Allah is Beneficent and Merciful upon His servants. None can surpass Him in His love and compassion. The love of a mother – inspite of it intensity and enormity – cannot match the mercy of Allah. When the love of a mother cannot see her child in any kind of difficulty, then how can it be expected that the infinite love of Allah for His servants will see them in the fire of Hell?
Allah has referred to humans as the “best of creations”. He has honoured humanity with the title of “sons of Adam”, thus making them superior to all His creations. Allah has made human beings extremely balanced and equitable and has made provisions to fulfill the smallest of their needs. On one hand, Allah has granted man with the infinite power of “freedom of choice” while on the other hand He has also bestowed man with the great bounty of “intellect” so that man can exercise his freedom reasonably. If He has given man the spark of “carnal desires” then He has also blessed man with “complete guidance”. If there is Iblees – the Satan –to incite the desires and ignite the flames of animal instincts, then He also sent a series of Prophets (a.s.) and Imams (a.s.) for the guidance of mankind.
Since Allah is aware of the inner thoughts and nature of man, He made a complete and precise system for the guidance of man. The first person He sent in this world was His Prophet. So that no one would have any excuse and say “If there was a guide for us, we would have been on the right path.” The one who chooses to tread the path of falsehood would not have any argument against Allah. The person would be solely responsible for his own destruction.
Freedom of Choice
Allah has created man free. Freedom and choice make sense only when two (or more) options are available, the path of goodness and the path of evil. If only one path is available, it is illogical to say “You are free to choose as you like”. The Holy Qur’an has presented this point in a lucid manner:
“And We showed him both the ways”
(Surah Balad: Verse 10)
Or at another place it says,
“Surely, We have showed him the path. Now he can be thankful or he can deny (our bounties)”
(Surah Dahr: Verse 3)
No doubt, Allah has given freedom to man. But He has also declared that He is Just. Thus, He will reward His good servants and punish the oppressors. Hence, He has made this world as a place of examination and the Hereafter as a place of accounting. So, no doubt man is free, but this freedom is conditional. Man will have to undergo trials & tribulations in this world and there is no escape from it.
Thus, if there are bounties & freedom of choice, then there is examination too. On the basis of his actions, either man acquires a lofty status or falls in the pit of humiliation and disgrace. Allah honoured Satan due to his excessive worship. He gave him the privilege to be among the angels. Satan was made of fire while the angels were made of light. Thus, Allah raised the position of Satan. However, the time of examination arrived. Allah commanded all His angels to prostrate before His creation which He had made from clay. The angels bowed in prostration straight away. Due to their worship, they were perfect servants of Allah and were truly obedient to all His commands. For them, the command of Allah was more important than the creature made of clay before which they had to bow. Due to their spontaneous act of obedience they were successful in their examination. Thus, Allah raised their rank and included them among His proximate angels. However, Satan – who was made of fire while the creature was made of clay – saw the external qualities and refused to submit before the command of Allah. Allah threw him out from the gathering of angels and forsook him on the lowly earth. The Holy Qur’an narrates the rebellion and crude language of Satan in the presence of Almighty Allah, when he was removed from Paradise.
‘He said, “O Iblees! What excuse do you have for not bowing down?” He said, “I’m not such that I should bow down in front of a mortal whom You have made from black mud and given him shape” He said, “Then get out from here. Surely you are ‘rajeem’ and surely upon you is a curse till the day of Judgment.” He said, “My Lord! Give me respite till the time when they shall be raised” He said, “Surely you are from the ones who is reprieved till the known time.” He said, “My Lord! Since You have made life evil for me, I will adorn for them the life on the earth & I will most certainly cause all of them to deviate. Except the one ones who are pure” He said, “This is the right path with Me. Surely you don’t have authority over My servants except those who follow you from the misguided ones”
(Surah Hijr: Verses 32 – 42)
A similar conversation between Allah & Satan is mentioned in Surah Suad wherein Satan says to Allah
“My Lord, I swear by You! Most certainly I will deviate Your servants”
(Surah Suad: 82)
The Satanic conspiracy
These verses amply demonstrate that Satan desires to deviate everyone and make them his companions in hell.
