The belief in Mahdawwiyah has provided the Shi’as with a dazzling “mirror”, in which they can visualize the distinct characteristics of their religion. Consequently, Shias have strived incessantly to keep this radiant light illuminated up to eternity.
In this mirror, a Shi’a sees the fulfillment of his aspirations concerning the progress of mankind towards prominence and perfection. He visualizes multitudes of people submitting (only) to Allah and His ordinances that were promulgated for the entire humanity. He perceives the prevalence of justice and righteousness on the earth. He pictures the dominance of his religion (Islam), over all fictitious and pseudo religions of the world. A religion, which withstood the tribulations of history, remained strong and resilient and proved its genuineness.
Finally he looks at a miserable and disappointed ‘man’, who is depressed by the disgraceful failure of various schools of thoughts, due to their man-made laws. The same disheartened and dissatisfied man has (finally) surrendered himself to a saviour, a deliverer of a common law under a Divine Ordinance.
These visions relate to the advent of Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s.) and the belief in Mahdawwiyah provides a radiant aura around the future of humanity. The belief in Mahdawwiyah is invigorating and positive, because awaiting a saviour leads to self - improvement and an inner awakening. Awaiting (intezaar) is a prelude to a great revolution, which will be initiated by a divine reformer with divine laws. Hence this belief comprises of two aims:
1. Purposeful Universe.
2. The necessity of establishment of the whole world as one community.
Of course, both the aims are very important and significant. Islam and all other celestial religions are unanimous in the belief of an advent of a saviour.1 A saviour who will lead the virtuous ones to success and salvation and provide the world with tranquility and peace.
Shias have always been the torchbearers and proponents of such a belief and will continue propagating it. The reason why Shi’as have got a prominent position concerning the belief of Mahdawwiyah is due to their perseverance in clarifying and explaining the misunderstood aspects of this belief and their ceaseless efforts in highlighting the salient features of this concept - a concept which propagates the need of a leader, leadership and the establishment of a universal government.
Awaiting (intezaar) for the divine saviour has infused a zeal and willingness in the Shias. Many ancient and recent philosophers have expressed and visualized the same ideas. Like Plato, has expressed an idea of the ‘learned city’ or as recent thinkers proposed, Utopia,2 Georgia,3 Eldorado4 and ‘the Empire of Sun.’5 All these ideas had a dream of a Paradise on earth.
After the renaissance, it was expected that scientific progress would fulfill all the cherished dreams of man. But despite all these scientific advancements, mankind is still dazed and confused as ever. A cursory glance at the ideas and conclusions of so-called modern thinkers will suffice to prove the point.
1. Intellectuals and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of America compiled a book after a lot of research. The book was named as “The Limitations of Evolution”. An excerpt from the book is quoted below:
“Science and technology despite their multiple advantages and umpteen benefits are still considered to be the root of present complex issues. viz enormous increase in population, corruption, pollution and other dangerous effects. We are not prepared to retreat a few centuries. Yet we are still not aware how to tackle the present issues, because we do not have a clear and lucid picture about our future expectations. We are also unaware of the way to utilize the unfettered progress of science and technology, which can be a blessing or a curse in equal measures.”6
2. A famous French methodologist writes regarding the limitations of science in his book, “The circumstances and conditions of scientific spirit”:
“Science says that, ‘I am concerned only with tangible object i.e. How is it? and not with intangible concepts i.e. Why is it so? The problems of the common man are not of any significance to me. My principles are neither flexible nor comprehensive.”
“Some persons are over-sensitive about poverty, problems destructions etc. Great intellectuals like B. Nanus, Ruman, Rolan, Andrew Burton, Pasternach, Murich, opine that the consequences of scientific progress are only destructive. Because it exterminates the essence of life and personality. It is, in fact a collection of few materialistic concepts, inventions of lifeless machines, which are meaningless to us. Hence science is a thing which by no means can be considered as constructive.”7
Some philosophers have suggested remedies for liberating man from these dangerous and scary circumstances.
