By Yusuf Abdullah
In the name of Allah who states "He it is Who sent His Apostle with the guidance and the true religion, that He may make it overcome the religions, all of them, though the polytheists may be averse" Q61:9
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His chosen servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
Sha’ban is historically very eventful. Some of its events include the birth of Imam Husain (AS), on the 3rd, 3 years after hijra; Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (AS), 5th, 38 years after hijra; Abul Fadlul Abbas 4th, 26 years after hijra; Aliyul Akbar whose birthday is considered day of youth in the Islamic Iran and Imam al-Mahdy 15th, 255 after hijra. At the same time, Sheikh el-Zakzaky’s birthday which coincided with the latter is remembered.
Nisfu Sha’ban or 15th day of eighth month of Islamic calendar is observed as a very important day preceded by its night full of significant activities. The Islamic movement traditionally commemorates the event with colorful birthday celebration of Imam al-Mahdy, (may Allah hasten his re-appearance) along with its leader. The issue of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdy as the deliverer of mankind is a well known doctrine in Islam. Other prominent religions like Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism have their respective beliefs in this aspect. Few of the so many prophetic traditions on this topic include; "if but one day remains of the life of the world, Allah will prolong it and will make a man rise from my descendents to fill the earth with justice after having been brimming over with injustice" Ithbat al-huda: V3, P608. The prophet has also said "there will come a time for my Ummah when their rulers will be cruel, their scholars will be greedy and have little piety, their worshippers (will act) hypocritically, their merchants will commit usury and conceal the defects of their buying and selling and their women will be busy with the ornaments of the world. Hence, at this time, the most vicious of them will dominate over them, and their good doers will invocate but they will not be answered" Bihaar al-Anwar: V23, P22.
This refers to the 12th Imam, the last descendent and successor of the prophet to re-appear and spread justice and equity throughout the world, after it was overcome by injustice and oppression. Though with different interpretations, all Muslims believe in the concept of this deliverer. In a tradition related to Imam Hasan al-Askary "It is as if I see you in discord regarding my successor. Behold that one who acknowledges all the succeeding messengers of Allah, in turn but denies my son will be like one who acknowledges all the messengers of Allah (as) but the prophethood of the messenger of Allah, Muhammad (s)". Bihaar al-Anwaar: V51. P160. He also said "my son will succeed me as Imam and divine argument and one who dies without acknowledging his imamate will be regarded as who died in the pre-Islamic age of ignorance. Ithbat al-hudud: V3, P482. Yes, there are differences relating to some aspects of this leader between Shi’ah and Sunnah on which I am not going to be graphical now but according to former sources, the Imam was born on Friday, 15th of Sha’ban, 255 AH from Imam al-Hasan al-Askary and mother Narjis in Samarra, Iraq. And he went into minor and major occultations on 8th Rabi’ul-awwal, 260 AH and 10th Shawwal, 329 AH respectively. He was brought up under the tutelage of his revered father before his martyrdom. Unlike the major occultation, in the minor, he was hidden from the public except on circumstances to his deputies.
In another tradition, the prophet said "What will be your reaction when the son of Mary (Jesus) descends and your Imam is from among yourselves? (Muslim, Vol. 2; Bukhari, Vol. 4). Some important Sunni references include; al-Bayaan fii akhbaar Sahibiz zaman by al-Hafiz Muhammad Ibn Yusuf al-Shafi’i and Dhikriyyat al-Mahdi by al-Hafiz Abu Nu’aim al-Isfahany and Sunan Abu Daud and Ibn Majah.
