|Questions about Mahdi's Fear|
With regards to Mahdi's fear and occultation and in the light of what we have mentioned before, there remain a few questions which is worth mentioning: First Question: Why Allah, the Powerful doesn't hinder Hazrat's enemies from killing him!?
Reply: God has commanded the Creation of hindrance, which is not incompatible with duty and responsibility i.e. the commandment for obedience, assistance and submissiveness and forbiddance from disobedience and enmity of Hazrat Mahdi. However not forming any hindrance between Mahdi and his enemies is because it is incompatible with duty and renders the reward and punishment as null and void. Rather, such a hindrance will give rise to mischief and this cannot be the consequence of God.
Second Question: Why is Mahdi (A.S.) absent amongst the people and why has he isolated himself from them considering that his great fathers were present amongst the people!?
Reply: Mahdi's very foundation is based on emerging with the sword and revolting for God's sake but such was not so in the case of his great fathers. Presence of Mahdi would expose him to danger especially when it is well - known and famous that Hazrat is waiting for an opportunity. Also it is a well- known fact that whenever Mahdi passed away there was another to succeed him as against Mahdi who if killed there would be no one to succeed him. Third Question: If Mahdi's occultation is due to fear of his enemies, then why has he concealed himself from his friends!?
Reply: If there existed for Hazrat's friends and companions a channel to meet and visit him then, as a rule it was certain for his whereabouts to be discovered. Fourth Question: Reply to the third question is true only if the entire Shias are successful in meeting Hazrat. However if such a meeting is possible for only a particular group amongst Imam's friends, then his where about will not be discovered.
Reply: Any secret, which becomes known to more than two, will no longer remain a secret.
Fifth Question: Why didn't Hazrat's minor occultation continue in the very manner in which the special deputies used to serve him!? Reply: The non-continuation of Hazrat's minor occultation may have been for two reasons: Firstly that deputyship from Imam's side is especially the post of special deputyship is a very high and lofty position. Since a group amongst the power- seekers falsely claimed the position of deputyship during the last days of Hazrat's occultation, the door of special deputyship was hence closed. Secondly the special deputyship too at that time was kept secret and hidden and except for some specific people, none were aware of it. If the minor occultation had continued and the position of special deputyship would become known, Hazrat's deputies too would have been exposed to danger.
Mahdi's Minor and Major Occultation
For our Master Mahdi - the Expected one, there has been two occultations: The minor occultation and the major occultation. The minor occultation started from the time of Hazrat's birth and continued till the end of the special deputyship, which lasted for seventy-four years. The major occultation commenced after the minor occultation and will continue as long as God Wills Hazrat to emerge and revolt with his might. In the book of "Esbath-ul-Wasiyah", Ali-ibn-Hussein-ibn-Ali Masoudi says: "It is narrated that Imam Ali an-Naqi (A.S.) disappeared from the Shias' views but for a small group of his special Shias. When the affairs of Imamate were entrusted to Imam Hassan Askari, he used to converse with his special circle of Shias and others from behind the curtain except when he was mounted and would travel towards the Kings house.
Imam Askari (A.S.) and his father were acting in this manner so as to prepare the ground for Hazrat Mahdi's concealment. This was so that the Shias would become familiar with the matter of occultation and would not deny it and would become habituated with Imam's absence and concealment.
Verily, right from the time of Amir-ul-Mumineen Ali (A.S.) till the period of Imam Ali an-Naqi (A.S.) and Imam Hassan Askari (A.S.) it was customary for the Shias to meet their Imam whenever they wished. If they were deprived of this bounty all at once then doubt and hesitation would have overtaken them. Rather the faith of some of them would have become shaky. Thus Imam Ali an- Naqi (A.S.) and Imam Askari (A.S.) adopted this path as mentioned by Masoudi so that the Shias would gradually and gradually become acquainted with Imam's concealment.
Imam Ali an-Naqi (A.S.) and Imam Hassan Askari (AS.) took up this excellent path for this very reason. Strict alertness of the rulers who were contemporary to the afore-mentioned two Imams confirm this matter. This resulted in fewer meetings and contacts with them especially so in the case of well-known Shii'tes.
The apparent glory and magnificence of the afore-said two Imams (A.S.) and the great number of servants and slaves and their greatness and eminence (which would naturally become the cause of fewer meetings of the common Shias and rather their special Shias except at fixed and special times) too confirms the matter of occultation.