1. Bertrand Russel a renowned British philosopher and mathematician says:
“At present there is no obstacle for the establishment of a Universal regime, from the scientific aspect. We may be compelled to accept a Universal Government. Else either we will be forced to return to the barbaric era or we must resign to the annihilation of human race.”8
2. The ex-secretary of United Nations Organizations, Edward Hambler states that:
“Today millions of people are victims of cruelty and suppression or destitution and poverty. Day by day hazardous events are surrounding them. In order to tackle these problems and for maintaining universal peace, a powerful-United Nations Organizations is desperately needed.”9
3. The contemporary scientist and physicist, Albert Einstein states emphatically while advocating the need of communal unity that:
“The various communities of the world belonging to any colour or creed, any caste or race must lead their lives under a single banner of truth, sincerity, peace, unity and fraternity.”10
In spite of man’s successive failures in his attempts to tackle the problems of humanity, he is still engaged in the search of a solution relying upon his knowledge and intelligence. His perseverance suggests as if he had never stumbled and faltered in his quest for salvation. It is pertinent to mention over here, that neither do we subscribe to views of the philosophers in the matter of ‘Universal Government’ nor our thoughts were influenced by them. Nor did we endeavour to revive a long forgotten belief. Rather the reality is absolutely contrary to all such baseless assumptions. We staunchly believe that this instinctive need of man (for justice and peace) which is being recently trumpeted by intellectuals was actually explained centuries ago. This belief alone can direct the man towards the path of guidance and salvation. - a salvation which can be achieved only when the leadership of a divinely appointed leader is accepted by the mind and soul.
It has been mentioned earlier that Shias have always been in the forefront of such a caravan, which aspires to achieve salvation under the patronage of a divine leader. But it does not mean that from among all the sects of Islam, only the Shias hold this belief. If only the people who make such allegations and are victims of ignorance and prejudice had been sensible and impartial and had referred to Sunni books, they would have realized the reality of this belief (of Mahdawwiyah).
The quotations mentioned below corroborate the fact that Mahdawwiyah is a common Islamic belief and all Muslims are unanimous about it.
A. The famous exponent of ‘Sehah al-Sitta’ and professor of Al-Azhar University, Shaikh Mansur Ali Nasif asserts that:
“It is quite popular and well-known amongst the scholars of Ahle-Sunnat that from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S) a Al-Mahdi will reappear and he will rule over Islamic empires. Muslims will follow him and accept him as their leader. He will establish justice and equity among the people and help the cause of Islam. Our famous traditionalists like Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Tabrani, Ibne Majah, Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal and Hakim Neshaburi have recorded traditions pertaining to him in their books.11”
B. A senior researcher and scholar of Mecca, Ahmed Zeni Dehlan notes that:
“Traditions regarding Hazrat Al-Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) are numerous and oft-quoted (Mutwatir). Among them are correct traditions, though some are weak. But excessive narration by a large number of traditionalists have given it a high degree of acceptance”12
It must be kept in mind that this belief enjoys a prominent place in Islam. As it was suggested earlier it is common amongst all the sects of Islam because its root lies in the Holy Qur’an. Moreover, the sayings of infallible Imams (a.s.) have made it more apparent and famous. Some of the Qur’anic verses and traditions are quoted below.
(a) The Holy Qur’an gives glad tidings that the earth will be ultimately ruled by the pious men:
اِنَّ الْاَرْضَ لِلّٰہِ یُوْرِثُھَا مَنْ یَّشَاٌءُ مِنْ عِبَادِہِ وَ الْعَاقِبَۃُ لِلْمُتَّقِیْنَ.
“Verily the land is Allah’s; He causes such of His servants to inherit as He pleases and the end is for those who guard (against evil).” (Holy Qur’an, 7:128).