RE-APPEARANCE OF THE IMAM (AS)
Hudhyafah Ibn Usayd al-Ghifari said "we sat in the shadow of a wall in al-Madinah and the apostle of Allah was in a room. Then he appeared over us and said, what are you doing? We said we were talking. He said About what? We said about the resurrection Day (al-Sa’ah). He said, you will not see the resurrection day until you see ten signs before it, sunrise from the West, al-Dajjal and the beast of the earth, three lunar eclipses on the earth; one in the East, one in the West and one in the Arabian peninsula and emergence of Jesus the son of Mary" Bihaar al-Anwaar: V4, P304
It is reported that Ka’b said "Jesus will descend from heaven. Then the Jews and Christians will come to him and say, we are your people. He will say, you lie. The emigrants, the rest of the people of battles are my people. Then Jesus will come to the place that the Muslims are gathered and find their caliph – successor of the prophet – praying with them, who will say to him, O Christ! pray in front of us. He will say, but you pray with your people. I have been raised as a minister, not as a commander" Sirat al-Mustaqeem: V3, P92.
Toward the end of his work on doctrine 31 on Imam Al-Mahdy in his book, the Faith Of Shi’a Islam, Sheikh, published and distributed by Imam Husain Foundation, Qum, Iran. The book, originally published by MUHAMMMADI TRUST OF BRITAIN and republished in Dubai by Ahlul-Bait Islamic Foundation for guidance and enlightenment as permitted by the original publisher and translated by Dar al-Tabligh al-Islami in Qum, Sheikh Muhammad Rida al-Muzaffar (may Allah have mercy on him) said "….. we should remember at this point that the expectation of this saviour and reformer, the Mahdi, does not mean that Muslims should stand idle in their religion or abandon their religious duties, but that they should perform all the divine commandments and make every endeavor to seek out the way of truth. It is an obligation, for them to fight for Islam, to put the principle of Islam into practice, to order others to do likewise and to prohibit them as far as possible from doing wrong. As the prophet said "everyone of you is a shepherd, and everyone is responsible for his flock"
OBLIGATIONS AWAITING ARRIVAL
Many authors from the school of Ahlul-bait have highlighted the obligations of believers awaiting arrival. Among them was Ayatollah Sayyid Kamal Faqih and Faadhil al-Furaaty. The following could be a summary;
1. Doctrinal aspect: Awaiting should be in accordance with teachings of Shari’ah which is of the best worships. This implies unshakable belief holding fast to the rope of Allah disregarding conflicting views.
2. Absolute compliance with teachings of Islam: Believers are encouraged to emulate the sterling qualities of truth, sincerity, fulfillment of promises, trust, patience, supporting the weak and other commendable characters.
3. Propagating the concept of Imam Mahdy: Believers are expected to propagate the doctrine signaling re-appearance. Appearance of the false Messiah with powers, beast of the earth, rising of the sun from the West, Gog and Magog and reappearance of the Imam are of the major signs, just as loss of honesty, giving authority to undeserving persons, prevalence of religious ignorance, widespread bloodshed, sudden death, spread of usury and sexual misconduct are of the minor among others.
4. Acquaintance with the Imam; faithfully, spiritually and emotionally through prayers, like the popular Nudbah, visits from distance, sadaqah and prayers on his behalf.
5. propagating related miracles; this refers to the need for critical analysis to protect believers from any confusion from false claimants as the world is yet to witness the promised global rise of Islam.
6. The Mahdy reform project; the advent of the Imam is to deliver humanity and destroy the tyrants. It is not to shed blood but protect lives, promote the religion and work towards global reform and establishment of an upright and just authority for the good of mankind.
Enjoining what is right and forbidding wrong at all capacities – political, social and economic – are very much in line. In fact, the Imam will not reappear until he got enough helpers for the execution of his mission. It is obviously clear that the significance of struggle against injustice cannot be overemphasized. Based on this, Imam Khomeini led the Islamic revolution and established the Islamic republic of Iran that can be a good base for the Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance). Resistance movements like the Hezbollah is also on the track.
There is need for large followership before the Imam reappear for his divine assignment. These obedient followers help him to destroy tyrants, establish justice and actualize global rise of Islam. We should therefore work sincerely and devotedly as did Imam Khomeini (QS), on whose track is Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky (H). Subsequently, I write on the Islamic movement and its leader who was miraculously born at similar time. Pertinently, I reiterate the need for his unconditional release along with disciples.