28 March 2021 (15th night of Shaban 1442)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
وَنُرِيدُ أَنْ نَمُنَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنَجْعَلَهُمْ أَئِمَّةً وَنَجْعَلَهُمُ الْوَارِثِينَ
“And We desired to bestow a favor upon those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them the Imams, and to make them the heirs”
Holy Quran: verse 5 of Surah Qasas (chapter 28)
May Almighty Allah (SWT) accept all our duas and recitation of the Holy Quran, in this sacred night of Bara’at, which is the night of repentance and forgiveness, and also the night of provision where our sustenance is determined. As our 5th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) said, it is the most important night of the year, after Lailatul Qadr.
The virtue of this night is multiplied with the blessings of the auspicious birthday of the saviour and hope of humanity, Imam Mahdi (atfs). The presentations made shows the thirst for the reappearance of our awaited saviour, Imam Mahdi (atfs).
BIRTHDAY OF IMAM MAHDI (ATFS) IS THE REVIVAL OF HOPE
The crucial point is that this birthday of Imam Mahdi (atfs) on 15th Shaban is the day of hope that one day, justice will finally prevail on the whole earth, and that truth will be victorious. We hope that the day will one day come, where our struggle and fight will not be against evil, because there will be no evil! Instead, it will be a competition for goodness.
Our contest will be to compete for more good deeds, and not for anything else. We believe in this hope, that one day, all the sacrifices of all the Prophets (a.s) and all the people who fought for justice and the rights of the oppressed, will reach its conclusion with the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (atfs).
When we speak about Imam Mahdi (atfs), it is not in reference to the individual per se. Instead, we are speaking about a philosophy which everyone has in his/her nature. All the religions, including non-Abraham faiths, have this belief that there will be a day when truth will be victorious and the oppressed will be the winner, and the oppressor will be humiliated.
ALL FAITH TRADITIONS BELIEVE IN AN AWAITED SAVIOUR
There is a very deep connection between belief in Imam Mahdi (atfs) and belief in Almighty Allah (SWT). When we believe in Allah (SWT), we believe that He created this world. So then the question is, why did Almighty Allah (SWT) create this world? It is a simple question, which He answers in the Holy Quran in verse 56 of Surah Dhaariyat (chapter 51):
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
“I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.”
Almighty Allah (SWT) created this world for us to worship Him, and Him alone. He created this world so that the people of this world finally reach a point where they must behave the way that human beings are meant to behave in this world.
Almighty Allah (SWT) sent 124,000 Prophets (a.s) to this world to guide and lead us, but we still did not come right, unfortunately! Today’s world is one of extreme suffering, where a small group of people control the rest of the world for their selfish interests.
They suck the blood of everyone, colonizing the resources of other nations and maintaining a monopoly. They setup people to fight with each other so that they can continue to benefit from this through their hegemony over the people.
BELIEVING IN MAHDI (ATFS) IS DEEPLY ALIGNED WITH THE JUSTICE OF ALLAH (SWT)
There are people in this world who have absolutely nothing and are suffering endlessly. Did Almighty Allah (SWT) create this world just for suffering? Where is the justice of Almighty Allah (SWT) then?
How is it possible that a small group of people are always enjoying while the rest of the world is always suffering and in endless pain due to poverty, injustice and exploitation??? Why is it that they control everything, even medicine! The inequitable distribution of Covid vaccines is a case in point! They control and exploit everything imaginable for their selfish interests!
Now, do you really think that Almighty Allah (SWT) will allow the situation to continue like this forever? It is clearly not possible from the perspective of the justice and wisdom of Almighty Allah (SWT). Hence, if you believe in Almighty Allah (SWT), then you have to also believe that one day will come when justice will prevail and truth will be victorious. Fairness will then be ruling on this earth!
OUR BELIEF IN THE AWAITED SAVIOUR AS SHIA MUSLIMS
As I mentioned earlier, every religion has spoken about the awaited saviour. Otherwise, why will people accept religion if it cannot give you the promised victory? You accept religion because it promises that you, as oppressed right now, will one day succeed and be victorious. Now, this is the concept of Imam Mahdi (atfs)!
