Allah (SWT), the Almighty, has blessed our beloved living Imam - Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) with many special bounties that He has not given anyone else. This tells us how important Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) is and how much Allah (SWT) loves our beloved Imam.
On the occasion of 15th Shaban, the day of Imam's (a.t.f.s.) birth, we must greet our friends and companions. We must pray to Allah (SWT) through the medium of Janabe Qasim (a.s.) and Aun (a.s.) and Muhammad (a.s.), the young companions of Imam Hussain (a.s.), and we must ask Allah (SWT) to include us among Imam Mahdi's (a.t.f.s.) close companions.
Allah (SWT) has granted many bounties to our Imam (a.t.f.s.). One of these bounties is that Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) has been given the title of Ghous. Ghous means the one who helps, solves problems and removes difficulties, particularly of those who while travelling, have got separated from their companions.
We find several incidents like this in books of traditions. We find that Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) has helped such people find their way and has reunited them with their separated companions. He (a.t.f.s.) has helped them in every possible way.
This is the incident of a man whose entire family belonged to the Ahle Sunnah. They were very rigid in their belief and called the Shias disbelievers (Kafir). They considered them impure (Najis) and did not tolerate their presence in any way.
Once a Shia approached this Ahle Sunnah family for work. This poor Shia was facing lot of problems and difficulties and had no means of livelihood. He took up work in this family as he had no choice. This Shia practiced Taqiyyah (concealing one's religion or faith due to fear, but in one's heart, the person must believe in the religion s/he is concealing) out of helplessness and did not reveal his Shiite beliefs. But he found it very difficult to live under those conditions. When he used to meet another Shia, he would narrate to him his difficulties. He could not practice his religion the way he wanted to and lived in constant fear of being caught.
Once this Shia saw a young, handsome man from that family praying namaz like the Shias pray the namaz. He was very surprised to see a youth pray namaz like the Shias in such a staunch Sunni household, that too openly, without any fear. Gradually, this Shia found himself drawn towards this youth. He began liking this youth. He got worried about his safety and prayed for him. But he did not get a chance to ask him how he could practice the Shiite faith so openly. He had a lot of questions concerning that youth:
If this youth is a Shia why don't these people stop him? If he is a Shia how is he practicing his faith so openly amongst the staunch Sunnis?
Why isn't he afraid of them? He did not have a reply to any of these questions. One day he got an opportunity to meet the youth while he was alone. He could not understand how he got the chance. Maybe it was Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) who arranged this meeting for him.
When the Shia was alone with the youth, he looked around him and when he was sure there was no one else, he asked the youth politely, 'My dear friend, I have an important question to ask you. Why don't you pray namaz like the others in your family? Why is your namaz different from the others around you?
'Yes, that is correct. I pray my namaz in a different manner.' 'Are you a Sunni?' 'Of course not!' 'You are not a Sunni?!' 'I told you, I am not a Sunni.'
The poor Shia asked very cautiously: 'Then are you a Shia?' 'Yes I am a Shia. And I am firm in my faith. Why do you look so surprised with this?'
'Your entire family is Sunni. In this area, there is not a single Shia and everyone over here is against the Shias. In this harsh environment, I am surprised to see you pray namaz openly like the Shias.'
You are right. There is a long story behind this:
If you feel it fit, please narrate this story to me. Actually, even I am a Shia. But out of fear for your Sunni family I have not revealed my true faith to anyone and I practice Taqiyyah. I am forced to do this to earn my livelihood.
My story goes like this: When I was only a few months old, a very poor lady came to our house looking for work. She was so poor that my family members took pity on her and kept her in the house. She was put in charge of me and became my nurse. She was a Shia. She did not hide her faith, but openly practiced it by praying namaz like the Shias and following their beliefs. My family members did not like this and kept away from her. They considered her to be Najis and kept all her utensils and belongings separately. While eating food, they were careful that her plates and glass be kept at a distance and did not touch their own plates and glasses. That poor lady had no choice but to live under those difficult conditions. However, she loved me a lot and took good care of me. Even I felt very close to her and never wanted to be separated from her. One day she stepped out of the house for some household work.
I was so pained at being separated from her that I began crying loudly. My family members were very disturbed and tried to console me, but I did not stop crying. Only when she returned and took me in her arms did I stop crying. It is because of my attachment to her that my family members could not remove her.
I grew up with the same love and attachment for her. When I was about 6-7 years old, I still remained with her. She was also very compassionate towards me and kept telling me about her faith.
One day she informed me about the twelve Imams (a.s.). She narrated something on each Imam (a.s.). When she reached the 12th Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) she revealed, "My dear son! Our 12th Imam - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) is the son of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.). He is alive but has gone into Ghaibat (occultation) by Allah (SWT)'s Command."
