Who is the Mahdi? What does it mean as a term?

One day, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to Awf bin Malik: Very dark and intense mischief comes. Then mischief follows one another. This goes on until a man from my Family (Ahl-i Bayt), who will be called Mahdi emerges. When you reach him, follow him so that you may become among the ones rightly guided. (1)

Abu Saidul Hudri narrates: We feared that an important event would take place after the Messenger of God and asked him about that. He gave the good news of the Mahdi. (2)

Surely these times are the times when spiritual saviors are eagerly anticipated. As in such a time the expected person of the Final period, Hazrath Mahdi, will come, the importance of giving oath to him and following him is unquestionable. And Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged his community to this and said: Whoever among you reaches this day should follow him even by crawling on snow. (3)

In another one of his Hadiths, upon the question of Huzayfatul Yamani, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that after good, evil would come, and peace would follow the evil; when he was asked: What will come after this peace? he stated:

People will be called into debauchery. When you see a caliph that day, run for him till death reaches you even by biting the root of a tree. (4)

The caliph we are recommended to follow even by crawling on snow or by biting the root of a tree is clearly Hazrath Mahdi.

This issue was shown such importance in the Age of Bliss-the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)- that Ummu Salama felt the need to ask the Prophet: Will the Mahdi come? and he answered: Yes, his coming is true. (5) Moreover, in one of his Hadiths, the Prophet says, even if one day were to remain in the life of the world, God will lengthen this day and send the Mahdi (6), which means he will surely come.

According to another hadith narrated by Hazrath Ali, one day he looked at his son Hasan and said, As the Prophet (PBUH) named, this son of mine is surely Sayyid (gentleman, good-tempered and graceful.) Soon from his lineage, a man named after the Prophet will come; he will resemble the Prophet in his morals, but in his creation (bodily features) he will not. (7)

In his renowned work Şehrul- Makasıd, in the beginning of the topic about the Mahdi, the great learned Taftazani (Masud b. Omar) says: Sahih (authenticated) Hadiths have been narrated about the topic of the emergence of an imam (leader, great person, Mahdi) who will fill the world with goodness and justice. (8)

Who is this Hazrath Mahdi? Why did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recommend following especially him? How can we recognize him if we are to live in his age? As the man of the time of upheaval, debauchery, and vices, how and against whom will he fight? What are his qualities? Unless the answers of these and such questions are known, the function of the Mahdi and the importance of his actions will not be completely understood.

Who is the Mahdi?

The Mahdi, which means the person who is on the right path and who leads others to the right path, who is a great person from the Family of the Prophet, whose good news of coming in the final period is given to us, who is especially shown the right path by God, who is directed to the truth, who is saved from mistakes and faults in religious matters, who leads people, especially Muslims, to the right path, and who establishes justice in a world full of cruelties and injustice. The Mahdi is a great learned who will save people who are in unbelief and who have doubts and hesitations concerning faith; and who will fortify beliefs of believers.

In the Arabic language, Mahdi is described as the person, who has reached the right way, has found salvation and whom God shows the right way. (9)

In this respect, every Muslim who follows the right path is a Mahdi. We know that Hazrath Ali is called both Hadi-who shows the right path- and Mahdi. (10)

The Four Caliphs and their followers are also remembered as mahdiyyun-mahdis. Likewise, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, I encourage you to stick fast to my Sunnah-the way he behaved- and to follow my rightly guided and mahdi caliphs. (11) And thus, recommended us to follow them.

We also know that Hazrath Ibrahim, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Four Caliphs, Hazrath Hussein, Suleiman bin Abdulmalik and some Abbasid caliphs are also called Mahdi. (12)

Amawi caliph Omar bin Abdulaziz was called Mahdi; furthermore, some attributed certain Hadiths about the Mahdi to him. (13) We see that the Abbasid Mahdi, who possessed many of the qualities of the great Mahdi (14), fulfilled his duty in the political field. (15)

Therefore, the word Mahdi is a word with a wide spectrum. However, when we put the particle el (the equivalent of the in Arabic) before it, it becomes a specific name for a certain person and it is used thus for the renowned spiritual savior who will come in the final period as we are informed in Hadiths.

Sources:

1. Suyuti, el-Havi, 2:67-68; el-Burhan, v. 87a.
2. Tirmizi, Kitabu'l-Fiten, 34; Ibni Mace, Kitabu'l-Fiten: 36, Hurucu Mehdi: 34.
3. Ibni Mace, Kitabu'l-Fiten: 36 (H. 4082, 4084); Mustedrek, 4:465.; Ibni Kesir, Kitabu'n-Nihaye, 1:28-29.
4. Ebu Avane, Musned, 4:476.
5. Ikdu'd-Durer, Varak: 7b.
6. Ebu Davud, Mehdi: 1 (H. 4282); Tirmizi, Fiten: 52 (H. 2231-2232).
7. Tac V, 363
8. TAFTAZANI, Mesud b. Omar, Sherhul-Makasıd, I-V, Tahkik, talik Abdurrahman Amire, Alemul- Kutub, Beirut, 1989, V, 312; krş, et-Tac, V, 343, (Kitabul- Fiten, bab, 7)
9. Ibni Manzur, Lisanu'l-Arab, (Ibni Manzur, h-d-y md), 15:354.
10. Ibnu'l-Esir, Ebus-Saadat el-Mubarek bin Mohammad el-Cezeri, Usdu'l-Gabe fi Marifetis-Sahabe, I-VIII (Kahire: ts), 4:31.
11. Tirmizi, Ilim: 16; Ibni Mace, Mukaddime: 6; Ebu Davud, Sunnet: 5.
12. Ibnu'l-Esir, A.g.e., 4:31.
13. Nuaym bin Hammad, Kitabu'l-Fiten, İstanbul: Atıf Efendi Kütüphanesi (el yazma) no. 602, v. 53a.
14. Nursi, the Letters, p. 96.
15. Nursi, the Rays, p. 509.

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