Those informed about Islamic history, traditions, and narrations are certainly aware of the abundance of glad tidings narrated from the Messenger of Allah, Allah's blessings be on him and his family, his holy progeny, peace be on them, and his companions regarding the reappearance of Imam Mahdī1, peace be on him, in the end of times (ākhir al-zamān) and the rise of the sun of his existence to dispel the darkness of ignorance, remove oppression and tyranny, spread the flags of justice, elevate the word of truth, and prevail over all religions even if the polytheists (mushrikīn) dislike it.
With the permission of Allah, he will free the world from the disgrace of worshipping anyone other than Allah. (He will) set aside shameful habits and morals, put an end to defective laws formulated by humans in accordance with their desires, destroy all things that create enmity and hatred, break the bonds of all forms of prejudice—whether they be tribal, familial, national, or otherwise—which lead to differences in the nation, create separations, and inflame the fires of civil unrest and disputes.
Through his reappearance, Allah will fulfill His Promise which He has pledged in His sayings:
Allah has promised those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them successors on earth just as He made successors those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has approved for them, and He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange.2
And We desired to bestow a favor upon those who were deemed weak on earth, and to make them the leaders, and to make them the heirs.3
Soon, the golden era will arrive during which no house will remain on the face of earth, but that in which Allah will enter the word of Islam and no village will exist, but that in which the testimony of there is no god except Allah will be called out every morning and evening.
Perhaps, some may claim that there exists no consensus amongst the Muslims on the issue (of the Mahdī) and their agreement on it is mere speculation. Obviously, such a claim is baseless, because many claimed to be the Mahdī in the first era of Islam and in the following ages in which people were still close to the time of the Holy Prophet Allah's blessings be on him and his family, his companions (ṣaḥāba) and the followers (tābi`īn), but we do not see any of the companions or the followers refuting the original concept of Mahdawiyya, but rather, they disputed the claims of the imposters on the basis of their characteristics and features.
Among those subjects that have been narrated to us and we don’t have any method of proving except by hearing them, there is no subject that we must have faith in which is more important than believing in the appearance of the Mahdī, may peace be on him.
This is because the glad-tidings that have been narrated concerning him are many and beyond the limit of tawātur. This is while the traditions about most of the beliefs of the Muslims have not reached such a state of tawātur. In fact, for some of these beliefs, one can only find a single tradition as support and yet, it is regarded as a definite fact.
Thus, how can a Muslim—who believes in what the Messenger of Allah, Allah's blessings be on him and his family, has brought and conveyed—have doubts about the reappearance of Mahdī, peace be on him, despite the existence of such abundant traditions?
These traditions cannot be disputed because of the weakness of the chain of narrators in some of them or because of the odd concepts and improbability of the occurrence (of the events mentioned) in others. Surely, the weakness of the chain of narrators does not harm the other traditions which have highly authentic and reliable narrators and contents.
Otherwise, we will be forced to put aside all the correct traditions due to the presence of a few weak ones on the subject. Furthermore, their definitions are well known amongst the faithful and the (religious) leaders of the Muslims, great scholars, and the specialists in the science of traditions have narrated them. Besides, the weakness of the chain of narrators can cast doubt on the narration if the narration is not mutawātir. But, when a narration is mutawātir, the weakness of the chain is no longer a criterion for its reliability.
As for the improbability of the occurrence of some of the events mentioned in the narrations, we can answer: Improbability and oddness have no value in scientific matters—especially those related to the transmission of hadith. For, if this door is opened (i.e., if it is allowed to reject matters on grounds of improbability or oddness), it will become necessary to reject most of the true beliefs that have been established through the traditions of the Prophet, Allah's blessings be on him and his family, about which and about whose characteristics we have no means of gaining knowledge, except through divine texts.
