Since we are talking about the Mahdi and the differences between Sunni and Shiites, I found a article that may interest you. I will post part of it here, and put the link below. We will also go over some of the hadiths in regards to the Mahdi. It is interesting to note that in my research, I have found that Muslims often refer to different hadiths as strong or weak or in between. Which totally surprized me, I mean we have idiots out killing people over what they consider the Hadiths to say, but now I hear that even amongst Muslim they don’t give them all the same amount of weight.
I have a Muslim friend who sticks to the Quran and the Quran only. Sometime in the future, I will write about that and point you in his direction. Needless to say, I was fasinated with some of what he had to say, you may feel the same way. But for now, back to the subject at hand.
We already covered part of this yesterday, but I like the way this guy writes and I couldn’t leave out the stuff we already talked about, it would take away from his article.
I know these posts are long and involved, I just can’t see how to shorten them and get all the information in. When writing about Christianity, I write directly from what the Bible says about the end times, and my own beliefs. When writing about Islam’s belief’s, there is a lot of information, and different views of which, I am trying to cover most. So bare with me.
The word al-Mahdi never actually appears in the Qur’an, Islam’s main religious text, the passive of its Arabic stem appearing only four times. Support for the Mahdi finds itself completely within hadith, records of the traditions or sayings of Muhammad. While Sunni and Shii Muslims have their own hadith collections—their respective collections reflecting their respective beliefs—some overlap exists.
The Shii established their own form of leadership based on hereditary succession from Ali. The imam (“pattern,” “model,” “leader”) is the “divinely inspired, sinless, infallible, religiopolitical leader of the (Shii) community”. The imam must be a direct descendant of Muhammad and Ali, the first imam. The doctrine of the imamate is the fundamental difference between Shii and Sunni Islam.
The doctrine of the imamate, while originally simple, developed over time into complex theories and ideas that facilitated Mahdism. First, imams have the “divine right to be successors to the Prophet”, possessing authority in both the temporal and religious spheres because of their kinship with Muhammad and past “ruling kings”. Final authority on all subjects rests with the imam, as opposed to Sunni belief in consensus (ijma) of religious scholars (ulama) for authoritative decision-making.
Second, authority is passed from father to son by the father’s nomination (nass). The imam derives his authority not by the say of men, but by nass, the explicit designation of the previous imam and, thereby, the designation of God. This is reminiscent of the apostolic succession in Roman Catholic Christianity ((which is interesting, as you shall see in the future)).
Third, the imams have the ability to understand both the outer, exoteric, and inner, esoteric, meanings of the Qur’an by virtue of the “Muhammadan light” ((that sounds dangerous….for Muslims)), which is passed along to each succeeding imam. Fazlur Rahman ascribes this doctrine to Gnostic doctrines incorporated into Shii doctrines as Muslim territory expanded and attempted to incorporate peoples of different faiths.
Fourth, because interpretation of the Qur’an’s inner meaning relies on the “miraculous guidance of God”, the imam is infallible, protected from both error and sin ((again, dangerous)).
Fifth, since it is the imam who guides and sustains believers in the absence of the Prophet, the world can never be without an imam.
Sixth, imams are not regular humans; rather, they have a position somewhere between human and divine beings.
Belief in the imam can be referred to as the “third cardinal article of [Shii] Faith, after belief in God and in His Apostle” (with the exception of Zaydi Shii, mentioned later). According to S.H.M. Jafri, many of the doctrines concerning the imam were institutionalized by Imam Jafar al-Sadiq as a way to firmly establish the legitimacy of the imamate, “to save the basic ideal of Shi’ism from absorption by the emerging synthesis on the one hand, and to purify it from extremist and activist activities on the other.” Interestingly, however, Sadiq’s doctrines facilitated belief in the Madhi, a belief that came to be supported by many of the same “extremists” from whom he was protecting the “mainstream” Shii.
Among the extremists from whom Jafar wished to protect Shiism were the ghulat of Kufa, who believed in a temporary absence or occultation (ghayba) of the Mahdi and his subsequent return. This early group of ghulat would find a place in the mainstream amongst al-Mukhtar ibn ‘Ubayd’s Kaysaniya, a larger group which al-Mukhtar led in a revolt against the oppressive Umayyads in 686 C.E. following the deaths of Ali’s other two sons, Hasan and Husayn. Al-Mukhatar is credited with one of the earliest popular usages of the term Mahdi for having applied it to Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiya, a son of Ali by a woman other than Fatima.
Although the term “Mahdi” was originally used as an honorific title without a messianic connotation— it was applied to the Prophet and the first four caliphs — it by this time had become, as evinced by al-Mukhtar’s use of it, a term used for an expected ruler who would restore the glory of Islam.
