|Will there be any confusion in Identifying al-Qa'im (AS)?|
The occurrence of the signs indicates that the rising of al-Qa'im is about to take place. The question that may arise here is that, since the signs may change or may be cancelled, will there be any confusion for people to recognize Imam al-Mahdi (AS) once he starts his mission? Moreover, if there would be no confusion that he is the promised Mahdi (AS), why would then people oppose him?
According to the traditions, once Allah let Imam al-Mahdi (AS) rise, all people around the world, believers and disbelievers likewise, will become aware of him immediately and without any shadow of doubt. In the first tradition quoted below, the rising of Imam al-Mahdi (AS) is compared to the rising of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF), which took place very clearly. In the second tradition, it is mentioned that his rising will be as clear as sunshine and will be identified by all people. Jabir narrated:
Imam al-Baqir (AS) said, "The similitude of the rising of al-Qa'im from our Ahl al-Bait is that of the rising of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF). And the similitude of any of us Ahl al-Bait who rises before the rising of al-Qa'im is that of a little bird who tries to fly but falls down from its nest and becomes the toy of children."
Narrated Jabir Ibn Yazid:
Imam al-Baqir (AS) said, "Be calm so long as the heavens and the earth are calm/in place, i.e., do not rise against anyone. Verily your matter (i.e., the rising of al-Imam) shall not take place secretly as it shall be a sign from Allah, not from people. Be hold! It shall be brighter than sunshine so much so that it shall not remain hidden from the righteous and the evildoer (likewise). Do you know morning/dawn? It shall be like the dawn and there shall be no hidden thing in it."
As per another tradition, Imam al-Ridha (AS) explained the sentence, 'Be calm so long as the heaven and the earth are calm' as 'Be calm so long as the heaven is calm from the call (of Gabriel) and the earth is calm from sinking the army (of al-Sufyani).'
Thus, there is nothing to worry about identifying Imam al-Mahdi (AS) once he rises. We only should worry about our belief before his rising since believing in him after his rising is not beneficial. Those who will oppose Imam al-Mahdi (AS) when he rises will not have any doubt that he is Imam al-Mahdi (AS). They will oppose him since they did not believe in his sayings and practices, as it does not match with their innovations and the innovations of their ancestors.
We do not know of anything brighter than sunshine, which could be sensed by our faculties. The reappearance Imam Mahdi (AS) will be clearer than that, and no one would remain ignorant about Imam al-Mahdi (AS) when he starts his mission. However, no one would be able to believe in him if he denied/disbelieved him (his existence, his rights, or his Sunna) before the time of his reappearance; or, it is better say, believing in him at that time would be of no use for a disbeliever. It is just like believing in Allah on the Day of Judgment, which will be of no benefit for the disbelievers. Those who remain doubtful about his existence during the time of occultation will have no way to escape from his sword once they meet him (AS). Allah stated in Quran:
"... On the day that certain signs of thy Lord do come, no one would benefit from believing in (that sign) if he did not believe (in that) before, or such belief is no good for him. Say, 'Wait! We too are waiting/expecting'. (6:158)"
Ibn Ri'ab narrated that on the commentary of the above verse, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (AS) said:
"The 'Signs' are the Imams (AS), and the 'expected sign' is al-Qa'im (AS). On that day, no one would benefit from believing in (that sign) if he did not believe in him before his rising by sword even if such person believed in (the Imamat of) his ancestors, peace be upon them." The bad news, however, is that most of those who believe in Imam al-Mahdi (AS) will doubt his existence over time due to the length of the time of occultation and because of various types of afflictions that befall people during this period. Therefore, when the Imam (AS) starts his mission, the believers will be very few in number. Saqr Ibn Dilf narrated:
I asked Imam al-Jawad (AS) why Imam al-Mahdi (AS) is called al-Qa'im. He (AS) wept and replied, "Because he will rise after his remembrance is dead (in the society) and when most of the believers in his Imamat have turned back (from their belief)." I asked why he is called al-Muntadhar (the awaited). He (AS) replied, "Because there shall be an occultation for him whose period shall be prolonged.
The sincere ones shall wait for him, the doubtful ones shall deny him, the rejecters shall ridicule his remembrance, and the proposers of time (for his reappearance) shall increase. In that period, those who hasten in movement (al-Musta'jilun) shall perish, and those who submit (to Allah's commands and decrees) shall be saved."  Another tradition is narrated by Mufadhdhal Ibn Umar, who said:
I heard Imam al-Sadiq (AS) saying, "Be hold! By Allah, your Imam shall disappear for a number of years in your lifetime and you will be afflicted with hardship until some people say he (AS) has died or has been killed, which valley is he in? Verily the eyes of the believers shall remain full of tears for him, and you will be overturned like the ships are overturned in the waves of the sea. None would survive but those from whom Allah has taken oath, whom He has written faith in their heart, and has helped them by a spirit from Him.
And there shall appear 12 confusing banners that will not be recognized from each other." I cried and said, "What could we do at that time?" He (AS) looked towards the beam of sunshine that was in the room and said, "O the servant of Allah! Do you see this sunlight?" I said, "Yes." He (AS) continued, "By Allah! Our matter (i.e., the rising of al-Mahdi once it comes) is more evident than this sun."
In addition, it is narrated from Ali Ibn Ja'far that:
Imam al-Kadhim (AS) said, "When the fifth (offspring) from the seventh of the Imams disappears, then, I adjure you by Allah to watch for your religion so that no one would take it away from you. Without doubt, there shall be an occultation for the holder of this matter until such time that (most) people who believe in his Imamat would leave their belief. Verily this (occultation) is but a test by Allah, the Glorious, for his creation."
