Because of the aggression of the big powers, the security of small governments and weak nations will decline, and freedom and security will be rendered meaningless. The powers dominant in the world will make life so difficult for weak nations and will intensify violating the rights of nations so much that they will not even allow people to breathe!
The Noble Prophet (S) described that period in this manner: “The ummahs (the followers of other creeds and schools) will take hostile action against you just like the hungry rushing to a food container.” Someone said: “Will we be attacked because we will be a minority at that time?”
The Prophet said: “Your number at that time will be many but you will become just like paper tigers. God will remove your majesty and grandeur from the hearts of your enemies and sluggishness will dominate your hearts.” Someone asked: “O Messenger of Allah! What is the cause of this sluggishness and weakness?” He (S) said: “Love of the world and abhorrence of death.”1
These two undesirable traits mentioned by the Noble Messenger are enough to prevent a nation from attaining freedom and defending its values, and make them used to an ignominious life under any circumstance even to the extent of losing their religion and the principles of their school (maktab).
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “The advent of al-Mahdi (‘atfs) will be at the time when the world would be in chaos and full of turmoil and disorder with one group rising up against another; neither would the elder be merciful toward the young nor would the powerful have pity on the weak. In such a time God will grant him permission to rise up (qiyam).”2
The extent of the chaos, insecurity and cruelty will also include the highways. At that time, God will raise up al-Mahdi and he will capture the strongholds of misguidance from the hands of the powerful. The Promised Mahdi (‘atfs) will not only take control of formidable citadels, but he will also conquer hearts blinded to the recognition of the truth and spirituality, and prepare them to accept these truths.
In addressing his beloved daughter, the Messenger of Allah (S) said: “I swear to God Who has chosen me in truth! Verily, the Mahdi of this ummah is from the progeny of al-Hasan and al-Husayn (‘a). At the time when anarchy and confusion would envelop the whole world; when seditions would arise (one after the other); when highways and roads would become insecure and groups attack each other; when neither would the old have mercy on the young nor the young respect the old; at that moment God would let a person from the progeny of these two (Imams Hasan and Husayn (‘a)) rise up to capture (and destroy) the strongholds of misguidance and conquer hearts that have been covered by the veil of ignorance and unawareness (and have been deprived of recognizing the truths).
He will rise up at the end of time—just as I rose up at the beginning of time—and fill the world with justice and equity just as it had been full of injustice and oppression.”3
The crimes of oppressors and leaders throughout history have been very dreadful and horrible. The pages of history are replete with oppression, injustices and crimes perpetrated by tyrannical and bloodthirsty rulers such as Genghis Khan, Hitler and Attila4 against weaker nations.
Yet, the crimes that will be committed in the world prior to the advent of Imam Mahdi (‘atfs) are among the most horrifying crimes that can ever be imagined. The execution of very young boys on the gallows; the burning of children and dipping them into molten liquids; cutting human beings into pieces by iron saws, axes, and mills are among the painful actions that governments which regard themselves as champions of human rights will perpetrate. It is the occurrence of such barbarities that will manifest the importance of the government of Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs)—based on the description of the hadiths—as the sanctuary of the deprived.
Imam ‘Ali (‘a) described the painful events of that period in this manner: “Verily, the Sufyani will commission a group to gather the children in a certain place. Then, he will heat the oil to be used in burning them. The children will say: ‘If our fathers were opposing you, what is our sin in that we have to be burnt?’ He will select two children with the names of Hasan and Husayn and will hang them on the gallows. Thereafter, he will proceed toward Kufah and behave the same way toward the children there, hanging two children with these same names at the door of Kufah Mosque.
From there he will go out and commit crimes again. While having a spear in his hand, he will pick up a pregnant woman and turn her over to one of his supporters and order him to molest her in the middle of the road. After the molestation, he will rend asunder her stomach and take out the fetus, and nobody would be able to change such a horrible condition.”5
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “…God has completed His mercy by means of the son of the Prophet’s daughter (‘a); the same person who has the perfection of Musa (Moses), the reverence of ‘Isa (Jesus) and the patience and fortitude of Ayyub (Job). My fellows! During the period (prior to) his advent there shall be despised and abject people and their heads, just like the heads of the Turks and the people of Daylam, will be given as gifts (to despotic rulers).
