Possibilty of Meeting Imam (a.s.) in Major Occultation
History of both minor and major occupations is a witness to the fact that anyone who sought guidance received it from Imam (a.s.). Today also if anyone sincerely seeks guidance will receive it from Imam (a.s.). Committing oneself completely to the wisdom and expediencies of Allah is mandatory on the representative of Allah, as Allah bestows the responsibility of guiding and leadership to those who not only stick to ordinance of Allah but their intentions are also guided by the desire and pleasure of Allah. As a result statements that flow from his mouth bear His assent. Contradicting the desire of Allah is a sin and a sinner cannot reach this office. Keeping the above principle in mind, we have to conclude that all Imams necessarily followed the commands of Allah and his actions, words and assent reflect the prescription of Allah. Now if Imam is apparent it concurrent with command of Allah, speaks at Allah’s behest, his silence bears the assent of Allah, travels and migrates for Allah’s pleasure, remains hidden from nation at His ordinate, goes into occupation at His dictates, chooses his representatives in minor occupation subscribing to His will. In short, he follows and concedes to all injunctions of Allah.After presenting this prologue we intend to plunge directly to our main discussion. “Whether it is possible to meet Imam-e-Asr (a.s.) in his major occultation?” Possibility of doubt would not have been there if people had gone through the ‘Tawqee’ (letter of Imam) which Imam sent to his fourth and last representative, Ali Ibne Muhammad Seymoori. After informing him of his (Ali Ibne Muhammad) death Imam (a.s.) said :
“…soon a time shall come when my Shias will claim to have met me. Beware! For the one who claims that he has met me before the uprising of Sufyani and a call from the sky is a liar and a deceiver.”
Even after this clear ‘Tawqee’ some pious and sanctimonious scholars and sincere people described their meeting of Imam (a.s.), and they are such people whose trustworthiness is beyond question. In this contradictory circumstance it becomes rather difficult to asses the true position. Rejecting the words of Islam is near to blasphemy, while rejecting the pious people, whose integrity is beyond doubt is not acceptable to one’s self. Also no other person can come in countenance of Imam (a.s.). In such paradoxical circumstances we have to after all reach a conclusion. In reality, people have not understood the essence of ‘Tawqee’ as it does not deny the possibility of meeting Hazrat Baqiyatullah (may our live be sacrificed for him) in major occupation. Rather it comes heavily on pseudo selling the idea of being an ambassador. In other words, this points to those who claim to be emissaries and deputies of Imam (a.s.) like Ali Muhammad Shirazi. It is a lamentable fact that like other scripts of Imam (a.s.) this ‘Tawqee’ also was not able to acquire due attention from Shia cadres. Shia scholars and masses alike have not pondered upon it. Otherwise the artificial and pseudo special deputies and Mahdis would not have made their claims. The statement of the Tawqee that some people will claim to have met me can be interpreted as those who will come forward and proclaim on the top of their voices in order to market their fabricated ideas, under the garb of meeting Imam and taking instructions directly from him. Mention can also be made of those people who falsely claimed to have met Imam (a.s.) due to social disturbances. It would not be wrong to mention that apart from false claimants of deputyship in the present century there were many individuals who sold their satanic ideas under the label of ‘Basharat’. Without going in much detail, let us analyze and find out the meaning of the word ‘Ghaibat’,as its correct interpretation is of paramount importance in our discussions.But again people have a very superficial understanding of the word ‘Ghaibat’. The word is derived from the infinitive ‘Ghaib’ which means ‘to be away’. The word is related to Imam (a.s.) in the same manner as the sun which is not isible to the naked eye either due to the darkness of night or impediment of clouds, but its existence and presence is not affected. Similarly Hazrat Wali- -Asr (a.s.) is exists but is not seen by the people. There are two viewpoints about the ‘Ghaibat’ of Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (a.s.). First opinion which is prevalent among common masses and is also supported by the apparent meaning of some traditions is that Imam is invisible in the sense that people cannot see him but he can see them. He might be sitting in a particular place but that place is felt as vacant. This view can be supported by a tradition recorded by Sheikh-e-Saduq in his book ‘Kamaluddin’ from Rayyan bin Suit that Imam-e-Reza (a.s.) in reply to a question concerning ‘Qaem’ said: “Neither his body can be seen, nor his name can be uttered”
(Kamaluddin, pg 370).
