The Coming Of The Mahdi (A) -3/3

Third and last part of a highly uplifting series of three lectures describing and analyzing the events which will lead to the re-appearance of Imam al-Mahdi, the twelfth infallible leader of the Shi'a, and the revolutionary banner of justice which he shall establish across the world.

A'udhu bil-Lahi min al-Shaytan al-rajim. Bismi-Llahi, Al-Rahmani, Al-Rahim. Al-hamdulil-Lahi Rabbi al-Alameen, bari' al-khalaa'iqi ajma'een. Wa as-salat wa as-salam 'ala asharaf al-Anbiya'i wa al-Mursalin, Sayyidina, wa Nabiyyina, wa habibi qulubina, wa tabibi nufusina, wa shafi'i dhunubina, Abi il-Qasim Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad]. Thumma as-salatu wa as-salamu 'ala Ahli baytihi, at-tayyibin, at-taharin, al-mayamin. La siyama Imam az-Zamanina hadha al-Hujjat ibn il-Hasan, salawat Allahi wa as-salamu alayh [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad].

Amma ba'd, faqad qala Allahu Tabaraka wa Ta'ala fi kitabih. Bismillahi, al-Rahman, al-Rahim. "Huwa al-ladhi arsala Rasulahu bi 'l-huda wa deen il-haqq li yudhhirahu 'ala ad-deeni kullih, wa law kariha al-mushrikoon"(61:9) (9:33). Salawat 'ala Muhammad wa aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad].

Tonight is our third and final discussion on the coming of the Mahdi, may Allah hasten his appearance, and as we all know that tonight as well, after Maghreb we mark the 15th night of Sha'ban where we also commemorate the birth and the coming of the Imam of our time. So inshaAllah, what we would like to do is complete our topic that we have been discussing for the last two nights and thereafter inshaAllah we will talk about the importance of this night as well as specifically about the Imam for the benefit of the youth and the children as well.

Up until yesterday, we had begun discussing the reasons for which individuals might reject the Imam despite having waited for him all their lives, and we gave a number of reasons, and the third reason at which we stopped was that there will be individuals who will completely rely on physical signs and miracles to prove their, to prove the Imam's validity. And that will be their shortfall essentially.

And one of my dear brothers as well mentioned to me last night that there is a khutba or a sermon in Nahjul Balagha in which Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam, discusses the very same [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], discusses the very same point about why Allah did not give His messengers all the miracles that people asked for. You will recall last night we mentioned that Surah Bani Isr'ael Chapter 17, verse 90 to 95 (17:90-95), the mushrikeen or the polytheists of Mecca demanded from the Prophet that before we accept you, you must show us all these signs. You must bring a house of gold and you must show us an orchard of grapes and date palms and you must cause a river to gush beneath our feet, and so on and so forth, that you must ascend to the heavens. And these signs, Allah of course addresses them, we said yesterday, when Allah says that We have shown many signs to people in the past but they simply rejected it. So We show miracles only as a deterrent, only as an added proof, only to prevent the evildoers, but it is not Our intention to use those primarily as proofs.

And Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam, in this sermon 192 which is known as Khutbat ul-Qasi'ah, he says, with a different reason, he says: Had Allah wished, He could have given all the signs to His prophets. He could have given them the ability to create these houses of gold, and ascend the heavens and so on and so forth. But then it would negate the whole idea of being rewarded for good or being punished for evil. In other words, what the Imam is saying is even if it can be believed that physical signs would suffice as proof, assuming that the people of Musa and others denied, but our generation would have accepted the signs, it would still be a problem because those who are rewarded to a large extent are rewarded on the Day of Judgment for their belief in the unseen. Allah of course does not have a physical form. But if everyone could see the malakoot, the kingdom of the heavens, and could see the angels and if people could see paradise and hell, and if people could see how every time they perform an action, good or evil, it manifests itself physically in form of a reward or punishment, then no one would perform anything evil. Everybody would strive to do good day and night, because there would be a direct evidence and proof of their actions immediately.

But a large degree of the reward on the Day of Judgment lies in the fact that you believe in the unseen. In fact, the Qur'an begins with that: "Alif lam meem" (2:1) - in Surat ul-Baqara - "Dhalika al-kitaba la rayba feeh, hudan li 'l-muttaqeen" (2:2), "alladheena yu'minuna bi 'l-ghayb" (2:3). Those who believe in the unseen. It is part and parcel of having faith that you believe in the unseen. And that is why you see the Qur'an is revealed from Allah, but Allah is unseen, the angels are unseen, the paradise and hell are unseen, for most Muslims through the ages they never saw the Prophet, so that is unseen to them, and for our generation, the Imam is unseen as well. And the more one has believed based on reasoning and faith and not on mushahada or witnessing with the eye, the greater the reward.

So Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam says in that Khutba 192 that Allah could have also meant His prophets such that they would have overcome their enemies with force. They would have some sort of super powers by which they would cause anyone who stands in their way to be weakened and humbled and overcome. But that would also negate the idea of the world being a trial and a test, and the whole idea of being rewarded and punished. So he said He made His messengers and prophets individuals of very strong determination, but He made them physically appear to be weak. He made them physically appear to be human flesh and blood, the kind that you could fight and overcome. And He kept their true spiritual ability or Noor or power hidden and latent as opposed to visible. So that sort of is an added textual evidence or evidence from hadith that miracles alone will not suffice and is not intended to be proof for one who wants to verify anything.

Now, we continue then from yesterday's discussion on this third reason, miracles. And we bring the fourth reason. The fourth reason is that some individuals who perhaps see themselves as being intellectuals, they will depend entirely on logic and intellect alone. And logic and intellect alone is also not sufficient to prove much.

