Who is Imam Mahdi (A.S.), Al-Montazar (The Awaited)?
The conflict between good and evil has existed on the earth since the beginning of life. Therefore, this conflict will persist between the two line of guidance and the line of error - the line of prophets and the line of ignorant tyrants.
Indeed, victory was achieved for the Islamic message under the leadership of the pure movement and built the civilization of monotheism. Thus, people achieved wonderful successes in knowledge and faith when they followed his bright guidance.
However, this movement became weak. As a result, a corrupt, ignorant civilization has become active. Accordingly, the movement of Islamic civilizations, has retreated, and during which man has been deprived of living under fairness, justice, and peace. The evil deeds of ignorant civilizations have, again, come back to prevail over man's life. So, the earth had become full of oppression and tyranny to the extent that even the true faithful were about to feel despair and pessimism had not Allah's promise to help and support His great religion prevailed. That which would establish massive justice and put an end to evil and corruption and make great common changes at the hand of the one who will reform people, put the practices of the prophets into effect, and change life according life according to the Qur'an and the purified traditions of the Prophet. He is the one who will guide this community.
This reformer is named "the Mahdi of this umma", by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), in various narrations and that is a true promise proclaimed by the Qur'an and mentioned by other Divine Books.
Thus, al-Mahdi is the great reformer and the one expected. He will destroy the beliefs of injustice and ignorance and fill this earth with justice and fairness after it has been filled with injustice and oppression.
Al-Mahdi in the Holy Qur'an:
Many verses, in the Qur'an, have mentioned al-Mahdi, the great reformer, and, also, he has been mentioned by the commentators of the Qur'an. The following are some of these verses:
"And indeed We did write in the Psams (Zabur) (given to David) after the Reminder (Torah given to Moses), My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth."
Holy Qur'an (Anbia' 21:105)
"He it is Who sent His Apostle with guidance and the religion of truth, that He may proclaim it over all other religion, though the polytheists may detest it."
Holy Qur'an (Tawba 9:33)
"And We intend to bestow (our) favour upon those who were considered weak in the land, and to make them the Imams (guides in faith), and to make them the heirs."
Holy Qur'an (Qasas 28:5)
Al-Mahdi in the Prophet's Traditions:
Book of tradition have mentioned many doctrines on the authority of the leading Prophet (s.a.w.). In the traditions, the Prophet told his community about al-Mahdi and his personality and that he (a.s.) will fill the earth with justice and equity after it has been filled with injustice and oppression. From this, we understand that the existence of al-Mahdi is an Islamic belief which all Muslims believe in.
In his book "Haq Yaqin", Sayyid Abdulla Shubbar, may Allah bless him, has mentioned the following:
"Shi'a and non-Shi'a reported many traditions ensured by many lines of transmission. The traditions bring good news about al-Mahdi. They state that he is in occultation. Among the non-Shi'a who reported this were Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidi, and the author of "Jaami' Usool", and the like. In their books, non-Shi'a have mentioned over one hundred and fifty traditions concerning Qa'im (the one who will undertake the office of the Imamate) al-Mahdi, and, overall, there are more than one thousand traditions in their reliable books. In "Sawa'iq Muhriqa", ibn Hajar has mentioned: 'He (Hassan al-Askari) did not leave a son except his son Abul-Qasim, the proof, (a.s.). At the time of the death of his father, he was five years old. However, during those years, Allah endowed him with wisdom. He was called Qa'im (the one who will undertake the office of the Imamate) Muntadhar (the awaited). It was said that he was called so because he was concealed in the city, so that he was hidden from view. No one knew where he was. Similar (traditions) to this were mentioned by other authors from non-Shi'a. Among them were bin Khulakan, the author of "Fusool Muhima", of "Matalib Sa'ool", of "Shawahid Nubuwa", and the like".
The traditions of the Prophet have mentioned limitations about the appearance and qualities of al-Mahdi. The narrations have singled out and clarified this great character so people would not misunderstand his qualities.