“Deviation” means to go away from Allah, to wander away from the religion of Allah, to forsake the ‘friends’ of Allah and to abandon the divinely appointed Imams (a.s.). It implies non-adherence to divine laws and considering the permitted as prohibited and vice-versa. In short, all those things that deprive man of Allah’s guidance and mercy can be termed as “deviation”. Deviation entails the non-establishment of divine government in this world, preoccupation of Allah’s creatures in oppression – instead of righteousness – and opposing divine commands. It is the involvement in polytheism instead of Divine Unity, denial instead of submission and hypocrisy in place of sincere belief.
Swearing on divinity itself, the accursed Satan has firmly decided to misguide all men. He aims to spread deviation in every corner of the earth. Such is the scheme of the Satan.
Precedent set by Allah
Allah too made a comprehensive arrangement for man’s guidance. Regarding the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.), the Holy Qur’an declares:
“Say: O people! Surely I am the Apostle of Allah to you all”
(Surah A’raaf : Verse 158)
“This Qur’an has been revealed to me that with it I may warn you and whomsoever it reaches”
(Surah An’aam : Verse 19)
“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds”
(Surah Anbiya : Verse 107)
“He it is Who sent His Apostle with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse.”
(Surah Taubah : Verse 33)
Likewise, there are many more verses. Hence, while Satan wishes to deviate one and all, Allah desires to establish the pre-eminence of the religion of Islam throughout the world. The difference is that Satan is using legitimate & illegitimate means to achieve his aim. Killing, plundering, falsehood, accusations, and slander -he is indeed capable of anything. The Divine representatives, on the other hand, do not trespass the boundaries of the shariah for achieving their divine goals. They are steadfastly attached to the divine commandments for attaining their objectives. They always maintain the highest standards of morals and ethics in all their dealings.
The Triumph of Truth
Another evident and manifest difference between the divine representatives and the army of Satan is that despite all problems and calamites, the divine representatives are calm and unruffled while Satan and his allies are always agitated and restless. This difference is emphatically highlighted in the following Qur’anic declaration:
“And the final end is for the pious”
(Surah A’raaf : Verse 128)
Thus, finally success will be for those who are pious and virtuous. The outcome of the age old battle of guidance and deviation will result in the evident victory of guidance.
Apparently the Satan has got an upper hand until now and is manipulating the people. This is because the Divine Representatives have always invited the people towards religion with freedom of choice. They desire that the true religion should be accepted by all by exercising their own free-will and preference without the involvement of any force or compulsion. It is extremely difficult for an individual to tread the path of guidance voluntarily and to overlook his likes and dislikes for the sake of Allah. But if man were to realise the importance & enormity of this act, he would certainly consider these difficulties as blessings.
There is No Compulsion
The world is a collection of causes and effects. Everything runs its course like a seed which gradually blossoms into a tree. Barring exceptions, the world is not governed by miracles. Allah could have forcibly made everyone tread the path of guidance and none would ever be deviated. But Allah has destined that man should traverse the path of guidance as well as deviation by his own intent.
Satan adopted the path of rebellion right from the beginning. If he would have felt any remorse for his action and sought forgiveness, it was possible that the merciful Lord would have excused him. He abandoned the approach of seeking forgiveness and embraced the path of rebellion and conflict. He created problems for divine representatives right from the beginning. He ignited the fire of jealousy in the heart of Qabeel – provoking him to kill Habeel. He continued his rebellious approach inciting Firaun, Hamaan, Namrud, Qarun, Abu Lahab, Abu Jahl, Akramah, Abu Sufyan, Bani Umayyah, Bani Abbas ….and so on. All of them had a common agenda: “Extinguish the light of Allah”. If the sun of guidance were to set, the darkness of misguidance would spread. The enemies of guidance would then get a free hand to multiply their deviations.
They killed the divine representatives. Finally, the chain of divine Prophets (a.s.) concluded in the most beloved and illustrious persona of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.).
Satan tried his level best to extinguish this illustrious light of guidance in Makkah itself. All the tribes jointly schemed to assassinate the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). However, Allah foiled all their plans. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was saved from the devious disbelievers who had besieged him. He (s.a.w.a.) had barely settled in Madinah when he was confronted with a series of battles. This sequence continued till the very end of his earthly life.
Facing opposition from the polytheists and the Jews as well as tackling the scheming hypocrites in his own community, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) bravely established the divine religion of Islam and finally conveyed the divine message by declaring the mastership (Wilayat) and absolute leadership (Imamat) of Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) after him (s.a.w.a.) at Ghadeer-e-Khumm. This declaration marked the completion of his efforts in the propagation of guidance. In this manner, he (s.a.w.a) concluded his messengership and established Ali (a.s.) as his successor. The verse of “completion of religion” in the Holy Qur’an is a living testimony to the fact that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) completed his responsibility of conveying Allah’s message to the people. The announcement of the mastership of Hazrat Ali (a.s.), in addition to completing the religion also became a guarantee for its protection till the day of Judgment.