We know, for example, that our main concern and debate with atheists when it comes to proving the existence of God is precisely this, that the atheist wants to depend only on the mind to prove the existence of God. The mind, however, is not able, as we have said time and again, to know anything directly. The mind depends on the five senses, so the mind depends on what the eyes will transmit to it or what the ears will transmit to it, or what the tongue will transmit to it, or what the nose will transmit, or what the skin, the sense of touch and sound and sight and so on and so forth.

But the eyes itself as a piece of jelly only will only capture certain lights. There could be beings in this room who have a certain light or a frequency that the eye is not able to capture. And because the eye is not able to capture it, the mind cannot prove it. There may be sounds of certain frequencies that the human ear, the bones and whatever causes sound to travel through the ears is not able to be captured by the human ear. Therefore, the mind has no experience of those sounds. That does not mean those frequencies do not exist.

So relying on simply logic and argument and intellectual proof can also be a hindrance to realising who the Imam is. So there is a bit of both. There is the aspect of the miracles, not that the Imam will not perform miracles. There is the intellect that plays a role, 'aql in itself has been acknowledged as a source of knowing God as well as a Hujja, as a proof, and therefore a source of knowing an Imam as well. But alone it will not suffice. And that is why you see philosophers after thousands of years, they have still not concluded that God exists or not. They continue debating and arguing and they never will conclude. And I do not think they intend to in any case, it is just going back and forth of the mind, producing proofs and counter proofs.

So added to the complexity of relying on the intellect alone as being limited in the five senses, the media as well can steer individuals' thoughts and intellects, as we have seen time and again. Salawat 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], we know these and people who have studied marketing and psychology, they will tell you how the ads you watch on TV, and what you see on the newspapers, and the billboards you see, they are all targeted to cause you to think in a particular manner, or to influence your values and your thoughts. So in a similar vein, we have riwayat and ahadith to say that even after a voice is heard from the heavens announcing the coming of the Imam, there will be attempts to try and explain things away, as we have said in the past, either using quote unquote "science" or using some form of media to say, well, this was not what you think, it was something else and so on and so forth.

Or, for example, the whole issue of the Dukhan, the smoke that envelopes the whole world. There is a whole Surah of Qur'an, Surat ul-Dukhan, which talks about a sign that is to come as a warning to mankind. And again, you will see when you read about that, that when it will come for a while, people will repent, turn towards Allah, but then again they will turn to sin because they will explain it away in some form or the other. And this is not something new. This has happened time and time again.

I remember recently seeing an article by a scientist, if you like, trying to explain the parting of the sea for Musa 'alayhi as-salam. And he was desperately trying to show that at the time that Musa went to the shores of the sea, right at that point there was a tsunami and the, you know, the waves and the earthquake and the whole thing split open, and he just crossed in time. So everybody will try and explain. I have seen articles as well by individuals who are opposed to Christianity saying that the miracle of Jesus walking on water was not really a great miracle, because at the time that he was near the sea that he walked on, it was winter time. And that particular year there was a lot of frost and there were some thin sheets of ice floating on the sea. So he was actually standing on a sheet of ice. He was not actually walking on water.

So people will try and explain things away. Never mind the fact that why it would happen at exactly that time when a miracle is happening. Now if Allah causes certain natural phenomena and signs to come together in order for the miracle to manifest itself, that does not mean it is not from Allah. So if you can prove, for example, that the world came into existence with the Big Bang, that does not mean that Allah did not cause the Big Bang. So science and intellect can be proof, but is not necessarily conclusive proof. So this is another reason yet by which humans might reject the coming of the Imam.

Now we come to a fifth reason, which is a little more sensitive, and I urge us to listen to this and take it with the intention that it was meant to be, and this is the matter of hypocrisy. A lot of times individuals may suffer from a form of hypocrisy without realising that, and this comes from wanting peace and bliss and justice for one's self, but not necessarily for others. And often the question is asked, how do we come closer to our Imam or how do we build a relationship with our Imam, or how do we get to know the Imam better or how do we personalise that relationship with him? And this can be answered in many ways, but one way is in aligning our values and our character to his. Not waiting, that when he comes and establishes a system of justice, then we will live by justice. We need to learn to say that "What will the world look like when he comes? Can I start living like that to the degree that I can?" There may be things that are beyond our ability, but there may be things that are within our ability.

As an example, time and again I have heard individuals from the Muslim community unfortunately, who will boast of how well they have done in business, and how they sold things at 200 percent profit, or 300 percent profit, or 500 percent profit. And there is a need to ask ourselves, are these the values by which the Imam lives by? If these are the things that we take pride in, that I got this for fifty dollars, but I was able to sell it for three hundred dollars, are we going to be able to live in a system where this is not permitted? And what would our reaction be if we were taken to task or punished for having done such a thing? So we want justice and good and wealth and bliss and comfort for ourselves. But sometimes we neglect that aspect that we are not able to live in a society where justice has to prevail for everyone.

This may be also in other forms. You may have been to places and countries where you will find Muslims cheating others, not necessarily Muslims only, it happens all over the world. But our concern is primarily first as Muslims, because it should not be expected of a Muslim. It could be understood of someone who does not believe in God, but certainly not of a Muslim. So you may come across societies, not necessarily here, where individuals who call themselves Muslims show a lack of integrity. They might overcharge you when they give you a ride in the taxi. They might overcharge you because you do not know the language or because you do not speak that language or they know you are a tourist, for example. Now such individuals, they also pray, Allahuma 'ajil farajahu, Oh Allah hasten the appearance of the Imam. They celebrate the 15th of Sha'ban. But will they be able to survive in a system where they cannot cheat people?

So these are things that need to be thought about that we do not change to a new leaf and develop 100 percent integrity overnight when the Imam comes. It is something we have or we do not have. As we have said before, we cannot have 99 percent integrity or 99.9 percent. We either have it or we do not. And if we cannot be just today with ourselves, with our families, with our community, and if we continue fighting, arguing over little things, petty things, holding grudges, we should not be willing to forgive each other for mistakes that we ourselves have made in the past, then we should, at least at the very least, acknowledge that we would not be able to live very easily in a society where there is no room for individuals who behave like that.

