Imam Mahdi (AS) is the last and the twelfth Imam of the Shiite Muslims. He was born in 255 H (874 AC) and the Shiite Muslims believe that their last Imam has been alive for approximately 1150 years. According to Shiite narrations, Imam Mahdi (AS) is currently in occultation and hidden from the public.
In this regard, Imam Kazim (AS) says:
After that, the narrator of this hadith asks the Imam: “Is there going to be a hidden Imam?” Imam Kazim (AS) replied:
Yes! He will be hidden from the eyes of the people but the hearts of the faithful will not forget him. (1)
Despite Imam Mahdi (AS) being in occultation, we have responsibilities and duties to fulfill during this period. His hidden state doesn’t imply that Shiite Muslims have nothing to do for their faith and religion.
In fact, the best way to maintain a strong connection with our Imam is by following his orders. The Shiite Imams have told us about the responsibilities we have during this special time and some of them are mentioned below:
During the occultation of the Imam, it is a time when people may lose faith in him. In this regard, Imam Sadiq (AS) said:
With Mahdi (AS), there will be a little number of Arabs.
Then the Imam was told “But there are so many Arabs now that have faith in this religion!” Imam Sadiq (AS) replied:
People will inevitably be tested and they will be differentiated from one another and many will fail this test. (2)
The Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) once prayed:
O Allah! Show me my brothers, Show me my brothers.
The people around him asked “O Messenger of Allah! Aren’t we your brothers?”
No! you are my companions. But my real brothers are those who live in the last times of this world. They believe in me while they haven’t seen me … keeping faith in those times, will be more difficult than cutting the thorns of a plant on a dark night or holding a burning wood in one’s hands. They are the lights in the darkness and Allah will save them from every catastrophic test of seduction. (3)
As you see, being a faithful person is easy during the occultation. Therefore, one of our responsibilities is to keep our belief in Islam during these times.
Harith ibn Muqhairah (one of the followers of Imam Sadiq (AS)) says “Once I told Imam Sadiq (AS): ‘We are being told that the leader of this religion will be hidden one day. So, in those times, what should we do?’”
Imam Sadiq (AS) said:
Keep your very faith that you have now and do as you have been ordered before him, until the time that everything will be clear for you [the arrival of Imam Mahdi (AS)].(4)
Understanding the message of our Imams and having knowledge about their attributes and role in this world is crucial in the Shiite view. This is one of the most significant duties of Shias during the occultation. In this regard Imam Sadiq (AS) advises one of his pupils named Fozail:
O Fozail! Get to know your Imam because if you know him, it will be the same for youwhether his arrival is soon or delayed and anyone who knows their Imam and then dies before his arrival is like one of his soldiers. (5)
In the Islamic point of view, praying is one of the most effective ways to have our wishes fulfilled. We should call upon Allah when we need Him and ask him to solve our problems, trusting that He will answer our prayers. The holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) said:
Call upon Allah while being certain that He will answer. (6)
Living without a guide in this world is the most significant problem we have. Without our Imams, we Shias have no savor and our problems seem never-ending. In this regard, Imam Sadiq (AS) says:
The problems of the Earth will not be finished except by an Imam. (7)
Therefore, one of the most important prayers we should make is for the return of Imam Mahdi (AS). The Shiite Imams have persuaded their followers to pray for the arrival of Imam Mahdi (AS).
Imam Sadiq (AS) told one of his pupils named Humran about the attributes of the occultation time and advised him:
When you saw … that the world is highly favorable for the unfaithful people and the flag of the righteous people is hidden, be cautious and ask Allah to save you. (8)
Imam Sadiq (AS) also said:
You Shias will face doubts in the future and [during those times] you won’t see a right flag or a guiding Imam and no one will be saved in those times except for the ones who pray like a drowning person.
Then the narrator of the hadith asks the Imam: “How can I pray like a drowning person?”
