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Last Updated: 2012/04/03
Summary of question
What are the causes of the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf)?
What is meant by ‘causes of the reappearance’ of the Imam of Time (atf)?
Concise answer

The ‘causes of the reappearance’ refer to those things that serve as agents instrumental in the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf). Although “God’s will” is the fundamental cause of the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf), what, in fact, humans can do to prepare the ground for the reappearance of the Imam (atf) is to do away with all those things that led to the occultation of the Imam and to create the required preparation in themselves. The preparation is achieved through carrying out certain duties and obligations especially those relating to the time of occultation i.e. anticipation for reappearance, prayer, patience, self-reconstruction, intellectual and social growth. There is no doubt that this preparation should be proportionate and in line with acceptance of the global government. That is to say, it should be general, exhaustive and that the common sense should be ready to accept and support him.

Detailed Answer

Anything that has a role to play in the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf) and is considered to be among the factors of his reappearance are the causes of reappearance. Although the main cause of the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf) is “God’s will”, what, in fact, humans can do to prepare the ground for the reappearance of the Imam (atf) is to create preparation in themselves. Because every revolution or movement which comes into being for a particular purpose will triumph only when there are no hurdles and when the ground is paved, otherwise it is doomed to failure.

The revolution of the Imam of Time (atf) is not an exception to this rule and it will succeed only when the conditions are available.[1] Hence, it can be said that preparation is one of the important causes of reappearance.  That is to say, all people should wish him to reappear and that the common sense should also be ready to back him. In other words, the changeable factors which are in our discretion and which led to the occultation of the Imam should be removed.

To explain further, based on what has been reported in the traditions about the causes of occultation, some of the causes are not under our control nor are they changeable. They include the following:

1. When he won't have to pledge allegiance to anyone;[2]

2. His protection from being killed;[3]

3. Divine test[4];

4. Unknown causes; the entire reasons behind of the occultation of the Imam are not known to us. It has also been said that the infallible Imams are well aware of the reason behind the occultation but they have not been commanded to reveal it. For this reason, they have mentioned the wisdom and reasons behind the Imam's occultation in a general way. Shaykh Saduq in his book 'Elalush - Sharaye' has narrated from Abdullah-ibn-Fazl Hashami as saying: «I heard Sadeq Aal-e-Muhammad saying: 'For the 'Saheb-e-Amr (Master of the Affairs) there shall occur an occultation during which every man of vanity will fall into doubt and skepticism.'»

I said: May I be sacrificed for you. For what reason?

He replied: For a reason which we are not at liberty to divulge.

I asked: What is the reason for Hazrat's occultation?

He replied: The reason for Hazrat's occultation is similar to the reason for concealment of the past Divine Proofs.

The reason behind Mahdi's occultation will not be disclosed but after his emergence just as the reason of Hazrat Khizr's actions (meaning the drilling of a hole in the boat, the killing of a lad and the repairing of the wall) was not divulged until Musa and Khizr decided to part company. O son of Fazl, this affair is a divine affair, this secret is a divine secret and this concealment is a divine concealment. We must accept that all His actions are based on Wisdom, even if the reason for them is not known to us.[5]

Obviously, these factors are not under man’s control so that he can change them. However, some of the causes of the occultation are changeable. As stated in some of the letters of the Imam of Time (atf), it is the people’s disloyalty and their sins that lead to his occultation.

"If our followers may Allah grant them success for His obedience all had truly kept their covenant (with us) the blessing to meet us would not have been postponed and they would have seen us with true recognition. Nothing holds us back from them except that which reaches to us (of their actions) that we dislike and that which we do not consider proper for them."[6]

It is, now, clear that the problem of occultation is due to the ugly actions that we have committed, and that we have not submitted to the traditions of Ahl al-Bait (a.s). Allah, the most merciful, has assigned for us an Imam who is ready to relieve us, but we have turned away from his commands and the commands of his ancestors. This has caused the wrath of Allah in the form of occultation.[7] Our only chance for relief is to try to seek the pleasure of Allah and His Hujja (AS) so that Allah may waive the remaining time of occultation.

