Identifying the Mahdi (A.S.)
The contemporary Scholar, Safi Golpaygani, has collected all these traditions in his book: Muntakhab al-athar, citing their Sunni and Shi'i sources. Following is the list of the subject and the number of traditions on that subject:
91 Hadith on: "The Imams are twelve in number, among whom the first is Ali b. Abi Talib and the last is the Mahdi."
94 Hadith on: "The Imams are twelve, and the last one is the Mahdi."
107 Hadith on: "The Imams are twelve, nine among whom are the descendants of Husayn, and the ninth is the Qa'im."
389 Hadith on: "Mahdi is from among the progeny of the Prophet."
214 Hadith on: "Mahdi is from among the descendants of Ali."
192 Hadith on: "Mahdi is from among the descendants of Fatima."
185 Hadith on: "Mahdi is from among the descendants of Husayn."
148 Hadith on: "Mahdi is the nineth descendant of Husayn."
185 Hadith on: "Mahdi is among the descendants of Ali b. al-Husayn."
103 Hadith on: "Mahdi is among the descendants of Imam Muhammad Baqir."
103 Hadith on: "Mahdi is among the descendants of Imam Ja'far Sadiq."
99 Hadith on: "Mahdi is the sixth descendant of Imam Sadiq."
101 Hadith on: "Mahdi is among the descendants of Imam Músa al-Kazim."
98 Hadith on: "Mahdi is the fifth descendant of Imam Qaim."
95 Hadith on: "Mahdi is the fourth descendant of Imam Ali Ridha."
90 Hadith on: "Mahdi is the third descendant of Imam Muhammad Taqi."
90 Hadith on: "Mahdi is among the descendants of Imam Ali al-Hadi."
145 Hadith on: "Mahdi is Imam Hasan Askari's son."
148 Hadith on: "The name of Mahdi's father is Hasan."
47 Hadith on: "The name and patronymic of the Mahdi will be that of the Prophet's name and patronymic."
Mahdi and Qaem
"Mahdi" and "Qaem" seem different but depict interconnected truths, the word "Mahdi" makes manifest the truth that reforming the world cannot be done through a selfmade or worldly reformer, for this such a person is needed whose guidance is arranged by Providence, and Allah has made him Mahdi and responsible for guidance, and "Qaem" points to this truth that, the task of reforming cannot be discharged sitting at home but advent, troubles, tribulations and storms have to be encountered, and combat with the universal commotion of injustice and oppression.
The point worth noting is that, the Infallible Imams have faced storms, tolerated calamities and combat with the Pharaonic and violent forces of Bani Umaiyyah and Bani Abbas, but despite all this they were not remembered by the title of Qaem.
The advent of Imam Husain (a.s.) in Karbala, Imam Sajjad's (a.s.) stand against Yazid and Yazidiyyat, Imam Baqir (a.s) and Imam Sadiq's (a.s) advent against the tyranny of Bani Umaiyyah and Bani Abbas, Imam Kazim (a.s) and Imam Reza's (a.s) advent against the tyranny and oppression of Haroon and Mamoon, Imam Jawad (a.s), Imam Naqi (a.s) and Imam Askari's (a.s) advent against the contemporary rulers was not a hidden thing. Among these most of the advents are not with weapons, but despite this neither it can be imagined that the noble Imams submitted themselves to the (despotic) rules, nor it could be thought that they kept themselves separated from the situations, and watched the scene of destruction of the community. They always made the advent as per their visible possibilities, and informed the rulers on their oppression and injustice, whereas forewarned the people too of government's tyrannies. And had advised Safwan-e-Jammal to this extent that, giving animals to these rulers is equal to desiring for their lives, and desiring (secured) life for a tyrant is like sharing his oppression, which is in no way permissible. Despite all the struggles these infallibles were not remembered with the word `qaem' and they themselves used to say that, qaem will be coming afterwards. This means that the task before the last "qaem" is important and weighty of all and his revolution will be last and permanent. His duty is not to oppose or destroy tyranny, but his duty is to uproot injustice and tyranny. His (Qaem's) rule will not be opposing a single ruling tyrant, but will have to face all the forces of deviators from Kufr (the deniers) and Islam, he will combat at a time, along with Muslims, the Jews, Christians, the deniers (Kafirs), idolators and the irreligious, and as a matter of fact such a big combat will need great strength and such a big struggle needs great endurance.
