“Allah hath promised those of you who have faith and do righteous deeds that He will surely make them succeed (the present rulers) on the earth, just as He made those who were before them succeed (others), and He will surely establish for them their religion which He hath approved for them, and will give them in exchange security after their fear. They serve Me. They ascribe no thing as partner unto Me. And those who disbelieve henceforth, they are the miscreants.”1
In continuation to the discussion, we had regarding the holy being of Hujjat ibn al-Hassan; we shall also dedicate this meeting to the discussion of the same issue. Our discussion will be based on historical facts. Those who have no information in this regard, especially the people who do not believe in the fundamental principles of the Shi‘ah ideology, think that belief in Mahdism dates back to the middle of the third century AH, which is the time of the Imam’s birth. I want to tell you about how and where this topic began and whether it has been specifically explained or not.
Firstly, this matter has been spoken about in the Holy Qur’an in the most explicit way in the form of general glad tidings. Whoever studies the Holy Qur’an will see that in numerous verses the Holy Qur’an has mentioned that the outcome that is derived from the holy being of the Imam of the Time is something that is definitely going to take place in the future. One such ayah is,
“Verily, we have written in the Scripture, after the Reminder: ‘Indeed My righteous servants shall inherit the earth’.”2
Allah says in the Qur’an that We have in the past (after dhikr where they have said it means) written in the Psalms, after announcing it in the Torah [Zabur] that,
“Indeed My righteous servants shall inherit the earth.”3
This does not pertain to a specific area or city. Thought is as extensive as the earth: the earth will not always be in the hands of the powerful oppressive tyrants. This is a temporary matter. In the future, the pious will be the leaders. They are going to rule the whole earth. There is not even the slightest shred of doubt in this issue.
It has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an that Islam will become the universal religion of mankind and that all other religions will perish or be overshadowed by Islam which is another one of the outcomes of the holy being of the Promised al-Mahdi.
“He is it who hath sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religions, however much the idolaters may be averse.”4
He sent this religion through His Prophet so in the end He will make it victorious over all other religions in this world, which means all the people in the world will become the followers of this religion (and other verses as such). After the Qur’anic verses comes the issue of the Prophet’s sayings. What has the Prophet said in this regard? If the sayings related to the Promised al-Mahdi were exclusive to Shi‘ah narrations, then there will be a point for skeptics to be critical of. If the issue of the Promised al-Mahdi is real, then the Prophet must have mentioned it; and if the Prophet has mentioned it, then it should have been narrated by other Islamic sects and not only the Shi‘ahs alone.
Coincidentally, narrations about the Promised al-Mahdi have not only been narrated by the Shi‘ahs. The Sunnis also have narrations regarding this issue if not more than the Shi‘ahs. Books have been written in this regard which can bare witness to this fact. During the years we were in Qum, two books were written concerning this issue.
One is by the late Ayatullah Sadr (may God raise his status), which of course is written in Arabic and is entitled, “al-Mahdi” and has, I think, been published as well. In that book, all the narrations he has quoted are from Sunni sources. When one studies it, he will see that the issue of the Promised al-Mahdi is more visible in the narrations quoted by the Sunnis than those quoted by the Shi‘ahs.
There is also another book which, fortunately, is in Farsi, titled, “Muntakhab al-Athar”. It is written by one of the scholars of Qum Theological Center (who is still in Qum) called, “Aqa Mirza Lutfullah Safi” (Golpaygani). It was written under the supervision of the late Ayatullah Bojnurdi; that is, he gave a general request for this book, chose the design, layout and customs of the book. It was followed up by this gentleman who later wrote the book. If you read this book, you will see that many Sunni traditions have been quoted in it in this regard, for various definitions and contents.
I would like to stress that I do not want to touch upon these sayings or verses in much detail. The main question I would like to discuss is another aspect of this issue: what effect has this issue had on Islamic history?
When we study the Islamic history we see that apart from the narrations of the Prophet and Imam ‘Ali in this regard, events have been taken place in the Islamic history as a result of declarations about the Promised al-Mahdi.
Before I begin to speak about the first historical event regarding this issue, I will quote you sayings by Imam ‘Ali which can be found in the Nahj al-Balaghah and I have heard from Ayatullah Bojnurdi. These sentences can be found in sources other than the Nahj al-Balaghah.
