What is our duty during the Occultation of the Imam, as it seems that we have no other choice but to wait passively for the decline and fall of man that will occur before his advent?
The English novelist Aldous Huxley (1894-963) writes: Christ like in may behaviour, Like every good believer, I imitate the Savior. 215 emphasizing that Christians do imitate the Savior. Muslims also follow the through examples of Islam's Prophet Muhammed (saws), and their Savior Al-Mahdi (as). There are similarities between Muslims and Christians, and therefore somebody may claim if we -as believers- cannot make a big difference or a significant change, then there is nothing to be gained by being religious, or to speak about awaiting the hope of Divine Justice.
This assumption is open to discussion. It is based on an incorrect interpretation of what is right and what is wrong, and on the belief that if someone does not treat others with injustice one will become a victim oneself. Both ideas are incorrect. Being passive in front of an enemy who is aggressive and attacking others' rights, and offering him the other cheek is neither justified nor practical. This doctrine makes life impossible creating an unbalanced society and a chaotic environment.
Vegetius, the fifth-century Roman military writer, writes in his Epitoma Reil Militaris: "si vis pacem para bellum", "if you want peace, prepare for war." This has always been the reason for arms build-ups, 216 but it can also be used to prove that peace cannot exist so long as one tolerates injustice, or if one is vulnerable. A Persian proverb states: "Being merciful towards the leopard with sharp teeth is an unjust action towards the sheep and goats."
Thus we can partly agree with the French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987) as she put it in her own way in "Qui n'a pas son minataure?"
Between the role of a savior and that of butcher's accomplice, all I see left for you is the unsavory role of victim.217
For a Muslim who wants to be on the right path, he should neither commit any unjust action nor be a victim himself. In this way, he would be imitating his ideal person and the World's Savior. The Qur'an has encapsulated this superb advice for the Muslim society in the following short verse:
Do not commit injustice, and do not yourself be victim.218
Today, Shi'ism seems to be a school of thought that encourages political-Islamic revival, as in Lebanon, Iraq, Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere, or even revolution, as in Iran. At various times, however, Shi'ah thought seems to have supported the status quo. Like nearly every religion, sect, or even political doctrine unfortunately this belief in Al-Mahdi has been used to create quietism among Shi'ah communities. And as one outstanding Islamicist has said: "Any religion can be made to mean anything."219
I believe that this belief could also be misinterpreted so as to create a prison for Muslim minds as well as obstacles for their activities. It could be very much misused to become the imprisonment of mankind by his impropriate idea in the wrong time, which will result in his failure correspondingly, as Ludwig Wittgenstein has said in his own words:
A man will be imprisoned ina room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards: as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.220
While we think about Al-Mahdi (as) as a Savior who is waiting for the Muslims to take the first steps and make initiatives towards getting their rights, as he would contribute and help them, one can wrongly interpret it in a way so as to paralyze the Muslims awakening and political struggle for their justified goals. A London student writes:
Someone might say, I will just sit and wait, not moving a muscle for the sake of Islam. If you look at any hadith narrated from the Prophet, it always has a deeper meaning to it, one can not understand them through their literal meaning alone, every word has a lesson for us to learn, and waiting needs anticipation and expectation and so on. We know that everything we want in life comes through hard work and striving. Sitting and waiting in the literal sense is wrong, even if the majority of people do that. We must have initiative, endeavor, strive, work hard and fight back in order to safeguard our belief and way of life.221
If a teenager can understand his duties during the period of Occultation, we can see there is little excuse for the Islamic scholar to shirk his responsibilities while the Imam is absent.