They would be killed and burnt as well as terrorized, scared and intimidated. The earth would be colored with their blood while the cry and lamentation of their women would be multiplied. They are my true friends. Through them he will quell every sedition. He will eliminate commotions (and insecurities), and he will remove the chains and bonds of bondage from them. May the benediction of God be upon them as they are the guided ones!”6
Ibn ‘Abbas said: “Sufyani and Fulani will go out and fight each other in such a manner that he (Sufyani) will rend asunder the stomachs of women and put children in large pots and burn them.”7
Artat said: “Sufyani will kill whoever would oppose him. By means of saws, he will cut his opponents into two and get rid of them in burning pots. These tyrannies will last six months.”8
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “I swear to Him in Whose hand is my life! The world shall not end unless the time would come when on passing by the graveyard, a person will throw himself onto the grave and say: ‘I wish I were in the place of the owner of this grave!’ This is while his problem is not debt but the sufferings and pressures of the day as well as tyranny and oppression.”9
By using the word “man” (rajul) in the hadith, two points can be deduced. One is that the sufferings and predicaments of that period and as such, the wish for death are not confined to a particular sect, nation or group, but everyone will undergo suffering and pain on account of the deplorable circumstances. The other point is that the word “man” indicates the extent of the pressure and difficulty of that period. This is because men usually can endure problems and inequities more than women, and the fact that men would not be able to tolerate and endure the problems and adversities of that period only shows that these predicaments would be very immense and backbreaking.
Abu Hamzah ath-Thumali narrated: Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “O Abu Hamzah! Hadrat Qa’im (‘atfs) will not rise up unless at the time when fear and dread would intensify, calamities and seditions would prevail (over society) and affliction and misfortune would befall the people. In addition to this, diseases would reach epidemic proportions; an intense and fatal dispute would occur among the Arabs; intense discord among the people would become rampant; religious and sectarian strife would be triggered; and the condition of the people would change to such an extent that every wisher—when he sees the brutality of the people and their violation of the rights of each other—will wish for death every day and every night.”10
Hudhayfah, the Companion of the Prophet, narrated from the Prophet (S): “Verily, a time shall come upon you when man will wish for his death although he would not be under the pressure of poverty and indigence.”11
Ibn ‘Umar said: “Verily, a time will come upon the people when the believer, on account of the magnitude of afflictions and calamities on earth, would wish for his family and himself to ride on a boat and spend their lives on the sea.”12
Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman said: While mentioning the problems that the Muslims will face, the Prophet (S) said: “On account of the pressures to be exerted on them, they will sell free people, and men and women will be ushered into slavery. Polytheists will hire Muslims as mercenaries and sell them in the cities, and no one will be offended by this state of affairs—neither the good nor the bad and the debauchee.
“O Hudhayfah! The suffering of that period will continue in such a manner that they will lose hope, and they will find comfort and relief in bad ideas. At that point, God will send a man from among the purified ones of my progeny and the good ones of my descendants who is just, blessed and pure without even an iota of connivance (with bad elements) and indulgence (in the bad things). Through his assistance, God will endear the religion, Qur’an, Islam, and its people and humiliate polytheism.
He will always fear God and never be arrogant about his relationship (to me). He will neither put a stone over another stone nor whip anyone unless it is just and for the execution of punishment. Through him, God will annihilate innovations and seditions, open the door of truth, close the doors of falsehood, and let the Muslim captives—from whatever region they come—return to their respective motherlands.”13
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Surely, a time shall come to pass on this ummah when the day would reach the night and they would ask one another, ‘Last night, who was swallowed by the earth?’ They would also ask one another, ‘Who is still alive from among the tribe of so-and-so?’ Or, ‘Is there anybody who is still alive from so-and-so clan?’”14
Perhaps, these words allude to the wars and killings at the end of time in which with the use of advanced weapons of mass destruction, every day more people will be killed and perhaps because of the mounting degree of sins, the earth will swallow its inhabitants.
