Haji Noori writes in his book Najmus Saqib about Shaykh Ali Rashti who was an extremely pious and knowledgeable Islamic scholar. He was a student of Shaykh Murtuza Ansari. He narrates an incident as follows, Once I was returning to Najaf after completing the ziyarat (visitation) of Imam Husain (as) in Karbala.
Along the way I came across the river Euphrates and got aboard a small boat that was used generally to cross the river. At that time, my companions in the boat were mostly people from the city of Hilla. I saw that all the people on the boat, save one, were engrossed in vain talks and laughter. This respectable person was sitting quietly in one corner of the boat, but was soon becoming the object of ridicule of the other members of the boat who were poking fun at him and pulling his leg. They were even making fun of his religion and faith.
Finally we reached a place where the water level was very low. The boat was packed with people and consequently heavy, so we feared that it may sit down and get stuck in the soft mud of the river bed. We were made to get off the boat and we started walking along the riverbank. At this time, I caught up with the respectable person and asked him, “Why are you travelling with such people who are constantly troubling you? And why are they troubling you in this manner?”
He replied, “These people are from my community. They are all followers of the Ahle Sunnah sect of Islam. My respected father too was a follower of the Ahle Sunnah sect. But my mother was a Shiah. I too was a Sunni at some point of time, but by the grace of Imam Mahdi (as), I have become a Shiah.”
I then asked him, “How did you become a Shiah?”
He replied, “My name is Yaqut and I was an oil trader in Hilla. Some years ago, I left with a few companions outside Hilla for business. When we had finished our work, we turned back to return home. During the return journey, we stopped at a place to take some rest. I went to sleep there. When I awoke, I saw that my companions had already left the place and I was alone in the desert. The area was dangerous and infested with wild animals. Also there were no inhabitants in that area. Anyway, I got up from my place, picked up my stuff and started along the way I thought my friends might have taken. I had no idea how to get back to Hilla and knew that I had lost my way. I was alone and worried. I was also extremely thirsty and feared that I would soon become the prey of wild animals.”
He continued, “My heart will filled with dread and fear. I began calling out to those who I had accepted as my masters at that point of time. For example, I began calling out to Abu Bakr, Umar and Usman. I kept on calling out to them, but no solution seemed to be in sight. I had by now lost all hope. At that time, I remembered the saying of my respected mother that our Imam Mahdi (as) is alive. Whenever you are in some trouble or have lost your way, you must call out to him and he will help you. His Kuniyat is Aba Saleh. I instantly made a promise to Allah (swt) that if ever I was saved from this situation, I would accept the faith of my mother.”
He continued, “I began calling out to Imam Mahdi (as). Ya Aba Salehil Mahdi Adrikni, Ya Aba Salehil Mahdi Adrikni (O Aba Saleh, O Imam Mahdi, help me).”
“Suddenly I saw that I was not alone. A person was walking alongside me. He was wearing a green turban. He began explaining to me the way to reach home and said that you accept the religion and faith of your mother. Soon you will reach this village along the way where all its inhabitants will be Shiahs.”
I said to him, “O my master, Will you not accompany me till this village?”
He said, “No, because at this time, there are thousands of people who are calling out to me and I must reach to their help.” Saying this, he disappeared from my eyes.
I had hardly walked a small distance when I came across this village of Shiahs. My companions reached this place almost a day after I had reached there. When I reached Hilla, I went to meet an scholar Allamah Sayyed Mahdi Qazvini who was a resident of the city. I presented myself before him and narrated the entire incident before him. I accepted the Shiah faith before him and memorised the tenets of the sect. I said to him, “O Sayyed, I would like to meet Imam Mahdi (as) once more. What should I do?”
He advised me to spend 40 Shab Jumuah (Thursday nights) in the haram of Imam Hussain (as) in Karbala so that I would meet Imam Mahdi (as). I started this action and every Thursday night, I would travel from Hilla to Karbala and spend the night there in worship.
On the last night however, I encountered a problem. The authorities of Karbala had ordered that all those who wished to enter the city would have to produce their identification cards, failing which they would not be allowed to enter the city. They were being strict about this rule and were not allowing those without identity cards to enter Karbala. I was not carrying my identification card with me nor was I carrying a ticket. I also did not have money with me to arrange for these things. My heart sank in the knowledge that I would not be able to complete the task that I had set myself to do. I also tried to enter the city secretly, but it was not possible for me to do so.
At that time, I saw Imam Mahdi (as) standing in the distance. He was dressed in the clothes of the Irani scholars. He had already entered the city. At that time, I was standing behind the door of the city. I called out to him for help. He came over to me and took my hand and brought me inside the city. It seemed that no one was aware of my presence and of my entering the city. I thought that I would talk to him (as) but realised that he had disappeared from my sight. After that I did not see him again.
Lessons from the incident
To seek the help of Imam Mahdi (as), one must recite, “Ya Aba Salehil Mahdi Adrikni”
This incident teaches us that Imam Mahdi (as) always rushes to the help of those who call him with their hearts. He (as) helps the people and does not even give them a chance to thank him. Therefore it is the Imam (as) whom we should call and approach to solve our problems as opposed to seeking help and facing despair from other sources. But our devotion to the Imam (as) should not be limited only during our times of difficulty. We must be aware of our religious duties and their performance so that we are never ashamed to seek help from our Imam (as). Of course, we all are human and are bound to make mistakes. Therefore, it is recommended that before placing our desires before Imam (as), we seek forgiveness of Allah and Imam Mahdi (as). Sometimes Shaitaan whispers to us that how can we call out to Imam Mahdi (as) when we have committed so many sins. We must resist these whisperings.