By: Phiroz A. Poonawalla
Source : The Scientific Committee of the International Conference of Mahdism Doctrine
In the vast field of Imamology, as a cornerstone of Shiite theology, Mahdism embodies the central axis of this theology, covering the most important doctrines of Islam. With Mahdism as the center of its system, Shiism assumes a future-oriented history. Based on divine intervention, Mahdi’s indwelling nature in history, or at least the part of history known as ‘Great Occultation’, creatively addresses the issue of theodicy from the perspective of divine suffering, for it is suffering in the exile of occultation mixed with hope in close proximity to a process history that defines and re-defines an eschatological community of people in the spirit of renewal and resurrection. Historically, this process has manifested itself in various shapes and forms.14
There are two aspects of Mahdi’s existence- Historical Mahdi and Theological Mahdi. For us, the domain of “theological Mahdi,” i.e., the Messianic,is more important and sadly it is precisely this domain that is seriously neglected, disjointed by from critical theological reflections and often woefully mis associated with the historical Mahdist or (post) Mahdist social movements, thus misconstruing the theological autonomy of Mahdist thought with its supposed political manifestations or ramifications.
The content of Mahdist “promise” unfolds in man’s journey with God, in the anticipatory hope of the coming reality of the “expected Savior,” in whom is sustained the faith in the end of human suffering and the celebration and fulfillment of justice. The Mahdist promise presents itself as the epiphany of the eternal present in the world, which can be understood only as part and parcel of a transcendent subjectivity that asserts the self-concealment of Mahdi as a divine matter of “self-revelation.” In other words, God can be known through Mahdi’s absence and the awareness of his indwelling on earth, an awareness which builds the altars of his belief system in the heart of the believer, the individual.
Thus the entwinement of Mahdism and Creation, for it is God’s creative work that extends the Savior from the realm of reality to the realm of eternity. Therefore, the premise of occultation and the promise of reappearance give the Shiite theological form the definitive character – History as eschatology, giving history a progressive nature.
Consequently, strictly speaking Mahdism puts Shiism in a perpetual state of motion, giving it a built-in mechanism for self-overhaul, by virtue of the fact that in the Imam’s absence no one can close the gate of ijtihad. The writer rightly observes:
“The occultation and divine hope in the end of history are two sides of the same eschatological event. They point back to the promises of final reappearance of the savior that can only be understood as the continuation of God’s self-manifestation and self-involving nature in the relation with the world, especially with humanity. In making Mahdi hidden from the people, God limits their knowledge of him, entrusting them with the moral commitment to faithfulness in the promise of salvation. In the eschatological sense, Mahdism is actually about the transcendent self-revelation of God. Revelation as occultation-promised-to-turn to reappearance is actually about the fulfillment of God’s promise, wherein history finds its goal in Mahdi’s lordship over all, the eschatological consummation”.
Teachings of Mahdism
The teaching of Mahdism reflect his great desire to purify Islam and return to the conditionthat existed during the time of Prophet Mohammad( S.A.W).
A fact which no-one can deny is the reality of other religions making development and progress by looking forward while it is for Islam also to look forward but within the tenets of Islamic shariah. However the best approach for the Muslims is to look back at the period of Prophet Muhammad which is undoubtedly the Golden age of Islam. At this point of time, Mahdi has three basic tasks.
1. Tearing down all philosophical systems that deny Allah's Existence and support atheism.
2. Fighting superstition by freeing Islam from the yoke of those hypocritical individuals who have corrupted it, and then revealing and implementing true Islamic morality based on the rules of the Qur'an.
3. Strengthening the entire Islamic world, both politically and socially, and then bringing about peace, security and well-being in addition to solving societal problems.
According to many hadiths, Prophet 'Isa (as) will return to Earth at the same time, and will call upon all Christians and Jews, in particular, to abandon their current superstitions and to live by the Qur'an. As the Christians harken to him, the Islamic and Christian worlds will come together in one faith, and the world will experience that period of great peace, security, happiness, and well-being known as the Golden Age.
As for the day of Resurection
“As for the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyamah), one must distinguish here between the individual experience of eschatological realities and the eschatological events concerning the whole of humanity. Usually the Day of Resurrection or Yawm al-qiyamah refers in fact not to the death of the individual but to the final end of present humanity not the eschatological experience which every individual must understand at the moment of his or her death, but that of the world of the present humanity itself. The Islamic teachings reserve the term al-qiyamah for cosmic eschatological event crowned by the resurrection of creation at well as the resurrection of the individual. More specifically these sources distinguish between the greater resurrection, al-Qiyamat al kubra which is that of the cosmos followed by the resurrection of the whole of humanity and the individual death and resurrection al-Qiyamat al-sughra which the soul undergoes following upon the event of death. What takes place between the death of the individual and the resurrection of the whole of humanity has been debated by various schools of Islamic thought.
