Innumerable narrations contain the signs and symbols of the re-apperarance of Hazrat Vali-e-Asr Imam Mahdi (A.S.) Janab Sheikh Sadooq and Allama Majlisi (May God Shower His blessing on on them) the highly acclaimed Islamic Scholars have described these narrations among the signs and symbols of the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) Here we will discuss them wholly form literary point of view.
1. Importance of signs and symbols of re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) Since long all the Muslims in general and the Shias in particular are looking forward for the re-appearance of Imam Mahdi (A.S.). It is undoubtedly an established fact like the Doomsday for which no fixed time or period is sounded. Only Allah knows, we know not.We have only to focus our attention on the indications assigned for it.To investigate, to find out and to distinguish between these signals and tokens for the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) is of immense importance.We can assume on the basis of these indications (not for certain) that the time and period is not far away.Due to this more emphasis is given on these signs from the beginning itself.
2.There are two types of indications and signs The signals given by Ahlul-bait are not of one type.Some of the signs told by the descendants of the Holy Prphe (SAWA) are unchangeable while some of them are inconstant. Imam Jafar Sadiq (A.S.) has said that five signs before the re-appearance of Qayem (A.S.) would appear.
(i) the appearance of Yemani, (ii) revolt of Sufyani, (iii) mysterious voice, (iv) murder of a pious man between Safah and Murwa; (v) sinking of Sufyani's army between Mecca and Madina at a place known as Baidaar.(Bihar-al-Anwar-254/52)
According to another narration some other sure symbols are related by Imam Jafar Sadiq (A.S.) like the division of Banu Abbas in different groups; Sighting of mysterious hands form the sky (Bihar 206-23/52) while other signs are mutable.It can be concluded by keeping both the symbols together that some of them are uncertain.
3. Can any change be anticipated in the things predicted ?
According to the thorough and absolute Shia teachings and tenets the answer will be in affirmative. Changeability among the shias is an important belief founded on Quranic Signs (Suras).The Sunnis have never any vision to see things in the light of the teachings of Ahlul bait.Their mentality is unchanged and will never be changed so the change and alteration can never be digested by them.In the light of Shia tenets, the mishaps, calamities and other ugly incidents which are expected can be changed, altered and averted.
Accordingly the problems of livelihood age, hunger, prestige honour, insult and disgrace, incurable diseases, earthquakes, famine, revolution and war which are about to engulf the mankind can be turned aside from or there may be increase or decrease in their severity.The glaring example of the changeability is the episode of the followers of Hazrat Yunus (A.S.) whose calamity was kept off and prevented. At two different places it is mentioned in the Holy Book that the followers of Hazrat Yunus (A.S.) ware subjected to the severe wrath of the Almighty God.
So the Prophet distanced himself from them and went far away. But his followers suddenly changed their behaviour and stand. They pleaded for mercy form the Almighty God form the depth of their hearts. The calamity was averted (Sura-Yunus : 98).
God can change the destiny and is not subject to any control, can set right the things, comes to the rescue of those who have lost the hope, has authority to control the things when they are uncontrollable and manages the affairs when they are unmanageable. The changes and alterations should not be amounted to the repentance of God for the decision given previously.Such types of change would be called to have its base on ignorance and can be presumed that the decision when first given was due to lack of knowledge but after having gained the complete knowledge the change was taken place.actually this change is not linked with divination and for-knowledge.
This has the direct connection as per the narrations of descendants of Holy Prophet (with the knowledge of the unseen) where the fore-knowledge is treasured.From this treasure all the angels, the Prophets and the spiritual leaders(Imams) are adorned with the fore-knowledge and inspiratins.Nothing has thus found place regarding change in the Commandments of God in (Quran)in the unseen treasure of knowledge.
On the basis of the fore-knowledge Hazrat Yunus (A.S.) went far away from his followers.When he returned, was flabbergasted to find that the calamity was averted.It is clear that the calamity was mentioned but the change was not mentioned so Hazrat Yunus (A.S.) was taken aback to see the change.The descendents of Prophet (A.S.) were embellished with divine knowledge written in the knowledge of the unseen. Whatever symbols were described in that were all told by the spiritual leaders (Imam).Regarding the change in symbols nothing was predicted so was not told by the Imam but due to the faith in alteration there is a possibility of change in symbols also.
4. Can the symblos and signs be changed and subjected to alteration ?
It is a complex problem which requires literary discussion and arguments.The scholars of high reputation and arguments. The scholars of high reputatin have different views. According to the highly placed narrator Mirza Hasan Noori author of the book Mustadrak-ul-wasael there can be change in these symbols also like the change in rest of the things.
(Najmus-Saqib, chap.11). The eminent scholar Ayat ullah Syed MOhammad Taqi Isfahani has expressed altogether different views as any change is not acceptable to him in these symbols.Further discussions and arguments in this article will prove that narrator Noori was right in his conclusion and the correctness of his views can easily be established.
Two types of signs and indications are narrated by the Imam (A.S.)
