Hazrat Imam Al-Mahdi (‘a) is the twelfth and last of the chain of the Purified Imams (‘a) and the divine successors. He was born at the time of dawn, on Friday the 15th of Shaban 255 A.H. in the city of Samarrah1.
His respected father is Imam Hasan al-Askari (‘a). His beloved mother is Janab al-Nargis Khatoon (ra). She was the descendant of the Caesar of Rome from her father's side and from her mother's side she had descended from shamoon the vicegerant of Hazrat Isa (‘a).2
This exalted personality has the same name and kuniyah (agnomen) as the Holy Prophet (S). His titles are Al-Mahdi, Hujjat, Qa’im, Muntadhar, Sahibuzzaman and Khalaf al-Saleh. His most famous honourific however is Al-Al-Mahdi (‘a).3
Ibn Khallikaan writes; "His well-known title is Hujjat. The Shi’as know him by the titles, Muntadhar, Qa’im and Al-Mahdi"4
The great scholar Mohaddith al-Noori has collected 182 titles of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘a) from the Islamic texts. Each of these titles signify each of his virtuous qualities.5
The tyrant Abbasid rulers were aware of the prophecies of the Holy Prophet (S). That the son of Imam Hasan al-Askari (‘a) by the name of Al-Mahdi will appear to remove all kinds of corruption and tyranny; hence they planned to eliminate the child when he is born. Due to this the birth of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘a) was kept a secret like that of Hazrat Ibrahim (‘a). So much so that except for the most trusted of the Shi’as and his own family, no one knew of the existence of Hazrat (‘a). In spite of this whenever there was an opportunity, Imam Hasan al-Askari (‘a) showed his son to his trustworthy followers; that in future they may follow him. This was in order that the Shi’as may remain firm upon the right path, and not be led astray. A servant Abu Ghanim says:
"Abu Muhammad (‘a) has a son whose name is Muhammad." On the third day of his birth he brought him before his companions and said:
"After me he is your Master of the affair, he is my successor, he is the same 'Qa’im', who is awaited by alt When the earth will be fraught with injustice and oppression then he will reappear and fill the earth with justice and righteousness."6
The early years of his life were spent in the usual way. When he was in his fifth year, he lost his respected father.7
After this tragic event the responsibility of guiding the Shi’as was transferred upon him. At this time, Hazrat (‘a) possessed all the qualities and the divine knowledge that was bestowed upon the previous Imams (‘a), by the Almighty. In the same way as Hazrat Yahya (‘a) in his childhood and Hazrat Isa (‘a) in his infancy was favoured with the divine office of Prophethood by Allah.8
Although all the Imams (‘a) were holding the divine office of wilayat, the efforts of the enemies to eliminate the twelfth Imam (‘a) were maximum. Hence Imam az-Zaman (‘a) was entrusted to Ghaybah and being away from the sight of people, he had to fulfill all the duties of an Imam.
It is said that the concealed life of Hazrat Al-Mahdi (‘a) is not something extraordinary. Rather, in the life of so many Prophets (‘a) and even Imams (‘a) it is seen, that they were at some time, in concealment from the people. The Holy Qur’an records the concealment of various prophets (‘a) like Hazrat Ibrahim (‘a)9, Hazrat Musa (‘a)10 and Hazrat Isa (‘a)11.
The Holy Prophet (S) and the Imams (‘a) had pointed out to the people the imminent occultation of their last proof (Imam Al-Mahdi-aj), so that no doubt or misunderstanding should remain, regarding this problem.
The occultation (Ghaybah) of the twelfth Imam consists of two phases: one is Ghaybah al-Sughra (The lesser occultation) and the second is Ghaybah al-Kubra (The greater occultation). Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq (‘a) said:
'There are two occultations for Qa’im. One is short and the other prolonged. In the short occultation only the special Shi’as will know of his whereabouts. And in the longer occultation only his trustworthy servants will know where he is"12
According to the well-known reports, the lesser occultation (Ghaybah al-sugra) commenced from the year of his Imamat in 260 A.H and continued for 69 years. Some of the scholars like Shaykh Mufeed and Syed Mohsin Amin Amili maintain that Ghaybah al-sugra began right from the time of his birth.13
Because, even in those early years, Hazrat (‘a) was concealed from the common people. According to this method, the period of Ghaybah al-sugra comes to seventy four years.