The Qur'an also refers to eschatological events which concern the whole of humanity. As already mentioned Islam believes that this world in which we live is not eternal. It has a beginning and an end after which Allah will create other worlds. For He is always the Creator, al-khaliq. But this present world was created with a definite beginning and will have a definite end marked by eschatological events. According to traditional sources, these events involve, first of all, the appearance of a figure whose name is Muhammad al-Mahdi. This appearance is anticipated on the basis of the hadith of the Prophet who said that where oppression and iniquity cover the earth "a member of my tribe shall appear whose name will be the same as mine." Therefore, throughout the centuries, Muslims, both Sunni and Shi'ite, have believed that a figure will appear one day who will be the Mahdi, the Guided One, who will destroy iniquity, reestablish the rule of Islam and bring back justice and peace to the world.
Islam sees the function of the Mahdi and Christ as being associated with each other and their coming as part of the same major eschatological events. The coming of Mahdi will coincide with the coming of Christ and there will be termination of the present history of mankind and of time as we ordinarily experience it.
This Divine Personality, the last nomine of the last Prophet of Islam (A.s.), will spread the teachings of Islam in the four corners of the world. He will change the strife-torn, miserable, unjust & tyrannical world into a garden of peace, justice and tranquility virtue and righteousness.
He will gather all the disintegrated true beleivers on the platform of purity and righteous persons, their due status & honour in the society, whilst the enemies, the unjust and evil persons will be degrated and dishonoured. The whole creation-the earth, the sky, the moon and the stars, is in the domain of Hazrat Mahdi (A.S.). The universe is in motion at his instance. The time can be changed by him and not he by the time and environment.
After the revelation of these facts one can understand easily the secret of Imam's longevity and youthful exuberance. All the creatures have to go beyond the frontiers of life to the great unknown first by jumping in the vanguard of youth and then to the tail end of the life called old age by evolutions but the Imam (A.S.) is undisputedly invariable with this evolution and would remain young.
He will then draw strength and support from the Islamic Union and cause religious moral values to prevail across the world. In fulfilling this sacred duty, by the leave of God, he will possess great power, strength and dominion. When the blessed person of the Mahdi appears, by God's leave, the Mahdi's great deeds will be the greatest proof and evidence that this holy individual has actually emerged. It is reported in one hadith that "people will pledge allegiance to the Mahdi, albeit against his wishes.
After the Mahdi comes to head the Islamic world, it will be of no importance whether people refer to him as the Mahdi or not. Neither will a person saying that he does not believe him to be the Mahdi change anything. That is because the predestined event will in any case occur. He, like all the other prophets, will fulfill the duty set out in his destiny and will cause the religion to prevail on earth as the Mahdi of God. The Mahdi will not say, "Accept me," but his destiny will take that form.
The Mahdi is the manifestation of our Lord's titles of the Compassionate and Merciful, and at the same time of those of the Subduer and the Irresistable. Nobody can stand in the way of the Mahdi and the dominion he will have over the world. Atheists, deniers and materialists will resort to various means to stand in the Mahdi's way, but God, as the Subduer and the Irresistable, will cause religious moral values to prevail on earth. By the will of God, however, that dominion will come about through love and dialogue, and God's spiritual obligation.
The entire Islamic world is in any case the army of the Mahdi. However, this army is an army of love, not of bloodshed. Opposition to bloodshed, cruelty, violence and terror is the main attribute of the Mahdi. The Mahdi will cause religious moral values to prevail by means of knowledge, information and culture. As revealed in the hadiths and in the works of great Islamic scholars, the Mahdi will inflict a total intellectual defeat on atheist ideologies, will teach people the essence of the religion and religious moral values, and will wage a major intellectual struggle to turn people to faith and proper values. Our Lord will make the Mahdi and the great intellectual struggle he wages a means whereby the troubles of the end times are eliminated. This feature of the Mahdi is revealed in another hadith:
“The most auspicious of the community of Muhammad AND YOUR PROTECTOR WHO WILL DO AWAY WITH YOUR TROUBLES ... IS THE MAHDI!”
In another hadith it is reported that corruption will come to an end by means of the Mahdi, to be replaced on earth by peace and security:
God WILL PUT AN END TO BLIND CORRUPTION BY MEANS OF HIM (the Mahdi). Everywhere will be made safe ...
