Ever since the Last Prince of Bani Hashim (may Allah hasten his reappearance) went into occultation over 11 centuries ago, the Muslim Ummah has constantly been seeking signs that are said to indicate his return. With wars and natural disasters becoming ever more prevalent, we wonder when our beloved Imam will reappear to deliver peace and justice to all of mankind.
Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari poetically described the blessed existence of the Awaited Savior as such: "The Imam is like a sun hidden behind the clouds." While the sun may be out of our sight, we still benefit from its light and heat; likewise, our Imam radiates magnificent strength towards his Ummah despite currently being in occultation. The knowledge of his existence and reappearance gives us hope in the deliverance of Allah's justice on earth. Although hidden, the Imam's existence reminds us, just as our Creator promised, that we shall never be left without an infallible guide.
In A Discussion Concerning the Mahdi, Martyr Baqir al-Sadr eloquently explains the Hidden Imam's importance and loving character: "…the Mahdi is not a saviour whose birth is awaited or a prophecy whose fulfillment is sought; rather he is a present reality whose active involvement is awaited, and a particular individual living with his flesh and blood in our midst, whom we see and who sees us. With us he lives through our hopes and sufferings and participates in our joys and sorrows. He witnesses everything going on in the world stage, the sufferings of the tormented, the misery of the miserable, and the tyranny of the tyrants, and, from far and near, feels them all intensely, and, with his grief, awaits for the moment when he may extend his hand towards every victim of oppression, deprivation and distress, and crush the tyrants."
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said, "I swear by Allah that your Imam will go into an occultation for a number of years … [during that period] the eyes of the true believers shall be filled with tears [due to being separated from him]." (Bihar al-Anwar) Every believer yearns for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam and thus we seek out signs of his imminent return.
Although both the signs of the Day of Judgment and the signs of the Reappearance are generally fused together in Islamic writings, some books have listed signs specific to the Reappearance alone. Of the many signs, some may or may not occur, while other signs must occur before the Imam returns. Amongst the general signs are pessimism, cruelty, oppression, and anarchy among the people, while some of the more specific ones are listed below:
Signs in the Skies
- Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said, "Two signs will come before the one who will arise - there will be an eclipse of the sun in the middle of the month of Ramadan and an eclipse of the moon at the end of it. These are signs which have not occurred since Adam came down." (Kitab al-Irshad)
- The sun will rise from the West and the vast skies will become red. (Al-Yawaqeet wal-Jawahir)
- A distinctly sparkling star will rise from the East. In Eqdud-Durar it is said two stars will rise, while traditions in Fusul al-Muhimma state it will be a single star that will break into two.
Signs on Earth
- A fire will break out in the East that will last between three to seven days.
- A flood will occur in the roads of Kura after the River Euphrates will split.
- Not only will a "black wind" blow throughout Baghdad, but an earthquake will also take place there. The earthquake will affect only a specific section of Baghdad, causing it to collapse.
- The Awaited Savior's noble grandfather, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) said, "Before the one who will arise, there will be red death and white death; there will be locusts, at their usual time and at their unusual time, like the colors of blood. As for red death, that is (from) the sword, while white death is (from) plague."
- Agriculture will be at a low and there will be heavy rains (some sources say it will rain approximately 20 consecutive times). In reference to both occurrences, Imam as-Sadiq said, "Before (the coming of) the one who will rise, there will be a year of abundant rain in which the fruits and the dates on the palms will be destroyed. But do not complain of that." (Kitab al-Irshad)
Signs of the Ummah
- Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, "The hour (of the end of the world) will not arise until the Mahdi from my descendants comes forth. The Mahdi will not come forth until sixty liars come forward, each of them declaring to be a prophet."
- Imam as-Sadiq said, "The one who will arise will not come forth until twelve of the Bani Hashim come forth before him, all of them summoning men to themselves [claiming the Imamat for themselves]."
- The Turks and Romans will argue amongst themselves.
- The Arabs will gain more power.
- Armies will make their way towards places such as Syria, Egypt, Khorasan, and Hira. (Kitab al-Irshad)
The Rising of Sufyani
The rising of Sufyani is mentioned in numerous traditions. Known as Uthman bin Anbasa, the Syrian descendant of Yazid will fight against the supporters of Allah's Proof. (Islam: Faith, Practice & History) He will have an army of thousands which will spread cruelty wherever it travels. (Eqdud-Durar)
At one point, some of Sufyani's army will sink into the ground. This place will be known as Baidah and will be located either between Makkah and Madina, or in Madina itself. (Sharh Nahjul Balagha)
The Rising of Khurasani
In Khurasan, Iran, a believer will come to power and establish an Islamic government. He and a group of courageous Muslims will initially defeat Sufyani's army in Iraq. However, the tide will turn, and Sufyani will gain the upper hand, forcing the Khurasani Hasani to retreat towards Makkah where he will remain until he can join the Twelfth Imam after his reappearance. (Al-Mahdi)
The Killing of Nafs-e-Zakiyya
Nafs-e-Zakiyya means "Pure Soul". Imam al-Baqir said, "There will be no longer than fifteen nights between the killing of the pure soul and the appearance of the one who will rise." (Kitab al-Irshad) The same book details that a pure soul will be killed on the outskirts of Kufa with 70 righteous men.
Upon the death of Nafs-e-Zakiyya, a voice will resonate from the skies declaring, "Be aware that your ruler is the Mahdi who shall fill the earth with truth and justice." (Eqdud-Durar)
The Crucial Call
Abu Hamza ath-Thumali once asked Imam al-Baqir, "Is the revolt of the Sufyani one of the things which must happen?" The Imam replied, "Yes. The call is one of the things which must happen, as is the rising of the sun from the west one of the things which must happen. The dispute of the Abbasids over the state is also one of them, and the killing of the pure soul. The appearance of the one who will arise from the family of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family, is another of the things which must happen." Upon being asked about the call, the Imam elaborated, "There will be a call from the sky at the beginning of the day: 'Indeed the truth is with Ali and his Shia.' Then at the end of the day Shaytan will call from the Earth, 'Indeed the truth is with Uthman and his supporters.' At that the false one will feel doubt." (Kitab al-Irshad)
The call from the sky will be heard by everyone, but not all will reply. We need to reach such a strong point in our faith that when the time comes, we will be able to answer our Imam's call with utmost sincerity and conviction.
While we have some knowledge about the signs of our Imam's reappearance, not all of these are guaranteed to occur. We should not wait solely for the occurrence of these signs; rather we should be waiting for the Reappearance, which means using our brief life in this world to prepare for his arrival.
The Commander of the Faithful once said, "Await the relief and do not despair from the mercy of Allah, because indeed the most beloved of actions with Allah, the Noble and Grand, is awaiting the relief." (Bihar al-Anwar) Before the signs take place, we must ask ourselves: Are we using our time wisely as we await our Imam? Are we making efforts to improve ourselves to the extent that we may be worthy of helping the Master of our Age, whenever it will be that he graces us with his presence?
Are we ready for his arrival?