Existence of Imam Mahdi (As)
In this part, we would like to talk about some special attributes of Imam al-Mahdi (As) which are not acknowledged by most Sunnis.
Imam Al-Mahdi’s (As) Identification .
The Shi’a believes that Imam al-Mahdi (As) is the only son of Imam Hassan al-Askari (As) (the 11th Imam) who was born on the 15th of Sha’ban 255/869 in Samarra, Iraq. He became the divinely appointed Imam when his father was martyred in 260/874. Imam al-Mahdi (As) went into occultation (disappearance; leaving among people while he is not identified) at the same time. He will re-appear when Allah wills. More specifically:
His title is “al-Mahdi which means “The Guided One.”
His name is Muhammad Ibn al-Hassan (As).
His lineage, traced back to Imam ‘Ali (As) , is: Muhammad Ibn al-Hassan Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Musa Ibn Ja’far Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn al-Hussain Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (As).
On the other hand, most Sunnis are not so sure that he has been born yet! They believe he will be born some time before his mission. The name of Imam al-Mahdi (As) is Muhammad (which is the same as what the Shi’a believes). There is, however, one Sunni report which adds that the name of the father of Imam al-Mahdi (As) is Abdullah. Now let us see what is the argument of each side:
Q1) Some Sunnis question the Shi’a that how a five year old boy can become the Imam of mankind?
First, we must question whether or not in the history of religion, the phenomenon of young leaders has a parallel. Undoubtedly, there is. The Qur’an strikes a number of examples which are worthy of mentioning:
We have the example of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) who became prophet and spoke to people when he was a baby in the cradle:
“But she pointed to the baby. They said: ‘How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle? He said: ‘I am indeed a servant of Allah. He has given me Scripture and assigned me a prophet, and He has made me blessed wherever I be, and has enjoined on me Prayer and Zakat as long as I live.’“(Qur’an 19:29-31)
Thus Jesus (Pbuh) became prophet and received revelation and Book while he was less than two years old!
Furthermore, in few verses before, Qur’an mentions the case of Prophet Yahiya (John), to whom Allah (SWT) said:
“O Yahiya! Take hold of the Book with might,\’ And We gave him the appointment (of prophet hood) in his childhood.”(Qur’an 19:12)
So if a two-year old boy can become a prophet and receives revelation and Scripture, then why cannot a five-year old boy become an Imam?
The third example is Prophet Solomon (Suleiman) who was appointed by Allah the heir of his father, David (Dawud) , and became the king of his community while he had not reached the age of puberty.
Have you ever heard of prodigies? They are kids between the ages of four to 18 that exhibit signs of exceptional skills that are usually found in highly qualified adults only. Here are some examples from the modern history:
John Stuart Mill (1806-73), a 19th-century English philosopher and economist, advocated utilitarian reforms in his many writings and as member of Parliament. A child prodigy, Mill had mastered Greek by the age of 7 and studied economics at the age of 13. His works express his social thought with great clarity and thoroughness. (The Bettmann Archive’s).
The French thinker, mathematician, and scientist Blaise Pascal (1623-62) has been credited not only with imaginative and subtle work in geometry and other branches of mathematics, but with profoundly influencing later generations of theologians and philosophers. A prodigy in mathematics, Pascal had mastered Euclid\’s Elements by the age of 12. Pascal invented and sold the first calculating machine (1645).
Wolfgang was the greatest musical child prodigy who ever lived. He began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9.
Beethoven’s own talent was such that at the age of 12 he was already an assistant to the organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, with whom he studied.
Sarah Caldwell, born Maryville, Mo., Mar. 6, 1924, is a conductor and producer. A child prodigy in both mathematics and music, before reaching the age of ten.
While not exhaustive, the list serves the purpose of demonstrating that this phenomenon occurs naturally among normal human beings from all walks of life. Therefore, scientifically speaking, it is quite possible that a child demonstrates abilities that adults cannot. Also religiously speaking anything Allah desires will happen no matter how strange. Indeed Allah (SWT) asserts unequivocally in Qur’an that if He wanted something, all He has to do is to say to it is:
“Be! And it will be!”.
Q2) every human is mortal. Then, how can Imam al-Mahdi (As) live so long?
Yes, everyone but Allah is mortal, and in fact, Imam al-Mahdi (As) will pass away too. But the difference is the length of life in this world. The holy Qur’an and the prophetic traditions inform us that some people have had/have long life in this world. Thus the possibility of the occurrence of such phenomena is confirmed by the religion of Islam.
Are you aware that according to the Qur’an (see 29:14) , Prophet Noah (PBUH) has just been prophet for 950 years ? His age should have been even more than that because we should add his age before prophet hood to the above number.
Do you agree that Prophet Jesus a.s. is still alive? He is, in fact, 1995 years old by now. Of course, he is not living on the earth. He is rather in the heavens, and according to the Muslim’s belief, he will come back to the earth, because he is the savior in Christianity.
Do you agree that al-Khidr (As) is still alive? Qur’an mentions the story of his meeting with Prophet Moses (PBUH) He existed before the time of the Prophet Moses (PBUH) and as such, al-Khidr (As) is now more than 3000 years old! He lives right here on the earth, but we cannot recognize him (fairly similar to the case of Imam al-Mahdi (As)). He serves Allah (SWT) as one of His agents.