So then, what is the difference between our approach to this awaited saviour versus that of other schools of thought and religions? The difference is very simple. For others, the concept of Mahdi is only a philosophy or a dream.
However, in the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), we Shia Muslims do not only talk about Mahdi as a philosophy of the awaited saviour. We believe that this awaited saviour who will make everything right in this world, is already in this world amongst us, and he is Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (atfs)!
In fact, Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) said that the awaited saviour, Imam Mahdi (atfs), lives amongst the people and walks in this earth. The problem is that we unfortunately do not recognize him, but he is around!
We have two concepts on waiting for Imam Mahdi (atfs) to reappear. They are zuhoor (appearance) and huzoor (presence). Imam Mahdi (atfs) has not appeared in front of us, but he is indeed present!
COMMUNISM DOES NOT HAVE RELIGION BUT ALSO BELIEVES IN THE FINAL VICTORY OF FAIRNESS
Communism does not believe in God, but would you believe it, they believe that this journey of clash currently, according to their understanding, will finally reach a commune one day, where everything will be equally distributed (according to their understanding).
They believe that everything will become common property in this ideal state of commune one day. There will hence be no concept of ownership, according to them. Furthermore, according to this Communism philosophy, there will be no need for governance as everything will be equal!
So, the point is that even Communism, who do not believe in God (SWT), do believe that this journey of humanity will one day reach to a point of justice and fairness, according to their definition. Again, this is only a theory, whereas we Shia Muslims believe it is practical!
SHIA MUSLIMS BELIEVE IN THE AWAITED SAVIOUR WHO HAS A CLEAR IDENTITY DOCUMENT
As Shia Muslims, we do not speak about an unknown person as an awaited saviour. Instead, we Shia Muslims speak about a person with a clearly known date of birth, clearly known parents. We believe in an awaited saviour, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (atfs) with a clear identity card.
There are narrations recorded that he does sometimes show himself to selected people. Indeed, nobody can claim to have seen Imam Mahdi (atfs). In fact, Imam Mahdi (atfs) categorically denounced, saying that anyone who claims to have seen him during his period of occultation is a liar. Imam Mahdi (atfs) specifically wrote this in his last letter to his last special deputy before going into occultation.
So, Imam Mahdi (atfs) can show himself, but we cannot claim that we have seen him. Indeed, he is around. He supports, protects and guides us. The age-old question which gets repeatedly asked is, “how is it possible to be guided by someone whom you cannot see, or be helped by someone whom you do not have access to?”
WE BENEFIT FROM IMAM MAHDI (ATFS) LIKE THE SUN BEHIND THE CLOUDS
The great companion of Rasulullah (SAWA), Ammar bin Yaasir, reported that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) said that our awaited Imam during the last era of time will have a long occultation, but people will still benefit from him, in the same manner that we benefit from the sun behind the clouds!
This Hadith was repeated by our 1st Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) and then similarly by our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s). Then finally, this Hadith was repeated by Imam Mahdi (atfs) directly, where he said benefiting from him during his occultation will be like benefiting from the sun while it is behind the clouds.
There is no doubt, we do benefit from the sun behind the clouds. Similarly, we all benefit from the very existence of the Imam of our time, Imam Mahdi (atfs).
OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PREPARE FOR THE REAPPEARANCE OF IMAM MAHDI (ATFS)
Imam Mahdi (atfs) is around and amongst us. It is of vital importance for us to reflect on what is our responsibility towards our Imam (atfs). The Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s) have repeatedly said that it is compulsory responsibility on all of us to practice intidhaar (waiting).
What does this waiting mean? Does waiting mean that we should just chill, relax and take it easy until he comes? Waiting is preparing. This means waiting is active and not passive! I always give the simple example, that when our children say they are waiting for their exams, it means they are preparing for their exams!
Another example is when one is expecting guests to arrive. The most natural thing to do is to prepare the house accordingly for their arrival. This is what waiting for guests means!
So then, when we say that we are waiting for our Imam (atfs), it means that we are preparing for his global program of justice, revolution and reform!
