Month 11: The Sun behind the Clouds

11. Sun behind the clouds

The purpose of Imam in Ghaybah (occultation):

When we say that our Imam (af) is in ghaybah, it does not mean that he is living in isolation, on an island, or away from the rest of mankind. In fact, he lives amongst us – but his identity is hidden. An example of this is Prophet Yusuf (a); when he was the ruler in Egypt, even his brothers did not know who he was.

The purpose of having an Imam in ghaybah is explained in the following Hadith: 

‘The benefit of an Imam in Ghaybah is just like the benefit of the sun behind the clouds’ 1

This was the response given by three infallibles:

  • It was the Holy Prophet’s (s) answer to Jabir bin ‘Abdullah al-Ansari when he asked, “Will the Shi’a benefit from the Qa’im during his occultation?”
  • It was the 6th Imam’s (a) answer when asked, “What would be the benefit of a hidden Imam?”
  • It was the 12th Imam’s (af) reply to the letter sent to him by Ishaq ibn Yaqub, through Muhammad Ibn Uthman (the second Na’ib), asking: “What was his purpose in ghaybah?”

The similitude of the Imam to the sun when it is hidden by the clouds, as he is described in these traditions, indicates several things:

  1. A source of life to all on the earth. Just as life could not exist without the sun, the world could not exist without the Hujjat of Allah on the earth. He counteracts all the negativity:A tradition from the 5th Imam (A) states: If the Imam was to be taken out of the world the earth would destruct.2 The proof of this tradition is presented in Sura al-Anfal [8:33]:وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنْتَ فِيهِمْ
    …But Allah would not chastise them while you were among them…
  2. Food: Just as plants produce their own food using sunlight, the spiritual energy of the Imam (af) helps our soul grow through his duas, blessings, mediation and intercession. If we knew our Imam (af) better, we would be able to connect to him more and thus benefit from him more. Similarly, when one connects to the Imam, they should be able to help others, who don’t know him, to grow as well. 
  3. Light: Just as sunlight provides us light to see, the 12th Imam (af) gives us the light of knowledge (Maʿrifah of Allah) and he is the bridge between us and Allah. By knowing our Imam, we will truly know Allah; by submitting to him, we are submitting to Allah. In this way, we will be able to walk on this bridge to Allah and move on our spiritual path. 
  4. Energy: The rays of the sun enter houses through the number and cleanliness of the windows available. We need to ensure that the windows to our souls are not blackened by sin. For that, continual tawba is important. 
  5. Actively Waiting: When the sun is absent, life carries on but we always long for it to come out from behind the clouds. In the same way, we must pray to Allah daily to bring the ghayba to an end soon inshAllah.

Knowing that he benefits us even during his ghaybah, let us look at how we can increase these benefits by using the easy-to-remember acronym IMAM!

I – I, myself

Clean the windows to my soul by doing a full and complete Tawba so as to connect to the spiritual energy of the Imam (af). It is his du’as, blessings, mediation and intercession that help my soul to grow.

M – Mankind

Learning more about the Imam (af) so as to be able to connect to him more and grow. It is only when I have started my journey of growth that I can help others, who don’t know him, to grow as well.

A – Allah

It is through the Imam (af) that we have Maʿrifah (deep knowledge) of Allah. By knowing our Imam, we will truly know Allah, and by submitting to him, we are submitting to Allah. He is the bridge between us and Allah and by walking on this bridge we move on our spiritual path towards Allah. Let us also thank Allah for His Hujjat on earth.

M – Muhammad al-Mahdi (af)

Imam al-Mahdi (af) tells us: 

“Surely, we do not neglect your condition nor are we forgetful of your remembrance. Had it not been so, then, terrible calamities would have struck you and your enemies would have destroyed you.” 3

In the same way let us not be neglectful of the Imam’s (af) condition, nor be forgetful of his remembrance. Let us pray (eg. Du’a al-Faraj) for his safety during his occultation and the hastening of his re-appearance.


 1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.52, ch.20, pg.92

 2. Ikmal al-Din, p.204.

3. Al Ihtijaj vol.2 pg.598

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