Question: After the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance), how long will it take before the rule of justice [becomes universal]? Will any poor person or tyrant remain? If no, then does that mean that no sin will ever be committed again? Is it correct that he will be martyred at the hands of a bearded old woman? How does such a crime take place despite the Imam’s uprooting of oppression?
What the narrations yield in this regard is that war will be waged for over a period of eight months, after which time all the various countries will fall under his reign, the rule of justice will be established worldwide, and disbelief, polytheism, and hypocrisy will be entirely uprooted. Hence, no tyrant will remain in power over any society, and the main incentives of sin, particularly social misdeeds, will be eradicated. The earth will yield its treasures of mineral deposits and crops will flourish; the share of the poor will be exacted from the oppressors and the rich and it will be distributed among the poor to such an extent that there will be no need for charity and alms, for all will be affluent and well off.
Belief in the reappearance of Imam Zaman (ع) is an instance of belief in the unseen realities, those realities which cannot be accepted and whose qualities cannot be apprehended by any other means but faith and through a study of the corpus of authentic narrations. But since most of the ahadith and narrations have through time undergone corrosion as the result of various factors—such as, taqiyyah (dissimulation) on the part of the Shi’ites, fabrication and distortion of narrations by the enemies of the Shi’ites, neglect of or the lack of attention in recording the narrations on the part of the transmitters, and absence of adequate facilities for publication and preservation of the texts—a detailed understanding of the events prior to and following the reappearance of Imam Zaman (ع), as desired by the truth-seeking Shi’ite, is not feasible.
This becomes especially difficult when faced with some of the contradictions in the related narrations that are not reconcilable. Hence, the reply to the aforementioned question—particularly the first part—is [to a great extent] conjectural. And in order to forward an appropriate response, the question must be broken down into several parts. The answer to each part will be discussed separately.
To this question, Imam Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-Baqir (ع) has replied, “For a full eight months, he will have his sword unsheathed and will kill the enemies of Allah until Allah is satisfied.”1
Based on the narrations that are available to us, he will reappear in Mecca. After the elite of his followers join him there, they will then advance toward ‘Iraq, Sham (the present day Syria), and from there toward Jerusalem.
Thereafter the lands of Europe, Turkey, China, Afghanistan, and of other regions will be conquered by him, and so after eight consecutive months of fighting, the rule of justice will be established and peace and security will become prevalent. But about the duration of his rule, there is inconsistency amongst the narrations. Some of the related durations are as follows: 19 years and some months; seven years; 40 years; 10 years; 309 years, each year of which is equivalent to 20 or 40 normal years. And 40 days after his martyrdom or demise [depending on the narration], the earth and the sky will be demolished in preparation for the Day of Judgment.
After the Imam (ع) rises and establishes the rule of justice, the earth will yield to him her treasures of mineral deposits and crops, the shares that rightfully belong to the destitute and poor will be exacted from the rich and the oppressors to be justly distributed, as the result of which no poor person will remain, to the extent that there will be no use for charities and zakat. Imam Ja’far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (ع) says, “The world will be revitalized by the implementation of justice, the sky will send down abundant rain, trees will reveal their fruit, and the earth will deliver her plants, embellishing herself for her inhabitants.”
People will be so well-off that it has been narrated that on one occasion Imam Zaman (ع) will order the announcer to inform the people that whoever is in need of financial aid should stand up. From among the entire population only one person will stand up, proclaiming his need. Imam Zaman (ع) will tell him, “Go to the treasurer and tell him that Mahdi commands him to provide you with some money.”
At conveying the Imam’s message to the treasurer, the latter will tell him, “Bring me your garment.” Then the treasurer will fill it full. When the poor man turns away to leave, he will regret his request, saying to himself, “Why should I be the greediest of the nation of Muhammad?” So he will return it to the treasurer, but it will not be accepted, and Mahdi will tell him, “What we have granted, we will not take back.”
In describing the time of Imam al-Mahdi’s (ع) rule, the Prophet (ص) has said, “People will be searching for someone poor who would accept charity or gifts from them, to no avail; they will put aside the zakat of their wealth, but they will not find anyone to give it to, for all will be made well-off by Allah grace.”