Additionally, we must note that people, in addition to the general obligations, have certain duties to fulfill. By doing those duties, not only they get the reward but they also help prepare the ground for the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf). Some of those duties are as under:

A) Patience:

It has been narrated from Imam Reza, peace be upon him, that he said: “How praiseworthy are patience and awaiting the relief! Have you not heard the saying of the righteous servant (mentioned in the Quran), ‘and watch for I too am watching with you,’ (11:93) and, ‘You await and I too am awaiting’ (7:71)? Thus, be patient, for relief will come after (people’s) despair. Certainly, those who were before you were more patient than you.”[8]

The sentence “you must be patient” makes explicit reference to Shiites’ duty (patience) during the period of occultation. Obviously, patience means to be steadfast and firm in our beliefs and practice and in treading the path of the Imam.

B- Awaiting the reappearance:

Although “waiting” or anticipation is well understood from the above tradition, we must say that the Prophet and infallible Imams, peace be upon them, have attached great importance to ‘awaiting’. It has been narrated from Holy Prophet (s) that he said: “The best deed of my community is awaiting the relief.”[9]

The Commander of the Faithful, Ali (a.s.) was asked: “Which act is more favorable to God, the Glorified?” He said: “Awaiting reappearance.”[10]

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says: “The state in which a servant is closest to God and to which He consents most is when God’s Hujjah (proof) is hidden and concealed to him and he does not know where he is, he awaits and anticipates his reappearance in the morning and evening.[11]

Obviously, there are two kinds of anticipation (intizar): creational anticipation and legislative anticipation

In the creational anticipation, ‘waiting’ takes place in a negative form together with laziness but legislative anticipation is dynamic and combined with knowledge and practice. This point is confirmed by a saying of Imam Sajjad (a.s) who said:

“Certainly, those people of the time of his disappearance who adhere to his leadership and wait for his manifestation are more superior to people of every era. This is because Allah has granted them so much of understanding, comprehension, and recognition that have turned the disappearance for them into the status of attendance. Allah has given them the status of warriors of the Apostle of Allah (s) by sword. They are the real devotees, our true Shia, and the callers to the path of Allah inwardly and outwardly.”[12]

The real awaiter in the practical dimension has such knowledge that occultation becomes for them observation and attendance. That is to say they do not entertain any doubt in knowing their Imam of Time. In the practical dimension, they are busy preaching overtly and covertly, inwardly and outwardly.

The negative awaiter is lazy and does nothing concrete under the pretext that he is not able to do anyting to pave the way for the reappearance of the Imam (atf) but the positive awaiter endeavors day and night to increase his knowledge and insight. He prepares himself for his reappearance and tries to make himself resemble the true awaiter. In a nutshell, there are belief in the unseen, inclination toward justice, aversion towards injustice, confessing the truth and invitation to good in a positive anticipation.

C – Du’a:

As per some traditions, one of the main duties of Muslims is to pray for the reappearance of the Imam. For example, it has been narrated by Muhammad bin Uthman that the Imam said: “Pray for the quick reappearance profusely.”[13]

D) Inqita’ (Separation):

We read in a tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s) that he said: “Verily, this matter (reappearance) will not take place except after disappointment.”[14]

In another tradition from Imam Reza (a.s), it has been narrated that he said: “Verily, relief comes after disappointment and those who were before you were more patient than you.”[15]

This narration implies that insofar as man looks forward to non-divine powers, there will not be any kind of enthusiasm and thirst for messianic justice in him and he will not desire to see Mahdi as ardently as he should.