The Noble Prophet (S) said: “Among the signs of the Day of Resurrection is paralyzing diseases and sudden death.”15 He (S) also said: “The Day of Resurrection shall not come to pass unless the “white death” occurs.” He was asked: “O Messenger of Allah! What is “white death”?” He (S) answered: “Sudden death”.16
The Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said: “Before the advent of the Qa’im (‘atfs), there will be the ‘red death’ and ‘white death’… The ‘white death’ is plague.”17
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (‘a) said: “The Qa’im (‘atfs) will not rise up until there comes a time when intense fear becomes dominant and prior to it there would be contagious diseases of epidemic proportions.”18
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “O ‘Ali! The advent of the Mahdi will be at the time when cities will be changed, and the servants of God become weakened and hopeless about the advent of the Mahdi. At that time, Mahdi the Qa’im from my progeny will appear.”19
Abu Hamzah ath-Thumali said: Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “The uprising and advent of the Mahdi (‘atfs) will be at a time when there will be hopelessness and disappointment in the people concerning his advent and the improvement in deeds.”20
In this regard, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) said: “Verily, someone from my household will come as my successor, and his successorship will be after a period full of hardship and affliction—a period in which calamity and suffering will become intense and hopes shattered.”21
The Noble Prophet (S) said: “The calamity and affliction on this ummah will be such that a man would not be able to find a sanctuary where he could seek refuge from oppression.”22
He also said: “At the end of time intense affliction from their governments will befall my ummah in such a manner that a believer would not find a sanctuary where to seek refuge from tyranny.”23
In another hadith, he said: “Glad tidings to you of the Mahdi from the progeny of Fatimah! He will appear in the west and fill the world with justice.” It was asked: “O Messenger of Allah! When will it (his appearance) be?” He (S) said: “It will be at the time when judges would receive bribes while the people become debauchees.” It was asked: “What will be the characteristics of the Mahdi?” He (S) said: “He will be separated from his family and relatives; he will be away from his homeland and live far from home.”24
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “You will not see him while waiting for him except at the time when you become like a dead she-goat under the clutches of a fierce animal for which it makes no difference how she was brought. At that time there would be neither a place away from aggression where you could go nor a sanctuary where you could seek refuge.”25
It can be deduced from the hadiths that prior to the uprising of Hadrat al-Mahdi (‘atfs) wars and killings will engulf everywhere. Some hadiths talk about seditions. A number of hadiths report protracted wars while other hadiths make mention of the killing of human beings through wars and diseases such as epidemics.
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “After me you will experience four seditions. In the first sedition, blood will be regarded lawful to be shed while killing will increase in number. In the second sedition, blood and property will be regarded as lawful (to be shed, or plundered) while killing and pillage will increase in number.
In the third sedition, the blood, property and honor of the people will be regarded as lawful (to be shed, plundered, or trampled on) and apart from killing and pillage, the honor and chastity of human beings will not be safe. In the fourth sedition—which will be so intense, that it will affect everyone26 and like the state of a turbulent and agitated ship in the middle of the sea—no one will find refuge from it. The sedition will spread from Sham,27 encompass Iraq, and envelop the entire Peninsula (Hijaz). The afflictions of the people will be so intense that no one would be able to complain, and wherever the state of chaos subsides, it will be blazing in another.”28
In another hadith, he (S) said: “After me there will be seditions from which there will be no way of relief and in which there will be wars, displacement and homelessness. After this, there will be seditions more intense than the previous ones. Sedition will not yet subside when another one will emerge so much so that no house of the Arabs shall remain that will not catch this fire (of sedition), and no Muslim will be spared from this sedition. At that time a man from my family will appear.”29
He (S) also said: “After me sedition will soon emerge to the extent that if there will be calm in one direction, it (sedition) will spread in two other directions until such time that a harbinger from heaven will shout: ‘This is Hadrat Mahdi, your chief and commander!’”30
These hadiths have made mention of a sedition that will emerge prior to the advent of Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs). Other hadiths, however, talk about destructive wars, which we will cite below.
‘Ammar ibn Yasir said: “The message and invitation of the Ahl al-Bayt (household) of your Prophet at the end of time is this: Avoid any kind of dispute until such time that you would see leaders from the Ahl al-Bayt; it will be the time when the Turks would oppose the Byzantines and wars would increase in number on the earth.”31
A number of hadiths talk about killings and murders that will take place prior to the advent of al-Mahdi (‘atfs). Some of these hadiths mention only the killings while some others also specify the extent of the killings.
