We have so far talked about the revolution and the uprising of Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs). In this chapter we shall discuss his physical and moral characteristics as well as his miracles by quoting hadiths.
‘Umran ibn al-Husayn said: I said to the Messenger of Allah (S): “Kindly describe that man (al-Mahdi) to me and mention some of his characteristics.” The Prophet (S) said: “He is from my progeny; his stature is that of the men of the Children of Israel—firm and robust; at the time when my ummah is in difficulty and affliction, he will rise up; the color of his countenance is similar to that of the Arabs; his appearance is like that of a forty-year old; his face will shine like that of a half moon; he will fill the earth with justice and equity when it would have been full of oppression and injustice; he will take charge of affairs for twenty years and he will conquer all the cities of kufr such as Constantinople and Rome…”1
Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (‘a) said: “…God will extend the age of Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) during the period of occultation (ghaybah). Thereafter, by His infinite power, He will let him appear in the form of a young man less than forty years old.”2
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “During the advent of Hadrat al-Qa’im (‘atfs), the people will deny him and no one will cling to him except those with whom God has made a covenant in the ‘alam adh-dharr.3 He (‘atfs) will appear with a perfect, proportioned (muwaffaq) and normal young face.”4
The Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said: “At the time of the uprising of al-Mahdi (‘atfs), his age will be between thirty and forty.”5
Marwi said: I asked Imam ar-Rida (‘a): “What is the sign and symbol of your Qa’im at the time of his uprising and appearance?” The Imam (‘a) answered: “The sign is that he (‘atfs) would be old but he will appear young such that anyone who would look at him will think that he (‘atfs) is forty years old or even younger. Another sign is that the passage of time will not render him old till such time that his life would end.”6
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “Certainly, like Ibrahim Khalilullah (Abraham the Friend of Allah), Wali Allah (Friend of Allah) (Imam al-Mahdi) will be one hundred and twenty years old, and he will appear with a youthful perfect thirty-year-old face and visage.”7
The late Majlisi said: “Perhaps it (one hundred and twenty years) means the term of his (‘atfs) governance and rule, or that it is his age but God has extended it.”
What is meant by the word “proportioned” (muwaffaq) is the normalcy of the bodily limbs and it is an allusion to his being in middle age or the last phase of youth.8
There are also other statements concerning the age of Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) at the time of the advent (zuhur). Artat said: “Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will be sixty years old (at the time of the advent).”9 Ibn Hammad said: “Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will be eighteen years old.”10
Abu Basir said: I said to Imam as-Sadiq (‘a): “I have heard from your father that the Imam of the Time (‘atfs) has a broad chest and wide shoulders.” He (‘a) said: “O Abu Muhammad! My father tried on the armor of the Prophet (S) but it was so big for him that it would touch the floor. I also put it on but it was too large for my stature. That armor is as appropriate and fitting for Hadrat al-Qa’im (‘atfs) as it was for the Prophet (‘atfs). Its lower portion is short to the extent that anyone who saw it would think that they have formed a knot around it.”11
Riyan ibn Salt said: I asked Imam ar-Rida (‘a): “Are you the master of this affair?” He (‘a) replied: “I am the Imam and master of the affair but not the master of the affair who will fill the earth with justice and equity at the time when it would be full of oppression and injustice. How could I be the master of that affair when you can see my physical limitations?
Hadrat al-Qa’im is he who, at the time of his advent, will be of old age but he will look young. He will have a strong and well-built body such that if he would extend his hand toward the largest tree, he would be able to uproot it; if he shouted across the mountains, the rocks will crack and be pulled up. He will have the staff of Musa (Moses) (‘a) and the ring of Sulayman (Prophet Solomon) (‘a).”12
Like the other infallible Imams, Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will have special moral excellences. As the Infallibles (‘a) are perfect human beings and are the models and exemplars of mankind in every aspect, they have the most excellent morality.
