Al-Imam al-Mahdi, The Just Leader of Humanity


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Translator's Introduction

Author's Introduction

Chapter 1
The Beginning of the Belief in the Mahdi

The Mahdi from among the Descendants of the Prophet
The Sunni hadith on the Subject of the Mahdi
The Objection Raised by One of the Authors
Ibn Khaldun and the Traditions about the Mahdi
Other Opinions from Ibn Khaldun
The Existence of the Mahdi is Certain
People Awaited the Appearance of the Mahdi
The Discussion among the Companions and the Subsequent Generations
The Jurists of Medina and the Mahdi Traditions
The Poetry of Di'bil and the Mahdi

Chapter 2
The Pseudo-Mahdis

Manipulation of the Beliefs of the People
Fabrication of the Traditions
The Family of the Prophet and the Eleven Imams' Predictions about the Mahdi
Are these Traditions about the Mahdi Authentic?

Chapter 3
Mahdiism, the Jews, and the Iranians

The Reasons for the Emergence of Belief in the Mahdiism
Does it Really Need Explication?
The Legend of 'Abd Allah b. Saba
The Messianic Leader, Mahdi, in Other Religions
The Qur'an and Mahdiism
The General Prophethood and the Imamate
What System Can Make Human Beings Prosperous?
The Other-worldly Prosperity
The Path of Perfection
The Infallibility of the Prophets
Rational Proof in Support of the Imamate
Textual Proof for the Necessity of the Imamate

Chapter 4
The Unseen World and the Imam of the Age

Will the Imam Be Born at the End of the Time?
Descriptions Identifying the Mahdi
Mahdi Is Among the Descendants of Husayn b. 'Ali
What If the Mahdi Was Well-known?
The Traditions from the ahl al-bayt Are Proofs for All Muslims
`Ali b. Abi Talib, the Paragon of the Prophetic Knowledge
The Book of 'Ali b. Abi Talib
The Heirs to the Prophet's Knowledge

Chapter 5
Who Was the Imam after Hasan 'Askari?

Those Who Saw the Imam of the Age When He Was Small
Why Was the Twelfth Imam Not Mentioned in the Will of Imam Hasan 'Askari?
Why Did Others Not Know about the Twelfth Imam's Birth?
The Mother of the Twelfth Imam
The Sunni 'Ulama' and the Birth of the Mahdi

Chapter 6
Can a Five Year Old Boy Become an Imam?

The Gifted Children
Rising of the People when Naming the Qa'im
When Did the Story about the Occultation Begin?
The Books on the Subject of the Occultation before the Birth of the Twelfth Imam
The Short and Complete Occultation
The Short Occultation and the Contacts with the Shi'a
Were these Letters from the Imam in His Own Handwriting?
The Number of Deputies
'Uthman b. Sa'id, the First Deputy
Muhammad b. 'Uthman, the Second Deputy
Husayn b. Ruh, the Third Deputy
'Ali b. Muhammad Samarri, the Fourth Deputy

Chapter 7
Why Did Not the Occultation Become Complete from the Beginning?

Is There Any Time Limit to the Complete Occultation?
The Philosophy of Occultation
What Danger Faced the Imam If He Were Visibly Present?
Why Is the Mahdi Afraid of Being Killed?
Does Not God Have the Power to Protect the Imam?
Is It Not Likely That the Unjust Rulers Would Have Submitted to Him?
He Should Remain Silent So That He Would Be Safe
He Could Have Negotiated a Treaty of Non-interference with the Rulers
Why Did He Not Appoint Special Deputies During the Complete Occultation?
What Is the Benefit of Having the Imam in Occultation?
The Twelfth Imam Endeavors to Defend Islam during the Occultation

Chapter 8
The Sunni Books on the Characteristics of the Mahdi

The Occultation of the 'Alawid Leaders
Violations of Free Expression under the Caliphs
The Implications of the Situation
How Long Will the Hidden Imam Live?

Chapter 9
The Research about Longevity

Is There Any Fixed Term for Human Age?
The Reasons for Longevity
Senility and Its Causes
The Long Life of the Twelfth Imam
The Article by Justin Glace
Research into the Matter of Longevity
Further Research on Longevity
New Research on Longevity
A Summary of a Russian Study on the Subject of Old Age
A Little Known Theory about the Cause of Death
Those Who Lived a Long Life in History

Chapter 10

The Residence of the Twelfth Imam

The Story about the Countries that Belong to the Sons of the Imam
Jazira Khadra' (The Evergreen Island)
When Will He Appear?
The Signs of His Appearance
The Story of Sufyani
The Story of Dajjal

Chapter 11
The Minds of the People Prepare for the Advent of the Mahdi

The Final Victory of the Downtrodden (mustad'afin)
Why Does the Mahdi Not Appear?
Another Reason for the Delay in the Appearance of the Mahdi

Chapter 12
How Will the Imam Know That the Time for the Appearance (Zuhur) Has Come?

