“It is He who has sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth to make it prevail over every other religion. However much the disbelievers may dislike it.”
(Surah al-Tawbah: 9:33 and Surah As-Saff: 61:9)
This paper will InshaAllah begin by looking at the historical movement of human beings and the progression of society over time. We will also show how this progression will reach its climax with the appearance of the Imam of our time (may Allah hasten his appearance). This is based on the promise of Allah (SWT ) that Islam will be implemented globally by the last and final successor of Prophet Muhammad (SAW ).
This movement of humankind will be studied in the context of the socio-cultural conditions prevailing before the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS ). The socio-cultural conditions that will prevail before the appearance will be studied from two different angles. The first will be the conditions prevailing in the general society, the society of individuals ignorant of the existence of the 12th Imam (AS) and those who are aware but have not paid any heed to it. The second angle will look at the conditions of the society of individuals who are aware of the existence of the 12th Imam (AS) and who are anxiously awaiting his appearance.
This paper will end with Ahadith from the Aimmah (AS) on what believers should do in the absence of the Imam (AS) while awaiting his (AS) appearance.
Historical progression of mankind and the belief of Islam
The way we have progressed as human beings from time immemorial may point to future direction of humanity. Based on history, human beings have been pursuing a path of pure materialism along with its selfish moral and social values. And as long as we, as human beings, are not brought back to our spiritual origins, it is impossible to imagine how a God-centered human society can materialize.
With materialistic consumerism at its height, and individualism and secularism functioning as its two wings, God and God's ethical and spiritual directives have been practically trivialized and systematically removed from our public life. At the same time, there is this natural urge in human beings to seek out their Creator, to worship the Merciful, Compassionate God. Until and unless that is satisfied human beings will not find peace and harmony.
Islam has emphasized this natural urge of humanity as it is founded upon an innate disposition to worship One God. The divine leaders of Islam also sought to implement the Will of God on earth by creating an ethical and spiritually-oriented society.
It is only when humanity acknowledges a God-centered universe that it will be able to further the ideal global community. Such a community will naturally respond to the call of Islam and the Prophet of Islam (SAW) whose invitation to the peoples of the Book was to abandon differences and concentrate on One Lord, the Almighty God, as is enshrined in the Holy Quran.
“O People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take other as Lords, apart from God.”
Surah Al 'Imran, verse 64
The Quran presents this revolutionary program of creating an ethical order that will reflect the divine Will on earth through God's righteous servants who have submitted themselves to His will. The Prophet has also informed us that the uniquely qualified person to lead humanity to become united under Allah (SWT) by abandoning all forms of idolatry and concentrating on the divine purposes for humanity will be the promised Mahdi (AS), a descendant of his.
A God-centered human will therefore materialize, based on our certain belief in the appearance of the Mahdi (AS). The Holy Quran says:
“Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth as He made rulers those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them, and that He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange; they shall serve Me, not associating aught with Me; and whoever is ungrateful after this, these it is who are the transgressors.”
Surah An-Nur, verse 55
General socio-cultural conditions before the appearance of the Imam (AS)
One of the socio-cultural conditions that has to prevail universally before the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS) is that all believers will have been born. It has been mentioned in a Hadith from Imam Sadiq (AS) that:
“In the loins of disbelievers and hypocrites God has deposited a seed for believing persons. It was for this reason that Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib (AS) refrained from killing the fathers of disbelievers so that believing children could be born of them. After that whenever he met them he would endeavour to kill them. Similarly, our Qa'im (AS) will not rise until God's trust from the loins of the disbelievers has been delivered. After that he will appear and will eliminate disbelievers.”
When the 12th Imam (AS) appears, he will offer the religion of Islam to the non-believers. Anyone who accepts that call will be saved from being killed. All those who refuse to accept Islam will be killed. Now, we know that history is replete with cases of believing children born of non-believing and hypocritical parents. This was the case of the early Muslims who were born of non-believing parents in the pre-Islamic age. If the Prophet had killed all the non-believers during the conquest of Makkah, the Muslims then born of their generation would never have come into existence. God's grace and benevolence necessitates that human beings should be left alone to their beliefs so that in time those believers among their children will be born.
