Right from the beginning of creation, mankind has been divided into three groups, which were found in every era and every society. Terminologically, they are referred to as
(a) those who have been undermined and weakened,
(b) those who were arrogant (rich and haughty) and
(c) the laymen.
If the arrogant group would not have existed, then the oppressed and harassed too would not have existed. Persecution and tyranny have always been committed excessively by the group that is haughty and proud. Oppression, cruelty, intimidation and deceit are the hallmarks of this group. More often than not, the victims of their excesses were the unfortunate and weak people. We will elaborate later on the meaning of “the weakened one”. But first let us shed some light on the third group – the general masses – on whom the arrogant people have some influence and control.
This group of the general masses is mostly neutral and adopts a middle path. They have a strong heart but are not resolute in their judgments. Since they are deprived of most things in life, thus they are weak – yet they can tilt towards either of the two groups. Maybe the virtuous and pious people of this group have been referred as the “people of A’raaf”. The minority of this group – if they possess a pure “teenat” – are inclined towards the “weakened ones”. This small group adopts the ways and beliefs of the “oppressed and harassed people” and walk with them towards the path of salvation. However the majority of the (general) people incline themselves towards the arrogant group. They adopt and imitate the conduct, behavior and manners of the egoistical group. The majority of the general public – who emulate the “arrogant ones” – are always trying to raise themselves from the lower strata of the society to the affluent class.
In this group of general masses, we come across quite a few“jack of all” personalities. Sometimes it is Ali Mohammed “Bab”, sometimes it is Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani while sometimes it those black coated Sufi malangs that you find everywhere. They are eager to break away from the ranks of the ‘harassed ones’ and become a part of the ‘arrogant ones’. They are entangled in the web of customs, rituals and fancies and are under the impression that they too belong to the “poor and enfeebled group”. But their actions are contrary to this group (of the weakened people). This group is of low intellect and is not steadfast on the path of truth. Greed and avarice prevents them from lending an ear to the promise of Allah.
If we were to analyze the overall scenario, we find that on one hand those who have been harassed, ostracized and weakened had to endure the atrocities and violence perpetuated upon them by the arrogant people while on the other hand they also had to face troubles and difficulties from the general masses about whom we have mentioned above. The tragedy that befell Hazrat Muslim Ibn Aqueel (r.a.) is a case in point. Thousands of letters were written to him inviting him to Kufa (to take a stand against Ibn Ziyad). An equal number had sworn allegiance upon his hands. Yet at the very end he was left with only thirty supporters. The wives of these thirty helpers dragged their husbands back in the houses. Finally, Hazrat Muslim (r.a.) was left alone to fend for himself. Hazrat Muslim (r.a.) was “enfeebled and weakened” by this dramatic turnaround of the Kufans. Yet, he did not waiver in the protection of his great responsibility. These are the venerated and noble personalities whom the Quran has referred as “those who are rendered weak in the earth”.
The word “mustaz’af” is profound in its meaning. It could mean weak, frail, feeble, incapable, helpless, powerless, infirm, shattered, the one whose right has been usurped, oppressed, lowly, deprived, abandoned, compelled, destitute, the one who endures tribulations or the one who is engulfed in difficulties. All these meanings can be interpreted for the word “mustaz’af”. Yet, the “one who is weakened” (mustaz’af) – in spite of his problems – is a manifestation of his impressive eminence and noble morals. He is courageous and fearless and never negligent in the fulfillment of his responsibilities. He is the standard bearer of humanity as well as spirituality. He resolutely fulfills the tasks assigned to him. He is true in his words. He is valiant and brave. He is not scared of death if it comes in the way of fulfilling his duties. As an example, read the biography of Sulaiman who was the envoy of Imam Husain (a.s.) in Basra. The Holy Quran has used the word “mustaz’af” in this essence and meaning. (In the light of the various connotations and meanings of the word “mustaz’af”, we will use the Arabic word itself in the remaining part of this article)
Islam and Mustaz’af
It is not only the religion of Islam that has the group of “mustaz’afeen” (plural of ‘mustaz’af’). Every divine religion that finally culminates in the religion of Islam had a group that was harassed, oppressed and made weak by the arrogant and tyrannical powers of the time. Yet, the past religions survived -only due to their (mustaz’afeen) struggles, sacrifices, determination, resolve, patience, steadfastness, knowledge, forbearance, foresightedness, preaching and propagations, fortitude, raising the voice against oppression, unblemished conscience, cautious in words, keeping away from destructive elements and speaking less. These impeccable and remarkable attributes imparted them such strength and forte that even the superpowers of their times could do no harm to the divine religions and nor could they force these individuals to abandon their divine mission. Hence, right from the time of Haabeel (Abel) and Qaabeel (Kane), till the era of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), history is replete with heart rending incidents of the tortures and cruelties afflicted on this group of “mustaz’afeen”. But all this only made them more resolute and firm in their duties due to which the standard of religion was always fluttering on the horizon. On the other hand, no sooner did the obsession and madness of power and arrogance began to wane, the oppressors were forced to bite the dust and were annihilated.