The Preparation for the Emergence Will Take Place Overnight
Awaiting Deliverance through the Appearance of the Imam
Investigation into the Traditions against the Rise (qiyam)
Governance within Religion
The Obligation to Command the Good and Forbid the Evil
Concluding Remarks
The Prophet as the Leader of the Muslims
Islamic Governance after the Prophet
`Ali b. Abi Talib, the Designated Caliph of the Prophet of God
Islamic Governance during the Period of Occultation
The Obligations of Muslims during the Occultation

Chapter 13
Further Investigation in the Hadith-Reports

First Group of Traditions
Second Group of Traditions
Third Group of Traditions
Fourth Group of Traditions
Conclusions of the Discussion

Chapter 14
The Signs of the Appearance (Zuhur) of the Mahdi

The Destiny of the Unbelievers
The Destiny of Jews and Christians
Will the Majority of the Peoples on the Earth Be Killed?
The Teachings of Islam Will Be Proclaimed to the World from Qumm
"Your Enemies Will Destroy Each Other"
War Is Inevitable
The Mahdi's Defense
The World under the Mahdi
The Victory of the Prophets
The Mahdi and the New Constitution
The Conduct of the Mahdi
The Freshness of the Explanations Offered by the Mahdi
The Mahdi and Abrogation of the Ordinances
Is It Not Possible that the Mahdi Has Already Appeared?
Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi, "the Bab"
Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad's Acknowledgement of the Hidden Imam's Existence
Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad and the Traditions about Fixing of the Time
What Do the Sayyid's Followers Say?
The Bayan and Messianic Claim
False Claims and the Existence of a Followership


An effort of the Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project


Al-Imam al-Mahdi, The Just Leader of Humanity


The Beginning of the Belief in the Mahdi

Dr. Emami: When did the belief in Mahdi become prevalent in the Islamic environment? Was there any conversation about the Mahdi during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) or was it after his death that the belief became widespread among Muslims? There are some who have written that there was no Mahdiism in the beginning of Islam. It was only in the second half of the first century (7th century CE) that the idea appeared among the Muslims. There was a group that regarded Muhammad b. Hanafiyya as the Mahdi and gave the good news to the people about the good fortune Islam would acquire through him. The same group believed that Muhammad b. Hanafiyya had not died but he was living in Mt. Radwa and one day would return."

Mr. Hoshyar: The belief in Mahdi was widespread during the time of the Prophet. The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) on more than one occasion had announced the future coming of the Mahdi. From time to time he would inform the people about the government of the Mahdi and the signs of his emergence, giving his name and patronymic (kunya). There are numerous hadith-reports that have come down to us from both the Sunni and the Shi'i sources on this subject. Actually some of these reports have been related so frequently, and without interruption in all ages, that nobody can doubt their authenticity. For instance, we read the following hadith reported from 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud, who heard the Prophet say:

The world will not come to an end until a man from my family (ahl al-bayt), who will be called al-Mahdi, emerges to rule upon my community.[1]

Another tradition reported by Abu al-Hujaf quotes the Prophet saying three times:

Listen to the good news about the Mahdi! He will rise at the time when people will be faced with severe conflict and the earth will be hit by a violent quake. He will fill the earth with justice and equity as it is filled with injustice and tyranny. He will fill the hearts of his followers with devotion and will spread justice everywhere.[2]

The Prophet has declared:

The Day of Resurrection will not take place until the True Qa'im rises. This will happen when God permits him to do so. Anyone who follows him will be saved, and anyone who opposes him will perish. O servants of God, keep God in your mind and go towards him even if it happens to be on the ice, for indeed he is the caliph of God, the Exalted and Glorified, and my successor.[3]

In another hadith the Prophet is reported to have said: "Any one who denies al-Qa'im among my children will have denied me."[4]

In still another hadith the Prophet assured his community by stating:

The world will not come to an end until a man from the descendants of Husayn takes charge of the affairs of the world and fills it with justice and equity as it is filled with injustice and tyranny.[5]

The Mahdi from among the Descendants of the Prophet

Such hadith-reports are abundant. The main idea that runs through all of them suggests that the topic about the future coming of the Mahdi and Qa'im during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) was well known. In fact, the way these reports speak about the subject indicates that it was not something new which was being presented to the people. On the contrary, they relate the signs and characteristics of the person who would emerge as the Mahdi, as in the statement "the promised Mahdi will be among my descendants."

