read

6.11 – The 12th Imam [Fourteenth Ma’soom] – Imam Al-Mahdi (‘Aj)

Å. Who Is The Final Imam (‘Aj)?

Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) is the final of the twelve promised Imams (‘a). He is the last expected saviour to fill the world with justice at the end of time.

Birth And Characteristics

Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) was born on the 15th of Sha’ban in the year 255 AH/869 AD, and he is the Imam (‘aj) of our time. His father is Imam Al-’Askari (‘a), and his mother is Sayyida Narjis (r.a.), a princess from Rome.1 Sayyida Narjis’s (‘a) trip from Rome to Imam Al-’Askari’s (‘a) house, based on the prevailing circumstances, is as astounding as the Imam’s (‘aj) miraculous birth that, despite daily checks, avoided detection since no signs of pregnancy appeared on his mother.2

As the Abbasids’ surveillance on the household of Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) had reached its peak, as they waited for the Twelfth Imam and were terrified for his birth, the existence of the Imam (‘aj) during his first year was a great secret only the closest companions knew of. Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) kept his son Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) birth secret and only the most reliable companions were blessed by his presence, however occasionally.3

Appearance

According to narratives, the Prophet (S) has described Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) as the one that resembles him the most, which has also been narrated by Imam Al-’Askari (‘a).4 Imam Ali (‘a) has also stated that Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) will, at his arrival and uprising, have the appearance of a thirty or forty years old, despite his long life.5

Morality

Likewise, Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) morality has been compared to Prophet Muhammad ’s (S) morality; the most humble and submissive to God, the one with the highest wisdom and knowledge and the greatest benevolence, kindness, patience and indulgence.6 Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) is firm in standing up to oppression and leads the fight for justice courageously and firmly. The Imam (‘aj) is also extremely generous, and with his uprising, the balance of the world will be restored, and not a single human being on earth will remain poor. Through the Imam (‘aj) and his uprising, humanity will be advanced in its entirety and under his leadership develop its immense inherent potential. This is because Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) is the Imam for all mankind, the one who wants the good for all people and the one who will defeat oppression of the world and spread justice on earth.

Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) also has the traits and characteristics of former prophets (‘a) and is, therefore, the collection of former prophets (‘a) and the consummator of the prophetic mission.

Become An Imam

Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) officially took over the position of Imamah at the age of five in 260 AH/874 AD, when his father Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) became a martyr. Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) name is Muhammad, and he is given the title Mahdi, meaning the guide.

Ä. What Will He Do?

Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) will emerge at a time when oppression is widespread, and people yearn for justice and equality. The Imam (‘aj) will lead a revolution that will triumph over the power-thirsty, oppressive and evil forces that cause injustice and oppression.

It has been narrated that the Prophet (S) has said:

“Mahdi, from my descendants, will arrive at the end of time; the sky will pour down the rain, and the earth will bring greenery to him. He will fill the earth with fairness and justice, as it has been filled with oppression and injustice.”

And also:

“Listen to the good news about Mahdi! He will arrive at a time when the people will be suffering from a severe contradiction, and the earth will be struck by a violent quake. He will fill the earth with fairness and justice as it has been filled with injustice and tyranny. He will fill the hearts of his companions with piety and will spread justice everywhere.”

The Prophet (S) also said:

“A man comes up to him and asks, ‘O Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj)! Bestow me! Bestow me!’ The Imam (‘aj) then responds by bestowing him to that extent which he could bear.”7

There are several narrations that prove that the Imam (‘aj) is a sea of grace and generosity. Also, narrations mention how he will treat people with kindness and save them from poverty and defeat, and spread peace and abundance of blessings among them.

Ä1. Enemy’s Solution: One Of Two Options – Prevent His Birth Or Kill Him

Prevent The Birth Of The Imam (‘Aj)

Everyone had heard of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) from the Prophet (S), and no one of the enemies doubted that he would be the twelfth Imam (‘aj). They believed it and were terrified that he would be born. Therefore, the contemporary tyrants monitored all movements to and from Imam Al-’Askari’s (‘a) house, and let midwives do daily checks to detect signs of pregnancy in the household. They were so scared that Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) was not even allowed to travel to Mecca to perform Hajj.

