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  The Teachings of Mahdism and its Capability for Theorizing as a Doctrine

By: Dr. Khurshaid Mazharul Haque Nomani

Source : The Scientific Committee of the International Conference of Mahdism Doctrine

Who is Imam Al Mahdi?

The term “MAHDISM” is a title meaning “The guided one”. Mahdi is a normal man who is going to follow the true Islam. Hadrat Abdullah Bin Masood (R.A) says Rasool Allah (p.b.u.h) said,” this world will not come to an end until one person from my progeny does not rule over the Arabs and his name will be the same as my name.” (TIRMIDHI-1). Hadrat Ali (R.A) narrates that Rasool Allah said,” Even if a day remains for Qiyamah to come, yet Allah will surely send a man from my family who will fill this world with such justice and fairness just as it initially was filled with oppression.” (Abu Dawood-2).

Among the Prophets of God, the foremost and the last is Hazrat Muhammad (s.a.w.s) who came into being to elevate the minds and to place the mankind in an honoured position. His mission was accomplished to a great extent in his lifetime but the very purpose of his teachings and preachings to place the mankind could not be achieved as desired. The re appearance of our last saviour is motivated with an object to fulfill the unaccomplished mission of the last Prophet of Islam. “The awaited one” would fill the world with justice as it was full of tyranny and oppression, so his noble existence is meant to achieve destined end. It is therefore rightly said: 

“ It is now evident that Imam (A.S) is root (base) and the world is the tree spread in branches. Imam (A.S) is before all others in time while the world is lost in time. It is a folly to treat it as exaggeration. It is because of him the world is existing and the creatures owe their subsistences to him only. He is the source of subsistences for the destitutes. The sky and the earth also owe their subsistence to him”(3).

The Prophet of Islam, the one described in the Quran, as one that does not speak of his own volition, but only that which is revealed to him has prophesized the existence and the coming of this Saviour (as), and said:

“Al-Qaem from my ummah will carry my name and my epithet (kunya), his features will resemble my features, his sunnah will be like my sunnah, he will re-establish the people on my doctrine and Shariah. And he will call them back to the Book of Allah. Whoever obeys him obeys me, and whoever disobeys him disobeys me, and whoever renounces him during his occultation has renounced me, and whoever belies him has belied me, To Allah, I complain about those who belie me in this matter, and refute my words in regards to him, and about those who misguide the people from my ummah away from his path.”(5)

The Mahdi is, therefore, the Islamic awaited Messiah. While the people will be pledging their allegience to Imam Mahdi (A.S) a voice from the unknown will come out.

“ This is the representative of Allah,
The Mahdi, listen to him and obey him”

The announcement which will be heard by all those present will establish his authenticity. Another sign which will indicate the authenticity of Imam Al Mahdi will be that in the Ramadhan prior to his emergence an eclipse of the sun and moon will occur”.(6)

Although considering the universality of the concept of Mahdi, the only religion to give a concrete and practical form to this fundamental belief is the Shiites. In Shiite Islam the Mahdi is not someone that will come at the end of time, nor a dream of salvation that will be realized in the distant future, He is here amongst us, sharing our joys and sorrows.

A professor by the name of Henry Corbin said: “To my mind, the Shiite is the only sect which has preserved and perpetuated the link of Divine guidance between man and God through its belief in the Imamate. According to the Jews, the Prophethood, a real link between man and God, came to an end with Moses. They do not believe in the Prophethood of Jesus and Mohammad. The Christians too, do not go beyond Jesus. The Sunni sect has also stopped at the Prophet Mohammad and belies that the link between man and God has been severed with the end of the Prophethood” (7)

It is only the Imami, ithna Asheri’s that have this link to God which will never be severed through, the Awaited Saviour, Imam alHujjat bin alHassan.

Ayatullah Baqir al-Sadr and Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari, both Shia’ Muslim scholars in their book, The Awaited Savior, describe the Mahdi this way: 

A figure more legendary than that of the Mahdi, the Awaited Saviour, has not been seen in the history of mankind. The threads of the world events have woven many a fine design in human life but the pattern of the Mahdi stands high above every other pattern. He has been the vision of the visionaries in history. He has been the dream of all the dreamers of the world. For the ultimate salvation of mankind he is the Pole Star of hope on which the gaze of humanity is fixed… In this quest for the truth about the Mahdi there is no distinction of any caste, creed, or country. The quest is universal, exactly in the same way as the Mahdi himself is universal. He stands resplendent high above the narrow walls in which humanity is cut up and divided. He belongs to everybody. For all that and much more, what exactly is the Mahdi? Surely that is the big question which the thinking people all over the world would like to ask.(8)

Al-Imam al-Hujjah, peace be Upon him, in another tradition wrote through one of his special deputies during the minor acculation: 

“Rest assured that no one has a special relation- ship with Allah. Whoever denies me is not my (follower). The appearance of the Relief (al-faraj) depends solely upon Allah; therefore, those who propose a certain time for it are liars. As to the benefit of my existence in Occultation, it is like the benefit of the sun behind clouds where the eyes do not see. Indeed, my existence is an amnesty for the people of the earth.-Pray much to Allah to hasten the Relief, for therein also lies the release from your sufferings.(9)

What is Mahdism?

