Month 9: Living as though Imam (af) is Present

Living as though Imam (af) is Present

Allah instructs us in Surah Nisa [4:59]:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ …

O believers! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you…

When the above verse was revealed, the Holy Prophet (s) was asked who were ‘those in authority’ whose obedience Allah had mentioned alongside obedience to Him and to His Messenger (s)?

The Prophet (s) replied: They are my successors until they reach me at the pond (of Kauthar). All of them are guides and are guided. One who forsakes them will not harm them. They are with the Qur’an and the Qur’an is with them; it will not separate from them, nor will they separate from it. Due to them my people will be assisted, due to them they will receive rains, due to them calamity will be dispelled from them and their prayers accepted.

The above hadith makes it quite clear that the role of the Hujjah on earth is not merely to give rulings, but is much greater than that. More importantly, his occultation does not stop him from fulfilling these roles.

Imam ‘Ali Zain al-Abidin (as) has said: Indeed the people who live during the time of his occultation, who have firm belief in his Imamate and are awaiting his advent, are the best people from any age, since Allah … has granted them from the intellect, understanding and cognizance needed to live during the period of the occultation, as if they were living during the time of his advent.

In order to live in his occultation as if he were present in front of me, I first need to understand the meaning of occultation (ghaybah):

Definition of Ghaybah:

Ghaybah is often better understood by examining how it is different from other, similar, principles:

  1. Shuhud: (witnessing/existence): The Imam (af) has not died, so his advent does not mean a return to the world. He has not left this world; rather, he is already here. So ghaybah is not the opposite of shuhud. It does not denote existence in a different realm, as with the angels.
  2. Huzur: (presence) The Imam (af) will not descend (as Prophet Isa (A) will). He is already here, and he was not taken up by Allah. So ghaybah is not an opposite to huzur. The Imam (af) is not absent, in fact, he is more present than anyone else.
  3. Zuhur: (appearance/becoming evident): The Imam (af) lives amongst us. He eats, drinks and sleeps just like us. He is not invisible; we just cannot identify him. We may even see the Imam (af), for example on the plains of Arafat, but not recognise him. When he comes out of ghaybah, some people will recognise him as someone they had seen before. Therefore, ghaybah is best defined as the opposite of being apparent and recognisable. When his occultation ends, the Imam (af) will reveal his identity to the people.

When we understand that he is amongst us, then it is easier to live in his ‘presence’, even in his occultation. So – let us see how we can do this by using the easy-to-remember acronym IMAM!

I – Internal purification:

If I wish for his light to enter my heart and soul, I must begin by purifying myself through sincere tawbā, and making amends for my sinful conduct –  by fulfilling the wājibāt and avoiding the muharramat.


M – Make a pledge, covenant and allegiance to the Imam (af):

In Du’a Ahad we make this pledge in front of Allah, reminding ourselves that He is witnessing it and that we need His help to fulfil it:

اَللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي اجَدِّدُ لَهُ فِي صَبِيحَةِ يَوْمِي هٰذَا وَمَا عِشْتُ مِنْ ايَّامِي عَهْداً وَعَقْداً وَبَيْعَةً لَهُ …

O Allah, I renew to him in the beginning of this day and throughout the days of [my] lifetime, a pledge and a covenant and an allegiance to him…

  • عَهْداً (ahd) – pledge = promise
  • عَقْداً (ʿaqd) – covenant  = contract between individuals in order to define a strong relationship (as in the ʿaqd of nikāḥ)
  • بَيْعَةً (bayʿah) – allegiance = submission and a promise to obey

A – Acknowledging the Imam’s (af) presence by our obedience to him

As stated in the verse above [4:59], our obedience to the Imam (af) is an extension of our obedience to Allah and the Holy Prophet (s).

It is only when we obey the Imam (af), that we can be a part of his mission and help him –  not only when he comes out of ghaybah, but while he is in ghaybah also.

And it is for this reason that in the next part of Du’a Ahad, we ask Allah for help in fulfilling our responsibility to the Imam (af):

وَاعْوَانِهِ وَٱلذَّابِّينَ عَنْهُ اَللَّهُمَّ ٱجْعَلْنِي مِنْ انْصَارِهِ

O Allah, appoint me as his helper, his supporter, and his defender

  • انْصَارِ – helper (by not committing sins),
  • اعْوَانِ – supporter (commit to the Imam (af) and believe in him)
  • ٱلذَّابِّينَ عَنْهُ – defender (with my pen, tongue and actions)

M – Maintaining a relationship with the Imam (af)

Our relationship with the Imam (af) of our time must be different to our relationship with our other Imams (a), as he (af) is alive and amongst us. Below are a few suggestions:

  • Sending him Salaams when I wake, Salaams when I go to sleep, and at 3.13am/pm every day;
  • Talking to him on a daily basis and telling him what is happening in my life. Asking for his du’as, since he is the representative of Allah;
  • Imagine being in his presence – wherever I am. At home, at work, in school…
  • Actually inviting him to our functions and gatherings.

Find out more!

See a compilation of all English-language resources on the Imam (af), view FAQs and ask your own questions!

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