Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) in one of his Tawqee (letter) has exhorted his followers:–“Pray more for my reappearance because in it ,is your salvation" (Kamaaluddin, p.485, H.4) .Traditions have emphasized that one of the responsibilities of the followers during the era of occultation is to pray for the reappearance of Imam
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Spiritual attachment with the Imam of the Age (a.t.f.s.)
During the period of Ghaibat, it is the responsibility of every being, rather of every believer, that he establishes a spiritual contact with the Imam of the Age (a.t.f.s.). When a person acquires the recognition of the Imam, a unique relationship is established wherein the heart, as per its capacity becomes a reflection of the characteristics and ethics of the Imam (a.t.f.s..).
Allah the Almighty informs us in the Holy Quran,'O those who believe! Be patient and enjoin patience amongst one another and remain in contact. And be careful of your duty to Allah lest you succeed.'(Surah Ale Imran (3): 200)
The above verse has been explained by the Holy Imams (a.s.) in various exegesis of the Holy Quran thus - O those who believe! Remain patient and steadfast during the period of Ghaibat of the Imam of the Age; be steadfast upon the right path as compared to your enemies and remain in contact with the awaited Imam. Obey the laws and regulations of Islam as laid down by Allah for surely in it is your success.(Tafseer al-Burhaan by Sayed Haashem al-Bahraani (r.a.) under the aforementioned verse)
Some people harbor the misconception that since we are living our lives in the period of the major occultation, it is impossible to maintain 'contact' with the Imam and there is no way by which we can have a relationship with the Imam of the Age (a.t.f.s.). It is important that we clarify this point over here.
As regards the traditions that are available on this matter, it is true that during the period of the major occultation, the person who claims that he can meet the Hidden Imam (a.t.f.s.) whenever he desires is a liar. It is equally true, however, that during this period there are numerous instances of people having been blessed by a visit from the Imam (a.t.f.s.), either in person or through a spiritual experience like a dream.
A little attention to this point will clarify all doubts about the matter of contact with the Hidden Imam (a.t.f.s.). For surely this grace - the opportunity to meet the Hidden Imam (a.t.f.s.) - is a direct consequence of the love and benevolence of the Imam (a.t.f.s.) himself.
Secondly, it is not necessary that contact be maintained only by regular meetings in person. A relationship need not be established only through physical contact. Rather, a relationship through spiritual means can also be defined as a contact. In reality, it is the establishment of this spiritual relationship that confirms the distinguished status of a believer.. And this is the relationship that every believer can establish and through which he attains such heights of recognition and eminence that he always perceives himself to be in the honoured presence of the Holy Imam (a.t.f.s.) and conducts himself and his affairs as if he is constantly under the watchful eyes of the Imam (a.t.f.s.). We have the example of Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) who narrates in the 'Supplication on the Day of Friday':
'O Allah, I seek nearness to You through a sincere heart (I consider myself lowly before your Might and Majesty), and to your representative - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) through an obedient body (my body is subservient to the commands of the Imam and I seek benefit from the parts of my body such that the Imam is pleased with my actions) and to the Holy Imams (a.s.) through a humble heart (I prefer them over myself and seek obedience to them)." (Jamaal al-Usboo', pg. 152)
Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) has drawn our attention to establishing a relation with the Imam of the Age (a.t.f.s.) and even guided us along this path. He outlines how one should present his questions before the Imam (a.t.f.s.) and seek a response from him. In his advice to his son, he (r.a.) mentions:
'O my son, if ever you are presented with a difficulty, the solution of which you desire to seek from Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.), may our lives and souls be sacrificed upon him, then remember the tradition reported by Muhammed Ibn Yaqub Kulaini (r.a.): One day a person came to Abul Hasan (a.s.) and asked him, "If a person wishes to place his desires before his Imam, just as he would place it before Allah, then what should he do?" Imam (a.s.) replied, "If he has any desire, then he must bring it to his lips (he must express his desire); he will receive the reply for it."
It is necessary to clarify the above statement of the Imam. The statement indicates in a simple manner that if one has any needs then he must present it through the medium of prayers and tawassul (seeking help through the mediation of the Imam). It is true that the Imam (a.s.) is aware of the deepest secrets of our heart; nevertheless, he (a.s.) prefers that his followers put forth their desires verbally and express their helplessness with sincerity.
