Is Mahdi mentioned in the narrations?
Mahdi in the Quran
Mahdi is not mentioned clearly in the Quran. However, signs can be found. If we think that mahdi is a savior, an improver, the verse and to every people a guide (1) can be said to point to Mahdi. In addition, the word muhtadi which means Mahdi is used in three places in the Quran. (2)
Mahdi in the Sunnah
In a hadith it is stated that a mujaddid (reviver) will emerge in every one hundred years.(3) The word man used in the hadith can be used both for singular and plural. It shows that the mujaddid can be more than one. Iraqi scholar Prof. Dr. Muhsin Abdulhamid says In a century when especially Muslims underwent a great recession, the civilization of jahiliyyah spread everywhere, virtues disappeared, notions deteriorated, people doubted religion, their beings were under the threat of non-existence and mentions personalities like Badiuzzaman, Afgani, Muhammad Abduh, as-Sinusi, Muhammad İkbal, Hasan al-Banna and Abdulhamid bin Badis as revivers. (4)
Mahdi is stated clearly in some Kutub Sitta (six famous hadith books), Abu Dawud, Tirmizi and Ibn Majah. In Bukhari and Muslim the expressions imam and khalifah are used. For instance, Ibn Hajar, Taftazani and al-Kashmiri say in the following hadith in Bukhari, What will your state be like when Ibn Maryam comes down and when your imam is from among you? (5) Mahdi is meant by the word imam. (6) Depending on this narration, Ibn Hajar thinks that the accounts about the emergence of Mahdi are true and he reports from Imam Shafi that the accounts that he is from this ummah and that Hazrat Eesa (Jesus) will pray after him are genuine. (7)
In Muslim a caliph that enabled people to lead a prosperous and affluent life during the time near the end of the world is mentioned (8), this caliph is Hazrat Mahdi.
Hadiths about Mahdi are present in most of Kutub Sitta. Abu Dawud allocated a separate part to it in Sunan due to its importance. Although some of the hadiths about Mahdi are regarded as weak, we should state that most of them are sahih (sound).
Are the narrations about Mahdi weak?
We know the narrations about Mahdi in Kutub Sitte and other valid hadith books are accepted by the ummah. There are not any objections that will regard them as mawdhu (forged, fabricated) in terms of hadith methodology. Although the forgery of some hadiths is mentioned by contemporary scholars in general, the general opinion is that sound hadiths are in majority.
Those who claim that these kinds of hadiths are weak refer to Ibn Khaldun in general and are in hesitation. As a matter of fact even Ibn Khaldun accepted the existence of sound hadiths relating to this issue though very few. (9)
Azimabadi who explained Abu Dawud writes that unlike Ibn Khaldun beginning from the Prophet (PBUH) all Muslims have believed that a person called Mahdi, a descendant of the Prophet (PBUH) will emerge, will strengthen the religion, will make justice dominant, will be sovereign in Islamic lands, and that this belief is common. (10)
In Nazmul-Mutanasir, Al-Kittani does not agree with the ideas of Ibn Khaldun and says there are a lot of hadiths regarding this issue and that these accounts are mutawatir (widespread). He also says that Ibn Khaldun is not an expert in this issue therefore it is necessary to ask the experts about it. (11)
Although Mawdudi says that most of the narrators of the hadiths about Mahdi are Shia and that during the period of Abbasids some hadiths were fabricated in order to support the caliphate –as in the case of the people with black sanjaks (flags) - , he accepts some hadtihs as sound. (12)
Although some scholars criticize some of the hadiths about Mahdi, most scholars think that he will emerge and that there are mutawatir accounts about this issue. These hadiths were reported by many famous Sahabas (companions of the Prophet (PBUH)), and many hadith books included them. Some obliqueness that is present in the hadiths is not because of their weakness but because of their ambiguity. The Messenger of Allah stated them concisely due to the location and subject. Because these hadiths that became well-known were accepted by the ummah without any hesitation, Kittani says they are mutawatir accounts in terms of their meaning. (13)
The Scholar Shawkani even wrote a book entitled the Explanation Showing that the Accounts about Mahdi, Dajjal and Messiah Became Mutawatir. He says that there are about 50 hadiths related to Mahdi. There are a lot of Sahaba statements related to this issue. Shawkani says the following to this effect: It is certain that the hadith accounts about the expected Mahdi became mutawatir. (14)
In Fathul Bari, Ibn Hajar says that the hadiths stating that Mahdi belongs to this ummah and that Hazrat Eesa (Jesus) will pray after him are mutawatir. (15)
Taftazani says there are many sound hadiths about the emergence of Mahdi and the descent of Hazrat Eesa (Jesus) and that although they are ahad (narrated by only one person), their meaning is mutawatir. Scholars say they have the conviction that Mahdi is an imam from the descendants of Fatima and that Allah will send him when He wants to help His religion. (16)
Imam Rabbani says the sound hadiths relating to this issue are famous and are mutawatir spiritually. (17)
Yes the ummah has ijma (consensus) relating to this issue. (18) As a matter of fact Dajjal cannot be thought without Mahdi, and Mahdi without Dajjal. If one of them is present, the other will be too.
Contemporary scholar Al-Bani sees the emergence of Mahdi as a reality accepted by scholars. (19)
Badiuzzaman has the following idea:
" Allah will send an enlightening person as the greatest mujtahid, mujaddid (reviver), as a ruler, Mahdi, guide and a great pole; and this person will be from Ahli Bayt (a descendant of the Prophet (PBUH)).." (20)
To limit the sound hadiths to Bukhari and Muslim and to have the approach if they exist in these two books they are sound, if not, they are weak shows the ignorance about the ilm (science) of hadith. How can sound hadiths be limited to these two or the other four books of Kutub Sitta. There are a lot of sound hadiths outside these books.
