A true Shia – who comprehends the reality of his faith, and tries to dispel the worries and difficulties of those around him in the in the light of his belief and faith – will never miss an opportunity to gain proximity to Imam-e-Asr (a.s.). It is impossible to convey the severity of his trials and tribulations in this era. It is as if someone has placed a blistering coal on his palm and has asked him to close his fist. This is also one of the most astonishing prophesies of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) concerning the last era. As someone rightly said, “Today, Islam is facing an open onslaught from external foes, while internal enemies are attacking and sabotaging it, through apparent and concealed strategies.” Malicious and vile strategies are raising their heads everywhere and inimical agents are working overtime. Things have reached to such a stage that now people have brazenly and shamelessly opened factories and centers of misguidance and deviation.
If for a moment we were to overlook the happenings in the world and observe our immediate surroundings and critically analyze all the events, don’t we find that misguided agents, under the guise of Islam are swiftly and rapidly spreading destruction and devastation? Today, which society does not speak about achieving success in the field of worldly education? In these societies, not getting an English newspaper and being unaware of worldly events is considered to be a sign of backwardness and ignorance.
This scary and frightening era, where the currency of honesty and truthfulness does not fetch anything – rather the world derides and ridicules it – demands an agonizing heart. Who will pay heed to such a conscientious person when his cries are subdued by the clamour of politics, pleasures, self-glorification, amassing of wealth and mixing of truth & falsehood? And if anyone were to lend him an ear, would it have any effect on the listener? O My Benevolent and compassionate Allah!! In these times of turmoil and difficulties – where blood is cheap and water expensive – but for the benevolence and kindness of Imam-e-Asr (a.s.) we would have certainly been embroiled in all kinds of calamities and tribulations to an extent that we would have wished for death but it would have shied away from us.
When I picked up the pen to express my anguish, my thoughts suddenly flashed towards Ghadeer-e-Khumm, where the blessed name of Imam-e-Asr (a.t.f.s.) was mentioned. My heart was comforted by this thought and I found solace in it. When I was critically recollecting the above mentioned experiences – as if I was witnessing them in my mind’s eye – and linking all the events, I felt that someone was criticizing and reprimanding me. Someone was telling me. ‘It is not like this. Come out of the gloom of your despair and despondency. The path of life is lit with the torch of hope and “awaiting” (Intezar). Listen carefully to the voice of the past. And you will hear a call emanating through the crevice of history.’ This clarion call first reverberated in the scorching desert of Ghadeer-e-Khumm. An audience of more than a hundred thousand pilgrims was standing in the sweltering heat of the mid-day sun. They were on their way back home after performing the rituals of Hajj. They had performed the circumambulation (tawaaf) of the Holy Kaaba, had spent a night in Muzdalifah and stayed in Mina. They had spent the night and the day in worship and repentance on the plains of Arafah and had also pelted stones on the three devils. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) ordered this very group of pilgrims to halt at Ghadeer-e-Khumm in the oppressive heat of the blazing sun. The caravan halted and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) placed the crown of mastership (wilayat) upon the head of Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.). He appointed Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) as his (s.a.w.a.) successor and vicegerent. But another proclamation that he (s.a.w.a.) made that day – which unfortunately is not given its due importance, although its value and significance can never be underestimated till the day of Qiyamat – is that he (s.a.w.a.) also mentioned the names of his (s.a.w.a.) twelve successors. He introduced his last successor and announced that both he (s.a.w.a.) and him (a.s.) would have the same name and would also share the same agnomen (kuniyyat). He is Imam Mahdi (a.s.), the divine leader of the last era. Today, we are spending our lives in his reign with a resolute certainty in his mastership. It is a point worth pondering. Imam-e-Asr (a.s.) is invisible to us. He is concealed from our eyes. The veil of occultation prevents us from seeing him. But that does not mean that we cannot comprehend and recognize the status of Imamat. Nor can we use occultation as an excuse to disregard and overlook the likes and dislikes of Allah’s representative. He is observing us and is conscious of each and every individual of the community. He hears the heartbeat of each one of us. This leader, who is bestowed with the status of Imamat, is and will remain the ruler of the world. In addition to being the apparent and official ruler of the world, he is also the Imam of the present era. Thus, all religious obligations concerning obedience to the “Ulul-Amr” are relevant to him (a.s.). His envoys, his staff and representatives all have a watchful eye upon us. Since he is linked to the position of Prophethood, is the divine proof on every creation of Allah and rules over them, it is the duty of every Shia to find out the expectations of his Imam (a.s.) from him. If the Shias were to truly recognize the invisible Imam (a.s.) and were to carefully read the incidents wherein he (a.s.) has conferred the Shias with his audience from time to time and helped them in their difficulties, they will appreciate the fact that their Imam (a.s.) is not negligent of his followers even for a moment, a fact has been emphasized by Imam (a.s.) himself. If an individual of the community is blessed with such admirable attributes, then certainly he will be desirous of becoming a helper of Imam (a.s.). The yearning of a Shia for assisting his Imam has been compared to a strange and extraordinary pleasure.
