Almost 1200 years ago, on Rabiul Awwal 9th, our 12th Imam (AS) came in front of the people to lead the burial prayers for his father, Imam Hassan Askari (AS). This was the moment that most of the people saw the young Imam (AS) for the very first time. This was when the Imamat of Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi (AS) started.
For the past 1178 years, the 12th Imam (AS) has been in Ghaybat, which means we cannot see him. We cannot talk to him directly, we cannot hear him giving lectures or spreading his wisdom. However, this does not mean that he is absent entirely. Though we cannot speak to him directly and there are no more deputies like there were in the early days of Ghaybat, we can still receive guidance from him. Currently, there are mujtahids and pious scholars that are looked to as representatives of the 12th Imam (AS).
The 12th Imam (AS) is also aware of us and our actions and our troubles. One way we can strengthen our relationship with the Imam (AS) of our time is to pray for his safety and for his reappearance to be hastened. We can also recite certain duas, such as Dua-e-Nudba on Fridays.
If we need his help, we can write him an areeza, a letter asking for his help, and he will help us, if we are sincere believers and we stay away from sins. For two examples of how the Imam (AS) helps the believers, read the stories on page 35-37 here.
Activity: The Curtain of Ghaibat
It is up to us how thick the curtain of Ghaibat is. Our actions, our prayers, our intentions – this is what dictates our relationship with the Imam (AS) of our time. It is up to us whether the “curtain” is transparent, translucent, or opaque.
For this demonstration, we used a flashlight to represent the light of the guidance of our 12th Imam (AS). I cut a hole out of one side of a cereal box and put my phone’s flashlight directly under the hole.
- In previous times, when the Imam (AS) of that time was not in Ghaibat, there was no barrier between the light of guidance and the people. This can be represented by a transparent material, such as clear plastic packaging. Of course, while the Imam (AS) of our time is in Ghaibat, we do not have the opportunity to interact with our Imam (AS) like this in our everyday lives.
- The curtain of ghaibat can be extremely thin, translucent. As an example, we can use the stories that are linked above to demonstrate how thin the curtain of ghaibat can be for the believers. Another example is that if we spend 40 Tuesday nights in the mosque of Sahla in Kufa, we can meet the Imam (AS) directly. In all of these cases, the curtain of Ghaibat is very thin. To represent this, we used a thin cloth, like a hijab.Yes, the Imam (AS) is still in Ghaibat, but in this case he can be visible and the guidance from him is easily accessible.
- There is an unavoidable impediment between us and our Imam (AS) – he is in Ghaibat, he is hidden. However, our faith and our actions will dictate how hidden he is from us. In our day-to-day lives, we can listen to advice from our pious scholars and receive guidance from our Imam (AS) in this way. We can listen to lectures and read books to be guided. To represent this, we used a thin towel. Light can pass through, but we cannot see through. Similarly, during Ghaibat, we can not see our Imam (AS), but we can receive guidance from him in various ways.
- Opaque means that the material is so thick and dense that no light can pass through. In this case, we can put a thicker material over the light of guidance, a material that does not allow light to pass through. We used cardboard from the side of the cereal box. This would mean that we are not able to receive any guidance from our Imam (AS). In our demonstration, all that could be seen of the light through the cardboard was a faint red dot, barely discernible.
[Source, pgs 31-42]