What are the Benefits of an Imam who we cannot see?


What is the Benefit of a Hidden Imam?

Whenever the discussion of Ghaybat crops up, queries of various kinds invade the  minds of the people. The most common among them being as to what is the benefit of an Imam who is in Ghaybat? In other words, what is the purpose of having a leader with whom neither we can come in contact nor meet  In this article, we shall attempt to convey to our readers the answer to the query and make people realize as to how can one derive advantages from an Imam during Ghaybat.

Benefits during Ghaybat

The root of this question lies in the fact that usually our criteria for measuring the benefits of a particular thing are relative, artificial and man made. In other words, if something is apparently useful and profitable for us, it is beneficial, not otherwise. Such queries are raised because we do not seem to obtain any “apparent” benefit from Imam Mahdi (as) during his Ghaybat. Although, it is a genuine problem, yet we must know that if we are not receiving benefits from Imam (as), it is due to our own shortcomings. Our laziness and defects may have closed the gates of beneficence for us. Some of the benefits of the Imam (as) presence are mentioned below.

Survival of the Universe

Putting our personal interests aside, we can consider the benefits and advantages of the Imam’s (as) existence. At this point it must be known that utility of each entity depends upon its individual capacity. The beggar and the king can never be equal.

Expanse of Existence

The Prophets and the Imam (as) are the proofs of Allah upon this earth. The universe continues to exist because of their presence. Today, the proof of Allah upon earth is Imam Mahdi (as). He is the pivot and the centre of the universe. It survives because he exists. He is the Imam of the whole universe and that is why every particle of the universe acknowledges his presence. A tradition from Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) says: “Had the earth been without an Imam, it would sink, swallowing its inhabitants.” (Al-Kafi, volume 1, page 179)

Another report states: “The proof was prior to creation, it is with creation and shall continue to exist after the creation has perished.” (Al Kafi volume 1, page 177)

The same concept has come in an invocation, “Imam is the one whose continued existence is the cause of the universe’s survival. Sustenance descends due to his presence. The earth and the heavens survive due to his existence.” (Mafatihul Jinan, Dua-e-Adeelah)

Thus, if the earth and the heavens exist, it is only because of Imam’s (as) presence. We live and continue to receive sustenance due to him. Every living being in the world owes its existence to his presence. These are the consequences of the existence of Imam (as). The central factor is the existence of Imam (as) which neither depends upon his reappearance nor Ghaybat. Whether apparent or concealed, he is the pivot of the universe. How meaningful are the following sentences of Ziyarat Jameah, “Allah initiated the creation for your sake and will ter­minate it with you. Rain descends for your sake and due to your existence, the sky is prevented from crashing to the earth. Only through your mediation are our sorrows and grief dispelled.”

Sun Behind The Clouds

Explaining the following verse of the Quran, “O those who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those who have authority amongst you”, the Holy Prophet (sawa) said to Jabir Ibne Abdullah Ansari, “He will go into Ghaybat from his Shiahs and followers. (And then) only those whose hearts have been tested for faith by Allah shall remain steadfast on their Imamate (and those with weak faith shall deviate).

At this point Jabir Ibne Abdullah (ra) inquired, “O Messenger of Allah, would his Shiahs attain benefit from him while he is in Ghaybat?” The Holy Prophet (sawa) replied, “By the One who has sent me as a Prophet, people will receive light from his splendour and benefit from his guardianship during his Ghaybat just like they benefit from the sun when it hides behind the clouds.” (Kamaluddin by Shaykh Sudooq, page 253)

A similar question was put to Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) by Mahraan Al Damish: “How shall the people benefit from the hidden and the concealed proof?” Imam Sadiq (as) replied, “Just like they derive benefits from the sun when it is concealed behind the clouds.” (Kamaluddin page 207)

The above tradition has been quoted by Shaykh Suleiman bin Shaykh Ibrahim Qundoozi on page 477 of his book ‘Yanaabiul Mawaddah’, quoting from ‘Faraidus Simtayn’ of Shaykh Hammui. Both the aforementioned are Sunni scholars of repute.