The joy of becoming a helper of Imam (a.s.) is a unique emotion. The notion of selflessness in the way of Imam (a.s.) makes such a person ecstatic and the pleasure of fulfilling the wishes of Imam (a.s.) and attaining martyrdom under his (a.s.) leadership cannot be expressed in words. The person who possesses such noble sentiments is indeed successful. Within him lies the strength to reach a lofty status and eternal glory.
But …… let us also look at the other side. There are people who are oblivious of the power, authority and supremacy of Imam (a.s.) that encompasses each and every living being. In their negligence, they entangle themselves in manifest corruption and place their faith in idols of wealth and relatives. Worldly fame is the focus of their efforts. They have failed to pay appreciate that Imam (a.s.) possesses complete authority in implementing his (a.s.) wishes and this power has been bestowed upon him (a.s.) by Allah the All-Powerful. Blessed is the Imam (a.s.) in whose control is the entire universe. This world is a place of examination and each one of us is bound to be examined. The benchmark of succeeding in this examination is “good actions”. Thus, there is reward as well as punishment; in this world and of course in the Hereafter. ‘Travel on the earth and see what was the fate of the transgressors.’ Hence, we have been made aware of the implementation of religious laws and also cautioned about them. This mortal man – made of flesh and bones – would tremble with fear before cutting off ties with his relatives, making greed and gluttony as a way of life, feeling proud of emulating the lifestyle of oppressors and before adorning his personality by trampling the sentiments of others and deriding the deprived individuals of the society – those who are leading a simple and straightforward life in the remembrance of their Imam (a.s.). He should know that the Imam (a.s.) of the era carries the ‘whip of time’ which is held in check by the tears of those who mourn on his grandfather (a.s.). The tears of these mourners also ensure the continuity of his (a.s.) favours, grace and mercy. A torrent of benevolence and munificence is always flowing from the tent of Imam (a.s.) towards his Shias. But if someone violates the limits of Shiaism for the sake of personal gains, thereby incurring the wrath of Imam (a.s.), then only the mercy and kindness of Imam (a.s.) can rescue such a person.
Briefly, when we have realized that we are living in the reign of Imam-e-Asr (a.s.), that he (a.s.) is Allah’s representative for the entire universe and we also know that his (a.s.) power and authority encompasses each and every creation of Allah, then it obligatory on everyone – but more so on the Shias of Imam-e-Asr (a.s.) – that they should always be vigilant of the orders and commands that are proclaimed from the office of Imam (a.s.) in these tumultuous times. In this era of occultation, Imam (a.s.) has established a strong and continuous link between himself (a.s.) and the respected Maraaje’ (spiritual leaders) of our community. These maraaje’ are the fountainhead of religious laws and strive to follow them resolutely (do Taqleed) and give them preference over own wishes and desires. Thus, we unite our existence with Imam (a.s.). Only then we have the right to look at that exalted level of human behavior that is the centre of radiance and inspiration. For this to occur, it is essential that the lamp of hope – accompanied with the radiance of intellect and wisdom – shows us the way. It is also necessary that the pleasure and joy of waiting and the fervent desire for reappearance of Imam (a.s.) – which is an unfulfilled aspiration and is like an arrow embedded in our hearts – should not be dimmed by the sleep of negligence. Every morning, after performing the morning prayers, we should renew our allegiance to our Imam (a.s.) in a manner that has been explained to us by our venerable scholars. Here we reproduce a part of that allegiance,
‘……O Allah! This morning and in every day of my life, I renew for him (a.s.) the pledge, covenant and allegiance on my neck. I will never turn away from it nor shall I squander it. O Allah! Include me among his (a.s.) helpers, aides and protectors and among those who hasten to fulfill his commands and obey his orders. Include me among his adherents – those who vie with each other to fulfill his wishes and intentions and attain martyrdom in his presence …..’ Aameen!