Mahdi (A.S.) in the View of the Ahl ul-Bait (A.S.)
The basic faith in the coming of a redeemer is a general human thought and is not limited to a certain religion or sect. Based on this we can answer obscurities like Shiism being the only sect believing in this truth, considering it a myth or referring it to the Jews.
Religion is actually the more complete term for human truths and Islam is a more complete term for religious truths and the Ahlul-Bait’s (P.B.) school of thought is the more complete term for Islamic truths. Therefore, the difference between the Khulafa school of thought and the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.) school of thought on the concept of Mahdi is that the Khulafa school of thought has an incomplete belief in it and the school of thought of the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.) has the most complete form belief in this concept.
One of the features of the concept of Mahdi in the thought of the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.) is that it is not considered a simple concept, but it is connected to the belief in the twelve Imams that is a continuous movement from the demise of the Holy Prophet (P.B.) until the coming of Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) and is interlinked with the true life of man. In this article we will discuss the concept of Mahdi in the Ahlul-Bait’s view from three angles belief, its features and advantages in the Ahlul-Bait school of thought, and its effects and results in the individual and social levels.
I. Proving the Concept of Mahdi from the Ahlul-Bait’s Viewpoint
There are hundreds of traditions from the Holy Prophet (P.B.) that specify the Mahdi and declare him to be from the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.), a son of Fatima (P.B.), a progeny of Imam Husain Ibn Ali (P.B.), and one of the twelve successor. Other than the quantity of the traditions (some authors have gathered up to two hundred and seventy traditions from Shiite and Sunni sources), there are other evidences that prove the legitimacy of this belief. The fact that Bukhari, one of the greatest Sunni narrators, has narrated traditions on this subject is itself a proof. He lived at the time of Imam Jawad (P.B.) and Imam Hadi (P.B.), which shows that even before all the twelve Imams had came to, it had been known through the traditions from the Holy Prophet (P.B.) that he will be the twelfth Imam. It is interesting that in Sahih Muslim alone, this matter has been narrated through seven trends of narration.
Now we must see what the Sunnis have interpreted these twelve predecessors. There are two possibilities why the Holy Prophet (P.B.) has mentioned his face. It is either that he wanted to merely foretell the future events (foretelling interpretation), or the Holy Prophet (P.B.) actually meant to specify his predecessors (ideological interpretation). The Khulafa school of thought legitimatised the system of caliphate and falsified appointment from the start, and interpreted all the evidence differently. We ask that if the Holy Prophet (P.B.) only wanted to predict the future, why did he only pointed out twelve If by these twelve he only meant the legitimate caliphs, they were only four and if he meant all of them they were more than that number. This is why many Sunni scholars have tried to specify twelve individuals out of all the caliphs, but they haven’t been able to reach an agreement as of now. In his book Al-Hawi, Soyuti writes “There has not yet been an agreement among the entire Islamic nation on any twelve figures.”
In addition, it is noted in the traditions that these twelve Imams will cover the time span between time of the Prophet’s (P.B.) demise and the end of the world. For instance, a narration in one of the Sunni sources says “This religion will not parish as long as it’s supported by twelve men from Koreish. Then when they die the earth will ripple its people.” And of course, such an event did not take place after Umar Ibn Abdul-Aziz.
Another of the proofs for the ideological interpretation is the fact that statements like “they are all from Bani Hashim” can be found even in the Sunni sources. Of course, there are traditions that are stated differently “they are all from Koreish,” but these statements seem to be alterations. The reason for this is that at the end of the narration it has been stated that some people started shouting loudly in order to create a diversion so others won’t be able to here the Holy Prophet (P.B.).
II. The Features of The Concept of Mahdi from The Ahlul-Bait’s Viewpoint
The first of these features is the birth of His Eminence (may God hasten his reappearance) in secret, which was to enable him to go into occultation and live a secret life until his coming. As we saw that according to the traditions from the Holy Prophet (P.B.), there will only be twelve Imams until the end of time.
Hence, historical facts are insufficient for proving the birth and existence of Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance). We need to take into consideration the mentioned ideological reasons as well. This is because his birth and life have all been in secret, therefore, it cannot be expected that every one knows about it. Of course, some have been able to see him in his childhood and during the minor and major occultations, which also proves the legitimacy of this belief. Furthermore, the conduct of the Abbasid government in treating Imam Askari’s (P.B.) family after his demise is a proof that they knew that this event (the birth of the Imam) had taken place in the Imam’s (P.B.) house. Many of the Sunni scholars have admitted to the birth of Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) as well.
The second feature is that His Eminence (may God hasten his reappearance) reached the level of Imamah (leadership) in his childhood. Of course, reaching Imamah during childhood is not a distinctive feature of the twelfth Imam (may God hasten his reappearance), for Imam Jawad (P.B.) and Imam Hadi (P.B.) were Imams at ages eight and nine. So it can be concluded that childhood Imamah is not a theory, but has happened in the history of the Ahlul-Bait which is a solid historical fact. Not even the enemies of the Ahlul-Bait were able to deny this fact, for they had tested the Imams’ knowledge over and over in their childhood.