Then there may be things, as I said, petty things backbiting, speaking ill of each other and so on and so forth. There may be things that are around us in society that we are used to. But in our hearts, we should be averse to them. We should not be acknowledging them and accepting them. For example, there is the system of interest. Now, I do not wish to discuss the fiqh laws and masa'el of taking interest and so on and the banking system and what the 'ulama have to say and so on and so forth. But overall, we know that the system of interest is one that is meant to enslave people and to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Now, we may have to live with that sort of a system under certain circumstances, and we might even have certain allowances from the maraji' in the present time we live in. But that does not mean that in our hearts we love that system. Because when the Imam comes, that system will be abolished for sure.

So now can we live in a society where we earn a living, but we do not earn interest? For many, this will be very hard to accept. It may be easy to speak about it, but this is what I mean. There is pros and cons to living in a society that is not primarily a Muslim society. The advantages of living in a society such as ours in the West is that you are able to clearly see religion from culture if you choose to do so. Many individuals who come from the East or who live in societies that are predominantly Muslim, when you visit them, when you talk to them, when you see how they live, you find that they have confused culture and Islam. And a lot of times they are not able to distinguish one from the other. Nor do they take religion as something precious. They take it for granted because it is all around.

They do not, for example, take a lot of pain to raise their children with Islamic teachings or bring them to the madrassa, because if I do not raise my child, my neighbor will raise my child. Mahallah is there, somebody is there, there is a mosque in every corner, the child will grow up as a good Muslim. A lot of times these individuals, when they come here, they are overwhelmed and they stop praying, they stop fasting and so on and so forth. We have all heard of such horror stories. But the disadvantage of living in a society that is not predominantly Muslim as well is that you grow up seeing things that desensitise us so that we no longer see what is wrong is wrong.

For example, if from the time I was born, everywhere I grew, I saw every corner, there was a beer store, just as an example. I am desensitized to the idea that alcohol is bad. I may not drink or consume alcohol as a Muslim, but nonetheless it is something that I do not feel repulsed by, because I am used to seeing that. All the time on the televisions, the advertisements, at the grocery stores where they may sell it, and so on and so forth. So then when the Imam comes, these things are eliminated. Not that we would miss them, but this is just one example among many. Or for example, the fact that you grew up in a society where predominantly when you walk around in society, you do not see hijab being observed, because the majority are not Muslims. Now, you live in a society where predominantly everyone is in hijab. That might be, so to speak, a cultural shock to many individuals.

And so living in an Islamic society is a little different, and we need to love Islam and what it stands for and understand the philosophy behind its values in order to accept living in such a society. For example, in a true Islamic society with the Imam in control of the global Muslim society, there may be a system where everywhere there is congregational prayers being held, there is Friday prayers being held. Now we need and we have to attend those Friday prayers. Even the individuals who say Jumu'a prayers is not wajib, they say it is wajib in the presence of the Imam. But if all our lives we are against praying Jama'at prayers, we are against praying Friday prayers, then how would we adjust in such a society?

If we cannot look beyond fighting and arguing over little things like, you know, Is this music allowed or is that music not allowed? Can I eat from here? Can I not eat from there? Why is hijab wajib and why is it not? Then it would certainly be very difficult for us to exist in a society where not only Islamic values are upheld but enforced, where the system in the court of reward and punishment of justice is the Islamic hudood. You see, when it comes to the same issue of living in a society where the society drums into us certain ideas that these are old fashioned and barbaric. Islam has its own philosophy, for example, where it upholds capital punishment or death sentence for certain sins and crimes, such as, for example, adultery or murder.

Now, we live in a society where there is no capital punishment [Canada]. If we suddenly had to live in a society where this is enforced, there are many individuals who all their lives prayed for the Imam without thinking of these things, because subliminally they always believed that these were barbaric and these were things that were not acceptable, that this was old, that this had to change. The Imam cannot change the Shari'ah of Muhammad, because the halal of Muhammad remains halal ila yawm al Qiyama, and the haram of Muhammad remains haram ila yawm al Qiyama. Salawat 'ala Muhammad wa aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad].

So today we have some leeway where I can sit with you and argue, well, your mujtahid says this, but my mujtahid says that. But when there is only one Imam, the opinion will be only one. Therefore, everybody will do only that which he says. So it is not that the Imam wishes to enforce in the sense of a military regime or an oppressive regime, it is an Imam who is ra'ouf and rahim, who is kind and compassionate, who loves humanity and the creatures of God. He is an Imam who is groomed to establish peace and justice on the Earth. But we in turn must understand those values. We must take the time to study them and understand the philosophy behind them. In other words, we need to go from a position of simply following Shari'a out of a sense of guilt or enforced or fear of hell, to a point where we love Islam, where we cannot wait for him to come so that we can live in a society where true Islamic values are held. And that needs a certain change in thinking for some, not necessarily for all of us, but certainly for individuals like myself.

So if we continue striving then for purity, for spirituality, for a higher understanding of Islam, then obviously we have nothing to fear. But if we are averse to certain things, then obviously we at least at the very least, need to ask ourselves, am I being hypocritical by praying for the return of the Imam when I am not ready for him? Because many of us, we still love our materialistic lives and societies. I cannot list how many people I have heard praising a society that is un-Islamic over an Islamic society only because of their material benefit. For example, they would tell me things like, well, this is not a Muslim society, but at least I get free meds, or at least I am looked after when I grow old and I am a senior, or at least this happens or that happens, or at least I have an oip card and I can get my surgery done for free. What does the Muslims do? If I went and lived in my back home, whatever it is that Muslim country, they would not look after me.