In order to have an understanding of Islamic Mahdism, it is necessary to first accept the fact that there is no Quranic scripture referring directly to the Mahdi himself and therefore the concept emerges from a large number of religious traditions known as Hadiths and Tafseers. Depending on the tradition, the Mahdi will take on different titles and names, and was predicted to come from an array of geographical places. Most of these traditions describe a state of immorality and sinfulness which will exist on earth preceding the appearance of the Mahdi.10 In addition to the spiritual battles that are to face humanity at the "end of time", the Hadiths and Tafsirs also mention earthly trials that are to accompany the Day of Judgment and the appearance of the world\\\'s great redeemer, or Mahdi. 

For the Sunnites, the Mahdi is known as the Expected Deliverer. Most Sunni theologians agree on three basic principles describing the Mahdi\\\'s nature and appearance. First, he is to appear in the world when the planet is filled with injustice and inequity. According to many traditions chaos will reign on earth and it will be filled with anarchy. This state of disarray, according to the reports, is to precede the end of the world. Secondly, the Mahdi is to usher in a Golden Age and through his actions restore order to the planet through the rejuvenation of time honored values and pure religious teachings. The third concept revolves around the accepted notion that the traditions provide more precise conceptualizations of who the Mahdi is specifically. This relates to things such as where the Mahdi will appear and what he might look like.(11)

The Shi\\\'as take a somewhat different approach in interpreting the concept of the Mahdi. One striking difference lies in their belief that the Mahdi will be associated with the return of the twelfth Imam. This school of thought believed the rightful successor of the Prophet Muhammad to be Ali, his cousin and son in law. For the Shiites, divine authority passed from Ali, by way of primogenitor, to his sons Hasan and Husayn, the second and third Imam respectively. This line continued through a series of leaders (twelve in number) and, according to certain accounts, the 12th Imam Muhammad al- Hasan al-Askara mysteriously disappeared in his home in the year 878 A.D. It is this figure that is to emerge from the earth at the end of time and bring justice to humankind. (12)

Besides the return of the 12th Imam, another form in which this great redeemer might manifest himself is that of Al-Qaim. This term is typically used in the connection that the Mahdi will return in the form of the Imam Husayn, considered by pious Shiites as the greatest martyr of their Faith. According to certain traditions, the Qaim will finish the task of ridding the earth of tyranny, starting his quest on the plains of Karbila.(13)

The concepts of the final times and Mahdism may not be too familiar to many people, so it will be helpful to begin by defining them. According to Islam, the final times will be a period close to the Day of Judgment when the morality of the Qur\\\'an spreads widely and people turn to live by it. 

People always dream of better things: a prettier view, better things to eat, a better life with no social problems, well-being, peace, plenty, beauty… The final times represents an age that contains all of these “better” concepts. They will be a holy age, when shortages are replaced by plenty and abundance, injustice by justice, immorality by morality, conflict by peace and security, and the Islamic morality that all believers have yearned for down the centuries comes to prevail. 

The hadiths of our Prophet (saas) contain detailed descriptions of that time and its salient features. A number of prominent Muslims who came after the Prophet (saas) have also made important statements regarding the final times. When we look at these accounts, we see that the final times will contain a number of important and consecutive events or processes. The final times will be a period when the world first undergoes terrible misfortune and chaos, but later finds salvation by living by the true religion.

In the first stage of the final times, a number of ideologies that deny the existence of Allah will give rise to great world degeneration. People will move away from the purpose behind their creation, and consequently suffer a great spiritual and moral collapse. There will be terrible disasters, wars and suffering, and people will seek an answer to the question “How can we be saved?” 

This period of the final times will also be one in which religion is corrupted. Islam will have been diverted from its true form by a number of superstitions incorporated into it. Some people, who cloak their hypocrisy and conservatism under a mask of piety, will try to spread these superstitions even wider and to prevent the understanding of the proper morality that lies at the heart of Islam. 

Philosophies that encourage atheism and irreligion on the one hand, and these conservative forces that try to destroy religion from the inside on the other will have pushed mankind in the direction of terrible darkness. 

During the terrible chaos of the final times, Allah will use a servant having superior morality known as the Mahdi (the guide to the truth), to invite humanity back to the right path. The Mahdi\\\'s first task will be to wage a war of ideas within the Islamic world and to turn those Muslims who have moved away from Islam\\\'s true essence back to true belief and morality.
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