Later on, the policy of Bani-Abbass changed with regards to the twelve Imams and their policy demanded respect and honor of the Imams and this path was first put into practice by Ma'mun Abbassid.
Those who cast a glance over history of Hazrat Ali-ibn-Musa ar-Ridha Imam Muhammad Taqi, Imam Ali an-Naqi and Imam Hassan Askari will realize the way of association of the Caliphs with Imams. This is because they believed in the greatness and magnificence of Imams (AS.) and had kept at their disposal house, goods, feather, dress, servants, salvage and wealth for such motives which they had in mind. The main motive of the Caliphs, as per their own imagination was to receive more ease and attention when in the company of the Imam especially so in the case of the afore-said two Imams.
The reason why Imam Ali an-Naqi concealed himself from the views of the Shias on much lesser occasions than Imam Hassan Askari (A.S.) was that there was to be two occultation for our master Mahdi -One was the minor occultation during which period the deputies and special representatives of Mahdi (A.S.) were having access to Hazrat until the time when the Shias became familiar with the absence and concealment of Imam (A.S.) and the period of major occultation started wherein the special deputyship was cut off and unlike the Shi as who had the privilege of meeting Hazrat's great fathers, none have the opportunity of meeting the Imam officially.
How people benefit From the Hidden Imam
The benefits of Imam-e-Zaman's existence from our view-point (i.e. Shi'ite view-point) are of two types: Firstly, Hazrat like other people is alive and the common people derive benefit from his existence whether present or absent and whether apparent or concealed.
Secondly, the benefit which is derived from Hazrat's occupation (of the earth) was previously reasoned that due to fear and insecurity it is not obligatory for Hazrat to carry out the second type. However benefits of the first type will necessarily be derived from Hazrat's existence. The simile which has come in the tradition of Jabir-ibn-Abdullah Ansari is as follows:
"Imam is like a sun hidden behind the clouds"
This simile is one of the most elegant and beautiful kinds of simile. Various benefits and effects are derived from the sun's existence even though it may be covered by a cloud. Moreover, other benefits are derived from its rays if it is not covered by a cloud or rather anything else. Imam too is the same. I believe, this comparison has been made from two aspects and there exists two reasons for this (one aspect when the sun is covered by clouds and the other aspect when the sun is not covered by any object and its light glimmers) Deriving benefit from the sun and making use of it by the living and rather the non-living creatures is something prevalent whether it is manifest or concealed under the clouds. Every creature derives its own pleasure and share from it with the difference that when it is manifest and glimmering, the benefit derived is more than when it is covered and concealed. Imam (A.S.) too is like the sun in these two afore-said cases.
This is the view of the Shia-Imamiyahs about Imam (A.S.). However the Sunnis believe that the benefits and effects derived from Imam's existence is confined to the second type (i.e. non-absence of Imam).
To this, we reply as such:
Some of the Sunnis reckon Mahdi's occultation to mean that he is invisible and cannot be seen. However, just as mentioned before, their reckoning is far from truth. Rather, his occultation means that he cannot be individually recognized and seen.
Thus, it has come down in some traditions that after Mahdi's emergence people will say: - "We used to see him before too." Verily Mahdi is absent (amongst us) but attends the gatherings and meetings. He also speaks to the travelers and other people. Rather, very often he presents himself during the Haj season.
He wears the 'Ehram' (pilgrim's garb), recites the call of 'Labbaik', performs the 'tawaaf' (circumbulation) and concludes his Haj by visiting his honored grand-father and great fathers' shrines especially at times of special 'Ziarats'. Thus Mahdi is present amongst the Islamic community but is not physically recognized.
One the contrary, we say: Who can dare say that during the major occultation it is not possible to come in contact with Mahdi (A.S.) whereas historical and other books provide us with evidences that a section of people have received the honor of seeing and meeting him. This matter is not inconsistent with the tradition, which says: "If anyone claims that he has seen Mahdi, they reject his saying."
This is because by context of the first part of the tradition it only means that anyone who claims the special deputyship should be denied. Rather we can say: Mahdi is one of the members of society and rather the most important member. It is possible that he acts upon his responsibility even though it may not be obligatory for him.
