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The Characteristics of Those Who Wait Imam Mahdi (A.S.)

Since the dawn of Islam until the present age, Muslims have firmly believed in the truth of the reviving message of their Prophet and they have been longing for the day when justice and equality would be realized.

In what follows we will try to introduce the mission and duty of all believers for the realization of such a great hope. Obviously because of its brevity, we can only mention a few characteristics of those who wait and their ideal society. It is hoped that this article could open new doors for both researchers and readers.

Knowledge
Knowing al-Mahdi (A.S.) on the Epistemological Level

The utopia of those who wait possesses many constituents, one of which is knowledge. It suffices for the significance of knowledge that it counts as the criterion of deciding what is invaluable or worthless. With knowledge one can acquire supremacy, and without it one will have no excellence, or rather, may be driven towards evil and degeneracy.
“Are those who know equal to those who do not know?”[1] Imam Ali (A.S.)says:
“The worth and excellence of every person is in proportion to his knowledge.”[2] However, the area of knowledge proposed here is, of course, one of religious interest rather than a non-religious one. As for the theory of deliverance, it is a religious doctrine and an object of interest by all religions. Islam has the privilege of presenting such a doctrine in the framework of the theory of Imam al-Mahdi (A.S.) in its most perfect and comprehensive form to the human society.
“O my God, let me know Thy Hujjat (Proof), for if You do not let me know Thy Proof I will go astray from my religion.”[3]
By knowing al-Mahdi (A.S.) however, we do not mean to be familiar with his name or his relatives, rather, we mean knowing his due position and function within the whole universe and consequently, the blessings of his pivotal status for all beings, whether heavenly or earthly.

Cognitive Aspects of Imam al-Mahdi (A.S.)

Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.)high ontological position and blessings in the whole world may be considered on two levels: creation and divine legislation.
With regards to the former, we ought to appreciate his high existential position as the infallible Imam who mediates between the Creator and all creatures as the transmitter of divine emanation. Through the Imam all creatures live by the rich blessings of God’s bounties, the earth will be safe from heavenly tribulations just as through the light of his being, Allah pours down His plentiful bounties upon His servants.
Imam al-Rida (A.S.)says: “We are the Hujjats (Proofs) of Allah over the earth, we are the vicegerents of Allah among mankind, we are entrusted with Allah’s secrets, and we are the Kalimat al-Taqwa (the word of Godwariness) mentioned in the holy Qur’an«والزمهم كلمة التقوى» “And He made them abide by the word of Godwariness.” This means that through our Wilayat (guardianship and sainthood) one can be safe from God’s wrath and punishment. We are al-`Urwat-u al-Wuthqa (the Firmest Handle) mentioned in the holy Qur’an. It means that those who have embraced our guardianship and followed us have truly held fast to the link which will take them to paradise. We are the witnesses of Allah and His signs of guidance among mankind. By means of us, Allah preserves the earth and the heavens from downfall. Through the blessings of our existence, Allah sends down the rain and expands His mercy upon the earth. The earth cannot be without an Imam, whether visible or invisible. If some day the earth became empty of a Hujjat, it would, along with its inhabitants, be made into a huge wave, like the ocean which changes into a great wave when it is stormy.”[4]
Concerning the Imam’s role as a mediator of emanation between the Creator and all creatures, Henry Corbin, the French philosopher, says: “Shi`ism (due to the belief in the existence of Imam al-Mahdi (A.S.) ) is the only religious school that has preserved such a relation, appearing in the theory of Wilayat, of all creatures to God for the good. According to Judaism, the prophetic mission that draws a genuine relation between God and the human world came to an end after Moses. Thus the Jews did not believe in the prophecy of Jesus or that of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). The case is also true with the Christians who have not gone beyond Jesus. This is also the case with Sunni Muslims who stop with Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). Indeed, except for Shi`ism, other religions and sects have failed to believe in the continuance of such a relation between God and all His creatures. The prophetic mission, according to Shi`ism, came to an end with Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), but Wilayat which continues the relationship of guidance and perfection, continues after Prophet Muhammad’s(A.S.)death for good… his (the Deliverer’s) existence is such an undeniably living truth that no academic survey can regard it as superstition. All religions, in my point of view, are true and seeking some living truth. They all agree on the very existence of such a truth. It is only Shi`ism, however, that made it appear in the costume of continuance and persistence.[5]
With regards to the latter, as the guardian of human society, the Imam bears many blessings and benefits, which include his role in preserving the very being of the Shari’at and in giving hope, optimistic expectation and unity to people.