Al-Mukhatar claimed the caliphate on behalf of al-Hanafiya, calling him “the Mahdi, son of the legatee,” a term applied to Ali by those who believed Muhammad had appointed Ali his successor. Although al-Hanafiya refused to accept the title, this movement popularized several aspects of Shii Mahdism such as the doctrine of nass and the idea that the Mahdi would go into concealment, or occultation, and later return. In addition, a popular claim that the name of the Mahdi would be the same as the Prophet’s was probably made at this time in order to strengthen al-Mukhtar’s argument on behalf of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiya.
Among the three main sects of the Shii, two have a belief in the Mahdi that is central to their faith: the Ismailis and the Ithna Asharis. The third group is the Zaydis, the smallest and most moderate sect. Zaydis believe that Zayd ibn Ali, a grandson of Husayn, was the rightful fifth Imam. Their beliefs most closely resemble those of the Sunni, not believing that their imams are more than human. Their Shiism resembles the early political Shiism that was simply allegiance to Ali. Fazlur Rahman goes so far as to say that aside from having a Shii imam, “the religion is that of Sunni Islam.”
The two main groups of Shii that do believe in the Mahdi split from each other in the eight century in a disagreement over who would succeed the sixth Imam, Jafar. The majority of the Shii believed that Jafar had recognized his second oldest son, Musa al-Kazim, as imam because the eldest son, Ismail, was found guilty of the sin of drinking wine. Among those who followed Ismail as the imam, the majority end the line of imams with Ismail, believing that in 760 C.E., when he died before his father, he went into seclusion, later to return as the Mahdi.
The majority of those that had followed Musa al-Kazim as opposed to Ismail end the line of imams with the twelfth Imam, son of the eleventh Imam, Hasan al-Askari. Upon al-Askari’s death in 874 C.E., rumor abounded that he had left no offspring behind him. Nevertheless, most people came to believe that at the time of his death, he actually did have a five or six year old son, Muhammad, who al-Askari had designated as the next imam. Soon after his father’s death, however, the young Imam went into concealment, or occultation, to return at the end of time. His concealment consisted of two stages: the “lesser concealment,” which ended in approximately 939 C.E. and the “greater concealment,” to end just before the end of time. During the absence of the Mahdi (the imam), the religious experts, mujtahids, lead the community.
The doctrines associated with the Mahdi were shaped by several factors. First, the characteristics ascribed to the imamate by people such as Imam Jafar, particularly that God would never leave the world without an imam, made a “concealed” Mahdi a necessity. As Said Arjomand explains, “The centrality of the Imams to Shiite Islam made the inevitable crisis of succession caused by the Imam’s death a chronic threat to the survival of the community.” Mahdism, then, was a solution to a problem for the Shii, Ismaili, and Ithna Ashari alike.
A second factor that shaped the development the doctrine of the Mahdi in Shiism was a desire to be rescued from persecution. An examination of the common themes among Shii Mahdist traditions—“that he will appear when the world has reached its worst state of affairs; his reign will be a time of natural abundance, and he will spread justice, restore faith, and defeat the enemies of Islam [. . .] , and he will be generous and divide the wealth”—suggests that those who subscribed to belief in the Mahdi were not pleased with the present condition of their lives. For example, al-Hanafiya was believed to be the Mahdi by those who wished to escape persecution from the Umayyads. Likewise, in modern times, it has been argued that Mahdists have justified resistance to colonialism through their beliefs, heralding the imposition of colonialism on Muslims as a “sign of the hour” and accommodating their beliefs to that threat. Doctrinal responses to oppression are found not only in purely Mahdist doctrines, but also in other Shii doctrines such as taqiya, dissimulation. Taqiya, instituted by Muhammad al-Baqir and elaborated by Jafar al-Sadiq, has a “double meaning of caution and dissimulation for survival in a hostile world”; that is, believers may deny their beliefs if those beliefs put their lives in danger.
A third factor that has wrought the development of Mahdism has been increasing Muslim dissatisfaction with the status of the Islamic community. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, as quoted by Riffat Hassan, says it best:
The fundamental malaise of modern Islam is a sense that something has gone wrong with Islamic history. . . The fundamental spiritual crisis of Islam in the twentieth century stems from an awareness that something is awry between the religion which God has appointed and the historical development of the world which [God] controls.
This statement, however, rings true not only in the twentieth century, but has rung true for each succeeding generation of Muslims since the Abbasid revolution and Islam’s fall from Eurasian dominance. Reform movements led by men such as al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya demonstrate this dissatisfaction. Mahdists have sought solace in the belief that the Mahdi would come soon to save them from the “enemies of Islam”, the Ithna Asharis believing, for instance, that the Mahdi, when he comes, will make the entire world accept Islam “willingly or by force”.