We believe -as it has been explicitly stated in "The Faith of Shi'ah Islam", by the late Ayatullah M. Ridha Al-Muzaffar- that the expectation of the Savior and Reformer, Al-Mahdi (as), does not mean that Muslims should sit idle and abandon their religious obligations. Rather, it is incumbent upon them to obey Divine laws and endeavor to uphold the truth, wage holy war (jihad) for the sake of God, preach Islamic principles, perform noble deeds and restrain others from doing forbidden acts. Hence, every Muslim should always consider himself responsible and should follow Divine laws. He should make proper efforts to propagate the religion to the people and should not, as far as possible, forsake doing good deeds and restraining others from evil. As the Holy Prophet (saws) said: "All of you are guides to one another and responsible for reforming one another."222
When the Shi'ah believe in Al-Mahdi (as) and are awaiting his reappearance, they follow a hope which impels them to struggle and bring his reappearance into being. Expectation of solace and the cherishing of a hope for the future can be divided into two kinds. One is constructive and dynamic, and is an act of virtue. The other is destructive and paralyzing, and is a sin that is on a par with other forms of licentiousness. These two kinds of expectation are the direct result of two divergent notions of the appearance concerning the promised Al-Mahdi (as).
It is not suitable for any Muslim to forsake his well-defined duties and to wait for the Savior, because by merely having a belief in the savior, a man is not released from his negligence, indifference, and apathy towards Islam. Otherwise he will be like a sheep without a shepherd.223
During the period of the Occultation, it is our duty to expect the Awaited Imam. We must device systems of social development based on the Holy Qur'an and present them to the world. We must prove the excellence and efficacy of Divine laws to the people and attract their attention to the Divine system. We must fight superstitions and false beliefs and pave the way for the establishment of the Islamic world government in the light of the teaching of the Holy Qur'an and traditions of the Holy Prophet (saws). We must chalk out a program for solving the world's problems and put it at the disposal of world reformers. We must enlighten the thoughts of the people of the world and at the same time, prepare ourselves to receive the Awaited Imam and the emergence of a just world government.224
There are many duties that are advised for a Muslim in this period, and these duties have particularly been narrated in both Shi'ah and Sunni sources:
* To establish firm belief in his reappearance225, despair of which is prohibited.226
* To expect his reappearance at any time.227
* To be patient by practicing the true religion.228
* To save the pure religion and Shari'ah from distortion.229
* To stay wise while presenting the message of Allah (taqiah).230
* To learn Shari'ah and Islamic jurisprudence, and follow the Divine Knowledge.231
* To follow the advice and rules off the Qur'an and (Ahl ul-Bayt) Household of the Prophet (as).232
* To keep firm allegiance to the Imam, and know his attributes.233
* To ask Allah (swt) to know the Imam and his followers.234
* To forsake and stand against the leaders of Hell.235
* To keep one's distance from the impostors and false claimants.236
* To pray to Allah (swt), and work hard for Al-Mahdi's (as) imminent reappearance.237
* During the long period of the Occultation, one's heart must not be hardened.238
215. Antic Hay (1923) ch.4
216. NIL Desperandum, Eugene Ehrlich, 208, BCA
217. Qui n'a pas son minataure?, pt.3, 1963
218. Qur'an 2:279
219. Ed.: Hooghund, Eric and Nikki R. Keddi, The Iranian Revolution of the Islamic Republic, p.113, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press
220. Wittgenstein, Ludwig Josef Johann (1889-1951), was born in Wien, on 26 April, 1889, died in Cambridge on 29 April, 1951. He is an Austrian-British philosopher, who is one of the most influential thinkers in the 20th century. He is especially known for his linguistics philosophy.
221. ICAS student newsletter, Vol.2, Issue 3
222. Muzaffar, Muhammed Ridha, The Faith of Shi'a Islam. p.74, Islamic Seminary Publications, 1985
224. As-Sadr, Sayyid Muhammed Baqir, The Awaited Saviour, pp.57-58, London: Al-Khoi foundation, 1996
225. Here are many references of both Shi'ah and Sunni sources:
Ar-raud ul-anif, Abu Al-qassim As-souhayli, Vol.2, 431.
I'qdu dourer, Al-Maqdessi, 157.
Al-qawli Moukhtasar, Ibn Hajar, 2.