Verily, it is possible that Mahdi may come in contact with the Kings, rulers, princes and ministers and make some recommendations to them about reforms, maintenance of order and running of the affairs -whether they follow his recommendation or not. He sits with the Jurists, scholars, writers and the learned people and discusses with them such topics as divine theology, moral rectification and literary matters. In every field, he guides them towards the truth and right way irrespective of whether they act upon his sayings or not. He meets the traditionists, historians, gene and scholars of 'Rijal' and guides them to the true saying, truthfulness of the concerned matter, authenticity of relation (of narration) and their incorrectness irrespective of whether they approve his sayings or not.
Talks takes place with the preachers, inviters (towards the Divine path), clergymen and guides too and he reveals to them the way of reaching their objective in an easier way be it they act upon it or not. He visits the helpless, needy, sick and afflicted people and fulfills the wishes of the needy and cures the sick. Mahdi (A.S.) strives for all these affairs without being recognized and he is never stingy in doing well to others. So it's absurd to say: How people benefit from the hidden Imam!?
Verily, very often Mahdi (A.S.) replies to matters having to do with principles and other secondary matters; very often he solves the religious or worldly affairs; very often he cures the sick; how often he delivers the poor; very often he helps the helpless; very often he quenches the thirsty and very often he holds the hands of the disabled.
This book and other books which have been written by reliable scholars (who were not recognizing each other and were living in different places and different times) contain such evidences which bear testimony to the truthfulness of what we have written. A person, after going through the particulars and contexts of these kinds of evidences will gain certainty in the veracity of some of them.
Mahdi's Deputies during the Period of His Occultation
Mahdi (A.S.) has disappeared from the views of the people - even from the views of his Shias and friends -due to fear from his enemies and in order to safeguard himself for achieving the objective(s) decreed by God. Mahdi (A.S.) is awaiting the Divine Command just as the Shias are awaiting Hazrat. I can say: If it was not that Mahdi would submit to the Divine Command and would not have been satisfied with the Divine Destiny, he would have perished out of grief and sorrow. However Mahdi is from Ahl-e-Bayt who does not outstrip the Divine Command but rather acts upon it.
His honored grand - father would say: "Our satisfaction is the satisfaction of Allah." Mahdi is concealed from the views of the people, even his Shias but his pure heart is filled with grief and sorrow. Mahdi (A.S.) shows the true path to the Muslims particularly the Shias and sets before them the clear path towards the truth which, if they were to follow that path, they would achieve salvation in this world as well as the Hereafter. Quran says: "If they had gone the true (Islamic) way, We would have quenched their thirst with plenty of water."
With regards to 'Saqalain' (i.e. the Quran and Ahl-e-bayt) the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) has recommended us to stick to them. Thus Quran and Ahl-e-bayt of the Holy Prophet are the gates of salvation and the keys to guidance and holding fast to them would become a source of guidance for everything.
As far as the Holy Quran is concerned, by the Grace of Allah it is available amongst us. Even though we have not held fast to the Ahl-e-bayt, yet they have so set knowledge and insight amongst us and left them behind as a souvenir that it is possible for each and every person to achieve them. If you do not believe in this matter, you may refer to the books on traditions especially the four-fold and the recent three-fold books.106 Rather, you may refer to the prayers and benedictions which have come down from Ahl-e-bayt especially Sahifa - Sajjadia which has been narrated from Imam Zain-ul-Abedeen (AS.) and is supposed to be the 'Zabur' of Aal-e-Muhammad since it contains numerous knowledge and insight.
Although, we have desisted from holding fast to the Ahl-e-bayt, yet their sciences, gnosis, ethics and manners have been written and protected in the books. So, like the Holy Quran, it is necessary for us to hold fast to them too. Holding fast to them does not mean that we have to catch hold of their hands. Rather it means that we have to act upon their sayings and follow their path. This too is possible and feasible for each and every person. Therefore, there cannot remain any excuse for any Muslim with regards to "holding fast to Ahl- e-bayt" and none can say: The twelfth Imam was hidden and so we could not hold on to him.
Verily, the reference of these prayers, their narrators, their denotations, their manifestation, common, special, compendious, explanatory, all that which is opposite to them and such other matters should be considered.
Our master Mahdi (A.S.) has left behind amongst the people various traditions from his father and fore - fathers. In addition to this, various correspondences and epistles have come down from his holiness. Moreover, since Hazrat had appointed deputies and representatives out of grace and compassion for the people during the period of minor occultation so it was necessary for the people to refer to them. (In affairs related to spiritual materials, this world and the hereafter). In the period of major occultation too, it is necessary to trust and follow them.
