Imam of the Age
Agnomen: Abul QÃ¢sim.
Title: Al-Mahdi, al-QÃ¢â€™im, al-Hujja, SÃ¢hib al-Amr.
Father: Hasan bin â€˜Ali.
Mother: Narjis (also known as Susan, Sayqal). Birth: 15th Shaâ€˜bÃ¢n 255 AH in Samarra, Iraq.
Living in Occultation & will appear before the end of time.
1. Birth & Early Life
Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (a.s.) was born on 15th Shaâ€˜bÃ¢n 255 A.H. (868 CE) in Samarra to Narjis, the wife of the eleventh Imam. Lady Narjisâ€™s lineage goes back to Shamâ€˜Ã»n, one of the disciples of Prophet â€˜Isa (a.s.); and she was highly respected by Hakima, the sister of Imam an-Naqi and leader of the Hashimite ladies.
Since the reports about the anticipated birth of Mahdi, the Messiah who will put an end to injustice and tyranny was widespread, the â€˜AbbÃ¢sids were closely watching the family of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). The situation was not unlike the days prior to the birth of Prophet Musa (a.s.) when Pharoah had ordered that the male children of the Israelites be killed. Just as Musaâ€™s birth was concealed from the public by AllÃ¢hâ€™s power, Muhammad al-Mahdiâ€™s birth was also concealed from the public.
For five years, Imam al-Mahdi lived under the loving care of his father. He was seen only by some family members and a few selected companions of his father. This was all done to protect him from the â€˜AbbÃ¢sid agents. Some of those who had seen the Imam during this period are mentioned below:
1. Lady Hakima, aunt of Imam Hasan al-â€˜Askari (a.s.).
2. NasÃ®m, the servant of Imam al-â€˜Askari.
3. Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n al-â€˜Amri.
4. Husayn bin al-Hasan al-â€˜Alawi.
5. Jaâ€˜far bin Muhammad bin MÃ¢lik and his group.
6. Ahmad bin IshÃ¢q.
Here we shall only narrate the event in which Ahmad bin IshÃ¢q saw Imam al-Mahdi. Ahmad, a prominent Shiâ€˜a of the time, once visited Imam Hasan al-â€˜Askari (a.s.) and wanted to ask him about his successor. Before Ahmad asked his question, the Imam said, â€œO Ahmad! From the day He created Adam, AllÃ¢h has not left the earth without a representative (hujjat), nor will He leave it without a representative till the day of judgement. It is because of the hujjat that AllÃ¢h averts the chastisement from the people, sends down the rain and brings forth the blessings from the earth.â€
Ahmad: â€œO son of the Prophet! Who is the successor and the Imam after you?â€
Imam Hasan al-â€˜Askari immediately went inside the house and returned with a three year old child in his hands, and said, â€œO Ahmad bin IshÃ¢q, if you were not honourable in the sight of AllÃ¢h and His representatives, I would not have shown this son of mine to you. His name and agnomen is the same as that of the Prophet; he is the one who will fill the earth with justice and equality just as it would be filled with injustice and tyranny.
â€œO Ahmad, his example is that of Khizr and Dhul Qarnayn [who are believed by Muslims to be still living]. By AllÃ¢h, he will go into Occultation in such a manner that none will gain salvation except the one whom AllÃ¢h blesses with the belief in his imamate…â€
2. The Imamat & Ghaybat
After the martyrdom of Imam Hasan al-â€˜Askari in 260 A.H., the imamate of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (may AllÃ¢h hasten his appearance) began. His imamate is divided into two parts: 1. The first 69 years which is known as the period of â€œal-Ghaybatu â€™s-Sughra â€” the Minor Occultationâ€. 2. The period after 329 A.H. which is known as â€œal-Ghaybatu â€™l-Kubra â€” the Major Occultationâ€.
The imamate of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) began with Occultation (ghaybat) which has continued till the present time. However, during the first 69 years, the Shiâ€˜as could get in touch with the Imam only through his specially appointed agents; whereas after 329 A.H., no such agents were appointed. To explain the difference in the intensity of the Occultation, the first period is described as â€œminor, lesser, sughra or qasira,â€ whereas the second period is described as â€œmajor, greater, kubra or tawila.â€
If the Occultation had taken its â€œmajorâ€ form from day one, the Shiâ€˜a community could not have adjusted to the situation easily; there would have been great chaos and confusion. The gradual intensification in the Occultation made the Shiâ€˜as used to the idea of not dealing with the Imam directly.
3. The Ghaybat Sughra
During the Ghaybat Sughra, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) had appointed four special agents, one after another, as a link between himself and his Shiâ€˜as. Of course, there were other agents also but with limited jurisdiction or limited duties.