So it is all "what is in it for me from a material perspective", that I get support, financial support or health care or so on and so forth. But if I look beyond that and say, on what basis in principle does this society survive? What are the values it upholds? What are its foreign policies? How does it view Muslims? What states and regimes does it support that are oppressive and unjust to fellow Muslims? Does it uphold immorality? Does it deny the existence of God? Is it an individualistic, godless society? Are things like alcohol and adultery and so on and homosexuality and all these things freely accepted as being normal?

If the society itself is a rotting of the foundation, and its values and principles are wrong, yet I admire it and I love it and I prefer it over other places. Not to say that the other Muslim countries are good. They may have their own issues. They may be dictatorial, they may be monarchies, they may be unjust, they may have their own problems. But that does not mean that I love a society that is based on un-Islamic principles and values. Because then what I am saying is that the Shari'a and the laws and the values of the Qur'an are simply historic ideas that were meant for past generations. They are no longer applicable in today's society.

But when I firmly believe that no, what the Qur'an holds is right and that is equality and justice for mankind. And I cannot wait for an Imam who will establish a system where these values are upheld, and I will live by those principles and make sacrifices to make that a reality, it is then and only then that I have a right to say that I pray sincerely and say Allahuma 'ajjil farajahu without any hypocrisy in me.

So we really, really need to look inwards and ask ourselves, Why am I praying for him to return? Is it because I am fed up? Is it because I hate the enemies, I hate the West or I hate the Zionists or I hate this and that? Or is it because I really want to see Islamic values shared with humanity and a world that exists on these Islamic principles? So without labouring this point then, this would be the fifth reason why individuals might reject the Imam on his return.

A sixth reason and again, this is also a little sensitive and again, I urge you to take it in the understanding in stride that it is meant to be, because when I speak, given the fact that many of these lectures and majlises are not limited to just one audience, but they tend to somehow make their way on the Internet and they are heard by individuals even outside this continent or outside what we call the Western world. So understand that in a broader context. The sixth reason is that there tends to be a reliance on traditions and ahadith and riwayat without accepting that some of them may not be reliable. And I understand very well the sensitivity of this.

But many a times when we are inflexible and we are driven with pride, or with jealousy, or with affiliation with one group over the other, we tend to listen to who is saying what, rather than what is being said. Or we assume that if it is in a book of hadith, therefore it is true without giving it much thought. And Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam in Nahjul Balagha [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], he says the narrators of hadith are many, but the preservers of hadith are few. There are many, many people who can just read hadith for you again and again from lots and lots of sources. But individuals who have the ability or who will take the time to look at that hadith and then look at it in the light of the Qur'an and then make sure what implications this has on the minds of the audience and how this works in society and whether this is agreeable, first to his conscious and understanding, and then also on the authenticity of those traditions. Those would be fewer.

As an example - now, the point that I wish to make here is one of being rigid and proud and refusing to accept that some of the traditions or ahadith that we read about the coming of the Imam may or may not be true. That is the point I am trying to make, not a specific example that I am about to give. I am going to give you an example, but I cannot stress enough that I am not saying that this is not true. This may very well be true, but it is an example and it is something that I have heard myself from a scholar in the Middle East.

This scholar narrates a tradition. He says, when the Mahdi 'alayhi as-salam returns [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], his light and his Noor will radiate with such brilliance that it will replace the sun and the sun will no longer be needed and it will become useless. And the humans of this world will then rely on the light and the Noor of the Imam for their existence rather than the sun. And this scholar, who is respected by many, went on to argue and prove this through different ways. For example, he took the verse of the Qur'an that says, "Wa ashraqat al-ardhu bi noori Rabbiha"(39:69). That the earth shall be lit and will light with the light of its Lord.

And then he discussed the word Rabb and said that Rabb does not always mean God. Rabb means one who sustains or one who looks after, or a lord even in the general sense as the lord of the house. For example, a homemaker or a housewife is sometimes called in Arabic "Rabbatu al-bayt". So in that sense he said that the Rabb that is mentioned is the Mahdi. That the Earth shall shine with the Noor of its Rabb. Now we do not know whether this tradition has been verified or not, and he may very well have verified it and it may very well be true. As I said, I am not challenging that hadith. But it then raises other questions that sometimes we are not able to answer. For example, someone who heard this tradition then had questions for me. He said, was not the Prophet greater than the Imam? Why didn't the light of the Prophet outshine the sun? So we say, well, maybe Allah hid the Noor of the Prophet to protect him from the enemies.

He said, well, isn't the Imam on the Earth today? If he is, then why does his light not outshine the sun today? Then you may argue again and say, well, Allah is hiding his light right now to preserve and protect him from the enemies. But when he returns, his light will manifest. So then he asks me, well, then when it is night time, the sun sets and we are able to sleep. But if the Imam is present, then the light will always be present. Does it mean his light will go in the night? So you see the questions keep coming and at some point you are clutching at straws to explain it. This does not mean that the tradition is false. It may actually be true, but might have a meaning that is beyond my understanding. It may have a meaning that is symbolic, for example.

But the point I am trying to make and again, I want to stress this, is not this particular hadith. The point I am trying to make is that there are individuals who will take a tradition and they will hold onto it with absolute inflexibility and rigidity and say: this has to happen. If this does not happen, I will not accept this individual as the Imam. Whereas we need to be aware and cognizant of the fact that we with hadith, there may be ahadith that were forged, there may be ahadith that are true, but when the manifest themselves, they will show themselves in a different manner, not in the manner we expect it to.