(b) The revival of dead earth as foretold by Holy Qur’an:
اِعْلَمُوْا اَنَّ اللّٰہَ یُحْیِیْ الْاَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِھَا
“Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its death.” (Holy Qur’an, 57:17).13
(c) The promise of Holy Qur’an to the believers:
وَعَدَ اللّٰہُ الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا مِنْکُمْ وَعَمِلُوْا الصَّلِحَاتِ لَیَسْتَخْلِفَنَّھُمْ فِیْ الْاَرْضِ کَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِیْنَ مِنْ قَبْلِھِمْ وَلَیُمَکِّنَنَّ لَھُمْ دِیْنَھُمُ الَّذِیْ ارْتَضٰی لَھُمْ وَلَیُبَدِّلَنَّھُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِھِمْ اَمْنًا یَّعْبُدُوْنَنِیْ وَلَا یُشْرِکُوْنَ بِیْ شَیْئًا.
“Allah has promised to those who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth as He made rulers those before them; and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them and He most certainly – after their fear – give them security in exchange; they shall serve Me, not associating anyone with Me … ” (Holy Qur’an, 24:55).
(d) At another place, it says:
یُرِیْدُوْنَ لِیُطْفِئُوْا نُوْرَ اللّٰہِ بِاَفْوَاھِھِمْ وَاللّٰہُ مُتِمُّ نُوْرِہِ وَلَوْ کَرِہَ الْکَافِرُوْنَ.
“They desire to extinguish the light of Allah by their mouth, but Allah will perfect His light, though the unbelievers may be averse.” (Holy Qur’an,61:8).
These were some of the glad tidings of Holy Qur’an. These verses imply that, a time will come when all false doctrines will be uprooted and overthrown; Islam will gain an upper hand and will spread from East to West. Everyone will join the mainstream. Tyranny, oppression and injustice will be annihilated and eradicated. The divine representatives will rule the earth. Thus, all the Muslims are waiting for such an auspicious and dazzling day, whose occurrence is inevitable.14
In the treasures of Islamic traditions the glad tidings of a judicious and equitable government are found everywhere. Moreover, the characteristics of that ‘Divine Revolution’ are explained and also the ‘Divine Leader’ is introduced who will implement the commands of Allah. The Holy Prophet (S) said;
لَوْ لَمْ یَبْقَ مِنَ الدُّنْیَا اِلَّا یَوْمٌ وَاحِدٌ لَطَوَّلَ اللّٰہُ ذَلِکَ الْیَوْمَ حَتَّی یَبْعَثَ فِیْہِ رَجُلًا مِّنْ اُمَّتِیْ وَ مِنْ اَھْلِ بَیْتِیْ یُوَاطِیْٔ اِسْمُہٗ اِسْمِیْ یَمْلَاءُ الْاَرْضَ قِسْطًا وَّ عَدْلًا کَمَا مُلِئَتْ ظُلْمًا وَّجَوْرًا.
“Even if a single day were to remain for the end of this world, Allah (s.w.t.) will prolong that day to such an extent that He will raise a man from my nation, and my own progeny. His name will be same as my name and his agnomen will be same as my agnomen(i.e. Abul Qasim). He will fill the earth with justice and equity as it was fraught with tyranny and oppression.’15
This saying of the Holy Prophet (S) proclaims the advent of a judicious and equitable government and emphasizes the certainty of the Divine promise. This tradition is mentioned in Shia and Sunni books
At another place the Holy Prophet (S) addressed Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and said:
اَلْاَئِمَّۃُ مِنْ بَعْدِیْ اِثْنٰی عَشَرَ اَوَّلُھُمْ اَنْتَ یَا عَلِیُّ! وَاٰخِرُھُمْ الْقَأئِمُ الَّذِیْ یَفْتَحُ اللّٰہُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلیٰ یَدَیْہِ مَشَارِقَ الْاَرْضِ وَمَغَارِبَھَا
“After me there will be twelve Imams. O Ali! You are the first among them, and last of them will be Al-Qa’im (a.t.f.s.). Allah shall grant him victory over the east and the west”16
Imams (a.s.) have expressed the importance of this ‘Divine Promise’ in several traditions and have also introduced the last successor of the Holy Prophet (S). They themselves were desirous of his advent; they declared that the best form of worship is awaiting the reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi’s (a.t.f.s.) and considered his companions as the most honourable people.