Imam Sadiq (AS) replied:
You should say:
“یا اللّه یا رحمن یا رحیم یا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلوبنا علی دینک”
O Allah! O Rahman! O Rahim! O Controller of the hearts! Make my heart keep its faith in your religion. (9)
Imam Mahdi (AS) himself wrote to one of his followers:
Pray so much to Allah for my arrival because it resolves all your problems (10)
In addition to this fact that praying makes his arrival more likely to happen sooner, praying is also the best way to relate to Imam Mahdi (AS) and this way, we can make a good connection to him. In return, Imam Mahdi (AS) sees that you are always thinking about him and praying for his arrival. It is obvious that Imam Mahdi (AS) loves the ones who do not forget him and pray for him more than others. Due to this fact, Imam Mahdi (AS) will pray for us in return and clearly, the praying of an Imam surely will be answered by Allah.
Don’t forget that it is so important for praying for the arrival Imam Mahdi (AS) to be in a group. You should get together with your family, friends or even the other people to pray for Imam Mahdi (AS).
Imam Sadiq (AS) said:
If four people gather and pray, they won’t leave each other until Allah answers their supplication (11)
He also said:
When something would bother my father (Imam Baqir), he would gather all the women and kids in the house and he would pray and they would say “Amen.” (12)
As you see, praying together as a group holds great important for it to be answered by Allah. Imagine the impact if all the Shiite Muslims united in praying for the arrival of Imam Mahdi (AS) pure hearts. It is obvious that his occultation wouldn’t have prolonged for so long. So, one of our important responsibilities toward Imam Mahdi (AS) is to encourage others to pray for his arrival and we’d better pray in group.
There are many other responsibilities we have during the occultation. The most important thing is to follow the orders of the previous Imams and fulfill all of our religious obligations so that Allah would save us from this dangerous time.
- Kamal ad-Din, Sheikh Saduq, vol.2, pg.369
- Al-Ghaybah, Sheikh an-No’mani, pg.204
- Basa’ir ad-Darajat, As-Saffar al-Qommi, pg.84
- Al-Ghaybah, Sheikh an-No’mani, pg.159
- Al-Ghaybah, Sheikh an-No’mani, pg.329
- Bihar al-Anvar, Allamah al-Majlesi, vol.90, pg.321
- Al-Kafi, Sheikh Koleini, vol.2, pg.21
- Al-Kafi, Sheikh Koleini, vol.8, pg.42
- Kamal ad-Din, Sheikh Saduq, vol.2, pg.352
- Al-Ih’tijaj, Sheikh at-Tabrasi, vol.2, pg.284
- Al-Kafi, Sheikh Koleini, vol.2, pg.487
- Al-Kafi, Sheikh Koleini, vol.2, pg.487
For modern people who live in this era and feel that their smart devices can solve all of their problems, it may be a question that why they should follow a religion like Islam, while they are pros.
It is true that the power of human intellect and thought is useful in different dimensions of his life such as: choosing friends, finding a spouse, selecting a job, or making decisions for going on a trip, or more importantly standing against unrighteousness and oppression. In all of these minor decisions, human beings, using their intellect, make plans and take it into action.
Some people believe that the human being is capable of managing his life, solely by using his intellect. But the fact is that human being is still an unknown creature, and the more we become acquainted with him, the more undiscovered talents and capabilities we find within him. Now, could a creature that is still unknown to himself and his kind, be able to dominate all aspects of his creation, and manage his life into reaching the happiness? Can human, who is still unknown to himself, realize what is good or bad for him and find his way towards happiness or misery?
Putting the individual aspects aside, the human is a social creature, with social needs, and in his social life, he would face lots of problems and issues. And because he is a human, his happiness, misery, ambitions, his criteria of good and evil, and his path is mixed up with other people’s happiness, misery, ambitions, criteria of good and evil, and other people’s paths. Therefore, he is not able to choose an individual path towards happiness and let others alone. But he should find his salvation and happiness in a path through which all people can reach eternal happiness.
And when it comes to the afterlife and eternal life of the soul, it becomes even more complicated as human intellect has no experience of the unseen. Therefore, the need for a life structure or an ideology comes up; a coherent, comprehensive plan that aims to guide human into perfection; a framework that shows the right and wrong, good and evil, goals and tools, pains and cures, responsibilities and duties.
