Discussion on Imam-e-Zaman (A.T.F.S)

Discussion on Imam-e-Zaman (A.T.F.S)0%

Discussion on Imam-e-Zaman (A.T.F.S) Author:
Translator: Dr. Shabeeb Rizvi
Publisher: Naba Publication (www.nabacultural.org)
Category: Imam al-Mahdi

Discussion on Imam-e-Zaman (A.T.F.S)

Author: Dr. Sayyed Hasan Eftekharzadeh
Translator: Dr. Shabeeb Rizvi
Publisher: Naba Publication (www.nabacultural.org)

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Discussion on Imam-e-Zaman (A.T.F.S)
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Discussion on Imam-e-Zaman (A.T.F.S)

Discussion on Imam-e-Zaman (A.T.F.S)

Publisher: Naba Publication (www.nabacultural.org)

The Philosophy of Occultation: An appendix

The discussion was concerning the philosophy of occultation of Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.). The question was that why did Allah the Almighty make Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) disappear? Was Allah helpless in creating another person or persons like Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) that He had to preserve him for the appointed-day? Is Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) more important than the Messenger of Islam (s.a.w.a.) that Allah the Almighty did not preserve the latter but treasured the former? If Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) is decreed to work with divine power after his reappearance, then why is it that he (a.t.f.s.) reappears now itself and utilizes the same powers to achieve the same objectives? When Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) reappears, what will be the main factor or element in his success? Certainly, these will be knowledge, power and perfection conferred on him by Allah the Almighty. Thus, he (a.t.f.s.) should bring those powers with himself at this very juncture to accomplish his purpose. So, why is there delay in reappearance? This discussion was pertaining the philosophy of occultation and our conclusion was that Allah has decided that man, in this world, should achieve perfection on his own volition.

In the discussion of creation, we studied that Allah the Almighty decided to appoint His Caliph on the earth and decreed that his actions should be on the basis of his own freewill, and not compulsion or coercion. That is, Allah the Almighty says that this is the path of caliphate and now, you tread it on your own volition.

Once, you take a person in a helicopter and leave him on top of a mountain. It cannot be said that he has climbed the height on account of his own efforts because he was carried. At another time, someone is ordered, 'Go!' He asks, 'Where?' 'I don't know' is the response that he receives. 'How? With what?' are the questions that he asks again and the answers are the same, 'I don't know'. Definitely, such an order is invalid and cannot be implemented.

If somebody is ordered, “This is the way, this is the mode of transport, this is the support and strength, and in short, all that you require, now go and tread the path yourself.” Here it’s possible that he may complete the journey in the shortest time possible or perhaps, he may take years or even decades and yet fail to reach the destination. Possibly, he might take ten steps ahead and twenty steps back, goes four levels high but falls into a deep pit.

Therefore, on the basis of our belief, the entire theory of Historical Determinism is refuted. That is, historical progress does not necessarily ensure perfection because history is not like a flower that blossoms in the due course of time. We can evaluate the journey of perfection nicely at this juncture. Like, we can say that next year if we come here forIftaar [96] , this flower will have reached to this height of the wall, traversing the path of natural growth because this journey is regulated and hence, involuntary. Of course, since this flower does come in contact with the free and independent man, it is also quite possible that children might pluck it. But if left alone and the required conditions are provided for, it will certainly acquire certain perfection.

But man is not so. You and I are in a certain level of spiritual perfection. In particular, in the blessed month ofRamazan, we have ascended a few steps via fasting, prayers, supplications, etc. and traversed a distance in our quest for perfection. But a few weeks after this holy month, when we indulge in self-appraisal, we will realize that we don’t possess that same light and resplendence in our spirituality that we enjoyed at the end of this holy month. It is also not that we will pause at the level of the progress that we have made. Rather, it would not be surprising if we even go a few steps backwards.

