In the three hundred and twenty-eighth year of the Hijra, the Twelfth Descendant of the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny) went into occultation. He will return, we are told, when the Earth is full of corruption and evil, which he will route out and replace with justice and Truth. Only the truest believers will be able to join his struggle to establish his Reign of Justice. So the obvious question is: how do we ensure we are among the true believers, among those chosen to help God's Proof?
The Last Luminary and Ways to Delve into the Light is written to answer exactly that question. Written by Sayyid Ridha Husayni Mutlaq, translated by Shaikh Saleem Bhimji, and published in 2008 by Islamic Publishing House in cooperation with Islamic Humanitarian Service, the book is 312 pages long and a very easy, engaging, and thought-provoking read.
The book contains 99 chapters, each about one to three pages long. Each chapter contains a narration from the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) talking about a particular responsibility of the believers towards Imam al-Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance), and the rest of the chapter contains a short and practical explanation of how that responsibility can be implemented in our daily lives.
As the birthday of our Twelfth Imam approaches us, the book contains some very thought-provoking responsibilities that we must undertake if we wish to become his true followers. For example:
- Taking part in religious gatherings, especially those where the merits and teachings of Imam Mahdi or his noble ancestors are mentioned;
- Knowing the scholars of the religion, and obeying their rulings and edicts;
- Getting spiritually close to the Imam by calling for his help in times of sickness and need;
- Observing proper manners, and avoiding the kind of behavior that would be inappropriate in the presence of the Imam;
- Feeling grief and sorrow out of separation from the Imam;
- Remembering the Imam in one's prayers, because he is in fact the real Sirat al-Mustaqeem (Straight Path) that we ask Allah to guide us upon;
- Offering a gift to the Imam by periodically donating a sum of money to the poor in his name;
- Fulfilling the financial responsibilities to the Imam, i.e. paying the Khums (one-fifth tax) regularly and on time.
These are just some of the 99 different practical responsibilities mentioned in the book. For the concerned believer interested in implementing each of these duties in his/her daily life, a good idea would be to go through each chapter and try to adopt each virtue in his/her life one by one. Some are short-term, for example, paying the financial dues to the Imam, while others are perhaps life-long, such as truly getting to know one's Imam and develop a heartfelt attachment to him and his cause.
In all, the book is a very interesting and thought-provoking read, mentioning many responsibilities and duties towards the Imam that most of us have never heard otherwise. As we celebrate the birth of our Imam, it is vital for us to find out our responsibilities and make sure we are among his true and loyal companions and followers. As the late Henry Corbin is noted to have said on the back cover of the book, "In the meantime, it is the duty of all Muslims, especially the Shia, to strive steadfastly for the creation of the proper atmosphere and the right climate for the establishment of a world order based on justice, virtue and piety. They should not only mould their individual lives according to the teachings and high ideals of Islam, but they should also bend their efforts to set up the Islamic order on the collective and communal level. They should devote themselves to the service of the faith and be prepared to receive the Awaited Savior. That is what was meant by the Imams when they exhorted the Muslims to keep on waiting for the Mahdi."
The book can be ordered online from Islamic Publishing House.