The belief in the Imamat of Ahle Bait (a.s) is the basis of all (other) Islamic beliefs and laws. It is on the basis of this belief that one can comprehend the accurate and genuine concept of Tauheed. The real grandeur and magnificence of Prophethood (Nabuwwat) is reflected only in the mirror of this belief. Actions are correctly performed under the guidance of this doctrine and it forms the basis of acceptance of all actions. The one whose heart is devoid of this belief will be in a great loss on the Day of Judgment. Salvation and entry in paradise is restricted to those who subscribe to this belief.
However, this belief does not imply that we only believe in the existence of our twelve Imams (a.s) and don't consider them as our guides and role models. The very fact that we consider these venerable personalities as our Imams (a.s) signifies that we accept them as our guides at every step and tread on their path without any questions. In all facets of our lives- individual or social, commerce issues or complex personal relations, or those dealing with family life and the worship of Allah and gaining His proximity- we should adopt those principles which are enumerated by these honorable personalities as the aim of our life and try to emulate them.
This belief also demands that we acknowledge and are convinced that our Imams (a.s) are observing our actions and none of our deeds are concealed from them.
Witness to our actions
Imam Sadiq (a.s) was asked about the meaning of the following Quranic verse:
'How will be the condition on the day of judgment when We shall bring forth a witness from every nation and We will make you (O Prophet) as a witness upon them.'
(Surah Nisa, Verse 41)
Imam (a.s) replied,
'This verse refers particularly to the nation of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). In every era an Imam from among us is a witness upon them and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a witness upon us.'
(Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p.190, tradition 1)
Another person asked Imam Sadiq (a.s) about the following Quranic verse in which Allah says:
'In this way have We made you as the middle nation so that you be a witness on the people."
(Surah Baqarah, Verse 143)
Imam (a.s) replied:
"We are the 'middle nation'. We are the witnesses of Allah upon the creation and His Proof upon them.'
(Ibid, tradition 2)
From these traditions, it becomes clear that our Imam (a.s) witnesses our deeds. In order to become a witness, it is necessary that the person should have comprehensive knowledge about the thing that he witnesses. Hence when we say that our Imam (a.s) is a witness to our actions, it means that he has encompassing knowledge of all our actions.
Deeds presented before Imam (a.s.)
A person by the name of Abdullah bin Aabaan az-Ziyaat was in the presence of Imam Reza (a.s). He requested Imam (a.s) that he (a.s) should pray for his well being and that of his family. Imam (a.s) replied, 'Am I not doing like that? I swear by Allah that your deeds are presented to us every morning and evening.' Abdullah says 'I was surprised (to hear that our deeds are presented before Imam (a.s). Imam (a.s) is at one place while he has the information of the entire world ! )' Imam (a.s) replied:
'Have you not read the verse of Quran which says
'Then do your (good) deeds. Allah and His prophet and the believers are a witness to your actions."
(Surah Taubah, Verse 105)
I swear by Allah (the word) 'believers' (in the verse) refers to Ameerul Mo'mineen (a.s)."
(Al - Kafi, vol.1 p. 219, tradition 4)
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) used to say,
'Why are you people troubling the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?'
One person asked, 'How is it that we are troubling the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?' (i.e. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is not amongst us, then how can we hurt or upset him). Imam (a.s) replied,
'Are you not aware that your actions are placed before him (s.a.w.a.)? When he (s.a.w.a.) witnesses a sin among your deeds then he (s.a.w.a.) gets distressed and sorrowful. Don't make the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) unhappy. Instead, try to make him (s.a.w.a.) cheerful.'
(Ibid., tradition 3)
Imam (a.s.) recognizes each one of us by our names
People are familiar with only those individuals whom they see and recognize and the majority consists of those individuals whom we don't recognize. Therefore a smart and cunning person can deceive others who don't really know him very well. However, none can deceive the Imams (a.s), because the Imams (a.s) recognize each and every one of us by our names.
Imam Reza (a.s) once wrote in one of his letters,
'Hazrat Mohammed Mustafa (s.a.w.a.) is the Trusted One (Ameen) of Allah among His creatures. After his (s.a.w.a.) demise, we are his inheritors and are the trusted ones of Allah on this earth. We know who among you will be involved in which examination and calamity and where you will die. We know the lineage of the Arabs. We also know who will be born on the religion of Islam. If we see someone then we immediately recognize how strong is his faith and the amount of hypocrisy in him. And we have the names of our every Shia along with the names of his father.'
(Ibid., p. 223, tradition 1)
Thus simply calling ourselves as Shias is not sufficient. Instead we should beseech Allah that our names should be included in the list of those Shias who are with our Imam (a.t.f.s.)
Imam (a.t.f.s.) has information of each and everything
Janabe Mufazzal (r.a) once asked Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) 'May I be sacrificed for you! Is it possible that Allah makes the obedience of a person obligatory on everyone but conceals from that person the knowledge of the heavens?'
Imam (a.s) replied,
'No. Allah is more kind, sympathetic and generous upon His servants than that He should make the obedience of an individual obligatory on everyone but should conceal the news of the heavens from him'.
(Ibid., p. 261, tradition 3)
In another tradition, Imam Mohammad Baqir (a.s) declares,
'Allah is much higher and greater than this that He makes the obedience to someone as obligatory on everyone else, but conceal from that person the knowledge of the heavens and the earth'.
(Ibid., p. 262, tradition 6)
In the light of these traditions it becomes clear that every morning and evening, the news of the heavens and the earth is presented before our Imam (a.s). In this way, he is aware of the minutest details of our actions.