The Position of the Awaiting

Among the characteristics of the utopia of those who are in expectation is the idea of “awaiting”. This is an innate idea which the Creator has endowed us with, and without which we would become useless, lethargic and irresponsible. On the contrary, people characterized by hope and expectation are energetic and active. The concept of expectation in the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt(p.b.u.t.) has moved from the abstract ideas of the mind into the actual realities of practice, hence it is regarded as the best, yet most exhausting kind of religious practices. The priority and difficulty of expectation over other religious practices can be understood from the two hadiths of the holy Prophet(A.S.)taken as a whole:
1- “The best of actions is the most strenuous of them.”[6]
2- “The best of actions for my community is awaiting the deliverance.”[7]
Having studied the two hadiths according to the methodology of hadith comprehension, one can easily deduce that the al-Faraj (the Deliverance) is both a virtue and a difficulty. In another tradition, the hardship and severity during the Major Occultation has been described by Imam al-Baqir (A.S.)as follows:
“How far! How far. Al-Faraj (deliverance) will not be accomplished unless you have been screened then sifted, and sifted agin so that the impure disappears while the pure remains.”[8]

Background of the Awaiting

As far as history can remind us, mankind has constantly been longing for a better life and has kept looking for a better and reformed future. Thus, many intellectuals have decided to advance their project of the golden utopia just as they have encouraged human societies to move towards such an ideal.
The first idea of the “utopia” had been proposed by Plato, the great Greek philosopher.[9]
Al-Farabi was the second thinker who drew up the outline of “utopia”.[10]
Tommaso Campanella is another intellectual who wrote Civitas Solis (City of the Sun, 1623).[11]
Taus moore has given the good tidings in “The Earth Paradise “[12]
Thomas Moore the humanist scholar has given the good tidings of utopia.[13]
In his humanistic works, Francis Bacon has proposed the New Atlantis.[14]
In accordance with his Marxist principles, Marx regarded a “Classless Society” as the ultimate rendezvous of history.[15]
Indeed all human beings whose desires for perfection have made them disappointed with the current plight of the world have been looking for such a utopia which could pave the way for the florescence of their deep innate propensities and pure human virtues.[16]

The Element of Endurance during the Period of the Awaiting

Expectation without endurance is a null and worthless concept. Endurance is the major constituent of expectation. The beauty of expectation can only be achieved by endurance: Imam al-Rida (A.S.)says: ما احسن الصبر و انتظار الفرج» “ How good endurance and awaiting the deliverance are!”[17]
Awaiting, therefore, means to endure all hardships and to await the one who is expected to come. There are many verses in the holy Qur’an on enduring hardships which are described as “fortitude” and “patience”. For example, we read that Luqman, the Wiseman, gave his son advice:
“And be patient through whatever may visit you. That indeed is the steadiest of courses.”[18]
In our traditions, the theory of expectation is frequently accompanied by the word “Sabr” (endurance and patience). Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.)says:
“Among the constituents of the religion of the Imams (the Imams’ line of religious conduct) are piety… and awaiting the deliverance through endurance.”[19]

Preparation

Muslims are religiously required to be ready to preserve the very being of Islam. Such a readiness may be the first and most important function of the society that is waiting, and whose members ought to remain faithful to it. The ideal society founded for the sake of the spiritual growth and enhancement of humanity differs from those favored by power-seeking states. This is why such powers are involved in conspiracies against such an ideal society. Hence, it is necessary for the upholders of this utopia to thoroughly prepare themselves against the aggressors. Evidently, their defense must be all-embracing. Those who wait should then equip themselves with modern arms and with open arms preserve the geographical boundaries of the very being of the Islamic utopia. Having explained and strengthened the pure Islamic culture and principles, those who wait can offset the aggression.
After they concretize such preparations through action, the first measure to pave the way for Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) utopia will have been taken.