When the same query was put to Imam Mahdi (as) himself, he remarked in his letter to Ishaq bin Yaqoob, “Deriving benefit from me during my Ghaybat is like obtaining advantage from the sun when concealed behind the clouds.” This letter was sent through the second special deputy of Imam (as), Mohammed Ibne Usman (ra). (Kamaluddin, page 485)

It is noteworthy that the question was posed to three infallibles, yet the reply from each of them is the same. Imam’s (as) Ghaybat is likened to the hiding of the sun behind the clouds.

Some of the points understood in this analogy are explained by Allamah Majlisi (ra) and are produced here under:

  1. Existence – Imam (as) is the means for illuminating mankind with the light of guidance and knowledge. It is only because of Imam (as) that erudition and science have appeared in the world. Had he not been existing, divine wrath would have befallen on the world. Allah declares in the Holy Quran, “O Prophet! as long as you are there amongst them, God will not inflict His wrath upon them”. Time and again during Ghaybat, we have witnessed that when engulfed in difficulties and tribulations, things are placed in order with the support of Imam (as) and our path is smoothened.
  2. When the sun is behind the clouds, people derive benefit from its existence. Yet, all eagerly await the clouds to sail past the sun to obtain maximum benefit from the visible sun. Similarly, at all times, the ardent Shias and the true lovers of Hazrat await the reappearance of their leader.
  3. The denial of the existence of Imam (as) during Ghaybat after witnessing the signs is parallel to the denial of the sun when behind the clouds and not visible to the eye.
  4. Occasionally, the clouds move and let the sun be seen for some moments and the zealous manage to steal a glance at it. Similarly, some fortunate people are honoured with the opportunity of seeing Imam (as) during his major Ghaybat.
  5. Just like the sun is beneficial to all, all benefit from the blessings of Imam (as). However, just like a blind cannot obtain complete benefit from the sun, the one with a blind heart does not achieve much from Imam (as)’s existence.
  6. The rays of the sun enter the homes depending on the windows and ventilators. More that these impediments are done away with, more rays enter the house. Likewise, when a man cleans the veils from his own self, the windows of his mind and spirit open for him and he will benefit all the more from the guiding light of Imam (as) and thus illuminating his own personality. Purification of the self from carnal desires, animal instincts, sins and evil deeds is directly proportionate to the reception of light and guidance of Imamate. If the purification of the heart and reformation of the soul continues, a time will come when he finds himself very close to the edifying star and his own per­sonality exuding radiance.
  7. Apart from the above, more analogies can be presented. Just like die sun is the center of the solar system and all planets revolve around it, Imam (as) is the axis of the universe and everything circumambulate his divine persona. Even the sun itself revolves around Imam (as) and is subject to his orders.
  8. The sun is the source of heat and light in the universe. The brilliance of the moon is because of the solar rays. Nothing possesses its own light or heat. Similarly, Imam (as) is the light of guidance for this universe. Even the sun has obtained its light from Imam (as) because the day there is no Imam on this earth, the sun will be devoid of its light.

Guiding The Affair

The Almighty Allah has appointed the Pure Imams (as) to guide the people through His Order. “And We made them Imams who guide (the people) by Our Command…” (Surah Ambiya, verse 72)

Guidance of the people through the command of Allah is the most significant factor. Generally, everything in the world of creation comes into existence through a process. A child enters this world after a period of nine months in the womb of its mother. However, if Allah wills, this period can be reduced to moments and that is when Allah commands, “Be” and “It is”.

The Almighty Allah has bestowed the Imams (as) of “guiding with command”. They have the capacity to transform a period just by looking at it. Imam Hasan (as) changed the Syrian foe into a humble friend, Imam Husain (as) transformed Janabe Zohair Qayn, Imam Mohammad Taqi (as) changed the heart of the Syrian worshipper, etc. Similarly, Imam Mahdi (as) has brought profound changes in the lives of people like Hasan Iraqi. Apparent presence is not a prerequisite for such transformations. If the person is deserving and is given the opportunity by Allah, he can benefit from the same. Today even we can obtain guidance from Imam (as) but the necessary condition is that we must sacrifice our desires for his pleasure.

