Preparation For the Coming of the 12th Imam (as) in Light of the Conditions That Will Prevail Before His (as) Appearance
Our scholars have identified and written in their books certain things Muslims ought to do during the occultation: to pray for the twelfth Imam; to do charitable works for him; to perform hajj and to appoint someone to do that on his behalf; to seek his help and assistance in times of difficulty, and so on. There is no doubt that all these suggestions are praiseworthy, however the most important obligation mentioned in the sources and that which needs further elaboration is awaiting deliverance through him (intizar al-faraj).
There are many traditions from the Imams, both recommending the awaiting and enumerating its merits and excellences, during the occultation. Some of these Ahadith are presented below.
Imam Sadiq (AS) says, "Any one who dies with the love (Wilayat) of the Ahl al-Bayt while awaiting deliverance (through the appearance of the Qa'im (AS)), resembles the one who will be in the Qa'im's tent."
Imam 'Ali Rida (AS) reporting from his forefathers and from the Prophet (SAW) relates the Hadith from the latter, who said: "The best deed of my community is to await for the deliverance."
Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib (AS) says, "Any one who awaits our government, resembles the one who, in the way of God, has rolled in his own blood.
In another tradition Imam Rida (AS) praises the one who awaits the deliverance, and says, "How praiseworthy are patience and awaiting for deliverance! Have you not heard that God says in the Quran: 'You await, and We too are awaiting?' So be patient because deliverance will come after despair. Those who were before you were even more patient than you."
Imam Ja'far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (AS) said: "A person who would like to be among the companions of al-Qa'im (AS) should be in a state of (active) waiting (Intizar), and perform all of his deeds with Wara' [a level higher than Taqwa] and with the most beautiful etiquette and then one will be counted as being in a state of (true) waiting (Intizar). Then if such a person was to die and al-Qa'im (AS) was to make his advent after this, then that person would receive the reward as the one who witnessed his (al-Mahdi's) advent."
There are numerous traditions on a similar theme. The Imams always used to advise their followers to await deliverance. They reminded them that the mere act of awaiting for deliverance is a kind of emancipation. The one who awaits is like the one who fights against the disbelievers on the battlefield and has rolled in his own blood. As such, there is no doubt that the weightiest obligation for Muslims during the occultation is to anticipate deliverance.
In the next few paragraphs we would like to expound on the meaning of this awaiting or anticipating deliverance. How can a person who anticipates deliverance acquire the greatest reward that accrues to the one who does good? It is not sufficient for the one awaiting the deliverance to materialize to just say with their tongue that they are awaiting the appearance of the Imam of the Age.
An individual cannot escape every kind of social responsibility, and stay away, from the moral responsibility of commanding the good and forbidding the evil; from taking a stance against corrupt and sinful behaviour; from not stopping injustice, and simply say: "O God, let the deliverance through the Imam of the Age be imminent so that he can prevent this corrupt behaviour!" This is not awaiting the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS).
This person's status cannot be the comparable to the status of the one who is killed defending his religion. His status cannot be equal to the one who has sacrificed all his wealth, his family, and his comfort and security in the way of God and attained the status of a martyr.
There is a deeper meaning and significance to the act of awaiting the appearance of the Imam.
Imam Ja'far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (AS) has said: "Surely the possessor of this command (Imam al-Mahdi) will go into an occultation. So the servant should have consciousness (Taqwa) of Allah during the period of the occultation and should hold firm to his religion."
Therefore firstly, as Muslims, we need to work diligently at reforming ourselves from within and with all the necessary seriousness. We should adorn ourselves with Islamic virtues, perform all the duties that are obligatory on us, and apply the directives provided by the Quran in our daily lives. We should endeavour to attain Taqwa and hold firm to the teachings of Islam.
Second, we should extract the social teachings of Islam from the Holy Quran, the Prophet (SAW) and the Ahl al-Bayt (AS), in order to execute those perfectly in our societies. By implementing the Islamic economic programs we should resolve our economic problems and fight against poverty, unemployment, and concentration of illicit wealth. By adopting the divinely ordained laws we should rid ourselves of injustices and corruption.
In short, we should commit ourselves to set in motion the realization of an Islamic political, social, economic, and legal system, and present this to the world as a viable alternative, to the best of our ability.
We realize that the perfect system of governance in all aspects can only be implemented by the 12th Imam (AS). In addition, by combining a complete legal code with the spiritual and moral concerns of the Islamic system, Muslims can become the source of emulation for a humane political, social and economic system.
Those who are engaged in these endeavours to make the revolution of the Mahdi (AS) possible and successful are the ones who are truly awaiting for deliverance through the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS) . It is in way that we can also affect our social and cultural surroundings and thus be in the state of readiness for the realization of the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS).
Over time, man has been evolving into a materialistic being. The true purpose of life is not at the forefront of man's life, as is evidenced by the increasing war, instability and oppression in the world today. However, Allah (SWT) has promised in the Holy Quran that, "It is He who has sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth to make it prevail over every other religion. However much the disbelievers may dislike it."
From this verse, we deduce that the religion of Islam will prevail over all other religions and from Ahadith we are told that this will occur under the rulership of the 12th Imam (AS).
Ahadith tell us the general state of the society before the appearance of the 12th Imam (AS). The condition of the rulers has been painted as being oppressive and tyrannical whereas the ruled will be oppressed and victimized. In this environment, the condition of the believers will be that of awaiting the reappearance of the Imam. Their condition amidst all the oppression and tyranny will be that of Taqwa - and this is what we as the followers of the Imam (AS) must aim for.