For example it could be said that, during the critical period of Islam, Imam Husain (a.s) alone with his handful colleagues, made an advent against the forces of injustice and tyranny, in the same manner this inheritor of Husain (a.s) will make an advent against the tyrants and oppressors of the world with some of his special companions. The greatness of this advent will be recognised by those persons who are acquainted with the advent of Karbala, and the courage and bravery of this qaem will be valued by those persons who are related to the meaning of reformation and revolution, and struggle and advent. As providence has made His last proof (Hujjat) responsible of a great Karbala, so to keep up the occurrences and to declare the greatness of Holy struggle (jihad), the responsibility of the last duties too has been submitted to Imam Husain (a.s).
As it is found in the narrations that, at the starting of Raj' at (The return), Imam Husain (a.s) will reappear first, and will discharge the duties of the funeral of Imam-e-Asr (atfs), so that the funeral rites of an Infallible is attended by an Infallible, and it be clear to the world that this is the last Karbala whose victor is the last inheritor of Husain ibne Ali (a.s).
It could be seen in the narrations that Imam-e-Asr (atfs), has been introduced as son of Husain (a.s). And after Imam Husain (a.s) the holy Imams were also called sons of Husain (a.s) of whom Imam-e-Zamana (atfs) is called the Last Son.
Well, the presence of a "Mahdi" and a "Qaem" is very important for reformation of the world, depicting the truth of Holy Prophet (s.a.) and for the fulfillment of the system of guidance of Nature. Now if Mahdi is denied then the whole system of guidance is faulty and the exclamation of the Holy Prophet (s.a.) is false, and this is against the nature of Islam.
Thus it is made dear in the narrations that whoever denied Mahdi (atfs), then he has denied all the commandments descended on the Holy Prophet (s.a.). As in the first stage at Ghadeer-e- Khum it was declared, and now in the last stage it is being done at the Reappearance of ImameAsr (atfs), First is connected to the Last, the History of Aale Mohammad (a.s.) is continously connected, as here,
The Secret Birth of Hadrat Mahdi (a.s.)
Shaykh Mufid, a distinguished Shi'ite scholar, also wrote in al Irshad: "When Imam Hasan al-'Askari (a.s.), passed away, the caliph of that time, pursued his son because the Shi'ite Imamiyyah's belief was famous and was spread about that the Shi'ites were awaiting His Eminence."
Mu'tadid, one of the tyrant 'Abbasid caliphs who ruled from 279 to 289 A.H., decided all at once to destroy the entire family of al 'Askari when he heard that more than twenty years had passed since the birth of the son of Imam Hasan al-'Askari (a.s.), and that he was still living in spite of the attempts of the preceding caliph to kill him. One of Mu'tadid's officers said: "Mu'tadid has ordered me and two other persons, each of us to mount a horse and to proceed to Samarra' in full speed without even stopping for prayer. He gave us the address of (Imam) al-'Askari and instructed us to enter his house without his permission and to bring him the head of whoever we find there." As a matter of fact, they were unaware that the same power which had protected the Imam from the former caliphs would give him protection from his evil, because:
"Allah disdains (nothing) save that He shall perfect His light, however much the disbelievers are averse" (IX 32).
Indeed what an immature thought and foolish act it was! If the Divine Will bears on some matter, can a person revolt against it and combat it? Is it possible that definite Divine Promises may not be compiled with? Or is it possible that the reins of oppressive imposters who fight against the Divine decree will not cut? Is it not more amazing that Peerless, Almighty Allah has shown His power many times before, so that after that all men should know that if He wishes to give His chosen servant government and sovereignty and to destroy infidelity and irreligiousness through him, then there is no one who can disrupt His rule? Fortunately, this sensational story is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an.
