The Blessed Birth of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him)

Prophet Muhammad said: “Great bliss for he who reaches the time of the Riser of my Household and had taken him as his role model before he rose; pledging allegiance to his ally and renouncing his enemy.”
The Blessed Birth of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him)

Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) was born in overwhelming and encumbering circumstances which surrounded his father, Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari (peace be upon him). The ruling system placed Imam Hassan under full and strict surveillance which lasted for five years and which is the time Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) lived with his father.

This was the reason that Imam Ali Al-Hadi and Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari (peace be upon them) employed an indirect method to communicate with the Islamic Nation through appointing agents and representatives to pave the way for the Absence of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) and to make the Islamic Nation used to this.

The Abbasid Plot and the False Claim
The Abbasid Caliphs noticed how Imam Muhammad Al-Jawad and Imam Ali Al-Hadi (peace be upon them) dealt with them and this inspired their fear. This is the reason why they intensified the observation of the Imams and placed spies in proximity to the family of Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari in anticipation of the birth of the Promised and Awaited Mahdi. All Shiites were waiting for the Imam because he was the one to establish the state of Divine Justice. This is why the Abbasid authority supported the son of Imam Ali Al-Hadi (peace be upon him) who was known as Jaafar the Liar and they strove to place him in the position of his brother, Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari, after the death of the Imam.

The Frustration of the Abbasid Plot
Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) assumed Imamate in the year 260 of Hegira after the death of his father, Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari (peace be upon him). He was surrounded by full secrecy and was concealed from the Abbasids who were striving to eliminate him. His birth was kept secret even from the servant in the home of Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari (peace be upon him).

When Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari (peace be upon him) died, his brother Jaafar came forth to lead people in prayer for the soul of his brother and he assumed this role because he feigned being the heir of the Imam. However, to the great surprise of everyone, a boy five years old came out of the house and pulled at the garment of his uncle. He said to him: “Go back. I am more entitled than you to pray for my father.”

Thus, Jaafar withdrew without even slightly opposing the Imam. The efforts of the Abbasids became in vain and the Imam frustrated their plot to debase his Imamate.

The Minor Absence
Due to the insistence of the Abbasid authority on pursuing the Imam, he went into absence. This absence was called the Minor Absence because during this absence the Imam communicated with his followers through representatives. These representatives administered the affairs of the Islamic Nation for seventy years. They were four in number, and they were known as the Intermediaries. They were: Othman son of Sa’id Al-‘Amri, Muhammad son of Othman son of Sa’id Al-‘Amri, Abul Qassem Hussein son of Rouh Anawbakhti, and Abul Hassan son of Ali son of Muhammad As-Samri.

The Great Absence
The Minor Absence lasted from the death of Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari in the year 260 of Hegira until the year 329 of Hegira. The aims of this Absence- which were the protection of Shiites from deviation and making them accept the idea of Intermediaries between them and the Imam- were accomplished. When the Minor Absence ended, the Great Absence commenced. The representatives of the Imam ceased to be specific individuals but became the sources of emulation. This Absence will last until God wants it to end.

The Signs which will Prelude the Emergence of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him)
Narrations specify some signs which will prelude the emergence of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) in order to inspire hope in the hearts of Shiites and to make them steadfast in their anticipation of his emergence no matter the events which might occur or the intensity of oppression and corruption. These signs are the following:
1-The emergence of the Sufyani who is a descendant of the Umayyad dynasty
2-The emergence of the Yamani, who is a descendant of the Hashemites
3-The emergence of black flags from Khorasan carried by the supporters of the Imam
4-The murder of the Pure Person in Mecca
5-The collapse in Al-Bayda’ (a desert region near Medina)
6-The shrill cry from the sky announcing the emergence of the Imam

Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said: “A crier from the sky will shout the name of the Riser and those in the east and west will hear.”