As an example, I mentioned last year, that one of the signs we are given is that for the coming of Imam 'alayhi as-salam is that the sun will rise from the West. And we give an example, we said it does not necessarily mean that the world will stay the way it is and the sun will now start rising from the West. Scientists talk all the time of the melting of ice on the North Pole and they talk of as the ice melts, there could be a tilting of the Earth on its axis and there could be what they call a polar shift. And if a polar shift was to happen and the Earth was to rotate completely, they say there would be a lot of catastrophe, there would be all kinds of landslides. There would be water covering where there is land. There would be new land resurfacing from the ocean. Which might explain the one third of the population dying that we talked about yesterday. But if the Earth was to rotate on its axis and the North Pole was to be the south and the south was to be the north, then the sun would still rise as it does today. But now your east becomes your west and your west becomes your east. So your understanding of the sun rising from the West, might not necessarily happen exactly the way you want it to happen. And this is very important to remember.

So along all these discussion that we have been having from the very first night, the point we have tried to stress is that the coming of the Imam will require human beings to be compassionate, to be understanding, but to expect things to happen through sacrifices and through ordinary means. There may be signs that will happen, but we must not be fixed and rigid to say it must be this way or that way. We must be open to the idea that things might happen different from how we expected. And indeed they will happen, because in that lies a trial. Otherwise there would not be a trial, would they? It would have been very easy then to decide on what is haqq and what is batil.

Now, I give you an example from history, from the Muslim history that will make it a little easier to understand. If you can recite a Salawat 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad]. Consider, for example the history of the Jews and the Christians in the Middle East. When Rasool Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], when he declared himself as the Prophet of Allah in Mecca, there were a lot of Jews living in Medina, which at the time was called Yathrib, and there were a lot of Christians living in an area that is called Najran, a group of whom had come for which the incident of Mubahala took place.

When you read the books of history to say how did the Jews and the Christians end up in the Middle East, it is interesting to note that they came there because they had read in their books prophecies that a prophet would come from the Middle East. Which means the Jews primarily came to Medina waiting for the prophet. This was why they were there. And the mushrikeen in Mecca, the polytheists, were not waiting for him because they did not have a scripture. They did not have Tawrat or Injeel. The irony of the whole thing is that when this Prophet rose and declared his mission, who were the people who accepted him and who were the ones who opposed him the most? Initially, yes, he faced a lot of resistance from the Quraysh and he had to migrate to Medina. But even in Medina, the people who accepted him were the mushrikeen, the polytheists, they were the ones who worshiped idols, and then Mecca.

The Jews who had been waiting for him all their lives, they are the ones who opposed him. They they are the ones who fought him at Khaybar and Khandaq and so on. There were some who changed and accepted him, but despite the proofs he gave them, if you read the Qur'an, the lame excuses and arguments they gave are listed in the book. Which is very, very ironic, isn't it? And we seek refuge with Allah from such an incident taking place with the Muslim community, where large numbers of us wait for the Imam and large numbers of non-Muslims are oblivious to him. But when he establishes a world based on justice, then a large number of those who do not know him today accept him in droves. And those who claim to follow him deny him.

History repeats itself, isn't it? So we need to ask ourselves what went wrong there and why would it not go right with us? It is very, very important that we look at this. And this is not something that I am supposing or imagining, but we have this from ahadith. A hadith, one tradition that I read just today, which said that when the Mahdi 'alayhi as-salam returns, a large number of those who claim to follow him will deny him. And there will be people who worshipped the sun and the moon who will accept his message. So this is something that is there in the books and it is something that we need to be cautious about.

Now, a final point that I wish to discuss before we wrap up this three day discussion is a lack of purity of the heart, which is the major reason for which people would deny the Imam. And this reason is actually the reason for all the other previous reasons that we have discussed, that that reliance on miracles or that not being willing to sacrifice or that idea of only expecting proof through the intellect or that hypocrisy or that being rigid in our belief or pride or jealousy or whatever it may be, its source and its root is that lack of purity of the heart.

And the opposite is also true, that those who would be most readily willing to accept the message of the Imam would be those who are purest of heart, which therefore then leads us to conclude that the best way to identify the Imam is not through the signs and the miracles, nor through the intellectual proofs as much as through the purity of the heart, because the heart will always, when purified, it will always testify to that which is just and true. It will always deny that which is false.

The others will also play a role. Knowing the signs are important, the miracles, the signs that the things that are in the possessions of the Imam that he will produce, the Dhul Fiqar of his forefathers, the 'aba, the turban, all those signs that we have in books have their place, but it is the purity of the heart we shall conclude that will be the deciding factor on who accepts and who denies the Imam.

And this is true for all matters. We said yesterday when discussing the ayah: "Fi quloobihim maradhun fa zadahum Allahu maradha"(2:10), that whether we seek to accept God, the Qur'an itself says that it guides some and it misguides some. "Yudhillu bihi katheeran, wa yahdee bihi katheeran"(2:26). And we have discussed this again in the past, that whether we wish to verify, is the Qur'an the word of God, or whether we wish to prove the existence of God, or whether we need to understand the reality and the truth of Aali Muhammad, or whether we want to identify whether the individual in front of me is the Imam or not, the most striking proof and the greatest evidence will come from the purity of my heart.

If you look at the Messenger of Allah, again as an example, peace be upon him and his family, when he came and began preaching his mission, he did show signs to the Quraysh. One of his most astounding signs was the splitting of the moon that the Qur'an testifies to. He showed them signs like taking pebbles in his hand and the pebbles would glorify Allah. Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam, in Nahjul Balagha talks of a miracle where he says that the Prophet summoned a tree, and the tree came out and walked towards him on its roots. So miracles like these were shown, but they still denied the proof.

Now, look at the arguments that those who denied him gave. It is typically the kind of arguments that you will find in a petty society. They give arguments like, look at this man, he is dividing our community, he is causing fathers and sons to fight, he is causing mothers and daughters to fight among themselves. He is confusing the youth. This was the arguments. Do you not see that in our society sometimes? The very same arguments will be brought forth, that this person is confusing.

