Translated by: Manal Samhat
The issue of Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) has caught a lot of attention, not only among the Muslims, but also among other people who belong to other religions, since Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) is regarded as the savior and the rescuer of humanity from all forms of tyranny and torture. Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) is also considered as the one who will spread justice and peace. In fact, all Muslim groups have agreed on this idea; however, extensive arguments and discussions have taken place among the believers, especially with regard to the issues related to his occultation and its expected advantages, his reappearance and the means and ways that could be used to spread justice and eradicate injustice. His Eminence, the Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, has answered all these questions revealing the reasons behind the Imam's occultation and explaining the general objective of his message, which is establishing the awaited justice.
- The evidence of his occultation
Q: You say that the occultation of Al-Mahdi is one of Allah's secrets, but this occultation needs evidence from both the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. However, Prophet Muhammad (p.) did not bring the glad tidings of the Imam's occultation; what he brought was only the glad tidings of his reappearance. If I belong to a different religious sect, how can I be convinced by such evidence?
A: If Prophet Muhammad (p.) brought the glad tidings of Imam Al-Mahdi's reappearance, then this reappearance could have only been the result of his occultation; this is one aspect.
The other aspect is that when we read: “Indeed, I am leaving among you, that which if you hold fast to, you shall not be misguided after me. (First is) the book of Allah; a rope extended from the sky to the earth, and (the second is) my family, my Household Members (Ahl El-Beit), and they shall not be separated until they meet me at the Hawd,” we realize that for every period of time, there must be a certain person from the Prophet’s progeny, as long as the Holy Book exists. This person is Imam Al-Mahdi (aj). Besides, we read many traditions narrated by the Members of the House (a.s.) on the account of Prophet Muhammad (p.) concerning this issue.
Q: Some say that the issue of Imam Al-Mahdi, his age, and the secret of his occultation, is something unscientific, illogical, and unfamiliar. What do you say?
A: Both the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi and his reappearance are of Allah’s secrets and unknowns. Just as Allah has many unknown secrets related to the other world, He also has many of the unknown secrets in this world, and the issue of Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) is one of them. Though unfamiliar with respect to age and to several other things, the disappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) will go on, as long as Allah wishes so. Allah's will may be realized in ways that are unfamiliar to people, as His miracles to the prophets were. For example, we notice how the cane was transformed into a serpent; how Mousa's brown hand was transformed into a white one; how Allah opened a "dry path" in the sea to Mousa (a.s.): "And certainly We revealed to Musa, saying: Travel by night with My servants, then make for them a dry path in the sea, not fearing to be overtaken, nor being afraid,” (20:77); how He enabled Christ to cure the deaf, the blind, and the lepers, and to raise the dead, and how He gave Muhammad (p.) the greatest miracle, which is the Holy Book, in addition to many other honors. Besides, the Holy Quran mentioned that Nuh (a.s.) lived one thousand years or more before the flood: "And certainly We sent Nuh to his people, so he remained among them a thousand years save fifty years. And the deluge overtook them, while they were unjust," (29:14), noting that we do not know for how long he lived after the flood. Furthermore, Allah told us about a day which counts as one thousand years, and another day which is “fifty thousand years". (70:04).
Allah Who has the power to provide man with a short life also has the same power to provide him with a long one. He is the One Who creates, decides, and determines. Therefore, the rejectionists should not object when the matter is related to Allah's ability because "surely Allah has power over all things". So, the rejectionists can only object when the matter is related to people and their abilities, since people's abilities regarding their choices and movements are limited.
Q: If Allah sent the prophets, the messengers, and the Imams to lead, guide, and warn, how can this be applied to Imam Al-Mahdi who is invisible? Is not he supposed to be present among us to guide us in our movement?
A: The issue of Imam Muhammad Bin Al-Hassan (aj) differs from that of the Prophets and the other Imams. He is regarded as Allah's conclusive argument, and the twelfth Imam, whose Imamate is not disputed. Allah has prepared him to make justice prevail in the world, and He has prepared him for the day the life on earth shall cease to exist. In addition, Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) is prepared to implement the objectives of the other prophets and heavenly messages. Therefore, Allah did not make him an Imam as the other Imams and prophets that used to follow up all details. The prophets brought along the Messages and taught wisdom, as well as the moral values of the Holy Books and the Holy Messages. The Imams (a.s.), Imam Al-Mahdi's ancestors, went into the details of the Message, since they are considered, according to our beliefs, the Prophet (p.)’s successors. Therefore, when Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) was asked what would people do during his occultation, he answered: “As to the occurring incidents, refer to the narrators of our traditions; they are my conclusive arguments.”
As for details, the religious scholars, who narrated, taught, and explained everything sent by Allah, through His prophets and the Imams, are able, nowadays, to explain and give all answers to any legislative issue to all generations. Therefore, Imam Al-Mahdi has no need any more to go into details. His role is just to change the world into a better place for living, after it has been filled with tyranny and injustice.