Some of the Sunni scholars have raised the question that since a chil cannot be anyone or anything’s legal guardian in Islam, how could one become guardians of the entire Islamic nation In answering this we must say that divine guardianship is an ideological matter not a legal one. In legal matters the individuals are responsible for their deeds, whereas in the matter of Imamah, it is God that is responsible for giving the child the knowledge and power to be able to guide the nation. This has been confirmed by the Holy Quran for Prophet Yahya (John) (P.B.) and Prophet Jesus (P.B.).
The third feature of the Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) is his long lasting occultation. There are usually two problems mentioned about this matter. The first is the possibility of such extended life and the other is proving it for Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance).
Answer to The First Problem logically, living such prolonged life is absolutely probable. The new scientific technologies also show that extending human life is not too far out of reach. Of course, it is not certain yet that it can be done to any one, but this does not interfere with believing in Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) having a prolonged life, which has been granted to him by God’s will. We should ask, isn’t the Holy Prophet’s (P.B.) quick travel from Masjid-ol-Haram to Masji-ol-Aqsa that has been mentioned in the Holy Quran one of those seemingly impossibles made possible Even if it is accepted that the extension of human life is against the laws of nature and that it’s scientifically impossible, it can still be said that as the examples in the Holy Quran, like the fire not burning Ibrahim (P.B.) or the parting of the Nile for Moses (P.B.), this has been made possible by miracle as well.
Prophet Noah (P.B.), who cleared the human civilization of its corrupt context and established an innovated civilization, lived a prolonged life.
Answer to The Second Problem ideologically, Imam Mahdi’s (may God hasten his reappearance) prolonged life is an essential part of the concept of Mahdi in the Alul-Bait’s (P.B.) viewpoint; because, the accompaniment of the Quran and the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.) will not be possible otherwise. Furthermore, there is mention of the Mahdi’s (may God hasten his reappearance) occultation in the Sunni sources as well, which is not possible without a prolonged life. In addition, there are at least three ways to historically prove the Imam’s prolonged life. The first is that there are witnesses of his birth but no witnesses of his martyrdom. Secondly, many people have seen him during his minor and major occultation most of which are great scholars and righteous people including some Sunni scholars and mystics like Mohye-Din Ibn Arabi, Sheik Abdol-Wahhab Sha’rani and Sheik Sa’edo-Din Hamawi. Also, other Sunni scholars have approved of this. The third is that throughout the minor and major occultations there have been continuous verbal and written communications with His Eminence (may God hasten his reappearance) and a great amount of people have lived with this truth and have witnessed its effects on their lives. So, such a matter with this background and scope cannot be made up and false.
III. The Ideological Value and the Humanitarian Outcomes of the Concept of Mahdi in the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.) School of Thought
Other than the reasoning prospective, ideological issues can be studied from their practical effects’ perspective and evaluated accordingly. Nevertheless, if a belief is theoretically proved correct but faces humanistic doubts, the core of the belief will be questionable. Although the entity and effects of the Islamic beliefs cannot be fully understood because of their divineness, we can at least present some evidences of the importance and superiority of the concept of Mahdi according to the school of thought of the Ahlul-Bait (P.B.) compared to school of thought of the Khulafa.
The promised Mahdi has great and exceptional missions, one of which is reviving the humanistic civilization. He has to convert a world full of oppression and tyranny to a world of justice in the last phase of man’s life on earth. A leader with such great burden must undoubtedly possess a great spirit, a knowledge that spans history and a value far beyond all other values found in one civilization or certain environment. He must sense these disorders himself, and be fully prepared for managing the great change. Closely observing the developing phases of false civilizations and the establishment of the bases of oppression and knowing their weak points and points of deviation is itself an experience that has a great effect on his awareness and will in making this historical change.
In addition, the presence of an infallible Imam that is perfect in knowledge and action and is aware of the human destiny will cause the community of the believers to always keep in mind the Imam and the favorable community of his time as a role model for themselves as individuals and as a community. This will also cause the believers to always realize the spiritual and intellectual relation between the heavens and the earth. This effect can only be felt when the relation between the Imam and the believers materializes through the general or specified deputies in a social form, and a small presentation of this political leadership is felt and seen in practice. These sorts of effects, which are the outcome of the positive anticipation, are all products of the concept of Mahdi in the Ahlul-Bait’s (P.B.) school of thought.
 Ali Ibn Hisam-o-Din Mottaqi Hindi, Kanz-ol-‘Amal, Vol. 12, P. 34
 The author has mentioned some of the many historical evidences in his writing.
Ref: Ali Islami