What are the incorrect interpretations of waiting for the deliverance? (question)

From Imamatpedia

Even if the aforementioned narrated traditions be deemed valid and admissible, their contents do not conflict with nor contradict the actions of any person who awaits Imam Mahdi (a) and engages in reformative movements within society while struggling to prepare the grounds for Imam Mahdi's re-emergence from occultation. Indeed, during the era of occultation, only uprisings that deceitfully and maliciously claim to be the uprising of Imam Mahdi (a) are condemned as being illegitimate and doomed to failure. As such, this proscription only applies to charlatans who pretend to be Imam Mahdi (a) and launch a movement based upon this false proclamation. Additionally, there exist numerous other narrated traditions that explicitly invite people who await Imam Mahdi (a) to prepare the grounds for Imam Mahdi's return.

Introduction

Throughout history, there have been many incorrect interpretations regarding the meaning and idea of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a). These erroneous interpretations have led to the emergence of various divergent corruptions in relation to the meaning of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a). It can be said that all such wrong interpretations effectively benefited the malicious enemies of Islam in advancing their vile designs and purposes, even though some of these misunderstandings may have been products of mere ignorance and a lack of knowledge. By utilizing and encouraging such misinterpretations, the enemies of Islam have tried to convince the masses that it is prohibited and sinful to establish a religious government during the era of the occultation of the Immaculate Imam (a). The true objective behind this propaganda is to allow these despicable individuals to usurp and illegitimately transgress upon the wealth and lives of common Muslims[1].

The Roots of Divergent Interpretations about Awaiting Imam Mahdi (a)

Flawed comprehension and lack of proper understanding amongst certain people who sought to study narrated traditions is the primary and root cause of incorrect and negative interpretations about awaiting Imam Mahdi (a). There exist some narrated traditions that apparently prohibit any sort of uprising during the era of occultation, deeming all such movements to be illegitimate, while other traditions state that it is futile to strive towards preparing the grounds for Imam Mahdi's reappearance. One such narrated tradition quotes Imam Ali b. al-Husayn al-Sajjad (a) as having said : "By God! Not a single one from amongst us will rise up before the uprising of the Qa'im (a) except that (such a revolt) will be comparable to a nestling trying to fly before having any wings to do so, which (in turn) will lead in it being captured by children who will make it their plaything." Similarly, Imam al-Sadiq (a) is reported to have said : "The leader of every standard that is raised up before the uprising of the Qa'im (a) is a false pretender." The aforementioned group of people believe that these narrated traditions forbid everyone from partaking in any arming struggle or uprising against illegitimate rulers before the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a)[2] . Therefore, according to the interpretation of this particular group, anyone who raises the banner of revolt and invites people to join his movement before the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a) is, in fact, a fraudulent pretender.

The Different Types of Incorrect Interpretations about Awaiting Imam Mahdi (a)

In general, all the Incorrect interpretations about awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) are founded upon the beliefs held by people who follow the sect of social avoidance[3]. In reality, some people believe that awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) means "social avoidance" i.e. steering clear of all socio-political activities. They argue that the very essence of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) invites a human being to become a social recluse, stopping him from engaging in any kind of activities. However, if awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) truly meant that people must practice "social avoidance" and reclusion, then such a doctrine would eventually lead to stagnancy and quiescence at an individual level while effectively eliminating and extinguishing all anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist movements at a social scale.

The followers of this point of view believe that humans as well natural elements play no real role within the context in question. For this very reason, they do not consider the Shi'a to be responsible for preparing the grounds or readying the preconditions for Imam Mahdi's reappearance. Individuals who harbor such views hold that Imam Mahdi's re-emergence from occultation depends entirely upon divine will and, as such, struggling against tyrannical rulers is totally useless and futile. Likewise, they propose that all reforms and corrective measures must be put into abeyance until Imam Mahdi's return and, therefore, these people not only stay away from any attempt at establishing a government but also consider such actions to be an impediment to Imam Mahdi's reappearance. Consequently, they declare all such actions to be invalid and forbidden.

The misguided proponents of this ideology have presented it in various different ways. These are as follows:

1. Some believe that awaiting the deliverance simply means to pray for Imam Mahdi's reappearance. This group states that enjoining good and forbidding evil is an obligation that applies only to a few specific instances.

2. Another group says that awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) means to refrain from taking any practical action vis-à-vis the events that happen within our environment. The difference between this group and the denomination mentioned earlier is that the latter at least acknowledged the need to enjoin good and forbid evil in certain limited cases and circumstances whereas this particular group prohibits any and all practical involvement no matter what the situation may be.

3. Yet another sub-sect believes that the world must become saturated with sin and transgression in order for Imam Mahdi (a) to reappearance. Therefore, one must never engage in enjoining good and forbidding evil even if a certain situation demanded us to act in accordance to this religious obligation. In other words, a believer must refrain from any and all positive activities (even prayer and supplication) and must not engage in any practical action, struggle or reformative measure. As such, one must do nothing but wait for the Imam of the Age (a) to return so that he may correct the circumstances that prevail and remove the corruptions that exist in our world. These ideas resemble the irrationality of a person who does not light a lamp in the pitch darkness of night just because the sun is destined to rise up in the morning and illuminate the entire world.