Different Aspects of Preparation

1- Cultural and Mental Preparation

For this preparation, minds and thoughts must improve to a high enough level to recognize that race, color, nationality, geographical distances, language differences, customs and the like are not so considerable that humanity should be separated along those lines. Tribal prejudice, artificial barbed wire fences, group or party affiliations, and other obstacles between people and civilizations must be abolished.
Imam al-Baqir (A.S.)says:
“Al-Qa’im (The one who rises up) is from ourselves … His sovereignty will reach the West and the East just as, by his hand, Allah will make His religion prevail over all religions…”[20]
Globalization from the Islamic point of view differs greatly from the non-Islamic one. In the Islamic culture of the global village, the world will have many values based on divine doctrines and principles and its ruler will be the purest, the bravest, the most resolute and the most sympathetic of all. In the Western culture of the global village, on the contrary, the state of affairs run otherwise.

2- Social Preparation

People throughout the world should be tired of injustice and unjust systems. They should experience the inefficiency and one-sidedness of this material life, and be thoroughly disappointed with it. They must come to know that the glorious ideals that have been touted over the last few centuries, from the age of the Renaissance to the Enlightenment particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries which was known as “the Age of the Explosion of Information and Knowledge” to the 20th century which was known as the “Golden Age of Liberalism”, were nothing but empty words on the lips and futile ink on paper. Not only have the promised peace, welfare and security not yet been realized, but indeed disputes and material and spiritual insecurity have escalated into violence. Not only could the superficially attractive positive laws not abolish injustice, discrimination and social prejudice, but in fact these vices have appeared in a different form and on a much greater and more hazardous scale. Such a plight and state of affairs will first encourage us to think, then doubt, and then be disappointed with the current state of world affairs, and secondly they should lead us to make preparations for a wide-ranging revolution wisely guided by God’s vicegerent and sponsored by heavenly aid for the people on this planet.[21]

2- Industrial and Technological Preparation

Contrary to supposition that states that to realize a world filled with justice would involve the elimination of modern technology, we hold that not only do advanced industries not preclude the world from having some global government of justice, but that also such a government may be impossible without them. In order to establish a global system in the world we need super-modern equipment by which we can travel from one side of the world to another, be informed about everything, and transmit the requisite information anywhere in the least possible time.[22]
There is a detailed tradition from Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.)which suggests the use of technology at the time of Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) global government.
“Truly, a believer while in the East, at the time of al-Qa’im, will see his brother who is in the West, and so is the case with him who is in the West.”[23]
Principally, such a world which is qualified to arrive at such a stage must have extensive and advanced equipment and education to be able to put the main parts of such a reformist program into practice. This can be done by self-help and self-consciousness, the revival of which requires the most advanced tools of the mass media, well-equipped centers of culture, and the extremely comprehensive media. There is also a tradition that somewhat indicates this truth in a quote from Imam al-Baqir (p.b.u.h.):
“When our Riser (al-Qa’im) appears, Allah will extend the eyes and ears of our shi’a so that there will be no intermediary between them and al-Qa’im. Whenever he intends to speak to them, they will hear and see him, although he is in his place.”[24]