The character trait of the universal rule of Imam al-Mahdi (ع) will be the worldwide maintenance of peace, security, justice, and the annihilation of the foundations of corruption, decadence, oppression, and crime; just as this has been the main purpose of all the prophets, but with the difference that the success of the latter and their successors following them was not as decisive, but nevertheless, establishing worldwide peace and security has always constituted one of their promises.
And so the unpolluted souls of mankind at large, ever since the beginning of human history, have been waiting for the time when those promises would be realized. Now since Allah (awj), His messengers, and their infallible successors do not breach their promises, they would not raise the hopes of people without a good reason. This means that this promise will certainly be realized and that a just government will be established, consisting of the aforementioned characteristics.
This promise is so vital and real that its realization can be considered the rationale behind the creation of humankind; a promise that once realized will lead to the unity of the whole of humankind under the banner of tawhid and, by Allah’s (awj) mercy, the uprooting of disbelief, polytheism, and hypocrisy2 from amongst them. The narrations that express this are numerous.
For instance, it has been recorded that Imam Hasan b. ‘Ali al-’Askari (ع) told his son, [Mahdi] (ع): “It is as though I see you when Allah’s (awj) support has been sent upon you, relief (faraj) has been achieved, your magnificence and greatness has risen … it is at this moment that the rule of truth will dawn and the darkness of evil will vanish from the scene of existence. Through your hands, Allah will break the oppressors’ backs, will reinstate the religious sacraments, will enlighten the horizons of the world, and will establish calm and peace throughout the world. Your enemies will be disgraced and your friends esteemed and victorious. Not even a single oppressor, criminal, rebellious denier, encroaching enemy, spiteful opponent will remain on the face of earth, for whoever trusts in Allah, He will provide him sufficient support. Verily, Allah fulfils His wish and executes His definitive promise and will. Verily Allah has set a plan for everything.”3
The most important motives for the human being’s sinning are, on the one hand, his avarice in hoarding material wealth and, on the other hand, his sense of need for the goods of this world. If the human being possesses a sufficient amount of wealth, a good social reputation; if his mentality becomes Divine-permeated, if the world and her goods are belittled in his eyes, and he thus reaches the certainty that all Divine promises are true and as such will certainly be fulfilled, regardless of the aversion of the enemies and their effort to obstruct their realization; if he reaches the certainty that there will be a resurrection, a reckoning, that paradise and what it holds are incomparably superior to the life of this world—in such a case, there will be no motive for sinning. This is especially true based on a few narrations to the effect that at the commencement of the Imam’s revolution, Satan will be slain by the Prophet (ص) in Jerusalem, hence putting an end to his tempting and decoying4.
Moreover, during that time there will be innumerable obstacles in the way of sinning—such as, the inescapable and universal rule of justice, the healthy and secure environment, and the general rejection of corruption and sin by society. Therefore, there will remain very little motive for sin, and at the same time there will be obstacles in its way, which means that sin will be at its lowest ebb.
There are also numerous narrations in this regard, such as: Imam Ja’far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (ع) has thus described that era, “Illicit gender relationships, alcoholic beverages, and usury will vanish. People will turn their attention to worship and obedience; they will righteously honour their trusts. The evil people will perish, and the virtuous will remain.”
In another narration, the Prophet (ص) is recorded as having given the following good tidings: “Allah will, through the Mahdi, relieve the hardships of the nation of Islam. He will enamour their [i.e. people’s] hearts with the love of worship and obedience, and will make His justice universal. Allah will, through him, eradicate lies; He will destroy the spirit of violence and animosity, and will free them of the disgrace of bondage.”5
Is it true that he will be martyred at the hands of a bearded old woman? How does such a crime take place despite the Imam’s uprooting of oppression?
There are various narrations about Imam Zaman’s (ع) martyrdom or demise; and as this event is due in the future, obviously the only way of unveiling the mysteries surrounding it is by studying the narrations related from the Infallibles in this regard. Nevertheless, the narration pertaining to the event of Imam Zaman (ع) being murdered by an old woman is not accepted as authentic by most scholars. This story has only been recorded in Ilzam al-Nasib and lacks authentic narration. However, if we do accept this narration, it must be noted that what is for certain is that the universal rule under Imam Zaman (ع) will be the rule of justice and equity, and as such the rule of the oppressors will be destroyed. However, this does not necessarily certify that there will be no possibility of individuals sinning.