All the guidelines mentioned above are delivered to human beings by God’s messengers in a framework called religion (Shari’ah).
Some people think that in the modern era that human beings have reached high levels of technology, religion is no more efficient for them. But the fact is that modern technology cannot supersede human’s need for religion for a better life. Humankind needs religion in both social and individual life. Religion is also required to make a bond between man and the creator.
It is not easy to point out all the benefits that religion can have for human beings. Some people can point out the disadvantage of religion that in some areas limits their freedom. But it is important to keep in mind that religion, like any other system of law, is not there to give complete freedom to people.
In all societies, laws are there to make the life safer and easier for all the people in the society. This safety may not be reachable but to limit the freedom of those who wish to break the social norms. Therefore, the rulings of religion will sometimes limit the freedom of individuals for the benefit of the whole society.
Most of the people who do not believe in religion, and as a result do not believe in the afterlife will at some point feel absurd and void; even those who are very successful in their worldly life. The main reason for that is the contradiction that non-religious people feel inside them. It is the contradiction between their great and unlimited talents and desires with the limited and mortal life of this world.
But when people have faith in the afterlife, and that nothing in this world has been created vain and pointless, they will try their best for the unlimited success, part of which they may gain in this world, and the whole in real life: “The life of this world is nothing but diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life (itself), had they known!” (29: 64)
When people follow a religion and believe that their religious lifestyle, and following the rules and frameworks of their religion will lead them toward eternal bliss, their reactions towards problems and challenges of this life will be different. Of course, everyone in this world will go through hardship and sorrows. But they are only to strengthen them for the higher levels of life.
Therefore, those who believe in God and the afterlife, when facing a problem, instead of fearing and mourning on it, will choose a more logical way to tackle their problems. Because they know it is a test for them to improve their spiritual and even their worldly position.
People who keep denying religion and its power to make human successful and powerful in every aspect will spend a whole life in bewilderment. They may reach great positions in this life, but because they do not have an eternal goal, they will feel absurd at some point. Living life with the no belief in eternal life will lead people to absurdity, depression, meaningless life and finally it may lead them to suicide.
However, you should keep in mind that only saying that “we are religious” is not going to make us successful. Maybe that is why followers of many religions do not reach the great success and peace. Achieving the eternal bliss and success through religion is only possible by obeying and following every single rule that religion has prescribed for us. Otherwise, it will be like going to the GP and getting a prescription without using it. Would we ever gain our health back?
Therefore, as narrated from our prophet (PBUH&HP) To be a religious person is to believe in that religion by heart, and to manifest the belief by tongue and to practice the rules of religion in full. 
- The Quran, Chapter 29, verse 64
- Esfahani, R. Mu’jam-e Mufradaat-e Alfaaz-e Quran, p. 22
These approximate statistics show that the world today is experiencing many problems that solving them is so difficult that they seem almost impossible to solve. People are and have always been suffering from hunger, poverty, violence, war, physical and psychological disorders or diseases, and the like.
The question is, “What does Allah Almighty do about all these?”
Evil proves that Allah doesn’t exist
Some people may ask “If Allah Almighty exists and He is omnipotent and loves his worshipers, why do people suffer while He can prevent all these problems?”
Those believing in Allah Almighty mostly argue that the discipline in the world and the harmony between its parts prove that there is a God who has made all these. On the other hand, those who disbelieve in Allah Almighty respond that the world is full of evils, as well, and the difficulties in the world are uncountable and unbearable.
In return, the believers say that the discipline of the world is a sign of the existence of Allah Almighty whether some evils exist or not. They don’t say that to prove the existence of Allah Almighty we should prove the whole world is disciplined but there is an adequate amount of harmony in the world that proves there is a Creator.
The Holy Quran and the Shiite Imams have answered the problem of evil in various ways.
We know that Allah is pure good, but He sometimes lets us suffer because through enduring these sufferings and hardships, we can achieve something better which couldn’t be possible to achieve without experiencing those difficulties.