In his conversation with Kumayl ibn Ziyad Nakha‘i, ‘Ali talks about this issue. Kumayl says, “It was during night time. ‘Ali held my hand (this was apparently in Kufah) and took me to the desert with himself. When we reached the desert, he took a very deep breath. He sighed from the bottom of his heart and then said, ‘People are three groups: numinous scholars, the learner and the idiotic people.’ Then, he complained, saying, ‘Kumayl! I cannot find a worthy person, onto whom I could pass what I know. There are those who are good people but idiotic and there are those who are clever but not religious, who only use religion as a tool for their worldly interests. Kumayl! I feel lonely. I do not have someone worthy of knowing the secrets I have in my heart.’ In the end he suddenly said, ‘But, of course, the earth will never stay empty.’ He said, ‘At the same time, the earth will not stay empty of Allah’s proof, either the evident proof or the proof that is hidden and concealed from eyes’.”
The first time we see the effect of Mahdism emerging is in the event of Mukhtar’s revenge for Imam al-Husayn’smurder. Mukhtar was undoubtedly a political man, who had a political approach rather than a religious one. I of course do not want to discuss whether Mukhtar was good or evil. I have no business in that aspect.
Mukhtar knew that, even though the issue was about taking revenge from the murderers of Imam al-Husayn and that the conditions were just right, people were not willing to accept his leadership. He may have (according to a narration) contacted Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin on this issue but the Imam did not approve of it either. He raised the issue of the Promised al-Mahdi, about whom people had been informed of. He told them that Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah, ‘Ali’s son and Imam al-Husayn’s brother, was the Promised al-Mahdi, whose name was Muhammad. This was because the Prophet had said, “His name is the same name as mine.” Mukhtar declared, “O people! I am the representative of the al-Mahdi of the Time, the al-Mahdi whom the Prophet had given news of.”5 He carried out his political play for a while with the name “Representative of the al-Mahdi of the Time”. Now did Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah truly accept himself as the Promised al-Mahdi? Some say he accepted so they could take revenge but this is of course not proven.
There is not doubt that Muhammadibn Hanafiyyah was introduced as the al-Mahdi of the Time by Mukhtar and this is where the Hanafiyyah ideology emerged from later. When Muhammad ibn Hanafiyyah died, they said, “The Promised al-Mahdi will not die before he has filled the earth with justice and fairness, so Muhammadibn Hanafiyyah has not died. He is hidden in the Radwa Mountain.”
There are again other events in the Islamic history. Abu al-Faraj Isfahani who is an Umawi by birth and is not a Shi‘ah historian writes in “Maqatil al-Talibiyyin”, “When the news of Zayd ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn6 reached Zuhri7, he said, ‘Why are the Ahl al-Bayt rushing it so much. The day when the al-Mahdi will emerge from them will come.’ It is, therefore, determined that the issue of the Promised al-Mahdi was so clear and definite that when they give the news of Zayd’s martyrdom to Zuhri, his mind immediately gets directed to another issue: why Zayd even rebelled? And asked, ‘Why are the children of the Prophet rushing? They must not fight back now; their rebellion is for the Promised al-Mahdi.’ I do not want any business with whether Zuhri’s objection is valid or not, which it is not, my point is: Zuhri said, ‘A day will come when one from among the Prophet’s Household will emerge and his rising will be successful and redeeming.’”
Imam al-Hassan has a son who has the same name as he had; thus they called him, “Hassan al-Muthanna”, which means the Second Hassan, al-Hassan ibn al-Hassan. The “Second Hassan” was Imam al-Husayn’s son in law. Fatimah bint al-Husayn was the wife of the “Second Hassan”. A son is born from Hassan al-Muthanna and Fatimah bint al-Husayn by the name of “‘Abd Allah”. Because this son reached Imam ‘Ali and Hadrat Fatimah from both his mother and his father and was very pure, they called him, “‘Abd Allah al-Mahd”, which meant someone who is a pure ‘Alawi and a pure Fatimi.
