In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds and may prayer and peace be upon our master and Prophet, Muhammad, and his pure progeny, and may Allah’s curse be upon all their enemies from the first to the last one.
We Twelver Shias believe that Imam Mahdi, son of Imam Hasan 'Askari (a.s)and from the descendants of Imam Husayn (a.s) is the twelfth infallible imam from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S).
We believe that he is born and is alive though he lives away from people. This belief is among our essential religious beliefs and any Shia who casts doubts on it is no longer considered as a Shia.
In order to be able to hold dialogue with the followers of other religious sects and to invited them to accept this belief we need to make use of [generally] accepted arguments and valid methodologies. It is on the basis of such an approach that we can hold talks with fair-minded and impartial scholars of other religious sects. There are however people who do not pay heed to sound arguments and friendly admonitions. It is thus useless to engage in dialogue with such type of people. It seems as if the followers of Ibn Taymiyya, to cite an example, are among such people. Instead of paying attentions to sound arguments they use foul language and level accusations.
In his Minhaj al-Sunna, Ibn Taymiyya, mentor of such kind of Sunnis, commenting on Shias' belief in Imam Mahdi, says very rudely: "One of the stupid acts done by Shias is that they have devoted to awaited Mahdi particular places where they keep waiting for him. The basement (sardab) of Samarra considered by Shias as a place where Mahdi has disappeared is among such locations. They sometimes put animals such as mule, horse etc. over there so that the awaited imam would ride on them after reappearing. They commissioned a person to stand by the basement and keep calling on awaited Mahdi to reappear. They carry weapons whereas there is no one they need to fight with. Among Shias there are people who do not offer their prayer lest they are not deprived from helping their imam if he reappears, due to getting engaged in prayer. This is while they live in cities like Medina that is far away from the place where he is likely to reappear. During the last ten days of the month of Ramadan or days that are better off than these days they turn their faces towards the east asking him earnestly to reappear.
Obviously, if there is a Mahdi and Allah orders him to reappear he will reappear, whether or not the Shias make any requests. [And if there is a Mahdi but] Allah does not allow him to reappear he will not reappear whether or not they make any request. In either case, what Shias do is futile. In addition, if he reappears, Allah will help him, providing him with vehicle and supporters. Thus it is not necessary for some misguided people who are struggling in vain, thinking they are doing something good, to keep waiting for him.
In the Holy Quran, Allah reproaches those who address in their prayers people and things that do not respond them… In the age of ignorance, they worshiped idols that were accessible to them and that sometimes contained evils that talked to them.
Obviously, the condition of those who communicate with a none-existing thing is far worse than that of those who communicate with an existing thing – though it is not alive.
Shias may possibly say, in response, that they believe in the existence of Mahdi, but they have to be reminded that their word is similar to that of idol worshipers. This is because they were also of the view that the idols they worshiped were able to intercede for them with Allah. Addressing them, Allah the Almighty says:
وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُهُمْ وَلَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَكَانَ الْكَافِرُ عَلَى رَبِّهِ ظَهِيرًا
And they serve besides Allah that which neither profits them nor causes them harm; and the unbeliever is a partisan against his Lord. 1
In short, both idol worshipers and Shias ask for assistance from those who are unable to help them. There is however a minor difference between the two. Idol worshipers regard idols as their intercessors and their objects of worship. Shias however believe that Mahdi is an infallible imam. They go so far that they regard their Mahdi as the standard of love and hatred just as idol worshipers deem their idols as such.
Just as some polytheists consider believing in gods as a basic article of their faith, Shias regard believing in Mahdi as a basic article of their faith, assuming that without such a belief no one's religion is perfect".2
Elsewhere he states: "Similarly it is not possible for anyone to know about the commandments and prohibitions of the Mahdi whom we should obey according to them. Thus if a Muslim will not achieve happiness except through obeying someone whose commandments and prohibitions are not clear and accessible, then such an obligation will be a clear example of unbearable obligations, but Shias try more than anyone else to prescribe such obligations both for themselves as well as for others.