Allah has revealed upon His last messenger – Hazrat Mohammed Mustafa (s.a.w.a.), who is also a mercy for the entire mankind – the Holy Quran which is also known as “Furqaan”. In it, He has reiterated a promise that He had made earlier in the divine books of Torah and Injeel. He says in the Holy Quran
“And We have decreed that We will oblige those who were “weakened” in the earth and We shall make them as leaders (Imams) and We shall make them inheritors.”
At another place in the Holy Quran, Allah mentions His Grace and favours by saying
“We have made the “mustaz’af” as the inheritors of the (entire) earth – from the east to the west.”
Also Allah says often in the Quran
“Surely Allah does not go against His promise”.
And Allah is the One Whose absolute and infinite power is mentioned in ‘Dua-e-Kumayl’ when we say “O Allah! O Omnipotent! I beseech You by Your power that encompasses all things”. After reading all these verses, a genuine worshipper of Allah has three doors before him
(a) to believe in the Infinite powers of Allah
(b) The length and breadth of Earth
(c) that person who is a believer and has certitude, yet has been made “mustaz’af”
First Door: It relates to the Infinite and All Encompassing power of Allah. He is giving glad tidings to those who have been enfeebled in the earth and are patiently enduring the ruthless onslaught of oppressions perpetuated by the tyrants. Thus we find in Ziyarat-e-Aashoora
“May Allah’s curse be upon Abu Sufyan, Muawiyah and Yazid Ibn Muawiyah till eternity, on the day which was a day of celebrations for the progeny of Marwan because they had killed Imam Husain (a.s.).”
At this point the heart trembles and runs towards the well – as if to quench its thirst. It wonders ‘If Allah is Omnipotent then why are His virtuous servants engulfed in problems and difficulties? Why are the atrocities of the tyrants always on the rise? Why are the believers tested with trials and tribulations on every step that they take? Till when will all this go on?
Second Door: Man – created from the soil of earth –came in this world. It is said that this world is transitory and ultimately will be destroyed. Yet what we see is that even after thousands of years, it is still radiant and glowing, while the servants of Allah have to face all kinds of calamities. In fact, as its age is increasing, the supremacy and power of the tyrants is reaching the pinnacle. While for the “mustaz’afeen”, the world is like a corpse – insensitive and uncaring. Why is it so?
Third Door: The righteous and obedient servants of Allah have always been entangled in difficulties and tribulations. There does not seem to be an end to their problems. Even after such a long period of time, there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. Why are they being examined so relentlessly? The response to all these questions and dilemmas is as follows
In reply to the discussions of the first part, we would like to quote the first two verses of Surah Mulk, wherein Allah says
“Blessed is He in Whose hand is the kingdom and He has power over all things. Who created death and life (so) that He may examine you – which of you are the best in deeds. And He is the Mighty, the Forgiving.”
The answer to the question in the second part can be found in Surah Hadeed, verse no 17 wherein Allah says
“Know that, Allah shall enliven the earth after its death” It means that when the world shall be filled with injustice and oppression, then Allah – through His successors and representatives – will fill it with justice and equity.
The answer to the “Why” asked in the third part can be understood in the light of the famous saying – which if loosely translated means – “There may delay in Divine decrees but there is never any injustice from His side”. It is a Divine promise that the religion of Islam is the true religion and it will finally overpower all other religions. It is also the promise of Allah and His proclamation that “Baqiyatullah” – the one who is the inheritor of the earth and the divinely appointed Imam – is the center of Divine blessings and grace. Thus, Allah has made an elaborate arrangement for him (a.s.). All the ancient religions have predicted his advent and even Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) mentioned him in Ghadeer-e-Khumm. Numerous traditions can be found about his birth, his occultation and his reappearance. Allah has protected and safeguarded this noble and distinguished personality for the sake of His grand and lofty mission. He has also kept Imam (a.s.) as a symbol of hope and optimism for His chosen servants – the mustaz’afeen – so that they do not become victims of despair and dejection. Thus Allah says
“And certainly We wrote in the Zaboor after the reminder (Torah), that as for the land, My righteous servants shall inherit it”
(Surah Anbiya: 105)
Many such verses can be found in the Holy Quran. Even in the ancient Hindu scriptures – the Vedas, as well as the most authentic book of Jains viz. Jamasaab, and in New Testament – the divine book of the Christians – right till the event of Ghadeer, everywhere the predictions and prophecies concerning Imam Mahdi (a.s.) can be found.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was returning from his last pilgrimage. He halted on the blazing sands of Ghadeer-e-Khumm. Behind him (s.a.w.a.) was a sea of pilgrims returning to their homes. The scorching sun was at its zenith. On that hot and burning plain, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) ordered all the pilgrims to settle down. Then in front of that massive gathering, he (s.a.w.a.) appointed Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) as his successor and caliph by saying “Whomsoever I am the master, then this Ali too is his master”. After this significant and important announcement, he (s.a.w.a.) went on to give a very powerful and eloquent sermon. In it, he first spoke about his imminent departure from this material world and then proceeded to introduce his twelve successors. The first successor is H. Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) and his last successor is Imam Mahdi (a.s.) – about whom he spoke in great detail. He informed the people about his (a.s.) name as well as his agnomen (kuniyyat). In the books of Behaar-ul-Anwaar & Muntakhab-ul-Asar, the traditions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) concerning Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.) are as follows:
(1) O people! Know that I am a warner to the nation while Ali (a.s.) is your leader and guide.