Secondly, every individual, in his pursuit to attain the status of a worshipper and divine caliphate, requires two things: One, he must know the mode of quest and second, (after knowing) he must strive and make efforts. In other words,knowledge andaction , both are pre-requisites to achieve this aim. Thus, man can fly with these two wings and can reach the highest of peaks and conquer the zenith of perfection. Knowledge (i.e. the mode of quest) should be conveyed to him and thereafter, the onus of action and implementation of this knowledge on a personal level lies on him. Therefore, Prophets (a.s.) used to come and inform the people that the mode of pursuit to attain divine caliphate is this, so move and march ahead. If he obeys, he becomes a divine caliph. He does not wait to move along with history. Such is the speed of his progress that soon he becomes a perfect man.

In other words, people of the era of reappearance of Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) are not the most perfect people of all times. Certainly, a few thousand years prior to reappearance, there must be somebody who must have reached the summit of perfection. Besides, we even know of some people who came more than a thousand years before reappearance but were as perfect as Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) himself, or even more. They are the holy beings of the Messenger of Islam (s.a.w.a.) and Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).

Hence, it is possible for man to reach his destination without waiting for anybody. Of course, for a universal government, he has to wait but not for his own self. So, he should understand and proceed. Now, if he is alone, understands and moves swiftly, naturally he will reach his destination. If a family understands and moves swiftly, they will reach ther destination. If a city understands and moves swiftly, it will reach its destination. If the entire mankind understands and moves swiftly, it will reach the destination. Precisely, this is the reason why no time has been assigned for reappearance.

On an individual level, if we ask somebody, ‘When will you attain perfection?’ He cannot reply, ‘In another ten years time.’ Rather, he will say, ‘As and when I understand the mode of pursuit, I will proceed and reach.’ The same applies for the society. Hence, these two levels viz. conveyance and implementation apply for the individual as well as the society.

Thereafter, we had a historical discussion that from Hazrat Adam (a.s.) till the Messenger of Islam (s.a.w.a.) till Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.), was the level of conveyance. Of course, conveyance was on a universal plane but implementation was on the levels of an individual, a family, a city, etc. Thus, the Messenger of Islam (s.a.w.a.) did not say that we shall form our government after the message has been conveyed universally. Just as, on a personal level, we don’t wait for the message to be conveyed to others, and start implementing it ourselves after we have received the message; the Messenger of Islam (s.a.w.a.) too placed the responsibility of implementation on the communicated one. That is, each one was his own leader with regards to the implementation of the message. Therefore, if one village can establish a true Islamic government, it must immediately do so and if a city is able to do so, it must go ahead.

So, to implement divine orders none of the Prophets, Messengers or Imams (a.s.) waited for Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) but did the job themselves. Then for what should the people wait {for Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.)}? They must wait for execution on a global scale. You can do it on an individual plane, for your family, for your village or for your city. At the most, for your city, it should be under the supervision of a learned jurist. For yourself, you are there. For a family, paternal guidance is a pre-requisite. For the innate existence of the body, intellect is the authority. For a city, the authority of the jurist reigns. But for the entire universe, only an infallible Imam can ensure its implementation.

Incidentally, at the level of implementation, we said that Allah deals with a free man, whether he treads this path or he doesn’t. As He has to encounter the free and independent human being, all these wars, fights and disputes arise, and Prophets were killed while Allah observed all these perpetrations. Of course, it should be borne in mind that Allah’s hands are not tied but He has decreed that man’s pursuit to perfection should be based on his own volition.

A school principal can give a positive report card to his son and even hand him the diploma. But he refuses to do so because his son has not studied well enough. Thus, it is agreed that the swimmer must swim and win. If we want, we can simply take him to the other side. In this case, we can just hold him in our arms, put him aboard an ark and take him over to the other side. But, on the flip side, we teach him how to swim, put him in the water and allow him to swim and search for himself. Meanwhile, we keep a watch on him to prevent him from drowning. When he learns to swim, we tell him to be on his own. Man and society are such. And because man is free, possessing an independent intellect and volition, disputes and wars occur.