During Pharaoh’s time, Pharaoh also had competent women who controlled which of Bani Israel’s women became pregnant. When Prophet Musa’s (‘a) mother became pregnant, no signs of her pregnancy appeared. Similarly, it was for Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) mother, Sayyida Narjis (r.a.), who showed no sign of pregnancy. On the night when the Imam (‘aj) would be born, Imam Al-’Askari (‘aj) asked his aunt Hakima (r.a.) to stay and help Sayyida Narjis (r.a.). For a long time, it was a secret that Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) had a son. This was not even widely known among Shias and, apart from a few very close and reliable people, no one had knowledge of this. These few companions only got to know about or see the Imam (‘aj) once in a while. Under such circumstances, the final Imam (‘aj) began his life. He was protected, and during the first years, most people did not even know he was born.

Wanting To Kill The Imam (‘Aj)

When Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) was martyred, his brother Ja’far, known as ‘Ja’far the liar’8 wanted to pray the prayer for the deceased over him. Then Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) stepped forward and asked him to step aside since only one infallible Imam (‘a) can pray over another infallible Imam (‘a). Just afterwards, when the prayer was completed, and the guards realized what had happened, all guards ran to arrest Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj), who had disappeared after the prayer. The military arrived there quickly and despite intensively searching for months, they could not find the Imam (‘aj). They searched the basement of Imam Al-’Askaris (‘a) house where the Imam (‘aj) had been seen last time, in wells, the river and everywhere they could imagine. For four years, all of Samarra’s wells were monitored 24-hours a day with deployed guards. The guards monitored the sites 24-hours a day and changed shifts three times daily. Because the wells were linked, they believed that the Imam (‘aj) might have gone from one well to another. For six months, boats also travelled around the river at Samarra, scouting and striking down with spears in the water to kill the Imam (‘aj) in case he got to the water. They did everything to find the Imam (‘aj) and kill him. No offspring from Imam Al-’Askari’s (‘a) lineage was to live, so they took all measures to confirm that.

Ä2. God’s Solution: Ghayba (Occultation)

God protected Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) by allowing the Imam (‘aj) to enter a period of ghayba (occultation). The occultation meant that the Imam (‘aj) would not be seen by people, and contacting him would be extremely limited. Initially, during the first ghayba soghra (minor occultation) the Imam (‘aj) had contact with four representatives who replaced each other for a period of just over sixty-nine years. After the fourth representative’s death, the Imams (‘aj) ghayba Kubra (the great occultation) began, continuing until this day. This is so that Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) would be protected and return when the time is right and all of mankind mature, as the Prophet (S) and the Imams (‘a) proclaimed. The Prophet (S) has said:

“God will reveal the occultation of Al-Mahdi from my Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) before the Day of Judgment; even if only one day would remain in this life. He will spread justice and will eradicate oppression and injustice.”9

Imam Al-Kadhim (‘a), when asked if he is the Qa’im10, said:

“Yes, I am the rightful Qa’im. But the Qa’im who will cleanse the earth from God’s enemies and fill it with fairness and justice is my fifth offspring. As he fears for his life, he will be in occultation for a long time. During the period of occultation, a group will turn away from religion. But some will be steadfast in their faith. Blessed are the Shi’a who, during this period of occultation, continue to be faithful to us and who remain stable in their loyalty to us and who have a hostile attitude toward our enemies. Surely, they are from us, and we are from them. They are convinced of our Imamah, and we acknowledge their oath of allegiance to us. By God, blessed are they! They will be with us in paradise.”11

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) has said:

“God will give a long life to the ninth child of my brother Husayn’s (‘a) offspring so that he will then return and look like a young man at the age of 40.”12

The Life Of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘Aj) In Various Periods

From his birth until that of his father’s, Imam Al-’Askari’s (‘a), martyrdom (when the Imam (‘aj) was five years old) the birth of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) had not gone been officially announced. During this period only on special occasions did Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) show his son, but only to his faithful companions and prominent pious scholars, and announce him as the final Imam (‘aj) and ordained them to obey him.