For example, some of the features of the hereafter like the Bridge (Ṣirāṭ), the Weighing Scale (Mīzān), Heaven, Hell, etc. Indeed, even the polytheists (mushrikīn) of Mecca regarded the glad tidings of the Holy Prophet, Allah's blessings be on him and his family, about the domination of his religion and victory of his words, during the early period of proclamation (bi`tha) as improbable, (because) in those days Islam was confined only to the Messenger of Allah, Amīr al-Mu’minīn, and Khadija, peace be on them. They considered this news as ordinarily impossible. Hence, whenever he informed the (polytheists) about matters considered impossible under normal circumstances and apparent causes, they declared:
O you to whom the remembrance (dhikr) has been sent own! Verily, you are a mad man!4
But hardly a few days had passed, when Allah made His affairs (kalima) the highest while he degraded the affairs of the disbelievers. As a result, the Arabs submitted to him and Arab and non-Arab tyrants surrendered before Islam and the Muslims.
Furthermore, there is nothing about the Mahdī which is strange or amazing in comparison with the miracles narrated from the Prophets, peace be on them, and the Divine customs in the past nations. Things like giving life to the dead, curing the blind and the lepers, the miracles of the Prophets Abraham, Moses, etc., and their occultation’s (ghayba) from their people.
Thus, there is no reason to regard these mutawātir narrations as strange or improbable. Narrations which were narrated by people who were from different regions: Mecca, Medina, Kūfa, Baṣra, Baghdad, Riyy5, and Qum. Some were Shia, others Sunni, Ash’arī, and Mu`tazilī. Some belonged to the first era (of Islam), while others were from later times.
Furthermore, it was not possible for their narrators to come together in one congregation to fabricate them—because they lived in separate lands and times and had different religions and opinions. Moreover, the suggestion of fabrication regarding the majority of these traditions is extremely weak and unacceptable, as the narrators were famous for their reliability, were great scholars, and were the men of religion, piety and worship.
If we abandon these traditions (because of these inconvincible reasons), then, there will remain no reliable traditions from the Messenger of Allah, Allah's blessings be on him and his family, and his Ahl al-Bayt, peace be on them, in all subjects of jurisprudence, beliefs, ethics, etc. Also, it will be necessary to discard the authentic traditions regarding this world as well as the hereafter, even though the rational Muslims and non-Muslims view these as the foundations of their beliefs.
The existence of improbable matters (which our opponents use against us) is what they themselves have no problems with and rely on in most of their traditions. They object to the Shias, without realizing the results of their stance, which in reality, cannot be accepted by any Muslim. God willing, we will explain this in more detail in the future.
The tawātur of these traditions has been clearly declared and the reappearance of Imam Mahdī, peace be on him, is famous amongst the Muslims and there is consensus among scholars regarding this matter. Highly esteemed Sunni scholars6 agree on this issue and their greatest narrators of hadith have narrated such traditions. Some of them are as follows: Aḥmad (b. Ḥanbal), Abī Dāwūd, ibn Māja,
al-Tirmidhī, al-Bukhārī, Muslim, al-Nisā’ī, al-Bayhaqī, al-Māwardī, al-Ṭabarānī, al-Sam`ānī, al-Rūyānī, al-`Abdarī, Ḥāfiẓ `Abd al-`Azīz al-`Ukbarī in his Tafsīr, ibn Qutayba in Gharīb al-ḥadīth, ibn al-Sarrī, ibn `Asākir, al-Dāraqutnī in Musnad Sayyidat al-Nisā’ al-`Ālamīn Fāṭimat al-Zahrā’, al-Kisā’ī in al-Mubtada’, al-Baghawī, ibn al-Athīr, ibn al-Daiba` al-Shaibānī, al-Ḥākim in al-Mustadrak, ibn `Abd al-Bir in al-Istī`āb, Ḥāfiẓ ibn Muṭīq, al-Far`ānī, al-Numayrī, al-Munāwī, ibn Shīrawayh al-Daylamī, Sibṭ b. al-Jauzī, al-Shāriḥ al-Mu`tazilī, ibn Ṣabbāgh al-Mālikī, al-Ḥimawī, ibn al-Maghāzilī al-Shāfi`ī, Muwaffaq b. Aḥmad al-Khāwrazmī, Muḥib al-Dīn al-Ṭabarī, al-Shablanjī, al-Ṣubbān, Shaykh Manṣūr `Ali Nāṣif, and others.
