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The Beginning of the Belief in the Mahdi

imam mahdi (a.s)

A Glance at the Translator’s Introduction

The translation of this important book would have been impossible without the need on my part to respond to those who have attributed to me false notions and ideas which are neither part of my personal faith nor of my academic research. At no point have I entertained, even in error, opinions that cannot be ascertained in the written primary sources of the Twelver Shiism. Every piece of document used to write my academic research is meticulously investigated and critically evaluated in the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and the authentic traditions of the Ahl-ul-Bayt. It is remarkable that Ayatollah Amin’s Dadgustar-i jihan, which I have rendered in English under the title of: Al-Imam al-Mahdi: The Just Leader of Humanity, gives the believer a detailed description of the belief in the twelfth Imam, whose chronological development based on historical study of the sources I have examined in Islamic Messianism: The Idea of Mahdi in Twelver Shiism. More remarkable is the fact that even when Ayatollah Amini and I have approached the subject with strikingly different method of investigation, we have reached the same conclusion regarding the belief about the Imam who will come forth from his invisible existence to take charge of the world as its just leader.

The methodological difference between the two endeavors actually points to the different readership: the former is written strictly for the educated 'insiders' (the believers); whereas, the latter is written for both the educated 'insiders' and the 'outsiders' (non-believers). This is an important distinction to keep in mind, as the readers in the community begin to fathom the contribution made by Ayatollah Amini to reach a believing audience in contrast to my own academic contribution to reach a non-believing audience for the intellectual appreciation of the Twelver Shiite school of thought.

My endeavors in Islamic Messianism were very much guided by the need to present the Shiite school of thought to a Western academic world dominated by an "orientalist" scholarship that not only marginalizes Shiism as a deviant and corrupt form of Islam, but also regards it as directly influenced by Jewish and Christian messianic ideas.

It was important to challenge long held conclusions of the Western and Sunni scholars regarding the origins of Shii notion of the divinely guided Imam, and assert with confidence that the idea of the future coming of the Mahdi arose from the Qur’anic world view’s concern with bringing to fruition a just and ethical society. On the other hand, Ayatollah Amin’s endeavors in Al-Imam al-Mahdi: The Just Leader of Humanity, are geared towards responding to the doubts raised by the skeptic Shi’s and polemical Sunnis.

The Beginning of the Belief in the Mahdi

Dr. Emami: When did the belief in Mahdi become prevalent in the Islamic environment? Was there any conversation about the Mahdi during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) or was it after his death that the belief became widespread among Muslims? There are some who have written that there was no Mahdiism in the beginning of Islam. It was only in the second half of the first century (7th century CE) that the idea appeared among the Muslims. There was a group that regarded Muhammad bin Hanafiyya as the Mahdi and gave the good news to the people about the good fortune Islam would acquire through him. The same group believed that Muhammad bin Hanafiyya had not died but he was living in Mt. Radwa and one day would return."

imam mahdi (a.s)

Mr. Hoshyar: The belief in Mahdi was widespread during the time of the Prophet. The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) on more than one occasion had announced the future coming of the Mahdi. From time to time he would inform the people about the government of the Mahdi and the signs of his emergence giving his name and patronymic (kunya). There are numerous hadith-reports that have come down to us from both the Sunni and the Shia sources on this subject. Actually some of these reports have been related so frequently and without interruption in all ages that nobody can doubt their authenticity. For instance we read the following hadith reported from 'Abd Allah bin Mas’ud who heard the Prophet says:

The world will not come to an end until a man from my family (Ahl-ul-Bayt) who will be called al-Mahdi emerges to rule upon my community. [1]

Another tradition reported by Abu al-Hujaf quotes the Prophet saying three times:

Listen to the good news about the Mahdi! He will rise at the time when people will be faced with severe conflict and the earth will be hit by a violent quake. He will fill the earth with justice and equity as it is filled with injustice and tyranny. He will fill the hearts of his followers with devotion and will spread justice everywhere. [2]

The Prophet has declared:

The Day of Resurrection will not take place until the True Qa’im rises. This will happen when God permits him to do so. Anyone who follows him will be saved and anyone who opposes him will perish. O servants of God keep God in your mind and go towards him even if it happens to be on the ice for indeed he is the caliph of God the Exalted and Glorified and my successor. [3]

In another hadith the Prophet is reported to have said: "Any one who denies al-Qa’im among my children will have denied me."[4]

In still another hadith the Prophet assured his community by stating:

imam mahdi (a.s)

"The world will not come to an end until a man from the descendants of Hussein takes charge of the affairs of the world and fills it with justice and equity as it is filled with injustice and tyranny. [5]

Note: This time we will work on just ten parts of this useful book but as always accompany us for other parts of this book in  future.

(1). the hadith is reported in the majority of the Sunni sources. However here we cite Majlisi Bihar al-anwar Vol. 51 p. 75 who has actually compiled these reports from all the sources in one place making it convenient to refer to them. Se also Ithbat al-hudat Vol. 1 p. 9.

(2). Bihar al-anwar Vol. 51 p. 74

(3). Bihar al-anwar Vol. 51 p. 65; Ithbat al-hudat Vol. 6 p. 382

(4). Bihar al-anwar Vol. 51 p. 73.

(5). Ibid. Vol. 51 p. 66.

Source: A book named The Just Leader of Humanity

By Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini

Translated by: Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina

Other links:

Commencement of Imam Mahdi’s Imamate (Part 1)

Commencement of Imam Mahdi’s Imamate (Part 2)

Commencement of Imam Mahdi’s Imamate (Part 3)

Commencement of Imam Mahdi’s Imamate (Part 4)

Commencement of Imam Mahdis Imamate (Part 5)

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