The minor occultation officially started when the Imam (‘aj) was five years old and continued to approximately until his seventy-four years of age. During this period, it was not possible for anyone other than selected representatives to contact the Imam (‘aj). These four people met the Imam (‘aj) when receiving answers to their and the people’s most difficult questions and were specially selected by the Imam (‘aj) to be the link between the people and the Imam (‘aj) during this period. Those were:

1) Uthman Ibn Said Amri (260 AH/873 AD – 267 AH/880 AD) [father]

2) Muhammad Ibn Uthman Amri (267 AH/880 AD – 305 AH/917 AD) [son]

3) Husayn Ibn Rooh Nobakhti (305 AH/917 AD – 326 AH/937 AD)

4) Ali Ibn Muhammad Samori (326 AH/937 AD – 329 AH/940 AD)

These specifically chosen representatives had the trust of the Imam (‘aj), and each of them faithfully performed their duties. Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) was the one who made the final decisions and instructed his representatives on the crucial issues. The chosen representatives, in turn, conveyed the people’s questions to the Imam (‘aj) and the Imam’s (‘aj) answer to the people. There are several documented letters with questions and response letters from the Imam (‘aj) today that the Islamic scholars use as a reference in their deductions and statements.13

As the passing of the fourth representative was approaching, Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) announced this to him and ordered him to speak out on this to the shia. With this, the direct contact between the Imam (‘aj) and specific representatives would cease since the Imam (‘aj) would enter into the great occultation. Shi’a would henceforth turn to the Imam’s (‘aj) general representatives, that is, the foremost among the scholars. Therefore, the great period of occultation began in 329 AH and is still going on.

Ä3. How Can A Man Live For So Long?

Almighty Creator

One question that may come up in connection with the Imam’s (‘aj) ghayba is the matter of the Imam’s (‘aj) age and how it is possible for him to live for so long? In order to answer this question, it is important to take some basic facts into account. First of all, God is the Creator who created everything, and He is Almighty, meaning He is capable of changing His creation according to His divine will. God says:

“[All] praise is [due] to God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, [who] made the angels messengers having wings, two or three or four. He increases in creation what He wills. Indeed, God is over all things competent.” (The Holy Qur’an, 35:1).

Furthermore, there are many miracles that God has let happen through history, and the long life of Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) is far from the most remarkable of miracles. On deeper reflection, the length of Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) life is no more surprising than that of Prophet Ibrahim’s (‘a) [Abraham] survival from the fire of Nimrod or Prophet Musa’s (‘a) [Moses] crossing through the divided Nile or the transformation of his stick to a snake. All these miracles are clear evidence of God’s power.

It is no difficult task for the Almighty to keep the final Imam (‘aj) alive according to the promises God Himself has given us. God has promised that there will be twelve Imams (‘a) after the Prophet (S) and that every folk until the Day of Judgment will have a guide.

Nooh’s (‘A) Example

The Qur’an and historical accounts have also mentioned the long lives of other prophets (‘a) such as Prophet Nooh (‘a) [2500 years], Luqman (‘a) [400 years] and Prophet Suleyman (‘a) [712 years]. Regarding Prophet Nooh (‘a), the Qur’an states that only his calling to God among his people lasted for 950 years, while narrations from Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) state that he lived about 2,500 years:

“And We certainly sent Noah to his people, and he remained among them a thousand years minus fifty years, and the flood seized them while they were wrongdoers.” (The Holy Qur’an, 29:14).

Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) has also narrated that Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj), like Prophet Nooh (‘a), will live long:

“His [Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj)] traits, that he has in common with Adam (‘a) and Nooh (‘a) are their long lives.”14

Ö. Preparing For His Arrival – Directory Of Scholars And Guidance Of The Companions’ Hearts

Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) is the most engaged of all the awaiting and leads the movement even though we do not notice it. He does so by guiding scholars and the hearts of the companions.