The sayings of Imams (a.s.) will add radiance and lustre to this treatise and will also clarify some wrong notions about Imams (a.s.).
When Imam Hasan (a.s.) challenged the wretched Muawiyah and his minister Amr bin Aas for a war, they bribed the commanders of Imam’s (a.s.) army and isolated him (a.s.). Hence Imam Hasan (a.s.) was forced to sign a truce with Muawiyah. But he (a.s.) dictated his own terms for the treaty. One of the clauses of that treaty was that Muawiyah will not designate anyone as his successor and will never wage a war with Imam (a.s.).
Though Imam Hasan (a.s.) signed the treaty with Muawiyah, he always remained resolute on his terms and never accepted the conditions of Muawiyah. He always exposed the transgressions of Muawiyah and thus gave a fitting reply to those who objected over the signing of the peace treaty.
While replying to the baseless objections of his shortsighted followers, he predicted the rise of twelfth Imam in these words:
اَمَا عَلِمْتُمْ اَنَّہُ مَامِنَّأ اَحَدٌ اِلَّا وَیَقَعُ فِیْ عُنُقِہِ بَیْعَۃٌ لِطَاغِیَۃِ زَمَانِہِ اِلَّا الْقَأئِمُ الَّذِیْ یُصَلِّیْ رُوْحُ اللّٰہِ عِیْسٰی بْنُ مَرْیَمَ خَلْفَہُ فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ یُخْفِیْ وِلَادَتَہُ وَ یُغِیْبُ شَخْصَہُ لِئَلَّا یَکُوْنَ فِیْ عُنُقِہِ بَیْعَۃٌ اِذَا خَرَجَ ذٰلِکَ التَّاسِعُ مِنْ وُّلْدِ اَخِیْ الْحُسَیْنِ ابْنِ سَیَّدَۃِ الْاِمَٔاءِ یُطِیْلُ اللّٰہُ عُمْرَہُ فِیْ غَیْبَتِہِ ثُمَّ یُظْھِرُہُ بِقُدْرَتِہِ فِیْ صُوْرَۃِ شَابٍّ دُوْنَ اَرْبَعِیْنَ سَنَۃً وَذٰلِکَ لِیُعْلَمَ اَنَّ اللّٰہَ عَلیٰ کُلِّ شَئْیٍ قَدِیْرٍ.
“Do you not know that all of us (Imams) are having the allegiance of a wicked tyrant upon our necks except our last one - Al-Qa’im, behind whom Jesus will pray? Allah will conceal his birth from the people. He will remain far from the sight of people and when he will reappear then he will not have the allegiance of any ruler upon his neck. He will be the ninth descendent of my brother Husain and son of a princess. Allah will prolong his age in occultation. When he will reappear, Allah by His Omnipotence will make him look like a man of about forty years, so that all realize that Allah has power over everything.”17
When Imam Al-Sadiq (a.s.) was asked about his successor, he replied:
اَلْاِمَامُ مِنْ بَعْدِیْ مُوْسٰی وَالْخَلْفُ الْمُنْتَظَرُ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ عَلِیِّ ابْنُ مُحَمَّدِبْنِ مُوْسیٰ
“My son Musa will be my successor. But the Imam about whose reappearance everyone is anxious will be Muhammad son of Hasan, son of Ali, son of Muhammad son of Ali son of Musa.”18
Also Imam Al-Sadiq (a.s.) is quoted repeatedly as saying:
لِکُلِّ اُنَاسٍ دَوْلَۃٌ یَرْقَبُوْنَھَا وَدَوْلَتُنَا فِیْ أخِرِ الدَّھْرِ یُظْھَرُ.
