One may wonder what benefit a hidden
Imam would have. There are many narrations by the Prophet [s] and the
Imams [a] which portray the benefit of the hidden twelfth Imam [atf] by
comparing him to the sun that is sheltered behind the clouds. Even
though the sun may be covered by the clouds, it nonetheless carries out
its essential task and offers its benefits. Simply because the sun is
covered by the clouds does not mean that it does not exist, and it would
be foolish for one to claim that it does not exist. We come to know of
the existence of the sun when it is covered by its various effects, such
as its light, the warmth it gives, and other functions that it has.
Similarly, while the Imam is hidden we are nevertheless subjected to
his rays of mercy, and he imparts us and all of creation with his
his mere existence and presence on the earth, Allah [swt] continues to
sustain us and avert punishment away from us, just as the presence of
the Prophet [s] was a protection for the people from Allah [swt]’s
punishment (refer to 8:33 of the Holy Qur’an).
Imam Al-Mahdi [atf], as he himself has declared, protects his followers
from all efforts to destroy and eradicate them. If we look at the
history of the Shias, it is indeed a miracle that till this very day
they have survived despite the countless attempts by various governments
and groups to eliminate them. Even today in many countries Shias are
persecuted, and there are deliberate attempts to squash them.
Imam Al-Mahdi [atf] guides the scholars and leaders of his followers.
For example, throughout history, there are many instances of Imam
Al-Mahdi [atf] rectifying the rulings (fatwas) of prominent
scholars, such as the account of Shaykh Al-Mufeed. He had made a mistake
in a religious ruling, but the Imam corrected it on his behalf and
later he learned that.
mere presence of a leader and guide, although in occultation, serves to
keep the followers motivated. Assume that a group endears its very
charismatic and powerful leader. Due to bigotry and persecution, their
leader is imprisoned for life. There is a big difference between the
leader’s mere presence in the prison and his death. The group will
continue to draw its inspiration and motivation from the imprisoned
leader. Our hidden twelfth Imam, through his mere existence, is a source
of inspiration for us to continue our efforts in the face of difficult
and modern challenges.