The idea is, is what is being said, truth or not, or falsehood? Not the fact that we want to hold on to what we have seen from our forefathers. And then look at the people who accepted the message. The first ones to accept the message of Islam were the poor, were the downtrodden, were the oppressed, were the slaves. And what was their argument and reason for believing? It was not the fact that we saw him splitting the moon. It was the fact that this man tells us not to bury our daughters alive. It was the fact that this man tells us that women are human beings, they are not to be treated subhuman. In other words, they saw that he stood for truth, he stood for justice, he stood for human rights, he stood for that which was fair and equitable for all human beings. And they were attracted to it foremost because they were oppressed and they were victims of those circumstances, that he was against materialism, that he was against idol worship, that he was against that which demeans a human being.

So on the same basis, if we purify our hearts, then when the Imam comes forth because we know from the books of ahadith that there will come forth at least 60 liars claiming to be the Mahdi before the Imam. So there is no shortage of false Mahdis. In identifying the right one, we will know the right one because of the fact that he will not ask for people to worship him. He will not ask to control people. He will not want political power for the sake of it. It will not be a movement based on capitalism or materialism. It will be one that will speak for the oppressed. It will be one that will speak out against oppression and against injustices. So this purity of heart is very, very important in making us understand the reality and the truth of the Imam. If you can recite a Salawat 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad].

Now, in the time that I have left for tonight, as we have said, tonight is a very, very special night. As far as our three day discussion is concerned, this would be a conclusion to it. We have discussed the signs of the Imam and the sequence in which they would occur, and we have listed various signs for which people might reject the Imam. And I think that is enough food for thought for us to go back and on a night such as this, to think and ask ourselves, are there signs here that I can relate to myself and are there areas that I need to work on to find sincerity and purity in myself and say, am I ready for the Imam.

I have some other interesting ahadith related to the Imam, some partly talking of the signs of his return, some partly talking of his Shias and talking of the condition of the people at the time and how difficult it would be to hold onto true faith. I will share this with you if time permits. But before we do that, just so that we do not run out of time without having discussed the importance of the 15th night of Sha'baan, I wish to switch to that and talk first about the importance of tonight and then inshaAllah if time permits we will come back and talk about some of the ahadith related to our Imam. If you can recite a loud Salawat 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad].

This night that will come upon us at Maghrib, is also known as the Night of Bara'a. And Bara'a is to disassociate or to free oneself from something, and so therefore we are told from the ahadith and riwayat that it is a night to free ourselves from sins. It is a night to purify ourselves. We know from Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq, salawat Allahi wa as-salamu alayh [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], that he reports from his father, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, salawat Allahi wa as-salamu alayh [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], that besides the night of Qadr, which takes place in the month of Ramadan, there is no greater night in Islam besides this night. So after the night of Qadr, this night that we shall have the fortune inshaAllah of witnessing and worshiping Allah in is the second greatest night for us.

It is a night in which Allah promises forgiveness to anyone who is willing to sincerely repent. Anything one asks from Allah if it is not sinful and not evil for him, and not bad in his interest, Allah will grant it on this night insha'Alla. It is a night in which a person's destiny is also decreed in matters of the life that one has, who will live another year and who will die within the next year. That is also decreed on this night. Misfortunes and bala', epidemics, illnesses, all these are also written for people. It may not be punishment, it may be trials for people and tests for people, but they are decreed on this night. And hence you see that the Yasin we recite and the du'as that we seek refuge with Allah from "min at-ta'ooni wa al-wabaa' wa mawt il-fuj'a" and sudden death and so on, they are in line with this. Those who shall be blessed with pilgrimage to Mecca is also decreed on this night. So for those who have a true longing and yearning for this, this is an excellent night to pray for.

Now, we also know that these things are decreed on the night of Qadr. So many people will often ask, is there a contradiction here? On what night exactly is this being decreed? And there are two understandings of this. One understanding is that some matters are decreed on this night and others on the night of Qadr. There is another understanding which perhaps is more favorable or favored, and that is that the initial decree is done tonight, but it is written as a matter that will not change, as something that is "amrun mahtoom" on the night of Qadr. So that Allah gives us a time between this night and the night of Qadr to continue praying to Him and pleading to Him to give us the good if it was not in our destiny, and to remove that which might be harmful or disliked by us if it has been decreed for us.

Sheikh Abbas Qummi also writes in Mafatih ul-Jinan that it is also the night, the milad of Sultan al-Asr wa Imam az-Zaman al-Hujjat ibn al-Hasan arwahuna lahu al-fida', salawat 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], and therefore there may be good reason that Allah chooses a night like this, which is the second greatest night in Islam for the birth of his final proof. And so it is a very special night as well and we have riwayat that recommend us to stay up all night in worship for those who are able to. In one hadith, for example, from Imam Zainul Abidin 'alayhi as-salam, he says [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], he says, "Man ahya hadhihi al-laila lam yamut qalbahu yawma tamootu feehi al-quloob". Whoever stays up on this night in worship of Allah, his or her heart will not die on the day when hearts will die. So it is highly recommended for those who may be tired, we have had a long day at work, we have to go to work tomorrow. It may be just waking up a little earlier tomorrow morning and showing some sincerity to Allah and saying I was not able to stay up all night, but I still wish to be one of those who benefit. So in other words, let not this night and tomorrow's day pass like another ordinary night and day.

And as you know, Thursday nights are also recommended for staying up in worship. So this is a very, very unique year because we are getting the 15th night of Sha'baan on a Thursday night, on laylat ul-'ibada anyway, and then Friday itself has its own importance because it is the day when the Imam is born. It is also the day when the Imam is supposed to return because in the Ziyarah that we recite of the Imam on Friday we say, "Wa hadha yawm ul-Jum'a wa huwa yawm ul-mutawaqahu' feehi dhuhooruk". This is Friday, the day in which we expect your return. So tomorrow, the 15th of Shaban, which is his birth, also happens to be the day he returns and also happens to be the day of his birth. And so therefore, this night and this day is just immersed and soaked with blessings.

