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According to the Shia and Sunni versions of the Islamic eschatology the Mahdi (مهدي Mahdī, also Mehdi; "Guided One") is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will stay on earth seven, nine, or nineteen years (depending on the interpretation[1]) before the coming of the day, Yaum al-Qiyamah (literally "Day of the Resurrection" or "Day of the Standing").[2] Muslims believe the Mahdi will rid the world of error, injustice and tyranny alongside Jesus.[3] The concept of Mahdi is not explicitly mentioned in the Qu'ran nor in the Sunni hadiths such as Sahih al-Bukhari which only mention the second coming of Jesus.[4][5] Many orthodox Sunnī theologians accordingly question Mahdist beliefs[5], but such beliefs form a necessary part of Shīʿī doctrine.[4]

According to scholars Julie Vryhof and Mitchell Uitvlugt, the advent of Mahdi is not a universally accepted concept in Islam[2] and among those that accept the Mahdi there are basic differences among different sects of Muslims about the timing and nature of his advent and guidance. The idea of the Mahdi has been described as important to Sufi Muslims, and a "powerful and central religious idea" for Shia Muslims who believe the Mahdi is the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi who will return from occultation. However, among Sunni, it "never became a formal doctrine" and is neither endorsed, nor condemned "by the consensus of Sunni Ulama." It has "gained a strong hold on the imagination of many ordinary" self-described orthodox Sunni though, thanks to Sufi preaching.[6] Another source distinguishes between Sunni and Shia beliefs on the Mahdi saying the Sunni believe the Mahdi will be a descendant of the Prophet named Muhammad who will revive the faith, but not necessarily be connected with the end of the world, Jesus or perfection.[7]

The "hdi" of "Mahdi" refers to the Arabic root "هدی" which means "to guide". "Mahdi" is also an Arabic name.


[edit] Common Sunni and Shia beliefs

According to scholar Moojan Momen, signs that Sunni and Shi'a are agreed upon include that

  1. The Mahdi will be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad of the line of Fatimah
  2. He will bear the name Muhammad
  3. He will rule for either seven, nine or nineteen years
  4. His coming will be accompanied by the raising of a Black Standard in Khurasan.
  5. His coming will be accompanied by the appearance of Dajjal (the anti-Christ) in the East.[8]

[edit] Shia and Mahdi

Among Shi'a Muslims "the Mahdi symbol has developed into a powerful and central religious idea"[9] Shi'a Muslims believe that the Mahdi is the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Twelfth and last Imam, who was born in 868 AD and was hidden by God at the age of five. He is still alive but has been in occultation "awaiting the time that God has decreed for his return."

According to scholar Moojan Momen, traditions report that the Mahdi be "a young man of medium stature with a handsome face" and black hair and beard. "He will not come in an odd year", will announce himself in Mecca between the corner of the Ka'ba and the station of Abraham and will call on the people to pay allegiance to him. He will then go to Kufa.[10]

The Hidden Imam will return as the Mahdi with "a company of his chosen ones." Also part of the return (or Raj'a) will be his enemies led by the one-eyed Dajjal and the Sufyani. The two forces will fight "one final apocalyptic battle" where the Mahdi and his forces will prevail over these forces of evil. After ruling the Earth for a number of years, Isa Al-Maseeh (Jesus Christ)will return to earth.[11]

[edit] Signs of the Mahdi

According to Moojan Momen, among the most commonly reported signs that presage the advent of the Mahdi in Shia hadith are

  1. Before his coming will come the red death and the white death. The red death is the sword and white death is plague. (see also Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)
  2. Several figures will appear: the one-eyed Dajjal, the Sufyani and the Yamani. Another figure, the Pure Soul (an-Nafs az-Zakiyya), will be assassinated.
  3. The sun will rise from the West and a star will appear in the East giving out as much light as the moon.
  4. The Arabs will throw off the reins and take possession of their land, throwing out the authority of the foreigners.
  5. A caller will call out from heaven.
  6. There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria until it is destroyed.
  7. Death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.