Some of them are certain while others are un-certain.If there would not have been uncertain signs there was no point in treating some signs as certain and unchangeable.So it amounts to the change in the symbols.There can be change at least in uncertain signs and signals. Later on it would also be proved that even certain signs could aslo be changed.
5. Is alteration not possible in the time of re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) ?
Regarding the change both these narrations can be put as a proof in which the re-appearnce is predicted early or late. The conditions of period and time of re-apperance are discribed in some narrations.If it will be proved that re-appearance is alterable can occur late or early then it will be implied that the signs can also be changed.
The following narrations can be quoted regarding the change in re-appearance :
A narrator writes that he inquired from Imam Jafar Sadiq (A.S.) whether there is any remedy to this replied, "Yes but it is only you people who have disclosed this secret so the re-appearance is delayed by God."(Bihar - 52 - 117 105).
It can be explained in this way in detail that the Imams (A.S.) used to hint to their followers (Shias) about the re-appearance without fixing any period.That secret was passed on to the enemies by some mentally weak Shias which aversed God and thus the re-appearance was delayed.
In other narration Imam Jafar Sadiq (A.S.) said that re-appearance was delayed twice (Bihar 52/117) while it was actually delyaed thrice according to another narratin (Bihar 52/289-291).
The following sayings of Imam (A.S.) can be put forward as a third example which proves that delay or haste can possibly occur in re-appearance.The words are follows: "Pay for early re-appearance as it would be for your god. It would be a means to make you free from hardship". (Bihar -53).
Hazrat Imam Jafar Sadiq (A.S.) relates that "the wrath of God, on Bani Israel was prolonged, they prayed to God to pardon their sins from the depth of their hearts continuosly for a fortnight. God then commanded Janab Hazrat Musa (A.S.) and Janab Hazrat Haroon (A.S.) through heavenly messange to protect them from the tyranny of Firoun. Thus hundred and seventy years of their calamity and hardships were reduced. So they were freed early from God's displeasure.
Imam (A.S.) further added that you can also pray to God to help you pardon your sins.Like Bani Israel you will also be freed early from hardships.If you will not act like them God would continue to carry it upto the last stage".It has now become clear that the early re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) so to say depends very much how we reciprocate. If we will pray to God sincerely to padon us we will find a sea of change in ourselves and will abstain from sins by being faithful to God.Only then we can hope for quick and early re-appearance of Imam Mahdi (A.S.).When it is evident that alterations are possible in re-appearance so also the change is possible in the signs described for the time and period of re-appearance.
6. Can the re-appearance be subjected to alterations?
The changes and alterations are linked with appointed and certified things.The commandments of God are not wavering and inconstant.God declares in the Holy Book".No doubt the words of God are never vacuous".Whatever can be said and written in the light of the teachings of Ahlul bait is only this that the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) either be delayed or altered or occours early but is not immutable. The re-appearance is the commandment of God that never changed.God in His Holy Book "God has promised his pious and faithful beings to appoint a vicegerent on earth and endow him with authority to pupularise the ways of choicest religion of Allah and the peace will prevail everwhere instead of fear and terror (Sura-Noor).
The promise of God is never in vain an void.A person came to Imam Taqi (A.S.) and expressed his fear regarding the possibility of change and alteration in the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.). He was told by Imam Mohammad Taqi (A.S.) that re-appearance of Imam Mahdi (A.S.) is a commandment of God which is not in-expressive". (Bihar 251/52)
7. Can there be any change in authentic and established signs of re-appearance of Imam (A.S.)? Positive indications mean those which are willed by God so un-changeable and will never be changed while the rest can be categorised as vague so liable to be changed.
There is no commandment of God regarding them only their quality and characteristics is mentioned. The appearance of Yamani.
The revolt of Sufyani an sinking of army, murder of a pious man and sounding of a voice from the heaven are stamped and thus not subject to alterations. Expressive and inexpressive signs and indications whether the certain or uncertain are not visible in the outside world the possibility of change can not be ruled out.Both are liable to be changed. The revolt of Sufyani was related in presence of Imam Taqi (A.S.) as an unchangeabel sign.
Accordingly an individual enquired from Imam (A.S.) whether a change is possible even in this stable sign? The Imam replied in the affirmative. (Bihar -151-250/52)
Keeping the above in mind there is no apparent distinction between vacuous and secure signs as both are changeable.
8. What is the meaning of change in the signs?
We have already described this point above in detail in part No.3 of this article that the change in precious signs occur under peculiar circumstances.The Prophets, messengers of God and spiritual Leaders (Imams) acquire Knowledge from divine soure in which early and preliminary decisions with their signs and symbols are mentioned. Sometimes due to some particular reasons changes and alterations are brough about in previous decision and amendments are made in them.
So whatever indicatios are given by the Imam (A.S.) regarding the incidents which are to occur including the re-appearance are totally based on the previous decisons mentioned therein. It does not in any way mean that signs should be ignored and should be considered as insignificant "You should not be taken aback if the other day that incident is changed or altered for which you were told before hand" as was told by Imam (A.S.).