I am certain that this night Allah is showering His mercy and love on the Earth for whoever is willing to take and drink from it. So let it not be an ordinary night inshallah my dear brothers and sisters. There is also a lot of recommendation to remember Aba Abdillah al-Husayn on this night, because there is a very close affinity as well between the Imam of our time and Imam Husayn 'alayhi as-salam. And it is a lengthy discussion on how the two personalities are very, very close. But you may have heard this from other 'ulama.

We know, for example, again, from Mafatih ul-Jinan of Sheikh Abbas Qummi that says, Whosoever wishes to be in the presence of 124,000 Prophets, anbiya', meaning all the anbiya', or in other words, if you wish to rub shoulders with all the anbiya' from Adam to Khatam, then you should go for the Ziyarah of Husayn and be in Karbala on a night such as this. And of course, we pray to Allah that inshaAllah we all have an opportunity once in our lifetime to be in Karbala on a night such as this, inshaAllah, ameen ya Rabb Al-'Alameen.

And just to show us again that on a night such as this, let us not worship Allah as a ritual, or as a habit, or simply with the chatter of the mind, but let us silence the mind and open our hearts and show Allah how much we wish to come towards Him with complete surrender, we see that in the a'mal as well there is mention of things that hint at this. As an example, Sheikh Abbas Qummi says, that if you cannot go for the Ziyarat of Husayn, at the very least, he says go out to the open sky. He says, go to the rooftop of your houses, which is obviously from the perspective of the Middle East, which we do not have here. But essentially, he says, go out under the open sky. Then he says, look towards the heavens. This is at the very least he says, look towards the heavens, look towards the right, look towards the left. In other words, gaze at the sky for a bit. And he says, if nothing else, then look towards the heavens, look up towards the heavens and say, "As-salamu alayka ya Aba Abdillah", peace be on you oh Aba Abdillah. "As-salamu alayk, wa rahmatullahi, wa barakatuh."

He says even these two lines should not escape you. Look towards the heavens. Now here to me this has a certain meaning. The meaning is that it is easy to simply stand and read a long Ziyarah. And there is a particular Ziyarah for Imam Husayn that inshaAllah we shall recite tonight. But what is the idea behind look towards the stars and look towards the right and look towards the left? The idea is that say this with your heart, because if you stand out in the open and you look towards the heavens and you gaze to the right and the left for a bit, you will find not only will the world around you become silent, but the mind will be silent as well. The chatter will disappear. There will be a certain peace and tranquility. So he is inviting us that bring a certain composure, a certain tranquility to yourself. And then when there is no ego, when there is no mind, when there is just the real self, then connect with Karbala and say "As-salamu alayka ya Aba Abdillah, peace be on you oh Aba Abdillah. As-salamu alayk wa rahmatullah". And it is with these two lines that inshaAllah, he will reply you from Karbala. So let us not escape us inshaAllah on a great night such as this.

Sheik Abbas Qummi as well says that it is highly recommended to pray Salat Ja'far at-Tayyar, which is the Salat which the Prophet of Islam taught Ja'far the brother of Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam, when he returned from Abyssinia and he gave it to him as a gift. So there are many, many a'mals to perform. It is also highly recommended to fast on the 15th of Sha'ban which is tomorrow. So in whatever capacity and in whatever way we are able to do this, inshaAllah, let it not escape us and let this be a special occasion where we pray for ourselves, our families, our loved ones, and also we pray for each other and we pray for our communities that inshaAllah, we may thrive and we may continue to work towards our own purity in preparation for the return of the Imam inshaAllah. If you can recite a salawat 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad].

I have five minutes still and I just will share one or two ahadith from the ones that I wanted to earlier and thereafter inshaAllah, we have a mawlood and some announcements before Salat as well. These ahadith may appear somewhat depressing, but they are not depressing actually. They are inspiring if we look at them in the right light because we have all heard of the saying when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. So when certain things are said, they may appear as if we are to lose hope, but actually we are to gain hope and pull up our socks, if you like, and really rise to the occasion.

We have one hadith from the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family, he says to his companions, You are my companions, but my brothers will come towards the end of the times. They shall believe without - they shall believe in me without having seen me, it will be harder for them to hold onto their faith than to hold a burning piece of coal. I am not reading them in Arabic in the interest of time, although they are very beautiful when read in Arabic. He says, there shall come a time on people after you, the Prophet says to his companions. He says, there will come a time when people after you, one man among them shall have greater reward than fifty of you. They said to him, Messenger of God, we were with you at the Battle of Badr and Uhud and Hunayn, and the Qur'an was revealed among us. How could there be anyone greater than us? He said to them, if you had to bear what they shall bear, you would not have the patience that they shall have.

And he explains this in another tradition. He says to his companions, There shall come a time when the heart of a believer will melt like salt melts in water because he shall see sin and wrong being committed around him, all around him. But he will feel helpless, unable to do anything about it. And the believer shall walk among people in fear. If he speaks the truth, they will eat him up. In other words, they will just be all over him. And if he keeps quiet, then the anger and the anguish will consume him from within.

And Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq, salawat Allahi wa as-salamu alayh [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad] he says, I swear by Allah, you will be sieved. Mankind has no option except that they will be tried and they will be tested and they will be sieved until many of you will fall out from the sieve and there shall not remain of you except very few. And he says in another tradition, I swear by Allah that for which you have stretched your necks and that for which you are waiting eagerly will not come until many of you have lost hope in his return. And he says in another tradition, this is from his father, Imam al-Baqir 'alayhi as-salam, he says [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad], If people knew what the Qa'im shall do when he returns, then most of them would wish they never saw him. And I will leave that to our imagination.