Therefore, for the formation of a government, the existence of a leader is not enough. The story goes as follows that during one of his many battles, Nadir Shah, the Emperor of Iran; saw a soldier fighting with enormous skill. Nadir Shah asked him, ‘Where were you at the time of Shah Sultan Husain?’ The soldier retorted, ‘I was there but you were not.’ Well, this incident occurred with Nadir Shah but many use it for their benefit even today. Of course, the soldier’s riposte to his king is not valid in all cases. One cannot blame the lack of an efficient leader for all defeats. Very often, there are good leaders but people’s non co-operation, lack of belief and lethargy are the reasons for defeats.

Imam Ali (a.s.) remaining confined to his house for 25 years, Imam Hasan’s (a.s.) truce, Imam Husain’s (a.s.) martyrdom and similarly, the imprisonment and sidelining of the remaining Imams (a.s.), the occultation of Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.), and the non-advancement and crushing defeats of the Shias of Ali (a.s.) during occultation, all are due to the soldiers like the one in the aforementioned incident. They blame the leader for all their sins. The sycophant auditor separates the account of Nadir from that of other leaders and the Nadirs of different eras too welcomed such flattery. But our Imams (a.s.) are not made of this mould. When Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) reappears, he will not allow such flatterers and sycophants to gather around him. The infallible Imams (a.s.) did not take the responsibility of the sins of the people on their shoulders by acknowledging that they were not in mood to guide them. Rather, they lay the entire blame at the door of the people saying that ‘we are under regular incarceration because of your apathy .’

Imam Sadeq (a.s.) remarked to one of his followers who worked in the court of Caliphate, ‘If you had not been to his court, our right would not have been usurped. If you would not have supported him, our condition would not be as it is now. ’ Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s.) wrote to Moaviyah, ‘If I had patient, cognizant friends, I would never have submitted to you. ’ Hence, we see that all the problems lie with the people.

Therefore, the occultation of Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) is due to the masses. They were the ones who neither supported Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) nor Imam Hasan (a.s.) nor Imam Husain (a.s.). Unless the people don’t desire one sound government, even if a thousand governments are formed, all are bound to lick defeat. Till the nation continues to wander in ignorance, the present status will persist. Till the populace lacks steadfastness and firmness and remain stomach-worshippers, this pathetic and wretched state will continue.

Now, what is expected from the nation to transform things? Which nation? The nation that is firm and steadfast in the path of truth. Of course, if the majority sides with falsehood, falsehood will remain but if the majority favors truth, truth will survive. This role of nation in the preservation of truth or falsehood is extremely vital and critical.

Thus, we should deliberate as to how we can guide the masses towards truth. For, if we proceed with the present state, always falsehood will rule and its proponents will continue to dominate the majority. Then, this is another line in the history of the universe. That is, if the majority persists with its ignorance, and dishonest governments continue to rule the uninformed majority, a universal government based on justice and equity will never see the light of the day.

The response to this dilemma is that notwithstanding the fact that the majority is dominated by a machiavellian government founded on falsehood but if the minority is steadfast and well-informed, it can lead the majority towards awareness, snatch the majority from the clutches of its rulers and within a short span of time, bring about a complete transformation. Of course, this is practical but for its accomplishment, a steadfast, firm and cognizant minority is a pre-requisite.

From this extremely miniscule minority, Hazrat Ali (a.s.) had five trustworthy companions, Imam Hasan (a.s.) had two, Imam Husain (a.s.) had forty to fifty, Imam Sajjad (a.s.) had four and so on and so forth. One day, Imam Sadeq (a.s.) was walking in the desert with his close confidante, Sudair Sairafi, when the latter asked, “Why don’t you rise in revolt despite having thousands of friends and supporters?” “Are you interested in giving me company to the outskirts of Medina? ” asked the Imam (a.s.). Sudair gave his consent. Imam (a.s.) mounted his ass while Sudair rode a mule till they came outside Medina and the time of prayers arrived. They alighted from their mounts and performed their prayers. Meanwhile, they saw a child busy grazing his flock of goats. Imam (a.s.) looked at the goats and remarked, “O Sudair! If I had companions equal to the number of the goats of this flock, I would have definitely revolted. ” When Sudair commenced counting the goats, he saw that they did not exceed seventeen in number[97] .