Perhaps, one of the signs of the revolution of the Imam of Time is the rampancy of injustice, oppression and violence in the world. This can be proven through two ways:

1. The Holy Prophet (s) considered oppression and injustice to be a sign of the revolution. It has been narrated that he said: “He will fill the earth with justice and equity as it was filled with oppression and tyranny.”[16]

2. Whenever suppression and repression exceed the limits, they will lead to explosion. Social outbursts are like mechanical explosions taking place at a fixed limit of pressure. In fact, the expansion and spread of corruption and evil by people like Zahhak bring the revolution closer. Resultantly, the seeds of revolution are planted and watered until the crisis reaches its climax. Then the revolution takes place. In fact, it should be noted that prevalence of corruption alone is not sufficient; rather awareness is also necessary. Awareness means that humans should understand their own position and value and consider living in oppression and corruption to be shameful, and unworthy of human position. Then they should evaluate the conditions and available means as well as the tyranny of the arrogant powers whereupon they should plant the seed of revolution in ready lands. They should water the seed in whatever way possible. It goes without saying that when such awareness is not enhanced among people and humans are not conscious of their own value and means and do not evaluate the other side correctly, then a blind revolution will occur which cannot guarantee protection of public good.

In other words, in order for the revolution to occur, the spread of corruption or the existence of a capable leader is not enough. Over and above to these, spiritual and intellectual preparation is needed. That is to say, people should be ready to sacrifice their lives in the way of revolution as and when necessary; otherwise, laziness, lethargy and sufficing to the existing situation will dominate the society in a way such that the thought of revolution will not come to their minds. People would just say, “I don’t care, everyone is responsible for his own deeds”, “Every one should help himself”, “I have nothing to do with others” and the likes of such statements. They prefer the status quo situation over revolting and tolerating any kind of imprisonment, torture, murder and execution.[17]

In addition, in order for the revolution of Imam Mahdi (atf) to take place, a fully-geared and devoted army is required to stand behind the Imam (atf) and to listen to the Imam’s command. For this reason, some devout and selfless people should be brought up in the hell of oppression, tyranny, corruption and discrimination, those who would spread the message of justice across the world. This group of people should be faithful, pious, devoted and ready to sacrifice their lives.

In a nutshell, if corruption and injustice spread and the people of the world accept them, such an action on the part of those people will never pave way for the rising of the Imam of Age (atf). Inaction is bad. Obviously, the spread of corruption should serve only as a prelude to the rising up of people. There is no doubt that, people will not rise up against injustice and oppression unless they should know the evilness of corruption and the goodness of individual and social piety. The only way to help people know the goodness of piety is to invite them to do good.

There are numerous reports showing that a group of people at different time periods takes action to pave way for the reappearance of the Divine Proof, the Imam of Time. These traditions are available in certain books.[18]

Here we will mention only one of those traditions: The author of Kashf al-Ghummah narrates from the Holy Prophet (s) who said: 'A group of people will rise from the East and they will make preparations for Mahdi's rule.'[19]

E – Piety and Avoiding Sins

In the traditions in which the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (a.s) have determined the duties of the awaiters, there is nothing but piety, continence, steadfastness, reform, avoidance from sins and seeking proximity to God. For example, it has been reported from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that he said: “Whoever is delighted to be of the companions of al-Qa’im (s) should wait, and should act with piety and good morals while he waits. If he dies before the advent of al-Qa’im (PBUH), he will have the reward of him who has received al-Qa’im (s). Thus, try hard (in obedience) and wait. May you taste its sweetness, O the group that is robed in (Allah’s) mercy!”[20]

Our great scholars have written separate books and articles about the duties of the awaiters during the period of occultation. Books like “Najm al-Thaqib” by Haaj Mirza Hussein Noori (1327), “Mikyal al-Makarem” and “The Duty of People in the Time of Occultation of the Imam of Time” by late Mirza Muhammad Taqi Musavi Esfahani (1348) deal specifically about the duty of people during the period of occultation. In these two books and the likes, reference has been made, with reliance on the sayings of the Imams (a.s.), to the causes of the reappearance and duties of the awaiters. Of course, rationally speaking, we can say that although the establishment of a great global government in an instant way is not impossible, but we do not have a valid rational and narrative argument in this regard. Although, it is likely that reappearance may take place instantly (because the time of reappearance is not fixed), we certainly cannot say that it takes place without preparations.

