To our believing expatriates wherever they are in the east of the earth or in the west:
The peace, mercy and blessing of Allah be with you all
It is not easy for us to address you, with the distance that separates us from you, finding visiting you to be impossible, so we may console you in your dilemma and share your grief in your affliction. You parted with your peoples and loved ones, leaving behind the companions with whom you lived and felt comfortable about, abandoning your homes and lands which you loved and which loved you, leaving behind your environments and societies with which you were familiar and which found you as such, suffering the loneliness of estrangement and the problems of dispersion and absence of home.
But you have solace in your great Prophet and his pure Progeny, peace and blessings of Allah be with them all, and in their sincere followers, who were targeted by the afflictions, trials and tribulations of this world:
Homeless, they are, outcast from their abodes,
As if they committed an unforgivable sin.
Such is the way Allah fares with life. He singled out His friends to be afflicted and to suffer, so much so that life turned into a prison for them as many traditions have stated. He, the most Exalted One, has said, "…Or do you think that you shall enter the garden (of bliss, Paradise) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and the believers who were with him cried out, 'When (will) God's help come?' Ah! Surely God's help is (always) near!” (Qur'an, 2:214).
Sacred traditions have consistently spoken of the believers' dilemma and their being subjected to trials and tribulations especially during the occultation period of the awaited last imam from among the Progeny of Muhammad (may Allah hasten his reappearance). In the tradition referring to a book revealed by Allah Almighty to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) containing the names of the Imams (peace be upon them), it says the following at the end of it when mentioning the status of the believers during the period of occultation: "They will be killed and burnt, and they will be terrified, scared and apprehensive; the earth will be colored with their blood, causing their women to weep and wail. Such, indeed, are My true friends. Through them do I repel every dark blind sedition. Through them do I disallow earthquakes and remove chains and shackles. Upon these blessings from their Lord and mercy descend, and it is they who are on the right guidance."[i]
All this is not due to Allah Almighty taking them lightly or humiliating them or looking down at them; rather, it is due to their taking this worldly life lightly [as compared to the Hereafter] and to holding it in contempt, so much so that the Infallible One (peace be upon them all) have said, “Had life in this world equaled with Allah the wing of a mosquito, He would not have given His enemy a sip of water to drink.”[ii] This is so because His believing servants are capable of bearing responsibly, of remaining firm in their principles and preserving when facing misfortune.
Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said, "We are patient and our Shi’ites (followers) are even more patient than we are.” He was asked by someone, "May I be sacrificed for your sake! How can your Shi’ites be more patient than you?” He said, "We are patient about what we know, while our Shi’ites are patient about what they do not know."[iii]
This is especially so in respect to the believers of the time of occultation, as many narrations have collectively praised them. In some of them it is mentioned that had Allah not have known that amongst the believers of the clear-sighted people are those who stand firm on the belief of the Imamate of the Twelfth Imam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) during his occultation, He would not have taken him into occultation from them.
In a narrative by Abu Khalid al-Kabuli, Imam Zainul-Abidin (peace be upon him) is quoted as saying to him, "O Abu Khalid! The people of the time of his occultation, those who recognize his Imamate and wait for his reappearance are better than those of all times, because Allah Almighty granted them reason, comprehension and knowledge to the extent that the occultation for them is the same as though he never disappeared. He places them in that period of time in the position of those who perform Jihad with the sword in the way of Allah in the company of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny). They are the truly loyal ones and in all reality our followers, those who invite to the way of Allah both openly and secretly."[iv] And there are many such traditions.
The Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) have been quoted in many traditions as saying that those who are afflicted the most are the prophets, then their successors, the most exemplary after the most exemplary, and that Allah promises a believing servant of His to test him through trials and tribulations. If He loves one of His servants, He would pour affliction on him. Other lofty concepts are contained in such traditions.
All this is as such so that the Almighty may multiply the rewards of the believers, treasure for them the best of His rewards, wipe out their sins, elevate their status, so they may not become accustomed to live in ease and comfort in the life of this world and find pleasure in doing so and thus become deceived by its decoration, go to extremes in their straying and oblivion, forgetting what is awaiting them and behaving like loose and wandering animals or even more lowlier.
Yet Allah Almighty does not bestow grants on His servants in the Hereafter arbitrarily. Rather, He has made life in this world as an abode of trial and tribulation: Whoever remains firm on the path of righteousness, perseveres during the times of crises and performs his obligations, will win a great reward and a beautiful mention. Trial in his regard will turn into mercy and good examination. But whoever fails the test and does not stay firm on the path of righteousness, he will be the loser, and the trial and tribulation will turn to be a curse on him; surely we seek refuge with Allah Almighty against that.
