By the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
“Allah has promised to those of you who have faith and do righteous deeds that He will most certainly make them stewards of the earth as He made stewards those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has approved for them, and that He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange; they shall serve Me, not associating aught with Me; and whoever is ungrateful after this, these it is who are the transgressors” (Qur’an, 24:55).
The World is Crying
We live in a world today that is in a state of crisis, where our planet and humanity at large is confronted with immense and unprecedented social, political, economic, ecological, and spiritual challenges. It is a world in disequilibrium – a world out of balance. If justice means for a thing to be in its rightful place, then we can categorically state that the world is rife with injustices.
Injustices in the form of political persecution with people around the world struggling to find a sense of security, some displaced and others having no place to run. Injustices in the form of economic inequality with the world’s wealth being hoarded by the few and poverty is an affliction of the many. Injustices in the form of the pillaging of nature resulting in deforestation, the extinction of species, sullied waters, and suffocating air. Injustices in the form of the campaign of desacralization and the promotion of moral decadence that is encroaching on the rich heritage of a world that have been informed by decency and meaningful traditions. All kinds of injustices.
This is the state of the world in which we live in and people are crying for reprieve. Some people are crying for a sense of safety and security in their lives. Some people are crying for a morsel to eat. Some people are crying at the scarring of the pristine beauty of the environment. Some people are crying over the loss of noble virtues.
The Universal Hope
Inherent in every tear drop is hope for a response. Why else would someone cry? Why are tears the last recourse of hope in desperation? When there is someone there to listen, we understand this as to be a plea for help. But what if there is no one at all that will listen, as is often the case with the destitute, downtrodden and oppressed? Why cry?
They cry because they are never alone and in every human being there resides the innate knowledge of an eye that never sleeps and an ear that never ceases to hear. Do we not read in Dua Kumail, a prayer of a leader of humanity and one who perfectly understands the human condition, Ali ibn Abi Talib (a):
ya man ismuhu dawaa’
O He whose Name is a remedy
wa dhikruhu shifaa’
And whose remembrance is a cure
wa ta’atuhu ghinan
And whose obedience is wealth!
irham mar ra’su maalihi al-rajaa’
Have mercy upon him whose capital is hope
wa silaahuhu al-bukaa’
And whose weapon is tears
How profound! So how can the promise of global hope and deliverance through a saviour not be? It is a divine axiom, which has been ever present throughout human history.
If you turn to the Old Testament, the Tawrat, or the Bible of the Jews, you will find the promise of hope:
“Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and he will be a source of blessings for all the nations of the earth. And I have picked him out to have godly descendants and a godly household, men who are just and good, so that I can do for him all I have promised” (Genesis 18:18-19).
Who are these godly descendents? “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:20).
If you turn to the New Testament, the Injil, or the Bible of the Christians you will find the promise of hope:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Also, “For the coming of the Son of Man (messiah) will be just like the days of Noah…and they did not understand until the flood came and took them away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be…For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will” (Matthew 24:37,39, 44).
Herein lies an interesting parable between the coming of God’s anointed saviour in days which will be much like the flood of Noah and the statement of Prophet Muhammad (s) in both Shi’i and Sunni sources: “Surely the likeness of me and my Ahl al-Bayt (household) is similar to Noah’s Ark, whoever boards it is safe, and whoever remains behind is drowned.”
If you turn to the Psalms of David, the Zabur, you will find the promise of hope:
“For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His godly ones; They are preserved forever; But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. The righteous will inherit the land, and dwell in it forever” (37:28-29).
This promise of hope can also be found in non-Abrahamic religious traditions whose prophets and messengers have not been named to us. Hence, you find that throughout the history of humankind there is this conditioning of awaiting a promised hope.
Now in Islam, we also share the concept of the promised hope with the other Abrahamic traditions:
“And We desired to bestow Our favour upon those who were weak in the land, and make them Imams and make them heirs” (Qur’an, 28:5).
“And indeed We did write in the Psalms, after the Torah: ‘Indeed My righteous servants shall inherit the earth.’ There is indeed in this a proclamation for a devout people” (Qur’an, 21:105).
