Setting the ground for Imam’s reappearance

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Imam Asr

The idea of a messiah or savior or redeemer is common to all religious schools of thought, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity. In the Islamic context, the concept of messianism, which is the belief in a messiah, revolves around an eschatological figure who is expected to rise and fill the earth will peace, justice and social order.

Holy Quran and Prophetic traditions have in unequivocal terms predicted the glorious triumph of the forces of right and the establishment of an Islamic society built on the foundations of justice and righteousness. The wait and anticipation for that bright tomorrow continues. As Imam Sajjad (as) says, “The greatest success is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam)”. (Al Ihtejaj vol.2 Pg.154. Kamaaluddin vol.1 Pg.320)

Awaiting is primarily the result of two main conditions: not satisfied with the status quo and expecting things to change for good. But, merely being disgruntled with the status quo is not sufficient. A person has to step out of his comfort zone and prepare the ground for visible and productive change to happen. In more precise terms, he has to participate in the process of change.

In the words of British historian Eric Hosbawm, the concept of messianism, which we call Mahdism, can be broadly divided into two categories: passive and active. In the passive Mahdism, people immerse themselves in prayers and hope for the savior’s early reappearance. In the active or revolutionary Mahdism, people run the gauntlet and participate in the process of change.

In today’s era – with the moral bankruptcy, endemic corruption, grinding poverty, and scourge of illiteracy, ignorance, misrule and barbarism reaching the climax – what should a waiter wait for? What are the responsibilities of a person waiting for the change to happen?

The forces of imperialism have become menacingly stronger than ever. Human rights abuses have become frighteningly rampant. Weak and voiceless continue to be oppressed and subjugated by mighty and powerful

There is a clear instruction in Holy Quran for believers waiting for the change. “And say to those who do not believe that you act as much as you can. We are also trying. You all wait and surely we all are waiting.” (Quran 11:121-122).

But, what does this wait entail and what are the believers waiting for. The narration attributed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) makes it amply clear. “The world will not perish until a man among the Arabs appears whose name matches my name.”  (Sahih al-Tirmidhi, V9, P74)

We are witnessing social, political and cultural upheaval across the world today. Morals and ethics have degraded alarmingly. Grinding poverty has resulted in the poor quality of life. Illiteracy and educational backwardness has sent us back to dark ages. The forces of imperialism have become menacingly stronger than ever. Human rights abuses have become frighteningly rampant. Weak and voiceless continue to be oppressed and subjugated by mighty and powerful.

In such a scenario, when the darkness of despair prevails everywhere, there is an elixir of hope. The hope lies in the divine intervention. The hope is the divinely guided leader, the Mehdi (ajtf), who is expected to come out of the occultation and establish a system based on the divinely ordained laws. It will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and righteousness. “Mehdi (ajtf) is no longer an idea waiting to be materialized nor a prophecy that needs to be substantiated,” Shaheed Baqir as Sadr writes in An Inquiry Concerning Al Mahdi, “he is a living reality, a particular person, living among us in flesh and blood, who shares our hopes, suffering and sorrows is waiting for the appropriate moment to stretch his hand to every oppressed and needy person and eliminate the tyrants.”

Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran, “O’ Muhammad (pbuh), you are but a warner, and for every community, there exists a guide.” (Quran 13:7). There will always be a divinely gifted guide for people in every age and every time. For us, the people of this age, it is the Mehdi (ajtf).

Looking at the state of affairs today, the discourse around the reappearance of Imam Mehdi (as) and the responsibility of setting the ground for his reappearance has assumed huge significance. With the world sinking into the abyss of darkness and people across the world grappling with myriad self-inflicted woes, the responsibility on our shoulders has increased. Imam’s occultation, however, does not mean he has abandoned us or that we must despair about the present state of affairs. Imam Ali (as) said: “Await for the reappearance (of Imam) and do not despair of the divine mercy. Because the best deed in the eyes of Allah, the great and the mighty, is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam). It is the duty of those who are believers.” (Al Khisaal, vol2, Pg616).

The hope is the divinely guided leader, the Mehdi (ajtf), who is expected to come out of the occultation and establish a system based on the divinely ordained laws. It will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and righteousness

What are our responsibilities as believers to prepare the ground for Imam’s reappearance? A tradition attributed to Imam Hasan Askari (as) exhorts people to remain vigilant and participate in the process of educational change. “Be aware, if somebody teaches ignorant, guides a misguided, instills the teachings of Ahlulbayt (as), then on the day of Qiyamat (judgment day), he will be with us. We will give him a seat next to us wherever we may be.” Hence, it is amply clear that during this period of Imam’s occultation, among the biggest responsibilities on our shoulders is to bring about educational reformation in our society.

