When we are in the light, we tend to be less aware of its importance; we appreciate its real value only when we are in the darkness.
When the radiant sun is shining in the sky, we hardly pay any attention to it, but once it is behind the clouds and living creatures have been denied of its light and warmth for sometime, only then do we become aware of its value.
Similarly, we only feel the urgency for the reappearance of the sun of wilayah (guardianship)1 as we become increasingly aware of the undesirable conditions and state of affairs that will occur before the advent and realize the difficult conditions of the time. A general description of that period, as narrated in the traditions, is as follows:
Prior to the advent of the Imam of the Time (‘atfs), sedition and chaos, anarchy and insecurity, oppression and injustice, unfairness and unjust dealing, as well as killing and aggression will prevail and encompass the entire world.
Bloody wars will break out between various nations and peoples of the world and massacred bodies will be strewn everyhere. Unjust killing will reach such a proportion that there will be no home or family that will not have lost one or many loved ones. On account of wars, two out of every three men and youth will be killed.
Personal and financial security will be greatly diminished, rendering the roads and highways unsafe. Fear, dread and anxiety will become widespread while early and untimely deaths will increase. Innocent children will be killed due to the worst kinds of tortures inflicted by tyrant rulers. Pregnant women will be violated in the streets and public places.
Contagious and deadly diseases—perhaps resulting from the stench of rotting corpses or the use of biological and chemical weapons—will spread. Scarcity of food items, overcharging and famine will make daily life difficult. There will be no germination, growth and blossoming of plants. There will be no rain, or it will come at inopportune times, and therefore, cause destruction. Life will become so difficult that some people will sell their wives and daughters in exchange for a little food.
Under such exacting circumstances, hopelessness will prevail among men and many will consider death to be the best divine gift. At that time, one who passes by a dead body or a grave will whisper to himself: “How I wish I were like him so that I could be free from this life of abjectness!”
At that time, no power, organization or system will be able to prevent all those undesirable occurences, and punish the tyrants and the powerful for their nefarious acts. No cry for the deliverance of the people will be heard. All the self-assumed champions of human salvation will prove to be traitors and liars, and thus be marginalized, and the people will hope only for a divine savior and a miracle from heaven.
At that time when hopelessness has enveloped the entire human race, by divine grace and mercy, Mahdi the Promised One, will reappear after long years of occultation and waiting, for the salvation of mankind; glad tidings from heaven will be heard throughout the world: “O people of the world! The era of the rule of tyrants has ended and the government of divine justice has begun. The Mahdi has come!” This heavenly voice will breathe the spirit of hope into the hearts of mankind and give relief to those who were deprived and oppressed.
Yes, by grasping these points, one can realize the exigency of the emergence of the divine savior and comprehend the importance and value of the justice-spreading government of al-Mahdi (‘atfs).
At this point, we will examine in five chapters the chaotic conditions of the world prior to the advent of the Imam (‘a) from the viewpoint of hadiths.
- 1. For further information on the concepts of guardianship (wilayah) and the guardian (wali/wala), see Murtada Mutahhari, Wilayah: The Station of the Master, trans. Yahya Cooper (Tehran: World Organization for Islamic Services, 1982); Master and Mastership, http://www.al-islam.org/mastership. (Trans.)