Here we will discuss about Mahdawiyyat and Imam Mahdi from the viewpoint of Muslim thinkers from different perspectives.
All Muslims believe that Muslim community has a Mahdi. There is no difference among Muslims about it. The Holy Prophet (S) informed Muslims about his reappearance, telling his names, attributes, appellations and peculiarities.
The traditions narrated in this regard in Shiite and Sunni sources are far above the standard of succession (tawatur). That is the reason why there is no difference among Muslims in this connection. Anyone who is aware of such traditions and their accuracy and despite that refutes the doctrine of Mahdawiyyat, rejects the words said by the Holy Prophet (S).
Shiite and Sunni hadith collections contain traditions in this regard. Great present and past scholars have compiled works on this issue, touching the traditions said by the Holy Prophet (S) concerning Imam Mahdi (a.s.).
Moreover, there are numerous verses in the Holy Quran that on some interpretations deal with Imam Mahdi (a.s.).
Given all these, one cannot pay heed to what a few historians such as Ibn Khaldun have pinpointed.1 Ibn Khaldun's opinion in this regard is so queer and strange that even some Sunni scholars have also rejected it.
Here are the names of some of the most famous Sunni writers who have recorded traditions concerning Imam Mahdi throughout history.
• Abu Bakr bin Abi Khaithama (d. 279 AH)
• Na'aeem bin Hamad Maruzi (d. 288 AH)
• Abu Husayn bin Munadi (d. 336 AH)
• Abu Na'aeem Isfahani (d. 430 AH)
• Abu Ula 'Attar Hamadani (d. 569 AH)
• Abd al-Ghani Maqdisi (d. 600 AH).
• Ibn 'Arabi Andulusi (d. 638 AH)
• Sa'ad al-Din Hamuvi (d. 650 AH)
• Abu Abdullah Ganji Sha'fi'ai (d. 658 AH)
• Yusuf bin Yahya Maqdisi (d.658 AH)
• Ibn Qayyim Jawziyya (d. 685 AH)
• Ibn Kathir Demishqi (d. 774 AH)
• Jalal al-Din Suyuti (d. 911 AH)
• Shahab al-Din Ibn Hajar Makki (d. 974 AH)
• Ali bin Hisam al-Din Muttaqi Hindi (d. 975 AH)
• Nur al-Din Ali Qari Hiravi (d. 1014 AH)
• Muhammad bin Ali Shukani Qazi (1250 AH)
• Ahmad bin Saddiq Ghamari (d. 1380 AH)
These are some of the most popular Sunni writers who have written books on traditions concerning Imam Mahdi (a.s). At present as well, there are writers who have written books on this issue. There is however no need to mention these books.
As mentioned above, there are traditions said by the Messenger of Allah (S) on Mahdawiyyat and imamate of Imam Mahdi (a.s). These traditions are reported by many of his great companions. Muslim scholars have narrated these traditions from the companions of the Apostle of Allah. Since their names are too many, we suffice to mentioning some of them.
• Imam Ali, commander of the faithful (a.s)
• Fatima al-Zahra (daughter of the Holy Prophet)
• Imam Hasan Mujtaba (Prophet's grandson)
• Imam Husayn (Prophet's grandson)
• Abdullah bin Mas'ud
• Abudar Ghaffari
• Abu Ayyub Ansari
• Abdullah bin Abbas
• 'Ammar bin Yasir
• Abu Sa'aeed Khadri
• Hudayfa bin Yaman
• Umar bin Khattab
• Abd al-Rahman bin 'Awf
• Uthman bin 'Afan
• Talha bin Ubaidullah
• Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari
• Umm al-Mu'amineen Umm Salama
• 'Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr
There are many Sunni scholars who have dealt with the issue of the succession of traditions on Imam Mahdi (a.s), throughout different centuries in history. Below are the names of some of these scholars:
• Hafiz Jamal al-Din Mazzi (d. 742 AH)2
• Qurtubi, a great jurist and exegete (d. 671 AH)3
• Ibn Qayyim Jawziyya (d. 751 AH)4
• Ibn Hajar 'Asqalani (d. 852 AH)5
• Jalal al-Din Suyuti (d. 911 AH)6
• Ibn Hajar Makki (d. 974 AH)7
• Sheikh Ali Muttaqi Hindi (d.975 AH)8
• Faqih Ahmad Zaini Dahlan Shaf'ae (d. 1304 AH)9
There are other Sunni scholars who (have not narrated these traditions in their books but) have however confirmed that these traditions are authentic. Among such scholars are:
• Timidhi, author of al-Sunan, one the six sahih collections.
• Muhammad bin Husayn Abri (d. 363 AH)
• Abu Bakr Baihaqi, author of al-Sunanal-Kubra
• Farra Baghvi Muhyi al-Sunna
• Ibn Athir Jazari
• Shams al-Din Dahabi
• Nur al-Din Haithami
Given all these, there is no place for controversy over the doctrine of Mahdawiyyat in Islam. Thus anyone who denies the existence of Imam Mahdi (a.s) is no longer according to all, a Muslim.
Every time there has to be an Imam who is acceptable to people and people follow him in every matter, considering him as an authority between themselves and Allah.