The four special agents were as follows:
1. â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin Saâ€˜Ã®d al-â€˜Amri, known as Abu Amr.
2. Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin Saâ€˜Ã®d, known as Abu Jaâ€˜far.
3. Husayn bin Rawh an-Nawbakhti, known as Abul QÃ¢sim.
4. â€˜Ali bin Muhammad Samary, known as Abul Hasan.
â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin Saâ€˜Ã®d was also a prominent companion and agent of Imam â€˜Ali an-Naqi (a.s.) and Imam Hasan al-â€˜Askari (a.s.). He was resident of Samarra. In order to hide his link and work with Imam Hasan al-â€˜Askari from government informers, â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin Saâ€˜Ã®d changed his professionâ€”he became a vendor selling cooking oil on a cart. When the governmentâ€™s surveillance on the Imamâ€™s house made it almost impossible for the Shiâ€˜as to visit him freely, â€˜UthmÃ¢n would put the letters and religious dues from the Shiâ€˜as in the oil containers and take them to the Imamâ€™s house under the pretext of delivering cooking oil!
Ahmad bin IshÃ¢q narrates that Imam al-â€˜Askari (a.s.) told him that â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin Saâ€˜Ã®d was â€œtrustworthy, and reliable in the eyes of the past Imam as well as myself in my life as well as after my death. Whatever he says to you is from me, and whatever he brings to you is from me.â€
When â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin Saâ€˜Ã®d died, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) wrote a letter of condolence to his son, Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n, as follows: â€œWe belong to AllÃ¢h, and to Him we shall return. Your father lived a graceful life and died as an honourable man. May AllÃ¢h shower His mercy on him and join him with his Masters. He was diligent in his work for the Masters, and worked hard in what pleased the Almighty and the Imams. May AllÃ¢h shower His grace on him and forgive his faults.â€
Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n was the second special agent of the period of Minor Occultation. â€˜AbdullÃ¢h bin Jaâ€˜far al-Himyari says that when â€˜UthmÃ¢n died, we received a letter from the Imam, in the same handwriting that we recognized from his previous communications, stating that Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n was appointed in the place of his late father as the new special agent of the Imam.
â€˜AbdullÃ¢h bin Jaâ€˜far once asked Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n, â€œHave you seen the Master of Affairs (SÃ¢hib al-Amr)?â€ He answered, â€œYes; my last meeting with him was by the holy House of AllÃ¢h (i.e., Kaâ€˜ba) where I heard him praying, â€˜O AllÃ¢h! Fulfill for me what You have promised me.â€™…â€
Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n also said that Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) is present every year at the hajj ceremonies; he sees the people and recognizes them, they also see him but do not recognize him.
Husayn bin Rawh was the third special agent of the Imam. He was greatly respected by all Muslims; he closely worked with â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin Saâ€˜Ã®d.
A few days before his death, Muhammad bin UthmÃ¢n had introduced Husayn bin Rawh to the elders of the Shiâ€˜a community as the next special agent of the Imam. Jaâ€˜far bin Ahmad al-Qummi was the closest of all companions to Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n, and many Shiâ€˜as thought that he might succeed Muhammad as the next special agent. At the time of Muhammadâ€™s death, Jaâ€˜far was sitting by the head of his bed while Husayn bin Rawh was sitting by his feet. (In that cultural context, sitting by the head was a more honourable position.) Muhammad bin â€˜UthmÃ¢n turned his face towards Jaâ€˜far and said, â€œI have been ordered to hand over the affairs to Abul QÃ¢sim Husayn bin Rawh.â€ When Jaâ€˜far heard this, he stood up, went to Husayn, took hold of his hand and made him sit by the head of the bed while he himself sat at the feet of Muhammad.
In a letter dated 6th ShawwÃ¢l 305, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) wrote about Husayn bin Rawh: â€œWe know him; may AllÃ¢h acquaint him with all that is good for him, and may He help him. We are aware of his letter and have confidence and trust in him. He has a position in our eyes which pleases him; and may AllÃ¢h add to His blessings upon him for He is indeed the Master and has power over everything. All praise is for AllÃ¢h who has no partner, and blessings and peace of AllÃ¢h upon His messenger, Muhammad, and his progeny.â€
When Abu Sahl an-Nawbakhti, a prominent Shiâ€˜a theologian of the time, was asked as to why he was superceded by Husayn bin Rawh in attaining the position of the special agency of the Imam, he replied: â€œThey (i.e., the Imams) know better as to whom should represent them. I am a person who debates against the opponent with temperment. If I had been the special deputy of the Imam and had been aware of Imamâ€™s whereabouts â€”just as Husayn bin Rawh is aware of itâ€” I might have disclosed it in the heat of debate [if cornered to disclose the Imamâ€™s whereabouts]. But Abul QÃ¢sim [Husayn bin Rawh] is such that if the Imam was hiding under his robes, he would not lift it even if he is cut into pieces by sharp knives.â€
Husayn bin Rawh served in this position for 21 years till his death in 326 A.H. in Baghdad.
