13 Jun Meaning of Title : Mahdi
The names and titles of our Imams (a.s.) are not conferred by common men but are selected by the Almighty in view of their characteristics. Hence, each name and title bears a special significance. In general, all our Imams (a.s.) are similar in grace and perfection. Each one is Sajjaad (the one who prostrates excessively), Baqir (one who splits open the facets of knowledge), Kazim (one who controls anger) and Reza (satisfied) but each Imam (a.s.) is given the title which becomes prominently manifest in that particular Imam (a.s.). Imam Mohammad Baqir (a.s.) was called thus because he spread the divine knowledge extensively. He quenched the seekers of knowledge and divine recognition with teachings of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Thus, he was bestowed the title of Baqir. Imam Musa Kazim (a.s.) exhibited immense patience and control and so was famed as Kazim. It was not that the other Imams (a.s.) were not patient. This is pertinent with all the other titles.
Mahdi is a particular venerable title of the twelfth Imam, Master of the Time (a.s.). Mahdi in Arabic grammar denotes both meanings – Isme Fael (Doer) as well as Isme Maf’ool (object). In other words, Mahdi means “the Guide” (subject) and “the Guided” (object). It is apparent that only the one who is himself guided in all accomplishments can lead others in every field and fulfil the obligations of guidance. This specific title implies that guidance would be the most evident trait in this Imam (a.s.), for it is with his advent that all the corners of the world will be illuminated with the light of divine guidance. There will be no mention of misguidance and deviation anywhere in the world. The masses will congregate upon the unity of God, the messengership of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the leadership of Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.). Universal guidance of this manner is particular only to the noble self of the Master of the Time, Imam Mahdi (a.s.). Allah has safeguarded him for the divine purpose of such universal guidance. His guidance is of such intensity that it has survived the era of major occultation. The occultation of Imam (a.s.) has never been a hindrance for his guidance to reach to the people.
Sulaiman A’mash questioned Imam Sadiq (a.s.): “How will the people benefit from a hidden Proof?” He answered: “As they benefit from the sun behind the clouds.”
The avenues for seeking benefit from Imam Mahdi (a.s.) are not closed (due to his occultation). It is another thing that the manner of guidance after reappearance will be radically different. The difference between his occultation and his presence is the same as the difference between the sunlight that reaches us through clouds and direct sunlight.
Although the entire universe gains guidance through Imam Mahdi (a.s.), yet mankind has been more privileged in this regard. The guidance and advices of Imam (a.s.) are not like the guidance of preachers. The guidance of Imam (a.s.) is not based upon its manifestation but upon reality and actuality. Nothing remains hidden to him. He is aware of the thoughts and emotions of man. He is cognizant of the divinely bestowed hidden knowledge. Ponder upon the following incident which portrays how Imam Mahdi (a.s.) makes people mindful of the reality.
Acquaintance with the Permissible and the Prohibited
Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) has narrated from Sa’d Ibn Abdullah Qummi, a venerable companion of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.). Sa’d Ibn Abdullah Qummi says:
“I had collected forty odd questions that were difficult for me. At that time Ahmad Ibn Is’haaq was travelling to Saamarraa and I too joined him. He asked me the reason for coming to him. I replied: To meet you and find out answers to my questions. He said I am going to meet my master Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) and to ask him questions and exegesis of Quranic verses. He asked me to join him in this journey so that I can witness the sea of knowledge and perfection for which there are no limits and whose valuable pearls will never be destroyed.
So I accompanied him to Saamarra till we reached the house of our master and asked for permission to enter. Ahmad Ibn Is’haaq had one hundred and sixty purses containing gold and silver coins. Each purse was sealed with the seal of the sender. When our eyes fell on the elegant face of His Eminence, Abu Mohammad al-Hasan Ibn Ali (a.s.) we saw that his face was like a full moon and a child was sitting in his lap. He was very beautiful, like a Jupiter star having nice locks of hair. In front of the Imam (a.s.) was placed a round thing which was decorated with jewels and precious stones; it was presented by an affluent gentleman from Basra. The Imam was holding a pen and writing something on paper. Whenever the child caught his hand, he tossed the pomegranate and the little one chased it and brought it back. In the meanwhile he wrote whatever he wanted. So Ahmad Ibn Is’haaq opened the cloak and presented the bags before Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.).
Imam (a.s.) cast a glance at his son and said: Remove the seals from the gifts of your Shias and friends. The child asked: O my Master! Is it right that my pure hand should extend towards wealth with mixture of halal and haraam wealth?
Imam (a.s.) asked Ahmad Ibn Is’haaq to take out the contents of the bag so the lawful and the unlawful can be separated. He did as he was told. The child said: “This is from so-and-so of so-and-so locality, containing 62 dinars from sale proceeds of a house, inheritance from his father is 45 dinars, from the money of nine dresses 14 dinars and the rent of shop amounting to three dinars.”
