What is the meaning of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a)? (question)

From Imamatpedia

The Concept of Awaiting Imam Mahdi (a)

Intiẓār is an Arabic term derived from the morphological root "Na-ẓa-ra". Within the Arabic lexicon, this word signifies "awaiting or anticipation"[1]. From the point of view of Mahdism, the term in question means waiting for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a) and preparing oneself for aiding him in the establishment of a global government of universal justice and fairness. Some scholars have interpreted the essential nature of this concept in these words: "It is a spiritual and emotional state that causes human beings to prepare themselves for that which they await. The opposite of this state is hopelessness and despondency. The more a person experiences this state and the more intense it becomes, the greater is the magnitude of activity and vitality within him, leading to a higher degree of readiness"[2]. Furthermore, "awaiting" is an internal and intuitive state much like happiness, pain or thirst and, as such, it cannot be fully explained or described. In reality, the true meaning and complete significance of "awaiting" is lucidly clear only to a person who is actively experiencing this unique state of the soul and mind. However, for those who have never personally sensed such a thing, it is impossible to adequately describe or explain its factual nature. All that one can do is to draw parallels with other commonly experienced states like the feeling that come into being when a beloved friend or family member goes on a trip and one does not know when or how he or she will return[3].

Special and General Awaiting

Within the Islamic interpretation of the idea of awaiting there exist two categories: special and general awaiting. The general meaning entails waiting for any form of respite and deliverance, whereas the special meaning specifically signifies waiting for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a) or preparing the grounds for Imam Mahdi's return. Keeping the above in mind, one may conclude that the concept of awaiting the deliverance is, in fact, a very broad and inclusive idea. As such, awaiting the promised Mahdi (a), who will establish a global government of universal justice and eliminate the system of tyranny, oppression and false authority, is simply one contemporary and relevant instance that fall under the larger conceptual umbrella of this notion. In fact, this particular type of awaiting represents waiting for the final deliverance for which one must prepare the grounds. Nevertheless, the idea of awaiting the deliverance can apply to many other instances as well. When narrated traditions tell us to: "Wait for the deliverance!" it does not exclusively mean "waiting for the final salvation". In fact, such statements can be indicative of the fact that all problems and apparent dead ends are open to solutions and relief. A Muslim who awaits the deliverance learns that there exist no real dead ends within the lives of God's servants and, thus, there is no need for a human being to fall prey to hopelessness and despondency. When certainty exists for the salvation of the entirety of humanity through the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a) and the elimination of such a pervasive and well entrenched system of tyranny, then the minor problems and tribulations that come about during the course of an individual's life should not become sources of despair and hopelessness. This is primary lesson within true awaiting.

The Quranic Source of Awaiting for Imam Mahdi (a)

The concept of pious "awaiting" and devout "anticipation" is rooted in a fundamental Quranic principle which teaches the "prohibition of despondency regarding God's mercy". The Holy Quran says : "Go, my sons, and look for Joseph and his brother, and do not despair of Allah's mercy. Indeed no one despairs of Allah's mercy except the faithless lot"[4]. The opposite of this state is hopelessness and despair. As such, the more intense one's state of awaiting become, accompanied by perfect hope and hard work, the stronger one's preparation will be. This, in turn, will save any human being from falling prey to the curse of despair and defeatism.

The Special Characteristics of Awaiting Imam Mahdi (a)

If one were to conceptually dissect the essential nature of "awaiting", one would find that this idea contains numerous special features and characteristics. For instance, patience, resilience, strengthening of the spirit of spirituality etc. can all be found within this core of this unique idea. However, two of these characteristics play a unique and strategic role within the ideology and civilization of Imam Mahdi (a). The first of these two is "hope" while the second is the practicality of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a). The union of these two factors leads a person who awaits Imam Mahdi (a) towards acquiring the necessary readiness that is required in order to prepare the grounds for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a). Furthermore, this same combination also renders him immune against the many difficulties that naturally lie in the path of such a task, while motivating him to strive with greater resolve towards solving all these problems so that he may achieve his final objective.

Hope; The Essence of Awaiting Imam Mahdi (a)

Keeping in mind the Quranic roots of the idea of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a), a person who actively waits for the Imam of the Age (a) and is fully aware of the hallmarks that define the promised Mahdi's utopian state can never be satisfied by the current situation that prevails within this world. In fact, such an individual is constantly engaged in trying to prepare the grounds for the establishment of a desirable society. In other words, a person who genuinely awaits the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a) can never accept that a world full of tyranny and oppression can last perpetually. This person does not look upon events from a dark and pessimistic stand point, rather he is totally certain that the current system of tyranny and repression will eventually be overthrown, being replaced by a global order of divine justice. These thoughts and perspectives allow an individual to be hopeful; hope that helps him overcome all disagreeable circumstances in order to reach his desired state of affairs. A person of this sorts utilizes this inner sense of optimism to strengthen his heart and soul so that he may be able to break through all apparent dead-ends and obstacles. As such, he is not flung into feelings of despair when faced by challenges and constantly strives to prepare the grounds for Imam Mahdi's reappearance.

Active Awaiting; A Practical Anticipation

Awaiting is not merely an inner and spiritual state, neither is it simply another name for feeling hopeful and harboring anticipation towards things that may come in the future. In truth, "awaiting" signifies hope that begets and creates action and initiative. Indeed, such a concept is not compatible with stagnancy, apathy, aimlessness and lethargy. A person who awaits Imam Mahdi (a) is always trying to fulfill his many responsibilities in the best way possible. Therefore, practical action is an integral and inseparable part of the concept of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a). Within narrated traditions, awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) is deemed to be the best of all actions. The Prophet (s) is reported to have said : "The very best action of my nation is to await the deliverance from the Almighty"[5]; . Similarly, Imam Sajjad (a) is narrated to have stated : "Awaiting the deliverance is from amongst the very greatest of actions"[6]. Therefore, we must practically strive in the path of achieving the ideals which we wait for, and must spare no effort in this regard.


In general, awaiting the deliverance means to be patient in the face of difficulties and problems while trying to find solutions for them[7]. However, its special meaning denotes waiting for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a) and preparing the grounds for Imam Mahdi's return. The essence of the idea of "awaiting" is to have hope in a desirable future while denouncing the disagreeable circumstances that currently prevail. This denouncement of prevalent of circumstance is not simply an intellectual or theoretical affair, neither can an appropriate future be attained through inaction and day-dreaming. Thus, "awaiting" and "anticipation" are inherently linked with practical action and these two ideas are inseverable from one another. As a result, a person who awaits Imam Mahdi (a) is supremely hopeful about the future while also practically and constructively striving towards achieving a desired state of affairs. Foremost within this practical struggle is his effort to prepare the grounds for Imam Mahdi's reappearance because humanity's final deliverance can only be attained through Imam Mahdi's re-emergence from occultation; a re-emergence that will spell the end of all forms of tyranny, oppression, persecution, prejudice and injustice, while heralding in total and comprehensive salvation for mankind within all aspects of life.