Martyr Mutahhari writes: Some Shia scholars who were thinking positively about some of their contemporary Shia states had considered it probable that the true state that would continue to rule until the rise of the Promised Mahdi was the very ruling regimes.[21]

This saying well indicates that Shia scholars believed in a government that served to pave way for the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf). This is natural, because when, for instance, a person is expecting a dear guest to arrive, he tries to prepare the atmosphere and place as well as the receivers in a manner that suit the position of the awaited individual. How can an awaiting individual await the coming of a person who is going to kill him with his swords, or sentence him to some sort of punishments in the course of implementing justice, divine commandments and promotion of virtue and prevention of evil?

When it comes to preparation for the global government of Imam Mahdi (atf), Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi writes: Four kinds of preparations are necessary:

A) Intellectual and Cultural Preparation: It means that the level of the thoughts of the people of the world develops in a way such that they understand the issue “race” and “different geographical regions” are not notable issues in human life; the difference in the colors, languages and lands cannot separate humans from each other.

B) Social preparation: The people of the world should become tired of oppression and injustice and available systems and feel the bitterness of this material and one-dimensional life, and even become disappointed of solving current problems by continuing this one-dimensional way.

C) Technological and communicational preparation: Contrary to what some persons assume that reaching the level of social perfection and a world full of peace and justice will certainly be possible by way of the destruction of modern technology, existence of these developed industries does not disturb a fair universal government and even, it may not be possible to achieve such goal without that.  Miracle is a logical exception in the current system of the nature, for proving the legitimacy of a divine religion, not for governing the society forever. This act should be performed based on natural laws.[22]

D) Individual preparation: The universal government of Mahdi needs ready and human-valued individuals, before anything else, who can bear the heavy weight of such expanded corrections; and firstly, it needs the increment of intellectual, awareness and spiritual and mental readiness level for cooperation in execution of this great program. The important point is that the one who is really waiting for such an important program cannot be the spectator, and should stand in the row of real reformists.[23]


[1] - Ibrahim Amini, the Just Leader of Humanity, pg. 294, Preparation for the Reappearance of the Imam of the Imam of Age (a.s.) by Muhammad Fakir Meybodi.

[2] - See: Saafi, Gulpaigani, Lotfullah, Muntakhab al-Athar, pg. 334

[3] - See: Behar al-Anwar, vol.52, pg.97.

[4] -Ibid, pg. 98

[5] -  See: Ibid, pg. 91 and 113. The Arabic version of the hadith is as under:

«ان لصاحب الامر غيبة لا بد منها، يرتاب فيها كل مبطل، فقلت له: و لم جعلت فداك؟ قال لامر لم يؤذن لنا فى كشفه لكم، قلت: فما وجه الحكمة فى غيبة؟ فقال: وجه الحكمة فى غيبة وجه الحكمة غيبات من تقدمه من حجج اللّه تعالى ذكره، ان وجه الحكمة فى ذلك لا ينكشف الا بعد ظهوره، كما لا ينكشف وجه الحكمة لمّا أتاه الخضر( عليه‏السلام ) من خرق السفينة، و قتل الغلام و اقامة الجدار، لموسى (عليه‏السلام) الا وقت افتراقها. وإنّنا متى عَلِمنا أنّ الله تعالى حكيم، صَدَّقنا بأنّ أفعاله كلّها حكمة، وإن كان وجهُها غير منكشف لنا».

[6] - See: Ibid, vol.53, pg. 177; Elzam al-Nasib, vol.2, pg. 467. The Arabic version of the hadith is as under:

«و لو ان اشياعنا وفقهم اللّه على اجتماع من القلوب فى الوفاء بالعهد عليهم، لما تأخر عنهم اليمن بلقائنا و لتعجلت لهم السعادة بمشاهدتنا، على حق المعرفة و صدقها منهم بنا فما يحبسنا عنهم الا ما يتصل بنا مما نكرهه و لا نؤثره منهم».