As to why he has been invisible for such a long time and the secret behind his occultation, it is one of Allah's secrets, just as his reappearance is also considered one of Allah's secrets. In this respect, there are certain signs that do not give the specific date for his reappearance, but they might give some indications. People have become so preoccupied with these signs that they started to consider any event or any outbreak of a war as a sign of his reappearance. Indeed, it should be understood that his occultation is one of Allah's secrets and unknowns, and we, as human beings, do not possess the knowledge that could help us in unveiling this secret.
The role of Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) differs from that of all the other Imams. It also differs from the roles of the prophets. There is a repeated question in this sense: "How can he be invisible all this long time despite the fact that he is the Imam who acts as Allah's argument, which would also be non-existent during his occultation?" These questions are nothing but the outcome of our education, for we are taught that the role of the Imam must be a copy of that of his fathers and grandfathers. However, if we go back to the traditions that have reached us, we will find out that the case is different.
- Where is he during his absence?
Q: Is the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi restricted to the daily contact with people; meaning that he eats, drinks, and meets his deputies? Or is he away from the earthly world, staying nearer to the other world, the metaphysical world?
A: This should not be of a major concern to us. Why should we care that much about what he eats and drinks?! First of all, I have already said that his occultation is one of Allah’s secrets, and so is his reappearance. We built our belief on the traditions narrated from the Prophet (p.), who said: "He will be filling the earth with justice and fairness as it was filled with tyranny and injustice." Now we hear some satellite channels asking: "Is he married? Does he have children? Where does he live? What does he eat and drink?" What is the use of discussing such matters?! Such information are of no use to us; most importantly, we do not have to be aware of them. We are commissioned to believe in him, because our truthful Prophet (p.) told us about him. Above all, we are Muslims, and we are waiting for him for the sake of Islam and for spreading peace and justice. Meanwhile, we must work hard for establishing justice in our homes and countries, as well as in politics, economy, and on the social level. It is neither of our concern nor our duty to know how he looks or how he lives. Our religious duty is to believe in him and in everything about him, because all that was proven by indisputable arguments. What we should be truly concerned about is our religious duties.
- Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) and power
Q: It is believed that the reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi is based on authority and power, while the Prophet's call was not. Why is this difference?
A: There is a big difference between the mission of the Prophet (p.) who wanted to call and convey; a mission that could not have been accomplished except by gradual convincing for the sake of the intellectual and practical commitment to his Message, and the mission of Imam Al-Mahdi whose role, at the end of time, is to change the world. If the call is a part of his Message, then his main role is to fill the world with fairness and justice, after it had been filled with tyranny and injustice. It is a role that needs special conditions that differ from those of the Prophet. This does not prevent Imam Al-Mahdi from having his own way of calling to Allah; he has his own resources that he depends on to convince people with the Message, the idea, and the reality.
Q: In a previous lecture, you mentioned that the Message of religions was not associated with force and violence, but it depended on the means of persuasion, contrary to what is dominating in the world, nowadays. Actually, the language of violence and power is dominant. Is this considered a reason why Allah's rule on earth cannot be established unless Imam Al-Mahdi reappears?
A: We say that the Prophet's Message emerged from the innate faith of the human being, and not from the external surrounding conditions. But this does not mean that we must not rely on power and strength, keeping in mind that convincing people to embrace the Message should mainly rely on addressing the mind.
As to making change in the reality, it has its own conditions. If calling to Allah reaches a point that necessitates a change in the status quo, these conditions might need power or peace; it depends on the surrounding conditions.
Q: The twelvers (the Shiites who believe in the twelve Imams) believe that Imam Al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam, is still alive, and that he is an extension of the mission of Prophet Muhammad (p.). Why does not Imam Al-Mahdi interfere to amend the deviated Fatwas, Sunni or Shiite, since his Message is considered a universal one, and not restricted to a certain sect? Does not his non-interference violate his religious duty that is to enjoin good and forbid evil?
A: I have previously stated that the Imam's role is to change the world as a whole, at the end of time, while the role of the other eleven Imams was to call and to assert and correct the concepts. Those Imams left behind the foundations that we can rely on to amend what needs amendment. Therefore, there is no vacuum in this field; it is the people's duty to reconsider these rulings or concepts and foundations. If they do not, they are held responsible.
- The practical benefits of the Imam's occultation
Q: It is believed that the people can benefit from Imam Al-Mahdi during his occultation, like we benefit from the sun when it is covered with clouds. What is the practical benefit of the Imam's occultation?
