Awaited Savior - Imam Al-Mahdi (AS)
The promised Mahdi (as), who is usually mentioned by his title of Imam-'Asr (The Imam of the "Period") and Sahib al-Zaman (the Lord of the Age), is the son of the 11th Imam. His name is the same as that of the Holy Prophet. He was born in Samarrah in 256/868 or 260/872 in Iraq. lived under his father's care and tutelage. He was hidden from public view and only a few of the elite among the Shi'ah were able to meet him.
After the martyrdom of his father he became Imam and by divine command went into occultation (Ghaybat). Thereafter he appeared only to his deputies (na'ib) and even then only in exceptional circumstances. Al-Mahdi is not only an embodiment of the Islamic belief but he is also the symbol of an aspiration cherished by mankind irrespective of its divergent religious doctrines. He is also the crystallization of an instructive inspiration through which all people, regardless of their religious affiliations, have learnt to await a day when heavenly mission, with all their implications, will achieve their final goal and the tiring march of humanity across history will culminate satisfactorily in peace and tranquility. This consciousness of the expected future has not been confined to those who believe in the supernatural phenomena but has also been reflected in the ideologies and cults which totally deny the existence of what is imperceptible. For example, dialectical materialism which interprets history on the basis of contradictions believes that a day will come when all contradictions will disappear and complete peace and tranquility will prevail. Thus we find that this contradiction experienced throughout history is one of the widest and the commonest psychological experience of humanity.
The religion when it endorses this common consciousness and stresses that in the long run this world will be filled with justice and equity after having been filled with injustice and oppression, gives it a factual value and converts it into a definite belief in the future course of humanity.
This belief is not merely a source of consolation, but it is also a source of virtue and strength. It is a source of virtue because the belief in Mahdi means the total elimination of injustice and oppression prevailing in the world. It is a source of inexhaustible strength because it provides hope which enables man to resist frustration, howsoever, hopeless and dismal the circumstances may be. It is no longer necessary to look forward to an unknown savior who may come into the world at a distant future. The savior is already here and we simply have to look for the day when the circumstances are ripe for him to appear and begin his great mission. The Mahdi is no longer an idea. He is no longer a prophecy. We need not wait for his birth. He already exists actually and we only wait for the inauguration of his role. He is a specific entity living among us in his real human form and shares hopes and disappointments and our joys and grief’s. He witnesses all the acts of oppression and persecution which are perpetuated on the face of the earth and, somehow or other, he himself is affected by them. He is anxiously waiting the moment when he will be able to extend his helping hand to everyone whom any wrong has been done and be able to eradicate injustice and oppression completely.
Islamic concept of the Awaited Savior
In the different religions that govern the world such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam there are references to a person who will come as the savior of mankind. These religions have usually given happy tidings of his coming, although there are naturally certain differences in detail that can be discerned when these teachings are compared carefully. The hadith of the Holy Prophet upon which all Muslims agree, "The Mahdi is of my progeny," refers to this same truth.
There are numerous hadiths cited in Sunni and Shi'ite sources from the Holy Prophet and the Imams concerning the appearance of the Mahdi, such as that he is of the progeny of the Prophet and that his appearance will enable human society to reach true perfection and the full realization of spiritual life. In addition, there are numerous other traditions concerning the fact that the Mahdi is the son of the eleventh Imam, Hasan al-'Askari. They agree that after being born and undergoing a long occultation the Mahdi will appear again, filling with justice the world that has been corrupted by injustice and iniquity. From what we read of the glad tidings in the Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet and the infallible Imams, the Imam of the Age (Imam-e-Zaman) has special responsibilities which other Imams did not have. Imam-e-Zaman will establish a Universal Government. He will fill the earth with righteousness and justice. He will exploit the earth's treasures and natural resources. He will improve and develop the land, and in this way people's awareness and understanding will improve.[Montakhabol Aathar, Lotfillah Saafi Golpaygani sec.vii].
Facts which can be gleaned from the prophecies of the Holy Prophet (s) about the Mahdi are briefly stated below:
He will bear the same nomenclature as the Holy Prophet (s).
He will not be bearing allegiance to any tyrant
He will fill the earth with justice and fair play after its having been filled with injustice and tyranny.
At the time of his advent he will be found leaning against the wall of the Kabah. He will call together his 313 supporters who will respond to his call and gather around him. Then he will lead the congregational prayers.
He will establish Islamic law in the whole world
On his second advent Jesus will offer prayers behind him.
