Being that the day of Imam Mahdi's (may Allah hasten his reappearance) birth anniversary is close, it is important to remember His Eminence and mention some matters about him that will help us improve and grow. Allama Majlisi has related the following narration about Imam Mahdi in Bihar al-Anwar:
"When Imam Mahdi reappears, he will rule with justice, and no one will be able to discriminate against another. Roads and paths will become secure, the Earth will bring out its bounties, all rights will be returned to their rightful owners, and no follower of a religion will remain until he becomes a Muslim and professes his faith."
Seven programs have been mentioned for His eminence in this narration:
1 & 2. A just government and elimination of discrimination: The first part of the tradition states that when Imam Mahdi reappears, he will rule with justice and wipe out discrimination.
The antonym of justice ('Adl) is injustice (Dhulm). And the word equity (Qist) is the opposite of discrimination (Jawr). The difference between justice and equity is that justice means that another's right is not taken, and equity means that discrimination does not take place. Thus, injustice means to take one's right for one's own benefit, and inequity means to give one's right to another. For example, if I take John's house for myself, it is injustice. And if I take his house and give it to someone else, it is inequity. The opposite of the first example is that I don't take John's house for myself; this is justice. And the opposite of the second example is that I don't take his house and give it to someone else; this is equity. Therefore, equity is the lack of discrimination, and justice is the lack of injustice.
3. Security of paths: The third part states: "And the paths will become safe and secure by him." This means that all the paths and roads will become safe because of him.
4. Nature will blossom: The next part says, "The Earth will bring out its blessings." The Earth will bring out its bounties and blessing, whether they are agricultural, mineral or other energy sources which are hidden from us.
5. The affairs will be placed in the hands of those who are qualified: The fifth part states: "All rights will be returned to their rightful owners." He will return the affairs and positions to those who are qualified, in contrast to our time, where many positions and affairs are entrusted to unqualified individuals because connections precede rules.
6. Rule of Islam: The next part states, "And there will not remain a person of religion but that he will become a Muslim." No other religion will remain. All religions will become one religion, Islam.
7. Hearts will be attracted to Islam: And finally, the tradition concludes by saying, "And they will profess their faith." This has two meanings. Possibly it refers to the fact that everyone will follow the Prophet's household, or that in addition to having faith in appearance, they will also have faith in their hearts.
The difference between submission (Islam) and faith (Eimaan) have been stated in Islamic narrations. Some narrations say that Islam is that thing that if a person professes, his life is protected and the meat he slaughters is permissible to eat, whereas faith is the source of salvation in the hereafter. In some narrations it is stated that Islam is like the Sacred Mosque, and faith is the Ka'ba.
It is possible that this wording in the hadeeth refers to the verse: "And the (Bedouin) Arabs said 'we believe'; say, 'you do not believe, but say that we submit and faith has not yet entered your hearts'" (49:14).
The main tasks that His Eminence will carry out – which can be seen from Islamic narrations – can be summarized in four spheres:
1. Correcting beliefs: A well-known tradition in Tafseer al-Qurtubi states, "There is not a house made of stone or mud but God will enter in it Islam."
2. Perfecting minds: An intellectual and scientific movement will occur. Allama Majlisi records in Bihar al-Anwar, "When Imam Mahdi reappears, he will place his hand on people's heads and complete and perfect their thoughts and intellects.” Perhaps the phrase "place his hand on people's heads" means that they will be trained by him.
3. Justice and equity: It has been stated in numerous narrations in Bihar al-Anwar that he will fill the Earth with justice and equity, just as it was filled with injustice and inequity.
4. Correcting morals: His fourth task is to wipe out moral decay and revive Islamic values. This can be seen from narrations about the signs of the reappearance. There are narrations which say that before the Mahdi's reappearance, moral decay such as fornication, theft, bribery, cheating in sales, drinking alcohol, and murder will increase. What they intend is that the Mahdi will rise in order to wipe out these moral decays. The system of values has been completely corrupted and Imam Mahdi will fix it.
Imam Mahdi has an army, assistants, and helpers, as we read in Ziyarat Aale Yaseen: "O Lord, appoint me as one of his devotees, followers, and helpers."
In some narrations, it adds, "And appoint me as one who strives to defend Truth along with him."
Those who want to be of his helpers must work within the framework of these four principles. The prayers of one who does not have any of these principles and prays to God to make him a helper of Imam Mahdi will not be answered.
If the clerics establish this program, a character-building class will be formed. Prayer is good in its own place, but praying to be his devotee, follower, and helper will not come about only with prayer. Rather, one must become a pure monotheist and remove all forms of polytheism from his heart. He must act according to justice and equity among people and his household. We must revive moral values within ourselves.
If the purpose for his rising is properly proclaimed, it will change the face of society. One cannot be among his ranks without having any of these principles. It is good to turn people's attention to the purpose of his program during these days of his birth anniversary so that they follow it.
Also, beware that there are forces at work who want to use these religious celebrations and processions in order to wipe out moral and religious values, just as those who wanted to build Masjid Dharar wanted to wipe out the root of the mosque with a mosque. These values must be properly revived so that the enemy cannot destroy them.
It is hoped that God will answer this prayer in relation to all of us: O Lord, appoint us as his helpers, assistants, followers, devotees, and as the defenders of Truth along with him.
The author of over a hundred books and articles on religious and social topics, including a commentary on the Holy Qur'an, Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi is followed as a Religious Authority by millions of Shias around the world today. He currently lives and teaches in the Holy city of Qum, Iran.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Islamic Insights would like to thank Sayyid Baqir Imrani for translating this article from Farsi into English.