It is essential to have an informed minority, who with their firmness and steadfastness can take the majority to a state from where things can take off. Occasionally, Allah the Almighty has shown to the people some models of this minority.

Therefore, the substance of the discussion lies in the fact that people transform themselves to the extent that when Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) reappears, they must not inflict him with calamities and difficulties they wreaked on Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.); they must not inflict him with misfortunes and troubles they wreaked on Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s.); they must not cause him setbacks and problems they meted out to Muslim Ibn Aqeel (a.s.); they must not inflict him with tragedies and heartbreaks they caused on Imam Husain (a.s.) and his companions. Till such eventualities are not insured against, Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) willnot reappear. Does it mean that such calamities and difficulties will not befall Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.)? When a considerable amount of people will be amongst the patient and cognizant friends of Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.), they will guard the key positions of his government during reappearance and stand by him with solidity and firmness.

For approximately 25 years, Zubair (Ibn Awaam) was the companion of Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.). But when Ali (a.s.) became the Caliph, he refused to support him. Hence, the philosophy of occultation is that people should co-operate with and support their leader to achieve the aim.

Well, but you have not experienced our non co-operation to pass such a judgment? He will reply, “How many more times should we examine you? In a span of 265 years, we examined you eleven times but you were busy in your own affairs!”

We ask, “Then will you forsake us?” He replies, “No! We will not desert you. But whenever things will change for the better and you improve yourselves, we will cause the reappearance.” We retort, “We can’t understand what you mean.” He says, “We (Ahle Bait) have conveyed the message to you and shown you the path. Then you take a few steps towards us to expect us to come to you.” From this juncture onwards, no further excuses will be accepted from the people. For, had Ali (a.s.) gone into occultation, people had the right to say that we can’t follow? If Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s.) had gone into hiding, they could’ve demanded that conveyance is not yet complete. But not now, after all the books of jurisprudence, traditions, exegeses, Islamic sciences, etc., you and I don’t have the right to complain that we were unaware of our obligations and duties. No, we knew, and hence cannot forward apologies or excuses for our non-implementation.

Here, yet another poser can be forwarded: If I implemented the message at an individual level but others did not heed my advice, what is my duty? Nothing. For, you have attained the zenith of divine caliphate and there’s no need for further worries. If you have discharged your personal obligations, even if others have not regarded your admonishments and Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) has not yet reappeared, certainly you will be enumerated among his companions and helpers! What more do you desire?! You have reached that position and others have not! You are certainly not higher in position than the infallible Imams (a.s.). They could not succeed in shoring the society to that status nor did you. But, on a personal scale, they reached and so did you.

Among our discussions was that, “Is it not possible for Allah to create another person like Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.)?” The answer is that Allah the Almighty can do so via compulsion but if it has to be done on human volition, it’s begging the question. Is it not possible for Allah the Omnipotent to make all men like Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.)? Obviously, He can do so but it will involve compulsion but as stated earlier, He has decreed volition as the system of this universe. The Holy Quran has also talked about this issue, when it says,

« و لو شاء ربك لآمن من في الأرض كلُّهم جميعاً ».

“And had your Lord willed, everybody in the earth would have certainly believed. [98]

So, Allah wants man to do things of his own volition. But most of the people don’t believe voluntarily. If Allah so desires, He can surely create a person like Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) by force, but then such a person, created through coercion is definitely different from our Imam (a.s.). For, the present Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) is having this position because of his volition and freewill while the forced one would have no superiority at all whatsoever. And of course, Allah the Omnipotentdoes have creatures, which are regulated through coercion but He had decided not to send them. It is His decree to raise free and independent human beings for this mission.