According to the information in the hadiths, people suffering from troubles and poverty will seek refuge in the justice, compassion, love and generosity of the Mahdi. In one hadith it is stated that:
The community will SEEK REFUGE IN THE MAHDI as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world, that was once full of cruelty, with justice, and people will return to the golden age of Islam ...
When the Mahdi causes Islamic moral values to prevail on earth, poverty, hunger, suffering and troubles will come to an end and bloodshed will stop, and people will attain the true happiness, peace and security for which they have longed for so long. This climate of love, peace and plenty, which the Mahdi will be instrumental in bringing about, is described thus in the hadiths.
“Once the earth is full of cruelty and enmity, one of my line will emerge. He will fill the Earth with equity and justice, just as it was previously filled with oppression and tyranny.”21
“Heaven will send down rain upon them in torrents, the earth will not withhold any of its plats, and wealth will be available to all.”
“The younger ones wish they were grown-ups, while the adults wish they were younger... The good become even more good, and even the wicked ones are treated well.”
As can clearly be seen from the information in the hadiths, the Mahdi will treat people with love and compassion, provide solutions to disagreements by peaceful means, and patiently call people to faith and proper moral values. The Mahdi's struggle against atheistic ideologies will be an intellectual one, in which he will be victorious, by the blessing of God, using very rational and wise methods. According to the hadiths, this great struggle of the Mahdi's will be waged in great calm, tranquility and order: In this time, neither a man will be awoken from sleep, nor will a person's nose bleed.
The Mahdi will follow the way of the Prophet. He will not wake up a sleeping person or shed blood. No Sunnah will fail to be brought to life, and no bid'at (innovation not sanctioned by the Qur'an) will fail to be eliminated ...
As stated in the hadiths, Islamic moral values will prevail over all the world by means of the Mahdi. He will provide just solutions to tensions and disagreements that will be acceptable to all sides, and all problems will be resolved peacefully. The Mahdi will call people to the compassion, patience, goodness and beauty commanded by Islamic moral values and, in this as in all other matters, will represent a role model for people with his superior values and attitudes. This call of the Mahdi's to people is reported thus in the hadiths:
After performing the evening prayer, he (the Mahdi) will speak in the loudest voice: "O people! I remind you of God. I tell you what your place will be in the presence of God tomorrow, on the day of judgement. God has sent you much evidence and the prophets, He has revealed to you the Qur'an and commanded you to ascribe no partners to God but to maintain your obedience to God and His prophet. Reanimate what is given life by the Qur'an, forbid what is forbidden and assist and support the Mahdi. Because the world is about to experience ill and to come to an end. I call on you to labour with His book, to eliminate superstition and to reanimate the Sunnah'."
Again according to the hadiths, there will be no more enmity or hatred in the time of the Mahdi, and violence and terror will come to an end. Some of the hadiths on this subject read as follows:
Enmity and hatred between people will cease. Scorpions and snakes will not be poisonous, and even children will play with snakes without being bitten… Wolves will be among sheep like sheepdogs. THE WORLD WILL FILL WITH RELIGIOUS UNITY LIKE THE CUP FILLS WITH WATER. Nobody but God will be worshipped. NOTHING WILL BE LEFT OF WARFARE AND CONFLICT
Then the Earth will become safe so that LIONS MAY GRAZE WITH CAMELS; TIGERS WITH COWS, WOLVES WITH SHEEP; and so that children may play with snakes without being harmed.
As can be seen in the hadiths, in the time of the Mahdi there will be great brotherhood among peoples who are now in conflict, and peace, friendship and love will replace all forms of enmity. The moderate, contemporary, rational and civilised Islamic model that will form during the time of the Mahdi will illuminate the whole world.
All this information clearly reveals that the road to be taken by the Mahdi will lead to great cultural progress all over the world and turn people in the direction of Islamic moral values.
The Mahdi is actually here now, but is concealed. The reason for that concealment is to protect himself from political and other forms of attack by atheists, materialists and deniers.
Our first duty is to recognize the Imam, who is the Imam of our Age. This is such an essential task that the prophet has said in many traditions: "He who dies without recognizing the Imam of his age is like one who had died during the jahiliyyah.
Does recognizing the Imam, mean solely that we believe in his existence and then sit idly awaiting his reappearance? No one with any sense of logic and faith in Allah and the last day would agree to this.
To die during the jahiliyyah means a death devoid of Islam and faith. And it is obvious that one who dies without recognizing the Imam of his age is counted a disbeliever.
What is required of us is what the Imams have narrated: Imam Ali said: for our Qaem there is a long absence and it is as if I see the shia, roaming around like sheep during his occultation, searching for their pasture, but not finding it.
