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In Islamic eschatology, the Mahdi (//; Arabic: مهدي, ISO 233: mahdī, English: Guided One) is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule for seven, nine, or nineteen years (according to differing interpretations) before the Day of Judgment (yawm al-qiyamah / literally, the Day of Resurrection) and will rid the world of evil.
There is no explicit reference to the Mahdi in the Qu'ran, but references to him are found in hadith (the reports and traditions of Muhammad's teachings collected after his death). According to Islamic tradition, the Mahdi's tenure will coincide with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Isa), who is to assist the Mahdi against the Masih ad-Dajjal (literally, the "false Messiah" or Antichrist). Differences exist in the concept of the Mahdi between Sunni Muslims and adherents of the Shia tradition. For Sunnis, the Mahdi is Muhammad's successor who is yet to come. For most Shia Muslims, the Mahdi was born but disappeared and will remain hidden from humanity until he reappears to bring justice to the world, a doctrine known as the Occultation. For Twelver Shia, this "hidden Imam" is Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam.
Throughout history, various individuals have claimed to be the Mahdi. These have included Muhammad Jaunpuri, founder of the Mahdavia sect, the Báb (Siyyid Ali Muhammad) founder of Bábism, Muhammad Ahmad, who established the Mahdist state in Sudan in the late nineteenth century and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya sect, and Wallace D. Fard of the Nation of Islam.
- 1 Historical development
- 2 Sunni Islam
- 3 Shia Islam
- 4 Other sects and religions
- 5 Persons claiming or claimed to be the Mahdi
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 External links
There are numerous hadiths (prophetic sayings) cited in Sunni and Shi’ite sources from Prophet Muhammad and his descendants (Ahl al-Bayt) concerning the appearance of the Mahdi, such as that he is of the progeny of the Prophet and that his appearance will enable human society to reach true perfection and the full realization of spiritual life. In addition, there are numerous other traditions concerning the fact that the Mahdi is the son of the eleventh descendant of Muhammad, Hasan al-Askari. They agree that after being born and undergoing a long occultation the Mahdi will appear again, filling with justice the world that has been corrupted by injustice and iniquity.  
As an example, Ali al-Ridha (the eighth descendant of Muhammad) has said, in the course of a hadith, "The Imam after me is my son, Muhammad, and after him his son Ali, and after Ali his son, Hasan, and after Hasan his son Hujjat al-Qa’im, who is awaited during his occultation and obeyed during his manifestation. If there remain from the life of the world but a single day, Allah will extend that day until he becomes manifest, and fill the world with justice in the same way that it had been filled with iniquity. But when? As for news of the ′hour,′ verily my father told me, having heard it from his father who heard it from his father who heard it from his ancestors who heard it from Ali, that it was asked of the Holy Prophet, ′Oh Prophet of God, when will the "support" (qa’im) who is from thy family appear?′ He said, ′His case is like that of the Hour (of the Resurrection). "He alone will manifest it at its proper time. It is heavy in the heavens and the earth. It cometh not to you save unawares" (Quran, VII, 187).′  
Saqr ibn Abi Dulaf said, "I heard from Abu Ja’far Muhammad al-Jawad (the ninth descendant of Muhammad) who said, ′The Imam after me is my son Ali; his command is my command; his word is my word; to obey him is to obey me. The Imam after him is his son, Hasan. His command is the command of his father ; to obey him is to obey his father.′ After these words the Imam remained silent. I said to him, ′Oh son of the Prophet, who will be the Imam after Hasan?′ The Imam cried hard, then said, ′Verily after Hasan his son is the awaited Imam who is "al-qa’im bi’l-haqq" (He who is supported by the Truth).′"  
Musa ibn Ja’far Baghdadi said, "I hear from the Imam Abu Muhammad al Hasan ibn Ali (Hasan al-Askari the eleventh descendant of Muhammad) who said, ′I see that after me differences will appear among you concerning the Imam after me. Whoso accepts the Imams after the Prophet of God but denies my son is like the person who accepts all the prophets but denies the prophethood of Muhammad, the Prophet of God, upon whom be peace and blessing. And whoso denies [Muhammad] the Prophet of God is like one who has denied all the prophets of God, for to obey the last of us is like obeying the first and to deny the last of us is like denying the first. But beware! Verily for my son there is an occultation during which all people will fall into doubt except those whom Allah protects."  
