In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The office of His Eminence, the Supreme Religious Authority Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, may God prolong his life.
Peace, mercy, and blessings of God upon you.
In a few days, the anniversary of the birth of Imam al-Mahdi (may God hasten his honorable reappearance) will come upon us, in the middle of Shaʿbān. On this joyous occasion, please explain what our master, the Supreme Authority, sees as the obligation of the Shīʿah of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) during the time of his absence, may God’s peace be upon him?
In the name of God Almighty
The believers (may God Almighty bless them) should always remember that Imam al-Mahdi (peace be upon him) is the imam appointed to them by God Almighty in this era. However, divine wisdom necessitated his absence from view until he is authorized to appear.
Therefore, in addition to the duty of knowing him, submitting to him and loving him, they should continuously pray for him in private and in public. Believers must pay attention to the rituals that revive his remembrance and the remembrance of his forefathers (peace be upon them) and what happened to them at the hands of the oppressors.
Let the believers recall his suffering in his occultation for what he sees of injustices and corruptions everywhere, and his longing to appear and fix what has deviated from the religion of God and establish justice among His servants.
And let them know that they are all the subject of his attention and care, and he is kinder to them than their fathers and mothers. He cares about their affairs and conditions, and prays and cares for them. They should beseech God by his status to meet their needs and solve their problems.
Let them await his arrival. Let them call for his relief and for the relief of the ummah by his appearance, preparing for him with more insight, certainty, and good obedience.
Let them pay great attention to obeying him and obtaining his approval. Let them avoid disobeying and angering him; for obeying him is obedience to God Almighty and the Imam’s satisfaction is from God’s pleasure, just as disobeying and angering the Imam is disobeying and angering God.
Rather, obedience to him (peace be upon him) is achieved by maintaining true faith and belief. Believers must strive to learn, put into action, and preserve the commands of God Almighty, His Messenger (may God bless him and his family), and the pure Imams (peace be upon them) from his forefathers. A believer must purify and discipline their soul according to their traditions, follow the wisdom of their admonitions, and be guided by their guidance.
Every believer must strive to be an adornment for them, rather than an dishonor to them, through their behavior, morals, and wisdom. A believer should abide by the teachings of the noble Shariīʿah by performing their obligations, avoiding sins and immoralities, and showing noble morals such as: honesty; good manner; abstaining from harming others; chastity in speech, appearance and behavior; helping the weak, the poor, orphans, and the needy; and benevolence towards one’s parents and upholding the ties of kinship, for in it is the pleasure of God Almighty and His Messenger (may God bless him and his family) and the pleasure of the Imam (peace be upon him). That is the best of this world and the hereafter.
Let the believers cooperate during the time of occultation, as required by loyalty among themselves, in righteousness and piety. Let them speak truth and patience, and beware of disunity, division, and hatred.
The rich, whom God Almighty has blessed, should take care of the poor, the needy, the weak, and the distressed. They should satisfy their legal rights, fulfill the needs necessitated by their situation, and act towards them in accordance with the principle of charity. Surely, whoever helps a follower of the Imam, it is as if they are helping the imam directly; but God Almighty willed his absence until an appointed date.
Let the believers beware of falling into misleading suspicions and deadly temptations that have become popular in his occultation. The most severe of which is what harms belief, so that one strays from the religion or from loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them).
Among these things is the trap of those who claim special representation or private communication with him (peace be upon him). These are bandits of Shīʿah beliefs, cutting off their connection to the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them). One’s undoubted duty in regards to this doctrine – as has been the tradition of twelve centuries of believers during his occultation – is what he (peace be upon him) instructed his followers; to return to the most excellent just, and pious jurists, who follow the guidance and footsteps of the Ahl al-Bayt. These are the Imam’s proofs on the believers, and he is the proof of God upon all people.
Another deadly innovation is the call to accept everything that was attributed to the imams (peace be upon them) without knowledge, specialization, or revision and scrutiny. The ignorant of traditions and the principles of scrutinizing and explaining them take the position of dedicated scholars who specialize in this.
And another deadly innovation is the denial of the constant principles of religion on some suspicion. Whoever finds it difficult to act in accordance with some of the teachings of Islam should not rush to deny or question them. Surely, the sinner has one sin, while the denier and the skeptic have two.
Let the believers beware of the allegations of the timing of the appearance and the like, wherever these claims may come from. There are confirmed narrations forbidding this and denying such claims. Repeated experiences have always shown such claims to be false and fabricated.
Let the believers know that whoever excels in waiting for him (peace be upon him) by observing the foregoing, that is evidence of his sincerity in his desire to see, obey, and support the Imam (peace be upon him). Whoever sincerely wishes for that and God Almighty does not write it for him – in accordance with His decrees – God will resurrect him with those who see, obey, and support the Imam and is rewarded with the same reward. That is a great victory.
O’ God, we ask of you for an honorable era where you distinguish Islam and its adherents and humiliate hypocrisy and its adherents. Allow us to be in it [i.e. that honorable era] amongst those who call toward Your obedience and the leaders in Your path. Bless us through it with the honor of this world and the next.
O’ God bless your guardian, al-Ḥujjah the son of al-Ḥasan, with a prayer that is ever-growing, complete, and pure, the best of what you have blessed one of your loyal servants. O’ God, be a guardian, guide, preserver, and support for him until You allow him to dwell in Your lands obediently and allow him to enjoy it perpetually.
O’ God grant us his affection, mercy, supplication, and goodness by which we obtain the abundance of Your mercy and victory with You, for You have power over all things.
The Office of Sayyid al-Sistani in the Holy City of Najaf