Musa al-Baghdadi narrated:
I heard Imam Hasan al-Askari (the eleventh Imam) saying, "I see that you will differ after me concerning my successor. Whoever accepts the Imams after the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) but denies my son is like a person who accepted all the Prophets and the Apostles but denied the prophethood of Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF). And whoever denies (Muhammad) the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) is like one who has denied all the Prophets. This is because obeying the last of us is like obeying the first of us and denying the last of us is like denying the first of us. Beware! Verily, for my son there shall be an occultation during which all people shall fall into doubt except those whom Allah protects."
Notice that according to the traditions, denying the transmitted teachings of Ahl al-Bait (AS) is equivalent to denying the Ahl al-Bait (AS). Thus, some of those who claim to believe in Imam Mahdi (AS) as the twelfth Imam during the time of occultation will oppose him after his rise because they used to oppose their teachings and used to follow their own inventions. Fudhail Ibn Yasar narrated:
I heard Imam al-Sadiq (AS) saying, "When our Qa'im (AS) rises he will face the ignorance of people more severe than what the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) faced during the days of al-Jahiliyya." I asked, "Why should it be so?" The Imam replied, "The Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) came to people who were worshipping the stones and the carved wood. However, our Qa'im (AS) shall come to people who will all interpret the Book of Allah against his interpretation, and will argue with him by that. By Allah, al-Qa'im shall enter his justice inside their houses, just as the heat and the cold enter them."
During the period of occultation, people gradually leave the traditions of Ahl al-Bait (AS) and interpret Quran according to their own opinion, and prefer the words of fallibles to the words of infallibles. Consequently, many religious instructions will be forgotten as if they had never been a part of the religion. On the other hand they consider many man-made products as if they really have been a part of the religion. When Imam al-Mahdi (AS) comes, he will fight all the innovations and will restore the truth of the religion. For this reason, at the beginning of his mission, many people think he has brought a new religion. Muhammad Ibn Ijlan narrated:
Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said, "When our Qa'im rises he shall call people anew to Islam and shall guide them to the things that were annihilated and from which people had turned away. He is called Mahdi because he will guide people to the thing from which they have been separated. He is called al-Qa'im because of his rise for the truth."
Thus, the opposition against Imam Mahdi (AS) is not due to people's failure in identifying him. It is rather due to their disbelief in the original laws of the religion, their overlooking of the transmitted traditions, and their following man-made ideas and opinions in the domain of religion. Is lack of the occurrence of signs a reason for the delay in Relief?
If Imam Mahdi (AS) has not appeared yet, it is not because certain signs did not take place, but because people do not follow the commandments and the instructions of Ahl al-Bait (AS). In a Tawqi' from Imam al-Mahdi (AS) it is written that:
"If our followers-may Allah grant them success for His obedience-all had truly kept their covenant (with us) the blessing to meet us would not have been postponed and they would have seen us with true recognition. Nothing holds us back from them except that which reaches to us (of their actions) that we dislike and that which we do not consider proper for them."
Moreover, Muhammad Ibn al-Faraj narrated:
Imam Baqir (AS) wrote to me, "When Allah becomes angry at His creatures, He makes us away from their proximity." Imam al-Mahdi (AS) wrote the following to one of his special deputies, namely Muhammad Ibn Uthman (RA), in response to people's questions about what was the cause of occultation:
Imam Mahdi (AS) said, "… As for the reason for the occurrence of occultation, Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, states, 'O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause your dislike. (5:101)' There was no one amongst my fathers except that a Bai'a (oath) of a tyrant of his time was placed on his neck. But I will rise while I do not have any Bai'a on my neck to any of the tyrants. As for my benefit during my occultation, it is like the benefit of the sun (for people) when the clouds make it absent from the eyes. Certainly I am amnesty for the inhabitants of the earth just as the stars are amnesty for the inhabitants of the heaven. Thus, close the doors of question over what is not related to you and do not charge yourself with what you have been discharged to know. (Instead) increase your Du'aa to hasten the Relief (al-Faraj), for this is indeed your relief..."
Referring to verse 5:101 in the above Hadith as a response to people's query for the reason behind occultation shows that our disobedience has been one of the major reasons for occultation, which is also supported by previously quoted traditions.
How can we become an expectant of al-Qa'im (AS)?
It is, now, clear that the problem of occultation is due to the ugly actions that we have committed, and that we have not submitted to the traditions of Ahl al-Bait (AS). Allah, the most merciful, has assigned for us an Imam who is ready to relieve us, but we have turned away from his commands and the commands of his ancestors. This has caused the wrath of Allah in the form of occultation. Our only chance for relief is to try to seek the pleasure of Allah and His Hujja (AS) so that Allah may waive the remaining time of occultation. But how can we do that?
We cannot seek the pleasure of Allah by inventing some duties during the time of occultation according to our opinion. The Ahl al-Bait (AS) have already mentioned the specific duties that we have during the time of occultation, and we cannot add to it. Wasting our time on searching the astronomical data and proposing time for the Imam's reappearance will only displease Allah. It will also serve the impostors who try to take the advantage of astronomical events for their own agenda, as well as those who want to weaken our faith about Imam al-Mahdi (AS) by claiming that these alleged signs did not accompany his reappearance, and thus making us doubtful about his existence.
Below are some of the things we can do to seek the pleasure of Allah and His Hujja (AS) so that Allah may decide to waive the remaining time of occultation. There are many traditions that support each item below, but here I only quote a few: