Happy 15th Shaban

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ImageIt is quite interesting how many people jump to questions like, "Is Imam Mahdi coming out in the year 2022?" "Is he going to be Arab-looking or black?" and "Is he going to appear in Iran or Iraq?" 

It is quite interesting how many people jump to questions like, "Is Imam Mahdi coming out in the year 2022?" "Is he going to be Arab-looking or black?" and "Is he going to appear in Iran or Iraq?"{mxc}

None of the above have to do with the truly important questions like, "Why is it so crucial to have an imam?" "Who is the Imam?" and "Are we prepared for the reappearance of the Imam?"

Reflecting on the concept of imamate on the occasion of Imam Mahdi's birthday can help put its importance into perspective. 

Why have an imam?

Whether we take the theological or philosophical route, arguments lead to the same conclusion with regards to the necessity of imamate (leadership after the Prophet).  In order to preserve the perfect message of Islam, it must always have a perfect living guardian on Earth—an imam.

Different traditions, narrated through the School of Companions as well as the School of Ahlul Bayt, mention that the Prophet said, "After me there are Twelve Princes."  The School of Ahlul Bayt reconciles the logical necessity of a living, infallible Imam, with the narrations of the Holy Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family).  In the SchoolAhlul Bayt, the first Imam is Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb and the last is the awaited savior, Imam Muhammad Al Mahdi.

Who is the current imam?

Imam Muhammad Al Mahdi was born on 15 Shaban, 255 A.H in Samarra, present-day Iraq. His father was the 11th imam, Imam Hasan Al Askari, and his mother was Narjis, a Roman princess.

During the lives of the 10th and 11th imams, the imams were put under house arrest and their followers were persecuted. Most communication between the Imams and their followers was through letters or designated messengers. In Imam Hasan Al Askari's funeral, Imam Mahdi's uncle attempted to lead the funeral prayer, when the five-year-old Imam Mahdi tugged on his uncle's robe and said, "Move aside uncle; I have greater priority to lead prayer on my father."  Shortly thereafter, he disappeared but stayed in direct contact with chosen representatives, a period known as the minor occultation.

The minor occultation, beginning in 260 A.H lasted 74 years.  During this time Imam Mahdi appointed four special deputies, each one serving successively after the other. These four were:

1.  Uthman ibn Sa’id Al Asadi

2.  Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Uthman

3.  Abul Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh An Nawbakhti

4.  Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad As Samarri  

Shortly before the fourth deputy's death, in 329 A.H, he related a message from Imam Mahdi that the period of designated representation would soon end and that the period of the major occultation would begin.

Imam Mahdi is recorded as having said, "And as for the occurring events, refer back to the narrators of our hadith –for they are my proof over you and I am the proof of Allah."  Such began the period of the major occultation during which no representative was explicitly appointed.  According to other narrations and logical evidences, during the major occultation, the general representation is the responsibility of the highest scholars of Islam.  Meanwhile, the imam is kept alive by Allah's power to one day return.

According to the traditions, there will come a day when the imam will return and proclaim the truth of Islam and speak out against injustice.  He will not begin fighting but only after being immediately attacked by the forces of evil will he wage a struggle with a few followers.  The earth after that will be filled with justice and there will be one government under Allah's representative.  The believers are supposed to meanwhile be brave in what is an ever-more corrupt world, seeking to live moral lives at the guidance of the pious scholars while preparing for his appearance.

Are we prepared for the imam's return? 

There is a question that haunts some of us when we wake up every morning, as we plod through our days and before we go to sleep at night: Are we ready for our imam? The obvious answer is that most of us are not prepared for the Imam.

If you ask the scholars, "What can we do to prepare for the Imam?" they will very likely answer something to the extent of, " the first step is stay way from all sins and fulfill all your obligations."  The best way for us to prepare for the Imam is to gain beneficial knowledge and to act based on that knowledge.  But even when we think we've done so, to be considered among the Imam's closest followers is a privilege granted only to a select few.

We should try to build up our relationship with the Imam. We believe that he is alive (literally, the same way we are) and when we speak to him, Allah gives him the ability to hear us.  He is Allah's representative on Earth, which means that just as with any of Allah's representatives, trying to please the Imam is our gateway to pleasing Allah.  Offering him condolences in his times of grief, congratulating him in his times of joy and creating a bond of sincerity with him are all important factors in building our relationship with the Imam.



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