By Syed Zafar Mehdi

Setting the ground for the ‘savior’ of humanity

April 22, 2019 - 10:32

TEHRAN - The idea of a messiah or savior or redeemer is common to all religious schools of thought, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity. 

In the Islamic context, the concept of messianism, which is the belief in a messiah, revolves around an eschatological figure that is expected to rise and fill the earth will peace, justice and social order.

Holy Quran and Prophetic traditions have in unambiguous terms predicted the glorious triumph of the forces of right and the establishment of an Islamic society built on the foundations of justice, equality, and righteousness. The wait and anticipation for that bright tomorrow continues. 

Imam Sajjad (as) says: “The greatest success is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam)”. (Al Ihtejaj vol.2 Pg.154. Kamaaluddin vol.1 Pg.320)

What does this ‘wait’ entail? If we dig little deeper in the subject of Mahdism, we come to understand that ‘waiting’ is primarily the result of two main conditions: not satisfied with the status quo and expecting things to turn around for good. 

But, is merely being disgruntled with the status quo enough?  Absolutely not. A person needs to step out of his comfort zone and set the ground for visible and productive ‘change’ to take place. More precisely, a person has to participate in the process of change, rather than be slothful and wait.

In the words of British historian Eric Hobsbawm, the concept of messianism, which we call Mahdism, can be broadly divided into two main categories: passive and active. 

In the passive Mahdism, people immerse themselves in prayers and supplications and hope for the savior’s early reappearance. In the active or revolutionary Mahdism, people go out of their way to make strenuous efforts and become active participants in the process of change.

We are witnessing social, political and cultural turmoil across the world today. Morals and ethics have degraded ominously. Grinding poverty has resulted in poor quality of life. Illiteracy and educational backwardness has sent people back to dark ages. 

The forces of colonialism and imperialism have become menacingly stronger than ever. Human rights violations have become frighteningly widespread. Corruption and social anarchy has assumed alarming proportions. Weak and voiceless continue to be oppressed and subjugated. Moral and ethical degradation has been normalized to the extent that it doesn’t raise eyebrows anymore.

So, with moral bankruptcy, endemic corruption, grinding poverty, and scourge of illiteracy, ignorance, misrule and barbarism reaching the climax – what should a waiter wait for? What are the responsibilities of a person waiting for the change to happen?

Amidst the darkness of despair, there is an elixir of hope. The hope lies in the divine intervention. The hope is the divinely guided leader, the Mahdi (ajtf), who is expected to come out of the occultation and establish a system based on the divinely ordained laws. It will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and righteousness. 

A narration attributed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) makes it emphatically clear. “The world will not perish until a man among the Arabs appears whose name matches my name.”  (Sahih al-Tirmidhi, V9, P74)

There is a clear instruction in Holy Quran for believers waiting for the change to take place. “And say to those who do not believe that you act as much as you can. We are also trying. You all wait and surely we all are waiting.” (Surah Hud).

Shaheed Baqir al Sadr in his book ‘An Inquiry Concerning Al Mahdi states that the Mahdi (ajtf) is no longer an idea waiting to be materialized nor a prophecy that needs to be substantiated. 

“He is a living reality, a particular person, living among us in flesh and blood, who shares our hopes, suffering and sorrows and is waiting for the appropriate moment to stretch his hand to every oppressed and needy person and eliminate the tyrants,” he writes.

Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran: “O’ Muhammad (pbuh), you are but a warner, and for every community, there exists a guide.” (Surah Ra’d). There will always be a divinely gifted guide for people in every age and every time. For us, the people of this age, it is the Mahdi (ajtf).

Beside Holy Quran, there are numerous traditions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his progeny that have predicted the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (ajtf).

Imam Ali (as) quotes the Holy Prophet (pbuh) saying that the Mahdi (ajtf) is from his progeny who would come out of the occultation and establish a system based on justice and equity at a time when it would be fraught with injustice and repression, and through him the treasures of prophets would become apparent. (Yanabiul Mawaddah, P448)

Imam Hussain (as) is quoted as saying that the Mahdi (ajtf) is his ninth descendant and during the period of his occultation, one group will have doubts in him while another group will remain steadfast in their beliefs and prepare the ground for him, and their reward would be like those holy warriors who stood alongside the Holy Prophet (pbuh). (Kifayatul Athar)

Imam Mohammad Baqir (as) said the last of the infallible successors of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is the one under whose leadership Hazrat Isa (Jesus) would perform the prayer. (Al-Ihtijaj)

Imam Reza (as) said even if a single day remains for this world, Allah will prolong that day until the Mahdi (ajtf) reappears and fills the earth with justice and order. Quoting a tradition attributed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh), Imam Reza (as) said the rise of the savior is akin to the Day of Judgment that only Allah knows about. (Ghayatul Maram, P696). 