رُّسُلاً مُّبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ لِئَلاَّ يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللّهِ حُجَّةٌ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا
(We sent) apostles as the givers of good news and as warners, so that people should not have a plea against Allah after the (coming of) apostles; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. 10
Elsewhere the Holy Quran maintains:
إِذْ أَنتُم بِالْعُدْوَةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُم بِالْعُدْوَةِ الْقُصْوَى وَالرَّكْبُ أَسْفَلَ مِنكُمْ وَلَوْ تَوَاعَدتَّمْ لاَخْتَلَفْتُمْ فِي الْمِيعَادِ وَلَـكِن لِّيَقْضِيَ اللّهُ أَمْراً كَانَ مَفْعُولاً لِّيَهْلِكَ مَنْ هَلَكَ عَن بَيِّنَةٍ وَيَحْيَى مَنْ حَيَّ عَن بَيِّنَةٍ وَإِنَّ اللّهَ لَسَمِيعٌ عَلِيم
When you were on the nearer side (of the valley) and they were on the farthest side, while the caravan was in a lower place than you; and if you had mutually made an appointment, you would certainly have broken away from the appointment, but—in order that Allah might bring about a matter which was to be done, that he who would perish might perish by clear proof, and he who would live might live by clear proof; and most surely Allah is Hearing, Knowing. 11
Quran again says:
سَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُواْ لَوْ شَاء اللّهُ مَا أَشْرَكْنَا وَلاَ آبَاؤُنَا وَلاَ حَرَّمْنَا مِن شَيْءٍ كَذَلِكَ كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِم حَتَّى ذَاقُواْ بَأْسَنَا قُلْ هَلْ عِندَكُم مِّنْ عِلْمٍ فَتُخْرِجُوهُ لَنَا إِن تَتَّبِعُونَ إِلاَّ الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ أَنتُمْ إَلاَّ تَخْرُصُونَ.
Those who are polytheists will say: If Allah had pleased we would not have associated (aught with Him) nor our fathers, nor would we have forbidden (to ourselves) anything; even so did those before them reject until they tasted Our punishment. Say: Have you any knowledge with you so you should bring it forth to us? You only follow a conjecture and you only tell lies. 12
Referring to reliable prophetic traditions, we come across three successively reported traditions that deal with the issue of imamate. These three traditions prove that there is a perpetual need for an imam and declare that the number of imams does not exceed twelve.
According to the first tradition (from among the said three successively reported traditions), everyone who dies without knowing the imam of his time dies the death of ignorance.
Every time there is a need for an imam. It is necessary for all to know him, believe in his imamate and it is obligatory for every Muslim to follow
him. If a Muslim dies without knowing the imam of his time he dies the death of ignorance.
This has been reported through numerous chains from reliable transmitters. I do not think there is anyone who dares cast doubt on the chain or meaning of these traditions.
These traditions have appeared in Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Musnad, Sunan and other tradition books. They are accepted by Shias and Sunnis alike.
Muslims unanimously agree that the Holy Prophet (S) said:
من مات و لم یعرف امام زمانه مات میته جاهلیه
He who dies without knowing the imam of his time dies the death of ignorance.
This tradition has appeared with the same wording in some reference books. Taking it for granted, Sheikh Sa'ad al-Din Taftazani centers his discussions on imamate in his Sharh al-Maqasi on this tradition.13
This tradition has appeared (in tradition books) in other wordings as well, but we believe that all conveys the same message. The Holy Prophet (S) intends to say that Muslims are always in need of an imam who guides them and it is obligatory upon all Muslims to follow him and seek guidance from him.
In his Musnad, Ahmad for example quotes the Holy Prophet (S) as having said:
من مات بغیر امام مات میته جاهلیه
He who dies without having an imam dies the death of ignorance. 14
The same is reported by by Abu Dawood Tiyalisi in his Musnad and Tabarani in his al-Mu'ajam al-Kabir.
Ibn Hayyan in his Sahih maintains:
من مات و لیس له امام مات میته جاهلیه
He who dies without having an imam dies the death of ignorance. 15
There are also books that have added something to this tradition saying:
من مات و لم یعرف امام زمانه فلیمت ان شاء یهودیا و ان شاء نصرانیا
He who dies without knowing the imam of his time should die as he wishes – as a Jew or as a Christian. 16
A number of scholars have reported this tradition with this wording from al-Masael al-Khamsun written by Fakhr Razi.
Though this tradition has also appeared in other wordings as well in Sahih, Sunan and Musnad hadith collections we suffice to what we have thus far reported. We will however elaborate on some of the peculiarities of the text of this tradition.
The phrase 'من مات و لم یعرف' 'he who dies without knowing..' shows that knowing the imam is an article of faith, for the lack of such knowledge causes one to die the death of ignorance. Thus we must translate this tradition as 'he who dies without believing in imam'…
It is likewise clear that the term 'imam' does not include anyone who is practically leading his society. It includes only a righteous imam who is appointed by Allah, the Almighty.
Thus, according to this tradition, he who dies without recognizing the imam of his time together with the peculiarities mentioned dies the death of ignorance.
The term 'imam' thus does not (as mentioned) include all rulers, for it is not obligatory to know them and not knowing them does not lead one to Hell nor does it cause one to die the death of ignorance.
Thus the imam we are obliged to know, obey and believe in has to be righteous appointed by shari'a laws. It is such an imam whom we must consider an intermediary authority between ourselves and Allah. If one dies without believing in such an imam he dies the death of ignorance.
In other words, he who dies without knowing the imam of his time should die as he wishes – as a Jew or as a Christian.
According to historians, Abdullah bin Umar did not pay allegiance to Imam Ali (a.s). As the night fell, he met Hajjaj in his house to pay allegiance to him as Abd al-Malik's deputy. Abdullah bin Umar did not want to pass one night without having an imam. As he himself mentions, he went to Hajjaj's house in order to act on the tradition that says: He who dies without having an imam dies the death of ignorance.
As the night fell, he went to Hajjaj's house. He knocked at his door, entered his house and asked Hajjaj to accept his allegiance. Addressing Hajjaj, he said that he had heard the Holy Prophet (S) say:
من مات و لا امام له مات میته جاهلیه
He who dies without having an imam dies the death of ignorance.
Hajjaj however insulted him and stretching his foot (instead of his hand), he said: Pay allegiance to my foot. Abdullah bin Umar did what he was asked to do and thus he paid allegiance to him.
The story of Abdullah bin Umar is not surprising. This is because he did not pay allegiance to an important person like Imam Ali, commander of the faithful. He [who behaves so irresponsibly] must get humiliated and pay allegiance in such an embarrassing way to a person like Hajjaj.
In another instance, in the event of Hurra, Yazid bin Mu'awiyya put Medina for three days at the disposal of his army, allowing it to do whatever it wanted to the people of Medina.
It is well-known that in this event tens of thousands of ordinary people and hundreds of the Holy Prophet's companions were killed. They raped numerous Muslim women and as a result hundreds of illegitimate children were born.
Commenting on Abdullah bin Umar and the event of Hurra, historians point out that during the event of Hurra Abdullah bin Umar met Abdullah bin Muti'a. Abdullah bin Mut'a ordered his servant to bring a pillow for Abu Abd al-Rahman (Abdullah bin Umar). Abdullah bin Umar said that he had not come to sit. Instead, he said, he had come to tell him a tradition which
he had heard from the Holy Prophet (S). He said he had heard the Holy Prophet (S) say:
من خلع یدا من طاعه لقی الله یوم القیامه لا حجه له و من مات و لیس فی عنقه بیعه مات میته جاهلیه.
He who gives up obeying [his imam] will meet Allah on the Day of Judgment without having any authority. He who dies without paying allegiance to an imam dies the death of ignorance.17
Thus it is an indisputable fact that it is obligatory to know the imam of time, believe in his leadership and remain loyal to him. Traditions and the conduct of the companions of the Holy Prophet (S) testify to its truth. As mentioned before, the behavior of Abdullah bin Umar (whom Sunnis accept as a model) as an instance, indicates that it is necessary to know an imam and obey him.
It is said that this Abdullah bin Umar (finally) regretted over why he did not pay allegiance to Imam Ali, commander of the faithful and why he did not fight against Qasiteen (a rebellious group that fought against Imam Ali).
Our aim is not to elaborate on Abdullah bin Umar or others. Our aim, instead, is to bring instances from Quran, tradition and companions' conduct to show that imamate is an essential article of Islamic faith. In every time, there is a righteous imam who is appointed by Allah. It is obligatory on all Muslims to believe in his imamate and regard him as the authority between themselves and Allah.
In a tradition that is accepted by Shias and Sunnis alike, Imam Ali (a.s) says:
ِ اللَّهُمَّ بَلَى لَا تَخْلُو الْأَرْضُ مِنْ قَائِمٍ لِلَّهِ بِحُجَّةٍ إِمَّا ظَاهِراً مَشْهُوراً وَ إِمَّا خَائِفاً مَغْمُوراً لِئَلَّا تَبْطُلَ حُجَجُ اللَّهِ وَ بَيِّنَاتُه
But this earth will never be without those persons who will prove the universality of truth as disclosed by Allah, they may be well-known persons, openly and fearlessly declaring the things revealed to them or they may, under fear of harm, injury or deaths hide themselves from the public gaze and may carry on their mission privately so that the reasons proving the reality of truth as preached by religion and as demonstrated by His Prophet may not totally disappear. 20
Speaking in this regard, Ibn Hajar says:
و فی صلاه عیسی علیه السلام خلف رجل من هذه الامه مع کونه فی آخر الزمان و قرب قیام الساعه دلاله للصحیح من الاقوال ان الارض لا تخلو من قائم لله بحجه
The fact that Prophet Isa offers prayer after a man belonging to this community and the fact that he is in the end of the world and is close to resurrection confirm the tradition 'this earth will never be without those persons who will prove the universality of truth as disclosed by Allah'. 21
Commenting on the words of Imam Ali, commander of the faithful, Ibn Abi al-Hadid says that the reason why the earth is not devoid of such persons is that the earth must not be devoid of persons who lead people for the sake of divine order. According to him, this portion of Imam Ali's word, confirms the opinion expressed by Shias, though his co-thinkers are of the view that this refers to 'abdal' (a group of people who are righteous and truthful. Their number does not decrease. If one of them dies Allah replaces him with another one).22
The co-thinkers of Ibn Abi al-Hadid did not know that the term 'hujja' does not include all sorts of rulers; it includes only an infallible ruler. No one has described abdal or pious people as infallible.
His co-thinkers did not either notice the final portion of this tradition that links the existence of imam to protecting the clear signs and proofs of Allah. It is only a divinely appointed imam after the Holy Prophet (S), who can perform such a task. That is why Ibn Abi al-Hadid is right when he confesses that Shiite religion is true.
There is another tradition that says: "The Holy Prophet (S) left two successors among Muslim community".
It is reported in various successively reported traditions in different variations that the Holy Prophet (S) left two things behind introducing them as his successors. Muslims would not go astray as long as they adhere to them. They are Allah's book and the Holy Prophet's progeny (a.s). The Holy Prophet (S) added that they would not separate from each other until they met him beside the pool on the Day of Judgment. Below are some examples of some sources that contain this tradition in its various variations.
Using his own chain of reporters, Ahmad bin Hanbal narrates from Zaid bin Thabit who quotes the Holy Prophet (S) as saying:
انی تارک فیکم خلیفتین: کتاب الله حبل ممدود ما بین السماء و الارض او ما بین السماء الی الارض و عترتی اهل بیتی و انهما لن یفترقا حتی یردا علی الحوض
I have left two successors: Allah's book which is a stretched rope between the heaven and earth (or from heaven to earth) and my progeny (my family),These two will never separate from each other until they join me by the pool. 23
Using his own chain of reporters, Tirmidhi quotes Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari as saying: "During performing hajj rituals on 'Arafa day I heard the Holy Prophet (S) who was sitting on the back of his quswa camel24, say:
ایها الناس! قد ترکت فیکم ما ان اخدذتم به لن تضلوا: کتاب الله و عترتی اهل بیتی
O people! I have left something among you to which as long as you hold fast, you will never go astray: Allah’s Book and my progeny (my family). 25
Using his chain of transmitters, Ibn Abi Shayba, author of al-Mussanaf, quotes Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari as saying:
انی ترکت فیکم ما لن تضلوا بعدی ان اعتصمتم به: کتاب الله و عترتی اهل بیتی
I have left some things among you to which as long as you hold fast you will never go astray: Allah’s Book and my progeny (my family).