* * *

To conclude the discussion, we debated a few questions concerning the philosophy of occultation of Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.). We hinted at the reason as to why Allah the Almighty did not hide the Messenger of Islam (s.a.w.a.) and Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) from the eyes of the people. We also talked about our responsibilities and the general masses. People, generally, are of two kinds: One group is of the unaware ones and is therefore not responsible for implementation and execution. The onus of its guidance lies on the shoulders of those who are aware and informed. That is, those who are in the know, must strive in the implementation of what they know and convey the message to others as well. It is this argument that brings the cause of occultation at the doorstep of the Shias. It is for the Shias to move in this direction. Hence, we quoted the statement of Khwaja Naseer Tusi (a.r.), “His existence is grace, his authority is grace and his occultation is because of us .” All the infallible Imams (a.s.) have placed this responsibility on our shoulders and we are the ones, who actually don’t want Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.).

* * *

In this part of the discussion on the philosophy of occultation, the following question is raised: When will the time come when we shall truly crave for Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.)? In this regard, there are a few conditions. One, before everything else, truly and really, we desire Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.). Usually, in normal circumstances, man does not crave for him but when he is in difficulty, problems and in real catastrophic conditions, wittingly or unwittingly, he submits. For example, we humans sometimes go the doctor before we fall sick and at other times, we go to him only when we are extremely ill, restive and helpless. There are yet others who will visit the doctors only in cases of extreme feelings of weakness and vulnerability.

Therefore, those who call out “Yaa Saaheb al-Zaman ” are the informed and cognizant Shias. On the other hand, the sea of majority belongs to those, who will seek out the helping hand of a lifeguard only when they are on the brink of being drowned. At this juncture, they will hold on to any stick and straw that is thrown out at them. Thinking that they have found the ark of salvation, their joy knows no bounds.

The people of the world must not rely and hope for help from any thing that is thrust at them. Rather, they should wait for a real ship of deliverance, and when they find it, they must board it immediately without hesitation and be comfortable. Otherwise, till broken arks and canoes are found in the sea, they will never wait for the real ship. Hence, we find in traditions that the government of the infallible Imams (a.s.) will arrive only and only when people despair of everything and at the worldly level, they become hopeless of all that they relied on[99] .

When man despaired of religious scholars, he sought refuge in knowledge itself. Knowledge provided him a gift through world wars I and II. The world got together and formed a body called the United Nations (UN). Initially, the UN boasted and attracted the minds of the people. It made tall claims of establishing universal peace, bringing an end to all wars, wiping out poverty and illiteracy from the face of the earth, and formed various types of commissions, etc. Now, after hardly half a century has passed, when we raise our heads to look at the achievements of the UN, we find that ignorance has increased, mischief and corruption is on the rise, wars have intensified; slavery has been abolished on a personal level only to be found among nations. Previously, they threw two slaves in the arena to fight each other and derived pleasure out of it. But now, they pitch two nations against each other and enjoy the mass killings and bloodshed.

Thus, when man raises his head and sees that all his hopes are dashed, and realizes that there is actually no real hope from any quarter except the ark of salvation, he will no longer inflict calamities and cause tragedies to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) as he had done earlier. This is the state of the masses in general and that of the Shias in particular. Hence, when it is said that at the time of reappearance, the world will be replete with injustice and inequity, it does not mean that it is our duty to fill it with injustice and inequity. Rather, it implies that when oppression, tyranny, injustice and inequity envelope the entire globe, humanity will actually get fed up with all these and will wait, in its truest sense, for a universal reformer.

Therefore, as traditions state that Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) will reappear when the earth is full of injustice and oppression, many uphold the aforementioned view, which is an independent discussion in itself and shall be discussed in the forthcoming chapters.

Till now, we have discussed the philosophy of occultation. We mentioned that divine examination and protection of people’s faith, which Allah tests in various conditions and ways, was one aspect of this discussion. Preparedness of the people during occultation is another facet. Yet, there may be a thousand other reasons of occultation, as to why Allah the Almighty and Omniscient has chosen this path, which may be hidden and concealed from us.

So, we never claimed during our discussion that this and only this is for sure the reason behind occultation. Rather, we stated that most of these talks are what we can decipher from the history of the infallible Imams (a.s.). Examination, readiness, role of people, and other rationales related to Allah of which we are unaware. Hence, we confessed right in the beginning that only Allah knows the real objective behind occultation and we have no right to intervene in His tasks. “For surely knowledge is with Allah .”