Such educational reformers enjoy supreme position in the eyes of Allah (swt). Imam Ali Naqi (as) extols the virtues of these reformers. “Had there not been such scholars in the period of occultation who call people towards the Ahlulbayt (as), guide towards them, defend their religion with the proofs of Allah, protect weak Muslims from the devilish designs, deception of the tyrants and tentacles of the enemies of Islam, then surely all would have deviated from the religion of Allah.” (Mahajjatul-Baizaa, Vol. 1, Pg. 32)

It’s important to enjoin others to pursue good deeds (amr bil maaruf) and advocate against sinful practices (nahi anil munkar). Spreading awareness about the sinister plots and conspiracies being hatched by the enemies of Islam is another big responsibility. We must promote and propagate the divine message of Islam and develop scientific temper in our youth through education and reformation.

The practice of writing ariza must be encouraged so that the youngsters become more aware of their duties and responsibilities. We must strive to expose the corrupt rulers and extend helping hand towards poor and needy in our society. We must constantly try to polish our morals and ethics to be able to join Imam’s army.  Above all, we must raise our voice – individually and collectively – against corruption, injustice, terrorism, crime, immorality and other such menaces.

What is important is the right strategy and approach to pave the ground for educational awakening and social reformation. Grooming children from the elementary level, making them understand the purpose of existence and their responsibilities, explaining how Islam is not just a religion but a complete way of life, stressing on the need to analyze with a free mind, the need to inquire and argue fearlessly, the need to debate and discuss passionately, and the need to exchange ideas generously. The approach has to be thoughtful, progressive and result-oriented. It must ensure the gains of education are properly utilized to bring up children who are educated, informed, aware and enlightened.

Considering that we are impatiently waiting for someone who is a righteous and virtuous messiah, it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with the ideals of deliverance and act on them in letter and spirit. To prepare the ground for his reappearance, we have to develop a reformist spirit in ourselves and others so that the society undergoes change. To protect society from social infirmities, ethical degeneration, cultural disorder, misrule and anarchy, it’s important to educate ourselves and others around us. If we remain trapped in the vortex of ignorance; social anomalies, cultural dilemmas, and orthodox beliefs will continue to hinder our personal growth and that of the society.

As Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran, You are the best nation brought forth for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Quran 3:110). The seeds of the promised rule of Mehdi (as) shall soon sprout and our agonizing wait shall end.

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Days of Zionists numbered

 

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

Quds Day means standing in solidarity with our brethren in Palestine, and at the same time standing up for our own rights and raising a banner of revolt against the oppressors and occupiers of our land.”

Observed every year on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, International Quds Day has become a permanent fixture on the annual calendar.

For all the campaigners of truth and justice, the day has an extraordinary historical significance, lessons for the present and prophecies for the future. Al-Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem. The day was first observed in Iran in 1979, soon after the Islamic Revolution, as an affirmation of the Ummah’s solidarity with people of Palestine in their struggle for the liberation of Jerusalem.

Since then, Quds Day is observed across the world every year in this holy month to express solidarity and support for Palestine and to condemn and protest Israel’s forceful control over Jerusalem. Ramadan is the month of struggle (jehad e akbar). It is the month that granted Muslims a historic victory in the battle of Badr. It is the month in which Mecca was rid of idol worshipers (mushrikeen). So it seems appropriate that a day of this blessed month is dedicated to the struggle for liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds.

The idea of solidarity rallies on Quds Day was implemented and given shape by Ayatollah Khomeini, who made passionate appeals to Muslims across the world to stand up and speak out for their brethren in Palestine. It is also a day to remember and extend solidarity to people in other occupied territories, subjugated and crushed by strong military powers. “The Quds Day is a universal day. It is not an exclusive day for Quds (Jerusalem). It is a day for the oppressed and the supporters of oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant oppressors,” Ayatollah Khomeini said.

In Iran, millions of people march on the streets on this day to protest against Israeli occupation and aggression in East Jerusalem. In August 1979, in solidarity with the people of Palestine, Ayatollah Khomeini declared the liberation of Jerusalem ‘a religious duty of all Muslims’. “I invite Muslims all over the globe to observe the last Friday of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day, and to pledge support and solidarity to the people of Palestine and their legitimate rights. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join hands and sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters,” said Ayatollah Khomeini.

