Summer holidays have arrived with the service of the sun by its side, finally exposing its fiery light on the soft blue skies. What better way to enjoy the summer than to go outside and relax with some of you having the luxury of 4 months to spare, while others 2 months. Certainly, there are easy ways to stay productive during this time, perhaps by fulfilling missed prayers and fasts or reading a list of unread books or applying for jobs or exercising; and some not so productive, like taking up the role of the couch potato every now and then.
But to make your summer really worth while, why not make a spiritually enlightening goal; be closer, in mind and spirit, with the Imam (as) of our time. The awareness of a saviour has become more widespread in the last century. Christians anticipate the arrival of their Messiah, while we simply wait for the inauguration of Imam Mahdi (as). He is our saviour, he is the living Imam of our time and he is the one that will rid this world of its injustices. According to Henry Corbin, a late student of Allamah Sayyid Mohammed Husain Taba’taba’i “the Shi’ite is the only sect that has preserved and perpetuated the link of Divine Guidance between man and God through its belief in the Imamate.”
A great way to begin your quest is to grab a copy of “The Last Luminary” written by Sayyid Ridha Hussayni Mutlaq. This book covers 99 responsibilities a believer is recommended to adopt towards the Imam (as). To seek nearness to him, begin by reminding yourself that the Imam (as) is indeed alive. Here are some tips (paired with responsibilities) to start you off on your spiritual journey!
Stay in touch!
We are not as lucky as the previous followers of the Masumeem, those who had the privilege to actually see the Imam of their time. If we knew where the Imam (as) was right now, we would be at his doorstep everyday to say our salam. However, with our Imam (as) in ghaibat, the least we can do is recite his ziyarat. What better time to say salam to Imam than sunrise? At sunrise, a blissful time, before the day has begun, free from any thoughts to cloud your mind. Try to make a habit of saying salam to Imam (as) after every fajr salaat, recite the ziyarat
as if the Imam is right in front of you and surely he will reply back. Don’t forget to also pray for his safety. Dua-e-Faraj is great for this.
Ma’rifah (profound knowledge and understanding)
Having ma’rifat of the Imam (as) is among the most important responsibilities and one of the first outlined in the book. In fact, Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (as) has said “One who dies while he does not have ma-rifah of the Imam of his time, dies the death of Jahilliyah (the period of ignorance before the time of the Prophet).”1 It makes sense why this is a very big responsibility as without ma’rifah of the Imam (as), how would you be able to recognize him? “A beautiful mark on his right shoulder blade, a very handsome face with a nose that is slightly protruded and is of average height,”2 are some of his physical characteristics shared by the author to help us identify him.
Think of meeting the Imam (as) as if you are preparing for an interview in which he is the employer. Before the interview begins it is vital that you know everything about the employer, the job position etc. In this case, the position you have applied for is being the servant of our Imam (as). To prove that you can be a valuable asset to him, you must know him, by his qualities, his attributes, his various titles, know his mother and father and so on.
Observe proper manners
There is a reason why people put their hand on their head during ziyarat when the name of Imam Mahdi (as) is mentioned. In fact, even the Imams that came before Sahib-uz-Zaman (as) would do this action. “Once, a companion named Di’bil… recited a poem which he had composed in which he mentioned Imam al-Hujjah (as) to the 8th Imam, Ali b. Musa al-Rida (as). When he mentioned the 12th Imam, Imam al-Rida (as) stood up and placed his right hand on his head as a form of respect to the final Imam and prayed for his speedy arrival!”3 We should mimic the actions of our 8th Imam to signify our “readiness to rise to help and assist the Imam”.2
If we really believe in the reappearance of our Imam (as), we must act like it can happen at any moment! For the more daring soul, they can practice the 23rd responsibility mentioned in this book, that is: being ready and equipped to assist the Imam (as)! Imam Jafar as-Sadiq has said “Each one of you must prepare for the advent of al-Qaim (peace be upon him) even if it be (by as much as) an arrow because when Allah, the High, knows that a person has this intention, then He will grant such a person a longer life.”4 But keeping a weapon or two at home isn’t enough. It would be ideal if you are physically fit, since you can’t be much help to the Imam (as) if you’re obese, weak or frail. Learn a sport or two, swimming and archery are among the recommended ones in Islam.
Take a good look in the mirror. From bottom to top, because this is the same person the Imam (as) will see when he reappears! Another responsibility listed in the book is to acquire the noble ethical traits (Makarimul Akhlaq). Tackle one noble trait at a time and change your style. Begin with truthfulness. A saying of Imam Ali (as) goes, “the tongue stings if not carefully controlled.”5 And here’s some advice from Imam Jafar as-Sadiq on what the best actions are for a Shi’a during the period of ghaibat: “Give back the trust that someone has given y9ou to keep – whether he be a good person or an open sinner, because certainly the Messenger of Allah (blessing of Allah be upon him and his family) used to command the return of the trust even if it be (something as small as) a thread and needle.”6
Here are some more great pracitical responsibilities discussed in the book:
- Fulfilling the Financial Rights of the Imam
- Taking Part in Religious Gatherings
- Giving Imam Priority in our Lives
- Not to Specify a Time for the Advent
- Remaining Unknown and Anonymous
- Imitating those Spiritually Close to Allah
- Knowing the Scholars of Faith
- Grief and Sorrow Due to Separation
- Giving Gifts and Presents to the Shi’a
This article has provided a lot of initiatives you can take this summer to achieve closeness to the Imam of our time. Now its up to you to step it up and implement these measures and make them into a practice that are not just confined to the Summer, but throughout your life.
- Biharul Anwar, vol 53, pg 175, sec 31, no. 7; al-Ihtijaj, pg498
- Sayyid Ridha Hussayni Mutlaq, The Last Luminary (Kitchener: Islamic Humanitarian Service, 2008) 4,105.
- Spiritual Relation with the Noble Personality of the Mahdi, pg. 240; Muntakhab al- Athar, pg. 506; al-Zaimun Nasib, vol. 1, pg. 371
- Al-Ghaybah of al-Nu’mani, pg. 320 sec. “That which as been mentioned about the Shi’a.
- Hasan ul-Amine, Shorter Shi’ite Encylopedia (Iran: Ansariyan Publications, 1997) 14.
- al-Kafi, vol. 2, pg. 636, no. 5; Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, vol. 12, pg. 6, sec.1, no. 10496