But Imam Ali 'alayhi as-salam tells us, Awaiting for the return of the Mahdi, "intidhar al-faraj", should not be something that you lose hope in. Never lose hope in the return of your Imam and never lose hope that Allah will look to you with mercy, for the best of all actions and the best of all a'mal is "intidhar al-faraj", is waiting for this relief and for this Imam to return. So, there are many other traditions here that I will not narrate, but just to conclude this, we wish to say that in preparing for our Imam, there are many things we can do, but first and foremost is to purify ourselves. This purification can happen not just by reflection, but by looking at how we lead our lives.

One very, very important thing is our source of living and our earning, because many of the ahadith which I have not narrated here that I was going to is related around this issue, that people will fail or people will pollute themselves because of earning a living that is unlawful, or there will come a time when it will be impossible to earn a halal living. And there are incidents as well that, you know, are in the books to say that the people who met the Imam after doing lots and lots of a'mal and ascetic practices and practicing occult sciences and 'ilm ul-ja'far and numerology and all, when they finally met the Imam, the Imam showed them this message again and again.

That if you purify your livelihood, if you make your living pure, if you are careful of what you eat and what you feed your children, if you carefully look at where your money is coming from - because we think of halal and haram food only as the food itself, is the meat halal. But we do not sometimes think of where the money is coming that is purchasing that halal meat. And the message from the Imam time and again, is that if we keep this at the forefront of our minds, that what the food that goes into our body should be halal because that goes into our blood system, that affects our thoughts and that affects our hearts, then that is very, very significant that we should look towards this inshaAllah.

On a night such as this, I will be ending with a short du'a which is from the Imam himself. A du'a that we recite in the month of Ramadan in Du'a al-Iftitah. And in these words, we will be complaining to Allah for the absence of our Imam and asking him to return the Imam as soon as possible and before we do that, we wish to send our greetings on this auspicious and blessed night, first and foremost to Rasul Allah himself, salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad].

And then, of course, to all the Imams and it is important, again, I cannot stress enough to realise the importance and how lucky we are to be the followers of this Imam, because Allah says in the Qur'an: "Yawma nad'u kullu unasin bi imamihim" (17:71). On the Day of Judgment, We shall call every nation with their Imam. We are going to be called, if we are true and faithful to this Imam, we shall be raised with an Imam who is unique and unparalleled in many, many ways, such that the other Imams used to long for him and say that if we lived in these times, we would come to his help. And if you think of Allah's relationship with human beings from the time human beings walked on this planet, the very first proof of God was Adam. All the prophets, all the messengers, all the Imams, he is the final proof. He is the inheritor and the Warith of all the previous proofs of God.

So for us to be blessed to be in his, among his followers and to be of his Shi'a and to have that faith to believe in him despite not having seen him, is a great, great mercy of Allah. Something that we should treasure and hold as precious, and we should teach our children to keep that love alive and inshaAllah remain with it. And we also pray to our Imam as well that he should also beseech Allah that his return should hasten. And of all the communities of Shi'as inshaAllah, may he chose us to be of those who come to his aid, and may he chose us to be of those who follow him, inshaAllah. And may we be true inshaAllah to him so that on the day we see him, not only are we overjoyed to see him, but he is overjoyed to see us, inshaAllah.

And we pray to Allah inshaAllah that if he returns in our lifetime, we may be blessed with martyrdom so that we may roll in our blood for his sake, inshaAllah. And if we were to die before he returns, inshaAllah on a night like this, we should pray that Allah makes us of those who are raised from their graves to help the Imam. And we pray also to the Imam, InshaAllah, that before we die, if his return is to come after our lives, then at least we will be blessed with a vision of him once in our lifetime so that that may give us solace and comfort that we are of those that he is pleased with, inshaAllah, and that he is proud to call among his Shi'a inshaAllah.

So we end with this du'a from Du'a al-Iftitah, which is also from Imam Sahib az-Zaman 'alayhi as-salam, and we ask Allah and complain to Him. Allahumma ina nashku ilayka faqda nabiyyina sallawatuka alayhi wa alih, oh Allah, we complain to You the absence of our Prophet, Your blessings be on him and his family. Wa ghaybata waliyyina wa kathrata 'aduwina, we complain to You oh Allah of the concealment of our leader and the abundance of our enemies. Wa qillata 'adadina wa shiddata al-fitani bina, we complain to You oh Allah of the scarcity of our numbers and the severity of our trials. Wa tadhahur az-zamani 'alayna, and we complain to You oh Allah of the victory of the era against us.

Fa salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad, oh Allah send Your blessings on Muhammad and his family. Wa a'inna 'ala dhalika bi fathin minka tu'ajjiluh, and help us overcome that by granting us an immediate victory. Wa bi dhurrin takshifuh, wa nasrin tu'izzuh, wa sultanin haqqin tudh-hiruh, and grant us an immediate victory, dispersing miseries, give us a help that strengthens providing us with an authority of truth which You manifest. Wa rahmatin minka tujjalilunaha wa 'aafiyitin minka tulbisnaha, a mercy from You which is clear to us and a well being from You which clothes us, bi rahmatika ya Arham al-Rahimeen, we ask You by Your mercy oh most merciful, ameen ya Rabb Al-Alameen.

Oh Allah, we ask You sincerely on this night, that You hasten the return of our Imam. Oh Allah, bi haqqi Muhammad wa aali Muhammad, we ask You that through him and through his blessings You fill our homes with barakah. And oh Allah, bi haqqi Muhammad wa aali Muhammad, we ask You for the courage to earn a lawful livelihood. We ask You oh Allah, to cloth with health those who are ill and maghfirah for those who have passed away. "Rabbana taqqabal minna. Innaka Anta as-Samee'u al 'Aleem" (2:127). "Inna Allah wa mala'ikatu yusalloona 'ala an-Nabi. Ya ayyuha al-ladhina amanu sallu 'alayh, wa sallimu taslima” (33:56) [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad].