Translated by: Manal Samhat
When considering the advantages and benefits of having an absent Imam, two points must be taken into consideration:
First: We must consider the case of the Imamate which lives with the people and is directly connected with their lives, for an Imam is charged with propagating the Message of the Prophet of Allah (p.) and providing the people with all the knowledge they needed regarding the Islamic law and doctrine; a mission undertaken by all the Imams starting by Imam Ali (a.s.) and ending by Imam Al-Askari (a.s.). They have nourished the people with all fields of knowledge that they did not need to resort to anyone else. It has been related that during the minor occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi (aj.), the Shiites used to communicate with the Imam via letters sent by his four deputies. As for the major occultation, when people resorted to him in problems that could not be easily resolved, he told them: “As to the occurring events, refer to the narrators of our Hadiths, they are my argument against you, and I am the argument of Allah.”
Reports related by narrators, including Hadiths by the Prophet (p.) and the Imams (a.s.), have covered all subjects that people encountered in their daily lives and with regard to religion. Actually, all topics were attended to, leaving no gaps behind. It has been narrated that: “Scholars are the heirs of the prophets,” since the latter have left behind a heritage of knowledge rather than materialistic possession. It is narrated that the Prophet (p.) said: “Scholars are the ones entrusted by the prophets until they indulge in the worldly pleasures.” The Prophet (p.) was then asked: “What are worldly pleasures?” He answered: “Following an unjust ruler to attain money. Such scholars who support an unjust ruler would wage war one day and call for peace in another, according to their own benefits; thus, you should protect your religion against them.” Accordingly, we must get to know whether a scholar has more love and loyalty to Allah or he indulges in this world.
The second stage was as follows: All the Imams dedicated their time to enlighten the people and provide them with all the information they needed about the message.
However, Imam Al-Mahdi (aj.) is assigned with a different mission; that is, to rule the world on the basis of justice and uprightness and to propagate the Message of Islam all around the world. In addition, certain Hadiths mention how Jesus Christ (p.) will reappear with Imam Al-Mahdi (aj.), pledge alliance to him and open up to Islam. Prophet Muhammad (p.) was able to deliver the Message of Islam in a certain region, and [the Message kept on propagating until] eventually the Muslims, around the world, reached around a billion and several millions. However, after the reappearance of the Imam (aj), Islam will end up in reining the world.
Establishing justice: The Message’s objective
The second point to consider is establishing justice on Earth, which is the objective of the Imam’s message: “And when you speak, then be just though it be your relative,” (06:152), “O you who believe! Be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness of Allah’s sake, thought it may be against yourselves or your parents to near relatives, if he be rich or poor.” (04:135). Since the Imam’s (aj.) objective is to rule justly, then his followers must adhere to the same concept. Those who wish to be among the Imam’s soldiers must never treat their wives, children, neighbors, and employees unjustly, since the followers of the Imam are warriors for the sake of justice and righteousness.
While we are awaiting the reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi (aj.), we must prepare ourselves to be qualified adherers, followers, and supporters. We must note that being unjust sets us further away from the path of righteousness.
Supporting the downtrodden
During the absence of Imam Al-Mahdi (aj.), we must stand up for those being tyrannized and oppressed, and those whose rights are being seized away. It does not matter whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. It goes without saying that we must stand up against atheism; however, if atheists were being oppressed, then it is our mission to restore their rights back. Some Hadiths mentioned by the Household Members (a.s.) relate that: “Allah, the Most Exalted, enjoined one of His prophets living in a country under the rule of a tyrant: ‘go to this tyrant and tell him that I did not make use of you to shed the blood of the people and gather wealth, but rather to soothe the cries of the wronged, because you should not neglect their plight even if they were disbelievers.’” Allah does not want to wrong the unbelievers, just as he does not want us to wrong the Muslims. He wants us to give every human his rights, whether close or not, and whether weak or strong, and this is the true meaning of justice.
In conclusion, it is our mission to stand up for the oppressed against the oppressor, be he a Muslim or a non-Muslim. To oppress is to exercise an authority in an unjust manner, which is definitely rejected by Allah: “That future abode, We assign it to those who have no desire to exalt themselves in the earth nor to make mischief and the good end is for those who guard against evil.” (12:83).