During their missions, all the prophets and apostles have emphasized the fact that a savior will arrive at the end of time who will implement the government of justice over the globe. This news has been heard since human beings appeared on earth.
Allah has indicated this promise in all the early scriptures and commanded humans throughout ages to expect the manifestation of the kingdom of Allah on earth. The holy Quran also gives glad tidings of the day for which all the believers of the world are enthusiastically awaiting, and confirms that the righteous and virtuous servants of Allah shall finally inherit the earth:
The earth is Allah's. He gives it as a heritage to whom He wills, and the end is for the watchful. (7:128)
The Most Glorious also says:
And indeed We wrote in the Psalm (Zabur) after the reminder that My righteous servants shall inherit the earth. (21:105)
Allah confirms that He will revive the earth and will give it a true life after it had become dead as a result of corruption by mankind:
Know that Allah shall give life to the earth after its death! (57:17) Allah has guaranteed to manifest the kingdom for the righteous believers on earth in the following verse of the Quran:
Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers on earth as He made rulers before them,
that He will most certainly establish for them their religion that He has chosen for them, and that He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange. They worship Me and they do not associate anything with Me. (24:55)
In a number of verses in the Quran, Allah has emphasized that what He has promised will certainly take place. For instance:
Verily that which you are promised is true. (51:5)
And Allah shall never break His promise. (22:47)
Surely, Allah shall never fail to keep the promised event. (3:9)
Glory to our Lord! Truly the promise of our Lord is a fulfilled one! (17:108)
Besides the indications in the Quran and the early scriptures, the testimonies of the last Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) that have been narrated by all Islamic schools in numerous traditions leave no doubt that this promise will be fulfilled by the hand of a man from his progeny. The Sunnis have narrated:
The Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) said, "Even if only one day has remained for the duration of the world's existence, Allah shall prolong that day to send a person from my Ahl al-Bait whose name is the same as my name… He shall fill out the earth with peace and justice just as it was filled with injustice and tyranny."[^1]
The above tradition proves that although Allah may postpone this divine promise even up to the last days of the world's existence, nevertheless it will certainly take place.
Hence, all the true believers should expect its happening through the hands of the promised savior from the family of Muhammad (PBUH&HF), whose most famous titles are al-Mahdi (the guided), al-Qa'im (the one who shall stand up), al-Muntadhar (the awaited).
There are many traditions narrated by all Islamic schools where the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) has portrayed the events just prior to the reappearance of al- Mahdi (PBUH). The Shi'ite traditions, narrated from the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and the Imams of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT),
provide much more details for these events. On the other hand, there are many traditions conveying that the advent of Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) will be very sudden and unpredictable, and that Allah may cancel or change the signs before his reappearance and may let the Imam (PBUH) reappear at any moment.
Tafsir Durr al-Manthur, al-Suyuti, vol. 7, under commentary of Verse 47:18; Sunan, Abu Dawud, vol. 2, Chapter 35 (Kitab al-Mahdi), Bab 1, Hadith 4279; Sahih, al-Tirmidhi, vol. 3, Chapter of Fitan, Bab 44 (what has come about al-Mahdi (PBUH)), Hadith 2331-2332.
In the first part of this work, we will discuss the significance, purpose, and predictability of the signs, and the way they should affect our expectation for the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH).
We will examine the possibility of canceling the foretold signs in the light of the verses of the Quran and the traditions. We will also investigate why the Imam (PBUH) has not yet started his mission, for what reasons Allah has delayed his advent, and how our behavior has contributed to this delay.
In the second part, we will enumerate some of the divine commandments that if we follow, Allah may expedite the reappearance of the Imam (PBUH) and lessen the hardships that we are going to face prior to and during his advent.
They are the duties of everyone who is expecting al-Qa'im (PBUH), as instructed by Ahl al-Bait (PBUT). In this light, we will show the significance of continual expectation of receiving al-Qa'im (PBUH), will present the notion of waiting for the relief (Intidhar al-Faraj), and the way it should affect our life.
Part I. Expecting the Signs vs. Expecting al-Qa'im(p.b.u.h)
1. The signs before reappearance of al-Mahdi (PBUH)
A number of narrations in the Shi'ite collections of traditions inform us of some signs that will take place before the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH). Some of these signs describe the hard condition of people in the world before his reappearance. For instance, Abu Hamza al-Thumali and Abu Basir have both narrated:
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (PBUH) said, "The Qa'im shall not rise until after a great fear from people, the earthquake, afflictions, trials, and the plague have been inflicted upon people, the war between Arabs, great disagreement among people,
breakups in their religion, change in their situation so that the wishers wish death every morning and night due to the enormity of what is observed, and the eating of people by people.
The emergence of al-Qa'im (PBUH) shall be at the time of despair and hopelessness of people for finding any (other) opening or relief."[^1] On the other hand, some signs are about the miraculous events that will happen just prior to the reappearance of al-Qa'im (PBUH).
