BRIEF LIFE HISTORY OF IMAM MUHAMMAD MAHDI (A.S.)-PART #14

Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website: www.Shia-youth.org.
Assalam O Alykum,
If any reader missed reading any of the eleven Holy biographies, he/she can get access to it from Shia Youth Inc.’s website: www.shia-youth.org (select Homepage, Select Basic Education). All of the 12 Holy biographies have been posted to the website.  Next week part #15 will include A Brief Life History of Umm-ul-Aaima, Sayeda Fatima Zahra (s.a.), insha’Allah.
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BELIEFS AND TRADITIONS:

In Shiaism, Imam Muhammad Mahdi (a.s.) ( “The guided one”), the twelfth Imam is believed to be the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule for seven, nine, or nineteen years  before the Day of Judgment (yawmal-qiyamah,or the Day of Resurrection)[ and will rid the world of  all kinds of evil.

There is no explicit reference to the Mahdi (a.s.) in the Qu’ran, but references to him are found in hadith (the reports and traditions of Prophet Muhammad‘s (pbuh) teachings collected after his death). According to Jafaria Muslim Imams traditions, the Imam Mahdi’s (a.s.) tenure will coincide with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Isa), who is to assist the Imam Mahdi (a.s.) against the Masih ad-Dajjal (literally, the “false Messiah” or Antichrist).  Differences exist in the concept of the Mahdi between Sunni Muslims and adherents of the Shia tradition. For Sunnis, the Mahdi is Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) successor who is yet to come. For most Shia Muslims, the Mahdi was born but disappeared and will remain hidden from humanity until he reappears to bring justice to the world, a doctrine known as the OccultationFor Twelver Shia, this “hidden Imam” is Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (a.s.), the Twelfth Imam.

The term mahdi does not occur in the Quran, but it is derived from the Arabic root h-d-y, commonly used to mean “divine guidance”. The term al-Mahdi was employed from the beginning of Islam, but only as an honorific epithet and without any messianic significance.  In Shia Islam,  in the early 10th century, the doctrine of the Occultation, which declares that the Twelfth Imam did not die but was concealed by Allah (set) from the eyes of men, was expounded. The Mahdi became synonymous with the “Hidden Imam” who was thought to be in occultation awaiting the time that God has ordered for his return. This return is envisaged as occurring shortly before the final Day of judgment.   In fact, the concept of the “hidden Imam” was attributed to several Imams in turn.

SUNNI HADITH REFERENCES:

Sunni hadith make references to the Mahdi: Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is quoted as saying about the Mahdi:

“His name will be my name, and his father’s name my father’s name. Even if the entire duration of the world’s existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left before Doomsday, Allah will expand that day to such length of time as to accommodate the kingdom of a person from my Ahl-ul Bayt who will be called by my name. He will fill out the earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice and tyranny (by then)”.

THE OCCULTATION:

Shia scholars claim that their twelfth Imam Muhammad Mahdi (a.s.) will appear before the day of Judgment, to restore justice and equity on earth. In Shia Islam, the Mahdi is associated with the belief in the Occultation, that the Mahdi is a “hidden Imam” who has already been born and who will one day return alongside Jesus to fill the world with justice. The promised Mahdi, who is usually mentioned in Shia Islam by his title of Imam-i ’Asr (the Imam of the “Period”)(a.s.) and Sahib al-Zaman (the Lord of the Age) (a.s.), is the son of the eleventh Imam. His name is the same as that of the Prophet of Islam. According to Shia Islam, Mahdi was born in Samarra on 15th Shaban, 255 A.H. and until 8 Rabi I , 260 A.H. lived under his father’s care and guidance when his father was martyred. By Shi’ism, belief in the messianic Imam is not just a part of their creed but it is the foundation of their creed.  Shias believe that after the martyrdom of his father, Imam Hasan al Askari (a.s.), Muhammad Mehdi  became the twelfth Imam and by Divine Command went into occultation (ghaybat). Thereafter, he appeared only to his deputies (na’ib) and even then only in exceptional circumstances.

THE IMAMAT WHILE IN GHAIBAT:

In Shias’ perspective, Imam (a.s.)  chose as a special deputy Uthman ibn Sa’id ’Umari, one of the companions of his father and grandfather, who was his confidant and trusted friend, for a short time. Through his deputy, Imam Mahdi would answer the demands and questions of the Shias. After Uthman ibn Sa’id, his son Muhammad ibn Uthman Umari was appointed this deputy. After the death of Muhammad ibn Uthman Umari, Abu’l Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh Nawbakhti was the special deputy, and after his death, Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari was chosen for this task.

A few days before the death of Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari in 327 A.H., an order was issued by Imam Mahdi (a.s.), stating that in six days, Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari would die. Henceforth, the special deputation of the Imam would come to an end and the major occultation (ghaybat-i kubra) would begin and would continue until the day God grants permission to the Imam to manifest himself.

