A section of Muslims accuse the Shias of inventing the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.). They claim that there is no place for such a belief in Islam. For them, the belief in a divine guide who will come in the last era to establish an Islamic government is just another innovation in religion and their standard response is take refuge in the consensus (ijmaa) argument i.e. the consensus of the Muslims is against the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.).
Rather than being a figment of imagination, the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is rooted in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah and is as much a part of Islam as Tauheed, Prophethood and Qiyaamah.
Sunnis and Shias alike believe in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) as a divine guide who will appear in the last era to establish universal peace and justice and root out oppression and tyranny. This is the consensus. Those who reject Imam Mahdi (a.s.) are against the consensus and must be censured by other Muslims.
More importantly, the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) finds mention even in the works of contemporary Islamic scholars. For instance, Professor Shaikh Abdul Mohsin b. Abbaad in the presence of his teacher Shaikh Abdul Aziz b. Baaz (died 1999 CE) – the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1993 until his death and one of the renowned Wahhabi scholars of the 20th century read a thesis titled:
عقيده اهل السنة والاثر في المهدى المنتظر (The Belief of Ahle Sunnah and the traditions regarding the Awaited Mahdi)
This thesis delves on the topic of reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and pronounces it as an established Islamic tenet. It proves that the tenet has been verified through acclaimed and successively transmitted traditions that are beyond reproach. Not surprisingly, the thesis met with the strong approval of Shaikh Abdul Aziz b. Baaz who wanted it published.
In fact, Professor Shaikh Abdul Mohsin b. Abbaad held the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) with such high conviction that he was quick to rebut those who opposed the belief. For instance, he has written another book as a refutation to the book of his contemporary scholar from Kuwait – Shaikh Abdullah b. Zaid who made some very strident objections against the belief. Professor Shaikh Abdul Mohsin’s book is titled:
الرد علي من كذب بالاحاديث الصحيحة في المهدي (The Reply to those reject the correct traditions on the Mahdi)
In this booklet, first the vitriolic objections of the Kuwaiti writer are quoted verbatim followed by a response.
Imam Mahdi (a.s.) in the Noble Quran
The best way to establish whether a belief is Islamic or otherwise is to refer to the Holy Quran and its exegesis. On this count, the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is as Islamic as the belief in Tauheed and Adl. Mentioned below is a list of Quranic verses which allude to Imam Mahdi (a.s.) as per Sunni books of exegesis. It must be noted that the list of verses is for reference only and by no means exhaustive.
i. Surah Taubah (9): Verse 33
Regarding the verse:
يُظْهِرَه عَلَى الدِّيْنِ كُلِّهِ وَ لَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُوْن
That He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists maybe averse to it.
Saeed b. Jubair (r.a.) asserts that the above verse alludes to Imam Mahdi (a.s.) from the progeny of Hazrat Zahra (s.a.).
- Al Bayan fi Akhbaar-e-Saaheb al-Zamaan by Abu Abdillah b. Muhammad Yusuf al-Ganji al-Shaafe’ee (exp 658 AH), chap 25, pg 155
- Nur al-Absaar fi Manaaqib Aal-e-Bayt al-Nabi al-Mukhtar by Sayyid Hasan b. Momin b. Hasan Momin al-Shiblanji pg 186
ii. Surah Zukhruf (43): verse 61
Muqaatil b. Sulaiman and other proponents with similar views have interpreted the following Quranic verse:
وَاِنَّه لَعِلْمٌ لِلسَّاعَةِ.
And most surely it is a knowledge of the hour.
as referring to Imam Mahdi (a.s.) who will appear in the last era. They opine that this reappearance will coincide with the last era, and shall be the prelude for the other signs and harbingers of the Day of Judgment.
(Al Bayan fi Akhbaar-e-Saaheb al-Zamaan by Abu Abdillah b. Muhammad Yusuf al-Ganji al-Shaafe’ee (exp 658 AH) chap 25 pg 155)
iii. Surah Anbiyaa (21): Verse 105
In the exegesis of the verse
وَ لَقَدْ كَتَبْنَا فِى الزَّبُوْرِ مِنْ بَعْدِ الذِّكْرِ اَنَّ اْلاَرْضَ يَرِثُهَا عِبَادِىَ الصَّالِحُوْنَ
And certainly We wrote in the Psalms after the reminder (Old Testament) that (as for) the land, My righteous servants shall inherit it.
Imam Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Sadiq (a.s.) assert that it implies the Qaim and his companions.
(Yanaabi al-Mawaddah, chap 71 pg 425, Istanbul edition vol. 3 pg 80)
Also Ka’b al-Ahbaar asserts – I have seen the proclamation of Mahdi’s (a.s.) advent in the divine scriptures of the past Prophets (a.s.). And the scriptures are unanimous in their purport that Mahdi’s (a.s.) reign will be peaceful, without any injustice and tyranny.
- Al Burhan fi Alaamaat-e-Mahdi Aakhir al-Zamaan by Muttaqi al-Hindi, chap 1, pg, 87, tradition 18)
- Iqd al-Durar fi Akhbar al-Muntazar wa Huwa al-Mahdi (a.s) by Allamah Yusuf b. Yahya b. Ali b. Abdul Aziz Muqaddasi Shafei Sullami, chap 7, pg. 155
iv. Surah Shura (42): Verse 18
Mufazzal inquired from Imam Sadiq (a.s.), regarding the Quranic verse:
اَلاَ اِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ يُمَارُوْنَ فِىْ السَّاعَةِ لَفِىْ ضَلاَلٍ بَعِيْدٍ
Now most surely those who dispute obstinately concerning the hour are in great error.
Imam (a.s.) replied – The skeptics will ask (regarding Imam Mahdi (a.s.)), when will his birth occur? Has anyone seen him? Where is he now? When will he reappear? Actually, this skepticism is tantamount to disbelief in Allah’s decree and destiny. These are those individuals who shall find themselves in loss and deprivation in the world and hereafter.
(Yanaabi al-Mawaddah chap 71 pg 428)
v. Surah Yunus (10): Verse 20
Regarding the verse
وَ يَقُوْلُوْنَ لَوْلاَ اُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتٌ مِنْ رَّبِّهِ فَقُلْ اِنَّمَا الْغَيْبُ ِللهِ فَانْتَظِرُوا اِنِّىْ مَعَكُمْ مِنَ الْمُنْتَظِرِيْنَ.
And they say, ‘Why is not a sign sent to him from his Lord? Say, ‘The unseen is only for Allah, therefore wait; surely I too am with those who await.’
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) declares that ‘unseen’ in this verse alludes to the Qaim.
(Yanaabi al-Mawaddah chap 71)
As mentioned earlier, the list of Quranic verses is for reference and not an exhaustive study on all verses alluding to Imam Mahdi (a.s.), which exceed hundred in number.