You should bear in mind that the appearance of the Mahdī, peace be on him, in the end of times is a subject about which many books, articles, and treatises have been written about; from the time of the eleventh Imam, al-Ḥasan al-`Askarī, peace be on him, until now. Rarely, can one locate a Shia scholar who has not written an exclusive book or an article or some special words on this subject. For the seekers of truth, reference to even a few of these would suffice.
This is in addition to the works of Sunni scholars on the issue like: Ḥāfiẓ Abu Nu`aim al-Aṣbahānī’s Ṣifat al-Mahdī and Manāqib al-Mahdī, Ḥāfiẓ al-Kanjī al-Shāfi`ī’s al-Bayān fi akhbār Ṣāḥib al-Zamān, Mullā `Ali al-Muttaqī’s al-Burhān fī `alāmāt Mahdī ākhir al-zamān, `Abbād b. Ya`qūb al-Rawājinī’s Akhbār al-Mahdī, Ḥāfiẓ Jalal al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī’s al-`Arf al-wardī fī akhbār al-Mahdī, ibn Ḥajar’s al-Qaul al-mukhtaṣar fī `alāmāt al-Mahdī al-Muntaẓar, Shaykh Jamāl al-Dīn Yūsuf b. Yaḥyā al-Dimashqī’s `Iqd al-durar fī akhbār al-Imām al-Muntaẓar, etc. Moreover, an independent book called al-Fawāṣim `an l-fitan al-qawāṣim has been mentioned in one of the biographies available in al-Sīrat al-ḥalabiyya.
The purpose of this book’s preface is to clarify for the readers the falsity of those who claim to be the Mahdī or another Imam, during the period of occultation, particularly in recent times. This is a great need of the Muslims today because the enemies of Islam are constantly on the lookout to grasp at any available opportunity to break up the Muslims and ignite the fire of differences and disputes among them in order to facilitate their imperialistic and colonialist desires and gain control over their countries and peoples.
By Allah, nothing disgraces the Muslims but their differences and disputes. The followers of falsehood and disbelief can never overpower the helpers of the truth and Islam, unless disagreements and internal feuds are incited amongst them.
One of the issues used by these wicked and corrupt powers to split the Muslims and engage them in internal disputes—instead of external defense—is that of the Mahdī, may our souls be sacrificed for him7. To achieve these goals in areas like Iran, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa, they dispatched foolish and power-hungry stooges, well known for their immorality, lack of sensibility and understanding, and vileness.
They were ignorant, or at least pretended to be so, regarding the contents of the traditions concerning his names, attributes, signs, symbols, effects, pure lineage, and noble ancestry which cannot be collectively found in any single individual, except the holy character of the twelfth Imam, Abū l-Qāsim al-Ḥujjat b. al-Ḥasan al-`Askarī b. Abū l-Ḥasan `Alī al-Hādī b. Abū Ja`far Muḥammad al-Jawād b. Abū l-Ḥasan `Alī al-Riḍā b. Abū l-Ḥasan Mūsā al-Kāẓim b. Abū `Abd-Allah Ja`far al-Ṣādiq b. Abū Ja`far Muḥammad al-Bāqir b. Abū l-Ḥasan `Alī Zain al-`Ābidīn b. Abū `Abd-Allah al-Ḥusayn, Sayyid al-Shuhadā, ibn Amīr al-Mu`minīn `Ali b. Abī Ṭālib, peace be on them all.