When we consider carefully the characteristics of al-Mahdi (a.s.), we find them as follows:
1. The narrations have underlined that al-Mahdi is from Qufaish. Ahmed and Mawardi reported on the authority of the Prophet (s.a.w.), who said: "I give you good news of al-Mahdi. He will appear when people lead a life full of discords and disturbances. So, he will fill the earth with justice and fairness as it as filled with oppression and tyranny.
2. Al-Mahdi among the children of Abdul-Mutalib. Ibn Maja reported on the authority of Anas bin Malik, who said: "I heard Allah's Apostle (a.s.w.) say:
"We, the children of Abdul-Mutalib, are the lords of Heaven. (It is) I, Hamza, Ali, Ja'far, al-Hassan, al-Hussein, and al-Mahdi."
3. Al-Mahdi is from the pure family of Muhammad. His name is Muhammad. Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal said: "Fadl bin Daleen informed us that Yaseen Ajali- in formed us on the authority of Ibrahim bin Muhammad bin Hanafiya, on the authority of his father, on the authority of Ali, who said: Allah's Apostle (a.s.w.) said: 'Al-Mahdi is from us, Ahlul-Bait. Allah will reappear him on one night.'"
He (Ahmad bin Hanbal), on the authority of Sufyan, said: "The world will not go nor will it come to an end till a man from among my family rules. His name is similar to mine."
4. Al-Mahdi is among Fatima's grandsons: In his book 'Sunnan', ibn Maja reported on the authority of Sa'eed bin Musayyab, who said: "We were with Umm Salama. We mentioned al-Mahdi, so she said: 'Allah's Apostle (s.a.w.) said: 'Al-Mahdi is among Fatima's grandsons.'"
5. The successors are twelve: Some traditions have underlined that the Prophet (s.a.w.) nominated the twelve successors. They are Ali bin Abi-Talib, their last.
These traditions and others denote that al-Mahdi is among the Household (of the Prophet), among the grandsons of Fatima, and among the descendants of Imam Hussein (peace be upon them all). They, also, tell us about the person of al-Mahdi. All these traditions are acceptable and some of them are successive with all Muslims (Sunnis and Shi'as).
In his valuable lecture entitled "The Faith of the Sunnis in al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar", His Eminence Abdul-Muhsin Abbad, a member of the faculty at Medina Islamic University, has collected the names of the Companions (of the Prophet) who reported traditions concerning al-Mahdi, on the authority of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). The names of twenty-six of them are proved.
Among them were great companions and those who had great status and rank. He, also, mentioned the names of those Imams who reported those traditions in their books and in which the names of thirty eight of them are fixed. Among them were Abu Dawood, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Ibn Hayyan, Nisa'i, and Hakim in their authentic books of traditions and others from well-Known narrators and traditionalists.
Abdul-Aziz bin Baaz, head of the Islamic University in Madinah, said:
"The matter of al-Mahdi is well-known. The traditions concerning it are many; rather they are successive. They indicate that the matter of this promised person is proved, and that his appearance is true."
Who is al-Mahdi:
Al-Mahdi (a.s.) was born on the night of the 15th of the month of Sha'ban in the year 255 A.H. At the time of the death of his father, Imam Hassan al-Ashari (a.s.), he was five years old. Thus, Imam Muhammad bin Hassan al-Ashari was born at the time of the Abbasid caliph, Muhtadi; an era full of discords and disorders.
Imam al-Mahdi was brought up under the care of his father, Imam al-Ashari (a.s.), who kept his birth secret, for he feared for him, and to carry out Allah's covenant and promise which they inherited from their grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). Indeed, the unjust rulers, of his time, were seeking him with the aim of murdering.
