Muhammad al-Mahdi

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For other uses, see Mahdi (disambiguation).

Muhammad al-Mahdī (محمد المهدى) (or Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali) is, according to Twelver Shi'as, the twelfth Imam and the Mahdi, a figure considered by both Sunnis and Shi'as to be the ultimate saviour of mankind. Other Shi'a schools adhere to different Imam successions and do not, along with Sunnis, consider Muhammad the Mahdi.

While even the historical existence of Muhammad is questioned, Twelver Shi'as believe that Muhammad was born in 868 and has been hidden by God (referred to as occultation) to later emerge to fulfill his mission.

Contents

[edit] Birth and early life according to Twelver Shi'as

Twelver Shi'as believe that Muhammad was born in 868 as Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali. His mother, Narjis (Melika), was a Byzantine princess who pretended to be a slave so that she might travel from her kingdom to Arabia.<ref>[1]</ref> His father, Hasan al-Askari, is believed to have been the eleventh and penultimate Shi'a Imam. Shi'as believe that his birth was kept a secret due to the persecution that the Shi'a were facing during this time at the hands of Al-Mu'tamid, the Abbasid Caliph.<ref>[2]</ref><ref>[3]</ref>

To support Muhammad's claim, Twelver Shi'as quote the following Hadith: "I and `Ali are the fathers of this nation; whoever knows us very well also knows Allah, and whoever denies us also denies Allah, the Unique, the Mighty. And from `Ali's descendants are my grandsons al­-Hasan and al-­Husayn, who are the masters of the youths of Paradise, and from al-­Husayn's descendants shall be nine: whoever obeys them obeys me, and whoever disobeys them also disobeys me; the ninth among them is their Qa'im and Mahdi." <ref>Ikmal of Al­Saduq</ref>

The eleventh Shi'a Imam Hasan al-Askari died on January 1, 874 (8th Rabi' al-awwal, 260 A.H.)<ref>[4]</ref> and since that day, his son Muhammad is believed by Shi'as to be the Imam, appointed by God, to lead the believers of the era. The most popular account of Muhammad al-Mahdi in Shi'a literature is taken from his father's funeral. It is reported that as the funeral prayer was about to begin, Muhammad al-Mahdi's uncle, Jafar ibn Ali approached to lead the prayers. However, Muhammad al-Mahdi approached and commanded, "Move aside, uncle; only an Imam can lead the funeral prayer of an Imam." Jafar moved aside, and the five-year-old child led the funeral prayer for his father. It is reported that it was at this very moment that Muhammad al-Mahdi disappeared and went into ghaybat, or occultation.

[edit] The Occultation

Shi'as believe that, for various reasons, God concealed the twelfth and current Shi'a Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, from humankind.

[edit] Period

The period of occultation (ghaybat) is believed to consist of two parts:

  • Ghaybat al-Sughra or Minor Occultation, which took place between 873 and 939 and is the shorter of the two periods.
  • Ghaybat al-Kubra or Major Occultation, which began on 10th Shawwal 939 and is believed will continue until a time decided by God. At this point, the occultation will end and the Mahdi will reappear to bring absolute justice to the world.

[edit] Reasons

Shi'as cite references from the Qur'an and from various hadith (reports) in order to provide the following reasons behind the Mahdi's occultation.

  • 1) Unknown
One of the reasons behind the Mahdi's occultation has been concealed by God from humankind.
  • 2) Trial
The occultation, and in particular, its long duration, is a trial for believers. Shi'as believe that God examines the believers for the faith in their hearts and their beliefs in relation to the existence of the Mahdi.
  • 3) Preparation
Before the Mahdi reappears to establish absolute justice throughout the world, humankind needs to make a certain amount of preparation. There will come a point when all ideologies and doctrines will fail and when every leader and government will rise to solve problems but will fail. It will then become clear that no one is capable of establishing justice in the world except God's viceregent, the Mahdi. Due to the lack of preparation and mankind's low level of readiness to accept the rules of God, Imam Mahdi has been concealed.
  • 4) Lack of acceptance
Due to the persecution of believers and, in particular, of the other Shi'a Imams, as well as the prophets, it is clear that people are still refusing to accept God's viceregents. As such, just as Shi'as believe that God concealed prophets Jesus and Joseph (Arab. Isa and Yusuf), God has also hidden the Mahdi from humankind until such a time when suitable circumstances have arisen for his reappearance.