Ibn Sa'ad Ahmad bin Hanbal and Tabarani have narrated from Abu Sa'eed Khidri who quotes the Holy Prophet as having said:
یا ایها الناس! انی تارک فیکم ما ان اخذتم به لن تضلوا بعدی امرین احدهما اکبر من الاخر: کتاب الله حبل ممدود ما بین السماء و الارض و عترتی اهل بیتی و انهما لن یتفرقا حتی یردا علی الحوض
O people! I have left two things to which if you hold fast you will not go astray; two things one of which is greater than the other. Allah's book which is a stretched rope between the heaven and earth and my progeny (my family), These two will never separate from each other until they join me by the pool.
Relying on his own chain of reporters, Tirmidhi narrates from Zaid bin Arqam who quotes the Holy Prophet (S) as saying:
انی تارک فیکم ما ان تمسکتم به لن تضلوا بعدی احدهما اعظم من الاخر: کتاب الله حبل ممدود من السماء الی الارض و عترتی اهل بیتی و لن یتفرقا حتی یردا علی الحوض فانظروا کیف تخلفونی فیهما
I have left two things among to which if you hold fast you will not go astray after me; one of which is greater than the other. Allah's book which is a rope stretched from heaven to earth and my progeny (my family), [These two] will never separate from each other until they join me by the pool.See how you deal with them after me. 26
Hakim Nayshaburi narrates from Abu Tufail from Zaid bin Arqam who says:
At a place between Macca and Medina where there were large trees, the Holy Prophet (S) dismounted his camel. People cleaned the place under the trees. The Holy Prophet (S) took rest over there and then offered there his noon prayer. Afterwards, he delivered a speech in which he praised Allah and admonished people telling whatever he was ordered by Allah to tell. He then said:
ایها الناس! انی تارک فیکم امرین لن تضلوا ان اتبعتموهما و هما کتاب الله و اهل بیتی عترتی
O people! I have left two things among you to which if you adhere you will never go astray; These two things are Allah's book and my progeny (my family).
Thereupon he thrice said:
ا تعلمون انی اولی بالمؤمنین من انفسهم؟
Do you know that I am closer to believers than their own selves.
People replied: Yes.
Thereupon the Messenger of Allah said:
من کنت مولاه فعلی مولاه
Of whomsoever I am a master then Ali is his master.
This very tradition is also reported by Hakim Nayshaburi, though from Yahya bin Ju'ada who narrates it from Zaid bin Arqam. Hakim says:
Muhammad bin Ali Shaybani told me in Kufa that Ahmad bin Hazim Ghaffari narrated from Abu Na'aeem, from Kamil Abulula from Habib bin Abu Thabit from Yahya bin Ju'ada who quotes Zaid bin Arqam as saying:
One day the Holy Prophet (S) and others (including me) went out till they reached Ghadir Khum. He ordered us to clean the place under the trees. It was extraordinarily hot. After praising Allah, the Apostle of Allah (S) said:
یا ایها الناس! انه لم یبعث نبی قط الا ما عاش نصف ما عاش الذی کان قبله و انی اوشک ان ادعی فاجیب و انی تارک فیکم ما لن تضلوا بعده کتاب الله.
O people! No prophet has come except that he has lived as long as half of what his predecessor lived. Soon I will be invited and I will accept the invitation. I leave among you something to which if you adhere you will never go astray. That is Allah's book.
Thereupon he stood up and taking Ali's hand, he said:
یا ایها الناس! من اولی بکم من انفسکم؟
O people! Who is closer to you than your own selves?
They replied: Allah and His Messenger know better.
Thereupon the Holy Prophet (S) said:
من کنت مولاه فعلی مولاه
Of whomsoever I am a master Ali is his master.
After quoting this tradition, Hakim Nayshaburi says:
The chain of the reporters of this tradition is authentic though Bukhari and Muslim have not mentioned it. In his Talkhis, Dahabi also agrees that this tradition is authentic.27
Narrating this tradition from Zaid bin Arqam, Tabarani says: On Juhfa day the Holy Prophet (S) dismounted his camel. Turning his face towards people he after praising Allah said:
انی لا اجد لنبی الا نصف عمر الذی قبله و انی اوشک ان ادعی فاجیب فما انتم قائلون؟
I have not found any prophet living except half of the time of his predecessor. Soon I will be invited and I will accept the invitation. What are you saying?
They said: You were benevolent.
The Apostle of Allah said:
ا لیس تشهدون ان لا اله الا الله و ان محمدا عبده و رسوله و ان الجنه حق و النار حق و ان البعث بعد الموت حق؟
Don't you testify that there is no god except Allah, Muhammad is His servant and messenger, Hell is true, Heaven is true and that resurrection after death is true?
They said they testified they were true.
Thereupon he placed his hand on his chest saying:
و انا اشهد معکم
And I testify with you as well.
Then he said:
ا لا تسمعون؟
Do you listen to my words?
They answered in the positive. Thereafter he said:
فانی فرطکم علی الحوض و انتم واردون علی الحوض و ان عرضه ابعد ما بین صنعاء و بصری فیه اقداح عدد النجوم من فضه فانظروا کیف تخلفونی فی الثقلین.
I will reach the pool before you and you will join me over there. The width of the pool is wider than the distance between San'a and Busra. There are silver bowls in the number of stars. Look out! How you will deal with the two heavy things?
At this moment somebody loudly said: O Apostle of Allah! What do you mean from Thaqalain?
