7 Is Lack of the Occurrence of Signs a Reason For the Delay in Relief?
The manifestation of the signs depends on when Allah decides to make the Imam (PBUH) reappear. When Allah chooses to postpone or advance the mission of the Imam (PBUH), He may also change time of the appearance signs as a by-product of this decision. Therefore, if Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) has not appeared yet, it is not because certain signs have not taken place.
According to the traditions, the reason for prolongation of the occultation is that people are yet not ready to sincerely follow the commandments and the instructions of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT). In a Tawqi'[^1] from Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH), it is written that:
"If our followers-may Allah grant them success for His obedience-all had truly kept their covenant (with us) the blessing to meet us would not have been postponed and they would have seen us with true recognition.
Nothing holds us back from them except that which reaches us (of their actions) that we dislike and that which we do not consider proper for them."[^2]
Moreover, Muhammad Ibn al-Faraj narrated:
Imam Baqir (PBUH) wrote to me, "When Allah, the Glorious, becomes angry at His creatures, He keeps us away from their company."[^3] Similarly,
Imam al-Baqir (PBUH) wrote, "When Allah dislikes too see us nearby a group of people, He removes us from among them."[^4]
[^1] Tawqi' is a signed written statement by Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) that has been obtained through four special deputies during the minor occultation (260~329 AH).
[^2]al-Ihtijaj, vol. 2, p. 499; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 53, p. 177, Hadith 8.
[^3]al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 343, Hadith 31.
[^4]Ilal al-Sharaye', part 1, p. 244, Hadith 2; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, Hadith 90.
Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) wrote the following to one of his special deputies, namely Muhammad Ibn Uthman (RA), in response to people's questions about the cause of occultation:
Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) said, "… As for the reason for the occurrence of occultation, Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, states, 'O you who believe! Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause your dislike.' (5:101)
There was no one among my fathers except that an oath (Bai'a) of a tyrant of his time was (forcibly) placed on his neck. But I will emerge while I do not have any oath on my neck to any of the tyrants. As for my benefit during my occultation, it is like the benefit of the sun when the clouds make it absent from the eyes.
Certainly, I am amnesty for the inhabitants of the earth just as the stars are amnesty for the inhabitants of the heaven. Thus, close the doors of question over what is not related to you and do not charge yourself with what you have been discharged to know. (Instead) increase your supplications (Du'aa) to hasten the relief (al-Faraj), for this is indeed your relief..."[^1]
Referring to verse 5:101 in the above Hadith as a response to people's query for the reason behind occultation implies that the disobedience of his followers has been one of the major reasons for occultation.
Other reasons mentioned in the traditions as the philosophy of occultation include: protecting the Imam from being slain[^2], and avoiding oath of allegiance to a tyrant[^3]. However, it is clear that both of these reasons were the result of lack of enough faithful followers.
By occultation, Allah intended to save the life of the Imam (PBUH) until he would have enough sincere followers to start his mission. The bitter fact is that out of many people who have claimed to be his partisans in each era, the Imam (PBUH) did not have 313 true followers to start his mission. Abdullah Ibn Hammad al-Ansari narrated:
[^1] Kamal al-Din, part 2, p. 483, Hadith 4; al-Ghaiba, al-Tusi, p. 290; al-Ihtijaj, vol. 2, p. 469; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 53, p. 180, Hadith 10.
[^2]See Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, pp. 90-97, Hadith 1, 5, 16, 18, 20.
[^3]See Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, pp. 95-96, Hadith 11-15.
A companion of Imam al-Sadiq (PBUH) came to him saying, "How numerous your followers are!" The Imam (PBUH) said, "Did you count them?" He replied, "They are more than that."
Thereupon, the Imam (PBUH) said, "Certainly, if the specified number that is three hundred ten and few more had been completed, what you wish for would have taken place"… The man said, "Then what about these different groups who claim that they are Shia?" He (PBUH) replied, "They will be distinguished, filtered, purified, and transformed. Ages come to them that will perish them, a sword that will kill them, and disagreement that will scatter them."[^1]
The following tradition also proves that once 313 sincere followers exist the Imam (PBUH) will reappear. Abd al-Adhim al-Hasani narrated:
I said to Imam al-Jawad (PBUH), "I wish you were al-Qa'im of the family of Muhammad (PBUH&HF) who fills the earth with peace and justice just as it was filled with injustice and tyranny." He (PBUH) replied, "O Abu al-Qasim! Any one of us (Ahl al-Bait (PBUT)) is standing (Qa'im) to [^1]
al-Ghaiba, al-Nu'mani, p. 204, Hadith 4; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 65, p. 165, Hadith 16.
maintain the command of Allah, the mighty and the majestic, and is a guide to His religion. However, the Qa'im by whom Allah will cleanse the earth from people of disbelief and rejection and will fill it with justice and peace is he whom Allah will conceal his birth from people, will hide him from them, and will prohibit calling him by his name.