(2) Beware! I’m a messenger while Ali (a.s.) is my successor
(3) Know that the last of the Imams – al-Qaaem – is from our progeny
(4) Know that he will overpower all other religions
(5) Beware! He will take revenge from the oppressors
(6) Beware! For he will be victorious wherever he goes and will obliterate the citadels and erase all boundaries.
(7) Beware! He will destroy all the polytheist tribes and nations
(8) Know that he will take revenge on behalf of all the friends of Allah
(9) Know that he will be the helper and supporter of Allah’s religion
(10) Know that he will be pure and chaste like the waves that originate from the depths of the ocean or the sparkling water that flows through the rivers.
(11) Know that he will recognize the people rightly – the scholars through their intelligence and the ignorant ones through their ignorance.
(12) Know that he is the chosen one of Allah – bestowed will all noble traits
(13) Know that he is the inheritor of all knowledge and their expert and authority.
(14) Know that he will warn and caution the people about divine matters related to faith
(15) Know that he is emblem of guidance. He is steadfast, resolute and unyielding.
(16) Know that he is the Divine Proof and Allah’s Remnant. There is no divine representative after him. The truth is only in him and with him.
(17) Know that none can defeat or subdue him.
(18) Know that he is the ‘wali’ of Allah among the people and also the trustee of His apparent and secret matters.
Many scholars are of the view that it was only at Ghadeer-e-Khumm – and nowhere else – that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) not only introduced Ali (a.s.) as his successor but also elaborated and announced the wilaayah (mastership) of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and the other ten Imams (a.s.) in a very eloquent and articulate manner. Another reason he (s.a.w.a.) made it a point to introduce Imam Mahdi (a.s.) in the gathering of Ghadeer was to ensure that everyone would be aware and conscious about Imam Mahdi (a.s.). Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) wanted every Muslim not only to safeguard this light (of Imam Mahdi (a.s.)) in their hearts but also pass it to the later generations so that they should remain secure from the trials and tribulations of the world till the Day of Judgment. If the recognition and awareness of the existence and advent of Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.) would not have been of paramount importance, Allah would not have made such an elaborate and detailed arrangement to announce his reappearance. All the past Prophets (a.s.) and successors (a.s.) right till Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), left no stone unturned to inform and enlighten the people about Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.). As for the era and phases of the news and traditions about Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.), they can be classified into four parts:
First phase is the discussions concerning Imam Mahdi (a.s.) in the ancient books of Vedas, Zartosht, Jamasaab, Injeel, Zaboor etc. The second phase is Ghadeer-e-Khum – where Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) not only announced the termination of the series of messengers, but also declared the names of his twelve successors after naming H. Ali (a.s.) as his immediate successor. The third era is the birth of Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.) – which created a tumult among the tyrants and oppressors. During his (a.s.) minor occultation – which lasted for sixty nine years – there were four special representatives viz. (1) Usman Ibn Saeed Amri (2) Mohammed Ibn Usman Ibn Saeed Amri (3)Abul Qasim Husain Ibn Rauh Nawbhakti & (4) Ali Ibn Mohammed Seymouri (Allah’s mercy be on them all). These representatives were a link between the people and Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.). Imam (a.s.) used to guide the people and answer their religious queries through letters (known as Tauqeeaat) which he used to address to his representatives. The fourth phase is the era of major occultation which continues till date. In this period, the practice of religious guidance from the side of the Imam (a.s.) is continuing through the Maraaje.
The golden and radiant era of reappearance with all its blessings and benevolence is just around the corner. It is as if we can hear the approaching footsteps of Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.). The prophecies of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) seem to have received a new lease of life and are comforting to the heart. No doubt, innocent blood is being spilled everywhere. Yet, neither the orphans have despaired of the reappearance of Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.) nor the widows are negligent about their master (a.s.) whose title is “Muntaqim” – the one who will take revenge. Today, all over the world the martyrdom of the beloved of J. Zehra (s.a) – Imam Husain (a.s.) – is commemorated with a lot of zeal and fervor. This upsurge in ‘azadaari’ is a sign that the more the enemies try to suppress it, the stronger and resilient it will become. The imminent reappearance of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s) – the avenger of the blood of Imam Husain (a.s.) – has lit a thousand lamps in the hearts of the people and these lamps are now glowing radiantly. Hope and optimism are at their pinnacle and there is splendor and joy in the world of anticipation (intezaar). He (a.s.) will reappear very soon. The sounds of his reappearance are clearly audible. May Allah include all of us among the helpers and supporters of this benevolent and honorable personality who is presently in occultation! May the noble, virtuous and faithful servants of Allah – who have been oppressed and enfeebled – become the inheritors of this earth, as per the divine promise! Aameen!