Justice

One of the major characteristics of the aforementioned utopia is justice which will be prevalent in all the various domains of human life such as society, politics, government, economy, law, jurisdiction and culture.
The Holy Qur’an is the first resource to theoretically and practically propose the issue of justice in the society that is waiting. Having implanted the seed of justice in the heart, the holy Qur’an has made everyone think about it in theory and seek to realize it in practice. The Holy Qur’an has expounded justice in all its various aspects: the justice of creation, the justice of legislation, ethical justice, social justice and so on.[25]
“Certainly We sent Our Prophets with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may establish justice.”[26]
Social Justice
As a deep-rooted yearning of mankind, justice is the major emblem of Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.)global government. According to all the three categories al-Nass al-Mutawatir (the frequently transmitted text of a tradition), the verbal, semantic, and general, it has been reported from the holy Prophet (A.S.)and the pure Imams (p.b.u.t) that Allah would fill the earth with justice and eradicate injustice through Imam al-Mahdi (A.S.),.
“Through him, Allah will fill the earth with justice and equality.”[27]
From the verb “yamla” (which means to fill with), it can be implied that Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) justice would be comprehensive and far-reaching. Just as the heat would enter every house when it comes into a city, so too would justice, when it comes into the world. It will spread all over the earth. From the word “Allah” Who is the subject of the verb “yamla`”, it can also be understood that because human beings by themselves cannot accomplish such a great mission, they stand in need of heavenly aid.
Imam al-Baqir (A.S.)says:
“When al-Qa’im of the family of Muhammad appears, Allah will surely support him with angels marked, in ranks, and sent down, and with the Cherubim. Gabriel will be in the front, Michael will be in the rear, and Seraphiel will be on the left…”[28]
The comprehensiveness of justice can also be understood from the word «ارض», ie “the earth” which is the object of the verb “yamla`”. This grammatical structure suggests that divine action, i.e. Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) justice, will be put into practice on all over the earth. The words of this oft mentioned hadith taken as a whole signify that social justice is par excellence, one of the basic ideals of Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) global government. According to the traditions on Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) uprising, the call to monotheism and the challenge to fight against polytheism and paganism are not emphasized as much as justice.

Reformation

One of the other main emblems of the promised utopia is the reformist spirit in all individuals on the level of society to such an extent that reformation will become a prevalent cultural issue among them. Everyone will feel responsible for both society and the individual and will thus do his best to improve others. Looking at the similarity between those who wait and the awaited one, such a culture of reformation will grow rapidly and spread. Taking into account the fact that we are waiting for one who is known as the righteous peace-maker and the deliverer of all, we should become better acquainted with his ideals of deliverance in order to be able to put them into practice. In this way, we might deserve to welcome the government of the ruler of which is the righteous peace-maker of the entire world, and we may be identified with the peace-makers.
The Position of the Law of “Enjoining what is Right and Forbidding what is Wrong”
In pure Islamic culture, reformation and peace-making are established as a social institution, which appears within the framework of the branches of religion. As a major branch of religion, the law of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong” can preserve the society against social abnormalities, mental challenges, and cultural disorder. This law is so crucial that the holy Qur’an which is known as the book of human education has kept on proposing it and enjoining the community to put it into practice.
“You are the best nation brought forth for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong.”[29]
A few noteworthy points can be understood from this holy verse:
1- The comprehensiveness of the law of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong” can be deduced from the general address of this verse. This means that all individuals of the Islamic society, all institutions, organizations, and statesmen, and the ruler in particular are responsible for putting it into practice.
2- The superiority of the Islamic community can be mainly attributed to the law of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong”; the persistence of this virtue depends on its being effected by the individual. If these regenerative doctrines are held in low regard, social abnormalities, cultural predicaments, and superstitious customs will prevail over the society, and people, as a result, would deviate from the right path of the true Islamic culture.
3- The law of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong” is one of the major factors framing the time of the Major Occultation and can pave the way for Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) appearance. Every revolution undergoes a fundamental and acute need of experienced and trustworthy forces after it is victorious. Thus, political constitutions, parties, trusts of power and the like pay close attention to the question of framing, and the great revolution of the absolute peace-maker is no exception. The top leadership of the pyramid of a revolution wherever in the world it might occur, stands in urgent need of a large number of skilled and trustworthy forces. The society that waits will be, at the time of the Major Occultation, required to take great measures in the fundamental operations of framing.[30]
Among of the main emblems of framing Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) government are piety, purification of the soul and commitment to ethical virtues. Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.)says: “He who likes to be among al-Qa’im’s (A.S.)companions should await him and at the same time behave virtuously and ethically…”[31]
Any society that is without of those who enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong cannot pave the way for the enhancement of the purification of the soul. Such an important mission requires the society that waits to advance towards perfection and progress. Members of such a society ought to transform social abnormalities into normal ones and to eliminate all kinds of vice. Hence they can make good beliefs and deeds prevail over the society. The seeds of the troops of the final legitimate government will thus sprout in such a society and will flourish in a pure and clean environment. These troops will be able to perfect the command staff of Imam al-Mahdi’s (A.S.) government.
How beautiful the saying: “Those who await the absolute righteous peace-maker are first and foremost required to be righteous themselves.” It can be said that this is one of the most meaningful sentence to explain the idea of waiting and those who wait.