In certain other traditions the Holy Prophet (s) referred in clear terms, to the last Imam's mission and narrated the events connected with his occultation and reappearance. In this connection it is interesting to note, as pointed out by the famous historian Tabari, that the reports about the occultation of the Mahdi were recorded in their books by the Shiah traditionalists during the lifetime of Imam Muhammed Baqir (5th Imam) and Imam Jaffer Sadiq (6th Imam) i.e. long before Imam Mahdi was born. This fact alone is enough to vouch for their genuineness. (1) Sahih Bukhari, p175 ,Egypt; Sahih Trimizi, Vol II, p. 45, Dehli (2) Sahih Muslim, Vol II, p191, Egypt; Sahih Abd Daud, Vol II, p207 Egypt; Masnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol V,p.106, Egypt. (3) Kifayat al-Athar, by Allamah Abu Abdullah bin Muhammed Yusuf al-Kanji al-Shafi'i; Bihar al-Anwar by Allamah Muhammed Baqir al-Majlisi; Yanabi al-Mawwadah by Shaykh Sulayman bin Ibrahim al-Qandozi. The Sunnite scholars have also mentioned and recorded hundreds of traditions about the Mahdi in more than seventy books by their own valued and dependable authorities of which we shall mention a few examples.
Masnad - Ahmad bin Hanbal (d.241 A.H)
Sahih Bukhari - Muhammed bin Ismail Bukhari(d.261 A.H)
Sahih Muslim - Muslim bin Hajjaj Nishapuri(d.261 A.H)
Sunan Abi Dawud - Sulayman bin Ash'ath Silijistani(d.275 A.H)
Sahih Trimizi - Muhammed bin Isa Tirmizi(d.279 A.H)
The authors of the above books, each one of them, died either before or shortly after Mahdi's birth. See also: Masahib al-Sunnah, al-Baghawi(d.516 A.H); Jame' al-Usul, Ibn Athir (d.606 A.H); al-Futubat al-Makkiyah, Muhyuddin ibn al-Arabi (d.638 A.H); Taskirah al-Khawas, Sibt ibn al-Jawazi (d.654 A.H); Fara'id al-Simtaya, al-Hamawi (d.716 A.H); Yanabi al-Mawaddah, Sulayman al-Qandozi (d.1293 A.H). Some Sunnite Scholars have written books especially about the Imam of the Age:
Al-Bayan fi Akhbar al-Sahib al-Zaman, Allmah Abu Abdullah bin Muhammed Yusuf al-Kanji al-Shafi'i.
Iqd al Durar fi Akhbar al-Imam al-Muntasar, Shiekh Jamaluddin Yusuf al-Damishqi.
Mahdi Ale Rasul, Ali bin Sultan Muhammed al-Harawi al-Hanafi.
Kitab al-Mahdi, Abu Daud.
Alamat al-Mahdi, Jalaluddin Suyuti.
Manaqib al-Mahdi, Hafiz Abu Nai'm al-Isfehani.
Prof. Henry Corbin of Sorbonne University says: To my mind the Shi'ite is the only sect which has preserved and perpetuated the link of Divine guidance between man and God through its belief in the Imamate. According to the Jews the Prophet Hood, a real link between man and God, came to an end with Moses. They do not believe in the Prophet Hood of Jesus and Muhammad. The Christians too, do not go beyond Jesus. The Sunnite sect has also stopped at the Prophet Muhammad and believes that the man and God have been severed with the end of the Prophet Hood. It is only the Shias who believe that the link still exists through the Mahdi and will continue to exist forever. It is hardly necessary to give an explanation as to why the Mahdi disappeared immediately after assuming the Imamate. Let it suffice to say that Allah in His Divine Wisdom ordained so. In the meantime it is duty of all the Muslims, especially the Shia'h, to strive steadfastly for the creation of the proper atmosphere and the right climate for the establishment of a world order based on justice, virtue and piety. They should not only mold their individual lives according to the teachings and high ideals of Islam, but they should also bend their efforts to set up an Islamic order on the collective and communal level. They should devote themselves to the service of the faith and be prepared to receive the AWAITED SAVIOUR.
According to the Islamic traditions Jesus will descend from heaven and espouse the cause of the Mahdi. The Christians and the Jews will see him and recognize his true status. The Chirstians will abandon their faith in his god-head. The Holy Quran says: " There shall be none among the people of the Scripture, but will believe in him (Jesus) before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them ". (4:159) Evidently at that time Jesus will not be following the Christian law which has already been repealed. He will be following the Mahdi, the master of the time, and that is why he will be offering prayers behind him.
So, we should pray to Allah that He may include us among those who are waiting for the Imam of the age, and that our acts and conduct may also symbolize the truth of our claim. Firstly, we should acquaint ourselves with His Eminence, the Imam, and then we should guide others, his opponents and enemies. We should gain the virtues of the companions of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.), and should always be in the expectation of his appearance. Henceforth, we will be able to sacrifice our worthless souls and thus to make them worthy. Shiites must have a devout link with His Eminence during the occultation. Their hearts and souls should be filled with love and affection for him. Their thoughts should be devoted to his service and their desire should be to meet him. Their prayers should be to ask for the blessing of Allah to be showered on His Eminence, and their supplication should be for salvation. Their existence should be one welded and fused unit, and their life should blaze with love for him.