As far as the safety and protection of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is concerned, this viewpoint is quiet simple to understand, straight forward and practical. He stays in a secluded place away from all encumbrances of society. Second viewpoint categorically states that people are in a position to see him but are unable to recognize him or are not attentive to it. They are unaware of his personality and whereabouts. Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) trained him secretly away from eyes of people but relaxing the rule for some of his special companions. This was done intentionally to establish the vicegerency of Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (a.s.). After the sad demise of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) the veil of occultation was tightened and he was in contact with masses through four special deputies. Only few reliable and trustworthy Shias like Ali Ibne Mahziyyar were fortunate enough to see him but every time Imam exhorted them to maintain secrecy. With the passage of time, minor occultation proceeded towards an end and all those companions of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) who saw .Imam Mahdi (a.s.) passed away and a time came when those who were aware of his features became virtually extinct, and a new generation emerged who was totally ignorant about his
peculiarities. They were unable to recognize him even when he would be in their presence. Traveling to any part of the world was not an impediment for him. After briefly explaining the two viewpoints about the occultation of Imam (a.s.) the question arises about the possibility of meeting Imam in occultation. There would not have been any room for such a question if the tradition mentioned earlier would not have been there designating a person who claims to have met Imam (a.s.) as liar. We have mentioned this in no unclear terms explaining its interpretation and in its light is the following discussion based. Whether viewing Imam (a.s.) physically is possible based on logic and reasoning given two viewpoints about occultation, is the first question to be dealt with. In reply to this, if we accept the first viewpoint about his invisibility then conversation or meeting with him becomes impossible unless and until a miracle takes place and at the will of Imam as and when the situation so demands. But as per second viewpoint only his name and cognizance is hidden and we support this view point with sufficient proofs to substantiate our claim. There are three possibilities of meeting Imam (a.s.):
(a) Meeting Imam Mahdi (a.s) without realizing that he is Imam and there are scores of incidents in this regard.
(b) Meeting Imam Mahdi (a.s) but becoming aware afterwards.
(c) To meet Imam and during conversation realize that he is talking with Imam. These types of incidents are very few; may be due to complete occultation this thing is kept secret.
Now if we accept the first viewpoint then meeting with Imam (a.s.) requires a miracle, but as regards the other viewpoint we categorically refer to benefit and need of Imam. Imam is essential to lead the society towards the right path, purpo se of meeting with people is relieving the group from oppression, to alleviate a person from physical or economic harm or to show the right path and so on but of course with will of Allah and within limits of occultation. After the above discussion the point has been made clear that meeting Imam in occultation is not only possible but sometimes the circumstances render it essential. Statement of ‘Tawqee’ was meant to caution people from claimants who would fool the people. But as far as religious and pious people are concerned many incidents have been recorded out of which a few are mentioned below:
1) Muhaddis-e-Qummi in book Muntahal Aamaal narrates an incident from Mulla Zainul Aabedin Salmasi about Allamah Bahrul Uloom. Incident pertains to those days when Allamah was staying in Mecca and giving lectures to Hanafi, Shafaee, Malekei and Hanbali scholars. Salmasi says that one day he expressed concern about the mounting expenses due to Allamah’s benevolence and the situation had arrived when not a single penny was left. Yet Salmasi did not receive any reply. The routine schedule of Allamah consisted of him performing the circumambulation of Kaaba, then going in a private chamber and after smoking pipe going into another chamber where he used to give instructions and verdicts in various schools of jurisprudence. Next day when he just started smoking somebody knocked at the door and to my astonishment Allamah himself quickly rushed to open the door instructing me to take the pipe away. I saw a handsome man in the dress of Arabs, with a pleasing personality who entered and sat in the room and Allamah in utter humbleness sat by the side of door and indicated me not to bring the pipe. After conversing for some time the man stood up and Allamah himself opened the door and made him ride the camel. Later Allamah returned and seemed perplexed. He gave me a piece of paper and asked me to go to a money changer who was stationed at the hill of Safa and to take whatever he gave. I went there and handed over that note to him. He with great respect kissed it and asked me to bring four laborers. I did so and they were loaded with riyals to the extent they could carry. Once I went to Safa to inquire about that money changer but to my astonishment I did not find a single shop there. I inquired in the vicinity but they also asserted that they had never seen any moneychanger there. I understood that it is a secret of Allah.
