The Doctrine of Mahdiism and its Impact
from the Standpoint of Anthropology and Sociology
The doctrine of Mahdiism, a religious tenet and teaching, is the core of the Shi`i culture and enjoys the potentiality to speculate about the solutions for social and individual problems in both the ages of occultation and appearance, so that on the base of this doctrine, there can be certain strategic solutions in anthropological and sociological domains. Interpretation of the religion by this doctrine is a standpoint which presents a deep comment on other features and precepts of the religion. It is, indeed, a feature of the religion by means of which other divisions are approached and interpreted. The present article attempts to reflect the function of Mahdiism in two fields of anthropology and sociology in the ages of occultation and appearance.
Among the religious features, including confessional doctrine, moral principles, and religious rites (commandments), one can present a structural division by virtue of their priority and importance. Each and every teaching enjoys a relative degree of priority and importance and plays an important role in the field of man’s piety and perfection; thus we cannot claim that all religious teachings enjoy the same significance in understanding of religion and leading to piety. In proof of some priority in religious teachings, we can observe that a hierarchy of obligatory and fixed notions is used in religious teachings, and a specific range of reward and punishment is con-sidered in penal and civil laws. This discrepancy, in fact, reminds the worthiness of the believers’ deeds.
In view of the priority among the religious doctrine, when some teaching is ig¬nored and the other is magnified, it hasn’t done justice to religious doctrines in either case, whereas the dignity of religious teachings should be kept in terms of revealed recommendations, and the extremes should be avoided. To illustrate it, when the believers fail to observe the basic tenets of the religion as much as the religion itself has emphasized and neglect them instead, it much resembles a man who misuses his valuable garment, or a student who concentrates on trivial questions with low marks instead of the questions with high marks.
Undoubtedly in the doctrinal system of all religions, there exists a kind of ranking among their teachings. And there it seems that from the viewpoint of structure and foundation, some religious components are relatively more important than the others. For instance, in all Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions, the questions of God existence, life after death, immortality, prophethood, prosperity, hope, con¬tent of life, salvation, felicity, world reformation, Soteriology, etc. have all been carefully taken into consideration so that they have been bound to give reasonable answers to their disciples essential questions.
This article first fall embarks on the very question that why the issue of Mahdiism, which enjoys a significant standing in religious sources and Islamic civilization, has been neglected in the fields of anthropology and sociology? It is, indeed, an indispensable teaching that has a determined role in the headway of the community, the philosophy of the history, and the believers’ duty to attain the ideal society with elevated civilians, either in the ages of occultation or appearance. The second at¬tempted has been focused on the interdiction of Mahdavi culture in the foundation of Muslims lives and in their theorization; while Mahdiism is of shared discourses among the Islamic sects and had the greatest contribution to the history of civilization and Islamic culture? The study of false pretenders of Mahdiism throughout the Islamic history signifies the eminence of Mahdiism among the disciples of various sects of Religion. Still, Mahdiism is not fully applied in the theorization in various humanity and social domains, and its real potentiality has been neglected.
Definition of the term "Doctrine":
According to the researches done in The Encyclopedia of Religion and a major number of dictionaries, there are two meanings for the term "Doctrine"; "the affirma¬tion of a truth" and "Percept" that is synonymous to terms like "tenet", "teaching", and "dogma". Given the first meaning, the term "Doctrine" has a philosophical concept, but in the second sense its practical aspect is more obvious.
From the standpoint of terminology, the term "Doctrine" has got independent meanings and applications in different sciences. In politics, for instance, it connotes "a model, design, or political principle", which is raised by a politician; for instance, "the Doctrine of the equality of man", or "Truman Doctrine" and "Brezhnev Doctrine" represent "a specific political position or policy".
In natural sciences and humanities, the same term introduces a principle that forms the basis for a scientific theory that has not yet been proved to be true. An ex¬ample of this sense is the "doctrine of evolution", in which the term "doctrine" does not mean some "teaching" but a "theory".
In religions, the term "doctrine" is meant the religious and theological principles that are fundamental, self-evident, and unquestioned with basic roots in theological contexts, firmly believed by their disciples, such as "the doctrine of Buddha", "the doctrine of Maya", and "the doctrine of Mahdiism".
In Christian rituals, the term "Doctrine or Dogma" is referred to as a set of teachings that brings about salvation for its disciples.In Catholic Encyclopedia of Religion, the term "Doctrine" stands for a se ries of teachings designed for the Catechesis or Kerygma.
In Jewish rituals, it stands for the teachings, utilized mostly for the teachings of the Testament.
