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What does our Imam (a.s.) expect from ‎his Shias?‎

Let’s deliberate on a few things about our Imam (a.s.). But before we discuss as to what our ‎Imam (a.s.) expects from us, let us understand and comprehend the status of our Imam. Who is ‎he and what is his position? What is the magnitude of his lofty position? Though he is staying on ‎the earth, what is his relation with the skies? What are his powers? Here, our discussion will ‎centre on his authority and power in the sphere of religion rather than his powers in the ‎domain of the universe. We shall initiate our discussion on Imam (a.s.) from the general ‎conversations that people have in their daily lives about him (a.s.).‎
Literally, Imam means “leader”. Here, Imams imply the twelve infallible guides (a.s.) who ‎are the protectors of the religion of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) after him. The first among them is ‎Ameerul Momeneen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) and the last is Imam Mahdi (a.s.), who ascended to ‎the seat of Imamate in the year 260 AH after the martyrdom of his venerable father, Imam ‎Hasan Askari (a.s.). Presently, he is the divine guardian of Islam and the master of all affairs. He ‎is the Proof of Allah on the earth. He is the Wali and Caliph appointed by Allah. He is infallible ‎and possessor of authority. He is the living Imam and our leader, who loves his followers. He is ‎the sign and manifestation of the power, perfection and glory of Allah, the Most High. ‎Enumerating his authority is beyond human intellect, imagination and thinking. Our duty is just ‎to ponder over his perfections and glory as narrated by our great scholars and the prophecies ‎of our Imams (a.s.) about him. We must recite the various supplications and salutations that ‎bring us closer to him and this is a path through which his recognition can be acquired. By ‎reciting them regularly, we seek refuge in him (a.s.) from the scorching heat of deviation. We ‎present a salutation for our readers through which we can comprehend the greatness, grace ‎and glory of our Imam (a.s.) and his holy existence which has authority over the entire universe. ‎His existence is the cause of the continuation of the worlds and the axis of order in the universe. ‎The salutation is available in Mafaatihul Jinan and is as follows:‎
He is the Proof of Allah and His Wali on His Earth and His cities. And he is His Caliph on His ‎Creations and His servants.‎
‎“Shiah” refers to the person who belongs to the sect that follows the twelve Imams (a.s.). ‎Literally, Shiah means “a follower”. Shiah is the one who does not rebel against the orders of ‎his leader. Neither does he doubt the authority of his Imam (a.s.) nor is he negligent in the ‎obedience and submission towards his Imam. A Shiah will be called a true Shiah only when he is ‎prepared to obey the King of the time i.e. Imam-e- Asr (a.t.f.s.). He is ever willing to ‎recompense the bounty of love (Mawaddat) granted to him by Allah. The intense love for his ‎Imam (a.s.) keeps the flames of sacrifice burning in his heart.‎
The Imam of the time – because of whom the order in the universe is not shattered – has ‎some expectations and demands from his Shiahs. If all the Shiahs – from the lowest to the ‎highest – are conscious and mindful towards those wishes and demands of Imam (a,s), then ‎protection and safety from the side of Imam (a.s.) is automatically assured. But if, God forbid, ‎the situation is contrary, then the turbulent circumstances of the present era would destroy ‎them. And Allah – the Mighty Lord – chastises the proud.‎
A detailed discussion about his expectations from the Shiahs is not possible over here. ‎However, some things can be mentioned in a very concise and summarized manner. If these ‎advices were to enter the heart, then a crevice would open in the heart through which some ‎rays of light, fragrant breezes, comforting sounds – all of them emanating from the tent of ‎Imam (as) can be felt. They would be the bearers of glad tidings leading to an extraordinary ‎relation between a loving nation and its affectionate Imam (a.s.).‎
What does the Imam want from his Shiahs? A lot has been written on this matter. The ‎tauqees – letters of Hazrat Hujjat (as) to his representatives and trusted people through the ‎special deputies in the minor occultation – offer an idea of his expectations. This has been ‎explained in detail by our scholars right from the early centuries till date. The conclusion all ‎those letters is that a Shiah is always expected to lead a life within the boundaries of religion ‎and to follow all religious laws meticulously to the best of his ability. He should endeavor to ‎help Imam (a.s.) and in this regard he should never be negligent of his (a.s.) guidance for the ‎sake of the reformation of the society. The pillars of this guidance are four – knowledge, faith, ‎recognition and affection. This can be explained in simple language as, knowing, believing, ‎recognizing and loving. These are the elements for perfection of Shiaiism. Through them, a ‎Shiah achieves exalted positions – as can be seen from the lives of Rushaid Hujri, Habib Ibn ‎Mazaahir and Meesam-e-Tammaar. We will take a glance of these four characteristics:‎