It is unquestionable that the idea of the Mahdi was projected upon several Imams in turn, but it could take definite shape only around the person of the twelfth, with whom the pleroma of the Imamate is fulfilled. There is a considerable body of literature about him, both in Persian and in Arabic. The sources of this literature have been assembled by Saffar al-Qummi, d. 290/902, reporter-witness of Hasan al-Askari (the eleventh descendant of Muhammad); al-Kulayni and his follower al-Nu'mani, fourth/tenth century; Ibn Babuyah, d. 381/991, who owed his information to a contemporary witness, Hasan ibn Muktib; al-Shaykh al-Mufid, d. 413 /1022; Muhammad ibn Hasan Tusi, d. 460/1068. The principal traditions are collected in volume XIII of al-Majlisi's Encyclopaedia. 
The Sunnis view the Mahdi as the successor of Muhammad, but, unlike most Shia Muslims, do not believe the Mahdi has already been born. The Mahdi is expected to arrive to rule the world and to reestablish righteousness.
References interpreted in hadith
The Mahdi is frequently mentioned in Sunni hadith as establishing the caliphate. Among Sunnis, some believe the Mahdi will be an ordinary man. The following Sunni hadith make references to the Mahdi:
- Muhammad is quoted as saying about the Mahdi:
His name will be my name, and his father’s name my father’s name
Even if the entire duration of the world’s existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left before Doomsday, Allah will expand that day to such length of time as to accommodate the kingdom of a person from my Ahlul-Bayt who will be called by my name. He will fill out the earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice and tyranny (by then). 
- Umm Salama, a wife of Muhammad, is quoted as saying:
His [the Mahdi's] aim is to establish a moral system from which all superstitious faiths have been eliminated. In the same way that students enter Islam, so unbelievers will come to believe.
When the Mahdi appears, Allah will cause such power of vision and hearing to be manifested in believers that the Mahdi will call to the whole world from where he is, with no postman involved, and they will hear and even see him.
- Abu Sa`id al-Khudri is quoted as saying:
The Messenger of Allah said: "He is one of us".
The Messenger of Allah said: "The Mahdi is of my lineage, with a high forehead and a long, thin, curved nose. He will fill the earth with fairness and justice as it was filled with oppression and injustice, and he will rule for seven years.
The Messenger of Allah said: "At the end of the time of my ummah, the Mahdi will appear. Allah will grant him rain, the earth will bring forth its fruits, he will give a lot of money, cattle will increase and the ummah will become great. He will rule for seven or eight years.
- At-Tirmidhi reported that Muhammad said:
The Mahdi is from my Ummah; he will be born and live to rule five or seven or nine years. (If) one goes to him and says, "Give me (a charity)", he will fill one’s garment with what one needs.
- At-Tirmidhi reported that Muhammad said:
The face of the Mahdi shall shine upon the surface of the Moon.
A typical modernist in his views on the Mahdi, Abul Ala Maududi (1903–1979), the Pakistani Islamic revivalist, stated that the Mahdi will be a modern Islamic reformer/statesman, who will unite the Ummah and revolutionise the world according to the ideology of Islam, but will never claim to be the Mahdi, instead receiving posthumous recognition as such.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi writes in his Mizan:
Besides these, the coming of the Mahdi and that o Jesus from the heavens are also regarded as signs of the Day of Judgment. I have not mentioned them. The reason is that the narratives of the coming of the Mahdi do not conform to the standards of hadith criticism set forth by the muhaddithun. Some of them are weak and some fabricated; no doubt, some narratives, which are acceptable with regard to their chain of narration, inform us of the coming of a generous caliph; (Muslim, No: 7318) however, if they are deeply deliberated upon, it becomes evident that the caliph they refer to is Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz who was the last caliph from a Sunni standpoint. This prediction of the Prophet has thus materialized in his personality, word for word. One need not wait for any other Mahdi now.
