Era of Occultation - A Time of Ordeal and 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-Zaman (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-Zaman (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.
1. Tyrant Rulers:
One of the calamites of the present times is the absence of a fair, honest and impartial government based on true Islamic principles that enliven the human spirit and values. When we look around us, we find man-made, oppressive and tyrannical laws imposed upon the masses by corrupt and dishonest leaders who are at the helm of affairs. Thus we find that oppression is commonplace in all parts of the world. The more one tries to suppress these oppressions through force and tyranny, the more aggressively they raise their heads.
2. Trial and Examination:
spanThis is the age of ordeals and tribulations. The biggest calamity of the time is that our Imam (a.t.f.s.) is concealed from our eyes while tyrants are ruling the world. The dark clouds of oppression are found everywhere. It is highly probable that a person may make a blunder and fall into the valley of deviation. Among the many perils of the present times, three of them are most dangerous.
In traditions, this period of occultation is referred to as the era of trials and examinations. This is a stage when the steps of an individual can falter if he does not continuously seek help from Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.). If we don't seek refuge in them, then in today's ever increasing stressful lives and social pressures, a small lapse or error will lead to the destruction in the Hereafter.
Traditions have described this period in various ways. Their scrutiny will give a clear picture about the ordeals of this era. We have the good fortune of enumerating a few of the trials and tribulations mentioned in traditions. Along with Shia traditions we have also mentioned the traditions mentioned by the Ahle Sunnat.
3. Difficulties and Calamities:
In traditions, calamites and difficulties have been mentioned as one of the features of this period. People will be engulfed in such severe and acute calamities that they will wish for death.
In a lengthy tradition, Imam Baqir (a.s.) says,'Hazrat Qaim (a.t.f.s.) will appear among the people at a time when they will be living in fear. Earthquakes will be common and people will be surrounded by corruption and difficulties. Plague will spread; there will be a terrible war amongst the Arabs and grave differences of opinions among the people. Religion will be scattered while circumstances would keep on changing continuously. These calamites will be so severe that every morning and evening an individual would pray for death. All this will be due to the troubles every person will receive from his fellow being. People will eat each other.'(Beharul Anwaar, vol. 52, pg. 231)
A person desires death only when he is surrounded by calamities and the whole society is a victim of deviation. Today, the world finds itself surrounded by calamities mainly due to the actions of a few defiant, oppressive, cruel, merciless, self-centered, proud, devilish, human-faced but animal-natured individuals. These oppressions are being perpetrated upon the world under different pretexts while every day new kinds of weapons of destructions are being unleashed. Every day, violence erupts in a new form and the day is not far when the whole world becomes a heap of gunpowder.
What is surprising is that those who possess a huge arsenal of armaments and are capable of wreaking maximum havoc upon mankind and whose substantial portion of trade revenue comes from the sale of arms and defence equipments, are the same nations who are today blowing the trumpet of being the 'guardians of mankind'!!! On one side they supply arms and ammunitions to the terrorists in order to further their business interests and on the other side, they are waging a war against terrorism!!!
In such turbulent times, the only thing that gives solace to man is the belief in the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.). This belief grants an inner strength to an individual, enabling him to confront all kinds of trials and difficulties
Through the above mentioned traditions, our Imams (a.s.) have given us a graphic explanation and a complete picture about the conditions of the last era. But does our responsibility end only by knowing these traditions? No. Rather, it increases manifold. Some of these responsibilities include:
This is because the present condition of the society is a result of our own actions. As the Holy Quran mentions 'Corruption has spread on the land and the oceans because of the hands of men have earned'.
Also Allah the High mentions in the Holy Quran,
'Surely Allah does not change (the conditions of) a nation until they themselves change (their own conditions)'
(Surah Raad (13): 11)
(ii) Therefore, if the current state of affairs is a result of our moral decay and sinful actions, then the improvement of the society can only materialise if every individual pays attention to his own self and takes steps to perfect his moral character.
(b) To turn towards Imam (a.s.):
When a person suffers from any kind of physical ailment, then he visits a doctor for its rectification. Similarly, if we find that our religion, actions and morals have become flawed and defective, then it is essential that we turn towards Imam-e-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) and present ourselves before his sacred presence. Because Allah has appointed him (a.s.) for the purpose of the spiritual cleansing and upliftment of the people. Naturally, we ourselves will have to go to the doctor, present our case to him, listen carefully to his advice and act upon it and not give in to our personal opinions and inclinations.
Responding to Some Points Raised By Ibn Khaldun (Part 2)
The Existence of the Mahdi is certain
Other Opinions from Ibn Khaldun
People Awaited the Appearance of the Mahdi
The Jurists of Medina and the Mahdi Traditions