There is a view among certain sections of the society that when one wants to seek Imam Mahdi’s (a.t.f.s.) reappearance, we should beseech Allah and not Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). They claim that since Imam (a.t.f.s.) himself awaits Allah’s decision in this regard, we must invoke Allah the Almighty directly.
The only reason one can think of behind such doubts is the influence of Salafism on Shiite thought and culture. It is hard to explain otherwise since when seeking directly from the infallible Imams (a.s.) has become a matter of objection and debate. We might even be tempted to comment over here that at least Salafis only object to seeking from the dead. Salafis have no objection to seeking from those who are alive since the Muslims sought from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his life time even though they understood that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) receives from Allah. So we don’t understand why Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) – who is alive and the successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – cannot be invoked for his own reappearance.
Nonetheless, we will see from Quranic verses and the most reliable supplications that seeking Imam’s (a.t.f.s.) reappearance directly from Imam (a.t.f.s.) is highly recommended and the infallible (a.s.) have themselves practiced it and ordered the Shias to follow suit.
This is among the most reliable supplications for invoking Imam Mahdi’s (a.t.f.s.) reappearance. Reciting it for forty days after the morning prayers is rewarded with companionship of Imam (a.t.f.s.) and if the reciter dies before the reappearance, Allah the All-Powerful will raise him from his grave at the time of reappearance as a helper of Imam (a.t.f.s.). Every alphabet of the supplication is rewarded with 1,000 good deeds and erasing of 1,000 sins.
At the end of the supplication we are commanded thus:
ثُمَّ تَضْرِبُ عَلَى فَخِذِكَ الْأَيْمَنِ بِيَدِكَ ثَلَاثاً وَ تَقُولُ الْعَجَلَ الْعَجَلَ الْعَجَلَ يَا مَوْلَايَ يَا صَاحِبَ الزَّمَان
‘Then strike your right on your right thigh thrice and repeat (each time): Hasten, Hasten, Hasten – O Saaheb al-Zamaan.’
Clearly invoking Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) for his own reappearance is not objectionable. On the contrary, it is highly emphasized with Imam (a.t.f.s.) being invoked with great urgency and distress as indicated by the striking the thigh in Dua-e-Ahad.
2. Dua taught by Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.)
This is the supplication famous as إِلَهِي عَظُمَ الْبَلَاءwhich is highly recommended in moments of distress. It is narrated on the authority of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) himself when he ordered a prisoner to recite it, resulting in his release.
Towards the end of the supplication, we recite:
يَا مُحَمَّدُ يَا عَلِيُّ يَا عَلِيُّ يَا مُحَمَّدُ اكْفِيَانِي فَإِنَّكُمَا كَافِيَايَ وَ انْصُرَانِي فَإِنَّكُمَا نَاصِرَايَ يَا مَوْلَانَا يَا صَاحِبَ الزَّمَانِ الْغَوْثَ الْغَوْثَ الْغَوْثَ أَدْرِكْنِي أَدْرِكْنِي أَدْرِكْنِي السَّاعَةَ السَّاعَةَ السَّاعَةَ الْعَجَلَ الْعَجَلَ الْعَجَلَ يَا أَرْحَمَ الرَّاحِمِينَ بِمُحَمَّدٍ وَ آلِهِ الطَّاهِرِين
‘O Muhammad O Ali, O Ali O Muhammad! Suffice me for only the two of you are sufficient for me; help me for only the two of you are my helpers. O our Master O Saheb al-Zamaan, help, help, help, help me, help me, help me, this moment, this moment, this moment, hasten, hasten, hasten, O Most Merciful of the Merciful, for the sake of Muhammad and his pure progeny.’
Over here, we seek help from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). Again, the urgency and repeated calls of distress underline that this action is highly recommended. This supplication can be recited for any calamity including occultation – our greatest calamity.
In the face of such emphasis on invoking Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.), the objection if any should be against those who prevent Muslims from reciting such supplications.
Not just supplications, there are many verses of the Holy Quran, where the people of the nation invoked the Prophet of their era.
Proof of invocation from the Quran
1. Hazrat Esa (a.s.)
‘When the disciples said: O Esa son of Mariyam! Will your Lord consent to send down to us food from heaven? He said: Be careful of (your duty to) Allah if you are believers. They said: We desire that we should eat of it and that our hearts should be at rest, and that we may know that you have indeed spoken the truth to us and that we may be of the witnesses to it. Eesaa the son of Maryam said: O Allah, our Lord! Send down to us food from heaven which should be to us an ever-recurring happiness, to the first of us and to the last of us, and a sign from Thee, and grant us means of subsistence, and Thou art the best of the Providers. Allah said: Surely I will send it down to you, but whoever shall disbelieve afterwards from among you, surely I will chastise him with a chastisement with which I will not chastise, anyone among the nations.’ (Surah Maedah (5): Verses 112-115)
Here, Hazrat Esa’s (a.s.) companions sought food from the heavens. They could have asked Allah directly but they ask Hazrat Esa (a.s.) who ultimately sought the same from Allah. In fact, if what the opponents object is true, then the Prophet Esa (a.s.) should have reprimanded his followers for asking from him (a.s.) and ordered them to ask directly from Allah! On the contrary, he (a.s.) accepted the mediation and Allah the High too granted his prayer!
Same is the case with seeking reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) – we can ask Allah directly, but we also have the option of asking Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.).
2. Hazrat Moosa (a.s.)
‘And We divided them into twelve tribes, as nations; and We revealed to Moosa when his people asked him for water: Strike the rock with your staff, so out flowed from it twelve springs; each tribe knew its drinking place; and We made the clouds to give shade over them and We sent to them manna and quails: Eat of the good things We have given you. And they did not do Us any harm, but they did injustice to their own souls.’ (Surah Aaraaf (7): Verse 160)
Again over here the Bani Israel approaches Hazrat Moosa (a.s.) for water and food.
3. Hazrat Zulqarnain (a.s.)
‘They said: O Zulqarnain! Surely Gog and Magog make mischief in the land. Shall we then pay you a tribute on condition that you should raise a barrier between us and them.’ (Surah Kahf (18): Verse 94)
According to some traditions, Hazrat Zulqarnain (a.s.) was not a Prophet – rather he was a righteous servant of Allah (الصالح العبد) who ruled over the entire earth. We see over here that his people approach him to help tackle the nuisance of Gog (Yaajooj) and Magog (Maajooj). This proves that we can seek directly not just from the divine Prophets (a.s.) but even the righteous servants of Allah.
There are many other instances in the Holy Quran like sons of Hazrat Yaqoob (a.s.) seeking forgiveness for their sins directly from their father (Surah Yusuf (12): Verses 97-98).
After such proofs from the Quranic verses and the most reliable supplications, there can be no doubt about invoking Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) or any other infallible (a.s.) or even a righteous servant (al-abd al-saaleh) like Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) for instance, directly in the matter of reappearance or for the fulfilment of a legitimate desire or for the forgiveness of sins.