Al-Hawi lil fatawa. As-sutti, Vol.2, p.83.
Faraid al-simtain, Aj-juni As-shafe'i, Vol.2, p.334.
226. S.M.T. Al-asfahni, Mekial Al-makarem fi fawaid idu'ah lil-qai'm, Vol.2, pp.157-162, Qum, Iran
227. As-Sadr, Sayyid Muhammed Baqir, The Awaited Saviour, pp.341-342, London: Al-Khoi foundation, 1996
228. Kamal Ad-Deen, Vol.2, p.358
229. There are many references to this duty:
Tareek al-boukhari, Vol.4, p.130
Heliat ul-awlia, Abu Na'eem, Vol.1, p.25
Rabiu' ul-abrar, Az-zamakhshari, Vol.1, p.768
Jam al-Jowami', Vol.1, 23
230. An-no'umani, Al-Ghaybah, p.186
231. The references for this duty:
Sahih Al-Boukhari, Vol.9, 167
Mussnad Ahmed, Vol.4, 101
Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol.2, 1305
Al-Mou'jam Al-Kabuer, At-tabarani, Vol.8, 278
Kanz Al-ou'mal, Al-Hindi, Vol.11, 125
Faydh ul-Qadeer, Vol.4, 101
232. The references for this duty:
Al-Mou'jam As-sagheer, A-tabarani, Vol.1, 264
Heliat ul-Awlia'a, Abu Na'im, Vol.5, 165-166.
Tareekh Baghdad, Al-Khateeb, Vol.3, 398
Amali as-Shajari, As-shajari, Vol.2, 275
Kanz Al-ou'mal, Al-Hindi, Vol.1, 216
233. The references for this duty:
Kamal Ad-Deen, Vol.1, p.286
Al-Ghaybah, At-tousy, p.275
Al-qara'ij, Al-qutub Ar-rawandi, Vol.3, 1148
Bihar Al-anwar, Vol.5, p.72
234. The references for this duty:
Jamal Al-ousbou', Ibn Tawus. p.315
Mekial Al-Mekarem, S.M.T. As-fehani. Vol.2, 84
Kamal Ad-Deen, Vol.2, p.512
235. The references for this dutY:
Sahih Muslim Vol.3, 1480
Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol.4, p.242
Sunan At-termedhi, Vol.4, p.529
Musnad Ahmed, Vol.6, p.295, 302, 321
Sunan Al-Bayheqi, Vol.8, pp.157-158
Al-Mou'jam Al-Kabeer At-tabarani Vol.1 39
Al-Moustadrak Al-hakim An-nisabouri, Vol.3, 356-357
Majma'h Az-zoua'id Al-Haythami, Vol.5, 227
Kanz Al-ou'mal Al-Hindi, Vol.6, pp.67-68
236. The references for this duty:
Mousnad Ahmed, Vol.5, p.389
Kashf al-astar, Al-Haythemi, Vol.7, p.325
Al-Ghaybahh, Al-toussy, p.266
Kamal Ad-deen, Vol.2, p.347
Al-Kafi, Vol.1, 338
Al-Ghaybah, Al-nou'mani, p.151
Ethbat il-wassiah, Al-Massoudi, p.224
Dala'il al-imamah, Al-tabri, p.291
237. The references for this duty:
Sunan At-termedhi, Vol.5, p.565
Al-Mou'am Al-Kabeer, At-tabarani, Vol.10, p.124
Al-Kamel, Ibn Ouday, Vol.2, p.154
Tareekh Baghdad, Al-Khateeb, Vol.2, p.140
Al-Mesabeeh, Al-Baghawi, Vol.2, p.140
Tafseer Al-a'iashi, Vol.2, p.154
Bihar al-anwar, Vol.52, pp.131-132
238. The references for this duty:
Al-Ghaybah, Al-nou'mani, pp.6 & 24
Al-Mahajah, Al-Bahrani, pp.219-220
Adapted from the book: "The Awaited Saviour; Questions and Answers"
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