The Pseudo-Mahdis

In general, to provide legitimacy to the claims of any pseudo-Mahdi, traditions traced back to the Prophet himself were forged and circulated among the followers. Consequently, there is hardly any prominent leader for whom there were no traditions to promote his Mahdiism. The problem was that many of these individuals had died. But their followers refused to accept their death as real. Hence, traditions were fabricated to relate that their revolution would commence after their death and upon their return to life when God commanded them to do so. Al-Fadl b. Musa reports a tradition in which Imam al-Sadiq was asked by Abu Sa’id Khurasani: “Why was he (i.e., the Mahdi) known as al-Qa’im?” The Imam said: “Because he will rise after his death. He will rise for an important task, as commanded by God, the Exalted.”[14]Certainly, this hadith was fabricated by the Waqifiyya, who believed that Imam Musa Kazim had not died and would return as the promised Mahdi. Moreover, it is likely that it was fabricated by those who believed that Imam Hasan ‘Askari had died, but would rise later on to establish a just society. Actually, in terms of the science of hadith, the chain of transmission is weak, since it includes a person whose reliability is in question. In a similar tradition with a slight variation Abu Sa’id asked Imam al-Sadiq: “Are al-Mahdi and al-Qa’im one and the same?” The Imam replied: “Yes.” Abu Sa’id went on to ask: “Why is he known as the Mahdi?” The Imam replied: “Because he will guide to the hidden matters.” “Why is he known as the Qa’im?” The Imam said: “Because he will rise after he dies, that is, dies in the people’s remembering that he will rise for the great purpose.”[15] It is evident that the two traditions are actually one. In the second tradition death is interpreted as a death of the memory of his name.
The belief that the Mahdi will die and then rise to launch his revolution was accepted by some people who were also responsible for fabricating traditions to support their belief. Thus, Imam Sadiq was asked: “Is there an example of qa’im (rising after death) in the Qur’an?” He said: “Yes. A passage in the Qur’an speaks about the owner of the donkey, whose death was caused by God, and then God brought him back to life.”[16]In a long tradition Mu’awiya b. Abu Sufyan reports from the Prophet the following:
The Prophet said: “After my death an island by the name of Andalusia will be conquered. Afterwards the army of disbelievers will overpower them . . . At that point a man from among the descendants of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, will rise from the farthest region of the Maghrib. He will be the Mahdi, the Qa’im. He is the first sign of the Hour.”[17]The tradition was probably fabricated by the Isma’ilis who founded a state in the Maghreb. Many such traditions are single in transmission and, therefore, the information in them cannot be regarded as reliable. More importantly, in comparison to the numerous traditions about the Mahdi reported uninterruptedly, these traditions are not credible at all.
The Family of the Prophet and the Eleven Imams’ Predictions about the Mahdi
Dr. Fahimi: What was the belief of the Family of the Prophet and the Imams regarding the Mahdi?