[edit] Sunni views

The coming of the Mahdi is a disputed notion within Sunnis. The concept is not mentioned directly in the Quran or Sahih al-Bukhari; however, the Mahdi is mentioned in the Sahih Muslim collection of ahadith[13]. According to scholar Cyril Glasse, "Belief in the Mahdi has been rejected by noted Sunni authorities as being a Messianism … various Hadith about the Mahdi appear to be inventions to support political causes",[2] It is also reported to be denied by the Ahle Quran.

On the other hand it is found in Sunan Abi Dawud, Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi[citation needed] and "some non-Shiite Muslims believe that the Mahdi will come in addition to the Second Coming of Jesus."[2]

Al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Katani said: "The conclusion is that the hadiths narrated concerning the Mahdi are mutawatir, as are the hadith concerning the Dajjal and the descent of Jesus the son of Mary, upon whom be peace."[citation needed] Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his fatwa titled The Brief Discourse on the Portents of the Awaited Mahdi, said that denial of the Mahdi is disbelief.[citation needed] Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti in his book The Rose Fragrance Concerning the Reports on al-Mahdi, wrote, "This is the belief of Ahl al-Sunnah, this is the belief of the Sufis, this is the belief of our Shaykhs, and this is the belief of the true Shadhili Shaykhs, whose path both al-Suyuti and al-Haytami followed. Whoever differs with them is a liar and an innovator."[citation needed]

Of those Sunnis that hold to the existence of the Mahdi, some believe the Mahdi will be an ordinary man, born to an ordinary woman. Umm Salamah said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) say: 'The Mahdi is of my lineage and family…'.

Sunan Abu Dawud, 11/373; Sunan Ibn Maajah, 2/1368.

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri said:

The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) said: "He is one of us…"

Reported by Abi Na’eem in Akhbaar al-Mahdi, see al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer, 5/219, hadith 5796.

The Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order, under the leadership of Shaykh Nazim and his khalifah Shaykh Hisham Kabbani of Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA), is among the Sunnis/Sufis who strongly believe the coming of Imam Mahdi in this 21st Century is imminent. Shaikh Hisham has written a book "The Approach of Armageddon" that touches much on this subject according to Sunni doctrine and beliefs.

In the light of traditions and interpretations, the personality of the Promised Mahdi would be as such:

It is said "predictions and lore conscerning the Mahdi abound".[2] Among them are that the promised Mahdi would be a Caliph of God and that to make a covenant with him is obligatory. He would belong to the House of Muhammad and would be in the line of Imam Hussein. His name would be Muhammad and his family name would be Abul Qasim, his father's name would be ‘Abdu’llah, and he would appear in Mecca. He would protect the Muslims from destruction and would restore the religion to its original position.[citation needed]

[edit] Possible Biblical Interpretations

In their book, Al Mahdi and the End of Time, Muhammad Ibn ‘Izzat and Muhammad ‘Arif, two well-known Egyptian authors, identify the Mahdi from the Book of Revelation, quoting Hadith transmitter Ka'ab al-Ahbar.

In one place, they write,

“I find the Mahdi recorded in the books of the Prophets… For instance, the Book of Revelation says: “And I saw and behold a white horse. He that sat on him…went forth conquering and to conquer.”

‘Izzat and ‘Arif then go on to say:

“It is clear that this man is the Mahdi who will ride the white horse and judge by the Qur’an (with justice) and with whom will be men with marks of prostration (zabiba) on their foreheads.”


[edit] Claims of being the Mahdi

Over the years, several individuals have declared themselves to be the Mahdi prophesied in Islam. Similar to the notion of a Messiah in the Judeo-Christian religions, the notion of a Mahdi as a redeemer to establish a society has lent itself to various interpretations leading to different claims within minorities or by individuals within Islam.