If it is said that Mahdi's commandments are not anything other than the beliefs and rulings existing currently among Twelver Shias, it must be said in response that in such a case there is no need for believing in the existence of Mahdi. This is because Shia's religious commandments are known to everybody and his life or death, presence or absence will not change anything….
Shias are however among the most ignorant people. This is because to do intellectual and religious duties and not to do intellectually or religiously rejected things is either dependent on the commandment and prohibitions of this awaited imam or not.
If they are dependent on his commandments and prohibitions then we are obliged to do an unbearable obligation. In such a case to perform or not to perform an obligation is conditioned to something that is beyond the ability of anyone. This is because no one has honestly claimed to have seen him or heard him say anything in in the entire world.
If they are not dependent on knowing his commandments it will be possible to perform intellectual and religious obligations and to avoid intellectually or religious unwanted things without relying on this awaited imam. In such a case there is no need for his presence and existence…"3
Elsewhere he mentions: "Some great Shias like Ibn Ud Hill4 are of the view that whenever Shias differed on any issue and the holders of one opinion are known whereas the holders of another opinion are not known the correct opinion is the opinion whose holders are not known, for the awaited imam is likely to be present among them.
This is the extremity of ignorance and misguidance. This is because even if there is such a person as the awaited infallible imam, it is not clear if he cherishes such an opinion, for he is not quoted directly or indirectly as having said such a thing. How can thus one make sure that he really cherishes such an opinion?
It can thus be concluded that Shia's religion is based on something that is unknown and non-existing".5
Elsewhere he says: "Any supposed imam who is useful in religious or worldly matters is far better than an imam who is not useful at all…
Can one thus find anyone more distanced from the objective of imamate and from goodness and dignity than Shias who follow a destination that brings them regret?"6
Commenting on Shias he points out: "No one benefited from him- neither those who believed in him nor those who denied him".7
Likewise he states that it is plain that this awaited imam – who has passed away according to general Muslim opinion and is alive according to Shiite opinion – is of no avail to any human being. His predecessors were also like him not being able to do anything an infallible imam is supposed to do for Muslims…8
Elsewhere he maintains that anyone who takes over people's affairs is far better than the non-existing awaited imam whom Shias introduce as [prophet's] successor having divine authority.9
He says that from among some religious sects some have claimed to be the promised Messiah, among whom are Qarmatiyan Mahdi, Ibn Tumert's Mahdi etc. The said claimants are however far better than Shias' Mahdi. This is because their Mahdi can never be traced…10
According to him, the belief in Mahdi has, in addition, caused numerous evils of which only Allah is aware.11
On his opinion, Muhammad bin Jarir Tabari, Abd al-Baqi bn Qani'a and other historians are of the view that Hasan bin Ali Askari had no child.12
Explaining Shias' beliefs about Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance), the book in your hand studies the doubts and skepticisms raised about Imam Mahdi. This study is divided into three parts:
Part One: Mahdawiyyat and Imam Mahdi from the view point of Muslim thinkers
Part Two: Counter traditions
Part Three: Question of Mahdawiyyat and doubts about it
It is hoped that this humble effort will be accepted by Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance).
Sayyid Ali Husayni Milani
- 1. Quran, Yunus, 18.
- 2. Mihaj al-Sunna, vol. 1, pp. 44 47.
- 3. Ibid,, pp. 87 88.
- 4. Abu al-Qasim Najib al-Din bin Husayn bin Ud Hilli (H.d. 679 AH. See 'Ayan al-Shi'a, vol. 10, p. 296.
- 5. Mihaj al-Sunna, vol. 1, pp. 89 90.
- 6. Ibid, pp. 100 101.
- 7. Ibid, p. 133.
- 8. Ibid, vol. 3, p. 378.
- 9. Ibid, vol. 1, p. 548.
- 10. Ibid, vol. 8, pp. 258 and 259.
- 11. Ibid, p. 259.
- 12. Ibid, vol. 4, p. 87.