A: These similes, such as the sun that is covered with clouds, are not clear. However, we say that there must be some wisdom behind this issue that only Allah knows what it is, but we believe in it, without seeing it, just as we believe in Allah without seeing Him. Our truthful Prophet (p.) told us about Imam Al-Mahdi just as he taught us about heaven and hell. Faith is an indivisible whole entity.
- The time of Imam Al-Mahdi's reappearance
Q: Some believe that our present time is the time of the reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi. Can we believe in this?
A: Allah says: "Surely they think it to be far off. And We see it nigh." (70:06-07).
As we have asserted many times, this is not our responsibility. The wisdom of Allah that is embodied in the occultation of the Imam will also be embodied in his reappearance. Our responsibility lies in how to prepare the circumstances for his reappearance. Do not we say: “Oh Allah! We ask You to provide us with an honorable state which dignifies Islam and its people and humiliates hypocrisy and its people, and make us among the callers for Your obedience?” How can this be achieved without exerting efforts to study, read, and educate ourselves? How can we become callers to Allah, without being fully equipped and qualified to call to Him? How can we wait for Imam Al-Mahdi, and we do not call on either our wives or children for Allah's obedience? How do we wait for him and we do not possess the necessary social, religious, and political education to call to Allah?
We also invoke Allah to make us “the leaders to Your course.” To make ourselves promising leaders, we have to develop the elements of leadership within ourselves, “and to provide us with Thy grace in this life and in the Afterlife.” Imam Al-Mahdi will reappear to fill the earth with justice and fairness, after it had been filled with tyranny and injustice. We must follow the right path, the path of justice, since Imam Al-Mahdi is going to reappear to establish universal justice. Who among us is thinking about justice in his home? Who is giving his wife her rights fairly? Or is the wife treating her husband fairly? Who is just with his children and his neighbors? Are we like those who repeat "long live justice", while the members of their house are the most miserable people? Are we treating each other with justice, so that we could be paving the way for Imam Al-Mahdi's reappearance along with the justice he will establish?
- The signs of reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi
Q: What are the signs of the reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi?
A: This is not our responsibility, because both his occultation and his reappearance are of Allah's secrets. This is Allah's will and our duty is to prepare some Islamic positions, and to prepare ourselves so that we can be among his soldiers and the leaders to his course. How many celebrations have we made so far, but have we prepared ourselves to become true leaders and true callers to Allah? Do we want Imam Al-Mahdi to reappear, while we are preoccupied with ourselves and not with him or Islam? I will tell you a story I have heard about: You know As-Sahlah Mosque that is located between Al-Kufa and An Najaf! It includes holy shrines for some prophets and for Imam Al-Mahdi. It is common among people - we do not know the source of these stories - that if people go to this Mosque for forty consecutive Wednesdays and read prayers and supplications, they can see Imam Al-Mahdi. Once, a man completed his supplications for forty consecutive Wednesdays, and eventually, he saw Imam Al-Mahdi who told him: “You have to leave your wife because she is your sister by breastfeeding; and you have to leave your house because its land is an endowment for the orphans; and you have to leave your money because it is illegal.” Then, the man left the place shouting: “There is a thief in the house, take him out!”
This might be the stance of many people when Imam Al-Mahdi reappears. When Imam Al-Hussein, Al-Mahdi's grandfather, revolted against injustice, he said: “People are certainly the slaves of this world. The religion is only a slaver on their tongues. They turn it wherever their livelihood demands. If they are examined by misfortunes, the religious will be very little.” Who knows when will Imam Al-Mahdi reappear?! We might be preoccupied with gossips and with mistreating each other, so we would be the supporters of his enemies, and not his own supporters, similar to those who were supporting Imam Al-Hussein in their hearts, while their swords were directed against him. May Allah save us.
- Supporting Imam Al-Mahdi
Q: How can one support Imam Al-Mahdi spiritually and physically?
A: There are two ways, direct and indirect. As to the direct way, it is achieved by following and supporting the religious path, which Imam Al-Mahdi has taken. He is the Imam of the Muslims, like his fathers, and he does not have any other special role in this respect. His role is to enable Islam to gain the upper hand and establish universal justice on the basis of Islam. If we want to support Imam Al-Mahdi, we must call for Islam. We must not be satisfied with supplications, such as reading Al-Nudbah, but rather we must educate ourselves and our people on Islam and face the challenges that are directed against Islam and the Muslims. We must face the tyrants and the arrogant powers who impose themselves on Muslims in economy, politics, and security.
As to the indirect way, it is done by preparing ourselves; each according to his religious responsibility. This does not mean that during his occultation, we are free from our responsibility and that we can sit, drink tea, or go to As-Sahlah Mosque for forty consecutive Wednesdays to make our wishes come true. Allah has made us all responsible of everything, and we have to carry out our responsibility fully, and only then we can wait for the reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi, as came in the following verse: “Those who deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and do not fear anyone but Allah; and Allah is sufficient to take account.” (33:39).