As long as a human being procreates and brings forth a believer and worshipper of God, he or she should remain on earth. When the Imam of the Age (AS) appears, those who persist in their disbelief, and who will be killed, will be the people from whom there will be no believing offspring.
In another tradition Imam Muhammad Baqir (AS) said in response to a question asked by a companion on when the Qa'im (AS) will emerge, “At the time when men will imitate the women and women will imitate the men; when women will ride on saddles; when people will cause their prayers to die and will follow their carnal desires; when people will turn usurers; when shedding of blood will become something insignificant; when trade and business of the people will be based on usury; when people will openly commit adultery; when they will make towering constructions; when they will consider lie to be lawful; when they will accept bribes; when they will follow their lusts and desire; when they will sell their religion for this world; when they will sever their relation (with others); when they will hold under obligation the one whom they feed; when they will consider forbearance to be the sign of weakness and feebleness and injustice to be an honour; when their rulers will be evil and their ministers liars; when the trustworthy amongst them will be traitors; when the helpers amongst them will be unjust; when the reciters of Quran will be transgressors; when cruelty and oppression will become manifest; when divorce will increase; when people will engage in debauchery and libertinism; when forced witness and lie will be accepted; when they will engage in drinking and gambling; when men will be mounted on; when women shall engage with women (indecent acts); when people will consider Zakat to be a booty and charity to be a loss; when they will fear from the tongues of the wicked people; when Sufyani shall revolt from Syria and Yemen; when Baidah which is between Mecca and Medina will sink; when a child from the progeny of Muhammad (SAW) will be killed between Rukn and Maqaam and when a live voice will be heard from the heavens crying out that the truth is with Mahdi (AS) and his followers. It will be then that our Qa’im will emerge. When he re-appears, he will stand with his back against the wall of Ka'aba and 313 of his followers would gather around him…”
This Hadith summarizes the socio-cultural conditions preceding the advent of the Imam (AS). It talks about a time when men will imitate women and women will imitate men. This imitation could be in the form of dress, appearance, role in society and so on. The Imam (AS) also mentions the rise of carnal desires. This perhaps means that people will pursue their lusts for wealth, power and physical desires without caring whether what they receive in return is Halaal or not. Usury has also been noted as one of the conditions in the society – a condition which will be the norm and businesses will be based on it.
The Imam (AS) also points to the openness and lack of guilt in committing sins such as adultery, lying, drinking, gambling, taking bribes, committing indecent acts and so on. The prevalence of such vice and corruption in society will throw humanity into disarray and it is amidst all this that the Imam (AS) will appear.
The Hadith touches on the rise of oppression in the society. This will be in the form of severing relations with others, holding under obligation one who is fed and rise of unjust rulers, among others. There will be widespread injustice and oppression and total absence of peace and security in such a way that fear, terror, calamities, problems, corruption, mischief and ignorance will dominate human society. The people shall do anything for the sake of the world and they shall compete with each other on the way of sin and evil and in their view sin would be considered good and the Islamic Law, like in the beginning, would be unknown to the people. This oppression will be obliterated and replaced with justice and freedom under the rule of the 12th Imam (AS) when he appears.
The Imam (AS) concludes by talking about some of the physical conditions that will take place just before the rising of the 12th Imam (AS). This will be the rising of the Sufyani, the sinking of Baidah and the killing of the child from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (SAW), among others.
The final point is crucial. Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (AS) says that in these conditions, which can be summarized as political, economic and socio-cultural conditions, the 12th Imam (AS) will emerge. This Hadith gives the followers of the Ahlul Bayt (AS) and insight into what sort of environment shall prevail before the appearance of the Hujjah (AS).
In another Hadith, it is narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir (AS) that he said, “Mahdi (AS) will reappear at the time when fear, mischief, calamities, epidemics, violence, divisions in religion and transformation of the peoples’ condition shall be dominant on the world and society. Day and night people would yearn for death and shall be at each other’s throat. In other words despair and hopelessness would have conquered them. At that time His Eminence would reappear; and congratulations to the one who reaches Imam Mahdi (AS) and becomes his supporter and woe to the one who opposes him.”
This above Hadith further expounds the socio-cultural condition of the society in general before the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS). Specifically, it talks about the despair in the people with the state of affairs and that it is these conditions that will lead to the appearance of the Qa’im (AS).