In Islam, it is meant to be the "verbal and ideological teachings" that are both fundamental and leading. When the term "Doctrine" is occasionally juxtaposed with religious teachings such as "Mahdiism" it would suggest an area of various notions, such as "philosophy", "the school of thought", and "ism" as in the "Doctrine of Mahdi¬ism", which signifies "the philosophy of Mahdiism" and "the School of Mahdiism".
Terminology of the Mahdiism Doctrine:
Some religious or philosophical concepts are pivotal, and are interpreted in a particular way as Doctrine. For instance, "Dukkha" ("Suffering" or "sorrow") in Buddhism is so important that is called "the Doctrine of Dukkha or the Doctrine of Buddha"; or "Maya" ("imaginary world") is a fundamental concept in Hindu philosophy, which construes as "the Doctrine of Maya".
Mahdiism is one of the tenets, which is of high significance in Islam. It is in conformity with "Soteriology", "Salvation", and "Millenarianism", presented in other religions. The notion of salvation and Mahdavi global government are the matter of concordance among the whole Islamic sects, and their authentic books of traditions, such as Sihah al-Sittah ("Six Correct Books"), refer to them under four titles:
1. Al-Mahdi’s Book; 2. Al-Fitan Chapter ("The Calamities"); 3. Al-Malahem Chapter ("The Disturbances"); 4. Ashrat al-Sa`ah ("The signs of the End Times"). Although there may exist some slight differences among the Islamic sects on the conditions of Mahdiism, yet none of them feel doubt about its principals and certainty.
Moreover, the frequency of subjects on the issue of Mahdiism in the theological contexts of both the Shi`a and the Sunni branches of Islam signifies that it is one of the joint issues in the Islamic tenets, having been verified by the whole Islamic sects. Although the issue of Imamate and Caliphate is the most vulnerable matter of difference in the history of the Shi`a and Sunni, arising from their difference on the first Imam or Caliph, the Reappearance of Imam Mahdi (May God hasten his appearance) or the "Doctrine of Mahdiism" puts an end to all their differences and brings about the unity and unanimity of all Muslims. Thus, as stated in the holy Quran, Imam Mahdi (May God hasten his appearance) manifests the return of whole matters to God7 as well as the transformation of whole nations in one nation.8
The "Doctrine of Mahdiism" signifies a series of teachings, based on Mahdiism, which can be used to present applied ways and theoretical approaches in different fields both before and after the age of appearance. In Muslims’ mind, the "Doctrine of Mahdiism" is an organizing feature, which has presence in theorization and men¬tal role models.
Throughout the history, the Shi`as have always utilized the "Doctrine of Mahdiism" for theorizing the government, the rulers" criteria, and the way to manage the society in the age of occultation. The Islamic scholars and jurisconsults, on the other side, studied the "Doctrine of Mahdiism" as an Islamic tenet and paradigm. To study the subjects, including government, guardianship, Caliphate, and the rulers" criteria in the age of occultation, they have always invoked the traditions on Imamate, Mahdiism, and Imam Mahdi"s qualities. Unfortunately, the "Doctrine of Mahdiism" has only been applied in this field while its impact on other fields, such as the philosophy of history, the philosophy of politics, social sciences, social management, economics, organizational behavior, social affairs and relations, enforcement of law, anthropology, and psychology has been neglected.
In Islamic view, Imam Mahdi’s appearance settles all these fields; however, the "Doctrine of Mahdiism" has been already employed in political and governmental aspects.
Like a cardiac patient who shall always care about his diet, rest, exercise, journey, etc., one shall consider the "Doctrine of Mahdiism" in all aspect of his life. Mahdiism is as the heart of the Islamic thought; thus, it shall always be in the center of all aspects of man"s life.
After the Imamate of Imam Mahdi (May God hasten his appearance), the issue of Mahdiism in religious thought gains higher significance, compared with the other Islamic beliefs, and the whole official and non-official interpretations, presented by religions and creeds, give way to the Divine interpretation.
This is one of the impacts of Mahdiism, which puts an end to the whole religious diversities, and thereafter, Mahdiism is the only lens, through which the whole Islamic tenets, including :Monotheism, Prophethood, Resurrection, etc., are viewed.
It is noteworthy to mention that one of the features of Mahdiism makes it even superior to the Prophethood; that is: completing and integrating the whole prophets’ mission throughout man’s history, making unity among the entire teachings of the prior religions, presenting a pure interpretation on the religious beliefs, and verifying the absolute certainty of this religious ideal.
Miscellaneous Information on Imam Mehdi(as)
philosophy of awaiting
The Length of al-Mahdi's Life
The Four Special Deputies