We have heard the stories, the narrations, and the biographies of all of our Imams (peace be upon them) and how their lives were lived and how their followers behaved.
So what is our story? What are we doing wrong that our Imam is still in occultation and not visibly living amongst us? We all know that our Imam will not appear in our lives unless we are ready. But this does not mean that he is not living among us – neither does it mean he is invisible, because he is visible to those who can see him.
Our Imam is alive. He is with his followers and believers whenever they call him. This is a basic belief in the Shia creed – that our Imams have the ability to help their followers when they call for help, no matter in Medina or New York.
So what does it actually mean that our Imam is alive? What good is it to us? Are we really getting his guidance and advice on how to live good lives according to the will of Allah?
As the famous narration states, the benefit of Imam Mahdi for his followers is like the sun gives us benefit even from behind the clouds. What can we take from this? What are we taking from this?
The Imams were sent and chosen by Allah to guide and to help us. What help do we take from our Imam? Do we really attempt to make him our leader? Who is our leader? We should all take time to reflect and think, "Who is my leader?" Where do I get inspiration from on how to live my life? Where do I get advice from and how do I go about answering my questions or clearing my doubts about my way of life?
Are we all talk and no walk? Do we just say that he is the Imam of our time and not take advantage of the many advices and his nearness to us? Are we ever grateful that when we call on him for a special request, that request is fulfilled? Are we preparing our life and our homes to be open for him when he is allowed by Allah to reappear? How have we prepared? Will he want to sit around the house and do nothing all day? Or go for entertaining events which cost money which can be used towards helping poor people? Our Imam is alive, and it is said that when we make mistakes, he weeps for us even if we don't. This is how much our leader loves us. But it seems to be a one-way love at the moment.
Unless and until we come to the realization that we have a living Imam, who needs support, who loves us sincerely, who still considers us all his followers even though we are from being anything like Hurr was for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
Let us pose a question to ourselves, "What does it mean to have an Imam our time?" Only when we take the time out of our extremely busy lives, to sit and think about our dear Imam who sheds tears of blood for Imam Hussain every day, and who remembers us in his prayers when we forget him, who visits our communities and centers and blesses them with his presence – only then will we realize what it means to have a living Imam. We need to start practicing our ways of life now; otherwise, we will not be a part of his blessed group. Let's make it a habit to perform our prayers in their prime time. Let us make it a habit of remembering Imam Hussain every day.
Taking short steps in changing our lives to be more and more like him will allow us to be ready for when he arrives. If we do not start now, we will be left behind and will be completely lost, like a sheep without its shepherd.