IMAM AL MAHDI (a.s)
Imam al Mahdi (a.s) is the twelfth and last Imam. He is the Imam for all the Muslims today and is currently in occultaion- this means that although he is living among us, he has been hidden from our view. Imam Mahdi (as) was born on the fifteenth of Sha'ban in the year two hundred and fifty five (255) after Hijrah, which means that he has been alive for hundreds of years. Allah (swt) has decided that the Imam (a.s) of our time will not be visible to us because most people are not ready, or do not want his justice. However it is from Allah's (s.w) infinite mercy that he keeps the Imam (a.s) among us and we live with his blessings everyday although we can not see it. Therefore, our Imam (a.s) has the effect the Sun has on earth when it is being hidden by clouds, such that although we cannot directly see the sun we still benefit from its warmth and energy.
Major and Minor occultation
The birth of Imam al Mahdi (a.s) was kept a secret since the Abbasid Caliphs (the rulers of the time) wanted to kill him when he was born. These people knew that Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) promised that one day an Imam (a.s) will come and bring justice to the world and they did not want this to happen.
"The world will not come to an end until a man from the descendants of Hussain takes charge of the affairs of the world and fills it with justice and equity as it is filled with injustice and tyranny."
At the age of five, after the tragic martyrdom of his father, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) went into a minor occultation. An occultation is when a person or a thing is hidden from view or is unable to be noticed. Therefore Imam al Mahdi was hidden from peoples' sight by the power of Allah.
During the minor occultation, Imam Mahdi (a.s) was in direct contact with only a few special men who were known as his "deputies" who passed on his words and advice to the rest of the Muslims. This lasted for a period of about sixty nine years. A few days before the death of his fourth and final deputy Imam Mahdi (a.s) informed his followers, through his deputy, that there would be no more deputies after the death of the current and last one.
This was the start of the "major occultation" which would continue until today. The major occultation will continue to the day Allah (s.w) decides he should re-appear once more. During this period, no one would be able to approach Imam Mahdi (a.s) through deputies or through direct contact.
Imam Mahdi's return
Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) was once asked about when and how Imam Mahdi (a.s) will re-appear. In his reply the Prophet likened the time of the Reappearance of Imam Mahdi to that of the Hour of Resurrection and then narrated the Quranic verse;
"He alone will manifest it at its proper time. It is heavy in the heavens and the earth. It cometh not to you save unawares" (Holy Qur'an, 7:187)
When Imam Mahdi returns, the world will be filled with justice. As Muslims, we can prepare for his return by remember that he is among us and act in a way which will make him happy. That can be by volunteering at your community and local mosque, or by trying our best to stay away from harram action and do halal actions in our lives.
Our scholars have told us that a good way of seeing how well we will act when our Imam appears before us is to see how we behave in our everyday lives and it is said the same effort we put now is a good example of the effort we will put we see him. This is good news for us because that means we can start preparing ourselves and making a small change everyday.