Shikh Sadooq reported on the authority of Ahmed bin Hassan bin Ishaq Qummi, who said:
"When the righteous successor (a.s.) was born, a letter from our master Abi Muhammad Hassan bin Ali came to my grandfather Ahmed bin Ishaq. The letter was written and signed by his hand, thus: 'The baby has been born. You and all the people should keep him secret. We have informed nobody, of him, except the close relatives and those who follow his succession. We would like to inform you (of this). May Allah please you with him, as He has pleased us with him. Greetings.'"
Sheikh Sadooq, also, reported on the authority of Ahmed bin Ishaq, who said:
"I heard Abu Muhammad, Hassan bin Ali al-Ashari (a.s.), say: 'Praise belongs to Allah, Who has not taken me out of the world till He has made me see the successor after me. He is the most similar person to the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.) in form and manner. Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, protects him during his occultation. Then, He will make him appear to fill the earth with justice and fairness as it was filled with oppression and tyranny.'"
Sheikh Mufid talked about the death of Imam Hassan al-Askari (a.s.), the father of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi bin Hassan (al-Ashari). He said:
"He left behind his son- the one who is awaited (to bring about) the state of truth. He had concealed his birth and hidden his affairs because of the difficulties and the intensity of the search by the authorities of the time, for him. This activity of inquiring into his affairs, was due to ideas that circulated among the adherents of the Shi'a Imamiyya of the Imamites concerning him, and because of what was known about their awaiting him. (Hassan al-Askari) did not make his son publicly known, during his lifetime, and the ordinary people were not able to recognize him after his death."
All these narrations mentioned in both Sunni and Shi'a sources agree that al-Mahdi is:
1. Among Fatima's grandsons.
2. Among Imam Hussin's grandsons.
All Muslims, irrespective of their different doctrines, underline this. However, apart from this, the followers of Ahlul-Bait believe that Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.):
1. is Muhammad bin Hassan al-Askari,
2. was five years old at the time of the death of his father,
3. according to Allah's will been in, occultation, cessation, and hiding. His occultation occured during two periods. These two periods are called:
a. The Lesser Occltation: During this period, he kept in contact with his followers through four specially appointed emissaries.
b. The Greater Occultation: During this period, he stopped keeping in contact with the community after he had made it known. Moreover, he ordered the community to resort to the jurists, till the conditions would be appropriate for him to appear to practise his reformatory role and to establish the state of the awaited Divine justice.
Surely, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) confirmed, in various narrations, the lofty positions of the Imams of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), and to adhere to them and to follow their right path. Among these traditions are:
The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: "My Household, those among you, are like those of Noah's Ark. Who ever embarked on it was safe. Whoever fell short of it drowned."
He (s.a.w.), also, said: "I will leave behind me, among you, two things; if you cleave to them, you will never go astray- those are the book of Allah and my offspring from my family."
All these traditions and narrations indicate that the continuation of the existence of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), besides the Holy Qur'an, and in addition to other narrations, reported from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), confirm that the successors are twelve, while the narration of the Imams of Ahlu-Bait (a.s.) confirm that he is the ninth from Imam Hussein's grandson and he (a.s.) is Muhammad bin Hassan al-Askari (a.s.).
However, the Muslims, altogether, agree on the belief that al-Mahdi is from the Household (of the Prophet) (a.s.), and he is the reformer, and the savour of this umma.
The Political Conditions That Surrounded the Birth of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.):
Historians mention that the Abbasid rulers exposed Imam Hassan bin Ali al-Askari to unbearable persecutions. They, also, talk about the disorderly economic, political, moral, and security situations. Moreover, they talk about the intense fear of the authority of the Imams of the Household (of the Prophet), (a.s.).
During the disorderly period which surrounded the birth of Muhammad bin Hassan al-Mahdi, the Abbasid caliph Mu'taz was killed in the month of Rajab, in the year 255 A.H. Namely, he was killed 18 days before the birth of Muhammad bin al-Hassan al-Mahdi. Then, Muhtadi became caliph on the day that his father, Mu'taz, was killed.