During the first Palestinian Intifada in January 1988, the Jerusalem Committee of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) declared that Quds Day be commemorated publicly throughout the Arab world. Their official endorsement of Quds Day was significant as some Arab countries that have strategic ties with Israel found themselves in catch 22 situation. They had to pledge their support to Palestine and at the same time not antagonize the Israelis.

Over the years, Quds Day has become an international public event. Massive rallies are taken out in Britain, Canada, Sweden, Russia, India, Pakistan, United States etc. Events are also held in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza Strip. Organisations like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine have publicly endorsed Quds Day ceremonies in Palestine.

Last year, on Quds Day, millions of Iranians participated in the rallies, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans like ‘Death to Israel and America’, ‘Israel Your Days Are Numbered’, ‘Zionism must go’ and ‘From River to the Sea Palestine Will be Free’. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel an ‘insult to humanity’ and said the ‘Zionist black stain’ will soon be washed off. “The Zionist regime and Zionists are a cancerous tumour. Even if one cell is left in one inch of (Palestinian) land, in the future this story (of Israel’s existence) will repeat,” warned the Iranian president, who is soon to be replaced by new President Hassan Rohani.

In Lebanon, where Quds Day is observed on a grand scale every year, Hezbollah Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech on this day last year warned that only a few rockets by Hezbollah could result in massive casualties in Israel. “Rockets are ready and directed at these targets. We will not hesitate to use them, if we have to, at any point in time… Hezbollah cannot destroy Israel but we can transform the lives of millions of Zionists in occupied Palestine into a real hell. We can change the face of Israel,” said Nasrallah.

In Britain, on Quds Day, people march through the streets of London and assemble outside the American embassy. Anti-Zionist Jews and Christians also take active part and speak in these rallies. “We hope and pray for the end of Zionism. It is a curse, it is a cancer,” said Yakov Wsisz, a Jew, at one such rally last year. He was seconded by Stephen Sizer, a senior pastor of the Anglican Christ Church in Surrey. “No country and no people on earth recognize Israeli’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.” In Canada, Quds rally takes place every year at Queen’s Park, participated by people from all spheres of life. In Australia, hundreds of people gather in Hyde Park to observe Quds Day every year.

To start with, there has to be a complete and unconditional withdrawal from all Israeli occupied territories including Jerusalem, acknowledging and facilitating the return of the Palestinians who were forced to leave their land after 1948 Nakba, compensation for the damage of land and property, and ban on the building of new settlements and immediate evacuation of all existing settlements. These excavations, which are also in direct violation of The Hague and Geneva Conventions, threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock and violate the sanctity of the holy Islamic sites.

Hence, it is the duty of all Muslims, and people of conscience, to raise their voice against this naked aggression. Quds Day means standing in solidarity with our brethren in Palestine, and at the same time standing up for our own rights and raising a banner of revolt against the oppressors and occupiers of our land.

Mazloom father’s mazloom daughter

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Whenever talk veers to Karbala, we are reminded of the tales of unflinching loyalty, unrivaled steadfastness and the exalted sacrifices. We are reminded of the sweltering heat, blazing desert and the intense thirst. We are reminded of the shifting sand dunes smeared with blood. We are reminded of the helpless father carrying his infant son to the battlefield. We are reminded of the brave young warrior crashing on the ground. We are reminded of the 13 year old orphan, whose small frame was reduced to pieces. We are reminded of the prostrate figure lying lifeless on the banks of Euphrates. We are reminded of two tender souls fighting like veteran combatants. We are reminded of the grief-stricken lady who saw her kith and kin being mowed down in cold blood. We are reminded of the ailing man wedged in heavy iron chains. We are reminded of a little girl clutching onto her dry water bag, crying and wailing inconsolably.

Bibi Sakeena(sa) was barely four year old when the caravan set out for Karbala from Madinah. She was the heartthrob of family. Imam Hussain(as) was often heard saying, “A house without Sakeena (sa) would not be worth living in”. The beloved daughter of Imam e Mazloom(as) witnessed the gory events at Karbala unfold before her eyes. She is one of the eyewitness reporters of Karbala and its aftermath. Let us listen to one piece of the story from her:

“I was in my tent when the enemies attacked it. They were so cruelly looking for whatever they could plunder, until one of them noticed the necklace that I was wearing. He attacked me, trying to grab it from my neck. I was escaping from him until he pulled off my scarf. I fell down unconscious and all I remember was that I awoke in the bosom of my aunt (Zainab).”