The first historical reference to a movement using the name of Mahdi is al-Mukhtar's rebellion against the Umayyid Caliphate in 686, almost 50 years after Muhammad's death. Al-Mukhtar claimed that Ibn al-Hanifiya, a son of the fourth Caliph Ali (the first Imam of Shi'ite), was the Mahdi who would save the Muslim people from the unjust rule of the Umayyads. Ibn al-Hanifiya was not actively involved in the rebellion, and when the Umayyads successfully quashed it, they left him undisturbed.

Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443 - 1505), another historical claimant was born in northeastern India, in Jaunpur, (presently in state of Uttar Pradesh). His father's name was Syed Abdullah & mother's Aamina. He was descendant of Imam Husayn & through Imam Musa Kadhim. He claimed being the promised Mahdi on three occasions. He announced his claim; first in Mecca and then two places in India. He attracted a large following, and received opposition from the ulema. He died at the age of 63 in the year 1505 AD while at Farah, Afghanistan. The burial location is a preserved sanctuary, looked after by the local inhabitants.

Another more recent claim was that of the Báb (الباب "the Gate") in 1844, founding the religion of Bábism. He was later executed in the town of Tabriz by a firing squad. His remains currently reside in a tomb at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. He is considered to be the forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh. (ba-haa-ol-laa بهاء الله "Glory of God") Both are considered Prophets by Bahá'is, and the proclamation of the Bab is considered by Baha'is to be the beginning of the Baha'i calender.[15]

Sudanese Sufi Muhammad Ahmad, declared himself Mahdi in 1882 and defeated Ottoman-Egyptian forces to set up his own state and died in 1885 but his Mahdist state lasted until 1899 when a British army destroyed it following the Battle of Omdurman.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was another claimant towards the end of the 19th Century, who appeared within British India and claimed also to be the Promised Messiah (second coming of Jesus,not literally jesus, but the reformer promised.), being the only person in Islamic history to have claimed to be both. He founded the Ahmadiyya religious movement in 1889 which, although considered by its followers to be Islam in its pristine form, is not recognized as such by the majority of mainstream Muslims.

The most recent notable claim to Mahdiism was by Mohammad Abdullah al Querishi whose brother-in-law, Juhayman ibn-Muhammad ibn-Sayf al-Otaibi, led several hundred men to take over the Grand Mosque in Mecca in November 1979. This uprising was defeated after a two-week siege in which at least 250 rebels, soldiers, and pilgrims were killed.

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

in association with Islamic Publications for The Institute of Ismaili Studies. ISBN 0710304161. 

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thompson Gale, (2004), p.421
  2. ^ a b c d e Glasse, Cyril, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Altamira, 2001, p.280
  3. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.166-8
  4. ^ a b "mahdī." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 21 Jul. 2008. Accessed 2008-07-21<>
  5. ^ a b Doi, A. R. I, The Yoruba Mahdī, Journal of Religion in Africa (Vol. 4, Fasc. 2), BRILL,(1971-1972), pp. 119-136. <>.
  6. ^ Mortimer, Edward, Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, Vintage Books, 1982 , p.54
  7. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, Norton, 2006, p.68
  8. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.168
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thompson Gale, (2004), p.421
  10. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.169
  11. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.166
  12. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.168-9
  13. ^ Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 41:6961 [1]
  14. ^ Izzat, Arif, Muhammad (1997). Al Mahdi and the End of Time. Dar al-Taqwa Ltd. (UK). ISBN 1870582756.  p. 15,16
  15. ^ Smith, P. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. pp. pp. 55-59 & 229-230. ISBN 1851681841. 

[edit] References

  • Shauhat Ali, Millenarian and Messianic Tendencies in Islamic Thought (Lahore: Publishers United, 1993)
  • Timothy Furnish, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Jihad and Osama Bin Laden (Westport: Praeger, 2005) ISBN 0275983838
  • Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina, Islamic Messianism: The Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981) ISBN 0-87395-458-0
  • Syaikh Hisyam Kabbani, The Approach of Armageddon (Islamic Supreme Council of America, 2002) ISBN 1930409206

[edit] External links

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