Imam (a.s.) is more compassionate and tender than our father
Not only are our Imams (a.s) aware of all our deeds and actions, but they are also affected by our pains and sufferings. The following incident underlines this fact and shows us how much our Imams (a.s) value and cherishes their Shias.
A person by the name of Rumailah narrates: 'In the days of Hazrat Ali (a.s) I was severely ill. On Friday I recovered a bit. I thought to myself - how nice would it be if I have my bath today and recite namaz behind Ali (a.s). Hence I got up and after taking a bath, went to the mosque. While Ali (a.s) was delivering the Friday sermon, my condition again deteriorated. After namaz Ali (a.s) went to a place by the name of 'Qasr', I too accompanied him. He (a.s) said to me,
'O Rumailah! Why are you restless?'
I narrated to him (a.s) about my illness and explained to him my condition. Then Imam (a.s) said,
'O Rumailah! When a believer becomes ill then we too are affected by his illness. If someone becomes sorrowful and distressed then we too become sorrowful. If someone prays then we say 'Aameen' for his supplication. And when he becomes silent (i.e. he stops praying) then we pray for him.'
Rumailah asked Imam (a.s) "My master! Are you referring about those believers who are staying in this place of 'Qasr'? What about those who stay in the different corners of the earth?' Imam (a.s) replied,
'O Rumailah! There is no believer - in the east or in the west - who is hidden from us'.
(Basaaer al-Darajaat; part 16, tradition 1)
Through this incident it becomes evident that our Imams (a.s) hold their Shias dearer than a father holds his son. Thus when Imams (a.s) love us so much, then the least that we can do is perform such actions that are a cause of happiness for them and refrain from those deeds which anger and upset them.
A signed letter (Tawqee) from Imam Mahdi (a.s.)
Now let us pay attention to this tawqee (a 'Tawqee' is a letter signed by Imam (a.s) himself in the time of his occultation) through which we learn that Imam's (a.s.) knowledge encompasses all our actions.
Every word of the blessed Tawqee addressed to Shaikh Mufeed (r.a) spells out this fact. Those people, who in the time of major occultation are serving the religion of Islam, are defending the laws and beliefs, are taking care of the weak and helpless Shias have been addressed by the one who is the cause of the existence of this Universe , Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (a.t.f.s.) - as "the brother with an upright character and a learned and intelligent friend". This form of address itself is a proof that our Imam (a.t.f.s.) is aware of our deeds and our character. Imam (a.t.f.s.) (may our lives be sacrificed for him ) states,
"Even though we are residing away from the settlements of oppressors - as Allah has destined this in the best interest of the Shias - yet our knowledge encompasses all your information. Nothing is hidden from us. We are conscious of the problems and the degradation which all of you are enduring right now. The reason for all this is that you are indulging in all those (prohibited) things from which your elders used to abstain and you have abandoned the promise and the pledge that was taken from you as if you have never ever known this promise."
(These words of Imam (a.t.f.s.) reflect his remorse on our heedlessness, negligence and disgraceful actions. But the words that follow are an indication of his fatherly love and his compassion.) Imam (a.t.f.s.) continues
"We are not negligent of your affairs and neither do we forget your remembrance. If it would have been so, then calamities and difficulties would have encircled you and the enemies would have annihilated you."
At the end of this Tawqee, Imam (a.t.f.s.) continues,
"Then each one of you should perform such actions which will bring you close to our love and should abstain from those deeds which are a cause of our displeasure and anger. This is because our reappearance will occur unexpectedly and at that time your repentance will serve no purpose. Your remorse and your regret will not protect you from our chastisement."
(Al-Ehtejaaj of Sheikh Tabarsi, vol. 2, p. 497, 498)
In another Tawqee to Janab Sheikh Mufeed (r.a), Imam (a.t.f.s.) declares,
"May Allah grant the 'Taufeeq' (grace) to our Shias for His obedience. If our Shias would have remained united and would have been steadfast in fulfilling their pledge, there would not have been any delay in our meeting with them. They would have been blessed with our meeting and our presence through their recognition and their truthfulness. But the thing which has delayed our reappearance and has distanced us from them is the news that we get about their deeds which we dislike and don't expect from them."
(Ibid., p. 499)
There is one very important thing that is highlighted from the above discussion - the Imams (a.s.) (particularly the Imam (a.s.) of our time) are aware of our each and every movement. Nothing in this world is concealed from their divine eyes. In the supplication on Fridays related to Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) we recite:
"Peace be upon you, O the eyes of Allah among His creation!
In the presence of an Emperor
If a blind individual stands in the presence of a king then he will observe the same etiquette of honor and respect due to a king, which are applicable to the one who is actually seeing the king (even though the blind man is unable to see the king.) This is because the blind man perceives the presence of the king and realizes that he is standing before a king. He himself is unable to see the king, but he is convinced that the king is observing him.
The situation is similar during the time of the major occultation. A believer is unable to see his Imam (a.t.f.s.) but he is certain that Imam (a.t.f.s) is observing him. Due to his conviction, he is always aware of the fact that he is standing in Imam's (a.t.f.s.) presence. He considers Imam (a.t.f.s.) to be a witness to his each and every action. In Dua-e-Nudbah we recite
May I be sacrificed for you! You are that concealed one who is constantly present in all our gatherings!"
True faith and certainty demands that we always realize that we are in the presence of Imam (a.t.f.s.) and hence maintain the decorum of honor and respect.
O Allah! For the sake of Your immaculate, infallible friends (a.s) and their sincere followers, grant us such upright faith and perfect certainty. Aameen!