Referring to a Quranic verse, Imam Reza (as) said when the Mahdi (ajf) reappears; a call will be heard from the sky, inviting people towards the truth. “And listen on the day when the caller shall call from a near place. The day when they shall hear the cry in truth is the day of coming forth.” (Surah Qaf)

So what are the signs of the Mahdi’s (ajtf) reappearance? “There would be widespread injustice, oppression, fear, mischief, calamities, violence, despair and hopelessness,” says Imam Mohammad Baqir. (Qalaidud Durar)

Imam Jafar Sadiq says the signs include young insulting the elders, people spending their wealth in ways other than God, transgressors defended and praised, believers humiliated and degraded, people killed on the basis of mere allegations and doubts, telling truth becomes a difficult task, hearts of men become hard and eyes lose shame, earning through illegal means becomes acceptable. (Rauzatul Kafi, P 36-42)

Advent of Dajjal is also one of the signs of the Mahdi’s (ajtf) reappearance. The grotesque man would deceive the gullible people with wealth and power and make illegal activities legal, before he is knocked down by the messiah of the humanity. 

Looking at the state of affairs today, the discourse around the reappearance of the Mahdi (ajtf) and the responsibility of setting the ground for his reappearance has assumed enormous significance. 

With the world sinking into the abyss of darkness and people across the world grappling with myriad woes, most of it self-inflicted, the responsibility on our shoulders has increased manifolds. 

Imam’s occultation, however, does not mean he has abandoned us or that we must despair about our present state of affairs. He presents hope to the hopeless. 

Imam Ali (as) said: “Await for the reappearance (of the Mahdi) and do not despair of the divine mercy. Because the best deed in the eyes of Allah, the great and the mighty, is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam). It is the duty of those who are believers.” (Al Khisaal, vol2, Pg616)

What are our responsibilities as believers to prepare the ground for Imam’s reappearance? A tradition attributed to Imam Hasan Askari (as) exhorts people to remain vigilant and participate in the process of educational change. 

“Be aware, if somebody teaches ignorant, guides a misguided, instills the teachings of Ahlulbayt (as), then on the Day of Judgment he will be with us. We will give him a seat next to us,” he says. 

Hence, it is amply clear that during this period of Imam’s occultation, among the biggest responsibilities on our shoulders is to bring about educational reformation in our society.

Such educational reformers enjoy supreme position in the eyes of Allah (swt). Imam Ali Naqi (as) extols the virtues of these reformers. “Had there not been such scholars in the period of occultation who call people towards the Ahlulbayt (as), guide towards them, defend their religion with the proofs of Allah, protect weak Muslims from the devilish designs, deception of the tyrants and tentacles of the enemies of Islam, then surely all would have deviated from the religion of Allah.” (Mahajjatul-Baizaa, P32)

It’s important to enjoin others to pursue good deeds (amr bil maaruf) and advocate against sinful practices (nahi anil munkar). We must promote and propagate the divine message of Islam and develop scientific temper in our youth through education and reformation.

Spreading awareness about the sinister plots and conspiracies being hatched by the enemies of Islam is another important obligation. We must strive to expose the corrupt rulers and extend helping hand towards poor and needy in our society. 

We must constantly try to polish our morals and ethics to be able to join Imam’s army.  Above all, we must raise our voice – individually and collectively – against corruption, injustice, terrorism, crime, immorality and other such menaces.

What is important is the right strategy and approach to pave the ground for educational awakening and social reformation. Grooming children from early stages, making them understand the purpose of existence and their responsibilities, explaining how Islam is not just a religion but a complete way of life, stressing on the need to analyze with a free mind, the need to debate and discuss passionately, and the need to exchange ideas generously. 

The approach has to be thoughtful, progressive and result-oriented. It must ensure the gains of education are properly utilized to bring up children who are educated, informed, aware and enlightened. 

Given that we are impatiently waiting for someone who is a righteous and virtuous messiah, it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with the ideals of deliverance and act on them in letter and spirit. To prepare the ground for his reappearance, we have to develop a reformist spirit in ourselves and others so that the society undergoes change. 

To protect society from social infirmities, ethical degeneration, cultural disorder, misrule and anarchy, it’s important to educate ourselves and others around us. If we remain trapped in the vortex of ignorance; social anomalies, cultural dilemmas, and orthodox beliefs will continue to hinder our personal growth and that of the society.

As Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran, “You are the best nation brought forth for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Surah Al-Imran). 

The seeds of the promised rule of the Mahdi (as) shall soon sprout and our agonizing wait shall end.

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