Pharaoh, the great emperor of Egypt, who had great power and pride, claimed the divinity for himself. He determined to Kill all the youths and boy children of Bani Isra'il as a result of what he had heard about a son being born who would destroy his empire and divinity. He shed the blood of innocents, and banished many persons to unknown regions; but see how Almighty Allah restored His Prophet and how the Divine Will worked to protect the life of Musa(a.s.), and destroy Pharaoh:
"And We revealed to the mother of Musa, saying, "Give him suck; and if you fear for him, launch him on the river; and fear not, nor grieve; for We will return him to you and make him one of the Messengers." And took him up Pharaoh's people, that he might be to them an enemy and a (cause of their) grief, (for) verily Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts were sinners ...So We did restore him to his mother that her age might be refreshed and that she might not grieve, and that she might know that the promise of Allah is (always) true, but most of them know not". (XXVIII 7-13)
Yes, Allah will protect His Proof (Hujjah) and will fulfil His promises and glad tidings because His decision is based on its execution, although most people do not know it. Would Allah wish to save the life of Prophet Musa (a.s.), who was only a messenger to a certain nation and tribe, and yield the Imam of the Age (Imam-e-Zamana) into the hands of Mu'tamid and Mu'tadid?
Would Allah protect the life of Musa (a.s.) while he was in the middle of the roaring waves of a river, and give no security to the Imam of the Age who was in the house of his father, Imam Hasan al-'Askari (a.s.)? Would the Sustaining Allah of the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.),protect Ibrahim (a.s.), in the middle of the flaming fire, but allow the Last Pearl of the Prophet's progeny to be a victim of the lust and anger of the 'Abbaside caliphs?
At dawn, on the middle day of Sha'ban in the year 255 A.H., Imam Hasan al Askari (a.s.), beheld the heavenly, shinning face of his son who was to fulfil all Divine promises and glad tidings. Not more than three days had passed after his birth when the Eleventh Imam took the holy child to his companions and told them: "After me this will be your master of authority and my successor, and he is the 'Support ' (al-Qa'im) for whose appearance all people will wait; when the earth is full of injustice and tyranny, he will fill it with peace and justice."
Read carefully these words of Shaykh Mufid,
"Imam Hasan al-'Askari, peace be on him, prepared a true Government for his fruitful son. He kept secret the birth of his son and other related matters, because His Eminence was living in a difficult time when the caliphs were intensively searching for his son and were keeping a close eye on the affairs of Imam al-'Askari. This is because the Shi'ite Imamiyyah belief about the Imam al Mahdi (a.s.), had become so current they were waiting for His Eminence. Hence, Imam Hasan al-'Askari (a.s.), did not show his, and, therefore, the enemies could not recognize Imam al-Mahdi, (a.s.), after the demise of His Eminence (father).
Although the affairs of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.), were unknown to his enemies and opponents, the sincere Shi'ites gathered the news of this important event. Some of them were informed by Imam al-'Askari (a.s.), through a letter. One of the sincere Shi'ites, Ahmad ibn Is'haq, received a letter from the Imam written in his own hand writing, saying: "A son is born to me. Therefore, keep secret the news of it from people and inform only his near relatives and particular friends." Some of the Shi'ites used to pay private visits to Imam al-'Askari (a.s.), who would take them into the presence of the Twelfth Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.), who would guide them. Abu 'Umari and Ahwazi reported: "Abu Muhammad (Imam Hasan al-'Askari) showed me his son (the Twelfth Imam) and told me, 'This is your Master (Sahib)." Some other Shi'ites used to visit Imam al-'Askari(a.s.), in a group, and if the Imam trusted in them that they would faithfully keep their visit secret, he would show them his beloved son.
Yes, in this manner was the Imam of the Age (Imam-e- Zamana) born and kept hidden from the reach of strangers. On some occasions only were virtuous Shi'ites allowed to see him, until the year 260 A.H, when the Eleventh Imam expired, and by Divine decree the office of Divine Leadership (Imamate) was vested in the Master of the Authority (Sahibu'l-Amr).