106-The four-fold books consist of: KAFI, MAN-LA-YA'ZUR, TAHZIB and ESTIFSAR. The three-fold books consists of: WAFI, WASA'IL AS-SHIA and MUSTADRAK.
Mahdi's Deputies during Minor Occultation
During the period of minor occultation, the deputies of Mahdi who were allowed to visit Hazrat and for whom special epistles were issued were only four:
(1) Shaikh Abu Amr Uthman Ibne Saeed Amir:
He was first appointed to the post of deputyship by Imam Ali an-Naqi and then retained to the same post by Imam Hassan Askari (AS.). Still later on, Uthman Ibne Saeed stood up for Hazrat Saheb-uz-Zaman's affairs. Various replies to various problems and signed letters (from Imam) were issued through Uthman Ibne Saeed.
(2) When Uthman Ibne Saeed passed away his son Abu Jafar Muhammad- ibn-Uthman succeeded him and he become his father's vicegerent in Imam's affairs.
(3) When Muhammad-ibn-Uthman passed away, this lofty position was transferred to Abul-Qasim Hussein-ibn-Ruh. He was from the family of Bani- Nawbakht.
(4) When Hussein-ibn-Ruh passed away, Abul-Hassan Ali-ibn-Muhammad Seymouri succeeded him. None of these four deputies revolted for the post of special deputyship but was given to them by Imam of the Age himself. The Shias would not have accepted the sayings of these four deputies but for the various evidences which each of them had at hand which substantiated their sayings.
When Muhammad-ibn-Ali Seymouri's death approached he was asked about his immediate successor.
In this regard, a 'Tawqee' (signed letter) written by Mahdi (A.S.) himself was given out as a reply. The contents of this (Tawqee) are as follows: - In the Name of God, The Beneficient, The Merciful O Ali ibn Muhammad Seymouri! May Allah increase the reward of your brothers on account of the difficulties born by you. You will die within six days. So prepare yourself for the inevitable. Do not appoint anyone as your successor because your demise will mark the beginning of the major occultation. I will not emerge but after a long time when the hearts of the people will become hardened and the world will become full of injustice, tyranny and oppression.
It will not for too long that some men will claim to have seen me. Anyone, who makes such a claim before the coming out of Sufyeni and the sound from heaven announcing my reappearance, is a liar and an imposter. There is no might nor strength except that of Allah, the Al-Mighty, the High. Mahdi (A.S.) had other deputies too (other than the afore-said four deputies) in such places as Baghdad, Kufa, Ahwaz, Hamadan, Qum, Rai, Azaibaijan and Naishabour.
Signed letters (from Imam of the Age) would be sent to them and they in turn would transfer wealth to his eminence. These deputies were many in number - perhaps hundred, but they could not visit Hazrat. As a matter of fact, the four afore-said deputies acted as the mediators between them and Imam (A.S.).
Mahdi's Deputies during Major Occultation
The afore-said minor occultation has come to an end and the second occultation i.e. the major occultation has started and nobody but Allah Knows its termination. The special deputyship has been changed to general deputyship but with specific conditions and stipulations. It is not out of place to mention here some of the traditions which have come down from the Imam of the Age and his honored fathers in this regard.
Kashi narrates: A 'tawqee' (signed letter) was sent for Qasim-ibn-Ala with such contents: Whatever is narrated by the learned scholars upon whom we are having trust should never be doubted by our friends. This is because we have made them partners in our secret and we have entrusted our secrets to them... Shaikh Tusi in 'Ghaibat', Shaikh Saduq in 'Kamaluddin' and Tabarsi in 'Ehtejaj' have narrated from Ishaaq-ibn-Ammar that Mahdi (A.S.) has said: "But as for the problems which will arise in the future, you should refer to the narrators of our traditions for their verdicts as they are my proofs to you, and I am Allah's proof to them..."
Tabarsi in his book 'Ehtejaj' has narrated from Sadeq Aal-e-Muhammad (A.S.) a lengthy tradition a part of which is as follows: "If there is anyone among the 'Fuqaha' (Jurists) who is in control over his own self, protects his religion, suppresses his evil desires and is obedient to the commands of his master, it is then obligatory upon the people to follow him and these qualities are present only in few of the Shia Jurists and not in all of them..."
Besides these, there are other traditions, which have been mentioned in their appropriate places. All these reveal that Mahdi (A.S.) has not left the Muslims, particularly the Shias, without a religious authority and support. In this regard, he has followed the path of his fathers and (if you have doubt) you may refer to the comprehensive books written on this subject.