The Messenger of Allah said:
کتاب الله طرف بید الله عز و جل و طرف بایدکم فاستمسکوا به و لا تضلوا و الاخر عترتی و ان اللطیف الخبیر نبأنی انهما لن یتفرقا حتی یردا علی الحوض و سألت ذلک لهما ربی. فلا تقدموهما فتهلکوا و لا تقصروا عنهما فتهلکوا و لا تعلموهم فانهم اعلم منکم
The first is Allah's book whose one end is in Allah's hand and the other in yours. Adhere to it and do not go astray. The second is my progeny. Allah, who is kind and knowing informed me that they will not separate from each other until they join me by the pool. I asked my Lord not to separate them from each other. Thus do not surpass the Holy Quran and my progeny as otherwise you will perish and do not fail to pay attention to them as otherwise you will perish. Do not teach anything to my progeny as they are more knowledgeable than you are.
Thereupon he took Ali's hand and said:
من کنت اولی به من نفسه فعلی ولیه اللهم وال من والاه و عاد من عاداه
To whomsoever I am closer than his own self, Ali is his master. O Allah! Befriend those who befriend him and antagonize those who antagonize him. 28
Religious scholars are of the view that this tradition contains the Holy Prophet's last will. Ibn Hajar Makki says that this issue has appeared in several traditions including the following:
انی تارک فیکم ما ان تمسکتم به لن تضلوا بعدی الثقلین احدهما اعظم من الاخر: کتاب الله حبل ممدود من السماء الی الارض و عتری اهل بیتی و لن یفترقا حتی یردا علی الحوض فانظروا کیف تخلفونی فیهما
I have left two things among you to which if you hold fast you will not go astray after me; one of which is greater than the other. Allah's book which is a rope stretched from heaven to earth and my progeny (my family), [These two] will never separate from each other until they join me by the pool. See how you deal with them after me.
Quoting this tradition, Tirmidhi says that this tradition is good though few have narrated it.29
This tradition is however recorded by other scholars as well. Ibn Jawzi has mistakenly mentioned this tradition in his al-Ilal al-Mutanahiya [implying that this tradition is not authentic]. How is this possible whereas this tradition is mentioned in Sahih Muslim and other tradition books?30
In his Istijlab Irtiqa al-Ghuraf, Hafiz Sakhavi says that the content of this tradition has appeared in other traditions as well. He mentions the name of Sulayman bin Mihran 'Aamash as an example of those who have mentioned such traditions.31
In his Jawahir al-'Aqdayn, Hafiz Samhudi says: "Fourthly the Messenger of Allah encourages people to adhere to Allah's book and his progeny and treat them well after him. He will ask people about Thaqalain as they will join him by the pool on the Day of Judgment. Allah will also ask people as to how they dealt with Allah's book and Prophet's progeny after the Holy Prophet (S) passed away."32
Moreover a variation of Thaqalain tradition contains:
اوصیکم بکتاب الله و عترتی
I ask you to adhere to Allah's book and my progeny. 33
Religious scholars similarly mention that this tradition indicates that from among Prophet's progeny someone is always there until the Day of Judgment who is apt to be adhered to and who can lead people.
Ibn Hajar Makki says: "Thaqalain traditions indicate that there are always qualified people among Prophet's progeny, who are like Alla's book, always suitable to be adhered to and the land will never be devoid of them. That is why Prophet's progeny is considered to be the cause of the security of the inhabitants of the earth. The tradition mentioned proves what we have claimed. The Holy Prophet, somewhere in his speech, said:
فی کل خلف من امتی عدول من اهل بیتی
In every generation of my community, there is a very just person from my progeny. 34
In his remarks on Thaqalain tradition, Hafiz Sharif Samhudi says: "Thirdly this noble tradition shows that someone is always there from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S) until the Day of Judgment, as otherwise Prophet's words that encourage people to adhere to two heavy thing will not be meaningful. Same is the case with the Holy Quran. [It should also be permanently reliable, for the Holy Prophet has advised us to hold fast to it]. That is why (as we will mention later on) Prophet's progeny is a cause of the security of the inhabitants of earth. If they pass away the inhabitants of earth will perish."35
In his al-Jami'a al-Saghir Manawi has quoted the same thing from Samhudi and so has done Zarqani Maliki in his al-Mawahib al-Ladunniya.36
Elsewhere Samhudi says: "Prophet's progeny to whom we are advised to adhere includes those who are in possession of knowledge of Allah's book. This is because the Holy Prophet (S) does not tell us to adhere to those who do not know about Allah's book. These scholars are always in the company of the Holy Quran until they join the Holy Prophet (S) by the pool. That is why he said:
فلا تقدموهما فتهلکوا و لا تقصروا عنهما فتهلکوا و لا تعلموهم فانهم اعلم منکم
Thus do not surpass the Holy Quran and my progeny as otherwise you will perish and do not fail to pay attention to them as otherwise you will perish. Do not teach anything to my progeny as they are more knowledgeable than you are. 37
Commenting on this issue, in his Sharh al-Mishkat, he says: "Since the inhabitants of a house (family) know more than anyone else about the owner of the house and his living conditions, therefore the term 'progeny' does not include all relatives of the Holy Prophet (S). It includes only those of his relatives who are knowledgeable and aware of Prophet's conduct and life style. Such type of Prophet's relatives have thus the same authority Allah's book has. It is due to this that the Holy Quran maintains38:
و یعلمهم الکتاب و الحکمه
he teaches them the Book and wisdom .39
In his commentary, Nizam al-Din Nayshaburi, relying on Thaqalain tradition maintains that Prophet's progeny includes his heirs and successors. Commenting on
وَكَيْفَ تَكْفُرُونَ وَأَنْتُمْ تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتُ اللَّهِ وَفِيكُمْ رَسُولُهُ وَمَنْ يَعْتَصِمْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدْ هُدِيَ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
But how can you disbelieve while it is you to whom the communications of Allah are recited and among you is His Apostle? And whoever holds fast to Allah he indeed is guided to the right path40, he says: "The phrase 'how do you disbelieve' implies reprimand and exclamation. It exclaims how they can disbelieve while in every cases new verses are recited to them by the Holy Prophet (S) and the Messenger of Allah is present among them, solving their problems and doing away with their doubts."
