This tradition underlines the importance of love for Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). The bond of love must be firm and resolute. It should not be that we accept Imam (a.t.f.s.) by our tongues and fall short in our actions. It should not be that we become despair about the rise of the nation. Even if we aren't struck by pessimism and doubt, it should not be that we believe in Imam (a.t.f.s.) as if it is folklore of a person who will rise one day and will establish truth and justice and will usher in an era of goodness where no evil will exist and in this entire affair we don't have to do anything except sit and watch.
This is the time when we should sit back and reflect on ourselves. We should for a moment consider the loyal companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who accompanied him (s.a.w.a.) in the battles and willingly gave up their lives to attain martyrdom.
Indeed their character, certainty, determination, faith, love for Allah and love for His Apostle were so firm and unshakeable that we get some idea of what is expected from us. Then we realise that we have not fulfilled the obligations of love. We have not honoured the pre-requisites of attachment.
And if it is not so then why is the occultation of Imam (a.t.f.s.) being prolonged to such an extent? Imam's (a.t.f.s.) reappearance depends upon the steadfast ones of the Islamic nation who are being disgraced but are patient and steadfast on difficulties and everyday recite the verse 'I bear witness in letter and in spirit thatcertainly you are Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.).' (Ziyarate Salaamullahil Kaamil, Mafaateehul Jcnaan)
To perform religious obligations today is a himalayan task. To strive and struggle with the self against the calamities and disputes in this age and to nurture love and affection (for Imam (a.t.f.s.)) is indeed difficult. We are passing through the era about which Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had said (when the earth shall be filled with injustice and oppression). Satan is working overtime to deviate the people. Man is involved in all kinds of diseases, related to the body and the soul. There are new calamities emerging every day. The prophesies of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) about the last era are unfolding in front of our eyes.
There are a thousand means of deviation and destruction but hardly any source of survival. Man's intellect is stumped and the whole society is engulfed in this epidemic and is unable to decide on a particular course of action, no matter how simple it is. Let us have a glance of the past and the-present.
We are living in an age far worso.than the age of the Ummayyads and the Abbasides. Despite the torment and persecution of those eras, the people had the good fortune of witnessing the Imams (a.s.) in their midst. They could approach the Imams (a.s.) and reap the benefits of their radiant teachings. The glorious traditions of the infallibles (a.s.) and their guidance illumined the darkest recesses of their existence. The love of the Imams (a.s.) in the hearts of the Shias overcame every other distraction, be it wealth, status or the love of this world.
The Shias ignored everything else in favour of the Imams (a.s.) and their teachings. There was a poor and destitute companion of Imam Sadiq (a.s.). One day in the presence of Imam (a.s.), he made mention of his poverty and compared it to the wealth of the attendants of the Abbasides. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) on hearing of this comparison removed a bag of gold coins and gave it to the companion and said, 'You can take this, however, I would like you to return the love and attachment that you have for me in your heart.'
The companion immediately realised the fallacy in his comparison (between himself and the Abbaside attendants) and continued to lead the rest of his life in poverty and thanked Allah for the love of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Similarly the companions of Imam Husain (a.s.) must have been deeply stirred and roused by this statement of their master, '0 Allah! Indeed what has one gained by losing You?
And what has one lost after gaining You?' (Dua-e-Arafah) Today the comparison between the lovers (of the Ahle Bait (a.s.)) and the rich will show even more disparity and the lovers will be outnumbered by the rich by a large margin. However, the chain of Aal-e-Muhammad (a.s.) is continuing till date. It is not over as yet. Not only are the Shias saying this, but even the renowned and illustrious scholars of the Ahle Sunnah have admitted this in their compilations.
They have recorded thousands of traditions to support their belief. Today Allah's Proof on the earth exists and is a means of security from disasters.
Those who hold on to his support understand this only too well. Those who don't understand it can try taking the name of Imam (a.t.f.s.) and they will also see the results. Indeed the lovers of Imam (a.t.f.s.) have found a strange soothing effect in his name that helps them overcome the most trying of calamities. The path towards the love of Imam (a.t.f.s.) is strewn with thorns. It is an examination for those who claim to tread the path of his love.