So, praise to Allah Almighty for the goodness of His trial and beauty of His faring with His believing servants. We plead to Him, Praise is all due to Him, through His bounties and kindness, to enable us and yourselves to stay firm on the path of righteousness and to come out of these trials successfully, to lead people to success, to be neither disappointed nor losers, and that He does not count us among those whom He describes in this verse: "There are among men some who serve Allah, as it were, on the verge: If good befalls them, they are well content with it; but if a trial comes to them, they turn upon their faces: They lose both this world and the Hereafter: that is a manifest loss!” (Qur'an, 22:11). We also plead to Him, the most Great, through His favors and mercy, to help you in your dilemma, to look after you in your estrangement, to surround you with His care and affection, to protect you from misleading seditions, to lead your steps towards what is most straightforward, to guide you to the most straight path; surely He is Compassionate with the believers, most Merciful.
From your side, you have to rely on Allah Almighty and resort to Him, then you should look at your affairs with awareness, consideration, insight and wise management. You should assess the size of your problem and crisis and become familiar with the risks and pitfalls along your path. You should come to know the extent of magnitude of the responsibility on your shoulders towards your own selves, families, religion and principles; then you should decide with determination and resolve to seriously work towards all of this; Allah, Praise and Exaltation belong to Him, is with you; He assists you with His mercy.
But if Allah Almighty sees that you do not care about all of the above, either because you do not care about the results due to your interest in only quick material gains, or because you take problems lightly and feel confident about overcoming them because of your excessive self-confidence and conceit, He, Praise and Exaltation are His, may render your affairs to your own selves and this dilemma may turn to be the reason for His turning away from you and His abandoning you. The believers are endangered by trials and tribulations especially during our times, the times of the occultation of the Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance) as stated in many traditions of the Imams from among the Ahl al-Bayt (peace and blessings of Allah with them).
For example, in a tradition narrated by al-Mufaddal ibn Umar, the latter said, "I heard Abu Abdullah [Al-Sadiq] (peace be upon him) saying, 'By Allah, your Imam will be absent from you for years of your lifetimes, and you will be tested until it will be said: Has he died? Has he been killed? In which valley is he? And the eyes of the faithful will be tearful about that, and you will be capsized like ships tossed by sea waves: Nobody will be saved except one whose covenant was taken by Allah, one in whose heart faith is inscribed, one whom He supported with a spirit from Him.'” He (al-Mufaddal) said, "I, therefore, wept and said, 'What, then, should we do?' He (peace be upon him) looked at the sun as its rays entered the courtyard and said, 'O Abu Abdullah! Do you see this sun?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'By Allah, our matter [Imamate] is clearer than this sun.'"[v]
In a tradition, Ali ibn Ja`far quotes his brother, Imam al-Kadhim (peace be upon him), as saying, "When the fifth in the series of offspring of the seventh [Imam] is missed, you should fear Allah with regard to your creeds; nobody should move you away from them. … The holder of the position of imamate has to disappear until those who believe in it abandon it. It is, by Allah, a trial from Allah, the most Exalted, the most Great, with which He tests His creation…"[vi]
Al-Hassan ibn Mahbub quotes Imam al-Rida (peace be upon him) as saying, "There is no avoiding a very, very severe sedition in which everyone having corteges and trustees shall fail. This will take place when the Shi’ites miss the third from among my offspring …”[vii] There are other reports which warn about the seriousness of the matter and the complexity of the problem; so, seek refuge with Allah Almighty from seditions that mislead, and resort to Him so He may assist you, support you in your dilemma and get you out of this tough test as successful winners, not as disappointed nor as losers. Think well of Allah Almighty; rely on Him, strengthen your tie with Him, for He will not abandon you, by the will of Allah Almighty, because He reciprocates the sentiment towards Him of His believing servant; He is the most merciful of those who have mercy, the most generous of those asked, and He is the master of the believers.
Now, we must draw your attention to matters that concern your religion and life which, by the will of Allah Almighty, will help you in your affairs.
[i]Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 36, p. 197.
[ii] Al-Kulaini, Al-kafi, Vol. 2, P 246.
[iii]Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 93. Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 68, p. 80.
[iv]Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 36, p. 387.
[v]Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 336, and the wording is his. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 51, p. 147.
[vi] Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 51, p. 150.
[vii] Ibid., Vol. 51, P. 152.