I asked, "What do you mean that he has gone into Ghaibat?"
My son! By Ghaibat we mean that we cannot see Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) with our eyes or if we see him then we cannot recognize him. But he sees us and recognizes each and everyone of us.
But if he cannot be seen or recognized and is in Ghaibat, then what is the benefit of his existence?
"My son! Our Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) helps us even while he is in Ghaibat (occultation). When someone calls out to him for help, he answers his call. If someone gets separated from his group of companions and loses his way and in this difficulty requests Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) to help him, he (a.t.f.s.) will most certainly come to his aid." She even narrated incidents of such a nature.
It was 17 years since she told me about Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.). When I was 23 years old, I left for Hajj Pilgrimage with my family members. In that age, performing Hajj was a very difficult task. We had to travel on camels and in our journey we had to pass through several jungles and fields. The nights used to be extremely cold and the days were very hot. We had heard many incidents of bandits and beasts attacking the pilgrims and even killing them.
Nevertheless, we proceeded for Hajj Pilgrimage and suffered all hardships on the way. We were nearing Makkah and Medina. Traveling day and night had made me very tired. Our family halted at a place. We rested for a while. I was very tired and the breeze was very refreshing. I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was surprised to find myself alone in that jungle as my family had left without me. Even my camel had deserted me and had strayed into the desert. After much searching I could neither locate my family nor my camel. Dusk was nearing and the sunset was upon me. I was overcome by fear and panic. I cannot explain how scared I was at that time. I began thinking - what will happen to me over here? I am so thirsty, but I see no signs of water in this desert. If the beasts attack me, what will I do? I was very disturbed and confused.
All sorts of strange and scary thoughts came to my mind. I felt dejected and hopeless. The possibility of dying in that desert frightened me. I began thinking that if I die in this place I would not even get a proper bath (Ghusl), shroud (Kafan) and burial. My corpse would just be lying like this and the wild animals would tear my body to shreds.
Thinking of this gave me the shivers. I looked around me with desperation. I called out to anyone who would listen to me, but in that lonely desert no one answered my cry for help.
In that moment of loneliness and fear, I remembered that lady's advice - our 12th Imam - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) is in Ghaibat, but he helps those who have got separated from their companions in a journey and call out to him for help. He will certainly help that person, solve all his problems and reunite him with his companions.
In that moment of gloom, this thought refreshed me and gave me hope. I had already called out to my leaders for help but did not get a response. In my heart, I decided to ask the 12th Imam - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) for help, as he was my last hope.
Ya Sahib uz Zaman! Help me! Ya Sahib uz Zaman! Help me!
"O my master, help me. My nurse had informed me about you. She had complete faith in you. I am in great difficulty, O my master please help me!"
I called him for help while I was sobbing - I cannot express how much comfort I felt while calling out his name. I kept repeating his name and was crying at the same time. In the meantime, I saw a man on horseback approaching me. I thought that it could be a pilgrim from another group.
I also began thinking about other things, which I cannot mention. The man approached me, he spoke to me in my own language and called me by my name. He asked me about my problem.
I explained the whole situation to him. The stranger was an Arab but he could understand my language. Finally, after listening to me, he said, "Come with me."
I followed him. He was on horseback while I was walking behind him. After some time he turned towards me, pointed in the distance and said, "That is your group. Those are your companions." I was reunited with my companions.
I even recovered my belongings. All my loneliness and fear disappeared. I wanted to thank that man. When I turned around, I could not find him anymore, he seemed to have vanished.
At that moment I remembered the words of my nurse, who had informed me about the 12th Imam - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) who always helps those who have lost their way. I was convinced that the man who helped me was none other than Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.).
On that day, the truthfulness of the Shia faith became clear to me. After that incident I became a Shia. My family knows I am a Shia. Earlier they tried to make me change my faith and wanted me to be a Sunni once again. They called several senior Ahle Sunnah scholars to speak to me. They all tried to convince me but I did not want to leave the Shia faith. When the truth was so clear to me, how could I leave it and turn towards falsehood.
"Why don't your family members take some action against you?" "That is because in our family, unity and stability of the family unit is more important than religion. If anyone tries to take action against me, the entire family will turn against him. That is why I have openly accepted the Shia faith and practice it without any fear. I have accepted the Shia faith with all my heart and believe in it completely."
Dear children, read this incident carefully. It is not a story, but a true incident. Try to note down points that you have learnt from this incident. See if you have learnt the following lessons:
We should always call out to our beloved 12th Imam - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) in difficulties.
We should not get scared of difficulties.
We should inform our friends about 12th Imam - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.).
It is possible that our friends may also ask 12th Imam - Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) for help in their difficulties and in this way truthfulness of the Shia faith may become clear to them.
When our beloved Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) loves us so much, we must also pray for his safety and reappearance.