As to the Holy Quran, it has to be mentioned that it will remain until the Day of Judgment. As to the Holy Prophet (S), it has to be stated that though he has passed away, his instructions are available among people. That is why it can be said that he is really present among us. His progeny is his heirs and successors. He is replaced by them. That is why he says that he has left two heavy things.41
The third tradition maintains that Prophet's caliphs and successors are twelve people. The Holy Prophet (S) determined the number of imams whom we are duty bound to know and whoever dies while not knowing them dies the death of pre-Islamic age. They are in the company of the Holy Quran and the Holy Quran is in their company. Traditions have dealt with this issue as under:
Ahmad quotes Masruq as below: "One day I was sitting beside Abdullah bin Masud who was reciting the Holy Quran. A man asked him as to whether he had asked the Holy Prophet about the number of his successors. He said that nobody had asked him about this issue ever since he had gone to Iraq. Thereupon he said: "Yes, we asked about this from the Holy Prophet (S) and he said:
اثنی عشر کعده نقباء بنی اسرائیل
They are like the guardians of the children of Israel, twelve people. 42
Muslim Nayshaburi also narrates a tradition which is as under:
لا یزال الدین قائما حتی تقوم الساعه او یکون علیکم اثنا عشر خلیفه کلهم من قریش
This religion will remain stable until the Day of Judgment or until twelve people who are all from Quraysh tribe, rule you. 43
In his Sahih, Bukhari narrates from Jabir bin Samara who quotes the Holy Prophet (S) as saying:
یکون اثنا عشر امیرا
There will twelve rulers. Thereupon he said something which I did not hear. My father said: The Holy Prophet said: All these rulers belong to Quraish.44
The third point is that Imam Mahdi (a.s) belongs to Prophet's progeny. The Holy Prophet explicitly mentioned that Mahdi who establishes justice in the world after it becomes full of injustice, is a member of his progeny.
The fact that Mahdi is a member of Prophet's progeny is stressed on in many successively reported traditions. The quotations we made from some Sunni scholars before testify to this fact. Let's now relate some of such traditions.
Though Ahmad bin Hanbal, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi and others have narrated this tradition using various wordings, we suffice to relating it from Ahmad's Musnad. He quotes the Holy Prophet (S) as saying:
لا تقوم الساعه حتی یلی رجل من اهل بیتی یواطی اسمه اسمی
There will be no Resurrection Day until a man from my progeny whose name corresponds my name appears. 45
Commenting on Mahid's reappearance, Ibn Maja says that Ali (a.s) quotes the Holy Prophet (S) as saying:
المهدی منا اهل البیت یصلحه الله فی لیله
Mahdi whom Allah makes dominant overnight is a member of us the ahlulbayt. 46
Ahmad bin Hanbal also relates a tradition from Abu Sa'eed Khidri who quotes the Holy Prophet (S) as saying:
لا تقوم الساعه حتی تمتلی الارض ظلما و عدوانا. قال: ثم یخرج رجل من عترتی او من اهل بیتی یملاها قسطا و عدلا کما ملئت ظلما و عدوانا
There will be no Resurrection Day until the land is filled with injustice and oppression. Thereupon a man from my progeny or my family47 appears. He will establish justice on earth after injustice and oppression spread all over it. 48
Hakim Nayshabur has also mentioned this tradition with the same chain of reporters with the phraseاهل بیتی 'my progeny' making no hesitation. According to him this tradition is qualified on the basis of the conditions related by Bukahri and Muslim, though they themselves have not mentioned it in their books.
In his Talkhis, Shams al-Din Dahabi has agreed with what Hakim Nayshaburi has pointed out.49 Elsewhere, Hakim Naysharburi has narrated this tradition from Abu Sa'eed Khidri with the phrase من عترتی (from my progeny). According to him, this tradition is qualified on the basis of the conditions related by Muslim. Dahabi has also supported Hakim's point of view.50
There is another set of traditions that considers Mahdi (a.s) as one of the descendants of Fatima (a.s). These traditions are as under:
Abu Dawood, Ibn Maja and others say, using different wordings, that Um Salama says that she has heard the Holy Prophet (S) commenting on Mahdi, say:
المهدی من عترتی من ولد فاطمه
Mahdi is a member of my progeny and one of the descendants of Fatima (a.s). 51
Hakim Nayshaburi and Zahabi have narrated from Sa'eed bin Musayyib from Um Salama who says she heard the Holy Prophet commenting on Mahdi, say:
نعم هو حق و هو من بنی فاطمه
Yes he is (the manifestation of) truth and is from the progeny of Fatima (a.s).52
The author of al-Taj, has considered the chain used by Abu Dawood and Hakim Nayshaburi as authentic.53
There are many traditions that state that Mahdi is from the offspring of Imam Husayn (a.s). Below are three specimens of such traditions:
The Holy Prophet (S) said:
لو لم یبق من الدنیا الا یوم واحد لطول الله عزو جل ذلک الیوم حتی یبعث فیه رجلا من ولدی اسمه اسمی
If there were only one day left for the world, that day would be lengthened until a man (Hazrat Mahdi) from among my children, who is my namesake, appears.