“For every nation there is a government to which they are connected. Our government will appear in the last era.”19
When Imam Musa Kazim (a.s.) was questioned, whether he was Al-Qa’im’, he replied:
اَنَا الْقَأئِمُ بِالْحَقِّ وَلَکِنَّ الْقَأئِمَ الَّذِیْ یُطَھِّرُ الْاَرْضَ مِنْ اَعْدَأءِ اللّٰہِ یَمْلَاُھَا عَدْلًا کَمَأ مُلِئَتْ جَوْرًا. ھُوَالْخَامِسُ مِنْ وُّلْدِیْ لَہُ غَیْبَۃٌ یَطُوْلُ اَمَدُھَا خَوْفًا عَلیٰ نَفْسِہِ یَرْتَدُّ فِیْھَا اَقْوَامٌ وَ یَثْبُتُ فِیْھَا أخِرُوْنَ...طُوْبیٰ لِشِیْعَتِنَا الْمُتَمَسِّکِیْنَ بِحَبْلِنَا فِیْ غَیْبَۃِ قَأئِمِنَا اُوْلٰٔئِکَ مِنَّا وَنَحْنُ مِنْھُمْ قَدْ رَضُوْا بِنَأ اَئِمَّۃً وَرَضِیْنَا بِھِمْ شِیْعَۃً فَطُوْبیٰ لَھُمْ، ھُمْ وَاللّٰہِ مَعَنَا فِیْ دَرَجَتِنَا یَوْمَ الْقِیَامَۃِ.
“I am a ‘Qa’im” with truth; but the Qa’im - who will purge the earth from enemies of Allah and who will fill the earth with justice, as it was fraught with tyranny and oppression - will be my fifth descendant. Since his life will be in danger, he will remain concealed for years. During his occultation some people will turn apostate, while some will remain steadfast in their faith.” He added; “Congratulations to our Shias who cling to our ‘rope’ in the occultation of our Qa’im, those who remain steadfast on our friendship and firm in their hatred of our enemies. They are from us and we are from them, they are pleased with our leadership and we are satisfied with their following. Then congratulations to them. By Allah they will be in our grades along with us on the Day of Resurrection.”20
The eleventh Imam, Imam Hasan Al-Askari (a.s.) said:
کَاَنِّیْ بِکُمْ وَقَدِ اخْتَلَفْتُمْ بَعْدِیْ بِالْخَلْفِ اَمَأ اِنَّ الْمُقِرَّ بِالْاَئِمَّۃِ بَعْدَ رَسُوْلِ اللّٰہِ اَلْمُنْکِرَ لِوَلَدِیْ کَمَنْ اَقَرَّ بِنُبُوَّۃِ جَمِیْعِ اَنْبِیَٔاءِ اللّٰہِ وَرُسُلِہِ وَاَنْکَرَ نُبُوَّۃَ رَسُوْلِ اللّٰہِ وَالْمُنْکِرُ لِرَسُوْلِ اللّٰہِ کَمَنْ اَنْکَرَ جَمِیْعَ اَنْبِیَأءِ اللّٰہِ لِاَنَّ طَاعَۃَ اٰخِرِنَا کَطَاعَۃِ اَوَّلِنَا وَالْمُنْکِرُ لِاٰخِرِنَا کَا لْمُنْکِرِ لِاَوَّلِنَا. اَمَأ اَنَّ لِوَلَدِیْ غَیْبَۃٌ یَّرْتَابُ فِیْھَا النَّاسُ اِلَّا مَنْ عَصِمَہُ اللّٰہُ.
