What is the main philosophy of Imam Mahdi’s occultation?

Topics
Sign in English Us
What is the main philosophy of Imam Mahdi’s occultation?
4706 0 share 0

One of the most important Shiite principles is the belief in the occultation of Imam Mahdi which took place following the martyrdom of his father, Imam Hasan Askari (A), the eleventh infallible Imam of Imamiyah Shiites. According to Shiite teachings, Imam Mahdi (A) is from the descendants of Prophet Mohammad (S) who was born and is alive but he lives hidden from the eyes of people. This belief is such an essential religious belief that if a person casts doubt on it he will not be considered as a Shiite. But some Sunni scholars have challenged this Shiite doctrine in their works causing many Shiite scholars to respond decisively and comprehensively to their spurious arguments throughout the Islamic history.

Ibn Taymiyya and Sa'ad al-Din Taftazani are the two Sunni scholars who criticized some of the Shiite beliefs including the occultation of the twelfth Imam (A). They are of the view that since Mahdi is absent and not available it is impossible to benefit from him. [1] But to answer them it should be noted that first of all the Holy Prophet himself appointed Imam Mahdi (A) as the twelfth Shiite Imam and He himself said that Mahdi will disappear for a long period. Secondly, since Imamate is a divine position and Almighty Allah (J) appoints Imams and the successors of the Holy Prophet so the twelfth Imam has also been appointed by God and this Imam has gone into occultation according to Allah’s will. If his Imamate had been of no use, due to the occultation, then it would have been unreasonable for God to choose him as an absent Imam, whereas God would never do such a thing.

Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari one of the companions of the Holy prophet quoted the Holy Prophet (A) saying that when the verse 59 of chapter 4 was revealed, I asked the Prophet (S), O Messenger of Allah! We know Allah and His Messenger but we do not know 'those in authority' whose obedience is equal to your obedience. Who are they?

The Holy Prophet (S) said:

O Jabir, they are my successors and leaders of Muslims after me. The first of them is 'Ali ibn Abi-Talib, then Hasan and Husayn, … and finally one who has my name and will be Allah’s authority (hujjatallah) on the earth, the son of Hasan, the same Imam whom Allah has appointed to conquer the east and west, the same Imam will be hidden from the eyes of the Shiites and his friends. At that time, no one will be firm in his belief in his Imamate unless those whom Allah has purified their hearts for faith. Jabir says: O Messenger of Allah! Can his Shias benefit from him during his occultation? The Prophet said: Yes. By Allah who appointed me as a Messenger they will benefit from the rays of the light of his imamate during his occultation. [He will be useful during his occultation] just as the sun hidden behind the clouds is useful for people. [2]

O Jabir, they are my successors and leaders of Muslims after me. The first of them is 'Ali ibn Abi-Talib, then Hasan and Husayn, … and finally one who has my name and will be Allah’s authority (hujjatallah) on the earth, the son of Hasan, the same Imam whom Allah has appointed to conquer the east and west, the same Imam will be hidden from the eyes of the Shiites and his friends. At that time, no one will be firm in his belief in his Imamate unless those whom Allah has purified their hearts for faith. Jabirs says: O Messenger of Allah! Can his Shias benefit from him during his occultation? The Prophet said: Yes. By Allah who appointed me as a Messenger they will benefit from the rays of the light of his imamate during his occultation. [He will be useful during his occultation] just as the sun hidden behind the clouds is useful for people. [2]

In another tradition, Imam Sadiq (A) narrates from his forefathers from the Holy Prophet (S) who says:

His occultation will last as long as people will become perplexed and as a result abandon their religion. It is under such circumstances that he will appear just like a meteor, eliminating all the darkness at once. [3]

Why is  the Twelfth Imam absent?

But a question may arise here as to why the twelfth Imam is absent and what is the main reason behind his occultation? In a narration from the Holy Prophet (S) its reason is stated saying that:

“He will go into hiding in order to distinguish those who are misguided (from others). (His occultation will last so long that) ignorant people will say that there is no need for Prophet's household.” [4]

In the aforementioned traditions from the Holy prophet it is said that Imam Mahdi’s absence is a kind of criterion for measuring how Muslims follow the Imam of the time, and for assessing their faith. So it shows that Imam Mahdi’s occultation is a kind of divine grace according to which a real Muslim can measure his or her belief and faith considering the knowledge of the twelfth Imam. 

In the aforementioned traditions from the Holy prophet it is said that Imam Mahdi’s absence is a kind of criterion for measuring how Muslims follow the Imam of the time, and for assessing their faith. So it shows that Imam Mahdi’s occultation is a kind of divine grace according to which a real Muslim can measure his or her belief and faith considering the knowledge of the twelfth Imam. There are many successively reported Shia and Sunni traditions that state that it is necessary to know the imam of the time, and that:

“He who dies without knowing the imam of his time dies the death of ignorance” [5]

Finally, it should be mentioned that there are many Shia scholars and even reliable Shia laymen who have met the Imam of the Time. Through these meetings Muslim scholars have solved their problems and got the proper answers to their questions from the Holy Imam Mahdi (A), their stories are related by reliable people and are recorded in relevant books. Another point that must be noted here is this that many prophets were martyred during the very first days of carrying out their mission. Others were sent into exile. Can we say that sending such prophets was useless? [6] Sometimes the martyrdom of a prophet or Imam is not because of Allah or his own observations, but because of the obstacles created by people. As soon as these obstacles are removed, he will appear, establishing a divine government and filling the world with justice and equity.

 It should be mentioned that there are many Shia scholars and even reliable Shia laymen who have met the Imam of the Time. Through these meetings Muslim scholars have solved their problems and got the proper answers to their questions from the Holy Imam Mahdi (A), their stories are related by reliable people and are recorded in relevant books.

Conclusively, the absence of the Holy Imam Mahdi (A) is a divine issue as is the Imamate itself which is a divine position. That’s why no one can say that this occultation is of no use, and an absent Imam is of no benefit to his followers. Because as it was explained through different traditions from the Holy Prophet (S), Imam Mahdi and His occultation is a divine grace.

[1] Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Milani, The Promised Savior, An inquiry into the imamate of Imam Mahdi (as) from the viewpoint of Muslim thinkers, Translated by: Dr. Sayyid Abur Rauf Afzali, Islamic Truths Center, p 61.
[2] Sheikh Saduq, Kamal al-Din waTamam al-Ni'ama, Tehran, MaktabaSaduq, 1390 AH, vol. 1, p. 253.
[3] Sheikh Saduq, Kamal al-Din waTamam al-Ni'ama, Tehran, MaktabaSaduq, 1390 AH, vol. 1, p. 287.
[4] Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Ja'afar Nu'amani, al-Ghayba, Qom, Manshrat Anwar al-Huda, 1422 AH, p. 140.
[5] Saad al-Din al-Taftazani, sharh-aqaid-an-nasafi, 232.
[6] Ayatollah Sayyid Ali HusainiMilani, The Promised Savior, An inquiry into the imamate of Imam Mahdi (as) from the viewpoint of Muslim thinkers, Translated by: Dr. SayyidAburRaufAfzali, Islamic Truths Center, p 67.

COMMENTS
Leave a Reply

Daily Hadith
الإخْوانُ في اللّهِ تعالى تَدُومُ مَودّتُهُم، لِدَوامِ سَبَبِها.
Brothers [whose brotherhood is] for the sake of Allah, enjoy an enduring Amity, due to the firmness of its foundation