Thereupon Salman Farsi stood up and said: O Messenger of Allah! Which of your children's offspring is he? The Messenger of Allah pated Imam Husayn's shoulder saying: من ولدی هدا from the offspring of this child of mine. Many figures including Abu al-Qasim Tabarani, Ibn Asakir Demishqi, Abu Na'eem Isfahani, Ibn Qayyim Jawziya, Yusuf bin Yahya Maqdisi, Sheikh al-Islam Juwaini and In Hajar Maki, author of al-Sawaeq al-Muhriqa have mentioned this tradition in their books.54
During the last days of his life, the Holy Prophet (S), addressing his daughter, Fatima (a.s), said:
ما یبکیک یا فاطمه! اما علمت ان الله اطلع الی الارض اطلاعه فاختار منها اباک فبعثه نبیا ثم اطلع ثانیه فاختار بعلک فاوحی الی فانکحته ایاک و اتخدته وصیا اما علمت انک بکرامه الله ایاک زوجک اعلمهم علما و اکثرهم حلما و اقدمهم سلما
O Fatima! Why do you weep? Do you not know that when Allah looked at the inhabitants of earth for the first time He chose your father as prophet from among them and when He looked at them for the second time, Hechose your husband? He told me through revelation to marry you to him and I chose him as my successor. Do you not know that Allah, in order to honor you, married you to someone who is the first Muslim, the most knowledgeable and forbearing?
Thereupon Fatima laughed and was happy. In order to make her happier, the Holy Prophet (S) said:
و منا مهدی الامه الذی یصلی عیسی خلفه
And from among us is the Mahdi of this community, after whom Jesus offers his prayer.
He then put his hand on Imam Husayn's shoulder saying: من هذا مهدی الامه The Mahdi of this community will be from his offspring.
This tradition has been reported by Dar Qutni, Abu al-Muzaffar Sam'ani, Abu Abdullah Ganji and Ibn Sabbagh Maliki.55
The Holy Prophet (S) said:
یخرج المهدی من ولد الحسین من قبل المشرق لو استقبلته الجبال لهدمها و اتخذ فیها طرقا
Mahdi who is from the offspring of Husayn will rise from the east. If mountains block his way he will destroy them making his way through them.
This tradition has been mentioned by Na'eem bin Hammad (in hi al-Fitan), Tabarani, Abu Na'eem Isfahani and Maqdisi, author of 'Aqd al-Durar fi Akhbar al-Muntazar.56
The fourth point is that Imam Mahdi (a.s) is born and he is the son of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s).
In the light of many successively reported traditions accepted by all Muslims, we have thus far reached the following conclusions.
1. This community has one Mahdi and it is a must to believe in him.
2. Mahdi is from the Holy Prophet's progeny whom we are required to follow and obey not surpassing them in any matter.
3. Mahdi (a.s) is among those twelve persons whom the Messenger of Allah (S) has introduced as his successors and the leaders of Muslims after his demise and whom we are supposed to obey and follow for they belongthe Holy Prophet's progeny.
4. Mahdi is from the offspring of Husayn bin Ali, the martyr of Karbala. He is the son of Imam Hasan Askari, the son of Imam Hadi, the son of Imam Jawad, the son of Imam Reza, the son of Imam Kazim, the son of Imam Sadiq, the son of Imam Baqir, the son of Imam Sajjad, the son of Imam Husayn and the son of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib.
The conclusions drawn show that the earth is never devoid of righteous leaders. These righteous leaders who are from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S) are twelve persons. It is also clear that he is the twelfth Imam and that he is born and is alive now.
It is on the basis of these facts that most of Sunni scholars confess that Imam Mahdi (a.s) is born and is alive now. They think that he is the son of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s). Below are the names of some of these scholars.
• Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hashim Balazari (d. 270 AH).
• Abu Bakr Umar Bayhaqi (d. 458 AH).
• Abu Muhammad Abdullah bin Khashshab (d. 567).
• Ibn Azraq, a historian (d. 590 AH).
• Fakhr Razi, (d. 606 AH).
• Ibn Athir (d. 630).
• Ibn Arabi Andulusi (d. 638).
• Kamal al-Din Ibn Talha (d. 652 AH).
• Sabt Ibn Jawzi (d. 654)
• Abu Abdullah Ganji Shafiee (d. 658 AH).
• Sadr al-Din Qunawi, (d. 672 AH).
• Shams al-Din Ibn Khallakan (d. 681 AH).
• Sadr al-Din Hamuee (d. 723 AH).
• Shams al-Din Dahabi (d. 748 AH).
• Umar bin Woordi (d. 749 AH).
• Salah al-Din Safdi, (d. 764 AH.)
• Shams al-Din ibn Jazari, (d. 833 AH).
• Ibn Sabbagh Maliki, (d. 855 AH).
• Jalal al-Din Suyuti, (d. 911 AH).
• Sheik Abd al-Wahhab Sha'arani, (d. 973 AH)
• Ibn Hajar Makki, (d. 974 AH).
• Sheikh Ali Qadiri, (d. 1013 AH).
• Sheikh Abd al-Haq Dehlavi (d. 1052 AH).
• Shah Waliullah Dehlawi, (d. 1176 AH).
• Sheikh Qunduzi Hanafi, (d. 1294 AH).
- 1. Tarikh Ibn Khaldun, vol. 1, p. 311.
- 2. Tahdib al-Kamal, vol. 25, p. 146.
- 3. Tafsir al-Qurtubi, vol. 8, p. 121.
- 4. Al-Minar al-Nunif, p. 135.
- 5. Tahdib al-Tahdib vol. 9, p. 125 and Fath al-Bari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 6, p. 385.
- 6. Ibraz al-Wahm al-Maknoon, p. 436 complied by Abu al-Fayz Ghamari.
- 7. Al-Sawaeq al-Muhriqa, p. 162.
- 8. Al-Burhan fi 'Alamat Mahdi 'Akhir al-Zaman, p. 178.
- 9. Al-Futuhat al-Islamiyya, vol. 2, p. 211.
- 10. Quran, Nisa, 165.
- 11. Ibid, Anfal, 42.
- 12. Ibid, 148.
- 13. Sharh al- Maqasid, vol. 5, p. 239.
- 14. Musnad Ahmad, vol. 4, p. 96.