Abu Hurayrah said: “There will be killing in Medina which will break up the Ahjar az-Zayt34 district and compared to it the tragedy of Hurrah35 would be just like a whip. It will be at that time—after the killing—that two farsangs36 away from Medina, allegiance would be paid to Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs).”37
Abu Qabil said: “A person from Bani Hashim38 will take the helm of government and will only kill the Bani ‘Umayyah39 in such a manner that only a few of them will be left. Then, a person from the Bani ‘Umayyah will emerge and kill two persons in lieu of one person (killed from his side) so much so that none will be left except women.”40
The Messenger of Allah (S) thus said: “I swear to God in Whose hand is my life! The world will not end unless the time would come when neither the killer would know for what reason he is killing, nor would the reason behind the killing of the killed be clear, and chaos will spread everywhere. At that time, both the killer and killed will go to hell.”41
The Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said: “Before the advent of the Qa’im (‘atfs), the world will face two types of death: the “red death” and the “white death”. The red death is through the sword (weapon) while the white death is through plague.”42
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: “There are two stages of occultation (ghaybah) for the Qa’im of Muhammad’s Progeny, the second of which is longer than the first. At that time, death and killing will engulf the people.”43 Jabir said: I asked Imam al-Baqir (‘a): “At what time will this affair (uprising of the Mahdi (‘atfs)) happen?” In reply, the Imam (‘a) said: “O Jabir! How could this affair happen when the number of the slain between Hirah44 and Kufah has not yet increased?”45
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “Before the advent of the Qa’im (‘atfs), two types of death will surface: the “red death” and the “white death”. The number of people to be killed will be such that in every group of seven, five will die.”46
The Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said: “Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs) will not appear unless one-third of the people are killed; another one-third die; and the remaining one-third survive.”47
They asked the Commander of the Faithful (‘a): “Is there any sign and symbol for the advent of Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs)?” He (‘a) said: “Yes, horrible killing, sudden death and epidemics.”48
And as reported in Irshad al-Qulub: “sudden and mass killings (qatl adh-dhari‘).”49
And as reported in Madinah al-Mu‘ajiz: “vile and despicable killings (qatl ar-radi‘).”50
And as reported in Hilyah al-Abrar: “deplorable killings (qatl al-fadi‘).”51
The meaning of the hadith is this:
“Yes, there are signs for the advent of Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs) such as mass, deplorable and despicable killings; sudden and successive deaths; and epidemics.”
Muhammad ibn Muslim said: Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) said: “The Imam of the Time will not appear unless two-thirds of the people in the world would die.” It was asked: “If two-thirds of the people would be killed, how many will remain?” He answered: “Are you not satisfied (and would you not like) to be among the remaining one-third?”52
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) has said: “The affair (advent of Imam al-Mahdi (‘atfs)) shall not be realized until nine-tenth (9/10) of the people are eliminated.”53
Imam ‘Ali (‘a) said: “…At that time none of the people will remain except one-third (1/3) of them.”54
The Noble Prophet of Islam (S) said: “Out of ten thousand people nine thousand and nine hundred will be killed and none will remain alive except very few.”55
Ibn Sirin said: “Hadrat Mahdi (‘atfs) will not appear unless out of nine persons, seven would be killed.”56
From the foregoing set of hadiths, the following points can be deduced:
1. Before the advent of al-Mahdi (‘atfs), killings will take place and large numbers of the people will be killed, and those who will be left would be less than those who would be killed.
2. A number of those who will be killed will be killed in wars and another number will be killed by contagious diseases. Most probably, these contagious diseases will be engendered by those killed in war. Similarly, it is probable that this group of people would die through chemical and biological weapons that generate diseases.
3. The small number that will be left would be the Shi‘ah and followers of the Imam of the Time (‘atfs) because they are the ones who will pay allegiance to the Mahdi (‘atfs). This fact can also be inferred from the statement of Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) when he said: “Are you not satisfied (and would you not like) to be among the remaining one-third?”