NISFU SHA'BAN: OBLIGATORY RITUALS, WHILE AWAITING THE RE-APPEARANCE OF IMAM AL-MAHDI (AF).
By Yusuf Abdullahi In the name of Allah who states "He it is Who sent His Apostle with the guidance and the true religion, that He may make it overcome the religions, all of them, though the polytheists may be averse" Q61:9 May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His chosen servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny. We are very grateful to Allah for witnessing this month of forgiveness, mercy and salvation. It is time that we begin to assess ourselves as the month runs so that we might do more. While praying to Allah to salvage our bedeviled Ummah from its predicament, we ask for His boundless mercy to ourselves, parents and righteous predecessors. THE PROMISED DELIVERER Due to the eventful nature of the period, I couldn't put down the pen on the mid - Sha'ban events. I therefore decided to put now for the obvious lessons therein. Nisfu Sha'ban or 15th day of eighth month of Islamic calendar is observed as a very important day preceded by its night full of significant activities. The Islamic movement traditionally commemorates the event with colorful birthday celebration of Imam al - Mahdy, may Allah hasten his re - appearance. At the same time, sheikh's birthday is remembered, in addition to the annual Hurras parade competition. Generally speaking, the issue of Imam Muhammad al - Mahdy as the deliverer of mankind is well known doctrine in Islam. Other prominent religions like Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism have their respective belief in this aspect. Of the so many prophetic traditions on this topic, we may take a sample "if but one day remains of the life of the world, Allah will prolong it and will make a man rise from my descendents to fill the earth with justice after having been brimming over with injustice" Ithbat al - huda: V3, P608 The prophet has also said "there will come a time for my Ummah when their rulers will be cruel, their scholars will be greedy and have little piety, their worshippers (will act) hypocritically, their merchants will commit usury and conceal the defects of their buying and selling and their women will be busy with the ornaments of the world. Hence, at this time, the most vicious of them will dominate over them, and their good doers will invocate but they will not be answered" Bihaar al - Anwar: V23, P22 The Shi'ah believes in the 12th Imam al - Mahdy as the last descendent and successor of the prophet to re - appear and spread justice and equity throughout the world, after it was overcome by injustice and oppression. Though with different interpretations, all Muslims believe in the concept of this deliverer of mankind. In a tradition related to Imam Hasan al - Askary "It is as if I see you in discord regarding my successor. Behold that one who acknowledges all the succeeding messengers of Allah, in turn but denies my son will be like one who acknowledges all the messengers of Allah (as) but the prophethood of the messenger of Allah, Muhammad (s). Bihaar al - Anwaar: V51. P160 He was also reported saying "my son will succeed me as Imam and divine argument and one who dies without acknowledging his imamate will be regarded as those who died in the pre - Islamic age of ignorance. Ithbat al - hudud: V3, P482 There are differences relating to some aspects of this leader between Shi'ah and Sunnah on which I am not going to be graphical now but according to former sources, the Imam was born on Friday, 15th of Sha'ban, 255 AH from Imam al - Hasan al - Askary and mother Narjis in Samarra, Iraq. And he went into minor and major occultations in 8th Rabi'ul - awwal, 260 AH and 10th Shawwal, 329 AH respectively. He was brought up under the care and tutelage of his revered father before his martyrdom in the hands of the Abbasids. In contrast to the major, in the minor occultation, the Imam was hidden from the public except on exceptional circumstances to his deputies alone. "What will be your reaction when the son of Mary (Jesus) descends and your Imam is from among yourselves? (Muslim, Vol. 2; Bukhari, Vol. 4) Some important Sunni reference materials include; al - Bayaan fii akhbaar Sahibiz zaman by al - Hafiz Muhammad Ibn Yusuf al - Shafi'i and Dhikriyyat al - Mahdi by al - Hafiz Abu Nu'aim al - Isfahany and Sunan Abu Daud and Ibn Majah among others. RE - APPEARANCE OF THE IMAM (AS) Hudhyafah Ibn Ibn Usayd a- Ghifari said "we sat in the shadow of a wall in al - Madinah and the apostle of Allah was in a room. Then he appeared over us and said, what are you doing? We said we are talking. He said About what? We said about the resurrection Day (al - Sa'ah). He said, you will not see the resurrection day until you see ten signs before it, sunrise from the West, al - Dajjal and the beast of the earth, three lunar eclipses on the earth; one in the East, one in the West and one in the Arabian peninsula and emergence of Jesus the son of Mary" Bihaar al - Anwaar: V4, P304 In Tafseer al - Qummi, V2, P271. It is reported that Abu Abdullah said "Jesus, the son of