The Hanafi scholar, Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, in his book “Tathkirat al-Khawas al-Ummah”, pp 325-328 gives the names of 22 people believed by Muslims to have lived various ages from 3,000 down to 300 years! No doubt! Allah has the ability to give a very long life to His servants, but He also has assigned a death time for everyone (including the above mentioned individuals) which can be very soon or very late.
Moreover, scientifically speaking, there are no objections whatsoever to the extended life span assertion. A group of scientists conducted a series of experiments at the Rockefeller Institute in New York in 1912 on certain “parts” of plants, animals, and humans. These scientists included Dr. Alex Carl, Dr. Jack Lope, and Dr. Warren Lewis and his wife, among others. Among the experiments conducted was one that directly treated the nerves, muscles, hearts, skin, and kidneys of human beings.
These organs were not connected to a human body; they were independent organs that were perhaps donated for the experiment. It was concluded by the scientists that these “parts or organs” can continue to live almost indefinitely as long as they are nourished properly, and as long as they are shielded from external negative interactions like microbes and other obstacles that might inhibit the growth of these organs; furthermore, the assertion was made that the cells would continue to grow normally under the above conditions, and that the growth is directly related to the nourishment provided.
Again, aging had no effect on these organs, and they grew every year without any signs of deterioration. The scientists concluded that these organs will continue to grow as long as the patience of the scientists themselves is not exhausted, causing them to abandon the nourishment process.
Q3) Where is Imam al-Mahdi a.s. now?
Imam al-Mahdi (As) disappeared in 260/874 when he became Imam. The last time that he was seen, was in the cellar of his father’s house in Samarra, Iraq. That is why it is rumored regarding Shi’a that they believe al-Mahdi (As) is in the cave!!!
Some Sunni historians ignorantly attributed that Shi’a believe al-Mahdi (As) is hiding in the cellar. Shi’a do NOT believe that Imam al-Mahdi (As) is in the Cave or Cellar! He was just seen there for the last time. He can be anywhere Allah wishes. However one thing is clear is that he lives on the earth among people while people do not perceive.
If that cellar has become famous as “Cellar of Occultation”(Sardab al-Ghaybah), it is because it was made so by the non-Shi’a sources. There is NO mention of such name by the Shi’a scholars. Imam al-Mahdi a.s. may sometimes live in one place and travels around the world, just the same as the common belief of Muslims about al-Khidr (As) (For more details see Kashf al-Ghummah, by Abul Hassan ‘Ali Ibn Musa al-Irbili, v3, p283; Kashf al-Astar, by Mirza Husain al-Noori, pp 210-216).
Second, with regards to the occultation of al-Mahdi (As) , the Qur’an does NOT rule out such an occurrence at all. Again, the examples of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) and al-Khidr (As), who are both in occultation, are worthy of mentioning.
Q4) Why did Imam al-Mahdi a.s. disappear?
The above question shares the same answer with the following two questions:
Q4.b. Why does not Imam al-Mahdi a.s. appear now?
Q4.c. When will he a.s. come?
There are MANY reasons behind it. The most important reason of it will be disclosed when Imam al-Mahdi (As) will appear.(no one know it until Imam Mahdi (As) will come and we figure it out), However, there is a very reason.
Imam al-Mahdi (As) will come as soon as people become ready for him. People throughout the history were NEVER ready. They killed prophets, and Imams one after the other. However Allah continued to send prophets till He finally sent Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who brought the last message at the time when the evolution of the mind of human being reached its maturity, and thus Allah provided them with the most complete and final religion. After that there was no need to send a new message.
Thus He sent Guides (Imams) who preserved and explained the message during the time of tribulation, for people. They also did that, and we are proud that we have had Imams like Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (As) who explained all aspects of Jurisprudence, etc. He had a golden opportunity of teaching during the clashes between the Umayad and the Abbasids. During that short period when the tyrants of both sides were busy with each other, the Imam was teaching Jurisprudence and theology in classes with as much as 5000 students. (No need to mention that Abu Hanifa was one of his students). Now the time is for action. But unfortunately the majority of people were are reluctant to follow the right path, and instead, they opposed and killed the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt, and treated them in the same way that their ancestors treated the prophets. (Even Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “No Prophet was ever annoyed as much as me“).
The situation will continue till such time when people realize that they need a divinely appointed Imam who rule over them since they can’t solve their problems by themselves. When this happens universally, and when people become frustrated and disappointed from any type of “ism”(way of life, ideology), and when all raise their hands for help, then people are then ready for him. They will not kill him like they did with the others, nor do they treat him unjustly. They will rather accept him.
Of course, this will not happen till people of the word undergo much heavier afflictions, world-wide wars, mass destructions by satanic powers (such as Dajjal and Sufyani) which are not difficult to foresee in a near future.
After these and many more, those who deny his birth and his present life have no proof against those who have accepted this fact, while they still recognize the correctness of traditions about Imam al-Mahdi (As) . The Messenger of Allah (SWT) said:
“He who dies not knowing the Imam of his era, has died the death of Ignorance (Days of Ignorance; the era before Islam).”