Every era has a distinct Imam (leader). Some people consider the Holy Quran to be an Imam. There are others who differ. The Holy Quran is not a book for any specific age  rather it is a book for all times. The discussion about the Imam of the Age assumes greater importance in the light of the 71st verse of Surah Bani Israel, (Remember) the day when We will call every person with their Imam.

It is with reference to this verse of the Holy Quran, that both Shia, as well as Sunni traditionalists, have reported the famous tradition of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a) – “One who dies without recognizing the Imam of his Age, has died the death of (the era of) ignorance.”

There are some who allege that the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s) is only concocted by the Shias to soothe their hearts that were afflicted by defeats in history. This allegation necessitates a discussion on whether the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s) is peculiar only to Shias, or is it found in other sects of Islam as well?When we glance at the books

When we glance at the books compiled by the scholars of other sects, it becomes clear that their reliable books, not only extensively discuss about Mahdaviyat but also consider the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) as a pure Islamic belief. They accept that traditions in this regard are numerous.

He it is, who sent His Apostle with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse.

(Surah Taubah (9): verse 33)

The exegesis of the above verse is explained by Saeed Ibne Jubair who reports that this verse refers to Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s) who is from the pure progeny of Hazrat Fatemah Zahra (s.a.). This view is also echoed by Hafiz Ganji Sha’faei in his compilation, ‘Al Bayan Fi Akhbaare Saahebiz Zamaan’ (chapter 24, page 155) and by Shablanji in ‘Noorul Absaar’ (page 176)

In addition to the above, there are several traditions from the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) explaining verses of Quran which discuss the re-appearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.). These are reported extensively by Janab Sulayman Qunduzi Hanafi (d. 1293 AH) in his celebrated compilation, ‘Yanaabiul Mawaddah’. The 71st chapter of this book is dedicated to those verses of the Holy Quran which have been revealed about Hazrat Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and his companions.

One of the several verses quoted in this chapter is the 105th verse of Surah Ambiya. The verse states, And certainly We wrote in the Book after the reminder that (as for) the land, My righteous servants shall inherit it.

Regarding the above verse, the author brings forth a tradition from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) which states, In the above verse, righteous servants refers to Hazrat Qaem (a.s.) and his companions.

In the same way, Ibne Sabbaaghe Maliki in his book ‘Fusoolul Mohimma’ (chapter 12, page 345), while referring to the 61st verse of Surah Zukhruf narrates. Mahdi (a.s.) is the one who will be present in the last era. The signs of Qiyamat will be apparent after his reappearance. This means that the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) will be near to Qiyamat.”

A similar narration is reported by Abdullah Ibne Masood from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This tradition is also reported by Abu Saeed Khudri and Abu Hurairah and has been included in the following books – ‘Musnad’ of Ahmad Hanbal (vol. 1, p. 376), ‘Sunan of Tirmidhi’ (vol. 6, book 34, chap. 52, trad. 2231, p. 505) and ‘Majmauz Zawaaed’ (Haithami, vol. 7, p. 315). The tradition is as follows, Resurrection will not occur till a person appears from my Ahle Bayt (a.s.) whose name will be my name. In other words, while Resurrection is a certainty, it will not occur till the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.). We can thus assert that the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is necessary and undeniable, just as Resurrection.

The Holy Quran states, Those who do not believe in it would hasten it on, and those who believe are in fear from it, and they know that it is the truth. Now most surely those who dispute obstinately concerning the hour are in a great error. (Surah Shooraa (42): verse 18)

With reference of the above verse, the book of ‘Yanaabiul Mawaddah’ (vol. 71, p. 425), reports a tradition from Mufazzal thus, “When Mufazzal asked Imam Sadiq (a.s.) about the above verse, he said, The doubters are those who will ask that when Imam Mahdi (a.s.) was born; when will be reappear. O Mufazzal, remember that these talks are similar to harbouring a doubt in the decree and destiny of Allah. And these people will bear a heavy loss in this world and the hereafter.

A similar tradition is reported by Sudair Sairafi – “The long period of occultation will cause many to deny (his existence) and will lead them into misguidance with discussions that he has not been born  others will say that he was born, but he died; some will say that the 11th Imam (a.s.) did not have any son; others will say that the spirit of the Qaem (a.s.) is embodied in another person. All these discussions are inappropriate, corrupt and fraudulent.”

The above tradition is also reported by Abdullah Ibn Masood from the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.).

A similar tradition is reported by Ibne Hajar Asqalani in ‘Lisaanul Meezaan’ (vol. 5, p. 130) and by Jaabir Ibn Abdullah from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as follows: “Whoever denies the Mahdi (a.t.f.s) is as if he has denied everything that is revealed upon Muhammad (s.a.w.w).”

The truthfulness of the prophecies in the tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) about the doctrines regarding Imam Mahdi (a.s.) has been established beyond doubt.

Rejection of the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is tantamount to apostasy in Islam because this belief is among one of the pure fundamental beliefs of Islam. This has been evidently clarified in verses and traditions. Despite all these proofs, if a person chooses to reject the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.), he has gone out of the sphere of Islam. We seek the help of Allah that He protects us from misguidance in the last age.