According to the narrations, Imam al-Mahdi was born at the time of Muhammad Muhtadi, whose government lasted for about one year. Then, disagreement took place between him and the Turks, who attacked and killed him in the month of Rajab, in the year 256 A.H. Then, after him, Mu'tamid, took over the office of the caliphate.
During this time the Alawis (followers of Imam Ali (a.s.)) were subjected to various persecutions. Meanwhile, revolts and uprisings took place. Abu Faraj Esfahani has mentioned the names of the followers of Imam Ali (a.s.) (Talibiyyin) who were killed, imprisoned or died from torture in the prisons of the Abbasids.
Ya'qoobi, an historian, also, mentioned other forms of the Abbasid torture and terrorism, and how this oppression prevailed over other lands in its severity.
It is clear that the Abbasid caliphs knew that the divine leadership (Imamate) belonged to the progeny of Imam Hussein (a.s.), therefore, they besieged Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.) and the Imams of Ahlul-Bait after him.
Thus, the Abbasid began their struggle against them. The Imams of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) and their followers suffered more imprisonment, assassination, pursuit and expulsion. They even knew that the divine leadership would end with al-Mahdi, the Promised (a.s.), the son of Imam al-Askari (a.s.).
Sheikh Mufid, talked about the state of fear, and terrorism and pursuit of the family of Ali. He indicated that the Abbasid caliph was aware of the Imamate. This forced Imam Hassan al-Askari to conceal his son and to keep his birth secret. As a result, the close followers of the Imam, who believed in al-Mahdi, faced different kinds of oppression and persecution. He added saying:
"...because of this, all his terrible treatment, in terms of detention, imprisonment, threats, disparagement, degradation and humiliation, occurred for those who were left after Abu Muhammad (Hassan al-Askari) (a.s.)..."
Sheikh Mufid lived during the period of 338-413 A.H. This period was close to the time of the emissaries, namely, close to the time of the Lesser Occultation, which ended in the year 329 A.H.
The Attitude after the Death of Imam al-Hassan al-Askari (a.s.):
Imam Hassan al-Askari (a.s.) died in the year 260 A.H. His death shook his followers, and their attitudes became disorderly. Perplexity prevailed among most of the Shi'ites, so, they asked each other: "Has Imam Hassan al-Askari (a.s.) left behind him a son to undertake the office of the Imamate? Or has the Imamate ceased after him?" The answers were various, and the sects became numerous.
At last, the Shi'ites decided the matter when they said: "Imam al-Mahdi is Muhammad bin Hassan al-Askari. He was born in Samarra' five years before the death of his father, and, it was Allah's will to postone his appearance to fill the earth with justice and fairness as it was filled with oppression and tyranny."
The Occultation and the Emissaries:
Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) had two occultation:
1.The Lesser Occultation:
It extended seventy years from his birth in the year 255 A.H, in the lifetime of his father, with whom he lived for years, or from the death of his father in the year 260 A.H. to the year 328 of the year 329 A.H. During this Occultation, the Imam kept in contact with his followers through his four emissaries, who were:
a. Uthman bin Saeed Umari Asadi.
b. Muhammad bin Uthman bin Saeed Umari Asadi, namely the son of the first emissary, who died in the year 305 or the year 304 A.H.
c. Hussein bin Ruh Nobakhti, who died in the year 320 A.H.
d. Ali bin Muhammad Sammari, who died in the year 328 or the year 329 A.H.
2.The Greater Occultation:
It started with the death of the fourth emissary, Ali bin Muhammad in the year 328 or the year 329 A.H. In this occultation the Imam stopped keeping contact with his follower, his bases, and his agents. This occultation will continue till the Imam appears and shoulders the great task.
The Signs of the Appearance:
The appearance of al-Mahdi, the reformer, is considered as the greatest event in the history of mankind. Allah, the Glorified, had informed the Holy Prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.), of unseen events concerning the appearance of a great reformer, so, the Prophet told his community about this.