‘Abd Allah al-Mahdhas two sons called, Muhammadand Ibrahim. Their time is contemporaneous with the end of the Umawi era, which was about the year 130 AH. Muhammadibn ‘Abd Allah was a very noble man and was famously known as “Nafs Zakiyyah”. At the end of the Umawi era, the Hassani sayyids rose (which has a long story). Even the ‘Abbasids gave oath of allegiance to Muhammadibn ‘Abd Allah al-Mahd. They also invited Imam al-Sadiq to a meeting and told him that they had planned to uprise and give their oath of allegiance to Muhammadibn ‘Abd Allah al-Mahd. “You are also a Hassani sayyid, so give oath of allegiance”, they said. The Imam replied, “What are your intentions in this task?” If Muhammad wants to uprise under the slogan of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, I will accompany him and will approve of him. But he is making a mistake, if he wants to uprise as the al-Mahdi of the Nation. He is not the al-Mahdi of the Nation, someone else is, and therefore I will never approve of this. This mistake may have, up to some extent, been made about ‘Abd Allah al-Mahd, because he too had the same name as the Prophet and had a beauty mark on his shoulder.8 People were saying, “Could this be a sign of him being the al-Mahdi of the Nation? Most people gave oath of allegiance to him under the title al-Mahdi of the Nation.”
It is then evident that the issue of the al-Mahdi of the Nation was so definite among Muslims that when someone who was a bit religious rose they would say, “He is the one, he is the al-Mahdi of the Nation that the Prophet foretold about.” This would not have happened, if the Prophet had not said so.
We even see one of the ‘Abbasid caliphs having the name al-Mahdi who was the son of Mansur, the Third ‘Abbasid Caliph. Their First Caliph was Saffah, the second was Mansur and the third was Mansur’s son: Mahdi ‘Abbasi. Historians including “Darmster” have written that Mansur deliberately named his son Mahdi so he could use it politically to deceive people and say, “The Mahdi you are awaiting is my son.” Maqatil al-Talibiyyin and others have therefore written that when he sometimes confronted those who were close to him, he would confess that this was not true. Once he confronted a man called Muslim ibn Qutaybah who was one of his relatives, and said, “What is this ‘Abd Allah Al-Mahdsaying?” He replied, “He says I am the al-Mahdi of the Nation.” Mansur said, “He is wrong, neither he nor my son are the al-Mahdi of the Nation.” But, at other times when he confronted other people he would say, “This ‘Abd Allah is not the al-Mahdi of the Nation, my son is the al-Mahdi of the Nation.”
As I said the majority who gave oath of allegiance, believed they were pledging their allegiance with: the al-Mahdi of the Nation. People had heard the Prophet’s saying about al-Mahdi; however, since they would not fully investigate to find out more about the person caliming to be the al-Mahdi of the Nation, public mistakes were constantly made.
We again see more events in the history of Islam including: one of the scholars from Medina called “Muhammadibn ‘Ijlan” went and gave oath of allegiance to ‘Abd Allah al-Mahd. Bani al-‘Abbas, who were their supporters at the beginning, when the issue of vice-regency was put forward, they took over the vice-regency and then killed the Hassani sayyids (the descendent of Imam al-Hassan (‘a)).
Mansur summoned this learned man (Muhammadibn ‘Ijlan). He investigated and it became evident that he has given oath of allegiance to ‘Abd Allah al-Mahd. He ordered for his hands to be chopped of. Mansur said, “The hands that have given oath of allegiance to my enemy must be chopped off.”
They have written that Medina scholars gathered and interceded and said, “O Caliph! It is not his fault; he is a learned man and a possessor of knowledge in narrations. This man thought ‘Abd Allah al-Mahdis the al-Mahdi of the Nation and he therefore gave oath of allegiance to him. He otherwise has no hostile intentions towards you.” This is why we see that the issue of the Promised al-Mahdi is among the definite and certain issues in Islamic history.
As we review the past ages, we see incidents emerging in Islamic history that were initiated by the very issue of belief in the reappearance of the Promised al-Mahdi. When the majority of our pure Imams passed away, a group would come and say: maybe he has not died, maybe he has disappeared, may be he is the al-Mahdi of the Nation. This happened in Imam al-Kazim’ case, even in Imam al-Baqir’s case, and apparently also for Imam al-Sadiq as well as some of the other pure Imams.