Hadrat ar-Rida (‘a) said: “Al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will be the most knowledgeable, humble and virtuous man (of his time). Of all men (during his time) he will be the most forgiving, brave and pious.”13
Ka‘b said that Hadrat al-Mahdi’s (‘atfs) fear of and submissiveness to God is like the submissiveness of the eagle to its two wings.14 Perhaps, what is meant by Ka‘b is that although the eagle is a powerful bird, this power depends on the degree of the assistance of its two wings. If the wings would not assist it for only a moment, it will fall to the ground.
Similarly, although Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) would be the most powerful divine leader, this power emanates from the Essence of God, the Exalted. If God would not help him for one moment, he will not have any capability to continue his work. Therefore, in facing the Divine Essence he has the utmost submissiveness, obeisance and fear.
Based on Ibn Tawus’ narration,15 the submissiveness of al-Mahdi (‘atfs) to God has been likened to the submissiveness of the two points of a spear. The speed of action and precision involved in aiming at a target and throwing a spear depend on its two points which are like two wings; if one point is curved, it will miss the target.
Perhaps, it means that the power of al-Mahdi (‘atfs) emanates from God and totally depends on divine succor.
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “Why are you in a hurry for the advent of Hadrat al-Mahdi? God knows that his clothing is rough and coarse; his food is barley bread; his government is the government of the sword; and his death is at the point of the sword.”16
‘Uthman ibn Hammad said: I was present in the assembly of Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) when a person said to the Imam (‘a): “‘Ali ibn Abi Talib used to wear coarse clothing that cost only four dirhams while you wear valuable clothing!” In reply, the Imam (‘a) said: “‘Ali (‘a) used to wear that clothing, which was not condemnable and detestable at that time.”
The best clothing in every period is the clothing of the people of that period. At the time when our Qa’im would stage the uprising, he will wear something similar to the clothing of ‘Ali (‘a) and he will adopt the policy and course of action of ‘Ali (‘a).”17
The hadiths tell something about the special garment of Hadrat al-Qa’im (‘a) at the time of his advent. Some mention the shirt of the Messenger of Allah (S) while others mention the shirt of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) (‘a) as his garments at the time of his advent.
Ya‘qub ibn Shu‘ayb said: Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “Would you not like me to show you the shirt to be worn by Hadrat al-Qa’im at the time of his advent?” I said: “Of course, I’d like to see it.” The Imam (‘a) asked for a small chest. He opened it and took a denim shirt out of it and opened it. There was a blood stain in the corner of its left sleeve.
The Imam (‘a) said: “It is the shirt of the Prophet (S) which he was wearing on the day when his four front teeth were broken (in the Battle of Uhud). Hadrat al-Qa’im will stage the uprising wearing this shirt.” I kissed the blood (stain) and put it on my eyes. Then, the Imam (‘a) wrapped up the clothing and returned it.18
Mufaddal ibn ‘Umar said: Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “Do you know what the shirt of Yusuf (Joseph) was?” I said: “No.” The Imam (‘a) said: “Since they kindled a fire for Ibrahim (Abraham) (‘a), Jibra’il (Archangel Gabriel) brought a shirt for him and let him wear it so that the heat and cold would not harm him. As the time of his departure from the world arrived, he wrapped it in a prayer cover and placed it on the arms of his son Ishaq (‘a).
Ishaq gave it in turn to his son Ya‘qub (Jacob) (‘a). When Yusuf (‘a) was born, Ya‘qub placed it on the arms of Yusuf. Something happened to Yusuf and he became the ‘Aziz of Egypt. When Yusuf brought it out from the two prayer covers, Ya‘qub smelled it and made the statement which can be read in the Qur’an regarding Yusuf: “I sense the scent of Joseph, if you will not consider me a dotard.”19 It is the same shirt that has come down from heaven.”
