Hazrat Mahdi (as) whom Bediuzzaman describes as “an astounding personage” (an amazing individual, astonishing, the like of whom has never been seen before) in his works, will employ methods in his struggle the like of which have never been seen before, astonishing and highly effective techniques. In his struggle against atheistic philosophies and also in his preaching of the word of religion, Hazrat Mahdi (as) will go down the most rational paths, by Allah’s leave and will achieve rapid results in all he does, and everything he does will harbor great intelligence and wisdom.
Yet it would be wrong to think that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will display great marvels or work miracles in his struggle. Because Hazrat Mahdi (as) will direct a constant struggle “in the sphere of natural causes,” in other words under natural world conditions. The information supplied in the hadith of the End Times must be evaluated in the light of that reality. These hadith are actually "mutashabih" (allusive, containing figurative meaning) and harbor various comparisons.
We have to date considered a great many matters regarding Hazrat Mahdi (as), whose coming is awaited with such fervor by the Islamic world. It is definitely of the greatest importance for Muslims to possess comprehensive knowledge regarding a subject described in great detail by our Prophet (saas) in the hadith and to which Islamic scholars have devoted such space in their works. The importance of the subject can be even more clearly appreciated when one bears in mind that the years we are living in are a period in which the portents of the End Times are all coming true one by one.
There is no doubt that all Muslims possessed of true faith will desire to be informed about the Prophet Jesus (as) and Hazrat Mahdi (as), the two holy personages of the End Times, to be able to make preparations for their coming, to be able to recognize them when they do appear from their features as described in the hadith and to help them in their struggle. We have brought together important details regarding Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) struggle from accounts in the hadith and from Islamic scholars in question and answer form.
Some people think of Hazrat Mahdi (as) and his struggle in a highly mystical framework and imagine that he will perform extraordinary marvels and work miracles. But the truth is not like that. The great majority of hadith regarding Hazrat Mahdi (as) and his struggle are “mutashabih;” to put it another way, they are analogies. For example, the hadith that says that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will plant a dry branch in the ground and that this will then sprout means, according to one interpretation, that someone who had not been saved previously will swiftly come to salvation through Hazrat Mahdi (as) and quickly become useful in spreading the moral values of Islam. (Allah knows the truth.)
It is first and foremost the moral values imparted by Allah in the Qur’an that show it is wrong to interpret Hazrat Mahdi (as) and his struggle within an exaggerated mysticism. Verses tell us that most people think of the prophets as superhuman entities, but that this is not the case. This is set out as follows in Surat al-Furqan:
We never sent any Messengers before you who did not eat food and walk in the market-place. But We have made some of you a trial for others to see if you will be steadfast. Your Lord sees everything. Those who do not expect to meet Us say, ‘Why have angels not been sent down to us? Why do we not see our Lord?’ They have become arrogant about themselves and are excessively insolent. (Surat al-Furqan, 20-21)
Verses 7 and 8 of Surat al-Anbiya’ say "We have only ever sent before you men who were given Revelation. Ask the People of the Reminder if you do not know. We did not give them bodies which did not eat food, nor were they immortal." Verse 210 of Surat al-Baqara reads: "What are they waiting for but for Allah to come to them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels, in which case the matter will have been settled? All matters return to Allah." These are all signs indicating that it is wrong to examine matters concerning Hazrat Mahdi (as) and the End Times by departing from rationality considering that a mystic dimension is more appropriate. Hazrat Mahdi (as) will wage his struggle within “the sphere of natural causes,” in other words under natural world conditions. But there is no doubt that he will be very patient in that struggle and will use the most effective techniques.
1-At what age will Hazrat Mahdi (as) commence his struggle?
In the hadith our Prophet (saas) says that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will begin his struggle between the ages of 30 and 40:
He will be sent when he is between 30 and 40 years old… Hazrat Mahdi (as) is one of my children. He is around 40. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, p. 41)
He is 40 years old. According to another account, he is 30 to 40 years old. (Portents of the Last Day, al-Barzanji, p. 16)
Hazrat Mahdi (as) is a man of 40, from my line. His face is like a star shining in the heavens. (Ali ibn Sultan Muhammad al-Qari al-Hanafi “Risalat Mashrab al Vardi fi Mazhabi’l Mahdi”)
2- How are Hazrat Mahdi’s determination and struggle described in the hadith?
