(1) Awaiting (Intezaar) is obligatory:
Every religious action is accompanied by some conditions in order for it to be accepted by Allah. These conditions are related to the one who is performing that action. The word ‘Deen’ refers to these very actions and it implies the rightful religion that is according to the satisfaction of Allah (viz. Islam). In the light of a tradition of Ameerul Momineen (a.s), only good actions performed by a religious person shall be accepted by Allah. In other words, good actions performed by those who are not on the ‘true religion’ will not be accepted. He (a.s) says ‘O people! Protect your religion. Protect your religion. Be attached to it. And be careful that no one should turn you away from it. Committing bad deeds while being on the right religion is better than the performing good deeds while following a false religion. Because the sins of the one who follows the true religion will be forgiven, but the good deeds of the one who does not follow the rightful religion shall not be accepted.
(Maanil Akhbaar, pg. 185, 186)
Thus, it is very important for us to recognize the true and correct religion since it is a pre-requisite for the acceptance of our actions. This matter can only be clear and evident for a person if he refers to the sayings of Ahlul Bait (a.s). Once a person approached Imam Baqir (a.s) while he had a letter in his hand. Before he could say anything, Imam (a.s) informed him:
‘This letter (which you are carrying) is from (our) adversary who wants to know about that religion through which deeds shall be accepted.’
The man replied ‘May Allah have mercy on you. I have come to ask you this
very question’. Imam (a.s.) replied ‘(Religion implies) To bear witness that there is no god except Allah, Who is One and Unique and He has no partner and that Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) is His servant and His messenger and to accept all that he (s.a.w.a.) has brought from the side of Allah and to accept our Wilayat (mastership) and to love us while at the same time to bear enmity with our enemies, to submit to our commands and to act with piety and modesty and to await the reappreance of our Qaim (a.t.f.s.). For certainly our government shall be established when He wishes.
(Usul-e-Kafi – Kitabul Imaan wal Kufr, Chapter of “Pillars of Islam”, tradition 13)
In the light of this tradition, awaiting the reappearance of Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.) is among the pillars of faith and the reason for our religion being accepted by Allah. A similar tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) can be found in the book ‘Ghaibat-e-Nomani’; Chapter 11, tradition 16. Thus Allah shall not accept any religious action unless it is accompanied with awaiting for the ‘Promised Mahdi’. Here “acceptance of an action” implies “to receive the reward promised for that action and to gain proximity to Allah.” Only that action is worthy of a reward, which is performed along with all the relevant conditions. Else all the efforts expended in its performance will be futile. Of course, if Allah wishes, then out of His Boundless Mercy and Grace, He will accept the acts of worship even if some of the conditions are not fulfilled. Of course, that is a different matter altogether. But the promise of Allah clearly stipulates the fulfilment of all these conditions.
(2) The Necessity of Awaiting for Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s): Numerous traditions of the infallible guides (a.s.) have introduced Qaim-e-Aal-e-Muhammad – awaiting for whom is included among the fundamentals of religion. For example, Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s.) says in a tradition
‘Certainly, our Qaim is that (very) Mahdi whose awaiting is obligatory during his occultation.’ (Kamaluddin, vol. 2, pg. 377, chap.
1) The above tradition contains the word ‘obligatory’ and it indicates the fact that during occultation it is the duty of every Shia to familiarize himself with the characteristics of awaiting the Imam. Any individual who wishes to worship Allah will certainly not take this matter lightly. A question that comes to mind is, ‘Can awaiting the Imam (a.t.f.s.) be classified as a voluntary act? Is it principally right to classify it as an obligatory act?’ The reply to this question lies in the fact that the one who finds the sentiment of awaiting within him will surely testify that this condition can never be found in an individual without the fulfillment of certain pre-requisites. And if all the ‘essentials’ – in their complete form – are found in the initial stages within a person, then it gives rise to the feeling of awaiting and there is no need for any external influence or inspiration. Thus awaiting for the Imam is unlike other voluntary acts – like eating and drinking – for which we can give an order. So if someone desires to inculcate the feeling of awaiting within himself, then it is necessary for him to pay attention to the pre-requisites and essentials of awaiting. It should be kept in mind that like all other conditions there are varying intensities and levels in awaiting the Imam. Every level of awaiting has its own set of demands and pre-requisites. The lowest level of awaiting is to believe in the occurrence of the event, i.e. reappearance of Imam (a.t.f.s.). The intensity of the awaiting depends upon this fact. The more certain one is of the event, the stronger will be the awaiting. Some of the pre-requisites to cultivate and develop the feeling of awaiting are as follows:
A person should firmly believe in the person that he is awaiting and should not have even an iota of doubt or reservation concerning him in his mind. The stronger is his conviction, the greater will be the feeling of awaiting in his heart.