The Major Occultation
After the year 329 A.H, when the major occultation commenced, the special deputation of Imam e Zamana (a.s.) terminated. If anybody claims during the major occultation to be a mediator and a deputy, then, according to the declaration of Imam e Zamana (a.s.) himself, that claimer is a liar In the Holy Imams' traditions, the purpose of the Imam's going into occultation is compared to the sun being behind the clouds yet being a source of vitality and life for living creatures Likewise, while the Imam is behind the curtain of occultation, he is still a source of the existence and remaining of the world.
During the major occultation, many people have had meetings with His Eminence (Imam Mahdi), and have managed to meet him, but none of them have claimed to be able to see him or to represent him, because only the four special deputies (Nawwab al-khas) of the Imam had the honour of meeting with His Eminence whenever they wished. Some of the names of these fortunate persons who have had the honour of meeting the Imam are mentioned in the authentic books. Among these personalities are - `Allamah Hilli - a famous scholar and a rhetorician of the Islamic world; Muqaddas Ardibili - the most pious person and most knowledgeable jurist of his time; Sayyid ibn Tawus - a pious and a virtuous narrator; Sayyid Bahru'l-'Ulum - a distinguished scholar; and other great and notable figures in Islam.
The honour of seeing Imam e Zamana (a.s.) was not exclusive to some special Shi'ite scholars only, but many devout and illiterate people have also had this honour. We are completely amazed when we see people who at one time used to commit sinful and indecent acts, but who after their repentance, and after having their hearts filled with love for Imam e Zamana (a.s.), also had an opportunity to meet him, and among them were also our Sunni brothers. One of the Sunni brothers was Hasan `Iraqi who lived a life of immorality when he was young. One day, he suddenly awoke from the slumber of heedlessness and asked himself, "Was I created to commit these evil deeds?" Then he left the immoral place he was in and went directly to the mosque. By chance, a preacher there was speaking about Imam al-Mahdi, peace be on him. `Iraqi `s fully disturbed soul turned into a heart flaming with enthusiastic love of the Imam. Henceforth, he invoked Allah after every prayer to give him the opportunity to see the Living Imam (Baqiyyatu'llah). Finally, his prayers were answered and for seven days and nights he learned the path of salvation in His Eminence's presence. Thereafter, this man became known as one of the great scholars of Islam. `Abdu'l-Wahhab Sha'rani, one of the great Sunni scholars, and the original relater of this anecdote, used to call him by the title, "My great master Shaykh `Iraqi."
During the major occultation, letters were issued by His Eminence to individuals and great scholars of Islam. In those letters new difficult problems were solved, and necessary guidance was given. Among these letters there was one issued in the year 410 A.H. praising a distinguished scholar of Islam, Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Nu' man, alias Shaykh Mufid. Shaykh Mufid has enjoyed a special rank for his knowledge and devoutness, and that letter was an acknowledgement of his efforts and worthy services. The importance of this letter indicates the awareness of the Imam of the mistakes and immoral actions of some of the Shi'ites, and at the same time it gives hope in the purpose of his existence:
We are well informed of all your affairs and none of them is hidden from us. We are aware of the problems which have occupied you from the time when you found pleasure and kept committing indecent deeds which your predecessors had avoided. We are aware from that time when your predecessor broke the covenant made with them, as if they knew not about it. We will not neglect or forget you lest calamity and troubles fall on you, and enemies have the opportunity to overpower you. Therefore, remember Allah and fear Him.
The valuable writings of Imam al-Mahdi, peace be on him, during the major occultation are the most important guidance for his Shi'ites (followers). These writings can be referred to in the authentic Shi'ite books.
In Islamic traditions, a comparison is drawn between the sincere faith of the Shi'ites and the faith of a few followers of the Prophet Nuh, peace be on him, who remained faithful despite their very difficult test, and who, by boarding the ark with Prophet Nuh, peace be on him, were saved from the deluge.