Before describing the difference(s), it is necessary to know that Hazrat Mahdi has presence in the society, but has no manifestation and is not in the public. So it’s better to say what is the difference between ‘Zuhoor’ and ‘Ghaibat’?
While explaining the difference between the two occasions, it’s better to recognize the similarity between the two and then describe their aspects. However, similarity and difference are worthy of review and examination from two aspects: From the viewpoint of Imam’s existence, and from the viewpoint of people during those times.
From the first aspect, a few of Imam’s dignities during the concealment period are as follows:
A medium for imparting the grace of existence from the Almighty Originator to the worldly beings.
Guidance for the beings, a leader for them, and the one perfecting the human souls on the path of devotion and bondage and shielding them via indirect training.
Redresser of grievances, a haven for those seeking shelter, and a help for the helpless either directly or indirectly via some special companions.
Worship and servitude in the path of endless perfection for Imam; implementation of the obligatory and recommendable acts as well as abstinence from unlawful and abominable deeds; transfer of ‘Mubah’ acts (that may or may not be performed) into recommendable acts with the intention of servitude and devotion.
From second aspect:
Fulfillment of the above-mentioned instances on a wider scale and perfect manner.
Religious authority and the one replying to matters related to belief, ethics and day-to-day affairs.
A perfect specimen in all individual and social ranks in diverse dimensions.
Establishment of global and divine just government and complete fulfillment of the aspirations of the prophets.
Training the inclined souls directly and extending them to the level of perfection of devotion.
Supervision and guidance of social, political and economic systems leading to complete justice.
Active presence in the societies and direct contact with officials, governors and managers of diverse states.
Now, from the viewpoint of people:
If people pay attention to the dignities in concealment period, they can reap the benefits during this period, save, the following:
They see their Imam but do not recognize him.
For acquiring knowledge related to beliefs, ethics and duties they cannot refer to their Imam (a.t.f.s.) but instead turn to his common representatives (Fuqhaha) in ‘Ahkam’ (religious precepts).
Submission before the ordinary governments and being far from the universal, divine and just government.
They are deprived of the direct training of that teacher who is a perfect exemplar and cannot sit to listen to his divine and pleasant speeches.
None can meet him out of one’s free will and desire.
They perceive the sun (Imam’s existence) behind the clouds (of ‘Ghaibat’).
Here, it’s appropriate to mention some of the common duties of the people during Imam’s ‘Ghaibat’ and ‘presence’ so that their special duties during ‘Ghaibat’ become clear.
Necessity of recognizing Imam (a.t.f.s.)
من مات و ليس له امام مات ميتة جاهلية
Obeying, following and adhering to Imam (a.t.f.s.)
Referring to the Imam (a.t.f.s.) for resolving differences in matters of belief, interpretation of Qur’an and its esoteric meanings.
Considering Imam (a.t.f.s.) as the perfect exemplar in all individual, social and divine respects which necessarily calls for comprehensive ‘Ma’refat’ (gnosis) of God.
Presentation of beliefs, thoughts and deeds before Imam (a.t.f.s.) and adjusting and correcting them by his belief and thought via invocations and ‘Ziarat’ like Ziyrat-e-Aale-Yasin.
Prayers for his safety, ‘Zuhoor’ (manifestation) and greater perfection.
To express willingness to help and assist him.
Constant and complete readiness for obeying his commands.