- 15. Sahih Ibn Hayyan vol. 10, p. 434.
- 16. Al-Mu''ajam al-Kabir, vol. 19, p. 388.
- 17. Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1478.
- 18. Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 4, pp. 185 and 186. According to this book Abdullah bin Umar says that only worldly thing over which is regretful is that he did not fight against Qasiteen. He further says that in this world he has lost three things over which he is regretful: fasting during the hot days of the year, keeping vigilant at night (offering night prayer) and fighting against Qasiteen who rose to fight Imam Ali (a.s).
- 19. Al-Mustadrak 'ala al-Sahihayn, vol. 3, p. 558. According to this source, Abullah bin Umar says that he did not regret for anything…. (blank space, something is omitted) except because of not fighting against Qasiteen.
- 20. The full text of this tradition is as under:
If sensible trustees of knowledge and wisdom totally disappear from human society then both knowledge and wisdom will suffer severely, may bring harm to humanity and may even die out. But this earth will never be without those persons who will prove the universality of truth as disclosed by Allah, they may be well known persons, openly and fearlessly declaring the things revealed to them or they may, under fear of harm, injury or deaths hide themselves from the public gaze and may carry on their mission privately so that the reasons proving the reality of truth as preached by religion and as demonstrated by His Prophet may not totally disappear. How many are they and where could they be found? I swear by Allah that they are very few in number but their worth and their ranks before Allah are very high. Through them Allah preserves His Guidance so that they, while departing, may hand over these truths to persons like themselves. The knowledge which they have acquired has made them see the realities and visualize the truth and has instilled
into them the spirit of faith and trust. The duties which were decreed as hard and unbearable by them. They feel happy in the company and association of things which frighten the ignorant and uneducated. They live in this world like everybody else but their souls soar to the heights of Divine Eminence. They are media of Allah on this earth and they invitepeople towards Him. How I love to meet them O Kumayl ! I have told you all that I have to say, you can go back to your place whenever you like". Nahj al-Balagha, saying 147.
- 21. Fath al-Bari fiSharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 5, p. 385. This can also be found elsewhere in other Sunni sources such Tafsir al-Razi, vol. 2, p. 192,, Sharh al-Maqasid, vol. 5, p. 385, Tarikh Baghadad, vol. 6, p. 379, al-'Aqd al-Farid, vol. 1, p. 265, and Ayun al-Akhbar by Abu Qatiba, p. 7. This tradition can also be found in Shia sources including al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 136, Kamal-al-Din vol. 1, p. 287 etc.
- 22. Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, vol. 18, p. 351.
- 23. Musnad Ahmad, vol. 5, p. 181.
- 24. A camel whose ear is partly cut (see, al-Munjid).
- 25. Sahih Tarmidhi, vol. 5, p. 621.
- 26. Sahih Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 621.
- 27. Al-Mustadrak 'ala al-Sahihayn, vol. 3, p. 533.
- 28. Al-Mu'ajam al-Kabir, vol. 5, pp. 186 and 187.
- 29. Sahih Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 329.
- 30. Al-Sawaeq al-Muhriqa, p. 90.
- 31. Istijlab Irtiqa al-Ghuraf, vol. 1, p. 336.
- 32. Jawahir al-'Aqdayn, p. 231.
- 33. LIsan al-'Arab.
- 34. Al-Sawaeq al-Muhriqa, p. 90.
- 35. Jawahir al-'Aqdayn, p. 244.
- 36. Sharh al-Jami'a al-Saghir, vol. 3, p. 15 and Sharh al-Mawahib al-Ladunniya, vol. 7, p. 8.
- 37. Jawahir al-'Aqdayn, p. 243.
- 38. Quran, Baqara, 129, AlImran, 164 and Jumu'a, 2.
- 39. Mirqat al-Mafatih fi Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih, vol. 5, p. 600.
- 40. Quran, Ali Imran, 3:101.
- 41. Gharaeb al-Quran, vol. 1, p. 347.
- 42. Musnad Ahmad, vol. 5, p. 90.
- 43. Sahih Muslim.
- 44. Sahih Bukhari, vol. 4, p. 164.
- 45. Musnad Ahmad, vol. 1, p. 376, Sunan Abi Dawood, vol. 4, p. 151 and Sahih Tirmidhi, vol. 3, p. 343.
- 46. Sunan ibn Maja, vol. 2, p. 1367.
- 47. The hesitation (is not part of the tradition; it) is made by the narrator.
- 48. Musnad Ahmad, vol. 3, p. 36.
- 49. Al-Mustadrak 'ala al-Sahihayn, vol. 4, p. 557.
- 50. Ibid. vol. 4, p. 558.
- 51. Al-Taj al-Jami'a Lilusul, vol. 5, p. 343. Sunan Abu Dawood, vol. 2, p. 510 and see also al-Mustadrak 'ala al-Sahihayn, vol. 4, p. 557. Sunan ibn Maja, vol. 2, p. 1368.
- 52. Al-Mustadrak 'ala al-Sahihayn, vol. 4, p. 557.
- 53. Al-Taj al-Jam'a Lilusul, vol. 5, p. 343.
- 54. Al-Mu'ajam al-Kabir, vol. 10, p. 166. This tradition has appeared with little difference in 'Aqd al-Durar fri Akhbar al-Muntazar, p. 56, Faraed al-Samtin, vol. 2, p. 325 and al-Sawaeq al-Muhriqa, p. 249.
- 55. Al-Bayan fi Akhbar Sahib al-Zaman authored by Ganji Shaf'ei, p. 502, al-Fusul al-Muhimma, authored by Ibn Sabbagh Maliki, p. 296.
- 56. Al-Fitan, vol. 1, p. 171, 'Aqd al-Durar fi Akhbar al-Muntazar, p. 282. For further information see, al-Havi fi al-Fatawa, vol. 2, p. 66. This source has narrated this tradition from Ibn Asakir.