The Major Occultation served as a way of protecting Imam Mahdi but also as a message to the Muslims that if the believers wish to see the global government of peace and justice established, then the believers must themselves be the change they wish to see. The question now is about the role of the believers during the Major Occultation. The answer to this question is much simpler than one may expect. The answer lies in bettering ourselves as believers and the believers around us.
Ever since the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) began his proclamation of Islam, the system of a perfect society that would elevate humans on a social and religious platform has been existent. But a system that perfects humanity requires two things: Divine leadership and obedience of the Divine rules set forth for humanity. For the past 1400 years, the Divine system that would propel humanity to the next level has had the Divine leadership available but humanity has proved multiple times that it is not ready for such a transition.
Within those 1400 years, the first eleven Imams have dealt with communities that have said one thing and done another. The perfect example of this was at the time of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), who received thousands of letters from the people of Kufa pledging their allegiance to him and calling him to Kufa. The people of Kufa were not ready to make the sacrifices that were necessary in establishing Imam Hussain as the leader of the Muslim world, and as a result, the Imam and his companions were slaughtered on the plains of Karbala.
This leaves us with the 12th Imam, Imam al-Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance), who began the Major Occultation in 941 AD for the purpose of protecting the Imam from any potential attacks on his life. The aim of Imam Mahdi is to eradicate oppression and injustice throughout the world and establish a global government of peace and justice. In order for this to occur, the Awaited Savior must have the necessary support from the believers, which the first eleven Imams (perhaps with the exception of Imam Hussain) did not have. Yes, the Major Occultation served as a way of protecting Imam Mahdi but also as a message to the Muslims that if the believers wish to see the global government of peace and justice established, then the believers must themselves be the change they wish to see. The question now is about the role of the believers during the Major Occultation. The answer to this question is much simpler than one may expect. The answer lies in bettering ourselves as believers and the believers around us.
Bettering ourselves as believers in anticipation of the return of the 12th Imam begins with one thing and one thing only, which is Salat – the foundation of every Muslim. If a house is built with a weak foundation, it is bound to collapse. The same applies to Salat. If a Muslim is inconsistent with his/her daily prayers, then (s)he will collapse when the temptations of this world are presented. Establishing consistency with the five daily prayers includes not skipping any of them. This includes waking up on a daily basis for the Fajr prayer. The key to establishing consistency with the daily prayers begins with praying as soon as the time sets in and understanding why this is so important.
As Muslims, we have been blessed with so many bounties by Allah, yet we don’t thank Allah enough. Praying on time is a way of thanking Allah for all that has been given to us. Does it make sense for believers to delay our Salat after all that Allah has given us?
Secondly, Salat is the means of communication between the believer and Allah. Strengthening the communication that the believer has with Allah by praying on time allows the believer to become more God conscious, which then leads to the advancement of the Muslim. The purpose of Salat when performed correctly is to instill God-consciousness in the believer that will prevent the believer from indulging in the actions that are prohibited by Islamic law. Becoming more God conscious as an individual is the first step in preparing for the reappearance and that is done by performing Salat properly, attentively, and on time.
Learning to control out worldly desires is essential. At the crux of the failures of the believers of the first eleven Imams were their worldly desires. At the time of Imam Ali (peace be upon him), Muawiya was able to pay supporters of the Imam top money to abandon their posts. Controlling worldly desires is not an easy task but one that takes time and understanding. Controlling worldly desires allows a Muslim to increase his/her God-consciousness. By increasing God-consciousness, a Muslim is then able to understand his/her roles and responsibilities to Allah and the 12th Imam. God-consciousness can be increased by praying on time, reading Qur’an, reciting supplications, fasting on recommended days, and increasing one’s Islamic knowledge.
Intidhar (waiting) for the appearance of the Awaited Savior is an important role of the Muslims. This does not mean waiting idly for the reappearance; rather, it means to actively pursue the change that will pave the way for the reappearance. Intidhar is a state that requires efforts and actions to better ourselves as individuals our Muslim communities on a social level. On a personal level, we must be exemplary leaders that make people around us better as Muslims. As Muslims we must also cater to the needs of our Muslims communities by being more active on a social front.
At the end of the day, only praying and not actively pursuing the reappearance will not allow us to see the Twelfth Imam in our lifetime. We must actively pursue the change we wish to see by bettering ourselves and the believers around us.