Theology Thursday: Mahdi The Rejected Lord by Kamran Hakim
Explicit statements made in the Hadith of Islam prophesy that the Ummah of Muhammad (i.e. Muslims) is destined to reject Mahdi. (Mahdi is the first of two appearances to be made by the Lord in the day of resurrection.)
Why will this be? You may consider asking yourself, why would the response of people to the appearance of Mahdi be any different than the response of people to the appearance of Muhammad?
Muhammad was rejected by his people when he first appeared. This is the pattern of religious history. Why would the appearance of Mahdi be any different?
There are many possible reasons for this rejection.
Here are but a few for you to consider:
A. Mahdi's knowledge is going to be inherent. (He will be ummi.) The religious leaders who have studied for many years to climb their pulpits of authority will naturally reject Mahdi Who will, in their eyes, appear to be both uneducated and ignorant.
B. The age of Mahdi is the most literal and physically obvious obstacle for the lack of His recognition. According to a Hadith Narrated by Tabarrani the Messenger of God said: "I saw my Lord. He was a young man and He had long hair." -cit. Konooz'ul-Haqa'iq
The following Hadith hints at the socio-cultural attitude of the people. Allamih Jalal'ud'Din Suyooti in his book Al Araf ul-Vardi fi Akhbaar al-Mahdi offers a Hadith from Prophet Muhammad narrated by Ibn-i Abbas: “The Messenger of God said: Al-Mahdi is a young man from my Ahl'ul-Beyt [Household]. People said: "Why such honor has not been given to the shoyookh [elders] and instead given to a young man of your Household?" He [The Messenger of God] said: "God does whatever He Wills." “
It was hard for the Muslim leadership's pride to sublimate its twelve centuries worth of accumulated dogma to the Will of the Young Mahdi who appeared to them not as an equal, but as one whose knowledge was far superior to their own.
C. Islam will stray far from its origins. As a result Mahdi will be judged by what Muslims think Islam is and not by what Mahdi will tell them about Islam. The following Hadith will perhaps assist to illustrate this point for the readers:
"O people! a time will come to you when Islam would be capsized as a pot is capsized will all its contents. O people, Allah has protected from that He might be hard on you but He has not spared you from being put on trial. Allah the Sublimest of all speakers has said: `Verily in this are signs and We do only try (the people).' [Qur'an 23:30]" -Imam Ali, Nahj'ul Balagha, Sermon 102, part 2
Moreover, He said: "Verily, a time will come upon you [Muslims] wherein nothing will be more concealed than the truth, nothing more manifest than falsehood, and nothing more than lies about God and His Apostle [Muhammad]. The people of that time will possess no commodity more difficult to sell than the Book when it is correctly recited, or one more in demand when its passages are misinterpreted. There will be throughout all lands nothing more detested than good deeds, or more renowned than evil ones. The reciters of the Qur'an will have cast it away, and those who memorize it will have deliberately erased it from their minds. The book and its disciples will, on that day, be ostracized and outcast, two friends together on the road, to whom no one will offer shelter. The Book and its disciples will be, in that age, among the people and yet neither among them nor with them. For error is incompatible with guidance.
Even though the Book and its disciples might come together, the people would agree to keep separate [Muslims and the sects of Islam will be disunited among themselves]. They would divert from the community -as if they were the leaders of the Qur'an rather than it being their leader. Nothing will remain of it among them save the name; they will know nothing of it save its calligraphy and script. Before, they had not made an example of the righteous by maiming them, or called their sincerity towards God a lie, or punished good deeds with the penalties for crimes. They who preceded you perished because they went on hoping for too long and their allotted terms expired. Then the Promised One [Mahdi] descended, by whom excuses are rejected and upon whom repentance has no effect, and with whom are the calamity and the affliction." -Ali ibn Abu Talib Nahj'ul-Balagha [The Path of Eloquence]
Clearly such a people [the generality are intended] are in no position to judge Mahdi, thus, they will reject Him. This was what happened to The Bab.
D. Muslims are destined to rely on the directives and whims of their leaders and follow them as their lords as opposed to Allah and Muhammad, as the people of the Book did.
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would follow them in this also. We said: Allah's Messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians (by your words) "those before you"? He said: Who else (than those two religious groups)? -Sahih Muslim, Hadith 6448
Naturally, the religious leaders of the community who enjoy their seats of authority are not going to inform their followers about the truth of Mahdi. They will keep people in the dark as they did at the time of The Bab. In fact they imitated the behavior of the people of the Book to the extent that they condemned The Bab to death as Pharisees condemned Jesus to death.