In Shia Islam, the Mahdi is a "hidden Imam" who has already been born and who will one day return alongside Jesus to fill the world with justice.  The promised Mahdi, who is usually mentioned in Shia Islam by his title of Imam-i ’Asr (the Imam of the "Period") and Sahib al-Zaman (the Lord of the Age), is the son of the eleventh Imam. His name is the same as that of the Prophet of Islam. According to Shia Islam, Mahdi was born in Samarra in 868 and until 872 when his father was martyred, lived under his father’s care and tutelage. He was hidden from public view and only a few of the elite among the Shi’ah were able to meet him. 
Shias believe that after the martyrdom of his father he became Imam and by Divine Command went into occultation (ghaybat). Thereafter he appeared only to his deputies (na’ib) and even then only in exceptional circumstances. 
In Shias' perspective, Mahdi chose as a special deputy for a time Uthman ibn Sa’id ’Umari,one of the companions of his father and grandfather who was his conﬁdant and trusted friend. Through his deputy Mahdi would answer the demands and questions of the Shias. After Uthman ibn Sa’id, his son Muhammad ibn Uthman Umari was appointed the deputy of him. After the death of Muhammad ibn Uthman, Abu’l Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh Nawbakhti was the special deputy, and after his death Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari was chosen for this task.
A few days before the death of Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari in 939 an order was issued by Mahdi stating that in six days Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari would die. Henceforth the special deputation of the Imam would come to an end and the major occultation (ghaybat-i kubra) would begin and would continue until the day God grants permission to the Imam to manifest himself.
In Shia view, the occultation of Mahdi is, therefore, divided into two parts: the ﬁrst, the minor occultation (ghaybat-i sughra) which began in 872 and ended in 939, lasting about seventy years; the second, the major occultation which commenced in 939 and will continue as long as God wills it. In a hadith upon whose authenticity Shia and Sunni agree, Muhammad has said, "If there were to remain in the life of the world but one day, God would prolong that day until He sends in it a man from my community and my household. His name will be the same as my name. He will ﬁll the earth with equity and justice as it was ﬁlled with oppression and tyranny."  
Necessity of Existence of Mahdi
In Shia philosophy the existence of the redeemer is rationally necessary. Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i, one of the most prominent thinkers of philosophy and contemporary Shia Islam, addresses the issue as follows: As a result of the law of general guidance which governs all of creation, man is of necessity endowed with the power of receiving revelation through prophecy, which directs him toward the perfection of the human norm and the well-being of the human species. Obviously, if this perfection and happiness were not possible for man, whose life possesses a social aspect, the very fact that he is endowed with his power would be meaningless and futile. But there is no futility in creation.  
In other words, ever since he has inhabited the earth, man has had the wish to lead a social life filled with happiness in its true sense and has striven toward this end. If such a wish were not to have an objective existence it would never have been imprinted upon man's inner nature, in the same way that if there were not food there would have been no hunger. Or if there were to be no water there would be no thirst and if there were to be no reproduction there would have been no sexual attraction between the sexes.  
Therefore, by reason of inner necessity and determination, the future will see a day when human society will be replete with justice and when all will live in peace and tranquility, when human beings will be fully possessed of virtue and perfection. The establishment of such a condition will occur through human hands but with Divine succor. And the leader of such a society, who will be the savior of man, is called in the language of the hadith, the Mahdi.  