In the hadith our Prophet (saas) reveals that Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) struggle and methods will be very unfamiliar ones. According to that information, Hazrat Mahdi (as) will employ highly effective techniques and will achieve success in all areas. In return for that success he will be the subject of intensive attacks, but will remain unaffected by them. Some hadith on the subject read:
He will continue his struggle until people return to the truth. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar, Ahmad ibn Hajar Makki, p. 23)
The days and nights will not end until a man from the Family of my House [Hazrat Mahdi (as)], who will easily prevent disorder and who will not be dissuaded from doing so even by threatened to be killed, appears. (Al-Suyuti, Portents of the Mahdi, p. 13)
In addition, we are told that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will “cling tightly to his work,” will “work scrupulously” and will overcome all obstacles:
Hazrat Mahdi (as) will be dedicated to his work. (Portents of the Last Day, al-Barzanji, p. 175)
Even if mountains rise up before him he will crush and cross them, and he will find a path for himself in those mountains. (The Book of Portents of the Awaited Mahdi, p. 39)
Hazrat Mahdi (as) will perform his duties scrupulously and will not go back on his word. (The Book of Portents of the Mahdi of the End Times, p. 24)
Muhyiddin Arabi refers to Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) struggle as follows:
There is another caliph of Allah, who will appear when the world is filled with oppression and in justice... He will fill the world with peace and justice... He will follow in the path of the Prophet (saas)... He will never be mistaken. Because there is an angel directing him where he cannot see... He will do what he says and say what he knows: Allah will give him such power that he will intellectually eliminate oppression overnight. He will install the religion and purify Islam, which after being underestimated he will again make valuable, and he will bring it back to life after it has died. In his century, one who is ignorant, aimless and cowardly will immediately become learned, generous and courageous... (Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, Futuhat al-Makkiya, Ch. 66)
It can be seen from Islamic scholars’ statements on the subject that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will use striking and unfamiliar methods. Bediuzzaman, for example, employs the term “an astounding personage” to refer to Hazrat Mahdi (as) on several occasions, meaning that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will employ unfamiliar techniques that have never been seen before.
3- Will there be negative propaganda against Hazrat Mahdi (as)?
In the time of our Prophet (saas) the enemies of Islam used poets, the media of the age, to blacken the name of Islam. Poets would speak ignorantly about and slander Islam in the market places. Deniers in the End Times will also engage in negative propaganda regarding Hazrat Mahdi (as) and seek, in their own eyes at least, to damage the prestige he enjoys in the eyes of the public.
4- Will Hazrat Mahdi (as) encounter hardships and difficulties?
All the envoys sent to warn communities that denied Allah and call them to the true path were rejected by the societies they were sent to and subjected to various slanders and false allegations. The hadith of our Prophet (saas) tell us that Hazrat Mahdi (as), a member of the Ahl al-Bayt [the family of the Prophet Muhammad (saas)], will also be the subject of hardships and troubles.
After me, my Ahl al-Bayt will meet trouble and torment, and be subjected to expulsion. (Al-Burhan fi `Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir az-Zaman, p.14)
The following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) also refers to such a situation, "During the oath of allegiance, Hazrat Mahdi (as) will announce he had also been subjected to many injustices and bad wishes”:
… Hazrat Mahdi (as) will emerge at a time when, one after another, disasters befall people and people lose hope of his appearance. He prays two rakaat (of salat). When he returns from the prayer he says: “People! The Ummah (community) of Muhammad and especially his Ahl al-Bayt have undergone many troubles…” (Al-Burhan fi `Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir az-Zaman, p. 55)
Allah has revealed in the Qur’an that many prophets were rejected by their societies, falsely accused of magic and sorcery and subjected to many attacks and much oppression. The envoys remained steadfast in the face of all these attacks and responded to them in the finest manner:
Messengers before you were also denied... (Surat al-An’am, 34)
... We will be steadfast however much you harm us... (Surah Ibrahim, 12)
Yet they turn away from him and say: "Tutored (by others), a man possessed!" (Surat ad-Dukhan, 14)
Similarly, no apostle came to the Peoples before them, but they said (of him) in like manner, "A sorcerer, or one possessed!" (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 52)
But (Pharaoh) turned back with his Chiefs, and said, "A sorcerer, or one possessed!" (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 39)
(Pharaoh) He said, “If you take any god other than me, I will certainly throw you into prison.” (Surat ash-Shu'ara', 29)
You who believe! Do not be like those who abused Musa. ... (Surat al-Ahzab, 69)
They said, "Build him a furnace, and throw him into the blazing fire!" (Surat as-Saffat, 97)
Then it occurred to the men, after they had seen the signs, (that it was best) to imprison him for a time… (Surah Yusuf, 35)
Those who are unbelievers all but strike you down with their evil looks when they hear the Reminder and say, ‘He is quite mad.’. (Surat al-Qalam, 51)
5- How do the hadith describe the attitude that Hazrat Mahdi (as) and his community will adopt in the face of oppression from the deniers?
As revealed in the hadith, Hazrat Mahdi (as) and his assistants will be subjected to various troubles in the period before the moral values of Islam prevail the world by means of his endeavors, and that these hardships will then, by Allah’s leave, be done away with.