Mr. Hoshyar: Following the Prophet’s death the subject of Mahdiism was also under discussion among the Prophet’s companions and the Imams. The Family of the Prophet, as the heirs to the Prophet’s knowledge and to the intricate matters concerning faith, was the most knowledgeable about the Prophetic traditions. They spoke about the Mahdi and replied to the questions that were posed to them on this subject. Let us cite some examples of these communications by them with some attention to the chronology. Although there are several traditions cited from each one of the Imams and from Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her) we will cite just one from each:
(1) Tradition Narrated by Imam ‘Ali about the Future Coming of the Mahdi:
The following tradition is related by al-Asbagh who heard ‘Ali b. Abi Talib say:
The promised Mahdi will emerge at the End of Time from among us. There is no Mahdi in any nation other than him being awaited.[18]There are more than fifty traditions narrated from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib in connection with the future appearance of the Mahdi and his being from among the Family of the Prophet.[19](2) Tradition Narrated by Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her):
Fatima Zahra told her son Husayn:
When I gave birth to you, the Prophet came to see me. He took you in his hands and said to me: “O Fatima, take your Husayn, and know that he is the father of nine Imams. From his descendants will appear righteous leaders among whom the ninth will be the Qa’im.”[20](3) Tradition Narrated by Imam Hasan b. ‘Ali:
Hasan b. ‘Ali said:
There will be twelve Imams following the Prophet. Nine of these Imams will be from the progeny of my brother Husayn. The Mahdi of this umma will be among them. [21](4) Tradition Narrated by Imam Husayn b. ‘Ali:
Husayn b. ‘Ali said:
Twelve Imams will be from among us. The first among them will be ‘Ali b. Abi Talib and the last will be my ninth descendant, the rightful Qa’im. Because of his blessed existence God will bring back the dead earth to life and prosperity. God will give victory to His religion over all other religions, even if this be against the liking of the disbelievers. The Mahdi will disappear from public for a while. During his occultation a number of people will abandon religion, whereas others will remain steadfast and will suffer because of their faith. This latter group will be asked tauntingly: “If your belief is true, when would your promised Imam rise?” But, remember that whoever perseveres under those unfavorable circumstances when enemies would falsify and harm them, their status will be like those who fought by the side of the Prophet in defending the religion of God.[22](5) Tradition Narrated by Imam ‘Ali b. Husayn:
‘Ali b. Husayn said:
The birth of our Qa’im will be hidden from the people in such a way that they will assert: “He has not been born at all!” The reason for his concealment is that when he begins his revolution he will have no one’s allegiance on his neck.[23](6) Tradition Narrated by Imam Muhammad Baqir:
Muhammad b. ‘Ali Baqir told Aban b. Taghlib:
I solemnly declare that the Imamate is the divine covenant that has reached us from the Prophet. The Imams after the Prophet are twelve in number of whom nine are the descendants of Husayn. At the End of Time the Mahdi will also emerge from among us who will protect the religion of God.[24](7) Tradition Narrated by Imam Ja’far Sadiq:
Ja’far b. Muhammad Sadiq said:
Whoever acknowledges all the Imams, but denies the existence of the Mahdi, is like the one who acknowledges all the prophets but denies the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Someone asked him: “Among whose descendants is the Mahdi?” The Imam responded:
The fifth progeny of the seventh Imam [Musa Kazim] will be the Mahdi. However, he will disappear. It is not proper for you to name him.[25](8)Tradition Narrated by Imam Musa Kazim:
Yunus b. ‘Abd al-Rahman asked Imam Musa b. Ja’far: “Are you the rightful Qa’im?” He replied:
Yes, I am the rightful Qa’im. But the Qa’im who will purify the earth from the enemies of God and will fill it with justice and equity, is my fifth descendant. Since he is afraid for his life, he will be in occultation for a long time. During this period of occultation, a group will turn away from religion. But some will remain steadfast in their faith.
He went on to add:
Blessed are those Shi’a who during this period of occultation will continue to be faithful to us and remain steadfast in their loyalty to us and their hostility toward our enemies. Truly, they are from us and we are from them. They are convinced about our Imamate and we acknowledge their fealty to us. By God, blessed are they! They will be with us in Paradise.[26](9) Tradition Reported by Imam ‘Ali b. Musa Rida:
Rayya b. Salt once asked Imam Rida: “Are you sahib al-‘amr (Master of the Undertaking)?” The Imam said:
Yes, I am the Master of the Undertaking. However, I am not that Master of the Undertaking who will fill the earth with justice and equity. How can I be that Master of the Undertaking when you are witness to the prevalent weakness and helplessness? The promised Qa’im will be old in age but young in appearance when he emerges. He will be so powerful and strong that if he extended his hand to the most huge tree it would fall uprooted. And if he screamed among the mountains the rocks would be crushed into pieces. The rod of Moses and the seal of Solomon are with him. That person will be my fourth descendant. God will keep him in occultation for as long as He deems necessary. Then, He will cause him to appear, and through him God will fill the earth with justice and equity as it is filled with tyranny and oppression.[27]

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