Sometimes, Allah tests us with hardships and difficulties, so He sees how we react and if we do well, we will be worthy enough to be rewarded by Allah. If Allah doesn’t test us, how can we show our worthiness?
The Holy Quran says,
We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops. Give good news to those who patiently endure* — who, when faced with a disaster, say, “Surely to Allah we belong and to Him we will ˹all˺ return.”* They are the ones who will receive Allah’s blessings and mercy. And it is they who are ˹rightly˺ guided. * (2:155-157)
In this regard, Imam Sadiq (AS) says,
Indeed, there is a [high] place in the heavens that no one can reach except with enduring hardships regarding their bodies. (7)
Also, Imam Ali (AS) says about the advantages of difficulties,
Remember that the tree of dry plains is the best for timber, while green twigs have soft bark, and the wild bushes are very strong for burning and slow in dying off. (8)
Now we can understand why the believers are suffering from their issues more than the disbelievers. Allah wants to give us greater rewards in the hereafter. Imam Sadiq (AS) says,
Among people, the prophets suffered the most, and after them the ones who are like them. (9)
He also says,
Believers will suffer as much as their righteous deeds. Therefore, if they have a true religion and do good deeds, they will suffer from so many difficulties. This is because of the fact that Allah hasn’t created this world as a reward for the believers and not as a punishment for the disbelievers. (10)
Our Imams, especially Imam Hussein (AS), are the best examples of what Imam Sadiq (AS) says. If you study their history, you would see that they lived in the hardest circumstances.
The Holy Quran says,
Fighting has been made obligatory upon you ˹believers˺, though you dislike it. Perhaps you dislike something which is good for you and like something which is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know. (2:216)
Imam Sadiq (AS) says,
The ones who disgust by the hardships of this world are like the kids who disgust by the bitter medicines and get angry when it is forbidden for them to eat some delicious food (which is harmful to them). (11)
For instance, imagine someone getting fired. This would make them so sad and they would think that Allah has forgotten about them. However, when they search for a new job, Allah gives them a better job opportunity which makes them understand getting fired was actually a gift because it made them go for another job. Notice that sometimes we think some event is bad but actually is a gift.
Our needs are mostly the only things that make us think about God. When everything is good and we have no problems in our lives and everything is just as we want, most of us forget about Allah and that He is the one who has given us all these gifts.
The Holy Quran says,
Indeed, man becomes rebellious * when he considers himself without need. (96:6 - 7)
It also says,
And this worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter - that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew.* And when they board a ship, they supplicate Allāh, sincere to Him in religion [i.e., faith and hope]. But when He delivers them to the land, at once they associate others with Him.* So that they will deny what We have granted them, and they will enjoy themselves.
But they are going to know.(29:64-66)
Allah almighty clarifies why he sometimes let people suffer,
We will certainly make them taste some of the minor torment ˹in this life˺ before the major torment ˹of the Hereafter˺, so perhaps they will return ˹to the Right Path˺. (32:21)
It means that Allah punishes us in this world because of forgetting about Him and committing sins and by this punishment, He tries to make us understand that we should stop and repent. This way Allah protects us from the greater punishment of the hereafter.
Every evil in this world is not always because of the will of Allah but it is sometimes the consequence of humans’ deeds. The Holy Quran says,
Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea as a result of people's actions, so He will make them taste [the consequences of] some of their actions so that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]. (30:41)
Whatever affliction befalls you is because of what your own hands have committed. And He pardons much. (42:30)
Allah gave humans free will and would not force us to do or not to do anything. Therefore, humans must face the result of their actions.
Take World War I and II as examples. Many people were killed and butchered by soldiers of the opposite party. Were these wars by the will or order of Allah? If one refuses to study and work hard while young, he/she will have to work hard and suffer from poverty in the future. It is the consequence of his/her deeds not the will of Allah.
- Vasa’il ash-Shia, Sheikh Hurr al-Ameli, vol.3, pg.261
- Nahjul Balagha, Letter 45
- Vasa’il ash-Shia, Sheikh Hurr al-Ameli, vol.3, pg.261
- The same
- Tohid, Mufazzal ibn Umar, pg.168