4. Another faction maintains beliefs that go beyond those of the three groups listed above. These individuals believe that they must commit sins while also inviting other people towards acts of transgression and tyranny so that the world may become full of oppression and injustice. The constituents of this group include ignorant simpletons as well as deviant and conspiratorial elements pursuing malicious goals. This group bases its twisted ideology upon a narrated tradition that links Imam Mahdi's reappearance to the abundance of tyranny in the world. They also cites a narrated tradition from Imam Ali (a) wherein he is reported to have said : "The eleventh from amongst my descendants will be the Mahdi. He will be the one who shall fill the Earth with justice and fairness just as it would have become saturated with tyranny and oppression (before him)"[4].

5. Some individuals believe that, according to their understanding of the apparent meanings of certain narrated traditions, all uprisings that occur prior to the uprising of Imam Mahdi (a) are illegitimate and censurable.

The key factor that is common amongst all the aforementioned interpretations is that the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a) will occur at a time when the world would have become permeated with tyranny and injustice and, therefore, our duty is to refrain from taking any corrective action towards the existence and spread of oppression and corruption within our society. In reality, these people mistakenly believe that being silent and apathetic in the face of injustices, prejudicial discriminations and other social problems will help to prepare the grounds for Imam Mahdi's reappearance]] and this will expedite Imam Mahdi's return. Likewise, any person who rises up during the era of occultation, claiming that he wishes to eliminate the system of tyranny and oppression, must be deemed a deceiver, while his uprising must be considered prohibited and his banner be declared illegitimate. Furthermore, any such uprising is doomed to failure and defeat.

The following points can be mentioned in response to these deviant and corrupt opinions:

1. Some of these narrated traditions speak of a world full of tyranny. However, they do not speak of a world full of tyrants and transgressors. Therefore, these traditions do not mean that preparing the grounds for Imam Mahdi's reappearance requires people to help in the spread and dissemination of tyranny. Based upon the verses of the Qur'an, there will exist pious and worthy people at the time of Imam Mahdi's reappearance who will inherit the government of the world in Imam Mahdi's leadership[5]. If a world full of corruption and oppression meant a world full of tyrants and transgressors, then there would be no possibility of the presence of pious and worthy individuals at the time of Imam Mahdi's return and this would obviously be an explicit contradiction of Quranic verses.

2. The contents of the narrated traditions in question are indicative of the ground reality prevailing during the time of Imam Mahdi's reappearance and are not in any way related to the prerequisites of Imam Mahdi's return. These narrated traditions do not state that the existence of sins and corruption form a prerequisite to Imam Mahdi's reappearance. They simply aim to inform us that during the age of occultation, all the people of the world will become victims of tyranny and injustice.

3. These narrated traditions are deficient in terms of the credibility of their chains of transmission. Within the terminology used by the experts of narrated traditions, some of these reports are labelled as Mursal, meaning that key links are missing from their chains of transmission. As such, it is not clear who exactly transmitted what to whom. Likewise, some of these narrated traditions have a person named Abu Jarud within their chains of transmission. Abu Jarud belonged to the Zaydi school of thought and was the founder of the Jarudiyah Sect. As such, classical books of the science of "Rijal" consider him to be a weak narrator. In any case, both categories of these traditions are inadmissible and must be set aside.

4. Even if the validity of these narrated traditions were acceptable, their contents would only stand to mean that any revolutionary falsely claiming to be the Mahdi would be doomed to certain defeat. As such, these narrated traditions are only speaking about fraudulent pretenders who proclaim themselves to be the promised Mahdi.

5. The execution of many Islamic laws, such as the implementation of Qisas as well as other Quranic punishments, the performance of jihad or holy war against the enemies of Islam and a comprehensive struggle against corruption, cannot take place without the establishment of an Islamic government. Therefore, striving to establish an Islamic system is indeed a desirable and acceptable act. In this context, we must realize that when certain narrated traditions prohibit uprisings, they are either talking about illegitimate revolutions that have nothing to do with godly motivations, or revolutions that happen without taking into consideration the adequate availability of necessary preconditions, or movements that deceptively claim to be the uprising of Imam Mahdi. Consequently, revolutions and movements that genuinely seek true social reform are not to be considered invalid or illicit in nature.

6. The aforementioned erroneous interpretation of certain narrated traditions totally contradicts certain other narrated traditions that openly speak about the role that people must play in preparing the preconditions for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a). In one such narration, the Prophet (s) is reported to have said : "People will rise up from the east to prepare the grounds for the Mahdi and his rulership"[6].Therefore, it is not possible to forbid a person who awaits Imam Mahdi (a) from engaging in reformative social measures, nor can his efforts in preparing the grounds for Imam Mahdi's reappearance be deemed fruitless.

7. Such a negative viewpoint regarding the doctrine of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) effectively leads to the annulment of all political laws and directives within Islam such as the enjoinment of virtue and the prohibition vice, jihad or holy war, the obligation to support the oppressed and the downtrodden etc. This abrogation stands in stark contradiction to explicit Quranic verses and narrated traditions.

References

  1. See: Misbahi, Zahra, Imam-e Zaman, pp. 19-23; Sahifa-ye Imam, vol. 21, p. 13.
  2. Nu'mani, Al-Ghayba, p. 114.
  3. See: Danish, Isma'il, Naqsh-e Amuzi-ye Intizar dar Paydari-ye Junbishha-ye Islami, p. ?.
  4. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1,p. 338.
  5. Qur'an 21: 105.
  6. Sharh al-Akhbar, vol. 3,p. 563; Kashf al-Ghumma, vol. 2, p. 477.