The absolute contact of Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) and his nearness to Imam (a.t.f.s.) was such that the latter (a.t.f.s.), with his benevolence and special grace, had blessed him with deep knowledge and hidden insights. Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) continued to bask in the shade of Imam's (a.t.f.s.) generosity till the end of his life. Such was the perfection of his recognition that Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.), while speaking to his son about the conditions of the reappearance of the Imam (a.t.f.s.) quotes the following verse and says:"Allah preserves whatever He wishes. And obliterates what He wishes"(Surah Ra'ad (13): 39)
'If the above verse were not present in the Holy Quran, I would have informed you easily about the day and the time of Imam's (a.t.f.s.) reappearance, may our lives be sacrificed upon him!'
Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) and praying for the Imam of the Age (a.t.f.s.)
Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) held the recitation of supplication in high regard. He encouraged establishing a personal and private relation with the Holy Imams (a.t.f.s.) as well. For the sake of brevity, we are unable to delve much into the supplications of Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.), though it is sufficient to say that a comprehensive book can be compiled on this topic.
In his book, "Jamaal al-Usboo'", on the topic of the Etiquette of Supplication, Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) writes, "An important aspect to be remembered from the etiquette of supplication is that one should prefer supplicating for Hazrat Baqiyatullah, Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) before seeking one's own desires."
He continues, "At the time of seeking their desires from Allah, believers should first remember the desires of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.). Thereafter, the believer should express his needs. Do not perform prayers, fast or supplicate out of habit. Remember, each person is tested through his own actions which may lead to a false impression and one cannot rely upon such actions. Your prayers, fasts and supplications should principally be for the sake of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) and then for yourself. This is because the continued existence this world and its elements are contingent to the blessed presence of the Imam (a.t.f.s.). When your very existence is protected by the existence of another personality, how can it be that we prefer ourselves over that exalted personality? Rather, it is incumbent that we prefer his needs over our own and his desires over our own. And this action itself will be a measure of our servitude and obedience for surely he (a.t.f.s.) is not in need of our prayers and fasts. He (a.t.f.s.) is needless of them. It is we who need him (a.t.f.s.). It is through him that our shortcomings and defects will be corrected and we will enjoy a peaceful and happy life."
Regarding the actions for the holy month of Ramazan, Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.), writes in his book "al-Mazaar" about the supplication which is to be recited before dawn (Seher) as follows: "It is the duty of every believer in the nights of this month that before and after every supplication, he remembers the holy personality of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) - the representative of the All Merciful Allah amongst His creatures on the face of this earth. This is because he is the owner of all that the one who fasts needs. Allah has entrusted him with all affairs.'(Kitab-e-Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) wa Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.), pp. 90-93)
Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) has enumerated several supplications through which one can reach Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.). These supplications are mentioned in several books. He has also narrated several incidents wherein people have had the glad opportunity to meet the Holy Imam (a.s.). Scholars have suggested that instances, wherein the visitor's name is not mentioned, is Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) himself.
Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) and supplications
Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) has true affection for those who love him. The extent of his fondness and the importance he gives to their remembrance in his prayers is highlighted by Allamah Majlisi (r.a.) and Mohaddes Noori (r.a.). They have both narrated that Sayyed Ibne Taoos (r.a.) said, 'One morning, after Seher, I visited the Sardab (cellar of the house of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) in Samarra) for offering prayers when I saw that Imam-e- Zaman (a.t.f.s.) was beseeching Allah,
'O Allah! Our Shias have been created from our light and the remainder of our earth (teenat). They have sinned in the hope of our love and benevolence. If their sin is related to Your Exalted Self, then You forgive them. We will be satisfied with Your forgiveness. And if their sin is related to the rights of their brethren, then You correct their shortcomings and grant them from the part of Khums which is our right so that they may be satisfied with it. Protect them from the fire of Hell and do not gather them along with our enemies in Your punishment.'
On reflecting on the words of Imam's (a.t.f..s.) invocation, we are overcome with shame and remorse. The blessed personality, whose continued presence ensures the existence of this world and its sustenance - the Imam of the Age (a.t.f.s.), - prays for sinners like us and seeks forgiveness that we may be saved from Hellfire. For us sinners, who are the direct recipients of his love and affection, is it right that we forget him and remove his remembrance from our hearts and minds? Or rather, shouldn't we ensure that we fill our hearts and minds with his remembrance to such an extent that not a moment of our life passes by without his remembrance?
O Allah! Grant us the taufeeq that we develop the sincere love of our Imam in our hearts! Aameen!