The following traditions reflect such a pattern in their presentation. It is reported from 'Ali b. Abi Talib who said:

I asked the Prophet: "Is Mahdi going to be among our own family or from some other?" He replied: "He will be among us. God will conclude His religion through him, just as He began it with us. It will be through us that people will find refuge from sedition, just as it was through us that they were saved from polytheism. Moreover, it will be through us that God will bring their hearts together in brotherhood following the animosity sown by the sedition, just as they were brought together in brotherhood in their religion after the animosity sown by polytheism."[6]

Abu Sa'id al-Khudari, a close associate of the Prophet says:

I heard the Prophet declare from the pulpit: "The Mahdi from among my descendants, from my family, will rise at the End of Time, while the heavens will pour rain and the earth will bring forth green grass for him. He will fill the earth with justice and equity as it is filled with tyranny and injustice."[7]

In another tradition from Umm Salma, the wife of the Prophet, there is even more specific information given to the community. The Prophet says: "Mahdi will be among my progeny, among the children of Fatima."[8]

On another occasion the Prophet said:

The Qa'im will be among my descendants. His name will be my name and his patronymic will be my patronymic. His character will be like my own. He will call people to my custom and to the Book of God. Anyone who obeys him would be obeying me, and any one who turns away from him would be turning away from me. Anyone who denies his existence during his concealment would have denied me, and anyone who falsifies him would have falsified me. Anyone who confirms his existence would have confirmed my existence. As for those who are engaged in falsifying what I have said about him and thereby mislead my community, I will complain against them to God. "Those who do wrong shall surely know by what overturning they will be overturned." [28:228] [9]

Abu Ayyub Ansari says:

I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) say: "I am the chief of the prophets and 'Ali is the chief of the legatees. My two grandsons are the best among the descendants. The infallible Imams will come forth from among us through Husayn. Moreover, the Mahdi of this community is among us." At that time an Arab stood up and asked: "O Prophet of God, how many Imams are there after you?" He replied: "Equal to the number of the apostles of Jesus and the chiefs of the Children of Israel." [10]

A tradition with similar information has been cited from Hudhayfa, another companion of the Prophet, who heard the Prophet declare:

The Imams after me will be equal to the number of the tribal chiefs among the Children of Israel. Nine among them will be the descendants of Husayn. The Mahdi of this community is among us. Beware! Truth is with them and they are with truth. Thus be careful of the way you treat them after me. [11]

In still another tradition Sa'id b. Musayyib reports from 'Amr b. 'Uthman b. 'Affan, who said:

We heard from the Prophet saying: "The Imams after me will be twelve in number, of whom nine will be from the progeny of Husayn. Moreover, the Mahdi of this community will be among us. Anyone who holds on to them after me holds on to the rope of God; and whoever abandons them has abandoned God." [12]

There are numerous hadith-reports of this kind in the sources which one can undertake to examine.

The Sunni hadith on the Subject of the Mahdi

Dr. Fahimi: Mr. Hoshyar! Our friends know it. But let me tell you that I follow the Sunni school of thought. Hence, the positive evaluation that you have of the Shi'i hadith-reports, I do not share. In all likelihood, extremist Shi'is, for whatever reasons, after having accepted the narratives about the Mahdiism, must have fabricated traditions in support of their views and ascribed them to the Prophet. The evidence for my contention is that the traditions about the Mahdi are recorded only in your Shi'i books. There is no trace of these in our authentic -- Sihah -- compilations. Yes, I am aware that there are some traditions on the subject in our less reliable compilations.[13]

Mr. Hoshyar: In spite of the most unfavorable conditions under the Umayyads and the `Abbasids, whose politics and oppressive governments did not allow the discussion or the spread of hadith about wilayat and imamat and the ahl al-bayt or their being recorded in the books of the hadith, your compilations of hadith are not completely void of any traditions on the subject of the Mahdi. If you are not tired I may cite some of them for you.

Engineer Madani: Mr. Hoshyar! Please continue your conversation.