(This means that the Shia during the ghaibat is likened to sheep without a shepherd to lead them to the greener pastures, so too the shia will be without an Imam to lead them to guidance)
The Imam continues, for whoever remains steadfast from them in their religion, his heart will not become hardened because of the extent of his absence, therefore he will be with me in the hereafter.
Books of popular Shi’ite theology contain the most minute descriptions of the coming of the Mahdi (The Guided One), as the Hidden Imam is often called. Only God knows the time of his appearing, but some of the Shi?ites seem to know everything else about it! His coming will he preceded by wars, confusion, eclipses of sun and moon, a terrible increase of infidelity and corruption of morals. Men will cease saying the prayers, and will lie, take interest and bribes, build for themselves strong houses, and take counsel with women. Women will enter business, will sing in public, and will ride astride. Muslims will become the most abject of peoples. Dajjal will appear riding on an ass, and will entice many people after him and destroy them. Then will appear the Mahdi. At once his 313 faithful followers, who like him have been hidden for more than a thousand years, will hasten from the ends of the earth to his side. All true believers will join him with drawn swords, and win for him the sovereignty of which he has been wrongfully deprived these many centuries. His armies will sweep over the whole earth, killing all who refuse to submit to their Lord. All former prophets and Imams will return to earth to aid the Mahdi. He will bring to an end all oppression, and will fill the earth with justice. Only Shi’ites will then be found on the earth, and at last the religion and government of all mankind will become one. Following a long reign of these true believers, all will die, and then will come the Resurrection and the Last Judgment.
For many people of education these predictions would be interpreted allegorically, or might be rejected as nonsense. Hut most Sh’ites in Iran a century ago took all these details very literally. The swords which till recent times were hanging in numerous shops and homes in readiness for the coming of “ The Lord of the Age” proved how real these hopes were to many people, and how central a place in their expectations was occupied by the dream of the conquest of unbelievers and the establishment of a universal Shi’ite theocracy in all lands.
The Shi’ite doctrine of the Imamate is closely related to their beliefs about the Prophets. They hold that among and above the 124,000 sinless prophets whom God sent to guide men, there were certain Great Prophets, generally thought to be Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, who in succession were God’s representatives on earth. Each one of these was the Prophet for the whole world for a long period of time, bringing a book of laws from God for all mankind, and foretelling the Prophet who was to follow. Though Muhammad was the last of the Prophets, he was followed by the Imams, who were equal to him in rank, and differed only in that they did not bring new laws to replace those of the Koran. There is. a popular belief that the first thing created by God was the “Light of Muhammad,” which abode in Adam and the Great Prophets who followed him, and which was seen in its perfection in Muhammad and in the Imams who are one with him.
There will come a day in which no cruelty, no injustice, no hostility, no killing, no oppression, no lies, and no corruption will exist in the world. It means that after a period of corruption and ignorance finally the world will be filled with equity and justice. And the reason for not collapsing or destroying the world in future is the expectance of The Mahdi (as) in coming and making man to live a happy life. A period in which only peace, humanity and morality will govern the world.
The Prophet of Islam (SAW) calls that day, the day of light and human dignity.He said :
“ Hazrat Al Mahdi (as) will come in a situation that diversity and degradation among the people is so high that the world will be ruined. He will come and preserve humanity from damage and corruption. Then God will enrich peoples hearts with faith and love”.
So Al Mahdi (as) is not a thought of mere sitting and waiting, not a future telling, but he is a true reality, a special personality who himself expects his appearance. He lives among the people, watches us and we watch for him, he is with our sufferings and desires, and he shares our happiness and our oppressions. His divine life is planned this way, not to make himself appear and wait with other people for the promised time.
Therefore, expectation for the factual savior of the world does not mean to sit silent. Especially in the case of obligations of the religion, i.e, “Jehad” – Holy War in order to set God’s laws we cannot deprive ourselves from the responsibilities , anyway the Muslim’s job is to distinguish the right path from the wrong, especially in calling the people to:
“Enjoining the good deeds and prohibiting the evil”.
Just as the Sun hidden behind the clouds provides us with light and warmth……..,
Imam Mahdi provides us with guidance even though he is in Ghaybat, (hiding) …
In other words, ever since he has inhabited the earth, human has had the wish to lead a social life filled with happiness in its true sense and has striven toward this end. If such a wish were not to have an objective existence it would never have been imprinted upon human's inner nature, in the same way that if there were no food there would have been no meaning for hunger (since hunger is understood when one compares a person who has eaten food and a person who has not), and if there were no water there would have been no thirst and if there were no reproduction there would have been no sexual attraction between the sexes.