The tender soul watched in absolute horror as every male member of her family left for battlefield, never to come back. She watched in utter helplessness and dismay as Yazid’s large battalion of hoodlums pillaged the tents and ripped the earrings out of her ears. Her ears bled profusely and tears yelled from her eyes. She was not used to sleeping alone, but now there was no one left to tell her fairy tales and put her to sleep. She wandered around in the darkness of night to look for her father. Husain was lying lifeless in the pools of blood. Sakeena managed to find him, she hugged him tightly and slept. Zainab was worried for her brother’s beloved daughter. She came out to look for Sakeena, and found her asleep over the corpse of her father.

Bibi Sakeena (sa) shared a close bond with her uncle (Ammu) – Alamdar e Karbala Jenab Abbas (as). Abbas could not see the tears in Sakeena’s eyes. He could not see her in pain. But, Abbas was no more, and now, Sakeena’s feeble shoulders had to bear the brunt of heavy metal chains. She had sent her uncle to Euphrates to fetch some water for the inconsolable and thirsty children in tents. Abbas could not keep his promise, for the first and last time. Sakeena cried loudly. Her shrieks were deafening. She did not crave for water. She just wanted her uncle back.

Bibi Sakeena(sa) suffered from terrible fatigue and thirst on the forced march to Damascus, and later from cold and starvation in Yazid’s dark dungeon. She cried silently and inconsolably. But, the suffering and thirst of other children in caravan made her forget her own misery. She consoled her mother when the corpse of Ali Asghar(as) – her 6-month old brother – was brought back to tent, even as she struggled to hold back her own tears. On seeing any lady or child weeping, she would innocently put her little arms around them and pacify them.

Bibi Sakeena(sa) forgot to smile after Karbala. Kufa saw her as a little girl lost in thoughts. Quite often she would sit up at night and stare curiously at dark sky. “I just heard a baby cry? Is that Asghar? He must be calling out for me!,” she would often say and break into tears. But, she knew her weeping and wailing would upset her mother, so she would cry silently and quickly wipe away her tears. In the Damascus prison, she would stare at the flock of birds flying to their nests at sunset and innocently ask Bibi Zainab(s.a.), “Will Sakeena ever be going home like those free birds flying to their nests?”

Bibi, your tale of helplessness, patience and chivalry will continue to inspire us forever. May Allah bless everyone with a daughter like you. Aameen!

Ala La’anatul Laahi Alal Qoum e Zaalimeen!!!

Virtues of fasting during Ramadan

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Fasting or saum is one of the vital pillars of Islam. Saum is from the root ‘sama’ which means ‘to abstain’ ^ from evil speech, thoughts and deeds. Saum is an act of worship; it is prayer for attaining spiritual exaltation and eternal salvation.

Fasting is an exercise in self-discipline. It strengthens our faith in God. The month of Ramadan is also called the month of God, Shahrullah, as it strengthens the bond between Him and us, ashraful makhlooqat. The purpose offasting is not simply refraining from eating and drinking but refraining from indulging in prohibited acts. “There are many people who fast, whose fast is nothing but hunger and thirst. There are whose prayer is no better than wakefulness and hardship. The eating and drinking in case of the former and sleeping in the latter’s case is a far better option” (Nahjul Balagha).

The month of Ramadan is the month of barakah or divine grace, when the gates of heaven are thrown wide open. The Prophet said “It is the month of endurance and the reward of endurance is paradise”.

Allah revealed the Holy Qur’an via His apostle and messenger, the Prophet, in this blessed month. Ramadan honours the memory of sending down of the Qura’n. It is the month of action, piety, reform, creativity, generosity, besides it being host to a special occasion, the immortal night, Laylatul Qadr.

Fasting is the sword and shield against sins. Ramadan is the best time to seek Allah’s forgiveness for past sins. The Prophet said: “He who fasts during Ramadan with pure faith and seeks reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. He who spends nights in Ramadan praying will have his past sins forgiven, and he who passes ‘Laylatul Qadr’ in prayer, seeking reward from Allah will have his sins forgiven” (Sahih Al Bukhari).

The Prophet said “A fasting person is in a state of worship even if asleep in bed. Every breath he takes while asleep is ‘Tasbih’, and his sleep itself is worship. O people, anybody who in this blessed month cultivates good and ethical manners will walk over Sirat, the bridge to Paradise on the day when the feet of others will tend to slide”.

