Iqbal Jaffer (Ontario, Canada)
n a hadith describing the 12th Imam (a.s.), the 10th Imam (a.s.) says, “He [the 12th Imam] will: continue the message of the Prophet (s.a.w.), have the charisma of Imam Ali (a.s.), have the purity of Lady Fatima Zahra (a.s.), have the wisdom of Imam Hassan (a.s.), have the courage of Imam Husayn (a.s.), have the patience of Imam Sajjad (a.s.), have the effect of Imam Baqir (a.s.), cause the effect of Imam Sadiq (a.s.), have the sciences of Imam Kadhim (a.s.), be a proof like Imam Ridha (a.s.), be as generous as Imam Jawad (a.s.), be as pure as Imam Hadi (a.s.), resemble his father Imam Hassan al-Askeri (a.s.), be in divine ghaibat, and he will establish the truth.”
Considering that this hadith is mutawatir (narrated by a reliable chain of narrators to such an extent that it is deemed well proven and established), we accept it as being true. If we accept it as true, then it begs the question, if indeed we consider the twelfth Imam – the Imam of our time, who is the Mahdi, who will bring about divine justice as predicted by the Prophet (s.a.w.) – to be a mosaic of the Imams who preceded him, then, where did the idea of one Imam being more important than the other come from?
Most people will read that last question and think that this is utter blasphemy. The question however, is very legitimate. If you do not agree with what I say, consider the following. How many times have you personally said (or heard) the notion of (in gujrati) ‘moti kushali’ (big khushali) or ‘moti wafat’ (big wafat) (Note: ‘big’ in both cases meaning of greater importance as it is connoted in Gujarati)?
It is this uncouth concept which unknowingly demeans the status of one Imam over another. Critics may disagree and say that it is harmless. Nonetheless, it is the very idea of the thing that makes it vulgar. We may be saying it knowing fully well that we do not consider one Imam to be greater than another, to which I ask, why say it at all? There is an old adage that says, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.”
The point here is not to be critical; it is to highlight a weakness in our thinking. If we are to progress as a community, then we need to refine ourselves and this involves refining our thinking. If we consider ourselves to be a community in waiting, and we are waiting for our Imam to come and restore a just world order, we need to be prepared to help him lay the groundwork when he comes. We cannot, and will not, be of any use if we are still stuck in backward thinking. It is imperative that we recognize that ideas such as ‘moti kushali/wafat’ do nothing for our progression. We need to ‘cut the fat’.
Lastly, this idea has been made an example of in this particular situation. I am confident that it is not, and will not be the last example of this kind. The point is that we need to recognize these sorts of weaknesses in our thinking, and when we are faced with them, we have to evaluate them on their merits. If they do not bring us closer to Allah (s.w.t.), do not make us better Muslims, do not help us progress, they are likely not worth keeping. It is time for each one of us, myself included, to dig deep into the closets of our mind, and get rid of the things that keep us stagnant. Its time for a good spring cleaning!