Coming to the discussion about the frequency of these traditions especially in the books of other sects of Islam, the book of Al-Sawaaequl Mohreqah (Chapter 11, Book 1, page 256) reports this narration from Abul Hasan Aaberi thus:

These traditions are numerous and a majority of the narrators of these traditions have reported them from the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a),

“He (Imam Mahdi [a.s.]) will reappear and will be from my Ahle Bayt (a.s.). He will end oppression and injustice from this earth and establish a government based on equality and justice. It will be during his period that Hazrat Isa (a.s.) will reappear and will pray behind him.”

Abul Hasan Aaberi is highly respected amongst the Ahle Sunnat. His full name was Muhammad Ibne Hussain Ibne Ibrahim Aaberi Sajistani (d. 363 AH). One of his famous books is Manaqabush Shafaei’.

Ibne Khaldoon writes on page 367 of ‘Al-Muqaddemah’, “It is famous in every era of the Muslim community that, in the last age, a person from his Ahle Bayt (s.a.w.a) will reappear. He (a.s.) will be a firm pillar for religion and will make justice and equality common in society. All the Muslims will be subservient to him and he will rule over all Islamic countries. His name will be Mahdi (a.s.).

Janab Shamsuddin Muhammad Safaarini, a scholar from the Hanbali sect (1114-1188 A.H.) writes in his ode – “Adduraatul Muziyyah Fee Aqeedatil Firqatil Marziyyah” about the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and regarding his reappearance as follows –

Whatever has been revealed in the Holy Quran and traditions about the signs of resurrection is the truth. There is no doubt in it.

After this he says, “The sheer number of traditions reported about Imam Mahdi (a.s.) has reached to the extent of the belief being authentic. And this is considered amongst the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat as a part of their belief. To believe in Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) is among the necessities of religion. This is the view of the scholars and even the Shias agree on this.

Till now, we have concluded that the belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is a pure Islamic belief and one who denies it is an apostate. Traditions that have been narrated on this subject are so many that their authenticity is beyond doubt. Now let us turn our attention to the genealogy of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and understand what is referred to in the traditions as the “Ahle Bayt” of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a).

‘Arful Wardi Fee Akhbaril Mahdi’ (vol. 2, p. 166) and ‘Jam’ul Jawaam’e’ by Hafiz Jalaaluddin Suyuti (vol. 1, p. 5) report this narration from Aabri that Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) reports from his father, Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) and he from his father till the narration reaches Janabe Fatemah Zahra (s.a.) who reports,

The Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a) said, “O Fatemah! I give you glad tidings of Mahdi. He is from your progeny.”

This tradition further highlights the merits of Imam Mahdi (a.s.). This is because the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) mentioned this to Janab Fatemah (s.a.) as a matter of pride that the Mahdi of Islam would be from her progeny.

In addition, a Hadis-e-Qudsi is reported about Imam Mahdi (a.s.). This tradition is narrated by Jaabir Ibne Abdullah Ansari, who saw it written on a green tablet – Lauhe Fatemi. A scholar has reported this tradition in great detail as follows –

Jabir Ibne Abdullah narrates that I take Allah as my Witness that I saw this written on a tablet – In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficient, The Most Merciful.
This is a scripture descended from the Wise and Supreme God to Muhammad (s.a.w.a.), His Prophet, His Light, His Messenger, His Luminous veil and the Guide towards Him. Gabriel has brought this from the Lord of the Worlds…. I have raised no Prophet who completed his life and ended his time, except that I appointed a successor for him. O Prophet! I have made you superior to all prophets and made your successor superior to all successors. After him (Ali [a.s.]), I granted you honour through Hasan (a.s.) and Husain (a.s.), your beloveds and your grandsons. On the basis of love and hate for their descendents, I will reward or punish the people.

The first among them is Ali (a.s.), the leader of worshippers and the ornament of My previous appointees. After him is his son Muhammad (Baqir) (a.s.). He is the splitter of My Knowledge and the treasurer of My Wisdom. Those who are skeptical of Jafar’s (a.s.) position will soon perish. I shall raise Jafar’s (a.s.) position. I will glorify him and make him happy by favoruing his followers, helpers and friends. After him I have selected Musa (a.s.). One who denies any one of them has denied My bounties. One who denies the eighth (successor) of them it is as if he has denied all My successors. Surely, Ali (a.s.) is my friend and helper. It is necessary for Me that I shall make his eyes cool through his son Muhammad (Taqi) (a.s.). He will succeed him. He is the inheritor of My knowledge and the treasurer of My wisdom. After him I shall perfect the goodness in his son Ali (Naqi) (a.s.), who is My successor and helper. In his progeny I shall bring out Hasan (a.s.) who shall invite people to My path and serve as the treasurer of My knowledge. Then I shall complete this lineage by his son M H M D, a mercy for the Universe. These are My true successors. Through them I shall remove obscure and blinding insurrection and correct the corruptions. Through them I will release my servants from bondage and slavery. On these people are continuous blessings and mercies from their religion. These are the ones who are rightly guided. The minarets of light for the guidance of mankind.
(Faraedus Simtain, Shaikhul Islam Hamui Shafaei, Chapter 2, pages 137-139)

This is a very valuable tradition explaining many things. In this tradition, the twelve successors of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) are introduced clearly along with their names and special merits. These are the same twelve succesors who are reported in the authentic tradition narrated by Jabir Ibne Abdullah and which is reported in Sihah Sitta.

We pray to Allah morning and evening, that He hastens the reappearance of our beloved Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and count us all among His servants and followers. Ameen!