Understanding the Meaning of Ghaybat

Imam Sadiq (as), “Your Imam will be sitting on the same floor on which you would be sitting , he will come in your markets, mosques and will listen to the conversations of the people, but people will not be able to recognize him.”Since the demise of Imam Hasan Askari (as), it has been accepted by all the sects of Muslims that Imam Mahdi (as) is in Ghaybat but only few people understand the meaning of Ghaybat. Most of the people are unaware of the term ‘Ghaybat’ which is used for Imam (as). Some of the people think that he is in some valley; some say that he is in Greenland; others say that he is away from the people in some special place and would come at the time of his reappearance etc. These are the different meanings which people derive from the word ‘Ghaybat.’ But the  real meaning of the word Ghaybat is different from what the people say.

We see him, but do not recognise him (as)

Ghaybat or Occultation does not mean that Imam Mahdi (as) is in a particular valley, island, mountain and he looks after the affair of the people from there. Rather it means that Imam Mahdi (as) is present amongst us on this earth itself. He comes to our cities, mosques and even performs Hajj every  year. Most importantly, he sees the people and recognizes them. However the people see him but do not recognize him.

In a well known tradition, it is narrated from Imam Sadiq (as), “your Imam will be sitting on the same floor on which you would be sitting , he will come in your markets, mosques and will listen to the conversations of the people, but people will not be able to recognize him”.

Imam Sadiq (as) addressed Sudair: “How can you deny that Allah acts with him (Imam Mahdi (as)) in the same manner as Yusuf? He walks in their markets and steps on their rugs. But people do not recognize him except  if Allah permits him to introduce himself”. (Muntakhabul Athar page 255, tradition 4)

‘Ghaybat’ means that people do not recognize Imam (atfs.) and are unaware of his special place. Due to this it is found in books that when Imam Mahdi (as) will reappear, some people will say that we had seen him in our mosques, some of them will say that we had seen him in Hajj but did not know that he was our Imam. Most people would have seen him but would not have recognized him.

Hazrat Imam Sadiq (as) said, “They (people) see him but do not recognize him”. (Muntakhabul Athar, page 252, tradition 4 and 7-9)

Zurarah-ibn-A’yan narrates from Imam Sadiq (as) that the Qaem (Imam Mahdi) would have two Ghaybat. He explained that while in one of his Ghaybat, his place would be known only to a special few, in case of the other, his whereabouts would not be known. Imam then said “During Hajj, he appears, he sees the people but the people do not see him.” (Muntakhabul Athar page 314, traditions 7 and 8)

Note: In the above tradition, the words “people do not see him” means people do not recognise him.

Hazrat Imam Husayn (as) said, “Except for the servant who looks after his affairs, his place cannot be known.” (Muntakhabul Athar page 314, traditions 4 and 9)

Hence we can conclude that Ghaybat means Imam Mahdi (as) is present among us, sees us and recognize us. We see him but are unable to recognize him.

Imam Sadiq (as) says, “In our Qaem are signs of Musa ibn Imran (Hazrat Musa). The narrators asked. “what are the signs?” Imam (as) replied: “His secret birth and his concealment from others.” (Beharul Anwar volume 51, page 216, tradition 2)

Imam Reza (as) said, “He attends the Hajj ceremony every year. He performs all the Hajj rites. He stands in the desert of Arafat. He says “Amen” to the prayers uttered by the believers…….” (Muntakhabul Athar page 262, tradition 15)

Imam Mohammed Baqir (as) said, “The master of the affairs possesses signs of four prophets (as), ….his sign from Musa is fear and ‘intezar’ (awaiting) (during concealment).” (Beharul Anwar volume 52, page 316, tradition 3)

About the meaning of verse 16 from chapter Takwir, “But nay! I swear by the stars that run their course (and) hide themselves”.

Imam Mohammed Baqir (as) said “O Umm Hani! It refers to an Imam who would conceal himself (while he would be among the people) until people would not have news of him”. (Muntakhabul Athar page 256, tradition 7)

Note: Here concealment means people are unable to recognize him. It is only when Imam (as) permits that they can recognize him.

In all the different incidents of those fortunate people who have seen Imam Mahdi (as), we find that most of them were unaware of the fact that they have met Imam (as). It is only after the Imam (as) left that they understood that the person whom they met was none other than the Imam of the Age. And only few of them could recognise him when they met him and this was only when the Imam (as) permitted them to recognize him.


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