Mary is the spirit of Allah and His word. He was thirty - three years old in the world. Then Allah raised him to heaven. He will descend to earth and it is he who will kill the Antichrist (Dajjaal)" It is reported that Ka'b said "Jesus will descend from heaven. Then the Jews and Christians will come to him and say, we are your people. He will say, you lie. The emigrants, the rest of the people of battles are my people. Then Jesus will come to the place that the Muslims are gathered and find their caliph - successor of the prophet - praying with them, who will say to him, O Christ! pray in front of us. He will say, but you pray with your people. I have been raised as a minister, not as a commander. Sirat al - Mustaqeem: V3, P92 Jaafar ibn Muhammad reported from his father that the apostle of Allah said, "O Ali! there is likeness between Jesus the son of Mary and you. Allah the exalted said "And there is not one of the followers of the book but most certainly believes in him before his death, and on the day of resurrection he (Jesus) shall be a witness against them" Q1:159 O Ali! nobody who slanders Jesus dies unless he believes in him before his death and tells the truth about him, when it is of no use to him at all. And you are like him. Your enemy does not die until he sees you near his death. When he sees you, you will be angry and sad for him. Then he will confess the truth about you, will say the truth about you and will confess your wilaayah, while it is of no use to him at all. Tafseer al - Furat, al - Kufi: P116 Allah states “strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and pagans: and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou Find those who say, we are Christians because amongst them these are men devoted to learning. And men who have renounced The world, and they are not arrogant” Q5:82 OBLIGATIONS AWAITING ARRIVAL Many authors from the school of Ahlul - bait have highlighted the obligations of believers awaiting his arrival. Among them were Ayatollah Sayyid Kamal Faqih and Faadhil al - Furaaty. The following is a summary, not a translation of such obligations; 1. Doctrinal aspect: Awaiting should be in accordance with teachings of Shari'ah which is of the best worships. This implies unshakable belief holding fast to the rope of Allah disregarding conflicting views. 2. Absolute compliance with teachings of Islam: Believers are encouraged to emulate the sterling qualities of truth, sincerity, fulfillment of promises, trust, patience, supporting the weak and other commendable characters. 3. Propagating the concept of Mahdiism: Believers are expected to propagate the doctrine signaling re - appearance. Appearance of the false Messiah with powers, beast of the earth, rising of the sun from the West, Gog and Magog and reappearance of Imam Mahdi are of the major just as loss of honesty, giving authority to undeserving persons, prevalence of religious ignorance, widespread bloodshed, Sudden death, spread of usury and sexual misconduct are of the minor among others. 4. Acquaintance with the Imam; faithfully, spiritually and emotionally through prayers, like the popular Nudbah, visits from distance, and Sadaqah and prayers on his behalf. 5. propagating related miracles; this refers to the need for critical analysis to protect believers from any confusion from false claimants as the world is yet to witness the promised global rise of Islam. 6. The Mahdi reform project; the advent of the Imam is to deliver humanity and destroy the tyrants. It is not to shed blood but protect lives, promote the religion and work towards global reform and establishment of an upright and just authority for the good of mankind. Enjoining what is right and forbidding wrong at various capacities covering all human endeavors - political, social and economic - is very much in line. In fact, the Imam will not reappear until he got enough helpers for the execution of his mission. In his letter numbered 20 to Ziyad Ibn Abeeh when Abdullah bn Abbas was the Governor of Basrah, while Ziyad was his deputy; I truthfully swear by Allah that if I come to know that you have misappropriated the funds of the Muslims, small or big, I shall inflict upon you such punishment which will leave you empty handed, heavy backed and humiliated; and that is an end to the matter. Nahjul - balaagha. It is obviously clear that the significance of struggle against injustice cannot be overemphasized. In line with this Imam Khomeini led the Islamic revolution establishing the Islamic republic of Iran that can be a good base for the Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance). Resistance movement like the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Islamic movement in Nigeria are good examples in this direction. No doubt, the Imam has helpers that will work to destroy tyrants, establish justice and actualize global rise of Islam. We are not to hold our hands awaiting reappearance but rather work sincerely and devotedly as did Imam Khomeini on whose track is sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky. Wassalamu alaikum.