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References

[1] Al-Zumar, 9.

[2] Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 2, P. 184.

[3] Al-Saduq, Ikmal al-Din wa Itmam al-Ni`amat, Vol. 2, P. 512.

[4] Ibid., P. 202.

[5] Maktab-e Tashayy`a Magazine, P. 21.

[6] Fakhr al-Din al-Turayhi, Majma`a al-Bahrayn, P. 297.

[7] Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 52, P. 128.

[8] Shaykh Tusi, Al-Ghaybat, P. 206.

[9] Hamid `Anayat, Bunyad-e Falsafaya Siyasi-e Gharb, Tehran University Press, P. 20.

[10] Al-Farabi, Ara` Ahl al-Madinah al-Fadila, P. 79.

[11] Sayyid Thamir Hashim al-`Amidi, Dar Intizar-e Quqnus, Mu`assasaya Amuzeshi wa Pazhuheshi-e Imam Khomeini Publication, translated. & researched by al-Mahdi Alizada, P. 269.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Thomas Moore, Utopia, trans. by Dariush Ashuri and Nadir Afshar Naderi, P. 79.

[14] Muhsin Jahangiri, Ahwal wa Athar wa Ara` Francis Bacon 7, P. 69.

[15] A party of authors, Chesh be Rah-e al-Mahdi, Islamic Propagation Office Publication of Qum seminary, P. 187.

[16] Sayyid Thamir Hashim al-`Amidi, Dar Intizar-e Quqnus, Mu`assasaya Amuzeshi wa Pazhuheshi-e Imam Khomeini Publication, translated. & researched by al-Mahdi Alizada, P. 270.

[17] Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar-u al-Anwar, Vol. 52, P. 129.

[18] Luqman 17.

[19] Ibid., P. 122.

[20] Bishart al-Islam, P. 117.

[21] Nasir Makarim Shirazi, Hukumat-e Jahaniy-e Hazrat-e al-Mahdi, Madrasat-u al-Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, P. 83

[22] Ibid., P. 85.

[23] Bishart al-Islam, P. 254; Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 52, P. 391; Shaykh Lutf Allah al-Safi, Muntakhab al-Athar, P. 483.

[24] Bishart al-Islam, P. 254; Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 52, P. 336 ; Na`mani, Ghaybat Na`mani, P. 4; Shaykh Lutf Allah al-Safi, Muntakhab al-Athar, P. 483.

[25] Murtada Mutahhari, `Adl-e Ilahi, Sadra Publication, P. 34.

[26] Al-Hadid 25.

[27] Al-Saduq, Ikmal al-Din wa Itmam al-Ni`amat, Vol. 1, P. 257.

[28] Na`mani, Ghaybat Na`mani, P. 122; Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 2, PP. 318, 323; Yanabi` al Mawaddat, Vol. 3, P. 136; al-Mahdi, P. 218.

[29] Al`Imran 110.

[30] Sayyid Thamir Hashim al-`Amidi, Dar Intizar-e Quqnus, Mu`assasaya Amuzeshi wa Pazhuheshi-e Imam Khomeini Publication, translated. & researched by al-Mahdi Alizada, P. 285.

[31] Na`mani, Ghaybat Na`mani, P. 291, H. 16; Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 52, P. 140H. 50.

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