Conditions of those awaiting his appearance and
Those awaiting the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS) will be Shia who will have acknowledged and believed in his existence and Wilayah (unconditional authority). The condition of such people will be in resonance with the Ahadith from the Aimmah (AS), which speak to the characteristics of those waiting for the Qa’im (AS). Some of the Ahadith will be studied in this section to identify the conditions of those who are consciously awaiting the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS).
Imam Zainul Abideen (AS) said, “Truly those people who in the occultation (of Imam Mahdi (AS)) acknowledge his Imamate, await his reappearance, are better then the people of all times because Allah has given them such an understanding that occultation for them is as good as meeting him. At the time of occultation these people are like those who did Jihad under the command of the Holy Prophet (SAW). In the sense they are sincere and they are our true Shias, they invite to the way of Allah (SWT) secretly and openly.”
The first thing that the 4th Imam (AS) says is that those who have acknowledged the Imamate of 12th Imam (AS) are better than the peoples of all times. The Imam (AS) ends by identifying a quality or a trait of the people who have acknowledged the Imam and are awaiting his appearance – and this is that these people will invite to the way of Allah (SWT) secretly and openly. And we can add that they will continue to do this, if given the opportunity, until the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS). They will carry out such activities in anticipation of deliverance from the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS).
Abu Saeed Khudri narrated that the Holy Prophet (SAW) said, “In the Last Age, severe tribulations would afflict my community from their rulers and kings such that they have not heard of more severe atrocities and the earth shall become constricted for them and become filled with injustice and oppression and the faithful believer would have no place of refuge from those oppressions. At that time, Almighty Allah would send a man from my progeny who would fill the earth with justice and equity and all inhabitants of the earth and heavens would be satisfied and happy and the earth would spew out its treasures and the sky would shower its blessings...”
The point we want to identify in this Hadith is that the Holy Prophet (SAW) says that the faithful believer will have no place of refuge from the oppressions of the rulers. This is another condition that will prevail for those who are consciously awaiting the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS). They (believers) will suffer oppression and will be victims of tyranny before the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS).
Preparation for the coming of the 12th Imam (AS) in light of the conditions that will prevail before his (AS) appearance
Our scholars have identified and written in their books certain things Muslims ought to do during the occultation: to pray for the twelfth Imam; to do charitable works for him; to perform hajj and to appoint someone to do that on his behalf; to seek his help and assistance in times of difficulty, and so on. There is no doubt that all these suggestions are praiseworthy, however the most important obligation mentioned in the sources and that which needs further elaboration is awaiting deliverance through him (intizar al-faraj).
There are many traditions from the Imams, both recommending the awaiting and enumerating its merits and excellences, during the occultation. Some of these Ahadith are presented below.
Imam Sadiq (AS) says, “Any one who dies with the love (Wilayat) of the Ahl al-Bayt while awaiting deliverance (through the appearance of the Qa'im (AS)), resembles the one who will be in the Qa'im's tent.”
Imam 'Ali Rida (AS) reporting from his forefathers and from the Prophet (SAW) relates the Hadith from the latter, who said: “The best deed of my community is to await for the deliverance.”
Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib (AS) says, “Any one who awaits our government, resembles the one who, in the way of God, has rolled in his own blood.
In another tradition Imam Rida (AS) praises the one who awaits the deliverance, and says, “How praiseworthy are patience and awaiting for deliverance! Have you not heard that God says in the Quran: ‘You await, and We too are awaiting?’ So be patient because deliverance will come after despair. Those who were before you were even more patient than you.”
Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (AS) said: “A person who would like to be among the companions of al-Qa’im (AS) should be in a state of (active) waiting (Intizar), and perform all of his deeds with Wara’ [a level higher than Taqwa] and with the most beautiful etiquette and then one will be counted as being in a state of (true) waiting (Intizar). Then if such a person was to die and al-Qa’im (AS) was to make his advent after this, then that person would receive the reward as the one who witnessed his (al-Mahdi’s) advent.”
There are numerous traditions on a similar theme. The Imams always used to advise their followers to await deliverance. They reminded them that the mere act of awaiting for deliverance is a kind of emancipation. The one who awaits is like the one who fights against the disbelievers on the battlefield and has rolled in his own blood. As such, there is no doubt that the weightiest obligation for Muslims during the occultation is to anticipate deliverance.
