One of the responsibilities of the believers during the occultation of Imam Mahdi (as) is daily recitation of Dua Ahad after the morning prayers. Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) says, “Whoever recites this dua for forty days then Allah will enlist him among the aides of our Qaem and if he dies before his reappearance then Allah will raise him after death so that he can serve the Imam of his time.”
One of the phrases of this important dua is, “O Allah bestow on me the sight of the beautiful guide and his dazzling forehead. Let one glimpse of him, have a kohl-like effect on my eyes, which will illuminate my vision.”
In the Dua Asre’ Ghaybat, we find the following phrase, “O Allah! I Implore you to let me see the Valiye-Amr”
Similar such phrases and expressions are found in other duas related to Imam Mahdi (as). In Dua Nudbah, a believer remembers his Imam, and pleads with him in this manner – “It is indeed very hard for me to bear that I can see everyone but am unable to see you”
All these lamentations that have been related by the infallibles (as) state the practical possibilities of meeting in Ghaybat. These clearly indicate that during the occultation of Imam Mahdi (as), it is possible to meet him but, of course, only by the consent of Allah.
The Concept of Ghaybat
We have discussed the concept of Ghaybat (occultation) in earlier articles. However, for the uninitiated, we will just give a quick definition of the same. The occultation of Imam (as) does not in any manner means that he is living in a cave or a cellar and has no interaction with the people.
Rather, occultation means that Imam Mahdi (as) is living in a state of anonymity and people do not recognize him. Of course, Imam (as) moves around among the people, redresses their grievances and helps them in calamities but people fail to recognize him.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) says: “Imam Mahdi (as) goes for Hajj every year. He sees people and recognizes them. The people also see but do not recognize him.” (Kamaluddin, volume 2, page 440)
Is it possible that someone is present among the people, rescues them in difficulties and solves their problems but they do not recognize him?
Story of Hazrat Yusuf (as) – Similarity with Imam Mahdi (as)
The answer to this question lies in the story of Hazrat Yusuf (as). Holy Quran has narrated the meeting of the brothers of Yusuf (as) when they visited him in Egypt in the following verse: “And Yusuf’s brothers came and went to meet him, and he knew them, while they did not recognize him.” (Surah Yusuf, verse 58)
If Allah’s Proof is present among the people but does not want them to recognize him then despite he being right in front of them, they would never know his identity.
Traditions say that among other traits of Prophets (as), Imam (as) shares some similarities with Yusuf (as) as well. The brothers of Yusuf (as) could recognize him only when he decided to introduce himself, as the Holy Quran narrates the incident. “So when they came to him, they said: O chief! Distress has afflicted us and our family and we have brought scanty money, so give us full measure and be charitable to us; surely Allah rewards the charitable.
He said: Do you know how you treated Yusuf and his brother when you were ignorant? They said: Are you indeed Yusuf? He said: I am Yusuf and this is my brother; Allah has indeed been gracious to us; surely he who guards (against evil) and is patient (is rewarded) for surely Allah does not waste the reward of those who do good.
They said: By Allah! Now Allah has certainly chosen you over us, and we were certainly sinners.
He said: (There shall be) no reproof against you this day; Allah may forgive you, and He is the most Merciful of the merciful” (Surah Yusuf, verses 88-92)
A glance at the above verses will reveal that they not only failed to recognize Yusuf (as) but also his brother Benjamin who was standing next to him. Incidentally Benjamin had accompanied them in their previous trip and Yusuf (as) had actually detained him. This means that if Allah’s Proof (as) wishes then despite being face, to face the people will not only be unable to recognize him but also will not be able to recognize anyone whom he does not wish to be identified. Nevertheless, whenever he will desire they will recognize him.
Hence subsequent to Divine consent, whenever Imam Mahdi (as) will wish, the people will be allowed to recognize him. We all pray to Allah that in this period of occultation, we get the privilege of meeting him.
The levels of meeting
Spiritual meeting: Spiritually we should develop such a bond with Imam Mahdi (as) that we should feel his presence in front of us. The sentiment should be similar to our distant Ziyarat of Imam Husain (as), which we recite with complete recognition .When we recite the Ziyarat we feel as if we are present in front of Imam Husain (as) and are talking to him (as). If such emotions are provoked, the feelings become intense and tears start trickling down the eyes.
When a person says from the depth of his heart, Assalamo Alayka Ya Sahebaz Zamaan (as), he develops a spiritual bond with him. However, it is imperative that the ziyarat and salaam should be said with utmost attention and feelings and not out of habit and indifference. This had been eloquently explained in Dua Nudba thus: “May my life be sacrificed for you, though you are in occultation but my existence is not devoid of your remembrance. May my life be sacrificed for you, although you are separate from us but never too far from us.”
Present despite disappearance, near though far.