The inclusion of an issue in the essentials of belief is one thing; realization of that issue is another. There are so many hadiths that are not present in Bukhari and Muslim – like the hadith about the conquest of Istanbul - that were realized. Some of the hadiths about the time during the end of the world, especially about Dajjal, Sufyan and Mahdi are like that. What matters is to be able to interpret and explain them correctly. This is possible only by deepness in ilm. The answer that Badiuzzaman gave to the claim of the prosecutor who said The hadiths he depends on are weak, even fabricated, and their interpretation is wrong and they have no origins has the quality of being a criterion:
"All of the ummah have accepted it for one thousand years; and although a few ulama (scholars, scientists) decided by interpretation that they were weak most of the hadith scholars and ummah accepted them; none of the scholars in the world can regard the explanations that the interpretations of some happenings that will take place in the time during the end of the world coincide as wrong. Supposing that one of those hadiths is fabricated; fabricated means it is not a hadith, it does not mean its meaning is wrong; the ummah accepted that narration like a proverb. Calling these interpretations wrong is wrong itself and is the denial of the hadiths and betrayal to the acceptance of the ummah." (21)
The prosecutor said In a book it is said that all of the hadiths about Mahdi are weak. There is agreement that these are weak. Badiuzzaman answered this claim as follows:
"Whichever issue is not criticized in some books. Ulama reported in astonishment that a great hadith scholar like Ibn Jawzi called some sound hadiths fabricated. It does not mean that the meaning of every weak or fabricated hadith is wrong. Perhaps it is not certain in terms of traditional documents. Its meaning may be right and correct.
The fact that this reality has been continued for one thousand years by the scholars of hadith and the ummah is definite proof that there is no agreement in this issue." (22)
There are dajjals in every century as well as mahdis. Each of mahdis helped the ummah of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) during their hard times. During the great sedition of the end of the world, the great Mahdi starts to carry out his duty.
The most important difference of the great Mahdi from the others is that he undertook many tasks like politics, religion, sultanate and (jihad) holy war. The Mahdi of other centuries undertook one or some of these tasks, not all. For instance, some great personalities like Mahdi Abbasi in politics and Gaws Azam, Shah Nakshband, the Four Poles and the Twelve Imams in religion carried out some tasks of the great Mahdi.
Some great personalities decided that Mahdi emerged because these personalities carried out some tasks of Mahdi. (23)
There are similar statements in Maktubat (The Letters):
Similar to the Great Mahdi who is promised to come at the end of time, one or more Mahdis from the Prophet's Family have been found in every century. Indeed, one of them was among the Abbasid Caliphs who were the descendants of the Prophet's Family, and had many of the characteristics of the Great Mahdi. The reason, then, for the apparent variance between the different narrations (concerning Mahdis) is that the qualities of the Great Mahdi were confused with those of the revivalists (mujaddids) who precede him.." (24)
Another important reason for the disagreement is the difference in the narrations about Mahdi. The scholars who interpreted the hadiths regarding this issue explained them in such a way that they imagined the mahdis would emerge in places like Damascus, Basra and Kufa because the centers of the caliphate then were in Madina or Damascus and that the whole world would know and accept them. As a matter of fact, if everybody knows and accepts them, it will be contrary to the principle of testing and trial. The principle in testing and trial is that the door should be open to the mind and the will should not be removed. That is the reason why many people will not recognize Dajjal and Sufyan. (25)
1 Chapter ar-Rad,13:7.
2 Chapter al-Araf, 7:178; Chapter al-Isra, 17:97; Chapter al-Kahf, 18:17.
3 Abu Dawud, Malahim: 31.
4 Prof. Dr. Muhsin Abdülhamid, 3. Uluslararası Bediüzzaman Sempozyumu, from the paper Modern asrın kelâm düşünürü Bediüzzaman.
5 Bukhari, Anbiya: 49.
6 Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 6:570; Taftazani, Sharhu'l-Makasid, 5:314; al-Kashmiri, Muhammad Anwar Shah al-Hindi, at-Tasrih bimm tawatara fi nuzulil-Masih (Halep: 1385/1965), p. 97.
7 Taftazani, Sharhu'l-Makasid, V:314.
8 Muslim, Fitan: 67-69.
9 Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddima. trans. Zakir Kadiri Ugan (Ankara: MEB Yayınları, 1970), II:
10 Canan, ibid., 14:77.
11 al-Kittani, Nazmul-Mutanasir, p. 145-146.
12 Mawdudi, Meseleler ve Çözümleri, trans. Yusuf Kara (Istanbul: 1990), p. 45.
13 al-Kittani, Nazmul-Mutanasir, p. 144-6.
14 Siddik Hasan Han, al-İzaa, p. 114; Said Hawwa, el-Asas fis-Sunna, 9:335, 6.
15 Ibn Majah, 10:338.
16 Taftazani, ibid, 2:307.
17 Imam Rabbani, Mektûbât, 2:250.
18 Abû Hayyan Muhammad bin Yusuf al-Andulusi, al-Bahrul-Muhît, I-VIII (Bairut: 1983), 2:473.
19 Sarıtoprak, from the paper Bediüzzaman Said Nursî'ye göre Mehdîlik Meselesi, Uluslararası Bediüzzaman Sempozyumu (3)
20 Nursi, Mektûbât (The Letters), p. 411.
21 Nursî, Şuâlar (The Rays), p. 360.
22 ibid, p. 364.
23 ibid, p.. 509-510.
24 Nursî, Mektûbât (The Letters), p. 96.
25 Nursî, Şuâlar(The Rays), p. 505; Nursî, Sözler (The Words), p. 310.