This announcement crushed the hopes of Satan and all the enemies of Allah and His religion. This was more severe than the announcement of Prophethood as then they had hoped that with the conclusion of Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) life even his message will be gradually forgotten. The proclamation of Ali’s (a.s.) leadership dashed all their hopes. They were impatient and waiting for the death of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Intentionally, they ignored the clear and forceful instructions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) for joining the army of Usama. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had informed Ali (a.s.) about a fresh set of conspiracies that would begin after his (s.a.w.a.) death. Ali (a.s.) was well aware of the series of oppression to follow the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The hidden hatred would manifest itself. It was however crucial to make the people submit to guidance with their own free-will. Hence, forcing himself upon them was totally ruled out. The people, ignoring the clear instructions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), embraced the world and its adornments that were offered to them by the accursed Satan. For the sake of these material benefits they martyred Allah’s divine proofs one after another.
Safeguarding the Divine Religion
For the purpose of continuing divine guidance till the Day of Judgment, Allah appointed twelve guides after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The first is Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) and the last Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). The enemies of Allah and his religion never allowed anyone of them to live freely. Allah had appointed the twelve Imams (a.s.) but these worldly worshippers and enemies of divine light martyred eleven of them. The Day of Judgment was still to arrive. Hence, Allah protected the last guiding sun from His enemies by placing him in Occultation.
Allah does not desire force and compulsion in any matter. Also it is not His practice to use miracles every time. Hence, it was necessary to protect the divine guide and to exhaust the evil strategies of enemies and at the same time gradually prepare the people to support the Universal Government.
This idea can also be elaborated as follows:
1. Allah revealed the religion of Islam for the guidance and success of mankind.
2. He appointed Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as His messenger and declared his (s.a.w.a.) prophethood as Universal and Final.
3. The deputation of Prophets (a.s.) and the promulgation of divine laws were with the aim of establishing justice throughout the world so that none is oppressed. A person should not oppress his own self by adhering to satanic ideologies or others by subjugating them to tyranny and injustice.
4. Allah – in His Infinite Wisdom – has made Hazrat Hujjat Ibn al-Hasan al-Askari (a.t.f.s.) responsible for the establishment of complete justice and equity throughout the world and for the eradication of all forms of injustice. Hence, we find traditions mentioning about him (a.t.f.s.) thus:
“He will fill the earth with equity and justice as it would be fraught with oppression and tyranny.”
5. Allah desires that the people should voluntarily prepare the grounds for the establishment of an Islamic government and He does not want to compel them for this.
6. In the last 1400 years, Allah sent guides for the prosperity of mankind. All of them were alike in their excellences, knowledge and understanding. They were the evident chiefs of the entire creation. However, the people did not value them and failed to give them their due respect. Had that been the case, Ali (a.s.) would not have been forced by his army to recall Maalik Ashtar when they were on the threshold of victory. Had the people given them (a.s.) their due respect, Ali (a.s.) would not have been deprived of his divine right to caliphate. Had they honoured the Imams (a.s.), Imam Hasan (a.s.) would not be coerced into signing a treaty with Muawiyah, nor a scoundrel like Yazeed would ever become the Caliph and Imam Husain (a.s.) martyred mercilessly. The tyrant Haroon Rashid would never had arrested Imam Musa Kazim (a.s.) nor Imam Ali Naqi (a.s.) and Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) been exiled from Madinah and forced to live under house arrest. No one would have had the guts to destroy the holy shrines of Jannatul Baqi & Saamarraa.
Thus, had the people accepted the authority of these arks of salvation, true guides, protectors of divine religion, pointers to the straight path and the equivalent of the Holy Qur’an, and had they accorded them the status and respect due to them, the oppressors would never have dared to execute them. But alas!
7. Allah in the light of His divine wisdom decreed the number of guides after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to be only twelve. But the ungrateful people did not value their presence and martyred eleven of them.
8. The promise which Allah had made to His beloved Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that He would make his religion supreme over all others in the world was still not fulfilled.