Imam al-Sadiq had a son called Isma‘il. The Isma‘ilis are attributed to him. Isma‘il passed away when the Imam was still living. The Imam loved Isma‘il very much. When Isma‘il passed away and was made ready for burial, the Imam would go over Isma‘il’s head, open his coffin, show Isma‘il’s face and say, “This is my son Isma‘il. He has died. Tomorrow do not claim that he was the al-Mahdi of the Nation and he has disappeared. Take a good look at his corpse. Look at his face, identify him and then bear witness.”
These all show that the issue of ‘the al-Mahdi of the Nation’ was so definite that left no place for doubt and hesitation. As far as I have researched, up to the time of Ibn Khaldun, maybe not even one scholar had been found to have said, “The narrations about Mahdi have no basis.” They all had accepted it. If there was any disagreement, it was on minor things such as if al-Mahdi was this person or that person? Is he the son of Imam al-Hassan al-‘Askari or not? Is he from the children of Imam al-Hassan or Imam al-Husayn? And, therefore, there was no hesitation in the reality of the al-Mahdi and him being from among the children of the Prophet and that his task is to fill the world with justice and equality.
Di‘bil al-Khuza‘i comes to Imam al-Ridaand recites his lamentations,
O Fatimah! If you find your al-Husayn fallen while he has died thirsty next to the Furat River.9
He addresses Hadrat al-Zahra and lists the calamities that had fallen upon her children one after the other. They are among the most eloquent odes of the Arabic language and one of the best lamentations written in this regard.
Imam al-Rida cried a lot. Di‘bil, in his poem and his expression of sorrow, names the children of Hadratal-Zahra one after the other; the graves that are in “Fakhkh”, the graves that are in Kufah. He refers to the martyrdom of ‘Abd Allah al-Mahd. He refers to the martyrdom of his brother. He refers to the martyrdom of Zayd ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, the martyrdom of Imam al-Husaynand the martyrdom of Musa ibn Ja‘far, “And a grave in Baghdad for a pure soul.”
It is written that at this stage, Imam al-Ridasaid, “I too will recite a poem and you add it to yours, ‘And a grave in Tus, and what a tragedy!’”
When Di‘bil said: “Sir! But I do not know this grave.” The Imam replied, “This is my grave.”
In these poems, Di‘bil has an ode, which refers to the issue of Mahdism, in which Di‘bil clearly states all these stories existed and still exist and will exist until the reappearance of an imam whose reappearance will unquestionably and definitely take place.
There are many more historical facts we can list but I do not think that it would be necessary to mention all of them. I mentioned these facts because I wanted to say that the issue of the Promised al-Mahdi was certainly a definite matter for Muslims since the beginning of Islam and imitated major historical events from the second half of the first century.
If you want to find out if this issue is only exclusive to the Shi‘ahs,10 take a look and see whether the Sunnis have claimed belief in Mahdism or not. You will see that those claiming belief in Mahdism are also numerous among the Sunni people one of whom is “Mahdi Sudani” or “Mutamahdi Sudani” who appeared less than half a century ago in Sudan and created a mass there that was still in existence until just recently. Basically, when this man appeared, he appeared claiming that the belief in Mahdism existed among the Sunni resident countries to an extent that created the grounds for false Mahdis to emerge. Those claiming to be Mahdi were also numerous in other countries. In India and Pakistan, the Qadiyans emerged claiming to be Mahdi. It has also been mentioned repeatedly in our narrations that impostors, claiming to be the Mahdi, will be plentiful.
At the moment, I do not know whether Hafiz was truly a Shi‘ah or a Sunni and I also do not think that someone can say, for sure, that Hafiz was a Shi‘ah. However, we also see in Hafiz’s poems, references to the issue of Mahdism. I can remember two cases, where one says,
Where is that imposter eye atheist-form Sufi?
Tell him to burn, that the religion saving Mahdi arrived.11
And the other is the famous ode and how pleasantly has he said it!
Glad tiding oh my heart that a Messiah breath will come,
From whose breath I can smell someone.
Do not cry and complain from all these pains and sorrows that yesterday,
I made an augury and it said a rescuer will come.