It is a path with many temptations and distractions. It is slippery and beguiling. It has dangerous twists and turns. However, Imam (a.t.f.s.) has not deserted his lovers. His help and guidance always helps them negotiate the perils of this path. A small ray of his light is sufficient to ease the murkiness and gloom of this path. The strong bond of love can help the lovers overcome every hurdle on the path. The (readers of this path must understand the prerequisites and conditions of love so as to reach Imam (a.t.f.s.). We have only briefly outlined a few of those pre-requisites.
Seeking favours only from the beloved: One of the most important prerequisites of sincere love is that one does not go to anyone else to seek his demands. He only approaches the beloved in this regard.
To maintain contact We must maintain close contact with our beloved ones - our relatives, our friends, our immediate family members, our brethren-in-faith. A companion of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) asked him, 'One believer is drowning and another is being deviated by some people. Who should we rescue?' Imam (a.s.) replied, 'Go to the rescue of the one who is being deviated.' Then Imam (a.s.) elaborated, 'Keep close contact with the one whose faith is exposed to danger, always maintain close relations with him.
Rescue his hereafter.' This is the need of the hour today - to keep in contact with the believers in distant areas and to introduce the Imam of their time (a.t.f.s.) to them. This is our most important duty today. It is not a difficult task, provided we work with dedication and an unshakeable spirit of sacrifice.
Patience and forbearance Love is the greatest test of patience and forbearance. Even death does not act as a hurdle for the person. Love is such a powerful force that it takes a person towards his beloved, step by step, ignoring all obstacles in the path.
Maintaining relations Maintaining relations with the relatives is an important duty and benefits the society as a whole. It is a crucial responsibility in this period and a fundamental proof of love for Imam (a.t.f.s.).
Acquiring knowledge Love for Imam (a.t.f.s.) and ignorance about him are two opposite events. It is not possible for both these events to occur simultaneously in a person. Imam (a.t.f.s.) is the pillar of knowledge and invites others towards knowledge of Allah and His religion. If we call ourselves his Shias, it is critical for us to acquire this knowledge. If we fail in this duty then we run the risk of being termed (they don't perceive, they don't comprehend).
And the element of love will subside. Moreover our actions lose their significance as to act without recognition (marefat) is futile. Even our love for Imam (a.t.f.s.) will amount to nothing. Therefore we should struggle and endeavour constantly in our uest for knowledge. The thirst for this knowledge can be quenched only at the doorstep of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) otherwise love will be injured and the pain will be unbearable.
Activity Laziness, negligence and lethargy are detrimental to love. To reach towards the object of our love we must be active and energetic. We must fulfill our religious obligations. We must be cautious of Satanic whisperings and be vigilant of his devious charms. A believer must fast in the days and maintain vigil in the nights (. Indeed this is the ascension (Meraj) of a believer.
Struggle (Jehad) One who loves Imam (a.t.f.s.) must be prepared to struggle and labour with his self, his pen and his wealth in the way of Imam (a.t.f.s.).
Constant remembrance (Zikr) Traditions highlight that remembrance.is the key that increases love and affection. We should remember and discuss about Imam (a.t.f.s.) excessively that even if our tongues tire, our hearts should not be satiated and our thirst should not be quenched.
Gifts To present the beloved with gifts is a proof of love and attachment. The gift must be presented keeping in mind the stature, position and preferences of the person. For instance, we should perform recommended namaz, fasts, recite Quran, etc. for Imam (a.t.f.s.) with utmost sincerity and devotion.
Charity and supplications We should constantly pray for the protection and security of Imam (a.t.f.s.) and invoke divine help for his affairs. We must give charity on his behalf to ensure his safety. To supplicate for his earliest reappearance must be a part of our daily schedule. We must complain to Allah about his prolonged absence and must re-affirm our pledge with him.
Awaiting the reappearance (Intezar) Imam (a.t.f.s.) shall spread justice and equity across the length and breadth of this world - We must await this era eagerly and always endeavor to be included among the true and sincere awaiting ones. We must never despair of Imam's (a.t.f.s.)
reappearance, as despair and despondence are satanic traits. There are other obligations and duties to be discharged to fulfill the demands of love and affection, but we have sufficed with the few mentioned above. Finally we plead with Allah and beseech Him to bestow us with true recognition of Imam (a.t.f.s.).
This recognition alone will inspire sincere love and attachment for Imam (a.t.f.s.) in our hearts. We pray to Allah to make steadfast our faith, which is the root of love as the Quranic verse proclaims 'Those who believe are intense in their love for Allah.