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If one argues that the reasons for this belief are not political and ideological in nature, then why it is that once we have seen the establishment of the wilayat-e-faqih in Iran, this faith

If one argues that the reasons for this belief are not political and ideological in nature, then why it is that once we have seen the establishment of the wilayat-e-faqih in Iran, this faith in Al-Mahdi (as) has become continuously weaker? 201

The best answer to this and the last questions is to let the facts speak for themselves.

The first group of facts:

Here we examine how neutral political observers have analyzed the relationship between the concept of Al-Mahdi (as) and Ayatullah Khomeini's movement. Some of them claim exactly the opposite point of view. One of them writes:

Shi'ah Islam in its world-view arguably has especially salient symbolic words, exemplary tales and other resources as competitors to state power and propaganda. According to the Shi'ah theory of political legitimacy and the concept of Imamah (the doctrine of socio-political leadership), Ali (The Prophet Muhammad's (saws) cousin and son-in-law) and the descendants of his marriage with Fatima are the true guardians of the Islamic faith and the Muslims rightful spiritual and political leaders. After the Prophet's death Ali and his descendants were denied leadership as his true substitutes. Thus the Shi'ah came to view their Muslim rulers as usurpers, lacking legitimacy and unworthy of their allegiance. As long as the Imams lived among the Shi'ah they guided their attitude toward the ruling authorities.

One of the symbolic stories is that of Imam Hossayn's (the third Imam) willing martyrdom in the just cause of resisting the usurper caliph, Yazid, and another concerned the Hidden Imam (The Twelfth Imam), a supreme leader who disappeared in the ninth century A. D. It is important to note that for centuries the Shi'ah had believed that this Al-Mahdi (as) would return when the world was overflowing with injustice and tyranny. During the Pahlavi monarchy the Shi'ah adopted a passive attitude towards the ruling authorities. They refrained from open opposition but denied them legitimacy and allegiance. In spiritual matters they sought guidance from the ulama, their religious leaders. Therefore the ulama, in a sense, came to represent the Imam and thus became the guardians of the Shi'ah heritage. Their status was consistent with the notion that hose fit to govern are those who understand the religious laws, and in the absence of the Imam those people are the ulama. A more recent interpretation of the belief, argued that Al-Mahdi (as) would reappear when Muslims had not only returned to Islam but created a just society thoroughout the world. This approach gave rise to a new view of Khomeini's role; that of a continuing central focus for the revolutionary leadership. It resonated with the popular messianic yearning for the return of the Hidden Imam, who long ago disappeared from human sight awaiting the coming of a perfect Islamic community as the telos of history.202

The second group of facts:

We must read some of the late Ayatullah Khomeini's statements about Al-Mahdi (as), so that everyone will be clear about what he actually has said. These statements were made after his assumption to power in 1979:

* Imam-e-Zaman [lit, leader of the age, a title of the Twelfth Infallible Imam] is watching over us, over the clergy to see what they do now that Islam is entrusted in their hands and all excuses are cut off.
* We who expect his (Twelfth Infallible Imam) blissful advent are obligated to institute the rule of the law of Divine justice in this country of the Walli-e-Asr (Guardian of the Era, another title of the Twelfth Infallible Imam).
* The day that, God willing, the General Reformer appears do not think a miracle will take place and the world will he reformed overnight, rather, the despots and oppressors will be suppressed and isolated by hard efforts and sacrifices.203

Ayatullah Khomeini never changed his opinion concerning the Imam during his life. In his famous final testament, posthumously published, we can read under the title "The Imams and their Legacy" the following phrase:

we are proud that our infallible Imams, right from Ali Ibn Abi Talib to the Awaited Savior of Humanity -the Mahdi- the Master of the Age, peace and blessing be upon them, all are our chosen Imams. We are proud that books of prayers and meditations introducing the higher planes of the Qur'an are also from our Imams. The Prayer of Arafat by Imam Hossayn and Sahifa e Sajjadiyya, the crowning jewel from Ahl ul-Bayt and Sahifa-e-Fatimiyya -a book inspired by Allah to Janabe Fatima- all belong to us.204

He described his movement as a starting point for the return of Al-Mahdi (as):

The revolution of Iranian people is the starting point for the grand revolution of the Islamic world under the banner of His Holiness the Hojjat (lit. proof, title of the Twelfth Al-Mahdi (as)).205

The third group of facts:

We will read now what Iranian society has to say about their relationship to Al-Mahdi (as). In the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was accepted by 98% of the Iranian society under a referendum, the Iranian Muslims have agreed to give the Iranian leadership (the late Ayatullah Khomeini or whoever success him) the right to assume Al-Mahdi's (as) duties solely under the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam. If this belief is getting weaker, the leader himself will possess no power at all. But this contradicts the present political facts inside Iran. Article 5 of the Iranian constitution explicitly states:

During the Occultation of Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (The Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance) the leadership of the nation in the Islamic Republic of Iran shall be the responsibility of a faqih (jurisprudent) who is just, virtuous, has contemporary knowledge, is courageous and an efficient administrator. He shall assume such responsibility in accordance with the provision of article (107).206

The fourth group of facts:

According to the statistics there are thousands of mosques, schools, libraries, bookshops, hospitals, streets, boroughs, counties, cities, conferences, meetings, books, theses, and so on that have been named after Al-Mahdi (as) since the revolution. Clearly, then, people are not drifting from faith in the Imam.

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201. Al-Khateeb Al-baghdady, Tareekh Baghdad, Vol.1 pp.4-5

202. Skocpol, Theda. Soical Revolutions in the Modern World, p.251, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1996

203. Imam Khomeiny, Short Sayings of the Late Ayat. Khomeiny, pp.32-34, The Infallibles, B,N.A.I., Tehran

204. Selected sayings of Ayat. Khomeiny, was published posthumously by The World Federation, p.41

205. Imam Khomeiny, Short Sayings of the Late Ayat. Khomeiny, p.33, The Infallibles, B,N.A.I., Tehran

206. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (with all amendment up to 1989). 12. publ. The Consultive Assembly, International Dep.

Adapted from the book: "The Awaited Saviour; Questions and Answers"

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