During a speech last week among the visitors and neighbors of Imam Ridha's (peace be upon him) shrine in Mashhad, Iran, Ayatollah Nasir Makarim Shirazi expressed: "Contrary to what the enemy pictures that the belief in Imam Mahdi is exclusive to Shias, all Muslims believe that a person from the offspring of Prophet Muhammad will fill the earth with justice and equity after it was filled with injustice and tyranny." By pointing out to the only difference about the belief in Mahdism in Shia and Sunni theology, he added: "Shias believe that the Imam of the time was born and is in occultation, while Sunnis believe he will be born in the end of days. Certainly, there is a minority among Sunni scholars who share the belief of the Shias in this matter."
Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi continued: "There are numerous narrations in Sunni sources which say that whoever does not know the Imam of his time will die a death of ignorance. Allama Amini has collected this narration from different Sunni chains. Now it is time for this question, that if not knowing the Imam of our time causes such a huge problem, namely ignorance, for us, is he one of the present day leaders of Libya, Iraq, Yemen, etc.? Sunnis do not have an answer to this question. And if they want this narration of theirs to be sound, they must believe in someone other than these leaders, meaning they must believe in the Shia belief about Imam Mahdi."
Occultation (Ghaybat) Means Unaware, Not Unseen
This Shia Religious Authority said: "It is the honor of us followers of Ahlul Bayt that our beliefs are rational and have clear and conclusive proofs. Thus, based on this narration, an Imam for the time exists who is among us; however, he is in Ghaybat. Of course, not Ghaybat meaning that he is unseen, but meaning that we are unaware and do not know him."
Beyond Prayer, Our Most Important Duty Is to Prepare for His Appearance
He continued: "That which is important in this period is what responsibilities we have before our master. Should we wait for Du'a Nudba on Fridays and celebrations during mid-Sha'ban and not remember him during the remaining days? Some scholars have listed Du'a Faraj, giving charity for his wellbeing, being sad because of separation from him, and resorting (Tawassul) to him as our duties for the period of occultation; however, our duty is much greater than these. We must prepare the world for his appearance."
While describing the preparation, he referred to the process of the Islamic revolutions formation and said: "Several years before the revolution, scholars, students, writers and others joined hands and revolted against the tyrant. If this process did not take place, there wouldn't have been a revolution. Also, at present, our duty is to prepare and plan for the Imam's appearance. By relying on verse 21:105 of the Qur'an – 'We wrote in the Psalms (Zabur) after the Remembrance (Torah): that the earth will be inherited by the righteous servants.' – we must form the principal seed for Imam Mahdi's revolution. This means that a group of God's righteous servants will stand behind Imam Mahdi and with divine assistance bring this universal revolution to fruition.
"Now, we must see who these righteous servants are. These righteous servants are from among you people and from those who associate themselves with Imam Mahdi. Therefore, you must correct and build your beliefs, forget [and leave behind] immorality, repent for your sins, and attain awareness and knowledge about the Imam. You must recognize him as an infallible leader and be ready to make any sacrifice in his mission."
Awaiting (Intidhar) Means to Fight against Corruption and Social Decay
He explained: "The next step is to strive to build society, because if there is bribery and usury in the management [of society], underselling, scams, and bad Hijab, preparations cannot be made with these contaminations. Awaiting means to fight against these contaminations. We must do what will bring about the seed of this revolution and righteous servants of God who are the inheritors of the earth."
Grand Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi expressed: "While praying [for his return] and crying [for his separation], we must not become neglectful of our main duty. While reciting salutations [for the Infallibles when we visit them], we ask God to make us of their true followers. This means that first we must become one hundred percent obedient to the commands of our Imams and not deviate. Secondly, we must step in their footsteps – we must have piety and self control, help the needy, and assist in getting the youth married. The work of our Imams was that they removed hardships from people's lives and solved their problems. Are we like this?"
Wilayah Must Brighten Our Entire Being
Addressing the youth, he stressed: "Make sure that alongside crying, praying, and the pain of separation, you also plan and prepare, or else the appearance will be delayed. We read in Ziyarat Al-Jaami'ah that siding with Wilayah will have four effects: it corrects our character, distances ugly traits from us, is reparation for sins, and cleanses our souls."
Imam Mahdi's Enemies
This Religious Authority added: "There are several groups who are enemies of Imam Mahdi. Some are like the false claimants, who consciously have enmity towards him and misuse his awaiting. In order to attain their interests, they claim that they are his representatives and have dealings with the Imam. In response, law enforcement and the courts have a duty to deal with these imposters and not wait until their movements take hold."
While stating that heretic sects have been brought about by America, he explained: "The second group is individuals who have enmity towards him based on ignorance and unawareness. Occasionally, they claim the Imam will appear at such and such a date. They will appoint the characteristics of his army's general, Shu'ayb bin Saleh, to someone and make a CD about it [and distribute it widely in society]. These are those very ignorant friends.
"Also, some others are trained individuals and politicians who misuse sacred matters for their own objectives. In opposition to these groups, people must see what the scholars and religious authorities say about the signs of reappearance and its closeness or distance. If people follow the scholars, the enemy's plots will fail. In the recent incident pertaining to the Zuhoor (reappearance) CDs [which were widely distributed], if the religious authorities were not there, Mahdism would have turned into a superstition, which is the enemy's goal."
Mahdism's Strong Reasoning Must Be Protected
He stressed: "We must protect Mahdism as a strong logical matter documented by the Prophet and rescue it from being misused." He continued: "The third group of enemies to Mahdism is those who contaminate his ceremonies with sin. Mid-Sha'ban is upon us, God forbid that while celebrating his birth, instruments of sin are used. You people must not let sin take place; enjoin towards good and forbid evil and vice. The establishment must be careful not have music and singing with the excuse of celebrating, because these things will cause our belief in Imam Mahdi to weaken."
In conclusion, the Religious Authority reminded that: "Shi'ism is a school full of freshness and knows that it has an Imam who supports it, and it seeks refuge in him during hardships; however, those who are not as such become hopeless during hardships. Everyone must protect this valuable gem."