[7] - As was stated in the narration, “the blessing to meet us would not have been postponed and they would have seen us with true recognition.”

[8] - Ibid, vol.52, pg. 129:

«ما احسن الصبر و انتظار الفرج، اما سمعت قول الله تعالى «فارتقبوا انى معكم رقيب» و قوله عزوجل: «فانتظروا انى معكم من المنتظرين، فعليكم بالصبر، فانه انما يجيى‏ء الفرج على اليأس و قد كان الذين من قبلكم اصبر منكم».

[9] - «افضل اعمال امتى انتظار الفرج» Ibid, pg. 122.

[10] - «اى الاعمال احب الى اللّه عزوجل؟» فقال: «انتظار الفرج». Ibid.

[11] - Ibid, pg. 95:

«اقرب ما يكون العبد الى اللّه عزوجل و ارضى ما يكون عنه اذا افتقدوا حجة اللّه فلم يظهر لهم و حجب عنهم فلم يعلموا بمكانه... فعندها فليتوقعوا الفرج صباحا و مساءً».

[12] - Ibid, pg. 122:

«المنتظرون لظهوره افضل اهل كل زمان، لان اللّه تعالى ذكره، اعطاهم من العقول و الافهام و المعرفة ما صارت به الغيبة عند هم بمنزلة المشاهدة، و جعلهم فى ذلك الزمان بمنزلة المجاهدين بين يدى رسول اللّه صلى‏الله‏عليه‏و‏آله بالسيف، اولئك المخصلون حقا، و شيعتنا صدقا، و الدعاة الى دين اللّه سرا و جهرا »

[13] - Al-Ehtijaj, vol.2, pg. 471.  «و اكثروا الدعاء بتعجيل الفرج، فان ذلك فرجكم»

[14] - ان هذا الامر لايأتيكم الا بعد اليآس  Behar al-Anwar, vol.52, pg. 111.

[15] - «فانه انما يجيى‏ء الفرج على اليأس و قد كان الذين من قبلكم اصبر منكم» See: Behar al-Anwar, vol.25, pg. 110 and 129.

[16] - «يملا الارض قسطاً و عدلا كما مُلئت ظُلما وجورا». Al-Ehtijaj, vol.1, pg. 69.

[17] - It must be noted that the world has long been full of corruption. The corruption spread by the super powers in different parts of the world, especially Africa and Asia, has spread its peak. Ever since the West has been thinking of dominating the East, it has routinely increase tyrannical and repressive actions with millions of people being enslaved.  The situation of some of the colonialized countries of Africa and Asia is clear evidence of what the West has been doing.

[18] - For further information in this regard, see: Kamil Sulayman, Roozgar Rahayi; Translated by Ali Akbar Mahdipour, vol.2, pg. 1034 to 1062.

[19] - Kashf al-Ghummah fi Ma’refat al-Aemmah, vol.3, pg. 267, Mu’ajam Ahadith al-Imam al-Mahdi, Islamic Sciences Institute, 1411 A.H. vol.1, pg. 387.

[20] - Behar al-Anwar, vol.52, pg. 140 (cited from Nu’mani’s Ghaybat. The Arabic version of the hadith is as under:

[20]«من سره ان يكون من اصحاب القائم فلينتظر وليعمل بالورع و محاسن الاخلاق و هو منتظر. فان مات وقام القائم بعده، كان له من الأجر مثل أجر من أدركه. فجدوا وانتظروا هنيئاً لكم ايتها العصابة المرحومة»

[21] - Vide: Mutahhari, Morteza, The Rise and Revolution of Mahdi, pg. 68.

[22] - Makarem Shirazi, Naser, The Global Government of Mahdi (a), pg. 80 – 83.

[23] - Ibid, pg. 100.


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