For instance, there will be a lunar eclipse at the end of the month of Ramadhan. The eclipse at the end of the month is a supernatural phenomenon that has never happened before. Badr Ibn Khalil al-Azdi narrated:
[^1] al-Ghaiba, al-Nu'mani, p. 234, Hadith 22; p. 253, Hadith 13; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, p. 348, Hadith 99; p. 230, Hadith 96.
I was sitting with Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (PBUH) when he (PBUH) said, "There shall be two signs before the rising of al-Qa'im (PBUH) that have not occurred since Adam (PBUH) descended on earth. The sun shall be eclipsed in the middle of the month of Ramadhan and the moon (shall be eclipsed) in the end of that month."
A man in the presence said, "O Son of the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF)! The sun shall be eclipsed in the end of the month and the moon in the middle." The Imam replied, "I know what you say. But these are the signs that have never happened since Adam (PBUH) descended."[^1]
In many verses of the Quran, Allah reminds us that He has power over all things and is able to do what He wills. The Quran reports many miraculous events that happened in past as evidence for the truthfulness of His prophets (PBUT).
For instance, The Quran states that the moon was split into two parts as a sign for the truthfulness of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HF),[^2] fire became cool and peaceful for Prophet Abraham (PBUH)[^3], etc.
All the physical rules have been created by Allah and He may change it as He wills. When a miraculous event takes place, people truly realize that this is a sign from Allah, not from people.
Through the miracles, Allah reminds His creation of His absolute power and confirms His message. The impossibility of the natural occurrence of two eclipses in the specified order implies the possibility of its miraculous occurrence, its unpredictability by astronomical data, and consequently, the unpredictability of the time of the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH).
1 The possibility of canceling the signs of the reappearance
The foretold future events before the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) were the information that Allah willed their occurrence and were in effect at the time that the Imams (PBUT) spoke about them.
In other words, with their vision of the knowledge of what will happen in future, the Imams (PBUT) foretold some of the signs that Allah had willed and intended at that time. However, Allah has not promised the occurrence of the planned signs,
and thus all such signs are subject to change due to Allah's new decision. In the language of religion, the origination of a new plan by Allah is called al-Badaa. We will briefly discuss the phenomenon of al-Badaa and its significance in the next section.
al-Kafi, vol. 8, p. 212, Hadith 258; al-Irshad, vol. 2, p. 374; al-Ghaiba, al-Tusi, p. 444; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, p. 213, Hadith 67.
[^2]The Holy Quran, chapter 54, verses 1-3.
[^3]The Holy Quran, chapter 21, verse 69.
The traditions state that among all the signs, there are some that are definite, which means it is very unlikely that Allah changes His will on their occurrence. Therefore, they are most likely to take place before the advent of Imam al- Mahdi (PBUH). Umar Ibn Hanzala narrated:
Imam al-Sadiq (PBUH) said, "There are five definite signs before the rising of al-Qa'im, which are: (the rising of) al-Yamani and al-Sufyani, the (heavenly) cry/call (by Gabriel which will be heard all over the world), the murder of Nafs al-Zakiyya, and the sink (of the Sufyani army) into (the land of) al-Baydaa (located between Mecca and Medina)."[^1]
Even for some of the definite signs, Allah reserves al-Badaa, and may change those of the definite wills that are not categorized as His Sunan or His promises.
For instance, Allah informed us through His Apostle (PBUH&HF) that before the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH), al-Sufyani would certainly rise.
This is a definite will, but it is not necessarily categorized as a promise. It is an insisted future event meaning that it is extremely unlikely that Allah cancels His permission for the occurrence of this event, though it may still be possible.
According to the following tradition, Allah may make Badaa even in such insisted news. Dawud Ibn al-Qasim narrated:
We were with Imam al-Jawad (PBUH) when the issue of Sufyani was brought up and the traditions which state that his advent is of the definite matters.
I asked Imam al-Jawad (PBUH), "Does Allah make Badaa in the definite matters?" He (PBUH) replied, "Yes." I said, "Then, we have a fear that Allah makes Badaa in (the reappearance of) al-Qa'im." The Imam replied, "al-Qa'im is of the promises, and Allah does not break His promises (referring to verses 3:9 and 13:31)."[^2]
In other words, Allah will not fail in any of His promises including the annihilation of injustice and the establishment of the government of justice on earth by Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH).
This was Allah's testimony in the verses of the Quran that were quoted previously. However, Allah may make Badaa on the time of reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) and may advance or postpone his mission. Moreover, He may cancel the occurrence of some of the definite Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, p. 204, Hadith 34.
al-Ghaiba, al-Nu'mani, p. 302, Hadith 10; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, p. 250, Hadith 138.
signs that were supposed to take place before the Imam's (PBUH) advent, as explained by the above tradition. The question that may arise here is that what the significance of canceling a sign by Allah is.
To answer this question, let us first discuss the notion of al-Badaa in more detail. This is one of the complex issues that have confused minds of many people, and consequently the opponents of the school of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT) have taken the advantage of this confusion to ridicule and attack their faith.