During the period of Ghaybah al-sugra. Imam Al-Mahdi (‘a) himself appointed his deputies from among the righteous Shi’as. Four of them succeeded each other and continued to fulfill the duty of intermediaries. These four personalities conveyed the questions and problems to Imam (‘a) and brought back the Imam's (‘a) answers for the people. The first of these deputies was Janab Abu Amroo Uthman Ibn Saeed Amri. Before this he was a representative of Imam Hasan Al-Askari (‘a)14
Shaykh Tusi writes: “On the fortieth day the Shi’as were sitting in the company of Imam Hasan al-Askari (‘a), when Imam Askari (‘a) wished that they recognise his Hujyat after him..... Suddenly a handsome child was brought before them. He resembled Abu Muhammad (‘a).
Then Imam al-Askari (‘a) said: "He is your Imam after me. And my successor upon you. Obey him, and do not go astray after me (after my death), otherwise your religion shall be destroyed and you will be annihilated. Know that, after today you shall not see him, even if you spend your whole life for it. Hence, accept what Uthman tells you, obey his commands and listen to what he says. Because he is the representative of your Imam and holds the responsibility.15
After the death of Uthman Ibn Saeed, his pious son, Muhammad Ibn Uthman succeeded his father upon the post of the deputyship of Imam az-Zaman (‘a).16
Shaikh Tusi has recorded the letters sent by Imam Hasan Al-Askari (‘a) and Imam Al-Mahdi (‘a) to Uthman Ibn Saeed and his son Abu Ja’far Muhammad Ibn Uthman for the Shi’as. These letters consists of commands, prohibitions and replies to the questions of the Shi’as.17
Muhammad Ibn Uthman passed away from this world at the end of Jamadi-ul-Awwal in the year 304 or 305 A.H.18
During the time of his illness, as he laid on the sick-bed, the Shi’as and their children came and surrounded him. They asked: "If something happens, whom should we consult instead of you?" He answered, "This Abul Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh Ibn Bahr Nawbakhti is successor. And he is the intermediary between you and the Master affair (Imam Al-Mahdi- aj), and his agent. He is trustworthy and reliable. Consult him, and in case of important matters, rely upon him. I have been ordered to announce this, and I have announced it"19
Husain Ibn Ruh Nawbakhti was. one of the agents of Muhammad ibn Uthman in Baghdad. He had been working closely with him for a long time. These agents used to be in contact with the people and when ordered they handed over the goods to them20. Husayn ibn Ruh died in Shaban 326 A.H21
The last safir was Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad Seymoori. He became the deputy of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘a) according to the will of Husain ibn Ruh. He died after three years on the 15th of Shaban 329 A.H.22
The graves (tombs) of these four respected deputies (Nawwab al-Arba’, as they are commonly known) are situated in Baghdad.23
The most sensitive and crucial period of Ghaybah al-sugra was when Ali Ibn Mohammad died. Because till his death the people were is contact with Imam az-Zaman (‘a) through him. After his death, it was the commencement of Ghaybah al-Kubra.
Six days before his death, Ali ibn Muhammad Seymoori received a communication from Imam az-Zaman (‘a):
"...so be prepared, but appoint no one in your place, because from the day of your death, the period of my major occupation (Gaybah al-Kubra) will begin. Henceforth, no one will see me, unless and until Allah makes me appear. My reappearance will take place after a very long time, when the world will be full of injustice and violence".24
Ultimately, the shining sun of the divine proof went behind the curtain of Ghaybah, completely. And the period of communication with Hazrat (through Nawab al-Arba) came to an end. In spite of this (his Ghaybah) Hazrat Al-Mahdi (‘a) is the Imam of the time and Imam of the world. He is the Divine Proof. Even though his person may be hidden from our eyes but his commands are clear.
Amir Al-Mu’minin Ali (‘a) announced from his pulpit at Kufa: "Even if the person of the Divine Proof is hidden while he guides the people, his knowledge and manners will be clear for them to follow"25
It is clear that the knowledge and practice of Imam Al-’Asr (‘a) is impeccable like the Qur’an, as was the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (S). It is obligatory for the people of faith (Muslims) to act upon the Qur’an and Sunnah, and to refrain from what they prohibit. The Holy Prophet (S) said:
"I leave behind two weighty things among you: The Book of Allah and my Progeny, my Ahl Al-Bayt If you adhere to those two you shall not go astray. And know that these two shall not separate till they meet me at Hauz (Kauthar)"26
During the period of Ghaybah al-Kubra, when it is not possible to establish communication with Imam az-Zaman (‘a) at will, the people have been ordered to follow the true teachings of the Qur’an and Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) through the pious and religious scholars and the just jurists. The people must follow them to know what obligations they are supposed to fulfill.
Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a): "And among jurists (Fuqaha) are those who protect their selves (from sins) guard their religion, defy their carnal desires and are obedient to their master. It is incumbent upon the people to follow them. Such characteristics are found only in a few of them (Shi’as) and not all"27.
The jurists issue decrees for the people and explain to them truth about faith. They endeavour to fulfill the exalted duty of preparing the grounds for the reappearance of their master, Hazrat Al-Mahdi (‘a). So that by the coming of Hazrat (‘a) the Islamic faith may strengthen and that he may fill the earth with justice and equity.
- 1. Kamaaluddin vol. 2, Pg. 428, 433 424,430.
- 2. Kamaaluddin vol.2 Pg. 420,424.
- 3. Al Fusoolul Muhimma Pg.292, Nurul Absaar Pg. 168.
- 4. Wafayatui Ayaan vol.4 Pg 176.
- 5. Najm-us-saaqib Pg. 41-98.
- 6. Kamaaluddin Vol. 2 Pg. 431.
- 7. Al Kafi, Vol. 1 pg. 503.
- 8. See Qur’an, Sura Maryam, Ayat 12 and 30:
يَا يَحْيَىٰ خُذِ الْكِتَابَ بِقُوَّةٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْحُكْمَ صَبِيًّا
“O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him wisdom while yet a child” (19:12).
قَالَ إِنِّي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ آتَانِيَ الْكِتَابَ وَجَعَلَنِي نَبِيًّا
“He [Isa – Jesus] said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet” (19:30).
- 9. See Qur’an, Sura Maryam, Ayat 48-49:
وَأَعْتَزِلُكُمْ وَمَا تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَأَدْعُو رَبِّي عَسَىٰ أَلَّا أَكُونَ بِدُعَاءِ رَبِّي شَقِيًّا
“And I will withdraw from you and what you call on besides Allah, and I will call upon my Lord; may be I shall not remain unblessed in calling upon my Lord.” (19:48).
فَلَمَّا اعْتَزَلَهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ ۖ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا نَبِيًّا
“So when he withdrew from them and what they worshipped besides Allah, We gave to him Ishaq and Yaqoub, and each one of them We made a prophet.” (19:49).
- 10. See Qur’an, Sura Qasas, Ayat 21-22.
فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ ۖ قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
“So he [Musa – Moses] went forth therefrom, fearing, awaiting, (and) he said: My Lord! deliver me from the unjust people.” (28:21).
وَلَمَّا تَوَجَّهَ تِلْقَاءَ مَدْيَنَ قَالَ عَسَىٰ رَبِّي أَنْ يَهْدِيَنِي سَوَاءَ السَّبِيلِ
“And when he [Musa – Moses] turned his face towards Madyan, he said: Maybe my Lord will guide me in the right path.” (28:22).
- 11. See Qur’an, Sura Nisa, Ayat 157:
وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَٰكِنْ شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِنْهُ ۚ مَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ ۚ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا
“And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the messenger of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure.” (4:157).
- 12. Al Kafi Vol. 1 Pg.340; Ghaybah, Nomani Pg. 180.
- 13. Al Kafi Vol. 1 Pg. 340. Ayan ush Shi’a Vol. 2 Pg. 46.
- 14. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg. 353
- 15. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg. 357.
- 16. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg. 362.
- 17. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg. 356.
- 18. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg.366.
- 19. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg. 371-372.
- 20. Gaibat al-Tusi Pg. 369/372.
- 21. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg. 387.
- 22. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg. 394.
- 23. Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pgs. 358, 366. 376, 396.
- 24. Kamaaluddin Vol.2 Pg.516; Ghaybah, al-Tusi Pg.395.
- 25. Kamaaluddin vol. I Pg.302.
- 26. Yanabiul Mawaddah Pg. 35.
- 27. Tafsir Al Imam Pg. 300.