He will fill the earth with fairness and justice just as it will be filled with unfairness and injustice. He will conquer the whole world and will turn Islam into a global religion—to such an extent that there will remain no one on the face of earth who will worship other than Allah. There will not remain a village, but that in which the testimony of ‘there is no god but Allah and Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allah’ will echo in it. When he reappears, Gabriel (Jibra’īl) will call out his and his father’s name from the heavens. This call will be heard by the inhabitants of the East and the West.
He has attributes and signs—which God willing, we shall soon mention. These signs do not fit anybody but him, whosoever he may be, let alone the poor creatures who were arrested, jailed and lived in imprisonment until they were crucified. Their plans remained incomplete, whilst they couldn’t manage their own affairs—let alone others’.
Despite such clear explanations, some negligent people thought up fancy basis’ for their false claims. Perhaps, they have not seen what has been mentioned in the Holy Quran and the traditions about the Mahdī, may peace be on him, regarding the fact that he is a special person, whose lineage, ancestry, and attributes have no equivalent. Here, we have collected and reproduced traditions from reliable and authentic Shia and Sunni sources, so that no room remains for any doubts or questions whatsoever. Indeed, this will lead to great benefits and advantages.
Mentioning these traditions in this order and detail has other purposes and benefits. There is no harm in mentioning a few of them here:
The Shia belief regarding the existence of the Mahdī, peace be on him, during the occultation and after his emergence in the end of times, is neither an obstacle to the unity of the Muslims, nor a barrier to setting aside the differences which are damaging their majesty and might. This pure belief originates from the glad tidings (in these narrations) and is not contradictory to the principles of Islam or the explicit and clear guidelines of the Holy Quran and correct Sunna.
Rather, it is a belief that stems from faith in the Holy Prophet, Allah's blessings be on him and his family, who is the source of these prophecies. Therefore, it is necessary that the Sunnis deal with this subject as they do with any other issue in which their scholars have differences amongst themselves and investigate the truth like they do for other problems.
Eliminating Repetition: After browsing through early and also recent books on this subject which were available to me, I found many duplicate narrations. Most of the traditions are not related to a particular concept and cannot be included in a specific chapter. Since there are a number of concepts and meanings found in one tradition, the same tradition has been mentioned under different titles.
This is why duplicate narrations can be found in the books of both sects on the one hand and the truncation of traditions on the other. I have refrained from doing this by simply pointing to the traditions in the other chapters and also by mentioning their locations and numbers at the end of every chapter.
Knowing that most topics are mutawātir: We have already mentioned in the first volume, some of the traditions concerning the twelve Imams, may peace be on them, because of their significance regarding our discussion. God willing, we will now proceed to narrate the traditions concerning the Mahdī, peace be on him, his attributes, and his conditions from both sects. Investigating the traditions on this subject is beyond the aim and scope (of this book) and is not possible except for those who are experts in the sciences of tradition and the great scholars.
We have restricted ourselves to mentioning only the narrations which are relevant to the facts regarding that particular topic. By doing this, we will have fulfilled the purpose for which this book has been compiled for. Whoever desires more details should refer to the writings of other scholars.
This was the preface of this book in the first edition (which was published) more than forty years ago. Thank God, in this new edition, we have succeeded in compiling a complete volume about the traditions of the twelve Imams, peace be on them, and made it the first volume. We then revised the old edition until it turned into an almost new book and we included it in the current edition as the second and the third volumes.
The three volumes have been separated into eleven main chapters and ninety-four sections. We also succeeded in adding discussions based on narrations which are related to the subject of Imam Mahdī, peace be on him, and placed them at the end of the third volume.
We ask Allah, the Exalted, to make us successful in accomplishing the tasks that are the cause of His satisfaction, and to protect us from prejudice and recklessness, and to guide us to the path of truth and justice, and to make our actions purely for Him, and to reserve them for “the Day when neither wealth nor children will benefit anybody except the one who comes to Allah with a purified heart.”8