Furthermore, in Islam this hope crystallizes and takes on a form in the person of the Mahdi. The Hadith literature from both Shi’i and Sunni sources are replete with references to him. One shall suffice from the Sahih of Abu Dawud (v.5): “Ali b. Abi Talib (a) has narrated from the Prophet (s), who said: “Even if there remains only a day on earth, God will bring forth a man from my household (Ahl al-Bayt) so that he will fill the earth with justice and equity as it is filled with tyranny.”
Thus, through a brief survey of the revealed books, we find that the concept of the promised hope and a deliverer is a universal one. Hence, it behoves us to emerge from the confines of an exclusivist outlook wherein we see ourselves as having a monopoly over these great personalities, as if they exist for our own validation. They do not belong to us. We belong to them. They belong to the universe. “And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but as a mercy to the worlds” (Qur’an, 21:107).
Imam al-Mahdi (atf), the promised hope, is not the Imam of the Shi’a only, or of Muslims only, but he is the Imam of the oppressed. He is the Imam of humanity and its hope. The objective of the Imam is the same as the objective of all of God’s prophets. Justice, for instance, is an objective of all Divine religions. The Qur’an affirms this, “Certainly We sent our apostles with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Scripture and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice” (Qur’an, 57:25).
The role of Imam al-Mahdi (atf), as is the role of all the members of the godly household (Ahl al-Bayt), is of reform and revival of the tenants of the universal message and guiding humanity towards their potential.
Awaiting the Promised Hope
Intidhar, or awaiting of that promised hope, could likewise also be considered from a universal perspective by realizing that the world is awaiting for reprieve and deliverance. That realization would allow us to prepare not only individually, or communally as Muslims, but also as conscientious human beings. This stems from a concern over the plight of the world and seeking to work with others towards their amelioration. It requires us to emerge from our insular cocoons and to communicate and engage others on the basis of universal principles that are rooted in God’s singular message. This is of course with the proviso that we maintain spiritual and moral excellence while also attaining expertise and strength in all fields. It is not sufficient to be able to offer ideas and solutions to the crises plaguing the world, rather we need to lead by example through the implementation of our universal ideals.
However, unfortunately many of us are preoccupied over the details of what the Imam will look like or what the signs of his appearance will be, and as we trade theories in this regards we completely ignore his goal and his purpose and thus fail to aid his objectives. The objectives of the Imam (atf) has been sufficiently presented in the hadith literature, and can be summarized into two words that constantly recur: justice and equity. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a) has said: “When the Qa’im of the Ahlul Bayt makes his advent, he will divide with equity and will show justice among the people.”
The Godly Household: A School of Stewardship, Responsibility and Action
The world is caught in a storm, is sinking, and sending out an SOS. We can’t afford to continue to stand idly by, bicker with one another, or worse, dig more holes into its hull. We live in a time when the call of responsibility is asking for all hands on deck. The call of responsibility that we have been destined for, but also the responsibility to which we will be held to account. Allah (swt) says, “It is He who has made you the stewards of the earth, and raised some of you in rank above others so that He may test you in respect to what He has given you” (Qur’an, 6:165).
The school of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) – the godly household – is not only a school of faith and a school of thought, but it is also a school of stewardship, responsibility, and action.
When it comes to the godly household (a), it is a great tragedy that their followers have often confined them to miracles and tragedies while failing to absorb the rich lessons of their lives in the way they conduct theirs. Also tragic is the failure to share their universal message with others – the message of Adam (a) to Khatam (s) (Muhammad, the final prophet and messenger) and all God’s prophets in between – Abraham (a), Moses (a), Jesus (a), and all the prophets whose names we know and whose names we don’t.
To be with the Ahl al-Bayt (a) is not simply a matter of commemorating their history but that of moving with them in reality. To love them is to follow and emulate them. Loving them is motion, not just emotion. “Say (O Muhammad), ‘If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will love you” (Aal-e-Imran, 3:31).
In the du’a of Iftitah taught to us by none other than the promised hope, Imam al-Mahdi (atf), we ask Allah (swt) to, “make me amongst those through whom you establish your religion, not substituting any in my place.”
Muhammad Habash is the founder of Thaqalayn Muslim Association (TMA) and currently serves as the chair of the Thaqalayn Foundation. He completed his Masters degree in Information Studies at University of Toronto and currently works as a Project Manager.