We should have faith in the utterances of Imam (A.S.) and should not doubt authenticiyt.
Istead we should try to find out whether ro not that incident was from amongst them which were changeable. A true follower is he who has faith in changes and alterations and not carried away by inconstant and constant signs.
If predicted incidents have not base it on ignorance and it should be treated as a previous decision which was changed by God's will as such thoughts would have double and manifold advantages (Kafi-2/269). He who was faith in narrations would never be taken aback if the Imam (A.S.) re-appears before the sighting of the signs as one is awaiting for the Imam (A.S.) and not looking forward for the signs.
9. What is the purpose and object of symbols and signs?
The discussions about the tokens and signals have it own advantages and benefits. It kindles the hearts of Shias with the ray of hope, vanishes the anxiety and worries and protects them from negative thinking that crowd their minds.The facts of re-appearance are known only to God as we have described in this article in detail.The material which were possibly being collected about the re-appearance are wholly based on tokens and signals.The sightning of any of those tokens strenghtens our faith in re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) doubles the excitement.
Yaqteen, father of highly respected companion and follower Ali bin Yaqteen of Hazrat Imam Musa Kazim (A.S.) was a blind followres of Banu Abbas while his son Ali bin Yaqteen was begotted Shia. Imam (A.S.) guaranteed heaven for him.Yaqteen once asked his son Ali in light vein that prediction of Prophet (SAWA) about the sovereignity of Banu Abbas had come true but so far Mahdi (A.S.) has not re-appeared to minimize sufferings and pains of his Shias as was predicted by the Prophet (SAWA).
Ali replied that the source of narration is the same i.e. the regulations mentioned in the heavenly book with only difference that the time for the fulfillment of the promise made to you drew nigh while the time for our promise has not arrived so we are waiting for the day.
If it would be told that it would occur within two or three years but would not occur majority of us would contradict the issue of re-appearance of Imam (A.S.).To keeps us on the track it is said that "the period of re-appearance is fast approaching" (Ghaibat-e-Numani page 158).Thus the tokens and signals for re-appearance serve as a source of stability and security of faith.
1. The signs and tokens of re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) are nonconstant and can be altered like other things.
2. The meaning and sense of change is not the complete and actual change but the substitute in the preliminary decisions depicted in the Holy Book. God knows everything and there cannot be any change in His Commands.
3. The knowledge of the Prophets and Spiritual Leaders is acquired from the Holy Book so the secret are known to them. The change and alterations if any in the previous decision are mentioned only in unseen knowledge.
4. We should have firm faith in the teachings of Spiritual Leaders.
If the things have not occured as predicted it has no link with their teachings but have direct connection with the knowledge of the unseen.
5.The re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) may be delayed or may take place early.
We are duty bound to provide means of eary re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) by doing good deeds and by prayers for early occurance.
6. Change is possible where it is not promised by God. The re-appearance is promised but there is no promise for time and period of re-appearance.
7. The signs and tokens of re-appearance have a major role to play for stability and firmness in our faith for clear dealings and unblemished character.
11. In What manner the discussions effects the awaiters ?
It is advised in narrations to wait for re-appearance every morning and evening and all the times (Bihar 95-145/52). Such a piece of advice can be given only when the signs and tokens are inconstant.
1. If the tokens are unchangeable there is no point to wait all the time and every moment. It would be altered when these tokens are sighted. But under these conditions it can be argued that without sighting of those tokens how the re-appearance is possible? The mention in the narratios are contrary to that.
Having a faith in change and alteration everybody would be ready and willing every morning and evening and all the time for re-appearance.
2. A person who is not believing in change in signs he would never wait all the time throughout the day and night.
There is at least 15 days gap between the assasination of a pious man and the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) (Bihar-302/52).
So it is meaningless to think about the re-appearance before the murder of a pious man.
We are ordered to wait all the time. To wait for re-appearance is considered a significant act. Such orders can be given only when the change in tokens are possible.
3. A person who has no faith in alteration of signs and thinks of re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) after sighting of the tokens such a person is actually waiting first for the sighting of tokens and then for re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) which the narrative has given more importance to the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) and tokens afterwards.
12. Awaiting for re-appearance and not for tokens and symbols
It is now clear that we should wait for re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) and not for change in sign. We should not consider re-appearance as impossible before withnessing the symbols and tokens.The re-appearance is the command of God.It is not ordered by God, so the Imam (A.S.) has not re-appeared. It is only at this stage the true and sincere followers are praying, waiting and begging pardon before God to hasten the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) God is free to shower His blessings to any He likes. God can order the re-appearance even before the sighting of signs and not bound by symbols.
The symbols can be changed and Imam (A.S.) can be ordered to re-appear early.So we should wait for re-appearance of Imam (A.S.). and should not wait for the signs to appear.
Oh! God of Husain (A.S.) we beg you to administer justice to Husain (A.S.) and bring forth the re-appearance of Imam (A.S.) for consolation of Imam Husain (A.S.).