First : Knowledge and Awareness ‎
Awareness means to be engrossed in research and investigation. ‎
‎•‎ Imam Asr (as) is behind the veil of occultation. But his (a.s.) blessed birth and the five years ‎which he spent under the guardianship of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) should be based on ‎belief through solid proofs which our eleventh Imam had established during his Imamate. ‎
‎•‎ It also means that one should inquire and know about those respected personalities who ‎were the confidantes of Imam (a.s.) and worked for him (a.s.) in various capacities in the ‎reign of his Imamate like Ahmad Ibn Is’haaq, Abdullah Ibn Sa’d, Kaafur Ghulam, etc. ‎
‎•‎ To know the circumstances surrounding his rise to the position of Imamate and how the ‎Almighty Allah kept His lamp of guidance burning, and arranged for such a protection that ‎the rebellious powers of that time could not extinguish the light of guidance. The minor ‎occultation of Imam Asr (as) lasted for 69 years. The special representatives, who were his ‎ministers and had links to his Shiahs, were vigilant, pious, steadfast, watchful, prepared, ‎ready for action, a complete picture of faith, the custodians of Imam’s secrets, treasurers of ‎the knowledge of Imamate, aware of the traps laid by the enemies, guardians of scholars, ‎the conveyors of answers to the queries of the masses and observant of daily events.‎
The major occultation began in 329 A.H. Then came great scholars like Sheikh Sadooq (a.r.), ‎Sayyed Muhammad Mahdi Bahrul Uloom (a.r.), Sheikh Hurre Aameli (a.r.), Maula Baqir Majlisi ‎‎(a.r.), etc. We should strive to know more about them and make efforts to model our lives on ‎their way of life. This is what our Imam (a.t.f.s.) wants.‎
‎•‎ Further we should also be aware of the circumstances towards the end of the period of ‎minor occultation. Our Imam (as) wrote a letter to his last special deputy Ali Ibn ‎Muhammad Seymouri conveying that the period of the minor occultation was coming to an ‎end and the major occultation was about to begin. The door to special representation was ‎being closed. “Your life is only for six more days. Do not appoint any successor. Now our ‎scholars will be our representatives.”‎
Every Shiah should know how the reign of Bani Abbas was a period of deception for the ‎Shiahs. How their evil strategies were creating newer discords and problems for the followers ‎of Ahle Bait (a.s.). On one hand were the economic difficulties for the Shiahs. On the other hand ‎the prophetic teachings and traditions – whose guardians are the 12 Infallible Imams (a.s.) – ‎were being manipulated and distorted to suit the self-interest of the rulers. In this manner, ‎Islam was portrayed as a religion of kingship and royalty, a belief that gradually percolated ‎among the masses. This approach later transformed into that of terror and bloodshed and was ‎made to appear as a part of Islam. This thinking and approach has continued from the times of ‎Bani Umayya and Bani Abbas. ‎
Islam’s enemies have long taken benefit of this bloody and merciless facet. The continued ‎existence of the Shiah community is due to the divine wisdom and blessings of our Infallible ‎Imams (as). It shows how the Imams have protected the Islamic laws from distortions. If the ‎Shiahs do not travel through history, how will they know about the efforts and sacrifices of our ‎Imams and our scholars in protecting and guiding our nation and safeguarding its intellectual ‎heritage? It is rightly said “The sweat of a labourer is more precious and worthier than the ‎treasures of a king.” This Shiah nation is the result of the laborious prayers of a lady who ‎beseeched for it in front of her Lord. She is the Lady of Paradise (s.a.). Her age was short but in ‎this short lifespan, her prayers were accompanied by blisters in her hands and by broken ribs. ‎At times, the prayers continued during the day and night along with fasting and tattered ‎clothing. How will this nation realize the significance and worth of their legacy until they know ‎and feel these facts? How will one realize the agony and pain of the sufferings of an infallible ‎lady (s.a.) – who bore great hardships to hand over the sacred trust of the prophetic message to ‎us Shiahs? It is necessary that each one of us should light the lamp of knowledge to know all ‎this. Enroll in schools, visit libraries, respect social gatherings and bond with each other with ‎sincerity. As Allama Iqbal, the poet of the East, says:‎
A man’s value is only if he is attached to his religion. Alone he is of no significance.‎
Like a wave is only (of value) in the ocean, outside it is of no worth
Second: Faith ‎
