This query springs from a limited insight. Perhaps, it’s taken for granted that the Imams and holy personalities must be useful and beneficial for the people. We never ask ourselves, ‘what is our use and benefit for them?’ whereas, it’s worthy to know whether he is for us or we are for him? (this point requires explanation in its proper place).
Anyhow, the answer to the query, ‘what is the benefit of a concealed Imam?’ is to be searched by analysing the benefits of Imam’s existence (whether concealed or apparent) and then enumerating the difference between ‘concealment’ and ‘presence’.
Describing the benefits of Imam’s existence has direct connection with recognition of the dimensions of his personality. As per Shia view, Imam has at least four outstanding dignities:
“Wilayat-e-Takvini” (authority over creation) and bestowing benefits to the creatures by Allah’s permission.
Political ruling and government.
Giving shelter, protection and assistance to the helpless and distress people.
During the Imams’ presence, all those ranks save political rule have been fulfilled for a number of Imams even though for a short period. The people benefited from their diverse dimensions. Not only have they taken care of the peoples’ belief, ethics and jurisprudence but also bestowed to them spiritual benefits. Besides, during sensitive times too, they have helped them out. While the concealed Imam (a.t.f.s.) is not charged with religious authority and apparent rule (though in certain sensitive instances, he has also aided a few traditionists and jurists) his ‘Wilayat-e-Takvini” and help and assistance always prevails. The book“Najm-Saqeb” written by Muhaddis Nuri is a clear witness to our talks. You may refer to the section concerning visitation and meetings with Imam (a.t.f.s.). Here we shall set forth one such case revealing Imam’s aid:
Shaikh Ali Rashti, student of Shaikh Ansari and Mirza Shirazi has stated:
“When I returned from ‘Ziarat’ of Abi-Abdullah (a.s.) and was Mirza Shirazi on my way to Najaf via the Euphrates river, I embarked on a small ship. Everyone travelling in that ship was from Hilla. The way to Hilla and Najaf separate from Tuyarj. Except for one person, everyone in this group engaged in pleasure and jest. Signs of soberness and dignity were visible in him. He neither laughed nor joked. The group taunted his religion and rebuked him. Nevertheless, they ate and drank together. I was taken by surprise and opportunity did not arise to raise a question until we were asked to disembark the ship due to shallow waters.”
We walked besides the river. Opportunity arose to converse with that person.
I asked: ‘Why have you isolated yourself from your friends and why do they mock at your religion?
He replied: ‘They are my relatives from the Sunni sect. My father was a Sunni but my mother a faithful one. I too was like my mother and by blessings of Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) became a Shia.
I asked him the reason and he replied “My name is Ya’qut, I sell oil near the bridge of Hilla. Once I left Hilla for procuring oil from the Bedouin Arabs at the outskirts. I bought the required oil and returned to Hilla along with a few local people. We resided in one place. I slept. When I awoke, I did not find anybody. All had left. Our way passed a dry and arid desert place full of wild animals. No habitable place was near us but kilometres away.
I picked my luggage and pursued their path. I lost my way. I remained dazed. I feared from the wild animals as well as thirst. I called upon the caliphs and sheikhs and pleaded their intercession before Allah. Nothing happened. I remembered my mother’s words who once said, ‘We have a living Imam whose agnomen is Abu-Saleh. He shows the way to those who are lost and helps the helpless and weak ones.
I made a promise to Allah that I would call upon him and if he saves me I will accept my mother’s religion. So I called upon him. Suddenly, I saw someone walking along with me. He wore a green turban on his head just like this colour (he pointed out to the green grass besides the river).
Thereafter, he showed me the way and ordered me to accept my mother’s religion. He uttered words which I ( i.e., Mirza Nouri, author of Najme-Saqeb) have forgotten and then said: Soon you will reach a village whose people are all Shias. I said: My master! Will you not accompany me till that village? He replied: ‘No because a thousand people in certain towns have called upon me for help and I must save them.’
These were Hazrat’s words that have remained in my memory. Then, he vanished from my sight….”
In the traditions of immaculate Imams (a.s.), the concealed Imam (a.t.f.s.) and the benefits from him are likened to the sun hidden behind the clouds.