In today’s climate, these times are very trying for the Shia of Ali bin abi Taleb (as). There is an external as well as internal war targeting anyone who strives to be on the steadfast path towards Allah (swt). The environment and society as a whole is shifting towards satanic concepts. Scholars are selling their souls for worldly satisfaction. The Media is painting the image of Islam it desires. Shias are attacking one another causing chaos at a time we need unity.

The infallibles (as) have described these times in different ways. Let us look at some hadiths.

There are many hadiths that speak about how holding onto Islam will, one day, be like holding onto a hot piece of coal, or ember. In non-Shia traditions, we find the following hadith:

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ مُوسَى الْفَزَارِيُّ ابْنُ بِنْتِ السُّدِّيِّ الْكُوفِيِّ، حَدَّثَنَا عُمَرُ بْنُ شَاكِرٍ، عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ يَأْتِي عَلَى النَّاسِ زَمَانٌ الصَّابِرُ فِيهِمْ عَلَى دِينِهِ كَالْقَابِضِ عَلَى الْجَمْرِ ‏”
Anas bin Malik narrated that the Messenger of Allah(s.a.w) said:
“There shall come upon the people a time in which the one who is patient upon his religion will be like the one holding onto a burning ember.”

Reference: Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2260 (Book 33, Hadith 103)

Grading: Hasan (Darussalam)

Link: http://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/33/103

This is also present in Shia traditions:

أخبرنا جماعة ، عن أبي المفضل ، قال : حدثنا محمد بن الحسين ابن الحفص الخثعمي أبو جعفر ، قال : حدثنا إسماعيل بن موسى ابن بنت السدي الفزاري ، قال : أخبرنا عمر بن شاكر حن أهل المصيصة ، عن أنس بن مالك ، قال : قال رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) : يأتي على الناس زمان الصابر منهم على دينه كالقابض على الجمر
Anas ibn Malik narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sawa) said: “There shall come upon the people a time in which the one who is patient upon his religion will be like the one holding onto a burning ember.”

Reference: Amali al-Toosi, Assembly 17, Hadith #29

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The hadiths seem to suggest that during these trying times you will need to have a lot of patience and be able to endure immense pain (physical or emotional) – just as holding onto a piece of hot coal would require. Only with these two key attributes will you be able to hold onto the religion of Allah (swt).

These words are also attributed to the Prophet (sawa) when he spoke to Abdullah bin Mas`ud, according to al-Tabrasi:

يا ابن مسعود : يأتي على الناس زمان الصابر فيه على دينه مثل القابض على الجمر بكفه ، فإن كان في ذلك الزمان ذئبا ، وإلا أكلته الذئاب
“There shall come upon the people a time in which the one who is patient upon his religion will be like the one holding onto a burning ember, so if one were to be present during that time era, he should be like a wolf, and if not – the wolves would eat him!

Reference: Makarim al-Akhlaq, al-Tabrasi, Page 570

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The hadith seems to suggest that one needs to be a predator rather than the prey. When the religion of Allah (swt) is attacked, not to back down or run away – but rather stand firm and defend the religion, and if need be, counter attack by showing the fallacies of the enemies and false ideologies. If not, one would struggle to hold onto the religion of Allah (swt).

Although this is quite a popular hadith, we look at a variation of this which Imam al-Sadiq (as) relayed, where he explains the time that this will occur is during the occultation – and interestingly he (as) has used the parable of a cactus tree rather than ember/coal:

محمد بن يحيى والحسن بن محمد جميعا، عن جعفر بن محمد الكوفي، عن الحسن ابن محمد الصيرفي، عن صالح بن خالد، عن يمان التمار قال: كنا عند أبي عبد الله عليه السلام جلوسا فقال لنا: إن لصاحب هذا الامر غيبة، المتمسك فيها بدينه كالخارط للقتاد – ثم قال هكذا بيده – فأيكم يمسك شوك القتاد بيده؟ ثم أطرق مليا، ثم قال: إن لصاحب هذا الامر غيبة فليتق الله عبد وليتمسك بدينه.
“Once we were in the presence of abu ‘Abd Allah (as) and he said to us, ‘The person in charge of this task (the Imam of our time, may Allah hasten his reappearance) will go into occultation (disappearance from public sight). At that time following one’s religion will be like wiping (his hands) on the thorns of a cactus plant.’ The Imam made certain hand gestures. [He continued to say] ‘Who among you is ready to hold in his hands a bunch of cactus?’ He then remained calm for a little while and then said, ‘The person in charge of this task (the Imam of our time, may Allah hasten his reappearance) will go into occultation and the servant (of Allah) must maintain piety before Allah and hold fast to His religion.’”

Sanad: Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Kufi from al-Hassan ibn Muhammad al-Sayrafi from Salih ibn Khalid from Yaman al-Tammar who has said the above hadith

Reference: al-Kafi, Volume 1, Chapter of Occultation, Hadith #1

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Thus we see the combination of all these hadiths suggest that we must have the following attributes:
1. Patience.
2. Be able to endure the pain of the struggle.
3. To be firm in the defence of Islam.
4. To observe piety before Allah and hold fast onto the religion.

These times were not meant to be easy, so let us not sell our souls for temporary ease and satisfaction. May Allah (swt) hasten his (aj) reappearance.