I am not happy nor am I safe from the fire in the land,
Moses will come here in the hope of a Qabas.
No one knows where the intended resting place is,
Just as much as the hearing of a holler of a bell.
Do not ask me about the nightingale of the Garden, because
I hear a cry coming from a cage.12
My discussion about the historical aspects of this issue has come to an end. Now, what kind of false claimant will be found after the Imam of the Time’s age is a story which I will not get into for the time being. I want exclusively dedicate the end of my speech to these three next topics.
The fact that after the world is filled with injustice and tyranny, the universal justice will be found has created an issue that is: on reliance upon this fact, some people are against any reform. They say the world must be filled with injustice and tyranny so that there will suddenly be a revolution and it will get filled with justice and fairness. Even if they do not mention it, deep in their hearts they are against reform. If they see somebody taking a step toward reform, they become upset. When they see that the society has become attracted to religion, they truly become upset. They say, “This should not happen.” They must get worse so that the Imam reappears. If we are suppose to do something so people come towards religion we have betrayed the reappearance of the Imam and have caused delay to the reappearance of the Imam. Is this really the way or not? I will give an explanation for this so the matter is cleared.
Some of the events taking place in the world only have an explosive effect rather like an abscess appearing in your body. This abscess must reach an extent that it will suddenly burst; therefore, if anything is carried out to stop the bursting of this abscess it would not have good effects. If you want to put any medications on it, you should use a medication that will cause this abscess to burst sooner.
Some philosophical ideologies that favor the social and political systems are supporters of revolution defined as explosion. In their belief, anything that stops the explosion is bad. Therefore, you see some of the social methods oppose every social reform and say: what are these improvements that you are trying to make? Let no reform take place. Let corruption increase. Let hatred and obsession increase. So be it that tasks become more and more chaotic; chaos after chaos so suddenly everything is turned over from the base and a revolution takes place.
Our jurisprudential laws have a clear status here. Must we Muslims think this way about the reappearance of the al-Mahdi? Must we say let sin and disobedience intensify? Let the situation become more chaotic? Therefore, we must not enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil. We should not train and discipline our children to play a part in Imam al-Mahdi’s reappearance.
We should rather, God-forbid, not pray, not fast and not perform any other duties we may have. We should also encourage others to abandon prayer, abandon fasting, abandon zakat (religious tax), and abandon Hajj. Let all these be destroyed so the conditions for his reappearance become prepared?! No, undoubtedly this is against Islamic principles. That is to say, by awaiting the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi, none of our obligatory duties become invalidated.
That is, neither our personal duties nor social duties in the Shi‘ism (that essentially is a belief exclusive to the Shi‘ah World let alone the Sunni people). You cannot find a single scholar who claims that reappearance invalidates even a small duty from us. It will not invalidate any duty from us. This was one form of interpreting the reappearance of the Imam.
The other form talks about ripening not exploding just like a fruit that is on the way to perfection. A fruit has timing just as an abscess has timing. However, an abscess has to burst but a fruit has to ripen. That is to say, it must reach the stage when it can be picked.
The issue of Imam al-Mahdi’s reappearance is more similar to the ripening of a fruit rather than a bursting of an abscess. This is not because there are very few sins; rather, because the world has not yet reached that certain competence. Therefore, you see constantly in Shi‘ah narrations that when the three hundred and sixty minorities are found, the Imam will reappear. Yet still those three hundred and sixty minorities do not exist.
That is to say, time must progress to an extent that it, in some opinions, becomes corrupted in any aspects or, to another view, those who want to form the government following him (Imam al-Mahdi) under his banner and his rein of power are brought into being. Such worthy men have yet not come into existence in the world.
Yes, “the task will get settled before it gets too chaotic”, but this chaos is a different chaos. Chaos will always be found in the world. After chaos comes organization. This organization then turns into chaos but a higher scale of chaos and not a low scale. That chaos will then again change into organization at a higher scale than the first level of organization. This organization then changes to chaos but again in a higher scale meaning this chaos after that organization is superior even over that organization (the one before it).