9. Hence, the present scenario is:
a. Either this last Imam (a.s.) should also be made apparent so that the people kill him as they had done with the previous eleven Imams (a.s.), OR
b. The system of this world should be changed for the sake of this last Proof. Then, if the people attack him with the sword it would cause him no harm. If he is poisoned, it would be futile. If arrows are shot towards him they will be in vain. Such a change in the universal system would render the free-will of the people ineffective and compulsion is against the practice of Allah, OR
c. This last proof should be taken out of this world. Then there would be utter chaos in the entire system of the world as the presence of a Divine Proof on the face of the earth is a must for its continued existence, OR
d. This Proof is allowed to exist on this very earth. The Divine system will be protected. The Proof lives in Occultation without being recognized by the people. He continues to stay among the people and meet them but his identity would remain concealed. This arrangement should continue till the people out of their own free-will are ready to accept his commands. This arrangement is called “Occultation”
Khwaja Nasir Al-Tusi (r.a.) in his book ‘Tajridul Eteqaad’ mentions this reality in a very beautiful manner as follows:
“His existence is Allah’s bounty, his sovereignty is another grace and his Occultation is due to us”
Hence, Occultation of Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (a.t.f.s.) was a need of the time. Since, Allah’s knowledge is all encompassing; He knew that a sudden Occultation would make the people go astray from the path of true religion. On account of His infinite mercy and to prepare the grounds for Occultation, every Imam (a.s.) – right from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) till Imam Mahdi (a.s.) – has spoken about this great event (of Occultation). Allah decreed the mention of Occultation along with the Imamat of the last Proof. This would ensure the acceptance of Occultation by the believers. Therefore, traditions mention abundantly about his (a.s.) Imamat as well as Occultation and even the conditions during Occultation.
These traditions also specify the two types of Occultation:
1. The Minor Occultation and
2. The Major Occultation.
The Minor Occultation is remembered as ‘Ghaibat-e-Sughra’ and the Major Occultation is called ‘Ghaibat-e-Kubra’.
The characteristic of the minor Occultation is that though the common people could not have direct access to the Imam (a.s.), some special deputies were appointed by Imam (a.s.) who were mediators between Imam (a.s.) and the people. The period of the minor Occultation was for 69 years, from 260 A.H. till 329 A.H.
The Major Occultation started in 329 A.H. when the last special deputy Ali Ibn Muhammad Seymouri (r.a.) expired, which continues till today.
We sincerely pray that our good deeds contribute to the reduction in the length of the Major Occultation and our beloved Imam (a.t.f.s.) reappears.
In this Major Occultation though Imam (a.t.f.s.) is hidden from our eyes but he does not neglect us. He protects us despite our deficiencies in fulfilling his rights.
Imam (a.t.f.s.) has not forsaken us in this major Occultation. He (a.t.f.s.) has entrusted us to the religious scholars of the religion of Ahle Bait (a.s.). Finally, it is important to mention that:
Ultimately a day will definitely come when the Major Occultation will conclude. The descendent of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) will reappear. Brave and sincere companions will assist him in establishing the government of Allah on this earth. The flag of Tauheed will flutter everywhere and “Polytheism” will be decimated. Tyranny will be routed. Truth and justice will be widespread. None will have to bear even an iota of oppression. Islam will triumph over all other religions and ideologies. Centuries of efforts of Satan and his companions will come to naught. All his schemes will fail. Truth will be victorious and the Islam of Ghadeer will prevail. Satan will finally be executed. People will then realize the true Divine promise.
“In the hope of that enlightened day whose dawn is near, tell the heart- don’t fear”
Though there were a number of representatives of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) in the minor Occultation, only four of them were privileged with a special status. These were the most reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.). They are referred to as the “Nuwwaab-e-Arba’a” – The Four Special Representatives.
The Major Occultation began after the demise of the fourth representative Ali Ibn Muhammad Seymouri (r.a.). In the Major Occultation, Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) does not have any special representative. In this period, Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) has delegated this responsibility to the respected and learned “Fuqaha” and “Mujtahids”. Thus, today it is our responsibility to respect and honor these “Fuqaha” and “Mujtahids”.
May Allah grant us the grace to be included among the sincere servants of Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.)!
May He send His infinite blessings on the Holy Ahle Bait (a.s.) as only He can send!
May He enumerate us among the slaves of the holy Ahle Bait (a.s.)!
May He grant us the opportunity of preparing the ground for the early reappearance of Qaem e Ale Muhammad (a.t.f.s.)!