A Brief Look at the Life and Importance of Imam al-Mahdi (aj)
A brief look into the life of the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, the reasons for his long occultation and explaining how a person can live for over a thousand years.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! Our current series is an introduction the 14 Infallibles of the Ahl al-Bayt (as). So far we have covered all of the Infallibles, including the first 11 Imams.
This lesson will be the final part of our series covering the 12th and final Imam of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (aj).
BODY OF TEXT
Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi (aj) is the son of our 11th Imam, Imam Hasan al-Askari (as). Al-Mahdi means “the guided one.” He was born in the year 869 A.D. He is also known by other titles, such as Imam al-Zaman, or Sahib al-Asr, meaning the Imam of the Time, or the Master of the Time.
His mother was a slave named Narjis. He was born in a very tumultuous time. Towards the end of Imam Hasan al-Askari’s life, the authorities of the Caliphate were fed up with the existence of Imamate. Over the generations, they had tried through various means to eradicate the power and influence of the Imams over the Muslim community.
They had tried war, they tried murdering Imams in public, they tried poisoning them or imprisoning them. None of it had worked, the Imams had been present in adulthood and left their mark on the community.
They even tried to coax them into accepting the legitimacy of the Caliphate, either by appointing them as so-called successors to the throne or by trying to teach and brainwash them at a young age, but none of it worked.
Their only option by now was to prevent the birth of an Imam from happening in the first place. There were rumors and traditions that the Prophet had predicted the coming of al-Mahdi, that is, a guided savior, who would overthrow oppressors and establish justice on earth.
The political authorities suspected, and they did so rightfully, that the 12th Imam would be that Imam that would overturn oppression in the world and establish justice. For these reasons, they desperately attempted to rid themselves of the 12th Imam. They would, for example, send spies and soldiers to check and see if there were pregnant women in the household of Imam al-Askari (as).
By Allah’s power, the pregnancy of Narjis was concealed from site. Imam al-Mahdi (aj) was thus miraculously born in the year 869 A.D. Due to the man-hunt that was orchestrated to kill Imam al-Mahdi, he was hidden from the community until the death of his father at the age of 5. It was at Imam al-Askari’s (as) funeral that Imam al-Mahdi (aj) made his first public appearance and led the funeral prayer.
Immediately after the funeral, Imam al-Mahdi (aj) went into what was to be known as the lesser occultation (ghaybat al-sughra). While in occultation, he kept in contact with the community for almost 70 years through a series of emissaries who would deliver his teachings and letters to people. But it was in the year 941 A.D that the Imam withdrew completely from the community and went into the greater occultation (or major occultation) called ghaybat al-kubra.
The Ghaybat al-Kubra was an indication that Imam al-Mahdi (aj) was the Imam of the End of Times (Akhir al-Zaman). Although he would remain in the background and guide the Muslim community either by privately appointing representatives, or guiding them spiritually with his metaphysical light.
His final task would be to reappear in the end of times and overthrow all oppressive governments around the globe and establish an order of global justice.
In his mission to establish global justice, the Islamic tradition believes that Jesus (as) will be sent to earth to accompany Imam al-Mahdi (aj). Jesus’ main task will be to bring Jews and Christians under the fold and guidance of the living Imam.
The death of Imam al-Mahdi (aj) is believed to trigger the complete end of the world and the end of life on earth. After the death and destruction of the world, the world will be brought back and humans will be resurrected for their final Judgment by God.
There are a number of important questions that need to be resolved. The first question is concerning the longevity of Imam al-Mahdi (aj). If the Imam went into occultation in the early 10th century, this means that he has been alive for over a thousands years … how is this possible?
The answer to this is why not? Isn’t Allah the originator and ender of life? Why can’t God make someone live longer than the normal human lifespan? He does so with some trees that have lived for almost 10, 000 years, why not a human?
The second is why is the occultation so long? It is long because at the time of the Imam’s birth, it was not the ending point of the world yet. One of the Imam’s major roles will be just that, he is the Imam that will prepare it for its end.
The third question is what is the benefit of a hidden Imam for those who have not and will not witness his reappearance (zuhur) in the end of days. As we said before, the Imam still continues to appoint representatives who help guide the community on his behalf, particularly scholars. There are many instances of this having happened as reported by reliable scholars who have testified that they have met the Imam.
The second way we benefit from him is through his guiding light. Just like the Devil or Shaytan can misguide people from the metaphysical plain by whispering evil thoughts into people’s hearts, the Imam can do the opposite by guiding them and inspiring their hearts to do the good. The Imam, just like the angels, is a means through which Allah guides humankind, and particularly the followers of the Imam, on earth.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
The 12th Imam’s lesser or minor occultation
The 12th Imam’s greater or major occultation
End of Days
The 12th Imam’s reappearance at the End of Days
Why was Imam al-Mahdi hidden from public during his mother’s pregnancy and during his birth?
Because the political authorities wanted to kill him.
Why did the political authorities of the time want to kill Imam al-Mahdi?
Because they wanted to end the Imamah of the Ahl al-Bayt from its roots and rid themselves of an Imam before he grew into adulthood. They also feared, and rightfully so, that the 12th Imam would be a global revolutionary who would overthrow oppressors all around the world (including Muslim oppressors) and establish justice all around the world.
Why did the Imam go into the minor occultation?
Because he wanted to slowly prepare the Muslim community for the major occultation which would last until the End of Days.
How can a human being live for more than a thousand years?
Allah has power over all things, including life, aging and death. He can do whatever He pleases.
Will Imam al-Mahdi (aj) establish global justice and overthrow evil oppressors alone, or with help?
He will do so with help, including Jesus (as) as well as a legion of 313 generals.
Imam Hasan al-Askari
Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi
reappearance of the Imam
Ahl al-Bayt: Ethical Role Models by Ansariyan
Ahl al-Bayt and Caliphate by Murtaza Mutahhari
A Brief History of the Lives of the Twelve Imams
A Concise Treatise on the Twelve Imams by Ayatullah Jawad Tabrizi
The Life of Imam Mahdi by Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi
The Occultation of Imam Mahdi