Establishing a Relationship with Imam Mahdi
Jawad, Huda. If Imam Mahdi Appears.

Throughout the course of thousands of years, God has not rendered the Earth without a Holy representative to serve as a function of guidance to mankind. It is due to God's kindness and ultimate mercy that we have been blessed and graced with 124,000 Prophets including the seal of Prophethood, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny). A continuation of divine mercy towards us is manifested in the twelve divinely-appointed Imams. While we have established the great status held by the Imams and Prophets, we have yet to truly humble ourselves towards understanding our duties towards them. The most remote and isolated of all of God's representatives is the Imam of Our Age (may God hasten his reappearance), and it is a testament to his isolation that despite the passing of centuries, he has yet to gather the necessary number of followers to aid his cause and allow for his return. Why is this? Do we not all claim to be his followers, ready to sacrifice everything for him? Based on the sheer volume of our spoken allegiance to the Imam, he should have been able to return and cut the branches of oppression and falsehood that have consumed us to date.

Indeed, our approach towards pledging loyalty to the Awaited Savior remains problematic. We have neglected to establish our responsibilities towards him despite the few obstacles that impede us. There are many ways we can establish a personal connection with our Imam and strengthen our loyalty to him in order to purify our souls towards becoming true servants of God and His representative.

Avoid Gatherings Where the Imam Is Not Respected
At the most basic level, we should dissociate from those who ridicule, minimize, and deny the presence of Imam Mahdi. We must obey Allah and the Imam and refrain from attending gatherings where Islamic laws are being transgressed upon, social Hijab and ethics is ignored, and the remembrance of the Prophet and his family is forgotten. The Imam himself tells us "One who believes in Allah and the Judgment Day does not sit at a place where an Imam is being criticized or a believer is being degraded." (Usool Kafi, vol. 2, p. 377)

Our Imam has warned us about the severity of the consequences of the destructive gatherings we attend and support. Allah mentions the following verses in this regard: "And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance" (6:108) and "And when you see those who enter into false discourses about Our communications, withdraw from them until they enter into some other discourse" (6:68). Regarding these verses, Imam Mahdi explains, "There are three types of gatherings that Allah hates and sends His chastisement to their participants, so you should never attend these gatherings: The first is a gathering in which one decides to lie about his verdicts, the second is in which the remembrance of the enemies is refreshed and our remembrance is forgotten and the third is a gathering in which there is refusal to follow us, while you know that such a thing is there in that gathering." (Usool Kafi, vol. 2, p. 377)

Prayers and Supplications for the Imam
Actively waiting for the Imam should be our goal, which can be facilitated and achieved through prayers, supplications and Qur'an recitation. Below are a few acts of worship we can perform that may bring us closer to God and strengthen our allegiance to the Imam:
  1. Recite Du'a Ahad for 40 Days Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) has stated: "Whoever recites this du'a for forty days after morning prayers will be amongst the helpers of the 12th Imam. Should he/she die before the reappearance of the Imam, Allah will raise him/her from the grave in order for the reciter of this du'a to present him/herself to the Imam." A link to Du'a Ahad can be found here .
  2. Recite 50 verses of the Holy Qur'an daily and gift the reward to Imam Mahdi. This act is highly recommended by Ayatollah Wahid Khorasani as a means of strengthening our connection with our Imam.
  3. Sending Blessings on the Prophet: Sayyid Ibn Tawus writes in Jamal al-Usboo, "Among the duties of Thursday, it is recommended to send blessings on the Holy Prophet a thousand times, and it is recommended that one should say: 'O Allah, bless Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad and hasten their reappearance. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad and hasten their reappearance. And destroy their enemies, from the Jinns and humans; from the first and the last.'" There are countless supplications that one can recite to pray for and hasten the advent of the Imam, a list for which can be found here .
Knowing our Imam
The Prophet Muhammad has said: "Whoever dies and does not know the Imam of his age, dies the death of ignorance." It is true that many of us are aware of the basic information concerning Imam Mahdi; however this information is not sufficient. The more we know about the Imam of our age, the more loyal to him we will become. Below are some resources that will be beneficial:

Books: The Maaref Foundation has many high quality and credible books concerning the Imam and questions and answers about him.
Videos: The 50 part lecture series titled "Knowing Your Imam" by Shaikh Safdar Razi is a comprehensive and wide ranging resource on the Imam. The entire series can be found here. Imam Mahdi in the Holy Qur'an is also a lecture in which Sayyid Sulayman Hasan presents proof from the Holy Qur'an concerning Imam Mahdi.

Articles: There are many highly informative articles written by scholars and followers of the Imam that can help one to gain a more solid foundation in knowledge regarding our leader:
Boarding the Ark of Salvation
The Earth is increasingly being filled with injustice, oppression, falsehood and loss of faith. These conditions are not exclusive and are affecting the Muslim world at alarming rates, and it is only through boarding the Twelfth Imam's ark of salvation that we may find true relief. There are many small habits and actions that will strengthen our connection to the Imam:

We must stand up whenever the name of Imam Mahdi is mentioned. When the name of the Master of Our Time was mentioned in an assembly of Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him), he stood up in respect. This act is highly recommended and remaining to sit while others stand during such a time is very disrespectful to the Imam, in whose presence we are always.

It is incumbent upon us to respect the scholars who guide people towards the Imam, and the Maraja Taqleed (Religious Authorities) who are his general representatives during his occultation. Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) relates the following concerning the status of scholars in Islam: "The scholar is like one who has a candle through which he provides light to others. Hence to all those he provides light, pray for him. In the same way, through his candle of knowledge, a scholar removes the darkness of ignorance and perplexity." Regarding our Maraja Taqleed, Imam Mahdi himself has said: "As far as newly occurring circumstances are concerned, you should turn (for guidance) to the narrators of our hadiths, for they are my proof over you just as I am Allah's proof over them." (Ihtijaj Al-Tabrasi, vol. 2, p. 260) For this and many other reasons, respect and obedience to our scholars and Maraja Taqleed is absolutely necessary for any follower of the Imam.

We must pray to God to help us remember our Imam constantly; we must strive to avoid sins that distract us and take us away from his path. In many supplications we read: "O Allah! Forgive us those of our sins that cause the descent of misfortune (and wretchedness)." In Shaikh al-Saduq's Kamaluddin, he mentions that we must always recite the following supplication: "O Allah, do not erase the remembrance of the Imam from our hearts."