Given all of the recent Ask threads out here I figured why not one more ask thread?
I’m certain a lot of Christians and non-muslims have questions about Imam Mahdi (as). I’ll start off by saying that there is a difference between the shia and sunni view of Imam Mahdi (as). While i’ll try to answer objectively, I’ll disclaim that I’m biased towards the Shia view of Imam Mahdi (as).
It is believed by both sects that Imam Mahdi (as) will show up in the last days when the earth is full of corruption and injustice. He will establish a universal government based on justice and peace for all.
Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said the following regarding Al-Mahdi (as) “Even if the entire duration of the world’s existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left (before the day of judgment), Allah will expand that day to such a length of time, as to accommodate the kingdom of a person from my family (Ahlul-Bayt) who will be called by my name. He will fill out the earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice and tyranny (by then).”
Imam Mahdi is the descendant of Muhammad § through his daughter Fatimah (as). Shias believe in 12 imams who are spiritual and political successors to Muhammad §. Imam Mahdi (as) is the 12th imam.
His real name is Muhammad ibn al-Hassan (as). Al-Mahdi (The Guided One) is his title.
Some of his other titles are:
Imam Al-Asr - Imam of the generation
Sahib Al-Zaman - Lord of time
Al-Qaem - The one who rises
Hujjatullah - Allah’s decisive proof
He was born in 869 in Samarra, Iraq. His father Imam Hassan Al-Askari was kept under house arrest and under guard watch by the ruling government as it was anticipated that his first born male child would be the Mahdi. Imam Hassan (as) kept the birth of this child a secret and only a very few of the faithful knew of him. He lived in his father’s care until age 5 when his father was martyred, he then went into the minor occultation. This occultation is said to have lasted around 68 years or so.
The occultation simply means his presence was concealed or hidden from people. During this minor occultation he appointed 4 deputies to represent him. After the death of the 4th deputy the imam went into the greater occultation. During this time the Imam continues to guide and benefit the people in the same way as they benefit from the sun behind the clouds. Some of our responsibilities during this time include:
- Praying for the safety of the Imam (as) at all time
- Be in waiting for Imam (a.s.) at all times
- Give in charity for the Imam (a.s.)
- Pray for his re-appearance
- Whenever faced with difficulty (whether small or big) we are to ask for assistance from the Imam (as)
- Whenever his name is heard or recited, one should stand if possible, send greetings to him, and bow.
- If possible perform Hajj/Umra for Imam (a.s.). (after the obligatory Hajj is complete)
It is said the Imam will show himself to a believer on 3 occasions:
- At the time of trouble, when the believer is in desperate need
- He is present at every Hajj
- He attends the funeral of every believer who has no religious obligations pending on him/her
The actual time of the Imam’s reappearance is unknown but there are several prophecies of events which will occur right before his reappearance.
- He will appear on a Friday
- It will be the 10th of Muharram (1st month of the Islamic Calendar and the date of Imam Hussein’s (as) martyrdom
- There will be both a solar and lunar eclipse in the month of Ramadan but contrary to all norms and calculations.
- Homosexuality will be prevalent
- People will usurp that which they are trusted with.
- People will carry music in their pockets.
- Earthquakes and Volcanos and other natural disasters shall be common.
- The rich will become godless and the devout will become sinful.
- False witnesses will be accepted and true ones rejected
- The virtuous will be despised for their faith in God.
- Human beings will be followers of selfish desires.
- Iraq will burn on all four corners.
- Basra (City in Iraq) will be abandoned.
- Sufyani will appear.
- A voice will be heard coming from the sky announcing the appearance of the Imam which will be heard by all in their own language.
The reason why Imam Ali (as) didn’t take up arms against Abu Bakr after he orchestrated the murder of Muhammad § and the Coup d’état is because Ali (as) did not have enough followers who were willing to take up arms against Abu Bakr.
Likewise Imam Mahdi (as) is said to appear when he has enough devout followers whose numbers will be equal to those who fought with Muhammad § at the battle of Badr. 313 believers.
The 313 followers of Imam Mahdi (as) are referenced in the commentary to Surah 2:148
“… therefore hasten to (do) good works; wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together; surely Allah has power over all things.”
Mohammad bin Ibrahim Al-No’maani narrated… from Imam Sadiq (as) who said:
when Allah gives permission for the reappearance of the Imam, he will call upon Allah with His Hebrew name. Suddenly his 313 companions will be gathered for him like the clouds of autumn. The 313 men are the flag-bearers. Some of them will disappear from their beds at night and find themselves in Makkah, while others will travel on clouds during the day. They are all known by their names, their titles, and the names of their fathers. I (Mofadh’al) asked, May I sacrifice my life for you. Who are stronger in faith?
Imam Sadiq (as) replied, "Those who travel on clouds during the day. They are the missing ones and the following verse was revealed abou them, ‘Wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together’ (2:148). Al-Ghaibah by No’maani page 127.