Therefore, by the reason of inner necessity and determination, the future will see a day when human society will be replete with justice, when all will live in peace and tranquillity, and when human beings will be fully possessed of virtue and perfection. The establishment of such a condition will occur through human hands but with Divine Assistance. And the leader of such a society is called in the language of the traditions, al-Mahdi (the Mahdi; the guided one).
In this connection a scholar opiones about the sociologists theory of Mahdi.
“The world’s foremost intellectuals are of the opinion that the wars massacres, murders, prostitution and all the evils of this age which are daily in the news are because there is no equilibrium between man’s material and spiritual requirements. The man of today has turned his back on moral values and spiritual riches, although he hs conquered the seas, the deserts and space nd has taken himself to the moon. It is obvious that by relying in force and power he has not established order and justice in the world and that only with technology and the material sciences the happiness of the humanity will not be served. Man has no other resort than to strengthen his social relations on the basis of faith and virtue and to save himself from the vortex of dangers with the guidance of a great world reformer who establish a rule based on justice together with peace, security and sovereignty in the state of affairs, human society is moving quickly towards preparation from the rising up of the age”.
In history there has not been a more talked about subject than Mahdism and the coming of a saviour who will clean the earth of evil and salvation that will have engulfed it. Every religion, every school of thought in its own way has predicted and prophesized this event.
In the different religions that govern the world (either divine or not) such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam there are references to a person who will come as the savior of mankind. These religions have given glad tidings of his coming, although there are naturally minor differences in detail that can be discerned when these teachings are compared carefully.
However one thing that all these teachings have in common is that "A human will come to establish peace and tranquillity all over the earth". Every religion has a different attachment to it, however. The least thing that a human being (regardless of his religion) is supposed to do, is to accept what ALL these teachings have in common. This goes to prove the necessity of belief for "his coming". Thus, the saviors of all these religions who are all expected to come at the end of the time, are manifested in one individual, since the foundation of such belief is established by all. The attachments of different religions can be reconciled on their own tendencies, and thus rejected. The fact remains that the teachings of the previous religions have been under a long alteration process, and only Islam has been guaranteed its survival. Thus we should accept the attachment that the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) has offered us with regard to the one who is coming whose name is Imam al-Mahdi (and, of course, there will come Jesus as one of the Imam al-Mahdi's follower, based on the prophetic traditions).
The duty of the Imam is not only the explanation of the religious sciences and external guidance of the people. In the same way that he has the duty of guiding men outwardly, the Imam also bears the function of "Walayah" and the internal guidance of human. The divinely appointed Imam directs human's spiritual life and orients the inner aspect of human action toward God. Clearly, his physical presence or absence has no effect in this matter. Imam is the representative of Allah (Khalifatullah) on the earth, and is His vice-regent. He is the connection between the heavens and the earth, and is appointed by Allah as the intermediate for the rest of creatures. His existence is always necessary even if the time has not as yet arrived for his outward appearance and the universal reconstruction that he is to bring about.
A divinely appointed Imam is a human, but being human does not mean that he could not have any authority over other human by the permission of Allah. The closer the human is to Allah, the more authority he will have. Closeness to Allah is obtained through obedience and piety. When one reaches that level of perfection, he does not desire anything except Allah's orders. Imam is not divine, but he is fully supported by divine power. He has been given authority as the Quranic verses below testifies. This authority has come from Allah and is also controlled by Allah.
It is not appropriate to confine the deliverer of the world, the Mahdi, to one particular nation. He will actually come to fight against all discriminatory claims of racial, creedal and national distinction. Consequently, he should be regarded as the Mahdi of the whole of humanity. He is the savior and deliverer of the people who worship God. His victory is the victory of all the prophets and all the righteous ones on earth. He will be restoring the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all of the heavenly revelations, namely, Islam; he will revive the pure religion of Moses and Jesus which had foretold the prophethood of Muhammad.
On the basis of rational and textual evidence one can surmise that as long as human beings live on the earth, there must exist a perfect and divinely protected person among them who could personify all the perfect qualities that the human being can possibly attain. Moreover, such an individual must be responsible, both theoretically and practically, to guide humanity. This person is the Imam, the leader of humankind. Having himself ascended on this sacred path of human perfection he takes it upon himself to call others onto those stages and stations. Hence, he becomes the mediator between the hidden world of the spirit and the human world. The bounties of the hidden world descend upon him first, and through him reach other human beings. It is obvious that the non-existence of such a person among people would inevitably lead to the absence of any goal for humankind. Such an absence would necessarily lead to the perdition of human society. In the final analysis, regardless of any other proof, this rational and textual evidence confirms that there is no period in history, including our own age, without an Imam. Since there is no manifest Imam at this time, we can say that the Imam is in occultation and lives a concealed life.
