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
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!