Imam Mahdi’s State
Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said: “When the Riser will rise, he will judge justly. There will be no tyranny in his time, and all roads will become safe. The earth will push forth its blessings and every right will be returned to its owner. There will be no people of other religions and only Islam will prevail. He will judge between people by the judgment of David and Muhammad. Then shall the earth uncover its treasures and expose its blessings. A man will find no place to spend his alms and benevolence. You will be granted wisdom in his time; even a woman will judge in her home according to the Book of God and the Sunnah of His Messenger (peace be upon him and his Household).”

Awaiting Respite
Shiites have been awaiting the emergence of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) since the time of his absence in the year 329 of Hegira. They have been counting the hours, days, and years in anticipation of his blessed and promised arrival so that he will “fill the earth with justice just as it was filled with tyranny and injustice.”

God said in the Holy Quran:{We have written in the Psalms, after the Reminder, that the earth will be inherited by My righteous servants.}(The Prophets, verse 105)

They ask God to be among his companions, those who fight under his command, and those who are martyred in a battle led by him against the unjust.
However, the duration of the period of absence is unknown. The Imams falsified anyone who gives a certain time for the end of the absence. It has been transmitted that one of the companions of Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (peace be upon him) asked him: “Is there a certain time for this absence?”

The Imam (peace be upon him) answered: “Those who appoint a certain time lie, those who appoint a certain time lie, those who appoint a certain time lie.”

Thus, the time the Absence will end is unknown and the duration of absence will be long. Imam Jaafar As-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said: “By God, your Imam will be absent for years in a long era. You will be tested until [some] will say: ‘He was killed! He perished! Which valley did he go to?’ Verily, the eyes of the believers will be wet with tears for him.”

During the period of Absence, many generations will live and they are responsible for the fulfillment of Islamic laws and contribution to this Divine Plan. What is the role of the believer in the Era of Absence?

The duty of the believer in the Era of Absence may be summarized in one phrase: “Waiting for respite”. Imam Hassan Al-‘Askari (peace be upon him) said: “You have to be patient and wait for respite, for the Prophet (peace be upon him and his Household) said: “The best of my Ummah’s deeds is waiting for respite.”

What is the true meaning of waiting for Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him)?

1-Negative waiting:A foolish notion is to believe that waiting for Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) means to stand aside without doing anything or acting in a way which brings upon change. This is similar to a person who is drowning and hoping that a rescue team will arrive before he perishes and thus does not struggle to remain alive.

The essential duty of believers in the Era of Absence is not only to live in the hope of the emergence of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) while doing nothing to change the current social and political reality. The role of believers is not merely to hope and anticipate the signs of emergence which are mentioned in narrations and it is not to become more hopeful when one of these signs is fulfilled without doing anything to bring upon change.

2-Positive waiting:Opposite to negative waiting for Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him), there is positive waiting. This is similar to fighters in the field of battle waiting for a large army to come to their support. They fight and achieve victory in some positions, and while they are fighting they are hoping for the arrival of the large army which will vanquish the enemies. They believe that their stand is a prelude to the coming of the large army and even that their struggle plays a role in the summoning of that army. When they witness tidings that the army will soon arrive, they become more determined to fight the enemy.

This is the state of those who are waiting for their absent Imam and striving to pave the way for his emergence. They are truly pavers for the emergence of Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him), and some narrations have referred to this such as the narration about the party which will fight the enemies of the Imam: “…until it reaches Jerusalem paving the way for the dominion of Al-Mahdi.”

The Preparation of Individuals who Await the Imam
Those who are waiting for Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) have prepared themselves to be worthy of paving the way for their Great Imam who will accomplish the aim of Prophets and Successors all throughout history. When they pray to God for his sake they say: “And make me one of those who come to his victory”, and when they salute their Imam they say: “I am ready to come to your victory”.

Preparing oneself may be achieved through a number of matters, some of which we shall mention as follows:

1-Sincere devotion to God:This is the most essential issue in preparation. He who is not sincere is not worthy of waiting for the Imam, and this is why sincerity is a main condition for waiting. Imam Muhammad Al-Jawad (peace be upon him) said: “…the Sincere await his emergence.