The Freshness of the Explanations Offered by the Mahdi
People, having abandoned the absolute principles and fundamental teachings of Islam, merely follow the outward forms of religion and regard those to be sufficient. These are the people who, besides the five daily obligatory prayers, the fasting of Ramadan, and avoidance of external pollution (najasat), know nothing of Islam. Besides, some of them have limited religion to the mosque and, hence, its reality has very little impact upon their actions and behavior. In the life outside the mosque, that is in the market place or at work, there is no trace of their Islam. They do not regard ethical behavior and moral precepts to be part of Islam. They give no importance eschewing to immoral conduct and make an excuse of not following moral guidelines since there is dispute about the obligatoriness and the prohibitions of certain requirements. They go as far as turning the prohibitions of the law, through trickery, into something permissible. They also shun their responsibility for paying the dues that are imposed by the law on them. In other words, they are engaged in interpreting the religion according to their desires.
When it comes to the Qur'an, they think it sufficient to pay attention to its formal recitation and to respect the conventions in that connection. Hence, when the twelfth Imam appears it is obvious that he will ask them as to why they have abandoned the essence of religion and have interpreted the Qur'an and the hadith to fit their own preferred meanings. Why have they left the truth of Islam while being satisfied with mere outward adherence to it? Why have they not sought to conform their character and their actions with the true spirit of Islam? Why have they twisted the meanings of the religion to accord with their own personal avarice? Since they pay so much attention to the proper recitation of the Qur'an, they should also put its directives into action. The twelfth Imam has the right to ask: "My grandfather, Imam Husayn, did not get killed for the sake of mourning. Why have you forsaken my grandfather's goal and destroyed it?"
The Imam will ask them to learn the Islamic social and moral teachings and apply them in their everyday lives. They should avoid the forbidden acts, and take care of their financial obligations, without making flimsy excuses. They should also keep in mind that remembering the merits of the ahl al-bayt and weeping for their suffering can never substitute for the zakat and khums and taking care of one's debts. Nor can they substitute for such sinful behavior as taking interest and bribes, cheating others and treating them with dishonesty. They should recognize that weeping and sighing for Imam Husayn can never substitute for having ill-treated orphans and widows. More importantly, they should not limit piety to the mosque; rather, they should seek participation in the society and carry out the duty of commanding the good and forbidding the evil and fight the innovations that have crept into Islam.
Certainly, such a religion would seem new and difficult to these people, and they might not even consider it to be Islam, because they have imagined Islam to be something else. These people used to think that the progress and greatness of Islam lay in decorating the mosques and in constructing tall minarets. If the twelfth Imam says: "The greatness of Islam is righteous action, honesty, trustworthiness, keeping promises, avoiding forbidden acts," this would appear to them altogether new! They used to assume that when the Imam appears he will make amends for all the actions of the Muslims and will retire with them in the corner of a mosque. But if they witness that blood is dripping from the Imam's sword and that he is calling people to jihad and to command the good and forbid the evil, and that he is killing the unjust worshippers and returning the goods they have stolen to their rightful owners, such actions of the Imam they will indeed find new!
Imam Sadiq relates:
When our Qa'im arises he will call people anew to Islam, guiding them to the old thing from which people have turned away. He will be called Mahdi because he will guide people to the thing from which they have been separated. He will be called Qa'im because he will be commanded to establish the truth.1
In short, there is a total difference between the assumed Mahdi and his agenda, and the true Mahdi and his role. It is for this reason that since his actions will not be approved by the people, they will desert him in the beginning. However, since they will find no one else who can deliver them they will submit to him. Imam Sadiq says:
I can witness the Qa'im wearing the particular garment and taking out the letter of the Prophet sealed with a golden seal, and after breaking the seal he reads aloud to the people. The people disperse from him as the sheep do from the shepherd. And no one besides his vizier and eleven chiefs remain with him. Then people begin to search for a reformer everywhere. But, since they do not find anyone besides him who can help them, they rush towards him. By God, I know what the Qa'im is telling them which they refuse to acknowledge.2
1 Kashf al-ghumma, Vol. 3, p. 264; Mufid, Irshad, p. 240, 343.
2 Bihar al-anwar, Vol. 52, p. 326.
Adopted from the book : "Al-Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.); the Just Leader of Humanity" by : "Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini"
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