(Note: This is a brief summary translation of Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari’s lectures on the islamic doctrine of Mahdiism broadcast on Al Kawthar Tv)
There is no difference of opinion among Muslim scholars of different inclinations and attitudes, ideas and principles and theories, whether doctrinal and theological and political, that in the last days will witness the emergence of the Mahdi. And it is also proven that this is one of the most fundamental of doctrines, without which a Muslim’s faith is not complete. This man, who is called the awaited Mahdi in various religious texts, and is the twelfth Imam of the Imams mentioned by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in frequent and accepted narrations (the Imams after me are twelve, the caliphs after me twelve, the princes after me are twelve, as many as the various chieftains of the children of Israel).
The debate between the different sects regarding this personality can be divided into 4 parts:
1) Is Imam Al Mahdi alive or will he be born in the future?
2) Does he possess a certain level of infallibility?
3) Does his lineage end with Imam Hassan (as) or Imam Hussein (as)?
4) Is his father Abdullah Al Allawi (as some try to suggest), or Imam Hassan Al Askari (as)?
To answer these questions, we have to first address the matter of the importance of pledging allegiance to the Imam of your time. This clear and explicit Islamic doctrine, which states that it is not permissible for any Muslim to sleep for the night, without a pledge of allegiance to the Imam. The first source that mentions this fact is (الفصل في الملل والأهواء والنحل) ‘Al Fasl fil Millal wal Ahwa’ wal Nihal’, by Imam Ibn Hazm Andalusi Al Dhahiri, who died in 456 AH, vol.4, p. 102: ‘Abu Muhammad said: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) informed us on the obligation of Imamate, and that a night should not pass without a pledge of allegiance.’ Now one might say: What is the evidence for this claim? The evidence for this claim is contained in dozens of sources:
المصدر الأول ما ورد في مسند الإمام أحمد، الجزء 28، مؤسسة الرسالة، ص88، في الحديث 16876، الرواية عن عاصم عن أبي صالح عن معاوية قال: قال رسول الله: من مات بغير إمام مات ميتة جاهلية. يقول: هذا حديث صحيح لغيره وهذا إسناد حسن من أجل عاصم وبقية رجاله ثقات، رجال الشيخين
a) Musnad Imam Ahmad, Vol. 28, p. 88, narration #16876; the narration is from Asim from Abu Salih from Mu’awiyah, who said: ‘The Messenger of God said: "Whoever dies without an Imam dies a death of ignorance (disbelief).’ The commentator says: This narration is صحيح لغيره, and this chain is good for Assem and the others are trustworthy men, as accepted by the two sheikhs (Bukhari and Muslim).
النص الثاني: ما ورد في صحيح ابن حبان، المجلد العاشر، بتحقيق شعيب الأرنؤوط، مؤسسة الرسالة، ص434، الرواية عن معاوية قال: قال رسول الله: من مات وليس له إمام مات ميتة جاهلية. قال: حديث صحيح وأخرجه أحمد والطبراني
b) Saheeh Ibn Haban, vol. 10, pg. 434, edited and commented by Shu’aib Al Arna’uut, the narration by Mu’awiyah, said: The Messenger of God said: "Whoever dies and has no imam dies a death of ignorance. He said: حديث صحيح narrated by Ahmad and al-Tabaraani and so on.
المصدر الثالث ما ورد في مسند أبي يعلى الموصلي، المجلد 13، حققه وأخرج أحاديثه حسين سليم أسد، مكتبة الرشد ودار المأمون للتراث، ناشرون، المجلد 13، ص366، الحديث 7375، الرواية عن معاوية أيضاً قال: قال رسول الله: من مات وليس عليه إمام مات ميتة جاهلية. قال: إسناده حسن
c) Musnad Abu Ya’la Al Mawsali, vol. 13, pg. 366, edited by Hussein Salim Assad, in narration #7375, the narration by Mu’awiyah who said: The Messenger of God said: "Whoever dies and he does not have an Imam has died a death of ignorance.’ He said: إسناده حسن, the narration is valid.
النص الأخير الذي ورد في صحيح مسلم: من مات وليس في عنقه بيعة مات ميتة جاهلية. وهو وارد في ص773 من هذه النسخة المعروفة، الحديث 1850
d) Saheeh Muslim: "Whoever dies without a pledge of allegiance dies a death of ignorance. It is contained in p. 773 of this known version, narration #1850.
So now the obvious question arises: to who should be this pledge of allegiance? As the narrations clearly state, it should be to the the Imam and not for an ordinary person. So when the two narrations are combined we reach this result (who dies without a pledge of allegiance to the Imam has died a death of ignorance). Another question arises: Does this narration refer to one or multiple Imams from era to era? No doubt that in every era there is an imam, i.e. during the time of the Messenger of God, he was the imam and so on.
Now I ask the followers of the school of the companions (sunnis), and those who follow the Umayyads (wahabis): Who is the Imam after the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to whom the oath of allegiance must be given? They would say: It is the first caliph. After that, the second Caliph, and so on. So the pledge of allegiance is to the Imam of their time.
Now look at how Ibn Taymiyyah (establisher of the wahabi cult) deals with this narration in such a clumsy and absurd fashion. Allamah Al Hilli related to this text says, in pg. 74 of the book ‘Minhaj Al Karamah’: The Messenger of God said: The one who dies without knowning the Imam dies a death of ignorance’. This particular text of the narration is as accepted by the school of Ahlul Bayt.
Ibn Taymiyyah then comes and says: ‘this wording of the narration is not known to the scholars.’ What an ignorant comment coming from a supposed great scholar and expert of hadith! Assuming this wording is not known to you or your ‘scholars’, at least understand and admit that the content and meaning is as mentioned in the many narrations already mentioned above! But what can we say; this is the method used by Ibn Taymiyyah and the likes of him. This is the clumsy and un-scientific methodology of these so called scholars who always attempt to show their opponents as uninformed or without knowledge.