Mr. Hoshyar: Dr. Fahimi! In your compilations, the Sihah, there are chapters devoted to the subject of the Mahdi in which traditions from the Prophet have been recorded. For example, the following:

'Abd Allah reports from the Prophet, who said: "The world will not come to pass until a man from among my family, whose name will be my name, rules over the Arabs."

Tirmidhi has recorded this hadith in his Sahih [14] and comments: "This hadith on the Mahdi is reliable, and has been related by 'Ali b. Abi Talib, Abu Sa'id, Umm Salma and Abu Hurayra":

'Ali b. Abi Talib has narrated from the Prophet, who said: "Even if there remains only a day on earth, God will bring forth a man from my progeny so that he will fill the earth with justice and equity as it is filled with tyranny."[15]

In another hadith Umm Salma narrates that she heard the Prophet say: "The promised Mahdi will be among my progeny, among the descendants of Fatima."[16]

Abu Sa'id al-Khudari says:

The Prophet said: "Our Mahdi will have a broad forehead and a pointed nose. He will fill the earth with justice as it is filled with injustice and tyranny. He will rule for seven years." [17]

'Ali b. Abi Talib has related a tradition from the Prophet who informed him:

The promised Mahdi will be among my family. God will make the provisions for his emergence within a single night. [18]

Abu Sa'id al-Khudari has related a tradition from the Prophet who declared:

The earth will be filled with injustice and corruption. At that time, a man from among my progeny will rise and will rule for seven or nine years and will fill the earth with justice and equity.[19]

Greater detail is provided in another hadith reported by Abu Sa'id al-Khudari. In this tradition the Prophet said:

Severe calamity from the direction of their ruler will befall my people during the Last Days. It will be a calamity which, in severity, shall be unprecedented. It will be so violent that the earth with injustice and corruption will shrivel for its inhabitants. The believers will not find refuge from oppression. At that time God will send a man from my family to fill the earth with justice and equity just as it is filled with injustice and tyranny. The dwellers of the heavens and the earth will be pleased with him. The earth will bring forth all that grows for him, and the heavens will pour down rains in abundance. He will live among the people for seven or nine years. From all the good that God will bestow on the inhabitants of the earth, the dead will wish to come to life again.[20]

There are numerous traditions that convey these meanings in your books. I believe we have cited enough reports to make our point.

The Objection Raised by One of the Authors:

Dr. Fahimi: The author of the book entitled: Al-Mahdiyya fi al-islam writes:

Muhammad b. Isma'il Bukhari and Muslim b. Hajjaj Nishaburi, the compilers of the two most authentic books of the Sunni hadith, who recorded these traditions meticulously and with extreme caution in verifying their reliability, have not included traditions about the Mahdi in their Sihah. Rather, these traditions are part of the compilations of Sunan of Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i and Musnad of Ahmad b. Hanbal. These compilers were not careful in selecting traditions and their hadith-reports were regarded by scholars like Ibn Khaldun as weak and unacceptable.[21]

Ibn Khaldun and the Traditions about the Mahdi:

Mr. Hoshyar: To elaborate on the topic of the reliability of the hadith on the Mahdi, let us cite Ibn Khaldun's opinion on the matter in full:

It has been well known (and generally accepted) by all Muslims in every epoch, that at the end of time a man from the family (of the Prophet) will without fail make his appearance, strengthen Islam and make justice triumph. Muslims will follow him, and he will gain domination over the Muslim realm. He will be called the Mahdi....Such traditions have been found among the traditions that religious leaders have published. They have been critically discussed by those who disapprove of them and have been often refuted by means of certain traditions.[22]

This was the summary of the opinions held by Ibn Khaldun. He then proceeds to mention the transmitters of these hadith and critically evaluate their reliability or lack thereof, as held by the scholars of transmitted sciences.