In the different religions that govern the world such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam there are references to a person who will come as the savior of mankind. These religions have usually given happy tidings of his coming, although there are naturally certain differences in detail that can be discerned when these teachings are compared carefully. The hadith of Prophet Muhammad upon which all Muslims agree, "The Mahdi is of my progeny," refers to this same truth.  
The opponents of Shia Islam protest that according to the beliefs of this school the Hidden Imam should by now be nearly twelve centuries old, whereas this is impossible for any human being. In answer it must be said that the protest is based only on the unlikelihood of such an occurrence, not its impossibility. Of course such a long lifetime or a life of a longer period is unlikely. But those who study the hadiths of Prophet Muhammad and the Imams will see that they refer to this life as one possessing miraculous qualities.  
Miracles are certainly not impossible nor can they be negated through scientific arguments. It can never be proved that the causes and agents that are functioning in the world are solely those that we see and know and that other causes which we do not know or whose effects and actions we have not seen nor understood do not exist. It is in this way possible that in one or several members of mankind there can be operating certain causes and agents which bestow upon them a very long life of a thousand or several thousand years. Medicine has not even lost hope of discovering a way to achieve very long life spans. In any case such protests from "peoples of the Book" such as Jews, Christians and Muslims are most strange for they accept the miracles of the prophets of God according to their own sacred scriptures.  
The opponents of Shia Islam also protest that, although Shia Islam considers the Imam necessary in order to expound the injunctions and verities of religion and to guide the people, the occultation of the Imam is the negation of this very purpose, for an Imam in occultation who cannot be reached by mankind cannot be in any way beneficial or effective. The opponents say that if God wills to bring forth an Imam to reform mankind He is able to create him at the necessary moment and does not need to create him thousands of years earlier. In answer it must be said that such people have not really understood the meaning of the Imam. The duty of the Imam is not only the formal explanation of the religious sciences and exoteric guidance of the people. In the same way that he has the duty of guiding men outwardly, the Imam also bears the function of walayat and the esoteric guidance of men. It is he who directs man's spiritual life and orients the inner aspect of human action toward God. Clearly, his physical presence or absence has no effect in this matter. The Imam watches over men inwardly and is in communion with the soul and spirit of men even if he be hidden from their physical eyes. His existence is always necessary even if the time has not yet arrived for his outward appearance and the universal reconstruction that he is to bring about.  
Signs of approaching the time of the appearance of the redeemer
Shias believe that the arrival of the Mahdi will be signaled by the following signs:
- The vast majority of people who profess to be Muslim will be so only in name despite their practice of Islamic rites and it will be they who make war with the Mahdi.
- Before his coming will come the red death and the white death, killing two thirds of the world's population. The red death signifies violence and the white death is plague. One third of the world's population will die from the red death and the other third from the white death.
- Several figures will appear: the one-eyed Antichrist (Masih ad-Dajjal), the Al-Harth, Al-Mansur, Shuaib bin Saleh and the Sufyani.
- There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria, until it is destroyed.
- Death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and `Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.
Shia traditions also state 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 appear in Mecca between the corner of the Kaaba and the station of Abraham and people will witness him there.
References interpreted in hadith
- Muhammad is reported in hadith to have said:
The dominion (authority) of the Mahdi is one of the proofs that God has created all things; these are so numerous that his [the Mahdi's] proofs will overcome (will be influential, will be dominant) everyone and nobody will have any counter-proposition against him.
People will flee from him [the Mahdi] as sheep flee from the shepherd. Later, people will begin to look for a purifier. But since they can find none to help them but him, they will begin to run to him.
When matters are entrusted to competent [the Mahdi], Almighty God will raise the lowest part of the world for him, and lower the highest places. So much that he will see the whole world as if in the palm of his hand. Which of you cannot see even a single hair in the palm of his hand?
In the time of the Mahdi, a Muslim in the East will be able to see his Muslim brother in the West, and he in the West will see him in the East.