Protection From Calamities

Various traditions have emphasized the fact that the Ahle Bayt (as) are those personalities due to whom this universe is safe and sound. Imam Mahdi (as) himself is reported to have said, “Certainly, I am the cause of the safety of this world as the stars are the cause of safety of the heavens.” (Kamaluddin, page 485; Al-Ehtejaj by Shaykh Tabarsi, page 471)

Moreover, Imam Mahdi (as) has remarked in his letter to the respected Shaykh Mufid (ra) the following: “Though at present we are living away from the dominions of the oppressors and till the unjust rule the world, the Almighty has considered it better for us and our Shias that I stay away from them. But despite this separation, I am cognizant of all your affairs. Nothing pertaining to you is hidden from us. Whenever you experience insults, I come to know of it. This is from the time some of you began to do those acts which were shunned by your ancestors. These people have thrown behind their covenant with Allah as if it had never been made. We are never negligent in your protection nor are we forgetful of your remembrance. (If our protection and guidance had not been there) misfortunes would have befallen you and the enemies would have destroyed you. Be fearful of Allah and help us (our cause) which will save you from the corruption that has surrounded you.

Soon, clear signs from the heavens will be manifested for you and signs will appear on the earth as well. Disastrous and sorrowful incidents will occur in the east. Thereafter, Iraq will be ruled by people who are completely away from Islam. Due to their vile deeds, the people of Iraq will experience an acute shortage of sustenance. Then after a long time, when the tyrannical rulers perish, the people of Iraq will be rescued from their difficulties. After the annihilation of the tyrants, the pious and the good people shall rejoice. People from every corner of the world who go to perform Hajj (the annual pilgrimage) will achieve all their desires and get whatever they wish. As per their wishes, their Hajj will be made easy through our worth and position. It will be manifested in our systematic manner. Thus each of you should perform such deeds that bring you closer to our love and avoid those acts which result in our anger and dissatisfaction. For, our reappearance will be sudden and unexpected when repentance will be of no use nor shall remorse for sinful deeds (at that time) save you from our punishment. May Allah show you the path of true guidance and by His Mercy bestow you the means of Divine Grace (Taufeeq).”

Each and every word of this letter is a witness to the deep love and affection of Imam Mahdi (as) for his Shias. Notwithstanding their shortcomings and defects, he protects them. If the help and assistance of Imam (as) was missing, we would have most certainly perished. There is someone who is protecting us all. Numerous incidents prove this fact. Imam (as) has saved a number of people and protected them. Readers can refer to the books that have recorded such incidents.

Moreover, due to the presence of Imam (as), people receive sustenance, the sick are cured and the childless bear children. In brief, there is no problem that cannot be solved by the help of Imam (as), despite his Ghaybat. He is prepared to favour us but we do not call him in the proper way.

Traditions encourage us to turn to Imam Mahdi (as) for every difficulty, to seek his mediation. The Shiahs write an Areeza (letter) to him every 15 Shabaan. This should not be a customary practice for us to be done only one in a year. Rather, every day, one should turn towards the Imam (as).

Scholars inform us that this can be done in a simple way. One should focus one’s attention towards the Imam (as), convey salutations to him with the confidence that wherever he is, our voices, our intentions reach him. Thereafter one should narrate whatever one wishes to the Imam (as), again with the confidence that he is listening to us and that he (as) has been granted full authority by Allah to solve our problems. Just as a child, when his father comes home in the evening, narrates everything to his father, in the same way, the Shiahs should turn to the Imam (as) and seek his help for every big or small aspects of their daily lives. When their problems are solved, again they should turn towards the Imam (as) and thank him.

May Allah grant us the opportunity to turn towards Imam Mahdi (as) everyday and seek his help in every aspect of our lives. Aameen!