By: Batool Haydar
Batool Haydar reflects on the concept of waiting for the Mahdi(a) and the transformation it should bring within ourselves.
Say, 'Each [of us] is waiting. So wait! Soon you will know who the people of the right path are, and who is guided.' (Qur'an 20:135)
Waiting is as intrinsic a part of human nature as breathing. From the very moment we gain consciousness, we are waiting. As children, we wait - or can't wait - to grow up. As adults, we wait to move from one milestone of success to another - we wait to get our qualifications, to get a good job, hopefully become famous, to marry and have a family. Finally, as the years pass us by, whether we accept it or not, we await the inevitable moment when we will cross the threshold of Death and pass over to the other side.
And it is not just about the big picture; waiting is a game we play almost every day of our lives. We wait for meetings to start... and then to end. We wait to keep appointments, to meet friends or to carry out responsibilities. Once in a while though, something may happen that we say is 'unexpected'. We were not consciously waiting for it and thus, when it does happen, it catches us unaware. If the occurring circumstance is in harmony with our desire, we call it a 'pleasant surprise' and if it disrupts our status quo, it becomes an obstacle or a stumbling block that we wish had never happened.
In the recent past, the human race has had to deal with many 'unexpected' situations. We have watched as fellow men have stooped to sub-human levels of morality. We have witnessed innocent people being tortured, oppressed and murdered. We have sat back and wondered, what is the world coming to? And how do we stop this madness?
Every time these questions are asked, there is an unspoken hope that someone somewhere has the answer. There is the inner desire in every human being for some saving grace to bring salvation from a situation that is only going from bad to worse at an escalating rate. We know that we can organise protests, write articles or declare a stand, but too often, the question remains; what can we possibly do to actually make a difference? How do we get all our good intentions to translate into change? Who can gather all the individual pockets of positive uprising into a united active movement?
It is in response to this need for leadership that God has promised the world a Saviour - the Awaited Mahdi(a) - who will bring together like-minded individuals and create a community out of separate entities in much the same way as his forefather, the Holy Prophet(s) did. However, although we have a Promise and Hope in abundance, we must realise that the equation will always be incomplete without one more essential element: effort.
We speak of, yearn and even pray for the appearance of the Mahdi, but how much effort are we investing in preparation while we wait? Will his coming be akin to a long anticipated 'pleasant surprise' for us or will be caught unaware and unable to grasp the opportunities he will present to us?
When children sit for an examination, we teach them to revise in the days leading up to it. When we go for a job interview, we study the organisation and try to understand its philosophy even before joining it. If a person decides to climb a mountain, they are required to train in an environment that emulates the expected circumstances of the climb in order to prepare themselves. Throughout life, for all important tasks - big or small - we prepare for the event in the period of waiting leading up to it. How much more does the task of helping a Divinely Appointed Leader to establish global justice amidst prevailing opposition, require?
Imam al-Jawad(a) has stated that "The best act of our followers is to expect the relief". We are not just passively waiting for respite, but the implication here is to be in a pro-active state of expectation. This demands a lifetime of sincere commitment and loyalty to a cause we must firmly believe in. It requires of us that we be in a state of conscious anticipation and awareness in all aspects of our life - career paths, work, socialising and families.
It is a fact that for some things we wait with eagerness and others with perturbation, but regardless of our emotions, time passes and the things that are meant to be, come to pass. Regardless of how the situation may seem at present, the Help of God will be revealed to us at the appointed time. We cannot predict when this will be or what our circumstances will be like. However, what we can do is ensure that in the period we spend from now until then, our everyday decisions - whether private, personal or public - in some way positively influence our principal wait for the establishment of absolute truth.
Originally published in islam today magazine UK, issue 8 | June 2013. It has been republished here with permission.