There was an important sentence read in the Urdu poetry earlier by our brother Hasnain Shah, which said:
There will be no system when our Imam (atfs) will reappear,
other than the system of Islam and the Holy Quran.
There will be nobody controlling us,
other than Imam Mahdi (atfs).
There will be no currency valid,
other than the currency of Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s).
The responsibility is on us to prepare ourselves to be the soldiers of the Imam of our time, the awaited Mahdi (atfs).
WILL THE ARMY OF IMAM MAHDI (ATFS) ONLY HAVE 313 SOLDIERS?
Imam Mahdi (atfs) will reappear and he will change this world. This will not be through a miracle though!
Imam Mahdi (atfs) is the heir of the divine Prophets (a.s) and the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s). The Prophets (a.s) never changed people through miracles. Rather, it was through the normal, natural system of cause and effect. Indeed, Imam Mahdi (atfs) will need the support of Almighty Allah (SWT) in order to change this world. He will also need supporters, an army of soldiers.
There are narrations which say that Imam Mahdi (atfs) will have 313 most devoted soldiers in his army. This 313 are the very close circle of Imam Mahdi (atfs), like the executive board! They will be the closest confidantes of Imam Mahdi (atfs). This does not mean that the whole army of Imam Mahdi (atfs) will be 313!
Imam Mahdi (atfs) requires a HUGE army to implement his program of global justice. This means we have to prepare! A person who does not have Taqwa (God-consciousness) or care about Salaah, Hijab or commitment to the teachings of Imam Mahdi (atfs) cannot claim to want to be amongst his soldiers.
We can only desire to be soldiers of Imam Mahdi (atfs) when we prepare ourselves, enabled by Taqwa. This is the starting point, and being conscious about the mandatory daily prayers, and being conscious about Halaal and Haraam.
IS IMAM MAHDI (ATFS) PLEASED WITH US?
As followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), we believe that Imam Mahdi (atfs) is with us, and that our actions are presented to him. Now, if our actions are polluted with sins, corruption and disobedience of Almighty Allah (SWT), then we can imagine how deeply this hurts our Imam (atfs). How can we then say that we are preparing, or waiting for our Imam (atfs)?
Faraj in Arabic means to untie a knot. It is upon us to wait for this knot to be untied. However, we cannot expect this knot to be untied if we are not ready!
May Almighty Allah (SWT grant us the Taufeeq to be amongst the soldiers of Imam Mahdi (atfs). May the supplications of Imam Mahdi (atfs) be accepted in our favour.
The flyer that was created advertising this auspicious program of celebrating the birthday of our awaited Imam Mahdi (atfs) has a Hadith recorded from Imam Mahdi (atfs) at the top. It reads as follows:
“Our knowledge encompasses you and nothing of your news is hidden from us.”
Imam Mahdi (atfs) is saying to his followers that they, the Ahlul Bait (a.s) know everything about us, and nothing is hidden from them. They are acutely aware of our pain, suffering, calamities and hardships. However, the relief from this is not very far! It is nearby, so we should arise and fill our hearts with the love of Imam Mahdi (atfs).
He is very near to us and especially to those of us who have made great sacrifices to crossover, changing our path towards that of the Imam of our time, our awaited saviour, Imam Mahdi (atfs). We all know the sacrifices each of us made with this change. We should always remember that Imam Mahdi (atfs) loves and cares about us, and is with us!
Let us conclude with the recitation of the dua (supplication) of the awaited Imam Mahdi (atfs):
بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
اللّهُمّ كُنْ لِوَلِيّكَ الحُجّةِ ابْنِ الحَسَنِ
O Allah, be, for Your representative, the Hujjat (proof), son of Al-Hassan,
صَلَوَاتُكَ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آبَائِهِ
Your blessings be on him and his forefathers,
فِي هذِهِ السَّاعَةِ وَفي كُلّ سَاعَةٍ
in this hour and in every hour,
a guardian, a protector,
a leader, a helper,
a proof, and an eye.
حَتَّى تُسْكِنَهُ أَرْضَكَ طَوْعاً
until You make him live on the earth, in obedience (to You),
وَتُمَتّعَهُ فِيهَا طَوِيلاً
and cause him to live in it for a long time.
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