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).
Adapted from the book: "Humanitarian rights in the time of appearance of the Mahdi (Pbuh) or world promised Saviour" by: "islamshia-w.com"
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