I asked: “May I be your ransom! In whose possession is the shirt now?” The Imam said: “It is in the possession of its owner; the shirt will be with our Qa’im when he appears.” Then the Imam said: “Any knowledge or any other things acquired as a legacy by any prophet are all bequeathed to Muhammad (S).”20
The Messenger of Allah (S) said to ‘Ali (‘a): “When our Qa’im rises up and the mission of his advent arrives, he will have a sword that will tell him: ‘O Friend (wali) of Allah! Rise up and slay your enemies’.”21
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “During his advent Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will wear the shirt the Prophet (S) had worn during the Battle of Uhud as well as the Prophet’s turban and armor on his body. He will take hold of Dhu’l-Fiqar, the sword of the Prophet (S), unsheathe it and for the period of eight months the slain among the wicked will be piled in mounds of corpses.”22
Jabir Ja‘fi reported that Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will appear along with his vizier and three hundred or so (thirteen) persons of his followers in Mecca between the station of rukn and maqam having the covenant and instruction of the Prophet (S) as well as his (S) banner and weapon.
Then, the harbinger from the sky above Mecca will call out the Imam’s name and the wilayah (guardianship) such that all the people on earth will hear that name; his name is that of the Prophet (Muhammad) (S).”23
One of the salient features of Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) is that he can know the inner personalities of people through their faces; he would be able to distinguish pious from impious personalities, and with the same knowledge of the remuneration of their deeds, he will deal with the corruptors.
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “When Hadrat al-Qa’im rises up, no one will be left except the person he knows to be a righteous and good, or the deviant and corrupt.”24
The Imam (‘a) also said: “When our Qa’im rises up, he will recognize our enemies from their faces. Then he will take them in their foreheads (heads) and feet (and apprehend them), and he himself along with his supporters will slay them with the sword.”25
He similarly said: “When the Qa’im of Muhammad’s Progeny (‘a) rises up, he would be able to distinguish his friends from his enemies through his power of recognition (of inner personalities of others).”
Mu‘awiyah Dehni said that concerning the verse of the Qur’an which states that: “The guilty will be recognized by their mark; so they will be seized by the forelocks and the feet,”26 Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “O Mu‘awiyah! What do others say about it?” I replied: “They imagine that on the Day of Resurrection God will recognize the sinners from their faces and they (the angels) will take them from their hair in the front of the head and their feet, and they will throw them in the fire.”
The Imam (‘a) said: “What need does God have for the faces of the sinners in order to recognize them as He created them?” I asked: “What is the meaning of that verse then?” He (‘a) answered: “When Hadrat al-Qa’im (‘a) rises up, God will grant him the power to know inner personalities and he will order the capture of the infidels from their heads and feet and that they be struck severely with the sword.”27
At the end of time, although the people will be waiting passionately for the establishment of a powerful government, which at the same time, champions the cause of the oppressed, they would not be optimistic about most current governments. They would not accept the statement of any party or group, and in principle, they would not regard anybody capable of reviving order in a global society and of stabilizing the chaotic world.
As such, anyone who claims to be the one to put order in society and spread security in the world must possess power beyond that of other human beings, and to prove this point necessitates the performance of miracles and extraordinary acts. Perhaps, it is owing to this that as soon as he appears Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘a) will embark on performing a series of miracles and wonders. He will point to a flying bird and it will immediately descend on his hand. He will stick a dry piece of wood in the barren ground and it will immediately turn green, sprouting twigs and leaves.
These works of wonder will prove to the people that they are dealing with a person who is in control of, and has discretion over, the heaven and the earth by the decree of God. These miracles are glad tidings for the people who, for years, and in fact, for centuries had been under the pressure and wrath of the heaven and earth; people who have been subjected to the aggression of warplanes and bombs over their heads. They would have made many sacrifices, but they were not able to find any power to hinder all these aggressions. But now they would be facing a man who would seem to have control of the heaven and the earth and all the things in between.
People who, till yesterday were suffering from such famine that they had to endure all kinds of afflictions and adversities just to procure their daily bread and had been subjected to severe economic strangulation as the result of drought and lack of agricultural products, would now be meeintg a person who, by just pointing a finger, will make barren ground fertile, fresh and green, and make water and rain available.
