25 May Ghaibat — A period of severe examination
The present era, in which we are living, is known as ‘Ghaibat Kubra’ (major occultation). It is a period when there is no special representative of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) through whom we can contact him or correspond with him (a.t.f.s.). This era will continue till as long as Allah wishes and Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) does not reappear. When he (a.t.f.s.) does reappear, people will be blessed with the opportunity to meet him in person. They will get the good fortune of presenting themselves in his honourable presence. Thus, till Imam (a.t.f.s.) does not reappear and remains in occultation, we will be deprived of numerous priceless blessings. Among the most important characteristics of the major occultation is that it is the era of ordeal and tribulation.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) narrates, ‘That time (of reappearance) shall not come to pass but after you have become despondent and hopeless. No, I swear by Allah, till you are separated from each other. No I swear by Allah, till you are severely tested. No I swear by Allah, till the time that the unfortunate ones become unfortunate while the fortunate ones become fortunate’
(Kamaluddin, pg. 346)
In another tradition he (a.s.) says, ‘What will be your condition at that time when you shall be without an Imam or guide and you will be disgusted with each other. At that time you shall be severely examined and you shall be differentiated and sieved.’
(Kamaluddin, pg. 348)
Ahle Sunnah traditionalist Ibne Maajah, in his Sunan narrates a tradition from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.s) wherein he (s.a.w.a.s) says ‘How (difficult) will be the times that shall soon descend upon you! People shall be severely tested. At the end, low and degraded people will remain, who will break their pledge. They shall fight and oppose each other and this is surely going to occur’.
(Sunan-e-Ibn-e-Maajah, vol. 2, pg. 1,307)
In one tradition Ameerul Momeneen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) has enumerated the trials and tribulations of the last times. If we ponder over these traditions then it seems that the Imams (a.s.) are narrating the present scenario as if it was occurring right before their eyes! He (a.s.) says:
‘I swear by Allah in whose hand is my life! Things will not turn out as you wish till the time that you spit on each other’s faces or call each other liars. Thus only a few from among my Shias shall remain (steadfast) like the kohl in the eyes or the salt in the food. I will explain this to you with an example. Suppose a man has a large quantity of wheat. He cleans it and keeps it in a room and it remains there for a period of time. Later when he sees the wheat he finds that there are pests in it. He removes that wheat from the room, cleans it and puts it back once again in that room. He repeats this after every few days. Finally he is left with only a small quantity of wheat free from pests. The same shall happen to you. You shall be separated and distinguished from each other. Only those among you shall remain who shall not be affected by any kind of corruption or tribulation.’
(Al-Ghaibat of Nomani, pg. 209 – 210)
These traditions give us an idea about the conditions of the last era and how severe will be the difficulties befalling a believer. These tribulations shall act as a litmus test for recognising a true believer.
A majority of the believers shall succumb to these ordeals and get deviated while only a small number shall remain steadfast. The words ‘people shall falsify each other and spit on each other’s faces’ can mean that when a person becomes selfish and egocentric and cannot escape from the clutches of these vices, then he does not tolerate any kind of attack on his ego and opinions.
This greatly pampered ego becomes so sensitive that the person is unwilling to accept any kind of opposition to his views as he always considers himself to be correct. Thus, he considers any form of resistance (of his views) as his denial and an attack on his personality and is always ready to retaliate. He considers the noble traits of patience, forbearance and restraint as a sign of helplessness and cowardice. Thus whoever confronts him with any (other) opinion he falsifies it and rejects it, outright.
‘Spitting on the face’ can be taken in its literal meaning or it could also be interpreted as ‘giving vent to one’s fury’. To express the hatred that every individual has for his fellow being and to criticise someone for hours together for a small mistake can also be inferred from the phrase ‘spitting on the face’ It is obvious that in such circumstances, to control one’s self, to remain steadfast on religion and to follow the teachings of Ahle Bait (a.s.) requires a lot of patience. To keep the hearts free from the satanic whisperings and then to love those people in the heart, to pray for them and seek forgiveness for them is a Herculean task.
It is like holding a smoldering piece of coal in the palm or like thrusting the hand in a thorny branch. Why will a believer have to undergo such severe examinations It is because the ‘Universal Government’ that will be established by Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) – a government that will be unlike any government the world has ever seen, right from its inception – such a unique and matchless universal regime shall require equally steadfast and dependable helpers. This is because all these affairs are not going to be established through a miracle, but through the righteous actions of the pure and steadfast helpers. Thus these rigorous ordeals and examinations are essential in order to have formidable and unwavering aides. The Holy Quran too has spoken about trials and examinations in various verses.
‘Allah shall not leave the believers in their present condition. Until He separates the evil from the good…’ (Surah Aale Imran (3): 179)
In the same Surah, Allah the Almighty, says ‘And that He may cleanse those who believe and deprive the unbelievers of (His) blessings. Do you think that you shall enter paradise until Allah does not know those who strive from among you and He knows those who are patient
(Surah Ale Imran (3): 141 – 142)
One thing that should be borne in mind is that Allah examines the believers not because He is unaware of their piety and degree of belief. Rather, these ordeals serve the purpose of awakening the latent capacities of an individual. The pure are filtered from the impure. We become stronger by burning in the intense heat of the gruelling and challenging circumstances. Otherwise, everyone’s condition is evident for Allah.