The hadith of our Prophet (saas) also tell us that Hazrat Mahdi (as) and the people around him will never renounce their determination in the face of the deniers’ negative propaganda and pressure or in the face of the troubles and hardships they experience:
…they are the people who feel no condemnation from any critic nor any backbiting on the path of Allah… (Sunan Ibn Majah, 10/259)
6- According to the hadith, will Hazrat Mahdi (as) work in secret or out in the open?
The hadith of our Prophet (saas) tell us that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will work in secret in the early days when people do not recognize him:
He will be busy with worship at night and will be secret in the day ... (Uqayli)
Hazrat Mahdi (as) will appear at a very difficult time when moral degeneration has reached serious dimensions, when the deniers harbor an intense enmity toward the moral values of the religion and believers, and when they are highly active in secret and in the open. His remaining secret and unknown at such a time will protect Hazrat Mahdi (as) from the attacks of the deniers.
This period will be one when Hazrat Mahdi (as) wages very great intellectual struggle against atheistic and polytheistic systems and when he is active across the world to spread the moral values of the religion. The fact he is unknown to the majority of people will make Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) work much easier in the early days and will accelerate people’s acceptance of the moral values of Islam. (Allah knows the truth.)
7- How do the hadith describes the power of Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) preaching?
When Hazrat Mahdi (as) plants a dry tree, the tree will immediately turn green and sprout. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, p. 43)
He [Hazrat Mahdi (as)] will plant a dry seed in a dry land, and it will at once turn green and sprout. (Portents of the Last Day, Barzanji, p. 165)
Hazrat Mahdi (as) will plant a dry branch and that branch will grow leaves and sprout. (Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, p. 67)
The hadiths above concerning the power of Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) message are interpreted in different ways in addition to their apparent meanings. One of these interpretations may take this form: By turning to someone who is compared to a dry tree and being a means whereby they come to the truth, Hazrat Mahdi (as) will make this person, who was formerly of no use to his surroundings, just like a dry tree, useful to his surroundings, like a tree that has flourished and borne fruit, in other words to his state, nation, faith and all of humanity. Similarly, it is reported in the hadiths below that someone who was previously ignorant, parsimonious and timid will become generous and courageous in the End Times through the message and teaching of Hazrat Mahdi (as), and that he will change his character, just like a tree that was formerly dry and unproductive flourishing and bearing leaves:
In his age, an ignorant, parsimonious and timid man will immediately become learned, generous and courageous. (Portents of the Last Day, Barzanji, p. 186)
Imam Rabbani uses the same analogy in his works to describe the power given him:
Almighty Allah has given him great power on matters of salvation. So much so that if I approach a dead tree with love, it will immediately sprout leaves. (Rabbani, Letters, 1/18)
8-How will Hazrat Mahdi (as) be instrumental in the moral values of Islam prevailing the world?
By Allah’s leave, Hazrat Mahdi (as) will cause the moral values of Islam to prevail the world through his intellectual activities. As revealed in the hadith, nobody’s nose will be made to bleed in the time of Hazrat Mahdi (as) and the sleeping man will not be woken. This shows that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will wage an intellectual struggle. Hazrat Mahdi (as) will silence movements and systems that are intellectually incompatible with the moral values of the religion, and will make Islamic moral values be prevalent in the world through his scholarly activities.
No one will be woken up from their sleep or have a bleeding nose. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 42)
Hazrat Mahdi (as) will follow the way of the Prophet, he will not wake up a sleeping person, he will not shed blood. (Signs of the End Times, p. 163)
Hazrat Mahdi (as)... will walk in peace. (Portents of the Last Day, p. 173)
9-How long will Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) struggle last?
Our Prophet (saas) reveals in the hadith that Hazrat Mahdi (as) will cause Islamic moral values to prevail the world by neutralizing all philosophies that deny Allah.
Hazrat Mahdi (as) will continue his struggle until the moral values of the Qur’an be completely prevalent in the world. This is revealed as follows:
He will continue his struggle until people return to the truth. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar, Ahmad ibn Hajar Makki, p. 23)
10- How do the hadith describe how people will follow Hazrat Mahdi (as)?
Our prophet (saas) reveals in the hadith that in the time of Hazrat Mahdi (as), people will flock to Hazrat Mahdi (as) like bees taking refuge in their hives:
It is narrated from Abu Said Hudri Rasulullah that:
People will seek refuge in Hazrat Mahdi (as) as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world that was once full of cruelty, with justice. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi 'Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, p.29 and 48)
Once Hazrat Mahdi (as) has fully appeared, he will fit the hadith regarding his form and features, struggle and assistants will agree with the descriptions given by our Prophet (saas), and thus there will not be the slightest doubt or suspicion on the subject in anyone’s heart.