The Master of the Command was named as the Mahdi because he will dig out the Torah and other heavenly books from the cave in Antioch. He will judge among the people of the Torah according to the Torah; among the people of the Gospel according to the Gospel; among the people of the Psalms in accordance with the Psalms; among the people of the Qur'an in accordance with the Qur'an.
- Ja'far al-Sadiq, the Sixth Imam, made the following prophecies:
Abu Bashir says: When I asked Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, "O son of the Messenger of God! Who is the Mahdi (qa'im) of your clan (ahl al-bayt)?", he replied: "The Mahdi will conquer the world; at that time the world will be illuminated by the light of God, and everywere in which those other than God are worshipped will become places where God is worshiped; and even if the polytheists do not wish it, the only faith on that day will be the religion of God.
Sadir al-Sayrafi says: I heard from Imam Abu Abdullah Ja'far al-Sadiq that: Our modest Imam, to whom this occultation belongs [the Mahdi], who is deprived of and denied his rights, will move among them and wander through their markets and walk where they walk, but they will not recognize him ().
Abu Bashir says: I heard Imam Muhammad al-Baqr say: "He said: When the Mahdi appears he will follow in the path of the Messenger of God. Only he [the Mahdi] can explain the works of the Messenger of God.
The face of the Mahdi shall shine upon the surface of the Moon.
According to the Twelver Shia, the main goal of the Mahdi will be to establish an Islamic state and to apply Islamic laws that were revealed to Muhammad. The Mahdi is believed to be the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi. they believe that the Twelfth Imam will return from the Occultation as the Mahdi with "a company of his chosen ones," and his enemies will be led by Antichrist and the Sufyani. The two armies will fight "one final apocalyptic battle" where the Mahdi and his forces will prevail over evil. After the Mahdi has ruled Earth for a number of years, Isa will return.
For the Sevener Ismāʿīlī, the Imāmate ended with Isma'il ibn Ja'far, whose son Muhammad ibn Ismail was the expected Mahdi that Ja'far al-Sadiq had preached about. However, at this point the Ismāʿīlī Imāms according to the Nizari and Mustaali found areas where they would be able to be safe from the recently founded Abbasid Caliphate, which had defeated and seized control from the Umayyads in 750 AD.
Other sects and religions
In Ahmadiyya belief the terms "Messiah" and "Mahdi" are synonymous terms for one and the same person. Like the term Messiah which, among other meanings, in essence means being anointed by God or appointed by God the term "Mahdi" means guided by God, thus both imply a direct ordainment and a spiritual nurturing by God of a divinely chosen individual. According to Ahmadiyya thought, Messiahship is a phenomenon, through which a special emphasis is given on the transformation of a people by way of offering suffering for the sake of God instead of giving suffering (i.e. refraining from revenge). Ahmadi Muslims believe that this special emphasis was given through the person of Jesus and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad  among others. Ahmadiyyas hold that the prophesied eschatological figures of various religions, the coming of the Messiah and Mahdi in fact were to be fulfilled in one person who was to represent all previous prophets.
Bábí Faith and Bahá'ís
Alí Muḥammad Shírází (20 October 1819 – 9 July 1850), claimed to be the Mahdi on 24 May 1844, taking the name Báb (Arabic: باب / English: Gate) and thereby founding the religion of Bábism. He was later executed by firing squad in the town of Tabriz. His remains are currently kept in a tomb at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
The Báb is considered the forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh (pronounced ba-haa-ol-laa / Arabic: بهاء الله / English: Glory of God), and both are considered prophets of the Bahá'í Faith. The declaration by the Báb to be the Mahdi is considered by Baha'is to be the beginning of the Bahá'í calendar.