Our master, the Imam (a.s.) said: “You are right, my son. Now tell us what is unlawful in it?” The child replied: “There are 2 coins which are unlawful. One of them was minted in a particular place and which is blank on one side. This Is an old Aameli coin and its weight is 41 dinar. Search it you will find it.
This same amount is unlawful in it because the sender of this purse in so-and-so year, so-and-so month gave to a weaver a mound and a quarter of cotton for spinning. That cotton was stolen from the weaver who informed him about it but he didn’t accept the weavers’ version and in its place took a mound and a half of cotton. Then he ordered a garment be made for him from this material. Thus that money and the cropped amount are from that money.”
Ahmad Ibn Is’haaq untied the purse and removed from it the said dinar and the cropped pieces from it and whatever the child had informed was written on the piece of paper in the bag.
Then he took out another purse. The child said: “This is from so-and-so of so-and-so locality of Qom, containing 50 dinars. It does not befit us to touch it at all.” Ahmad Ibn Is’haaq asked: “Why?” He replied: “It is the sale proceeds of wheat that the sender had paid to his farmers but while giving he measured some with a correct measure and some with a tampered measure.”
Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) said: “You are right my son.” Then he (a.s.) said: “O Ibn Is’haaq, take that purse and return it to the sender and tell him to give the money to its actual owner, as we are not in need of this money.”
(Kamaaluddin, p. 480)
After pondering on this incident, we come across some interesting conclusions:
1. Both Sa’d Ibn Abdillah Qummi and Ahmed Ibn Is’haaq witnessed the childhood of Imam Zamana (a.t.f.s.). His face was shining like the moon and he exhibited all the endearing traits of a child yet he displayed his complete authority over divine knowledge (Ilm Ghaib) and secrets. All the secrets of the sealed purses were clear to him.
2. Due care should be observed when presenting gifts, presents and monies to the holy presence of Imam (a.s.). We should ensure that the money and gifts are untainted so that Imam (a.s.) accepts them and places his pure hands upon them. Impure and dubious presents will not be accepted by his holy presence and will be rejected outright.
3. Earning profit in trade in not an achievement. The accomplishment is to ensure that it does not contain anything that is prohibited. Special care should be taken in selling things by weight and other such dealings. We should not short-change our partners. The difference might be miniscule, intentional or unintentional, but the Imam always knows.
4. The owner of cotton thread was not ready to accept that the cotton was stolen. Islamic law is clear that if a thing gets stolen from a trustee while he has taken adequate precautions against it, then he is not held responsible. But here, the owner of the cotton refused to accept the excuse of the weaver and extracted compensation from the weaver. He also takes a quarter of a mound more, sells the cotton and sends the money received as gift to the Imam (a.s.), who does not even touch it, let alone accept it. Religion stresses that gifts should be accepted graciously and giving of gifts is recommended. It increases connections and friendship. But the Imam (a.s.) by his actions shows that a prohibited favour is unacceptable.
The incident serves as a beacon to us all. If we donate to religious works like the construction of mosques, imambargahs, schools…. Or helping the needy or the sick, it will only be accepted if it does not have an iota of unlawful in it. It is obvious that Allah does not accept what the Imam (a.s.) does not acknowledge. Imam (a.s.) is the door to reaching Allah.
5. The 50 dinars from the sale of wheat were not acceptable to Imam (a.s.) because while some had been measured with a true weight, others were measured with a faulty one. Imam (a.s.) has not clarified the manner of the defect. But the rejection of the money makes it clear that in any partnership or collaboration the division of the proceeds should not be in an unequal manner. We should be careful that no rights of others should be pending upon us.
In today’s era, every man tries to maximize his share and considers it his intelligence and prowess. This is not wisdom but ignorance and stupidity. How could it be wisdom if his Imam (a.s.) refuses to accept it? The astuteness of the person would be in keeping his share free from any unlawful addition such that when it is presented to the Imam (a.s.), it gains immediate acceptance.