TWO PARTS OF THE OCCULTATION:

In Shia view, the occultation of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is, therefore, divided into two parts: the first, the minor occultation (ghaybat-i sughra) which began in 260 A.H. and ended in 327 A.H., lasting about sixty seven years; the second, the major occultation, which commenced in 327 A.H. and will continue as long as Allah the Almighty wills it. In a hadith upon whose authenticity Shia and Sunni agree, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said, “If there were to remain in the life of the world but one day, God would prolong that day until He sends in it a man from my community and my household. His name will be the same as my name. He will fill (all) the earth with equity and justice as it was filled with oppression and tyranny.”

SIGNS BEFORE IMAM MAHDI’S REAPPEARANCE:

Shias believe that the arrival of the Imam Mahdi (a.s.) will be signalled by the following portents:

  • The vast majority of people who profess to be Muslims will be so only in name, despite their practice of Islamic rites, and it will be they who (will) make war with the devoted followers of Imam Mahdi (a.s.).
  • Before his coming, will come the red death and the white death, killing two thirds of the world’s population. The red death signifies violence and the white death is plague. One third of the world’s population will die from the red death and the other third from the white death.
  • There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria, until it is destroyed.
  • Death and fear will afflict the people of the Middle East. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.

Shia traditions also state that the Mahdi will be “a young man of medium stature with a handsome face” and black hair and beard. “He will not come in an odd year […] will appear in Mecca between the corner of the Kaaba and the station of Abraham and people will witness him there.

PRIOR IMAMS STATEMENTS ABOUT THE TWELFTH IMAM:

The Master of the Command was named as the Mahdi because he will dig out the Torah and other heavenly books from the cave in Antioch. He will judge among the people of the Torah according to the Torah; among the people of the Gospel according to the Gospel; among the people of the Psalms in accordance with the Psalms; among the people of the Qur’an in accordance with the Qur’an.

Abu Bashir says: When I asked Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.), “O son of the Messenger of God! Who is the Mahdi (qa’im) of your clan (ahl-ul bayt)?”, he replied: “The Mahdi will conquer the world; at that time the world will be illuminated by the light of God, and everywhere in which those other than God are worshipped will become places where God is worshiped; and even if the polytheists do not wish it, the only faith on that day will be the religion of God.

Sadir al-Sayrafi says: I heard from Imam Abu Abdullah Ja’far al-Sadiq that: Our modest Imam, to whom this occultation belongs [the Mahdi], who is deprived of and denied his rights, will move among them and wander through their markets and walk where they walk, but they will not recognize him.

Abu Bashir says: I heard Imam Muhammad al-Baqr (a.s.) say: ” When the Mahdi appears he will follow in the path of the Messenger of God. Only he [the Mahdi] can explain the works of the Messenger of God. The face of the Mahdi shall shine upon the surface of the Moon.”

PROPHET ISA (JESUS) TO ALSO REAPPEAR:

According to the Twelver Shias, the main goal of the Mahdi will be to establish an Islamic state and to apply Islamic laws that were revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  The Mahdi is believed to be the Twelfth ImamMuhammad al-Mahdi (a.s.).  They believe that the Twelfth Imam will return from the Occultation as the Mahdi with “a company of his chosen ones,” and his enemies will be led by Antichrist and the Sufyani. The two armies will fight “one final apocalyptic battle” where the Mahdi and his followers will prevail over evil.  After the Mahdi has ruled Earth for a number of years, Prophet Isa (Jesus) (pbuh) will return.

SUNNI AND SUFI SCHOLARS  VIEWS ON IMAM MAHDI (a.s.):

In 650/1252 Kamalal-Din Muḥammad b. Talha al-ʿAdawi al-Nisibini, a Shafi’i Muslim scholar composed his Maṭalib al-suʾul fi manaḳib al al-rasul answering Sunni objections to the belief that the Twelfth Imām was the Mahdi. The Sibt ibn al-Jawzi wrote Tadhkirat khawass al-umma bi-dhikr khasaʾis al-aʾimma collecting hadiths from Sunni sources about the virtues of Ali and his descendants, and at the end affirmed that the Twelfth Imam was the Expected Qaʾim and Mahdi. Among Sufi circles, Abu Bakr al-Bayhaḳī (458AH/1066CE) had noted that some Sufi gnostics (djamaʿa min ahl al-kashf) agreed with the Imami doctrine about the identity of the Mahdi and his ghayba (occultation). The Persian Sufi Sadr al-Din Ibrahim al-Hammuyi (late 7thAH/13th CE century) supported Imami doctrine on the Mahdi in his Faraʾid al-simtayn. The Egyptian Sufi al-Shaʿrani, while generally showing no sympathy for Shiʿism, affirmed in his al-Yawaḳit wa ’l-dj̲awahir (written in 958 AH/1551 CE) that the Mahdi was a son of Imam al-Hasan al-ʿAskari born in the year 255 AH/869 CE and would remain alive until his meeting with Prophet Jesus (pbuh).

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