People who had been afflicted with incurable diseases will now meet a person who could cure even them and revive the dead. These are the miracles and wonders that bespeak of the power, sincerity and truthfulness of the words of this heavenly leader. In a nutshell, the people of the world would believe that this giver of glad tidings has no similarity with any of the preceding false claimants, and that he is the same true savior, the Remainder of Allah (baqiyyatullah) and the Promised Mahdi.
The miracles of al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will sometimes be shown to his combatants in order to strengthen their faith and conviction and at other times to his enemies and those who pose threats in order for them to believe in him (‘atfs).
Now, we shall present some of these miracles and wonders.
The Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said: “Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will meet on his way a descendant of Imam al-Hasan (‘a) (Sayyid) who will have twelve thousand combatants with him. The Sayyid will be occupying a lofty station and regard himself more deserving of the leadership.
In reply to him, the Imam (‘atfs) will say: ‘I am the Mahdi.’ The Sayyid will ask: ‘Do you have any proof and sign so that I can pay allegiance to you?’ The Imam will point to a bird flying in the sky and it will descend upon his hands. Then, by the power of God, it will start talking and bear witness to the Imamate (imamah) of Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs).
“In order to give further proof to the Sayyid, the Imam (‘a) will stick a piece of wood in the ground and it will turn green and sprout twigs and leaves. Again, the Imam (‘atfs) will pick up a stone from the ground, and by just a slight pressure, it will be broken into small pieces like soft paste.
“By witnessing those miracles, the Sayyid will believe in the Imam (‘a). He and all his forces will submit to the Imam (‘a) and the Imam will designate him as the commander of the frontline forces.”28
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “When the Imam (‘a) appears in the city of Mecca and wants to proceed to Kufah, he will announce to his forces that they should not bring any water, food and other provisions. The Imam (‘a) will have with him the stone of Musa (‘a) (Prophet Moses) through which twelve springs gushed forth from the ground. Wherever they will stop along the way, he will set it up and springs will gush forth from the ground. Anyone who is hungry will be satisfied by drinking from it and anyone who is thirsty will be quenched by drinking from it.
“The soldiers will be provided with provisions and water along the way in this manner until they arrive at the city of Najaf. By setting up the stone there, water and milk will gush forth from the ground which will satisfy anyone who is hungry and thirsty.”29
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “When Hadrat al-Qa’im (‘a) appears, he will have with him the banner of the Prophet (S), the ring of Sulayman (‘a) (Prophet Solomon), and the stone and staff of Musa (‘a) (Prophet Moses). Then, by his order it will be announced that his soldiers should not bring provisions for themselves and forage for their four-footed animals (horses).
Some of their companions will say: ‘He wants to bring us to perdition and annihilate our horses through thirst and hunger.’ The companions will set out along with the Imam. At the first place where they arrive, the Imam will strike the stone against the ground, and water and food for the forces as well as forage for the animals will emerge, and they will consume them until they arrive at the city of Najaf.”30
Imam ar-Rida (‘a) said: “When Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) appears, the earth will be illuminated by the light of God and it will move quickly under his feet (and thus he would be able to quickly traverse great distance) and he will not have a shadow.”31
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said to a person named Surah: “Dhu’l-Qarnayn had the option to choose either the gentle or the wild cloud. He chose the former and the latter is preserved for Hadrat as-Sahib (‘atfs).”32
Surah asked: “What do you mean by the wild cloud? The Imam (‘atfs) replied: “It refers to clouds having thunder, lightning, storms, and thunderbolts. Whenever there is such a cloud, your Sahib is riding on it. Undoubtedly, he will ride on the cloud and by means of it he will go to the higher sky, and he will traverse the seven skies and earths/planets (zamin) five of which are habitable while the other two are in ruins.”33
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “God gave Dhu’l-Qarnayn the option to choose between the wild and gentle clouds. He chose the gentle cloud and it is the cloud without thunder and lightning, and if he had chosen the wild cloud, he would not have been able to utilize it because God has preserved it for Hadrat al-Qa’im (‘atfs).”34
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “When the Imam of the Time (‘a) appears, he will set out toward Kufah. He will rule there for seven years each year of which would be equivalent to ten years of yours. Then, he will do whatever God wishes.” It was asked: “How could the years become longer?” The Imam (‘a) answered: “God will order the (solar) system (and the angel managing it) to reduce the speed of its movement. As such, the days and years will become longer.”