2) Mention in this regard can be made of another incident of Allamah Bahrul Uloom which is reported by Allama Majlisi (r.a.). Aqa-e-Zainul Aabedin Salmasi narrates that he was sitting in gathering of Allamah Bahrul Uloom and at that time one person questioned him about the possibility of meeting Imam Mahdi (a.s.) Allamah, who was holding a smoking pipe in his hand, put aside the pipe and bending his head murmured in such a manner that I was able to hear it. He said, “What reply I should give to this person? Although, Imam Mahdi (a.s.) has embraced me there are explicit traditions calling a person liar who claims to have met him” After this he lifted his head and replied, “It is narrated in the traditions that one who claims to have met Imam should be outrightly rejected.” Allamah did not say a single word further. From the above incidents it becomes clear that meeting Hazrat is possible but propagating it is not permitted, so as to prevent its misuse by self-centered people.
3) It is mentioned in Behaarul Anwaar (vol. 5 3, pg 255) by Allama Majlisi (r.a.) that Sheikh Baqir Kazmi narrates an incident of a barber who was serving his old father. This pious person performed his duty to the extent of helping him in going to toilet. He never used to be away from his father except on Wednesdays, when he used to go to Masjid-e-Sahla but keeping the track of time. Not seeing him for quite a few weeks in Masjid-e- Sahla, I (Sheikh Baqir Kazmi) inquired from him the reason for not coming to Mosque. The barber explained that he went for forty Wednesdays, but on the fortieth time he was not able to proceed early. He started in night and was nearing his destination when suddenly his eyes settled on a distant rider who apparently seemed to be an Arab nomad who was heading towards him. When he came face to face he inquired about his destination in a nomadic dialect. He promptly replied, ‘Masjid-e-Sahla’. Then he (nomad) inquired whether he (barber) was having some eatables with him, but he replied in negative. The Arab nomad again asked him to put his hand in his pocket and to see whether he was having some eatables. He again assured the Arab that he was having nothing. On his insistence he searched his pocket and found some raisins which he had purchased for his small son and had forgotten
about it. Then the person pronounced thrice (in nomadic language) which meant, ‘I advise you concerning your father’ and disappeared. Then he (barber) realized that the man was no other than Hazrat Hujjat (a.s.) who is not happy to see me remain negligent of my father even on Wednesdays.
4) Aqa-e-Haj Reza Hamdani narrates in his book ‘Misbah’ that on some occasions Hazrat Hujjat (a.s.) gives opportunity of seeing him to his selected and trustworthy Shias. For instance, about fifty years back a pious scholar Abdur Rahim Dimavandi was able to avail of this opportunity. He narrates that in a complete darkness he met Hazrat, who was standing facing Qibla and light was emitting from his face. The light was so luminating that even the floor was clearly visible along with its details.
In short, after considering the numerous incidents of meeting Hazrat and also the traditions we can conclude that, It is absolutely absurd and false to claim that meeting with Hazrat can be held at ones desire, without the same from Imam. on other hand, if Hazrat himself wishes to honor somebody with the opportunity to meet him is a different matter.