The following Hadith perhaps offers a fresh perspective on this issue: "Out of Bani-Hashim there shall come forth a Youth Who shall reveal new laws. He shall summon the people unto Him, but none will heed His call. Most of His enemies will be the divines. His bidding they will not obey, but will protest saying: 'This is contrary to that which hath been handed down unto us by the Imams of the Faith." -Book of Arba'in compiled by Muhhadith-i Bahraini cit. Cited in the Book of Certitude, pp. 242-243
This quotation is of particular importance since Shi'ah leaders literally fulfilled every aspect of this Hadith, thus fulfilling the saying of the Prophet in the Hadith of Abu Huraira "...Allah will come to them and say, 'I am Your Lord.' They will say, 'We shall stay in this place [we shall cling to our traditional beliefs and dogmas] till our Lord comes to us and when our Lord will come, we will recognize Him..." [Sahih Bukhari 1:770]
E. Even though Al-Mahdi is to be from the Household of the Messenger of God... one of the Children of Fatimah from the progeny of Husayn, yet Muslims (The majority being from Sunni background and not fond of Twelver Shi'ah school) will have a hard time accepting the fulfillment of their expectation from within a hated branch of Islam. The following Hadith is rather graphic in portraying this point: "There shall appear a Youth from Bani-Hashim, Who will bid the people plight fealty unto Him. His Book will be a new Book, unto which He shall summon the people to pledge their faith. Stern is His Revelation unto the Arab. If ye hear it about Him, hasten unto Him." -Hadith from Imam Sadiq, quoted in 'Avalim'ul-Olum val Ma`arif by Shaikh Nur'u'llah Bahraini. Cited in the Book of Certitude, p. 241
F. Muslims will not expect Mahdi to reveal a new Book, but He will and they will reject Him for it.
The Holy Qur'an even refers to the name of the Book which is to be revealed after the Qur'an in the Sura of Al-Rahmaan: "Ar-rahman allam al-Qur'an khalaqa al-'insaan allama-hu al-Bayaan." -Qur'an 55:1-4
This Arabic passage is translated as: "The Most Gracious! He taught the Qur'an. He created al-insaan [Man] He taught Him the Bayan." The meaning of the term "insaan" becomes clear by the consideration of the following Hadith Qudsi: "Al 'insaan-o serri va ana serrohu fa-ana huwa va huwa ana" Ethaafaat'ul sunnieh fel ahaadith el qudsieh. -compiled by: Allamih Muhammad Madani
This Hadith is translated: "Man is My mystery and I am his mystery. I am He, Himself and He is I Myself."
This Hadith (Qudsi) is quoted by Baha'u'llah in the Book of Certitude [p. 100-101] where he explains the implications of this Hadith in great detail. In this Book He reveals the meaning of the term "insaan" or "Man" as the "Most Perfect Man" or the Manifestation of God. This part of The Book of Certitude will be quoted later on for your consideration.
The "creation" referred to in Qur'an 55:1-4 cannot possibly be a reference to the physical creation of the world since this creation has occurred as the result of the teaching of the Qur'an. Evidently these ayat-i Mutashabihaat (i.e. allegorical verses) of the Qur'an must have a more profound inner meaning.
Instead, the verse from Qur'an 55:3-4 alludes to two major issues: "He created al-insaan. [i.e. the Most Perfect Man or The Manifestation of God] He taught Him the Bayan..." alludes to two major issues:
1. The creation of Mahdi in the context of the Qur'an.
2. The revelation of the Book of Bayan after the Qur'an.
The first point is supported by many Hadith which clearly state that Mahdi will arise from among Muslim Ummah and will be from the family of Prophet Muhammad. The Bab was, in actual fact, a direct descendant of Muhammad.
The second point is also supported by many Hadith which also clearly state that the Muslim world will fail to recognize their Mahdi even after they witness the revelation of the Book of Bayan. The Bab, as a token of His Mercy on the Muslim Ummah, revealed this Book in both Persian and Arabic and yet, Muslims failed to realize the verdict of the Qur'an: "Va Kol-lo Yao-men Howa fi Sha`nen"... which means: every day has its own circumstances and requirements. -Qur'an 55:29
And: "Va le-kol-le Ajal-en Kitab"... which means: for every term (i.e. ajal, or end) there is a Book. -Qur'an Al-R'ad:38
According to these passages, the Mahdi of the Muslim world, Who was to appear in the Day of Resurrection, was to conform to the testimony of the Qur'an and reveal the Book of Bayan to replace the Shari'ah [i.e. laws] of the Qur'an. Yet, most Muslims missed to realize the implications of this Qur'anic prophecy. They failed to recognize The Bab as their Mahdi and they failed to understand why He revealed a New Book despite the repeated and clear warnings of the Messenger of God in various Hadith.
For example: "Halaal-o Muhammad-en halaal-o ilaa yaoum-el qyaamate va haraamahoo haram ilaa yaoum-el qyaamate"... which is translated as "Whatever was made lawful by Me (i.e. the Shari'ah of Muhammad) shall remain lawful until the Day of Resurrection, and whatever was made unlawful by Me shall remain unlawful until the Day of Resurrection."
In addition consider this passage: "Laa kitaaba b'ada kitabi va laa shari'ata b'ada shar'ati ilaa yaoum-el qyaamate"... which is translated "There will be no Book after my Book (the Holy Qur'an), and, there will be no religion after my religion (Islam) UNTIL the day of resurrection."