[edit] Minor Occultation

During the Minor Occultation (Ghaybat al-Sughra), it is believed that Muhammad al-Mahdi maintained contact with his followers via a succession of four appointed deputies (Arab. nuwwaab al-arba’a). They represented him and acted as agents between him and his followers.

Whenever the believers faced a problem, they would write their concerns and send them to his deputy. The deputy would ascertain his verdict, endorse it with his seal and signature and return it to the relevant parties. The deputies also collected zakat and khums on his behalf. For the Shia, the idea of consulting a hidden Imam was not something new because the two prior Shia Imams had, on occasion, met with their followers from behind a curtain.

The 4 deputies were:

  1. Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Asadi
  2. Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Uthman
  3. Abul Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh al-Nawbakhti
  4. Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri

In 941 (329 AH), an order by Muhammad al-Mahdi was issue via his 4th deputy, that the deputy would soon die, the Minor Occultation and the deputyship would end and the period of the Major Occultation would begin.

The 4th deputy died six days later and the Shi'a Muslims continue to await the reappearance of the Mahdi. In the same year, many notable Shi'a scholars such as Ali ibn Babwayh Qummi and Muhammad ibn Yaqub Kulayni, the learned compiler of al-Kafi also died.

There is a shrine for him in Samarra located next to those of his father and grandfather. The shrine is actually his house. It is common practice in some sects of Islam to preserve historical sites of religious figures as a mark of respect. (The Samarra mosque was bombed in February 2006, spurring a wave of violence.)

[edit] Major Occultation

According to the last letter of Muhammad al-Mahdi to Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri "from the day of your death [the last deputy] the period of my major occultation (al ghaybatul kubra) will begin. Hence forth, no one will see me, unless and until Allah makes me appear. My reappearance will take place after a very long time when people will have grown tired of waiting and those who are weak in their faith will say: What! Is he still alive?" [5]

As he said in this letter, nobody will claim to have seen him except liars.[6]

Another letter from Muhammad al-Mahdi says: "Rest assured, no one has a special relationship with Allah. Whoever denies me is not from my (community). The appearance of the Relief (al-Faraj) depends solely upon Allah. Therefore those who propose a certain time for it are liars. As to the benefit of my existence in occultation, it is like the benefit of the sun behind the clouds where the eyes do not see it." [7]

With regards to advice for his followers during his absence, he is reported to have said: "Refer to the transmitters of our traditions, for they are my hujja (proof) unto you and I am God’s proof unto them."

[edit] Reappearance

Twelver Shi'as cite various references from the Qur'an and reports, or Hadith, from Muhammad and the twelve Shi'a Imams with regards to the reappearance of Muhammad al-Mahdi who will, in accordance with God's command, bring justice and peace to the world by establishing Islam throughout the world.

  • The prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:

"During the last times, my people will be afflicted with terrible and unprecedented calamities and misfortunes from their rulers, so much so that this vast earth will appear small to them. Persecution and injustice will engulf the earth. The believers will find no shelter to seek refuge from these tortures and injustices. At such a time, God will raise from my progeny a man who will establish peace and justice on this earth in the same way as it had been filled with injustice and distress."

Shi'as believe that when Muhammad al-Mahdi will reappear, the prophet Jesus will also reappear and that he will pray behind al-Mahdi.

[edit] Sunni view

Sunni Muslims do not consider Muhammad al-Mahdi to be the Mahdi. Many scholars even doubt that he existed at all and hold that the 11th Imam died at the age of 28 years without leaving any offspring, though some other believe that he existed. [8]

[edit] Bahá'í View

Bahá'ís believe that the Imam Mahdi has already returned and fulfilled all the prophecies, many of them in a symbolic sense, in the person of Siyyid `Alí Muhammad-i-Shírází, known as the Báb (1819-1850). The Shaykhi movement of the early 19th century claimed to reestablish the connection to the hidden Imam, and on the night of 22 May, 1844, the Báb declared that he was the "Gate" to the Promised One of all religions. In 1848 the Báb and his followers began to teach more openly, and the Báb was publicly executed in 1850.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

<References/>

[edit] References

[edit] External links


Preceded by:
Hasan al-Askari
Twelver Shia Imam
874–
Succeeded by:
none
ar:مهدي

de:Muhammad al-Mahdi fa:محمد پسر حسن (مهدی) fr:Muhammad al-Mahdi id:Muhammad al-Mahdi nl:Mohammed al-Mahdi

Muhammad al-Mahdi

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