The Imam (‘aj) indirectly guides the scholars and the companions’ hearts to organize and work towards the same aim so that his arrival can be hastened. As a leader, Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) is at the forefront of the movement and strives and exerts more effort, than those who await him, for his arrival to be hastened and the people saved. The Imam (‘aj) also organizes his followers and asks for God’s guidance and blessings for them during long nights of prayers. He strives uninterruptedly and by all means so that this period until the promised justice, shall reach its goal. But there is one condition for the arrival to be; humanity must mature, and people must have a will reach out for the Imam (‘aj) as he is already waiting and prepared. Practically, this means that we, like the Imam (‘aj), become engaged whilst waiting and pave the way for the world of justice, that man is constantly longing for, by following his principles the best way we can.

Lead The Scholars

Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) has called the true scholars his hujja (argument and proof) over us. These scholars, therefore, act as representatives and leaders among us to awaken our hearts, connect us with each other and direct people towards the common goal we all strive for. In fact, this is the continuation of the system that the Imams (‘a) established and to prepare for the pursuance of the road under the occultation of the final Imam (‘aj). This is strived for until the time is set and humanity is ready to embrace the final Imam (‘aj) – who will fight oppression and fill the world with justice.

In this leadership-system, it is adhered to principles and conditions with the guidance of scholars, in a world where most of the leaders of society are corrupt and unprincipled. The leaders of this system are at the forefront of piety, knowledge and wisdom, insight and courage, and are familiar with the affairs of their communities, the Muslim nation and even the world. These leaders are the ones who devote themselves to this path and have dedicated their lives to its advancement without turning a blind eye to anything. This is leadership where the leader links the followers to the Imam (‘aj), who helps his followers to both survive and become stronger, despite all adversities.

This leadership, inspired and led by the Imam (‘aj), stands up today to oppression and injustices and manifests pious qualities and moral principles that the Imam (‘aj) will spread. When truth-seeking people who want to live in a just world and are ready to stand for it, open their eyes to this leadership and begin to understand it, more people will join it. When we prove to God and the Imam (‘aj) that we do stand up for justice and stand with leaders who strive for justice, we prove that we will also stand up for the Imam (‘aj), who will follow this path and lead it to the goal line. When we prove that we are prepared to stand up for our Imam (‘aj) and never allow what happened to the previous Imams (‘a) to repeat; then we will be ready.

Due to the wise and revolutionary leadership, Shi’a Islam has become stronger and today constitutes a worldwide political movement. This movement does not only belong to Shias or a specific group of people, but to all people who prepare themselves in standing up and fighting for what is right.

Leads The Hearts Of The Believers

The Imam (‘aj), as the Hujja of God, is the link between man and God, and it is through him that God’s blessings reach us. It is through the Imam (‘aj) that our hearts are awakened to the realization that we must become engaged and act. Besides our religiousness and our ordinary deeds, it is by him we are awakened to realize the true meaning of being engaged whilst awaiting. It is through this process we will seek him the way he wishes us to; prepared, in a group, linked together and striving for one and the same goal. Lest we forget that the Imam’s (‘aj) revolution is for all of humanity and therefore the awaiting-process is required to be balanced on the same worldview; love beyond measurement and far from dissociation from society.

Such groups and movements must be created in all corners of the world; standing up and fighting for justice. Creating a community of awaiting followers is an inevitable necessity. Strong gatherings focusing on unity and guiding the masses is the key to being an engaged person who awaits and hastens the return of the Imam (‘aj). Structured and united organizations characterized by a divine goal strengthen those of weak willpower, humbles those of arrogant character and enlightens the path towards development and perfection.