In other words, what these Hadith are actually saying is that both the Shari'ah and the Book of Qur'an will endure only until the Day of resurrection.
This is what the Hadith Qudsi, quoted above, was referring to when it said: "fa-ana huwa va huwa ana." "I [God] am He [the Manifestation of God], Himself, and He [the Manifestation] is I [God], Myself."
In this sense, all the Manifestations of God, both past and future, including Manifestations such as: Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Muhammad, Mahdi and the Return of Christ, all represented the Will of God, the Word of God and the Revelation of God among humankind.
From this viewpoint, it's obvious that this is what Qur'an 8:17 was referring to when it said "Those shafts were God's, not Thine [Muhammad's]!" And Qur'an 48:10: "In truth, they who plighted fealty unto thee [Muhammad], really plighted that fealty unto God."
These passages provide us with the proper CONTEXT to understand the implications of Hadith Qudsi. This is not equating the personality of Muhammad, or any of the other Messengers of God with the ESSENCE of God, but on the contrary, it is equating the AUTHORITY of Muhammad and the other Messengers to the AUTHORITY of God, the JUSTICE of Muhammad and other Messengers with the JUSTICE of God and the KNOWLEDGE of Muhammad and other Messengers to the KNOWLEDGE of God. In other words, it is the ATTRIBUTES of God which are perfectly reflected in the Manifestations of God and not the incarnation of God's ESSENCE in the Persons of His Messengers.
G. Mahdi was to appear by a title other than "Messenger of God" and "Prophet of God". Muslims have allowed their interpretations of terms such as "khatam'un-Nabieen" and "khatam'ur-Rosoleen"... Seal of the Prophets and Seal of the Messengers to cause them to fail to recognize Him as their Promised One when he actually did appear.
In doing so, they ignore the directive of the Qur'an: "To every people is a term appointed: when their term is reached, not an hour can they cause delay nor (an hour) can they advance." -Qur'an 7:34
And again: "O children of Adam, verily apostles from among you shall come unto you, who shall expound my signs unto you: whosoever therefore shall fear God and amend, there shall come no fear on them, neither shall they be grieved." -Qur'an 7:35
NOTE: The first section of the verse 35 reads in Arabic as follows: "Ya Bani Aadam imaa Ya'tianakum rosolo minkum....."
Conclusions from 7:34-35
Please note the following points:
1. Every Ummah (religious community or nation) in all of past history has had an end. The same will be true of the Shari'ah of Islam.
2. The appearance of future Apostles of God is explicitly mentioned here.
3. It says "these" Apostles (in other words... more than one Apostle. Mahdi and Isaa bin Maryam) must come from among the Muslim Ummah.
4. These Apostles SHALL COME in the future.
This verse cannot possibly refer to Prophet Muhammad, since when Qur'an refers to Muhammad, he is never referred to in the future tense. Even if we were to assume that Muhammad was intended by this verse, then why does it say: "Ya Bani Aadam imaa Ya'tianakum rosolo minkum....." instead of: Ya'tianakum rasoole minkum." That is to say, why would the PLURAL form (Messengers) be used instead of the SINGULAR form(Messenger)?
Furthermore, there is a wonderful Hadith reported by Allamih Sahl ibn-i'Abdu'llah Shooshtary from 'Akramih who reports that Ibn-i 'Abbas asked Prophet Muhammad: `What shall be the source of our salvation in the future?' Prophet Muhammad replied: "Follow the Qur'an because in it God has informed you of the nations which came before you as well as those nations which will come after you. Also because Qur'an contains the laws of your religion which you are responsible to follow and by the aid of which judge among yourselves."
Please note that, despite the fact that these Hadith explicitly foretell the appearance of both future Messengers and of future nations, yet the Muslim community still stubbornly clings to the notion that Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets and the Seal of the Messengers and that no others will appear after him. Consider also that this Hadith is also totally consistent with Qur'an 7:34-35.
Despite their present heedless condition, the Hadith of Abu Huraira (which was quoted earlier) promises that Muslims will ultimately recognize Maseeh (the second appearance of the Lord) and pass over the Sirat Bridge: "...Allah will come to them and say, 'I am Your Lord.' They will say, 'We shall stay in this place till our Lord comes to us and when our Lord will come, we will recognize Him. Then Allah will come to them again and say, 'I am your Lord.' They will say, 'You are our Lord.' Allah will call them, and As-Sirat (a bridge) will be laid across Hell and I (Muhammad) shall be the first amongst the Apostles to cross it with my followers..." -Sahih Bukhari 1:770
What is the Sirat Bridge? "What is meant by the Bridge of Sirat in all time is the Manifestation of God and his Command. Whoever is steadfast is on the Sirat-Bridge of Truth. But otherwise not on the Sirat." -The Bab, Persian Bayan 2:12
Kamran Hakim is a member of the Baha'i Faith. The opinions expressed in this article constitute his own personal understanding and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Baha'i Faith or its teachings. This article is taken from "Prophets, Messengers, and Manifestations of God" as found on "Prophesy Fulfilled."
Thursday, June 9, 2005
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