With governmental support, tenets of religions and schools of thought could be implemented in society. Because of this, every group wants to establish a government in order to attain and implement its own objectives. Islam, which is the most superior heavenly creed, also pursues the establishment of an Islamic government and it considers the formation and preservation of the government of truth as one of the highest religious duties.
The Noble Prophet of Islam (S) exerted all his efforts in establishing an Islamic government and strove to lay its foundation in the city of Medina. After his death—despite the inspiration of the infallible Imams (‘a) and the distinguished ‘ulama’ to continue this Islamic government—the governments that came into being, with the exception of a very few cases, have not been divine, and till the time of the advent of Hadrat Mahdi (‘a) most governments will be based on falsehood.
The hadiths that have been transmitted to us from the Prophet (S) and the Imams (‘a), describe the governments prior to the uprising of al-Mahdi (‘atfs) in general terms. We will now point out some of their characteristics.
One of the ills which human society will suffer before the advent of the Imam (‘a) is injustice and tyranny perpetrated by governments against the people. In this regard, the Messenger of God (S) said: “The world will be filled with tyranny and injustice such that there will be fear and war in every house.”1
Hadrat ‘Ali (‘a) said: “The world will be filled with tyranny and injustice such that there will be fear and grief in every house.”2
This fear and dread will mostly stem from the rule of despotic and obstinate rulers in the world before the advent of al-Mahdi (‘a).
In this regard, Imam al-Baqir said: “The Mahdi (‘a) will rise up at a time when the helm of affairs would be in the hands of tyrants.”6
Ibn ‘Umar said: “(At the end of time) a noble man having wealth and children will wish for death because of the suffering and adversity he will experience from the rulers.”7
It is worthy of note that the followers of the Prophet (S) will suffer not only from the aggression and encroachment of alien powers but also from their own despotic and self-centered governments in such a way that the earth, notwithstanding its expanse, will become too small for them. Instead of experiencing a sense of freedom, they will feel that they are in bondage. Even now in the Muslim world many leaders in Muslim countries are not on good terms with Islam and the Muslims are alien to them.
In this context, it is thus narrated in the hadiths:
The Noble Messenger of Islam (S) said: “At the end of time, a great calamity—greater than which has not been heard of—will be experienced by my ummah8 in such a manner that the vastness of the earth will become narrow for them, and the earth will be filled with injustice and despotism to such an extent that the believer will not find a sanctuary in which he could seek refuge.”9
Some hadiths have emphasized the Muslims’ entanglements with self-centered leaders and give glad tidings of the advent of a universal savior after the rule of oppressive rulers. This set of hadiths has made mention of three types of government that will emerge after the Noble Messenger of Islam (S). These three types of government are the following: the caliphate, the emirates and kingdoms, and finally the tyrants.
The Noble Prophet (S) said: “After me the caliphate will rule; after the caliphs the emirs will come, followed by kings, and after them tyrants and oppressors will rule, then the Mahdi (‘atfs) will reappear.”10
If those who administer the government are righteous and efficient individuals, the people will live in comfort and ease. However, if unworthy individuals rule, the people will naturally experience suffering and agony. It is exactly the same condition which will prevail in the period prior to the advent of Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs). At that time, states will be formed by treacherous, transgressing and oppressive individuals.
The Noble Prophet of Islam (S) said: “A time will come when rulers will be oppressors; commanders will be treacherous; judges will be transgressors; and ministers will be tyrants.”11
Another problem that is discussed concerning governments during the end of time is the dominance and influence of women, who will either directly rule over the people or subject the rulers under their sway. This subject has various ramifications. In this regard, Hadrat ‘Ali (‘a) said: “A time will come when corrupt and adulterous individuals will live in coquetry and bounty and the ignoble will acquire position and status while the just men will become weak.” It was asked: “When will this period come to pass?” He said: “It is at the time when women and bondswomen take charge of the affairs of the people and youngsters become rulers.”12
Rulers are supposed to be well-experienced and good managers in order for the people to live in comfort and ease. If, in their stead, youngsters or feebleminded people would take charge of affairs, one should seek refuge in God from the evil of the sedition (fitnah) that will arise.
In this regard, it will suffice to mention two hadiths:
The Noble Prophet (S) stated: “Seek refuge in God from the first seventy years and the rule of youngsters.”13
Sa‘id ibn Musayyib said: “A sedition (fitnah) will come to pass and its beginning will be the game of the young.”14
A government with political stability is the one capable of serving the people of a country, for if it is in a state of continuous change, it would be incapable of undertaking great tasks in the country.
The governments at the end of time will be in a shambles, and sometimes a government will assume office at the beginning of the day and will be removed by sunset. In this regard, Imam as-Sadiq15 (‘a) said: “How will you be when there would be no Imam to guide; would you remain without knowledge and learning; and be fed up with each other? (It will be) the time when you would be put to a test and the good and the bad from among you will be separated from each other and the chaff shall be separated from the grain. At that time swords will be sheathed and unsheathed alternately while war will be a blaze. A government will assume office at the beginning of the day and will be deposed and removed with bloodshed by the end of the day.”16
Before the advent of the Imam of the Time (‘atfs), repressive governments will be weakened and this will pave the way for the people’s acceptance of the global government of Hadrat Mahdi. In this regard, Imam as-Sajjad17 (‘a) has said concerning the noble ayah (verse):
﴿ حَتَّى إِذَا رَأَوْا مَا يُوعَدُونَ فَسَيَعْلَمُونَ مَنْ أَضْعَفُ نَاصِرًا وَأَقَلُّ عَدَدًا ﴾
“When they see what they are promised, they will then know who is weaker in supporters and fewer in numbers.”18
“The promise that has been given in this verse is related to Hadrat Qa’im (‘a), his companions, supporters, and enemies. At the time when the Imam of the Time rises up, his enemies will be the weakest of enemies and will have the least number of forces and armaments.”19