It was said: “It is said that if there were the least change in their (units of the system) movement, they will experience trouble and perish.” The Imam (‘a) said: “This statement is that of the materialists and deniers of God, but the Muslims (who believe in God as the Regulator of them all) do not make such a statement.”35
Regarding al-Mahdi’s (‘atfs) conquest of Constantinople, Ka‘ab said: “He will put the banner on the ground and approach the water to perform ritual ablution (wudu) for the morning prayer (salah as-subh) and the water will be taken away from him. He will remove the banner and move toward the water until such time that an area will be cleared of water.
Then, he will place the banner on the ground and call the attention of the soldiers, saying: “O people! God will split the sea for you just as He did for the Children of Israel.” Thereafter, the soldiers will pass through the sea and will arrive in the city of Constantinople. The soldiers will utter takbir (the shout of Allahu akbar (Allah is great)) and the walls of the city will crumble.
They will utter takbir again and the walls will crumble again. The third time that they utter takbir, the walls at the center of the twelve watchtowers will collapse.”36
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “…Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will arrive in Constantinople. At that time, the castle will have seven walls. The Imam will utter takbir seven times and the walls will crumble and by slaying many of the Byzantines it will be conquered by Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) and a group will also embrace Islam.”37
In this regard, the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said: “…Afterward, Hadrat al-Mahdi and his supporters will continue to move and the walls of every castle of the Byzantines they pass by will crumble with their recitation of “La ilaha illallah” (There is no god but Allah) until such time that they will arrive at the city of Constantinople.
They will utter takbirs there and suddenly the gulf38 in the vicinity of Constantinople will dry up and its water will go deep under the ground, and the walls of the city will also crumble. From there, they will move toward the city of Rome and when they arrive there, the Muslims will utter takbir three times and the city will disintegrate like fine sand and gravel in the face of strong winds.”39
The Imam (‘a) also said: “…The Mahdi (‘atfs) will continue his advance until he arrives in one of the cities in the Orient by the sea. His soldiers will utter takbir three times and subsequently the walls of the city will separate from each other and crumble.”40
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “My father said: ‘When Hadrat al-Qa’im stages the uprising… he will dispatch soldiers to the city of Constantinople. When they reach the gulf, they will write a sentence on their feet and they will pass over the water. When the Byzantines see this miracle and magnificence, they will say to one another: “If such are the soldiers of the Imam of the Time, how much greater would be the Imam himself?!” As such, they will open the gates of the city for them and the soldiers of the Imam will enter the city and rule there.”41
The Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said: “…Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘a) will hoist the banners and show his miracles, and by the decree of God he will create many things from nothing. He will cure the sick suffering from leprosy and vitiligo,42 revive the dead and let the living die.”43
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “The staff of Musa (‘a) had belonged to Adam (‘a), which had been handed down to Shu‘ayb (‘a) and after him, it had been given to Musa ibn ‘Imran (‘a). That staff is with us and as I saw it recently, it was still green like the day it was cut from the tree. If something is asked from the staff, it will talk and it would be ready for our Qa’im. Whatever Musa did with it will also be performed by Hadrat al-Qa’im, and whatever the staff is ordered, it will execute and wherever it is thrown, it will swallow all sorceries.”44
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “…Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will appear at the end of time. There will be a cloud moving above the head of the Imam and it will move along with him to cover him from the sunlight. With a clear and understandable voice, it will proclaim, “This is Mahdi”.”45
Finally, based on the statement of Imam as-Sadiq (‘a), “No miracle from among the miracles of the prophets and the executors of will (awsiya’) will remain without being performed by God, the Glorified and Honored, through our Qa’im so as to complete the proof for the enemies.”46