It is important to keep in mind that the Prophet and the Imams had time and again informed the people regarding the major function of the awaited Mahdi, namely, the destruction of the tyrannical powers and the rectification of injustices. Because of this, two kinds of people were bound to pay particular attention to the presence of the Imam:
First, those who are wronged and persecuted and, unfortunately, whose number has always been large. This group will rall around the Imam and put enormous pressure on him to redress the wrongs committed against them and defend their rights. In other words, there will be endless turmoil and chaos resulting from the rising and revolutions.
Second, those who will be in power and a source of corruption and ill treatment of the people. These tyrants will not be afraid to employ any unjust means to remain in power and protect their interests. In fact, they will be willing to sacrifice their entire population as long as they retained power. Since they will see the presence of the Imam as a threat and an obstacle to their own interests, they will be bound to remove him at any cost so that they could continue to rule. In fact, at times the rulers will unite in their elimination of the major threat to their power, namely, the awaited Mahdi. Hence, they will be determined to annihilate the source of justice and equity among the people.
If the Imam is absent the human species will be extinct. If there is no Imam then God cannot be known or worshipped perfectly. Without the Imam the link between the material and the spiritual become severed. The heart of the Imam is like the source of electricity that distributes light to numerous lamps. The illumination and energization of the hidden universe first mirrors on the heart of the Imam and then from there it reflects on the hearts of humankind. The Imam is the heart of the created universe and the leader and guide of humankind. It is evident that his presence and absence have an impact upon these actualities.
the existence of the twelfth Imam and the benefit derived from him are compared to the benefit derived from the sun hidden behind the clouds. To elaborate on this imagery let us remind ourselves of the way natural science explains the phenomenon. It is established in natural science and in astronomy that the sun is the center of our solar system. The laws of gravity protect the earth from falling into an abyss, and permit the earth to revolve around the sun, generating the distinction between day and night and different seasons according to its position in relation to the sun. The thermal energy produced by the sun is the source of life on earth and its light illuminates the otherwise dark earth. This benefit accrues to the earth regardless of the fact of whether the sun is shining directly or from behind the clouds. In other words, all its functions (illumination, providing energy, growth, etc.) are intact even when it shines from behind the clouds. In fact, whether it is from behind the dark clouds or at night when we think the sun is not present, we are still recipients of the sun's thermal energy and all other benefits that are critical for our survival on earth. The existence of the Imam is like the sun behind the clouds that benefits the dwellers of the earth. He is the heart of humankind and its existential guide. In order for his benefits to reach humanity it does not matter whether he is manifest or in concealment.
By doing so we have actually fulfilled our obligation as a follower of the Imam. In return, we have attained the highest reward of having furthered the realization of an ideal society, even if merely by a step. Any rational person can attest to this benefit of striving to further the divine purposes for human society. It is for this reason that there are numerous traditions that speak about the merits of awaiting deliverance through the appearance of the twelfth Imam, and which regard this awaiting as a form of serving God.
Faith in the Hidden Imam and awaiting deliverance through his return is a source of hope and peace for the hearts of the believers. Such a hope is one of the major causes of the success and advancement of the Islamic ideal. Any group of people that becomes bogged down by pessimism and despair also suffers from self-imposed negativism that leads to the defeat of the purpose.
There is no doubt that the social and political turmoil in many parts of the world, the decline of moral and ethical vision, the deprivation and poverty suffered by the downtrodden, the spread of tools of various forms of imperialistic intervention in the affairs of the weaker societies, the arms race among the powerful countries --all these -- have led sensitive and conscientious thinkers around the globe to become concerned and even, to a certain extent, pessimistic about the ability of human society to deliver itself from its self-cultivated gradual destruction.
The only door that has remained open for humanity is the door of hope in the darkness of despair. That hope lies in the divine intervention in human affairs by the sending of a divinely guided leader, the Mahdi, to establish a godly society founded upon the divinely ordained laws. Indeed, it is this hope that gives solace to the disturbed hearts of those who have suffered injustices. It is the hope of seeing that government based on the acknowledgement of the Unity of God which has safeguarded the faith of the people, and has made them firm in their commitments to God. It is faith in the ultimate victory of truth that has made these people seek an active role in working towards social reforms and other related matters. Seeking the help of God under these circumstances helps human beings to avoid becoming hopeless in the face of continued atrocities and wrongs committed against the innocent. The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) laid the foundation of this positive attitude by introducing the universal program of reform under the divinely guided leadership that will undertake to unite human resources in creating the ethical order proclaimed in the Qur'an.