One must have correct and proper beliefs. Our Imam wants us to continuously update ‎ourselves – through research and investigation – in the belief of Imamate to protect it from ‎doubts and uncertainties. If we feel an iota of doubt, we must go to the scholars (who are his ‎‎(a.s.)) representatives. Acquire knowledge by attending their gatherings. When the truth is ‎clear, say: “I have accepted you as the divine representative and my Imam after due study.” ‎Imam Asr (a.s.) wants this from us. For example, the writer had asked a great scholar sometime ‎ago, ‘In the elementary books of religious studies for children – the sentence ‘God is One’ is ‎proved through an argument that if God were two or three or more then there would be ‎definite discord between them and due to this, it is impossible for the system of the universe to ‎subsist. Does this argument conclusively prove Allah’s Oneness and make Divine Unity clear in ‎the minds of the recipient? The great scholar replied: “Do you consider this proof as deficient ‎and weak?” When requested to clarify the matter further, he said, “To understand the Oneness ‎and Needlessness of Allah the High, this basic explanation is the first step, lucid and simple, ‎which fuels the desire for further inquiry and research. Thus, we take a few steps towards the ‎recognition of Allah. After this, we can understand more complex proofs and comprehend the ‎terms.” ’‎
Hence, our Imam wants that we believe in our Lord, – not blindly but through research and ‎study. And similarly understand and have faith in Imamate of the Infallible Caliphs and Guides ‎of Allah, the One without any partner. Only then will it be possible for a person to remain safe ‎from the affliction and calamities of the world by keeping away from his (a.s.) dissatisfaction ‎
Third – Recognition (Ma’refat) ‎
The word ma’refat is not as simple as it sounds. It entails soaring to intellectuals heights, ‎increasing the horizons of knowledge, purifying the self and the character, strict obedience to ‎Divine laws and acquiring the light (of morality) within the conscience. In short, possessing all ‎those noble qualities that help a Shiah safeguard his faith. ‎
Turmoil and tribulations that would make others stumble and fall will not affect a Shiah who ‎is resolute and steadfast because he always finds himself in the presence of Imam (a.s.). Today, ‎satanic institutions have opened innumerable avenues for sins. New fashions and trends have ‎emerged to display nudity shamelessly and unabashedly. Hundreds of ways and means have ‎been created to lure everyone. ‎
A wise person, aware of the deceptions and allurements of the world will save himself. The ‎world remains safe due to such noble and pure souls. The heavens do not rain chastisement nor ‎does fire engulf the cities because of such upright and untainted individuals. Imam-e-Asr (a.s.) ‎wants us to love him as well as the followers of truth. “It is through them that you will gain our ‎ma’refat” he (a.s.) says. A Shiah knows that his Imam (as) is present and watching, and tries to ‎mould his life according to the likes and wishes of his Imam (a.s.). Our Imam (a.s.) is the ‎fountainhead of fatherly affection.‎
But a father expresses his love and affection according to his level of knowledge, wisdom ‎and understanding and then bestows gifts. So, what is needed is that every Shiah should make ‎himself worthy of the invaluable bounties of Imam. But if he does not possess ma’refat, he will ‎fail to recognize the value of the bounty (of Imamate) nor will he be deserving of it. One should ‎understand the rights of Imamate if he is to gain ma’refat. Keep in mind that Imamate is the ‎pillar of religion. Every Shiah should gradually know about the effects, obligations and benefits ‎of Imamate from an early age. This can be achieved through majaalis, religious classes, ‎paternal training in early childhood and the chastity of the mother’s embrace. These are the ‎means about which every member of a Shiah family should be aware. Its oversight results in ‎deviation, misfortune, calamities and affliction. Sometimes we see the rich striding the world, ‎carrying themselves in a high handed fashion. He may be given some time to reform. But if he ‎remains ignorant, there will be no one to save him if he stumbles. This very wealth and money, ‎which were his imaginary idols, will come crashing down on him. The writer is himself witness ‎to such incidents. It will not be out of place to briefly mention such an event. It is about a small ‎town. Years ago, the evening prayers had ended and the people sat listening to the advices of ‎the scholar who led the prayers. He mentioned about some rich individuals living on the ‎periphery of the mosque. Servants in uniform would always be around to serve them and their ‎guests. Their boisterous laughter would echo all around and disturb the faithful in their prayers. ‎The scholar admonished that these were the results of being oblivious to the commands of ‎religion and hoarding of impure wealth. If there was fear of God in their hearts, they would ‎have desisted from leaving the prayers and indulging in such unsavory acts.‎
Time passed and circumstances changed. Each one of them was afflicted with such ‎difficulties that the pen trembles to put them on paper. This world is a place of taking lesson. ‎Allah’s help and the aid of Imam (as) descend on a nation only when it has an eagerness, ‎awareness and inclination to strive to towards truth. Otherwise, in the words of Allama Iqbal:‎