Therefore, it can be said that man’s social movement is snail-shaped. This means it is an upward circular movement. At the time the social movement of man is turning, it is not turning on a horizontal surface but turning in an upward direction. Yes, the organization is constantly converting into chaos but at the same time chaos is on a higher scale. Undoubtedly, our world is one in which at the moment the authority is even out of the hands of its first class rulers. But this chaos on a worldly scale is as different as chalk from cheese, to the chaos in a village. Therefore, we are going towards chaos as well as organization.
When we go towards the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi, at the same time, we go towards chaos because from organization one must go to chaos and then to organization again because it is chaos on a higher scale. When had such thoughts, which have emerged among men today, appeared hundred of years ago, let alone five hundred year ago? Nowadays, the world’s intellectuals say: the single solution of the miseries of man in the world today is forming a single universal government. Such thoughts never stroke the pale of man’s imagination before.
Thus, because we are going towards chaos and organization at the same rate, Islam never commands not performing duties. If it was other than this, it would have commanded to commit the forbidden and abandon obligations and say do not enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, do not discipline and train your children! Let corruption intensify! When you go after praying, fasting, enjoining what is good, writing books, speeches, and propagations, you are causing delay to the reappearance of the al-Mahdi.
No, these kinds of reforms will make his reappearance closer just as those chaoses will bring the reappearance of the Imam closer. In no way must the issue of awaiting reappearance bring this thought to our minds that we are awaiting the reappearance so this duty is no longer on our shoulders (whether big or small). No duty will become invalidated.
There are other matters but our time is now finished and I must gradually end my speech. I will tell you my last thoughts:
Try to adjust your thoughts, with regards to the Imam of the Time, with what has come in the Islamic contexts. The majority of us have turned this into a childish dream of an individual who is trapped with revenge and obsessions. It is as if Imam al-Mahdi is only waiting for Allah to give him the permission to come and for example lead us Iranians, or the Shi‘ahs to happiness (and what Shi‘ahs we are! We are not true Shi‘ahs!). No this is a big global philosophy because Islam is a big global religion, because the Shi‘ism, in its true definition, is a global matter. When the Qur’an says the following, we should regard this as a big global philosophy,
“Certainly, we wrote in the Scripture, after the reminder: ‘Indeed My righteous servants shall inherit the Earth’.”13
It talks about the earth and there is no talk about a certain region or a certain race. First there are hopes in the future, that the world will not be destroyed.
I have repeatedly said that this thought has emerged today in the European world which is: man has reached a certain stage in his life that is only a step away from the grave; he has dug for himself. This is true according to the apparent principles but our religious principles and ideology tell us that: man’s prosperous life is in the future. The life in this world is only temporary. Secondly: that our time is the time of intellect and wisdom.
You know that a person has three general periods in his life: the period of childhood, which is the time of play and childish thought; the juvenile period, which is the time of rage and desire; and the period of man’s senior years, which is the period when wisdom rules. This is how the human society is. The human society must plan three periods. One period is the time of legends, myths and as the Qur’an defines, the period of ignorance.
The second one is the period of knowledge but knowledge and juvenility; that is to say ruling period of rage and desire. Truly on what axis is our age rotating? If one computes correctly, he will see that the rotation axis of our time is rage and lust more than anything else. Our time is the age of bombs (meaning rage) and the age of mini skirts (meaning lust).
Will there come a time when neither legend nor rage, neither lust nor bombs rule and the age of wisdom, justice and spirituality prevail? Will it truly come? How can such a time not come? How could it be possible for Allah who created this world and created man as the most noble of all creations to suddenly overturn him before he has reached this complete maturity period?
Mahdism is, thus, a very big philosophy. Do you see how excellent the Islamic contents we have are? It is near the auspicious month of Ramadan. You will hopefully be successful in reading the Iftitah Supplication during the nights of Ramadan. The end of this supplication is exclusive to the pure being of the Imam of the Time. I shall read those parts in conclusion as my end of session prayers,
Oh Allah! We ardently desire that in this kind, just and fair period, Thou should reactivate Islam and stimulate its followers and humble and humiliate the impostors, and include us among those who invite people unto Thy obedience and lead them to Thy approved path.
O Lord! Please place us among those who are subject to Your privilege and mercy in this world and the next world.
O Allah! We swear by Your Holy Essence and the truth of the saints of generosity to place us among those worthy of this big dream.