To conclude, faith in the promised Mahdi has made it possible for the Shi'a community to hope and work for the ideal. It has eliminated the negative spirit of pessimism, engendering in it the positive spirit of confidence in the human ability to work for its betterment. The belief has, furthermore, required the followers of the twelfth Imam to fight against the forces of disbelief, materialism, corruption, and injustice, and to work for the government of God, the perfection of the human intellect and the establishment of true peace through justice on earth, and to further human knowledge and technology. It is for this reason that the hope for deliverance during the occultation has been regarded as the best form of divine worship and martyrdom in the path of truth in the numerous traditions reported from the ahl al-bayt.
The Twelfth Imam Endeavors to Defend Islam during the Occultation
One of the orations of the Nahj al-balagha points to the fact that the Imam of the Age during the occultation also is engaged in furthering the cause of Islam and solving the problems faced by the Muslims as much as he can. Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib said:
“They (i.e., Muslims) took to the right and the left piercing through to the ways of evil and leaving the paths of guidance. Do not make haste for a matter which is to happen and is awaited, and do not wish for delay in what the morrow is to bring for you. For, how many people make haste for a matter, but when they get it they begin to wish they had not got it. How near is today to the dawning of tomorrow. O people, this is the time for the occurrence of every promised event and the approach of things which you do not know. Whoever from us (i.e., ahl al-bayt) will exist during these days will move through them with a burning lamp and will tread on the footsteps of the virtuous, in order to unfasten knots, to free slates, to divide the united and unite the divided. He will be in concealment (sitra) from people. The stalker will not find his footprints even though he pursues with his eye. Then a group of people will be sharpened like the sharpening of swords by the blacksmith. Their sight will be brightened by the revelation (tanzil, i.e., the Qur'an), the interpretation will be put in their ears and they will be given drinks of wisdom, morning and evening”.
The apparent sense of this oration suggests that during the time of 'Ali b. Abi Talib, people were awaiting events about which the Prophet had informed them. In all probability, it was information related to the occultation. The presumable sense of the oration suggests the Imam during the period of concealment would live an extremely veiled life. But he will endeavor to solve the problems facing the community with deep insight and will vindicate the sanctity of Islam. He will remove the difficulties and will come to the aid of the wronged ones. He will disperse the group that would have come together to destroy the Islamic foundations. He will eliminate all the organizations that he would identify as being detrimental to the purposes of God. He will provide the necessary preliminaries needed for bringing about a beneficial society. With the blessed presence of the Imam of the Age a group of people will be trained to defend the religion, and will be inspired by the Qur'anic sciences in their resolutions about the ideal Muslim society.
The Mahdi is Islam’s main messianic figure. Al-Mahdi, “the rightly guided one”,is widely believed to be the name of an “eschatological figure whose presence will usher in an era of justice and true belief prior to the end of time.”
Ours is an ge of anxiety and restlessness. A change is imperceptibly overtaking the world. The whole order is disintegrating, the new one is, however, yet to come and history tells us that such ages of restlessness have also been periods of birth for new movements and cultures. This world is in the grip of attention and awaits the coming of Imam Mahdi(A.S), the Messiah.
A significant feature of the present times is the new and widespread trend of Islamic revival. After a long period of stagnation the world of Islam is rising from its stupor. A new awakening has appeared on the horizon and a new life is getting infused into the community of Islam. This trend is visible in every country and at every place especially in the Islamic Republic of Iran and has within its possibilities of becoming the harbinger of a new age.
But the revivalist trend can become the messenger of a new age only if it is accompanied by intellectual revolution- a thorough appraisal of the intellectual and cultural heritage of Islam and its representatives in the world in the language of today. For completion of this the appearance of Imam Mahdi is important.
After reviewing the various Islamic traditions and opinions of the Muslim scholars, let’s now review and walk through a list of what we have learned about the person and the mission and teachings of the Mahdi as he exists in the minds of many of the 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide.