(b) To consider it near:
The awaiting one (muntazir) should always feel that the reappearance is near and imminent. For, if a person is certain about a matter but considers it to be a remote possibility, then the intensity of his wait will be feeble. On the other hand, if he is convinced and confident about the nearness of the event, then his awaiting will be that much more intense.
(c) To love it:
If we are certain that a particular thing is bound to occur and we are also conscious that it’s occurrence is very near, yet if we are not inclined towards it nor do we have any special affection towards it, then obviously we would never want that event or thing to draw near. On the other hand, when we hear about the arrival of a very dear and beloved friend, then the feeling of awaiting becomes more intense and powerful.
The more prepared we are for a particular event the more acute is our anticipation for its advent. For instance, if a student has studied hard and has put in lot of effort, then certainly he will look forward to his exams and will also be restless for the results; for he is sure that he will be successful. Likewise, the family of a bride looks forward to welcoming the guests for the marriage only after they have made thorough preparations for the occasion. The family members are unlikely to look forward to receiving the guests while the preparation of the stage, food, decorations are incomplete.
The aforementioned four conditions and pre-requisites are essential while awaiting the reappearance of Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.).
1. To have a firm belief in his (a.s.) reappearance:
The more an individual inculcates the knowledge and certainty concerning the reappearance of Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.) within himself, the more intensely will he await the reappearance of Imam (a.t.f.s.). But if – God forbid – any doubt arises in his mind concerning the reappearance of Imam (a.t.f.s.), then not only will this weaken his belief, but even the intensity of his awaiting will diminish and fade away. It is also possible that excessive doubts concerning Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.) may lead him into the sphere of disbelief. Both Shia and Sunni scholars have narrated a tradition from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) pointing towards this fact wherein he (s.a.w.a) declares ‘The one who denies the reappearance of Mahdi, then he has indeed disbelieved’
2. To consider the reappearance of Imam (a.s.) to be near:
It is possible that one may not deny the reappearance of Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.), but he may consider it to be a distant event and does not believe that it can occur in the near future. Such a thought will make his belief weak and lethargic. On the other hand, if he considers the reappearance of Imam (a.t.f.s.) to be imminent then his awaiting will be intense and firm. As we read in Dua Ahad ‘They (the polytheists) consider it (reappearance) to be
far, while we consider it to be near.’ Hence this belief will by itself increase the level of awaiting.
3. To look forward to his (a.t.f.s.) reappearance:
A true Awaiter is the one who is fervently looking forward to the advent of Imam (a.t.f.s.). He awaits the advent of his Imam (a.t.f.s.) just as a person awaits his beloved friend. He is willing to sacrifice all his personal treasures and worldly bounties to meet his long lost friend. ‘O Master! When will the time come when your benevolent glance will fall on us – unfortunate servants? And when will we be granted the privilege of seeing you?’
This is the slogan of every true Awaiter.
The more we prepare ourselves for the reappearance of Imam (a.t.f.s.), the stronger will be our desire of awaiting for him. Without being prepared for his reappearance, the feeling of awaiting will be a farce and have little meaning. As Sibt Jafar writes: ‘We keep saying ‘al – ajal’ (hasten), but what will we do if he were to really come?
How prepared are we? And what will we offer him?
…..Our shrewdness and our arrogance and our cunning treachery?
What is the value of our fasts and our prayers?
How much sincerity is there in them and how much pretension?
What preparations have we made for the sake of Imam (a.t.f.s.)?
What face shall we show him when he reappears?
When these four conditions combine, then the feeling of awaiting inevitably develops in a person. The intensity of awaiting is proportionate to the degree of these four ‘pre-requisites’. The stronger they are within a person, the more intense will be his awaiting. Thus if we are desirous of fulfilling our responsibility of awaiting, then it is imperative that we strengthen its four pre-conditions. The directive of awaiting for Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.) is in reality an order for developing and inculcating these four pre-conditions. For strengthening the first and second pre-requisites, it is necessary for us to frequently refer to the Holy Quran and traditions of infallibles (a.s.), believe in the glad tidings and prophecies concerning Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.) that are mentioned in them and give them the highest level of importance. And an individual can do all this voluntarily. In order to fulfill the third pre-requisite, we should acquire the recognition (Maarefat) of Imam (a.t.f.s.) so that the flames of his love are ignited in our hearts and keep on burning till the last breath of our lives. Only then will our awaiting be fervent and passionate – just like that of a mother who is anxiously searching her lost son. Come let us end this short treatise by presenting ourselves in the holy presence of Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.) and addressing him (a.t.f.s.) with tears in our eyes ‘Peace be upon you – O my Master and my Chief! I am your servant and I seek proximity to Allah through you and through your progeny. I
am awaiting the reappearance of your (esteemed) self and also of the truth through your hands. I pray to Allah to bestow His blessings on Muhammad (s.a.w.a) and his progeny (a.s.) and he should include me among those who await your reappearance. Aameen!’