While the Shii certainly have the most institutionalized belief in the Mahdi, the belief is not completely alien to Sunni Islam. Unlike the Shii, however, the Sunni generally believe that the Mahdi will be “an ordinary man whose career is that of a reformer and conqueror.” Fazlur Rahman suggests that belief in the Mahdi made its way into Sunni doctrine through Sufism, a mystical form of Islamic piety. He states that in Sunni Islam, “where a deep-seated consciousness existed of the failure of political and public life to meet the standards of the Islamic ideal, [messianic] ideals found a ready place in the hearts of the frustrated and disillusioned public through the effective mediacy of [Sufi] preachers.” Consequently, Shii hadith containing Mahdist doctrine found their way into the Sunni hadith collections of Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Madja, al-Nasa’i, and the Musnad of Ibn Hanabal.
With its presence in both popular Sunni Islam and Shii Islam, the Mahdi, a messianic figure who will rule at the end of the world, can safely be called “Islam’s messianic figure”. Importantly, however, the presence of the Mahdi is only a sign that the end times are at hand. The arrival of the Mahdi is not the ultimate event of Islamic eschatology. Interestingly, the arrival of the Mahdi is often associated with the return of Jesus. Some claim that there will be no Mahdi at all, his role instead fulfilled by Jesus. Others say he will precede Jesus, who will descend later and assist the Mahdi in his battle against al-Dadjjal, the false messiah ((we will get to this)). Belief in the Mahdi has been more fervent at times when the Muslim masses have felt particularly oppressed or humiliated and until either the Muslim community reasserts itself atop the world’s hierarchy or the Mahdi arrives, one can only assume such a trend will, to some extent, continue.
I would encourage those who want to understand the split between Sunni’s and Shiite’s to read the entire article. I printed here the items there in regards to the Mahdi. What are your thoughts on this??
I want to say one more thing in regards to my previous post about Sufyaani. I believe I made the statement in that post that it sounded to me like Sufyaani appeared to me to be a conflict between Sunni’s and Shiites. While doing some research for upcoming posts, I found this statement by Khomeini, of Iran while addressing a youth rally:
“The Islamic and non-Islamic powers of the world will not admit our power till such time that we establish our hold over Makkah and Madinah because these are the centers and citadels of Islam. Hence our domination over these places Is an essential requirement … when as a conqueror I will enter Makkah and Madinah, the first thing to be done at that time by me would be to dig out two idols (Abu Bakr and Umar) lying by the side of the Prophet’s grave.”
The first scism between Sunni’s and Shiites was in 661 A.D when Ali the fourth of the “rightly guided” Khalifahs (Caliphs) was murdered by the henchmen of Abu Muawiya ibn Sufyan who became the fifth caliph. Shiites look upon Ali as the rightful heir to the Caliphate, being the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed. Sunnis are loyal to Abu Muawiya ibn Sufyan who was the descendant of Abu Sufyan, the pre-Islamic ruler of Mecca and a rival of prophet Mohammed.
While the sectarian divide along Shiite-Sunni lines is discernable, that along tribal lines is not. We discussed a little about the Hasemites in that post as well; The rivalry of the Saudis and the Wahabis with the Hasemites goes back to the defeat, of the Hashemites by the Saudi Wahabis in the early 20th century which ultimately has its roots in early Islamic history when the descendants of prophet Mohammed were outmaneuvered by the descendants of the pre-Islamic ruler of Mecca Abu Sufyan. Thus the Al Qaeda who is the inheritor of the Wahabi ideology, has a case against the Hashemites with a pedigree going back to 1300 years. You can go here and learn something about the Hashemite’s, including the fact that King Abdullah of Jordan is Hashemite. His family tree is on this site, as is some history about Islam and the Hashemites.
You can also go here and learn more about what Wahabis are doing in Pakistan, at least in 2002, to followers of Ahlul Bayt. According to the article, Wahabis were killing various scholars, teachers and students of seminaries, religious figures, politico-religious parties leaders and activists, officials of various government and private institutions for no other reason except they were Shiite. The Wahabis were doing this under the guise of being Sunni. When the Sunni Muslims of Pakistan denounced them…, they did what you would expect, they started killing the Sunni’s as well. Minimals research into Abu Sufyan and Sufyaani shows that when Muslims talk about the end times, in regards to this prophecy, they are talking about a war between Muslims.
On my other blog, I had a Muslim (the one I talked about above), make the comment, “It’s sad to know that the majority of Muslims living today are fulfilling prophecies of war against other religions to please God.” As I said, I will be writing more about him in the future, but in what we see with Bin Lyin, and others, I think he’s right.