The issue of Mahdi may be one of the necessities of Islam because of all the Quranic verses and widely transmitted traditions that exist about this issue and differences in their opinions and sects, the Islamic nation is unanimous on this issue.
The Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) in The Holy Quran
Most of what has been said in the Holy Quran about Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) is in the form of interpretation; as the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) has said, “There is not a verse in the Quran that doesn’t have an open (meaning) and a hidden (one).”1 Fundamentally speaking, the key to the everlastingness of the Holy Quran is the hidden meanings of verses. One example is this verse
﴾And We desired to bestow a favor upon those who were deemed weak in the land...﴿2 (Qasas: 5)
which has been revealed about the Pharaoh and Moses (peace be upon him), but according to traditions, the oppressed3 has been interpreted as Imam Ali (P.B.) and his progeny. The verse:
﴾And certainly We wrote in the Book after the reminder that (as for) the land, My righteous servants shall inherit it.﴿4 (Anbia’: 105) also points out this fact. In the book The Psalms of David (verses 9-25), which is the same as “Zabur,” this divine promise has been given to all nations. In other verses, like verse 55 of chapter Nur:
﴾Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth﴿ 5 and verse 61 of chapter Zukhruf, which is about the return of Jesus (peace be upon him) to earth and him following Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance), there are evidences as well.
Other than emphasizing on the principle issue of the Mahdi, the traditions have presented characteristics that can only be consistent with the Shiite belief in the twelve Imams (peace be upon him) the twelfth one being the Mahdi. A summery of these traditions is that the just Imams after the Holy Prophet (peace be upon them) will be twelve starting with Ali (peace be upon him) and continuing with eleven of his children through Fatima (peace be upon her). When the people have seen eleven of the Imam, then the twelfth will be the Mahdi and he will be under occultation until the time of his coming. It has been said in traditions from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) that “the earth will never be without a Hujjah” and also “with us God begun (the creation) and will finish (it) with us.” In a tradition that Abu Na’im Isfihani narrates through a series of people from Imam Ali (peace be upon him) and he narrates from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), it says that the Mahdi is from us and God will finish his religion with him as he started it with us. If we put all of the traditions together, the result will be that the Promised Mahdi had been born before the demise of his father and will live until he rises.
The author, upon occasion, mentions some of the sayings of the great mystic, Muhyi-Din Arabi, about the Imam’s birth and status as being the seal of the Mohammadian (peace be upon him) guardianship. Not only does Ibn Arabi believe Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) to be the Lord’s Hujjah on earth, but he also considers him to be at the same level as the prophets and that he is infallible in supplication.
At the end of the article, he introduces two obscurities, which he answers. One about the Imam’s prolonged life and the other about his Imamah (leadership) in spite of being a five year old day. From a medical viewpoint and also according to the Holy Quran the possibility of having extended life spans is very much acceptable. The Holy Quran has mentioned Noah, Jonah and Jesus to have had extended life spans for sure. Of course, it is possible that the saints and men of God who are living under God’s favor live extended lives by the power of God as well. About the Imamah (leadership) of the twelfth Imam (may God hasten his reappearance) at a young age, there seems to be no problem, since the Holy Quran has mentioned that some of the great prophets have reached their prophethood at a young age, namely Jesus and John.
In the end, we must add this point that in the Shiite culture, Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) is a present Imam and a living role model. He is taken into account in all aspects of life. Most important of all, he is considered the medium for the flow of the Lord’s blessings; therefore, the continuation of the existence of the creation depends on his existence.
* By: Mohammad Hadi Ma’rifat
1- Ibn Athir, Nihayah, Vol. 1, P. 136 (similar to this)
2- And intend We to bestow (Our) favour upon those who were considered week in the land … and to make them Imams (guids in faith) and to make them the heirs.
3- The oppressed.
4- And indeed We did write in the Psalms after the Reminder (Tauraith given to Moses), that the earth, shall inherit it My righteous servants.
5- God has promised unto those of you who believe and do good deeds that He will certainly appoint them successors...