He will be named after the Apostle of Allah (PBUH&HF) and will have his nickname (Abu al-Qasim), to whom the earth will yield and for whom any difficult thing will become simple.
The number of his companions will be equal to that of warriors of Badr, 313 men who will gather around him (at once) from far parts of the earth, and this is the saying of Allah, "Wherever you are, Allah shall bring you together.
Certainly Allah has power over all things." (2:148) Once this number of sincere individuals gather for him, he will manifest his affair and when pledge to him was completed by 10,000 men[^1] by leave of Allah, he will rise and will not seize fighting the enemies of Allah until Allah, the mighty and the majestic, is satisfied." I asked him, "O My master! How will he know that Allah has been satisfied?" The Imam (PBUH) replied, "Allah shall cast mercy into his heart."[^2]
Occultation has been the result of forsaking the Imam (PBUH) and will continue as long as he is without enough sincere followers. The very fact that Imam al-Mahdi (PBUH) is without helper and is deserted by people during the time of occultation has been testified in the following tradition. Asbagh Ibn Nabata has narrated:
The Leader of the Faithful (PBUH) said, "The master of this kingdom is the forsaken, the deserted, and the lonely one."[^3]
Certainly, the Imam (PBUH) has not been afraid of the tyrants for Allah has created him to take revenge against all the tyrants and to eradicate their power. In reality, he has kept himself away from those who claim to be his lovers, because he is afraid of their disobedience and betrayal.
Allah has concealed him due to their misconducts and because they have not made themselves worthy of receiving him and enjoying his company. Once they truly turn to him, he (PBUH) will return to them by leave of Allah. If they do what is expected from them as followers and fulfill their duties, the Imam (PBUH) will certainly do what is expected from him as their leader, by the permission of Allah.
[^1] The ten thousand helpers may include the first group of the dead among those who were the true expectant of al-Qa'im during their time, who will return to this world in the phenomena of al-Raj'a by will of Allah.
[^2]Kamal al-Din, p. 377, Hadith 2; al-Ihtijaj, vol. 2, p. 449; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, p. 383, Hadith 10.
[^3]Kamal al-Din, p. 303, Hadith13; al-Ghaiba, al-Nu'mani, p. 179, Hadith 24; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 51, p. 120, Hadith 21; p. 37, Hadith 10.
Finally, another important outcome of occultation that has been stated in the traditions is test of those who claim to be the followers of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT). The trials and afflictions during this period are so intense that people who have any insincerity in their heart will finally abandon their faith and the sincere faithful will be distinguished. Ali Ibn Ja'far narrated:
Imam al-Kadhim (PBUH) said, "When the fifth (offspring) from the seventh of the Imams disappears, then, I adjure you by Allah to watch for your religion so that no one would take it away from you.
Without doubt, there shall be an occultation for the holder of this matter until such time that (most) people who believe in his Imamat will turn away from their belief. Verily this (occultation) is but a test by Allah, the Glorious, for his creation."[^1]
Ibrahim Ibn Hilal has narrated:
I said to Imam Ridha (PBUH), "May I be sacrificed for you! My father died while still believing in this matter (the rising of al-Qa'im) and you see how old I have become but still you do not inform me of any news (about this advent)?" He (PBUH) replied, "O Abu Is'haq! Do you hasten?" I replied, "Yes, by Allah, I hasten. Why should I not hasten when I have become so old as you see?"
He (PBUH) said, "O Abu Is'haq! By Allah! That (advent) will not occur until you are distinguished, tried, and clarified so much so that none of you remains save the least."[^2]
The above traditions all show that of the reasons for the prolongation of this period of trial is insincerity among the people who still claim to be the followers of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT).
The afflictions during this period will continue until such time that those who continue to keep any insincerity in their heart separate their route (in terms of beliefs and actions) in a recognizable manner from the true followers of Ahl al-Bait (PBUT). Moreover, the Imam (PBUH) will not start his mission until after the number of the remaining sincere and faithful [^1]al-Ghaiba, al-Tusi, p. 337; al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 336, Hadith 2; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, p. 113, Hadith 26.
[^2]al-Ghaiba, al-Nu'mani, p. 208, Hadith 14; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 52, p. 113, Hadith 29.
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