Let us respond to some points raised by Ibn Khaldun:

1: Uninterrupted Transmission (tawatur) of the Traditions

Numerous Sunni scholars have recognized the traditions about the Mahdi to have been uninterruptedly transmitted. They have in fact transmitted them uninterruptedly from other sources without raising objections to them. Among these scholars are Ibn Hajar Haythami, in al-Sawa'iq al-muharriqa; Shablanji, in Nur al-absar; Ibn Sabbagh, in al-Fusul al-muhimma; Muhammad al-Saban in As'af al-raghibin; Kanji Shafi'i in al-Bayan; and so on. Such an uninterrupted transmission of these traditions compensates for the weakness found in their chain of transmission. According to 'Asqalani, a tradition that is reported in every generation uninterruptedly leads to establish its veracity, and an action taken based upon it is not subject to dispute.[23]

A similar opinion is held by Sayyid Ahmad, Shaykh al-Islam and the Shafi'ite Mufti, who writes that the traditions about the Mahdi are numerous and mutawatir. Among these some are 'sound' (sahih), others are 'good' (hasan), and still others are 'weak' (da'if). However, he says, the majority are weak traditions and, since they are numerous and their reporters are also in large number, some go towards strengthening the others, and lead to their acceptance as reliable.[24]

Among those who narrate the hadith about the Mahdi are a group of prominent companions of the Prophet. These include: 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, Abu Sa'id al-Khudari, Qays b. Jabir, Ibn 'Abbas, Jabir, Ibn Mas'ud, 'Ali b. Abi Talib, Abu Hurayra, Thawban, Salman Farisi, Hudhayfa, Anas b. Malik, Umm Salma, and others. Among the Sunni authors who have included these traditions in their books are: Abu Dawud, Ahmad b. Hanbal, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Nasa'i, Tabrani, Abu Nu'aym Isfahani and numerous other compilers of the hadith.

2: Weak Transmission Is Not an Issue in All Places:

It is important to state that most of the persons who are recognized as being weak in their transmission and are mentioned by Ibn Khaldun have also been accredited by others. In fact, even Ibn Khaldun mentions some of them. Moreover, the weakening of the transmission of a hadith does not have absolute preponderance over its being approved as reliable because special characterization is a subjective matter. Whereas a certain characteristic of a tradition might render it a weak tradition in accord with one researcher, another investigator might find quite the opposite. Hence, the opinion of the former can be accepted only if the reason for rendering a tradition weak is made clear.

In his Lisan al-mizan 'Asqalani says: The weakening of the tradition assumes preponderance over its accreditation when the reason for doing so is made explicit. Otherwise, the opinion of the person rendering the tradition weak has no value.

Abu Bakr Ahmad b. 'Ali al-Baghdadi writes: It must be pointed out that as for the traditions accepted and used as evidence by Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud, although some of their transmitters have been criticized and have been declared unreliable, the reason for their criticism and unreliability has not been well established and proven by them. Moreover, he says, if weakness and reliability of a tradition are of equal weight, then its weakening is preponderant. However, if weakness is less obvious than reliability, then there could be varying opinions about that tradition. The best way to resolve this problem of authenticating a tradition is to say that if the reason for weakness is mentioned and if that reason is convincing, then weakness has preponderance over reliability. But if the reason is not mentioned, then reliability has preponderance over weakness. [25]

To be sure, we can not generalize and state with absolute certainty that in all places of dispute over the reliability of a tradition, its being regarded as weak has preponderance over its being considered as reliable. If all points of weakness are made effective, then there would be very few traditions that would be spared from criticism. It is, therefore, important that in such cases careful analysis and rational evaluation are carried out to clarify the truth.

3: Unreliable Simply Because of Being Shi'i

Often a tradition is deemed weak because its transmitter is a Shi'i. For example, Ibn Khaldun, rejected Qutn b. Khalifa, one of the transmitters of the Mahdi traditions, because he was a Shi'i. In this connection he quotes 'Ijli saying that Qutn was good in hadith, but he was somewhat inclined towards Shi'ism. Again, according to Ahmad b. 'Abd Allah b. Yunus and Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash, Qutn was unreliable and his traditions were rejected because of his 'corrupt' beliefs. On the other hand, there were others like Ahmad b. Hanbal, Nasa'i, and so on, who accredited him and regarded his traditions reliable.[26]

Another transmitter by the name of Harun was also regarded as weak because, as Ibn Khaldun tells us, he and his sons were Shi'ites. Some hadith scholars regarded Yazid b. Abu Ziyad a weak transmitter because "he was the leader of the Shi'is" and that he was among the Shi'is of Kufa. Commenting on 'Ammar al-Dhahabi, Ibn Khaldun tells us that although prominent traditionists like Ahmad b. Hanbal, Nasa'i and others had regarded him reliable, Bishr b. Marwan, because of his Shi'ism, considered him weak. Also 'Abd al-Razzaq b. Humam's traditions were regarded as weak because he narrated traditions relating the merits of the family of the Prophet and was famous for his Shi'ism. [27]



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