Earlier fasting meant abstention from food and drink to denote mourning or grief. S M Shahid of Allama Iqbal University, Islamabad says: “In the days of Christ, fasting was regarded as a special mark of devotional spirit. Then, in Arabia, in Prophet Mohammad’s time, Makkans observed fast on days of Ashura (10th of Muharram) which also coincided with the custom of changing cover of Holy Kaabah. After the Prophet migrated to Medina , he too observed this fast as duty, till such time that obligatory fasts were prescribed” .

Regular observance of fasts creates remarkable endurance power in a person, besides special feeling of empathy for the needy and creates sense of equality between the rich and poor. Net result is manifested individually as well as collectively through refinement of character and purification of soul. Fasting invites Allah’s blessings and mercy. Besides fasting also has great medicinal value. It is a key to sound health and fit body.

Fasting is recognised to be instrumental in alleviating a number of physical diseases and so helps keep the body fit. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from fasting.

Mazloom father’s mazloom daughter

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Whenever talk veers to Karbala, we are reminded of the tales of unflinching loyalty, unrivaled steadfastness and the exalted sacrifices. We are reminded of the sweltering heat, blazing desert and the intense thirst. We are reminded of the shifting sand dunes smeared with blood. We are reminded of the helpless father carrying his infant son to the battlefield. We are reminded of the brave young warrior crashing onto the ground. We are reminded of the 13 year old orphan, whose body was cut into pieces. We are reminded of the prostrate figure lying lifeless on the banks of Furaat. We are reminded of two tender souls fighting like veteran combatants. We are reminded of the grief-stricken lady who saw her kith and kin being mowed down in cold blood. We are reminded of the ailing man wedged in heavy chains. We are reminded of a little girl clutching onto her dry water bag, crying and wailing inconsolably.

Bibi Sakina(sa) was barely four year old when the caravan set out for Karbala from Madinah. She was the heartthrob of family. Imam Hussain(as) was often heard saying, “A house without Sakina (A.S) would not be worth living in”. The beloved daughter of Imam e Mazloom (as), witnessed the gory events at Karbala unfold before her eyes. She is one of the eyewitness reporters of Karbala and its aftermath. Let us listen to one piece of the story from Sakina herself: “I was in my tent when the enemies of Allah attacked it. They were so cruelly looking for whatever they could plunder, until one of them noticed the necklace that I was wearing. He attacked me, trying to grab it from my neck. I was escaping from him until he pulled off my scarf. I fell down unconscious and all I remember was that I awoke in the bosom of my aunt, (Zainab).”

This tender soul watched in horror as every male member of her family left for battlefield, never to come back. She watched in utter helplessness and dismay as Yazid’s hoodlums pillaged the tents and ripped the earrings out of her ears. Her ears bled profusely and tears yelled from her eyes. She was not used to sleeping alone, and today there was no one left to tell her fairytales and put her to sleep. She wandered around in the dark night to look for her father. Clinging tightly to his corpse, she falls asleep.

Bibi Sakeena (sa) shared a close bond with her uncle (Ammu) – Alamdar e Karbala Jenab Abbas (as). Abbas couldn’t see the tears in Sakeena’s eyes, but little did he know that her feeble shoulders would have to bear the brunt of heavy chains. She had sent him to Euphrates (Furat) to fetch water for the inconsolable and thirsty children in tents. Abbas couldn’t keep his promise, for the first and last time. Sakeena cried loudly. Her shrieks were deafening. She didn’t crave for water; she just wanted her Ammu back.

Bibi Sakeena(sa) suffered from terrible fatigue and thirst on the forced march to Damascus, and later from cold and starvation in Yazid’s dark dungeon. She cried silently and inconsolably, caring little about her own pain. She consoled her mother when the corpse of Ali Asghar(as) – her 6-month old brother – was brought to tent, even as she struggled to hold back her own tears. On seeing any lady or child weeping, she would put her little arms around them and pacify them.

Bibi Sakina(sa) forgot to smile, after Karbala. Kufa saw her as a little girl lost in thought. Quite often she would sit up at night and stare curiously at pitch darkness. When asked if she wanted anything, she would say, “I just heard a baby cry? Is it Asghar? He must be calling out for me!” Knowing that her weeping would upset her mother, she would cry silently and quickly wipe away her tears. In the Damascus prison, she would stare at the flock of birds flying to their nests at sunset and innocently ask Bibi Zainab (s.a.), “Will Sakina ever be going home like those birds flying to their nests?”

Shahzaadi, your gut-wrenching shrieks ring loud in our hearts and souls even today. Your tale of helplessness, patience and chivalry will continue to inspire us forever. Bibi, please keep blessing us, always.

Ala La’anatul Laahi Alal Qoum e Zaalimeen!!!