Doubts raised on Imam al-Mahdī (a)

Doubts raised on Imam al-Mahdī (a)

Summary #

Doubts on Imam Mahdi (AS) #

1) According to 43:19-22, claims about an issue of Ghayb must be verified by asking if those who believe it had seen it with their own eyes, or had a Divine scripture in which it was mentioned. The belief in Imam al-Mahdī fulfills neither of these criteria and is thus not valid.

2) To say that Hadith mentions the existence of Imam al-Mahdī is problematic because;

  1. It is not Tawatur – has not been narrated by a large number of Muslims.
  2. Sahīh Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim do not mention it.
  3. There is no evidence that the events concerning Imam al-Mahdī will occur.
  4. The concept of a Messiah has been borrowed from Christianity and Judaism.

Answer by Shaykh Mansour Leghaei #

  • 1a) Imam al-Mahdī is a human being and cannot be compared to angels.
  • 1b) The two criteria mentioned in these verses are for the angels. If these criteria are applied to all issues we would have to deny the existence of Imam al-Askari as well as the other Imams.
  • 2a) Not all authentic hadith have been mentioned in Sahīh Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim.
  • 2b) History has recorded many witnesses to the birth of Imam al-Mahdī, including Ibn Athīr, a well-known Sunni historian.
  • 2c) Sahīh Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim mention a hadith from the Prophet (s) where he mentions 12 successors. It would be difficult for Muslims to name these successors as any other than the 12 Imams of the Shias.

Full Text #

Doubts on Imam Mahdi (AS) #

1) The Quran in Sura Zukhruf, verses 19-22 says that any claim about the Ghayb (hidden world) has a 2-step verification test.

The issue discussed in these verses is when the disbelievers claimed that angels are female.

  • 1st step: Have you seen it being created with your own eyes? 

Did the disbelievers see the angels being created so they would know they are female?

  • 2nd step: Have they been given a book by Allah with clear evidence regarding that matter? Do they have a holy book which says the angels are female?

The claim that angels are females fails this verification test. The Quran condemns those who make and accept such wild assumptions and claims. It says that people who believe such claims usually use the excuse that they found their forefathers following those beliefs and they did too.

When we test the claim about Imam al-Mahdī with the same 2-step verification we see that;

  • No one in this present time has seen Imam al-Mahdī’s birth.
  • The Quran does not have any clear statement on the coming of Imam al-Mahdī before the Day of Judgement.
  • Thus, the belief in Imam al-Mahdī cannot be accepted. 

2) Some hadith mention that the Prophet made a prophecy about the coming of Imam Mahdī. There are a few problems with that;

  • The hadith was not narrated through Tawatur (not many Muslims have narrated it). 
  • Imam Mahdī is mentioned in Sunan Abi Dawood but not in Sahīh Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim and therefore it cannot be authentic. Bukhārī and Muslim would not have missed out on such an important event.
  • There is no evidence that all the events concerning Imam Mahdī will happen. These are “zanni” claims [assumptions] that are anti-Quranic. 
  • Because there was an overall concept of a Messiah in Christianity and Judaism, it was imported from there into Islam from narrators who specialized in Israeliyāt.

Approximate date of talk: September 2021

Response by Shaykh Mansour Leghaei  #

1) In Surah Zukhruf, Allah has given criteria for us to test claims about the Ghayb or unseen. This was in the context of the disbelievers claiming that angels were female (in a negative context).

Some people use this verification test and apply it to the birth of Imam Mahdī because the claim of Imam al-Mahdī is a claim about Ghayb. They say that since no one from us witnessed Imam Mahdī’s birth (given a very long gap of over 1000 years) and it is not clearly mentioned in the Quran, nor does it have mutawātir narrations, it is a false claim. 

Flaws in the argument:

  1. a) One cannot compare Imam al-Mahdī, a human being, with angels. Ghayb refers to the unseen or hidden, something which is beyond the realm of the physical world. It has different examples. Allah is ghayb because His essence is beyond human comprehension. The hereafter is ghayb because it is not a physical world. The Quran refers to angels as ghayb because they are invisible and immaterial beings, not human beings. 
  2. b) Using the verification test, we would have to deny the existence of the 11th Imam as well because there is no mention of his birth in the Quran nor is he mentioned in prominent Hadith books like Bukhārī and Muslim (even though Bukhārī was contemporary to the 11th Imam). In fact, using this logic, we would have to deny the existence of other Imams before the 11th Imam as well.

2a) Bukhārī himself has confessed that not all authentic hadith are mentioned in his book nor in Sahīh Muslim. Therefore, the mention of an event in Bukhārī or Muslim is not sufficient criteria to prove whether it happened or not, given that many hadith books after Bukhārī and Muslim have authentic narrations not mentioned previously. 

Moreover, Bukhārī and Muslim filtered their books very much to exclude the virtues and mention of the Ahlul Bayt and Imams. He has not even used their names as narrators of the Prophet’s Hadith. The only times he used the Ahlul Bayt as narrators was to defame the Ahlul Bayt (i.e., Imam Ali asked Abu Jahl for his daughter’s hand in marriage and Bibi Fatima was jealous or that Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn narrated that once Imam Ali and Bibi Fatima slept in and missed Fajr).

2b). With a historical event, you look at historical evidence which is present for Imam Mahdī’s birth.  There were eyewitnesses that witnessed the Birth of Imam al-Mahdī.

  • Imam al-Askari testified that his son was born.
  • Hakima Khātūn, the aunt of the 11th Imam, was witness to the birth.
  • Many truthful companions of Imam Askari testified to Imam al-Mahdī’s birth.
  • Ibn Athīr (Sunni historian) mentions Imam al-Askarī by the name of Abu Mohammed (implying he had a son) and also mentioned the birth and the date of birth of Imam al-Mahdī.
  • Shaykh Sadūq (born in the minor occultation of Imam al- compiled Kamaluddin wa Tamamun’imah as an answer to people who questioned him about evidence concerning Imam al-Mahdī. The book contains many hadith from the Imams, the Prophets, Bibi Fatima, etc.

2c) Indirectly, the birth of Imam al-Mahdī is also mentioned in Bukhārī and Muslim; It has a hadith of the Prophet which says – The glory of Islam will be maintained so far as my 12 successors rule and all of them will be from the Quraysh (my progeny). If you ask any Sunni scholar who these 12 are, they will not be able to name 12 caliphs from their interpretation. The only possible 12 caliphs then are the 12 Imams.

Approximate date of talk – October 2021

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