The Mahdavia sect, founded by Muhammad Jaunpuri commonly known as Nur Pak claimed to be the Mahdi in Mecca, in front of Kaaba (between rukn and maqam) in the Hijri year 901(10th Hijri), and is revered as such by Mahdavia. He was born in Jaunpur, traveled throughout India, Arabia and Khorasan, where he died at the town of Farah, Afghanistan at the age of 63. The Mahdavi regard Jaunpuri as the Imam Mahdi, the Caliph of Allah and the second most important figure after the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
In Dasam Granth, the Sikh scripture attributed to the tenth Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh prophesizes the Mahdi (referred to as "Mahdi Meer") to be born for a purpose of defeating Kalki, the final avatar of Vishnu. After conquering the whole world, Kalki will become egoistic and arrogant, comparing himself to God upon which Mahdi will be born. Kalki will be slain by Mahdi who will then rule the world and an era of peace will be ushered in the world. However after becoming the ruler of the world, Mahdi too will become egoistic and arrogant like Kalki. Upon seeing this God will create an insect which will go into Mahdi's ear and kill him.
Persons claiming or claimed to be the Mahdi
The following individuals (or their adherents on their behalf) have claimed to be the Mahdi:
- The first historical reference to a movement using the name of Mahdi is al-Mukhtar's rebellion against the Umayyad caliphate in 686 CE, almost 50 years after Muhammad's death. Al-Mukhtar claimed that Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, a son of the fourth caliph and first Shia Imam, Ali, was the Mahdi and would save the Muslim people from the rule of the Umayyads. Ibn al-Hanifiyyah himself was not actively involved in the rebellion, and when the Umayyads successfully quashed it, they left him undisturbed.
- Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443–1505), founder of the Mahdavi sect. (See above.)
- Ahmed ibn Abi Mahalli (1559–1613), from the south of Morocco, was a cadi and religious scholar who proclaimed himself mahdi and lead a revolution (1610–13) against the reigning Saadi dynasty.
- The Báb, (Siyyid Ali Muhammad) claimed to be the Mahdi in 1844 A.D (in the year 1260 A.H), thereby founding the religion of Bábism. He was later executed by firing squad in the town of Tabriz. His remains are currently kept in a tomb at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. The Báb is considered the forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh, and both are considered prophets of the Bahá'í Faith. The declaration by the Báb to be the Mahdi is considered by Baha'is to be the beginning of the Bahá'í calendar.
- Muhammad Ahmad (1845–1885), a Sudanese Sufi sheikh of the Samaniyya order, declared himself Mahdi in June 1881 and went on to lead a successful military campaign against the Turko-Egyptian government of Sudan. Although he died shortly after capturing the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in 1885, the Mahdist state continued under his successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, until 1898, when it fell to the British army following the Battle of Omdurman.
- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908) claimed to be both the Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus in the late nineteenth century in British India and founded the Ahmadiyya religious movement in 1889. (See above.)
- Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani was proclaimed the Mahdi by his brother-in-law, Juhayman al-Otaibi, who led over 200 militants to seize the Grand Mosque in Mecca in November 1979. The uprising was defeated after a two-week siege in which at least 300 people were killed.
- Muhammad ibn Abdallah An-Nafs Az-Zakiyya
- Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Aftah ibn Ja'far al-Sadiq
- Ja'far al-Sadiq (according to the Tawussite Shia)
- Musa al-Kadhim (according to the Waqifite Shia)
- Muhammad ibn Qasim (al-Alawi)
- Yahya ibn Umar
- Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hadi
- Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (according to Messiah Foundation International)
- Diponegoro, Javanese prince during the Java War
- Wallace Fard Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam was proclaimed as the Mahdi by Elijah Muhammad.
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Mahdi.|
- Legend of Mahdi, Messenger of the Covenant Islamic eschatology about Mahdi
- Mahdi, The Caliph of Allah Biographies, Teachings, Qur'anic Ayah and Ahadith in Proofs about Imam Mahdi, testimonials and much more.
- Mahdi – an article on Encyclopædia Britannica Online
- An Analysis of the Time of Imam Mahdi
- A supportive view of the belief of the Mahdi at Sunni-oriented islam-qa.com
- A critical look at the belief in the Mahdi at Qurannic-oriented understanding-islam.com
- Followers of Imam Mahdi