â€˜Ali bin Muhammad as-Samary became the fourth special deputy of the Imam. His deputyship was comparatively short. He died in 329 A.H. Before his death, when some prominent Shiâ€˜as asked about the next special deputy, he replied, â€œI have not been ordered to appoint anyone after me.â€
Six days before the death of as-Samary, he received the following letter from Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.): â€œO â€˜Ali bin Muhammad as-Samary. May AllÃ¢h reward your brethren in observing grief for you. You shall leave this world after six days. Finalize your affairs and do not appoint anyone as your successor.
Indeed, the Major Occultation has begun. There will be no appearance for me until AllÃ¢h the Almighty commands me; and that will be after a long time, after the hearts have hardened and the world is filled with injustice.
Shortly, some persons will claim to have seen me [and claim the status of special deputyship]. Beware that whoever makes such a claim before the appearance of SufyÃ¢ni and the Sayha is a liar and a fraud. And there is no power and strength except with AllÃ¢h, the High, the Great.â€
4. The Ghaybat Kubra
Unlike the Ghaybat Sughra where the Shiâ€˜as could communicate with their Imam through the special deputies, in the Ghaybat Kubra, there is no special deputy. The Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) will appear from the Occultation whenever AllÃ¢h allows him to do so in order to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, and to eradicate injustice and tyranny once and for all.
During the Ghaybat Kubra, those Shiâ€˜as who do not have the expertise to derive the laws from the Qurâ€™an and the sunna of the Infallibles, should follow the guidance provided by those who are experts. A person known as IshÃ¢q bin â€˜AmmÃ¢r asked in a letter to Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) about the guidance during the Ghaybat Kubra. The holy Imam wrote: â€œAnd as for the newly occurring circumstances [which have not been mentioned in the Qurâ€™Ã¢n and sunna], refer to those who narrate our ahÃ¢dÃ®th for they are my hujjat upon you as I am AllÃ¢hâ€™s hujjat upon them.â€ (To refresh your memory, see the lesson on IjtihÃ¢d, TaqlÃ®d & IhtiyÃ¢t.)
5. Appearance of al-Mahdi
As mentioned above, even Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) himself is waiting for Allahâ€™s permission for his appearance. This means that no one knows the time of the appearance of the Imam. We have clear ahÃ¢dÃ®th stating that those who speak about the time when the Imam will make his appearance are to be declared as liars. In the letter mentioned earlier, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) wrote, â€œAs for the appearance of deliverance [by me], itâ€™s mentioning is with Almighty AllÃ¢h and those who fix the time are liars.â€
However, there are many ahÃ¢dÃ®th which describe the signs before the appearance of Imam al-Mahdi. Some of these signs are as follows:
1. Injustice, tyranny, and sinful acts will become very common all over the world.
2. Appearance of SufyÃ¢ni and the destruction of his army. SufyÃ¢ni has been described as a Syrian by the name of â€˜UthmÃ¢n bin â€˜Anbasa from the descendants of Yazid bin Muâ€˜Ã¢wiyah.
3. An uprising will take place by a Hasani sayyid in Iran. He will form a just Islamic government and call people towards Islam. He will be in Kufa when the news of Imam al-Mahdiâ€™s appearance in Mecca will spread world-wide. The Hasani sayyid will come to Mecca and pledge allegiance to Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.).
4. Soon after the appearance of Imam al-Mahdi in Mecca, a heavenly sound will be heard all over the world which will introduce Imam al-Mahdi to all people.
5. Descent of Prophet â€˜Isa (a.s.) from heaven to the city of Damascus. He will pray behind Imam al-Mahdi.
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After a very long Occultation, on AllÃ¢hâ€™s command, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) will make his appearance known at the Holy Mosque in Mecca and start his mission of establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Three hundred and thirteen people will pledge allegiance to him, and then he will move towards Medina. From Medina, al-Mahdi will proceed to Kufa, Iraq. After that Prophet â€˜Isa will descend in Damascus and join Imam al-Mahdi.
The headquarters of Imam al-Mahdi will be Kufa from where he will rule over the whole world. During the Imamâ€™s reign, the blessings of AllÃ¢h will be abundant; there will be no poverty; peace and security will be the rule of the day.
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O AllÃ¢h, send your blessings upon Muhammad & his progeny.
O AllÃ¢h, be the Master, the Guardian, the Guide and the Eye for your vicegerent, the Hujjat, son of Hasan al-â€˜Askari, at this hour, and at every hour until You establish him on the earth for a long time.