The nation which cannot awaken from its slumber
Curse on such people, woe on such a nation
Hence, what is lacking in a person who achieves the light of ma’refat of Imam Asr (as)? He ‎has everything. But if he does not have ma’refat, then what does he have? Nothing, except the ‎gloom of deviation.‎
Fourth : Love (Mawaddat) ‎
The fourth Imam (a.s.) wishes that all of us should love Imam Hujjat Ibn Al-Hasan Askari ‎‎(a.s.) as he should be loved. When this love is absolute and unconditional, then there is a ‎gradual increase in the love for Hazrat Hujjat (as). This continues till a time comes, as the poet ‎describes eloquently, when even the starry night is a cause of pain (due to separation from ‎beloved). The anxiety and restlessness due to the separation from the master is hard to bear. ‎‎“Where are you, O my Master, my leader and my protector? Whether you are far or near? I ‎know not where you are.” Why are we not able to see his light and smell the fragrance of his ‎clothes? Why are we deprived of a glance at his resplendent visage? A true Shiah repeats his ‎‎‘love’ requesting patience and unrequited dreams- what will be the colour of the heart while ‎the blood gushes through it’. Our Imam speaks to our hearts, “Be a part of my pain while ‎praying for my reappearance, so that the desire for helping me keeps shining in your heart and ‎spreads its fragrance.” Our master and leader wishes all this from us. But, understanding the ‎will of this noble being and approaching it, achieving his satisfaction and pleasure needs ‎unbridled passion bordering on insanity, the like of which is seen in moths attracted to the ‎flame and who annihilate themselves in it with a desire to sacrifice their lives. ‎
When a Shiah exhibits the love for his Imam as wished by him (a.s.), he (a.s.) is pleased, ‎happy and responds to all his invocations. He (as) says: ‘Move ahead, a new world and pure ‎surroundings awaits you.” The example of Ali Ibn Mahziyaar is before us. We know that we ‎cannot become like Sheikh Murtuza Ansari (r.a.), Allama Hasan Hilli (r.a.), Allama Bahrul ‎Uloom (r.a.) and Allama Hurr Aameli (r.a.). They were radiant emblems of religion who ‎acquired their knowledge, belief and faith from the light of Imam (a.s.). Our Imam – who ‎measures our love and sincerity on the benchmark of our capacity and ability – desires that we ‎should not be negligent of him. He wishes that we should remember him incessantly – whether ‎we are alone or in some gatherings. But this is only possible when the love is expressed by the ‎heart and not by mere words, because words can never convey the intense emotions of the ‎heart. ‎
A group of Arab litterateurs visited the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and implored, “O Prophet of ‎Allah (s.a.w.a.)! You have made great sacrifices and efforts in spreading Islam. You can ask for ‎its recompense from us.” The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) would have surely smiled at this. The one who ‎is made as “a mercy upon the worlds” is being propositioned for compensation for all his ‎struggles and efforts!!! That too by this needy and feeble man – unaware of his own condition ‎and future!!! But the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.a.) did not reject the offer. Rather he asked for a ‎thing which resided in the hearts and could not be measured verbally. He asked for love and ‎affection towards his near ones. Can anyone be closer to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) than H. ‎Hujjat (a.t.f.s.), the son of J. Zahra (s.a.), the flower of Narjis (s.a.) and avenger of the blood of ‎Imam Husain (a.s.)? His name is the name of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his title is the title of ‎the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). His discussion has crossed the lips of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) several ‎times. Now, this recompense (in the form of proximity and affection of the Ahlul Bait (a.s.) of ‎Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)) is a clear distinction between truth and falsehood. The mention of this ‎love lights up the eyes of some and brings a smile on the face while for others it is a cause of ‎distress and grief. It is the effect of affection that a scholar in the throes of death says:‎
Why is death a harbinger of life? ; Who has blown this breeze, is it not you?‎
And there were some deniers of this recompense – like Yazid. He paced the corridors of his ‎palace in loneliness, beating his head, pulling his hair, terrified of his end. He constantly ‎imagined himself smoldering in he fire of hell
My Master! My loving Imam whose love surpasses that of a father (for his child)! O Imam of ‎the time! We are sinners; nevertheless, we grieve for your oppressed forefather Imam Husain ‎‎(as). The name of your ancestor Husain (a.s.) triggers a flood of tears. Maula, we request you ‎for the sake of these tears, that you overlook our faults and never deprive us of your fragrance. ‎Nor lessen the intensity of your love that fills our hearts. Aameen!‎

December 1, 2020