In the next few paragraphs we would like to expound on the meaning of this awaiting or anticipating deliverance. How can a person who anticipates deliverance acquire the greatest reward that accrues to the one who does good? It is not sufficient for the one awaiting the deliverance to materialize to just say with their tongue that they are awaiting the appearance of the Imam of the Age.
An individual cannot escape every kind of social responsibility, and stay away, from the moral responsibility of commanding the good and forbidding the evil; from taking a stance against corrupt and sinful behaviour; from not stopping injustice, and simply say: “O God, let the deliverance through the Imam of the Age be imminent so that he can prevent this corrupt behaviour!” This is not awaiting the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS). This person’s status cannot be the comparable to the status of the one who is killed defending his religion. His status cannot be equal to the one who has sacrificed all his wealth, his family, and his comfort and security in the way of God and attained the status of a martyr.
There is a deeper meaning and significance to the act of awaiting the appearance of the Imam.
Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (AS) has said: “Surely the possessor of this command (Imam al-Mahdi) will go into an occultation. So the servant should have consciousness (Taqwa) of Allah during the period of the occultation and should hold firm to his religion.”
Therefore firstly, as Muslims, we need to work diligently at reforming ourselves from within and with all the necessary seriousness. We should adorn ourselves with Islamic virtues, perform all the duties that are obligatory on us, and apply the directives provided by the Quran in our daily lives. We should endeavour to attain Taqwa and hold firm to the teachings of Islam.
Second, we should extract the social teachings of Islam from the Holy Quran, the Prophet (SAW) and the Ahl al-Bayt (AS), in order to execute those perfectly in our societies. By implementing the Islamic economic programs we should resolve our economic problems and fight against poverty, unemployment, and concentration of illicit wealth. By adopting the divinely ordained laws we should rid ourselves of injustices and corruption. In short, we should commit ourselves to set in motion the realization of an Islamic political, social, economic, and legal system, and present this to the world as a viable alternative, to the best of our ability. We realize that the perfect system of governance in all aspects can only be implemented by the 12th Imam (AS). In addition, by combining a complete legal code with the spiritual and moral concerns of the Islamic system, Muslims can become the source of emulation for a humane political, social and economic system.
Those who are engaged in these endeavours to make the revolution of the Mahdi (AS) possible and successful are the ones who are truly awaiting for deliverance through the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS) . It is in way that we can also affect our social and cultural surroundings and thus be in the state of readiness for the realization of the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS).
Over time, man has been evolving into a materialistic being. The true purpose of life is not at the forefront of man’s life, as is evidenced by the increasing war, instability and oppression in the world today. However, Allah (SWT) has promised in the Holy Quran that, “It is He who has sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth to make it prevail over every other religion. However much the disbelievers may dislike it.”
From this verse, we deduce that the religion of Islam will prevail over all other religions and from Ahadith we are told that this will occur under the rulership of the 12th Imam (AS).
Ahadith tell us the general state of the society before the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS). The condition of the rulers has been painted as being oppressive and tyrannical whereas the ruled will be oppressed and victimized. In this environment, the condition of the believers will be that of awaiting the reappearance of the Imam. Their condition amidst all the oppression and tyranny will be that of Taqwa – and this is what we as the followers of the Imam (AS) must aim for.
We have to work seriously towards the implementation of Islamic ideals in our personal and social lives, which we believe provide happiness in this and the next world. We must also constantly evaluate our shortcomings and reform ourselves to undertake the great responsibility of assisting the Imam (A.S.) in the Islamic government. This is the condition of awaiting that we have to develop in anticipation of the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS). This is condition that Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (AS) is speaking about by saying that, “…during that time (the period of the occultation), await the advent (of the Imam) every morning and evening …”
In conclusion, the reappearance of the 12th Imam (AS) is not in the control of man and the will of humanity. It is in the hands of the Almighty Allah. When the time is right, Allah (SWT) will give the Imam (AS) the order to appear and to establish the system of divine religion in the human society.
We pray that this time comes soon, InshaAllah.
Munir Chagpar Tel: + 1 416 498 8471
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