Answers to Questions
Shaikh Tusi (a.r.) has quoted this incident from Mohammad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Is’haaq al-Taaleqani:
I met Husain Ibn Rauh Nawbakhti (a.r.) along with a group of people. A person among them stood up and posed a question to him. He asked: “Please tell me if Husain (a.s.) is the Wali (representative/ friend) of Allah.” He replied at once: “Surely he was.” He asked: Whether His accursed killer is not the enemy of Allah.” He replied: “Certainly he is.” Then he asked: “Is it possible for Allah to give power to His enemy over this friend?” Husain Ibn Rauh (a.r.) said:
“Pay attention to what I am saying and remember it. You should know that the Almighty Allah does not speak to the people directly. But He has appointed His messengers amongst them. If He had sent Prophets of a different form, being or shape, the people would not have gathered near them and would have shunned them. That is why the Prophets were from amongst themselves. They partook food and walked in the streets and markets like normal men. People said to them: You are like us and we are the same as you. We do not believe that you are a Prophet unless you show some miracle. If you do so, we would know that you have a special distinction and power from Allah, which we do not have. Thus, Allah bestowed miracles on the Prophets as the greatest proofs of the veracity of their claims. Therefore, some of them after warnings, lengthy preaching and completion of proofs presented the miracle of the flood and storm (H. Nuh a.s.) and the conceited ones drowned. Some (H. Ibrahim a.s.) were such that when thrown into the fire, it became cool and safe for them. For some of them (H. Saleh a.s.) a milk bearing she-camel emerged from the mountain and for some (H. Musa a.s.) the sea-split into paths, the dry staff turned into a python and swallowed the snakes of the magicians. (H. Isa a.s.) – borne only from a mother was the one through whose hands the Almighty gave sight to the blind, enlivened the dead and informed of the stores in the houses and for some (H. Mohammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.)), He split the moon and gave speech to animals like the camel, the cheetah, etc.
When the men beheld such miracles of the divine Prophets (s.a.) that people were not capable of performing, they realized their own weaknesses. The destiny, grace and wisdom of the Almighty was such that the Prophets – though they possessed the miracles – sometimes they achieved victories and at other times they were oppressed. If they had always been victorious and had never been oppressed and suffered calamities, people would have mistaken them for being Allah and considered them all-powerful and their steadfastness would never have been clear.
The Almighty made their situation like the fates of others so that they remain patient at the times of difficulty and examination and thank Allah in times of abundance and ease. They remained unpretentious and humble in every facet of their lives. Thus the Prophets, despite their miracles, were sometimes victorious and successful and sometimes oppressed. Therefore, the people did not perceive them to be omnipotent and realized that there was a power above the Prophets, Who is the Creator and Nourisher of the universe. They were compelled to confess to Him and obey His prophets, who are the proofs of Allah over the people so that they should be not among those who transgress and call the Prophets as god or deny the message of the Prophets or become their opponents. Allah wanted this because those who deviate would do so after the truth and falsehood became evident and the proofs were completed. Anyone who saw their propagation, warnings and signs decided and confessed that it was the truth and worth obeying. Thus, they secured their salvation. On the other hand, those who deviated from this and became hostile to the divine messengers fell into everlasting chastisement.”
Mohammad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Is’haaq who was present in the gathering says that the reply of Husain Ibn Rauh (a.r.) was so astonishing that the next day I went to him to ask whether it was his own reply or he had learnt it from the Infallible Imam (a.s.). Husain Ibn Rauh (a.r.) without his asking told him: “O Mohammad Ibn Ibrahim! If I fall from the sky and the birds peck away at my body or stormy winds blow me away to a distant place, these would be easier for me than to say something from my own side for the religion of Allah. What I have narrated yesterday is with references and I have heard it from Hazrat Hujjat (a.s.).
(al-Ghaibah of Shaikh Tusi (r.a.), p. 324, H. 273)
1. We should not postulate anything of the religion from our side. Rather our discussions should be in the light of the traditions of the Imams (a.s.).
2. Being involved in difficulties is not necessarily proof of Allah’s displeasure.
3. Similarly, being in ease and comfort does not essentially construe Allah’s satisfaction.
4. People became so enamoured by the miracles and the extraordinary power of the Prophets that they took them as gods and worshipped those who had in fact come to advocate Divine Unity.
5. It was the boundless mercy, love and wisdom of Allah that He involved His Prophets and their successors in trials and tribulations so that the people would not mistake them as gods.
6. The steadfastness in faith and the patience over immense difficulties despite unlimited power at their disposal is a lesson in submission for the people.
7. Power and authority should not become a cause for pride and vanity but translate into a source of humility and servitude.
8. Guidance or deviation of the people after the completion of proofs upon them shows their freedom of choice in the matter and based on their choice they become liable for hell or heaven. None can argue later that if they knew they would never have opposed the religion.
9. The statement of Husain Ibn Rauh (a.r.) that: “I have not said this from my side”, clearly indicates that Imam Zamana (a.s.) is well aware of all affairs and is attentive towards all things. He does not let his friends and representatives be confounded by queries and provides them (instant) help.
10. If man is surrounded by difficulties, he should be patient on the divine decree, face it with steadfastness, be humble when vested with power and authority and be undeterred by challenges in matters of religion. Have faith in Imam Zamana (a.s.) and request him for a solution. Lastly we should be aware that Imam (a.s.) is watching our words and deeds.