Then, the guide Prophet (s.a.w.) ordered his community to believe in the reformer when he comes forth and to follow him. For he will destroy all corrupt ideas, and, then, he will lead mankind to peace through putting Allah's Book and the purified sunna into effect.
To prepare the community psychologically to accept this unseen event, the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the Imams of the Household (of the Prophet) indicated (referred) the signs of the appearance, and drew the attention of the community to them.
It is necessary for us to mention that there are some fabricated narrations and traditions, in the books that have mentioned al-Mahdi, and the signs of his appearance. So, it is necessary to revise them to include the real ones, which the guide Muhammad (s.a.w.) said, and the guide Imam (a.s.) explained in detail.
The Prophet's tradition refer to two kinds of signs social sing and natural sings.
Thus, the social signs are as follows:
1. The spread of oppression and tyranny.
2. Corrupt domination. The appearance of corrupt, ignorant beliefs, morals, and civilizations.
3. Immense scientific progress.
4. Destructive discords and wars. The absence of security and peace.
5. The appearance of the liars and swindlers, who will claim that they are reformers.
6. Rise in prices and economic decline.
7. Reformative movements and leaderships will pave the way to al-Mahdi (a.s.). (People) will call for help to get rid of the state of ignorance supported by the powers of materialism and aggression.
Despair and Hope:
Mankind lived for centuries in the detestable state of ignorance. That was before the message of guidance and the summons of righteousness. During that period, man led a life of poverty, despair, and unhappiness. So, (Allah) sent the guide, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), to save mankind from (those conditions). When the Prophet addressed them, they inclined to him and accepted his summons; the summons of hope.
However, the state of ignorance surrounds man from time to time. Frequent tribulations encompass him, thus, he becomes hopeless and, then, he clings to the Divine message to save him from (hopelessness) and to guide him to the world of righteousness.
"...And there is not a people but a Warner has gone among them."
Holy Qur'an (Fatir 35:24)
As a result, the lights of the Qur'an will shine and the clouds of darkness will scatter. Tyrannical rulers will perish, and, natural freedom and dignity will come back, again, to man.
Thus, Divine favor will prevail in guiding mankind towards happiness and justice in all human times and periods.
It is clear that the existence of the reformer, al-Mahdi, represents the continuous extension of the Divine favor. Man has been summoned to wait for this favor as he had been summoned to wait for the reformatting prophets.
When man stops believing in the Divine Law, nor believes in the reappearance of al-Mahdi, the reformer, oppression, corruption, and error will prevail (over people). This is what Allah, the Glorified, does not permit. Allah has promised man to achieve the succession of the righteous and the appearance of al-Mahdi, the reformer. However, man has forgotten this promise, so, he has become hopeless.
The Qur'an referred to the true summons, then, the guide prophet (s.a.w.) explained it. It is the summons for action, jihad, and reform. In the meantime, people wait for the appearance the promised reformer.
Besides, the Muslim fighters pave the way to the righteous to assume their succession on the earth.
Before the prophets, peoples and nations waited for a prophet to follow. Then, Allah ceased revelation, and ended the prophets with Muhammad (s.a.w.). He decided to continue reform, at the hand of an Imam, from the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.). Thus, the Imam will assume reform according to Allah's Book and the sunna of the Holy prophet (s.a.w.).
Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the matter of al-Mahdi (a.s.), to connect mankind to an awaited reformer, and to work hard to follow the leadership of the awaited reformer. We must ask Allah, the Glorified, to quicken the appearance of this great reformer to undertake his role and task.
We must mention, here, that an historical period has begun, for its signs have appeared on the arena of life. In other words, Muslims, all over the world have understood that Islam is a social regime, and they have begun to revolt against the tyrannical rulers.
These signs are strong motives and elements for hope, which urge Muslims to work hard to establish Islamic life and to put into effect the precepts of the Holy shari'a.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the world.