“I can visualize that after me you are in dispute about my successor. Beware that the one who believed in all the successors (i.e. eleven Imams) and disbelieved in my son, then it will be as if he believed in all the Prophets and disbelieved in the last Prophet (S). Obedience to the last Imam is obligatory as the obedience to the first Imam. Hence if someone denied our last one then it is tantamount to the denial of our first one. Know that the occultation of my son will be so long that people will falter and waiver in their faith, except those who are protected by Allah.”21
All these traditions of the Holy Prophet (S) and infallible Imams describe the characteristics and importance of this important doctrine. In Shia books the traditions regarding this belief are so enormous, that we can safely say that only the traditions concerning Hazrat Ali (a.s.) surpass the traditions about Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s.) These traditions are recorded in Shia and Sunni books and their number runs into thousands.22 Great scholars of Islam (from different sects) have written entire books on Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s.) and the list of these books is very long.23
The contemporary man is seeking a solution which may free him from his distress and disaster. He is in search of a shelter where he may escape from everyday problems. This shelter along with its distinct features and unique characteristic exists in the realm of Islam. In the shade of the same ‘shelter’, Islam has constructed the edifice for the future of humanity.
- 1. The prophecies of the advent of a saviour can be found in all the celestial religions. These can be found in books like ‘Basharat-e-Ahdaiir and ‘Daulat-e-Al-Mahdi’ by Dr. Muhammad Sadeqi and ‘Mauood-e-Jehani’ by Ayatullah Zanjani.
- 2. Utopia: It is the name given to an imaginative, social, perfect system, often compared to Paradise. Utopian concept was a product of Thomas Moore’s thinking.
- 3. Georgia: It is the name of a learned city suggested by Burtolet Prushet, a contemporary of Thomas Moore. This name of ‘Learned City’ is extracted form Thomas Moore’s collection of odes.
- 4. Eldorado: It is another ‘Learned City’ introduced by Voltaire, an eminent philosopher from the ‘era of enlightenment’ in the history of France.
- 5. Civitas Solis, The Empire of Sun: It is another ‘Learned City’, which was thought by famous Mathematician and Philosopher, Tommaso Campanella.
- 6. Translated from the Persian book “Mahdudiyathaae-Rushd”, p. 23, from the preface. Original not traced. This book was published in Iran by “The Organization for the Protection of Social, Natural and Human Environment”.
- 7. Quoted from the book “The style and statutes of learned soul” by Zoan Maurasti, translated by Dr. Ali Muhammad Kardan, quoted from the translation, p. 18.
- 8. Vide ‘The effect of Science upon the people’.
- 9. The Monthly Journal of Tehran. The Economist, edition no. 859, Aban No.1349, p. 6
- 10. Vide ‘The Theory of Relativity’ by Albert Einstein, p. 35.
- 11. Vide ‘Kitab-al-Tajy, vol. 5, Chapter 7, by Shaikh Mansur Ali Nasif.
- 12. Refer ‘Al Futuhaat-al-Islamiyah’ by Ahmed Zeni Dahlan.
- 13. Imam Baqir (a.s.) interprets this verse as “He revives the earth by justice after her death by injustice.” (Al- Kafi).
- 14. According to Shia and Sunni interpreters, because of clear narrations ‘Master of Authority’ are none but the twelve Imams, who are the successors of the Holy Prophet (S) and appointed by Allah for the guidance of the world. For details refer ‘Fazael al Khamsa min Sehah-e-Sitta’.
- 15. Muntakhab-al-Asar’, Part 2, Chapter 1 by Luftullah Safi Gulpaygani.
- 16. Ibid, Part 1, Chap. 4.
- 17. Ibid, Part 2, Chap. 10.
- 18. Ibid, Part 2, Chap. 21.
- 19. ‘Amali’, p. 489, by Shaikh Saduq (r.a.).
- 20. Isbatul Huda, vol. 6, p. 417, by Shaikh Hurr Al-Ameli.
- 21. Ibid, p. 427.
- 22. Such traditions are neatly categorized and recorded in ‘Muntakhab-al-Asar fil Imam-e-Saani-al-Ashar’ by Lutfullah Safi Gulpaygani.
- 23. An exhaustive list of these books may be found in the book ‘Najmus Saaqib’ by Mirza Husain Noori, Readers may also refer ‘Kitabnama-e-Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s.)’.