1. The Mahdi is Islam’s primary messiah figure.
2. He will be a descendant of Muhammad and will bear Muhammad’s name (Muhammad bin Abdullah).
3. He will be a very devout Muslim.
4. He will be an unparalleled spiritual, political and military world leader.
5. He will emerge after a period of great turmoil and suffering upon the earth.
6. He will establish justice and righteousness throughout the world and eradicate tyranny and oppression.
7. He will be the Caliph and Imam (vice-regent and leader) of Muslims worldwide
8. He will lead a world revolution and establish a new world order.
9. He will lead military action against all those who oppose him.
10. He will invade many countries.
11. He will make a seven year peace treaty with a Jew of priestly lineage.
12. He will conquer Israel for Islam and lead the “faithful Muslims” in a final slaughter/battle against Jews.
13. He will establish the new Islamic world headquarters from Jerusalem.
14. He will rule for seven years (possibly as much as eight or nine).
15. He will cause Islam to be the only religion practiced on the earth.
16. He will appear riding a white horse (possibly symbolic).
17. He will discover some previously undiscovered biblical manuscripts that he will use to argue with the Jews and cause some Jews to convert to Islam.
18. He will also re-discover the Ark of the Covenant from the Sea of Galilee, which he will bring to Jerusalem.
19. He will have supernatural power from Allah over the wind and the rain and crops.
20. He will posses and distribute enormous amounts of wealth.
21. He will be loved by all the people of the earth.
Today we are living in the domain of such a noble and exalted Imam (A.S.). It is a pity that we are claiming to be his followers but have departed form the ways dictated and directed by him. If we are sincere in claiming to be his followers, we must be attached to him spiritually to free ourselves form the hardship of this world and the world here-after.
As Muslims we should remember that the prophecy about Mahdi is one that will come to pass. The prophecy however does not absolve the Muslim Ummah from its duty to strive in the cause of Allah, oppose injustice and seek peace and betterment of human conditions. Centuries have passed from the time of the holy prophet and there is a good possibility that many more will expire before the advent of the Mahdi. Muslims who are negligent in their duty hoping for a saviour are commiting a grave mistake and are not following the divine decrees ordained in Quran or taught by the Prophet Muhammad(p.b.u.h).
A brief review of the existence of the Mahdi, Islamic awaited Messiah, the worthy culture of Mahdism and its valuable teachings prove beyond doubt its capability of influencing all aspects of human life which potentially can fulfill the mankind needs in every field.
May Allah increase our “ MARFAT” about Imam Mahdi and favour us by following his teachings in letter and spirit in our future lives.
See sources quoted by Mufti M.H Elyas and Mohammad Ali Ibn Zuber Ali, Imam Mahdi( descendent of Prophet Mohammad p.b.u.h)
1. Al Tirmidhi, Sahih Al- Tirmidhi (vol 2, pg 89, V9, pg 74-75)
2. Reference Abu Dawood, Sunan, Kitabul Mahdi, vol 2, pg7
3. Jason Illari, 19th century Islamic Mahdism in Iran and Sudan, reference Signs of Qayamah by Mohammad Ali Ibn Zuber Ali, Chapter 3
4. Quran (3-7-7a)
5. Masnad Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, VI, 84,376; Vol 3, pg 63
6. Mohammad Ali Ibn Zuber Ali, ibid
7. Jason Illari, ibid Reference to the quotation of Henery Corbins
8. Ayatullah Baqir a.l – Sadr and Ayatullah Murtuda Muttahari; “ The Awaited Savior” Tehran, Iran
9. WOFIS( World Oraganisation of Islamic Service), Tehran, Iran. “ A brief history of the 14th Infalliables, pg 18, 1984
10. Jan-Olaf Blichfeldt, Early Mahdism: Politics and Religion in the Formative Period of Islam. (Leiden: E.J Brill, 1985) 1-3
11. Ibid., 1-2
12. Ibid., 7-9
13. Ibid., 9
14. Kaveh Afrasiabi’s speech at London Institute for Islamic studies;Shiism as Mahdism: Reflections on a Doctrine of hope
18. Al Muttaqi, Al- Hindi; Kanz al- Ummat, Chapter Al Burhan Fi- Alamat Al Mahdi Akhr al-Zaman, Vol 6, pg 57
19. ibid, pg 58
20. ibid, pg 11
21. ibid, pg 11
22. Al Tabrani
23. Al Muttaqi Al Hindi, ibid, pg 17
24. Ibn Hajar Al Hythami, Al Qawl Al Mukhtasar
25. Mohammad Abu Abd al Rasool Barzangi, AL-ISHA’AH LI-ASHRAT AL-SA’AH- Pg163
26. Al Muttaqi Al Hindi, ibid, pg 55-56
27. Sunan Ibn Majah, vol2, pg 269, compiled from various sources by Islam tc, firstname.lastname@example.org
28. Masnad Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, sanad 5, pg 277
29. Hadith of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h)
30. Narration of Imam Ali (a.s)
31. Hadith of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h)
32. Jason Illari, 19th century Islamic Mahdism in Iran and Sudan.