose a qualified jurist to follow and get correct direction and advice from him. That is why taqlid (emulation) is obligatory.
1. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 36 p. 309.
2. Qatb al-Deen Al-Rawendi, Al-kharaij wal jaraih, vol. 1, p. 455.
3. The Holy Quran 19:29-30.
4. Shaykh al-Saduq, Kamil ul-deen, Al-Alami Publications, 1991.
5. Shaykh al-Saduq, Kamil al-deen, 516.
6. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 51, p. 75.
7. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 51, p. 74.
8. S.M.R. Shabbar, Story of the Holy Ka’aba and Its People, 2012.
9. Bihar-al-anwar, vol. 52, p. 316
10. Kamil Sulayman, Yawm al-khalas, p 296.
11. Shaykh al-Mufid, Kitab al-irshad, vol. 2, p. 91.
12. The Holy Quran 5:35.
13. Shaykh al-Saduq, Kamil ul-deen, Al-Alami Publications, 1991
14. The Holy Quran 58:11.
15. The Holy Quran 68: 4.
16. Musnad al-Imam al-Rida (p), p 131.