  • 1. Sayyida Narji (r.a.) was originally a princess from Rome by the name of Melika. She was, from her mother’s side, a descendant of Sham’oon, one of the disciples of the Prophet Isa (‘a) [Jesus]. She was a believer and a devout person. It is reported that in a dream she got to see the Prophet’s (S) daughter Fatimah az-Zahra’ (‘a) and Sayyida Maryam (‘a) [Mary Jesus’ mother] and was told that she would be married to a son of the final Prophet’s (S) family and give birth to the promised Savior that all Prophets (‘a) have spoken about and all people are waiting for. She was asked to be disguised and let herself be taken prisoner in the coming attack that would hit the kingdom. Accordingly, she was brought to Arabia where Imam Al-Hadi (‘a) sent someone to the slave market with a special sign so that she would feel safe and accompany the person to the Imam’s (‘a) household, and where she got married to Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) and gave birth to Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj). The description of the entire event is narrated, among other things. in Kamal ad-din wa Tamam Al-Ni’ma by Sheikh Sadooq (‘a) (published 1359 AD) volume 2 p. 417; Dalael Al-Imama by Tabari (published 1413 AD) p. 262; Al-Ghayba by Sheikh Al-Tusi (published 1411 AD) p. 417 hadith 178 et al.
  • 2. This is narrated in Muntakhab Al-Athar by Safi Golpaygani p. 353 et al. Online at: https://www.al-islam.org/selected-narrations-about-twelfth-imam-volume-1...
  • 3. The closest and most reliable companions to Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) got to see Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) on a few occasions. It is reported that at one point, Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) showed his son to Muhammad Ibn Uthman Al-’Amri and 40 other people and then Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) said: “This is your Imam and my successor; obey him and do not end up in disputes in your religion.” Muhammad Ibn Uth-man had also been Imam Al-Hadi (‘a) and Imam Al-’Askaris (‘a) representative and later came to be Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) first representative. Some others of Imam Al-’Askari’s (‘a) companions who saw Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) were Muhammad Ibn Isma’il, one of Imam Al-Kadhim’s (‘a) grandchildren and Hakima, daughter of Imam Al-Jawad (‘a) and hence, Imam Al-’Askari’s (‘a) aunt.
  • 4. Some depictions describing the appearance and characteristics of the Imam (‘aj) have been found in narratives and ahadith from the Imams (‘a) in Kamal ad-Din wa Tamam Al-Ni’ma by Sheikh Sadooq volume 1 p. 534-55 and volume 2 p. 118 et al.
  • 5. This is narrated in Ihqaq Al-Haqq by Shushtari volume 19 p. 654 et al.
  • 6. Some of these depictions are narrated in Malaḥim wa Al-Fitan by Ibn Tawoos p. 73 and Bihar Al-Anwar by Al-Majlisi volume 46 p. 372 et al.
  • 7. These and similar ahadith where the arrival and the uprising of Imam Al-Mahdi (‘aj) has been promised and the signs preceding his resurrection has been described, are numerous and are repeated in several sources, for instance in Bihar Al-Anwar volume 51 p. 74; Ithbat Al-Hudat volume 7 p. 9; Yanabi ‘Al-Mawadda p. 431 et al.
  • 8. Ja’far, who was Imam Al-’Askari’s (‘a) brother and therefore Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) uncle, claimed to be Imam and successor to Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) after his martyrdom. He is said to have been a non-pious person who committed sins and was involved in corruption, and also called on the Abbasi rulers in search of the Imam (‘aj). According to some sources, he remained firm to his claim while stating that he later regretted it. One of those who stood strong against Ja’far’s false claims and fought them was their mother Hudayth, also known as Jadda (grandmother) she was Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) grandmother. Imam Al-’Askari (‘a) had appointed her mother Jadda as her representative and left many of Shi’a’s affairs in her responsibility.
  • 9. This hadith is narrated in Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal volume 1 p. 99 and is one of several similar ahadith with the same meaning narrated in hadith collections.
  • 10. Qa’im is one of Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) most well-known accusation titles and means the upriser or the one who does the uprising and rises for justice against oppression.
  • 11. This hadith is narrated, among other ahadith in Bihar Al-Anwar volume 51 p. 151; Ithbat Al-Hudat volume 6 p. 417 et al.
  • 12. This hadith is narrated in Kamal Al-Din wa Tamam an-Ni’ma volume 1 p. 316 et al.
  • 13. One of the scholars who collected many of these letters signed by the Imam (‘aj) is Sheikh Sadooq (r.a.)
  • 14. The longevity is one of Imam Al-Mahdi’s (‘aj) similarities to Prophet Nooh (‘a) and this hadith is narrated in Kamal Al-Din wa Tamam an-Ni’ma volume 1 p. 323 et al.