Meeting in dream
There have been such anecdotes where people have seen Imam Mahdi (as) in their dreams. Numerous traditions have been reported which have mentioned about the supplications, actions and special chapters for meeting Imam (as) in their dreams.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said, “If someone recites Surae Bani Israel for 40 nights of Thursday, then he will not die until he has met our Qaem and eventually he will be among his helpers and aides.” (Mikyaalul Makarem, vol. 2, p. 528, [Persian])
A mystic state when the soul is detached from the body and Allah, the High, opens the windows of the celestial world for the person.
Allah has given such a power to human soul that if it can extricate itself from material needs then it can breach all barriers. This can be achieved after lot of practice and dedication. It is through this power that a man can foresee the incidents of future. A man can attain the privilege of meeting Imam Mahdi (as) in mystical state. However, it should be borne in mind that even in this state, it will be possible to meet him only when he gives consent for the meeting. Otherwise, despite all the practice and devotion it will not be possible to meet him, the meeting hinges entirely on his approval.
Physical meeting (face-to-face)
There are few preconditions to the meeting;
We may meet Imam Mahdi (as) but neither before, during or even after the meeting will it be known that he is Imam Mahdi (as)?
It may not be known during the meeting but after the meeting it becomes clear that the person who has just left is none other than Imam Mahdi (as). Even this has two aspects; sometimes it becomes immediately clear after the meeting, while at other times it becomes known only after the lapse of a long period. During the occultation of Imam Mahdi (as) several such incidents have been narrated about meetings in such conditions.
Sometimes during the course of the meeting, it becomes evident that the person is none other than Imam Mahdi (as). Very few such incidents have been reported for instance the incident of Ismail Harqali or those related to Allamah Sayyed Mahdi Bahrul Uloom (ra).
Imam (as) is alive
Innumerable anecdotes of meeting with Imam Mahdi (as) have been related. A few things that becomes clear through such narrations are:
- Imam Mahdi (as) is alive
- lmam(as) is living on this very earth.
- Imam(as) solves the problems of the people
- We should turn towards him in times of crisis
- The earth is not devoid of Allah’s Proof.
These incidents are strong rebuttal to all those detractors who deny the existence of Imam Mahdi (as).
Who is eligible for the meeting?
While reading the incidents of meeting, we observe that those who got the privilege of meeting Imam Mahdi (as) did not possess any special qualification or characteristic that could be considered a prerequisite for the meeting. Those people who met him included scholars as well as lay persons, pious people and some ordinary people, businessmen and destitutes, affluent and poor, professionals and labourers, people in distress, in fact even non-shias have also met him. This proves that those who met him did not have any special background except that it depended on the sole discretion of Imam Mahdi (as).
Nevertheless, piety, tearful supplications, intense desire to meet him will definitely help but again it can never be a guarantee for the meeting. Imam Mahdi (as) has himself mentioned the reason for not meeting, in one of his letters.
“May Allah give the grace of obedience to our followers. If they would have remained firm on their pledge, then there would not have been any delay in meeting. They would have been able to meet us soon along with recognition. The reason that has increased the distance between us are those reports that we have received about them which are extremely disliked by us and we never expected it from them.” (Ehtejaj Tabarasi, volume 2, page 325, quoted from Mikyalul Makarim volume 1, page 160, [Persian])
This letter has clearly indicated that the reason that we have not been able to meet him are our own misdeeds which he does not expect from us and dislikes it extremely.
Ali bin Mahziyar is among the select few who had the honour of meeting Imam Mahdi (as) and it becomes all the more special as he knew that he is meeting the Imam of his time. When Ali bin Mahziyar presented himself in front of Imam Mahdi (as), Imam (as) addressed him thus:
“O Abul Hasan, We spent days and nights eagerly waiting for you, what took you so long?”
Ibn Mahziyar said: Master there was none who could nave directed me to you
Imam (as) said, “There was none who could lead you to us?” Then Imam (as) raised a finger and drew a line on the sand and wrote:
It is not so. (The delay was) because
- You people increased your wealth
- You suppressed the weak believers and intimidated them
- You have severed the ties of relationship
Is any excuse left after this?”
Mahziyar said, “Apologies! I seek your pardon O my Master!”
Imam (as) continued, “O Ibne Mahziyaar if some Shias from you did not seek forgiveness for others then all of you would have perished except some special Shias. The special Shias are those whose deeds match their words.” (Tabseratul Wali by Sayyed Hashim Bahrani, page 142)
An important lesson that we learn from this meeting is that an increase in wealth, intimidation of poor shias and breaking ties with relatives are reasons for not being able to meet Imam Mahdi (as). Hence if we want to meet Imam (as) we should avoid all these misdeeds.
Let us sincerely abstain from sins for the sake of Allah and His Prophet (sawa) and pray to Allah for meeting His Divine Proof (as). Maybe even we could also get the privilege of meeting our Imam Mahdi (as). Ameen!