Be ware of newly-introduced matters, for every innovation (bid’ah) is an error. (Abu Dawud & Al-Tirmidhi, who says it is an authentic Hadith)
Imam Mahdi will be seen performing Tawaf in Mecca during the period of Hajj. He will be completely unaware of the fact that the pious Muslims will search for him, and insist that he accepts the Khilafat of the Ummah. However, Imam Mahdi will initially resist all attempts by the Saliheen (pious) to persuade him to become the leader of all the Muslims. He will eventually with great reluctance accept the Khilafat; his unwillingness will be a testament to his strength of character and spiritual enlightenment. The unique aspect of Imam Mahdi will be that he will not be elected in a democratic process, but will be chosen by Allah s.w.t., and as a consequence he will be identified only by devout Muslims. His inner light, i.e. his deep spiritual presence will be not be apparent to those who are corrupt, immoral and debase. Their hearts will have been blackened by the numerous sins that they have committed, that no goodness will enter it, and as a result they will be oblivious to the emergence of Imam Mahdi.
The Karamat (miracles) of Imam Mahdi
One of the characteristics of Imam Mahdi will be the power given to him by Allah s.w.t to perform various Karamat, miracles. These miracles will be a testament of his divine appointment as Allah s.w.t’s vicegerent on the earth. Once the Muslims of the world witness the Karamat of Imam Mahdi, they will not be able to deny his claim to the Khilafat of the Ummah. One example of the direct help that Imam Mahdi will receive from Allah s.w.t. will be his defeat of Sufyaani. Sufyaani will be a man from the family of Abu Sufyan, and he will emerge from Damascus and conduct a ruthless campaign of bloodshed and mass killing, during which thousands of innocent people will be slaughtered. He will be supported by the people of the tribe of Kalb.
Sufyaani will despatch his army to Mecca in order to destroy Imam Mahdi, however Imam Mahdi’s army will easily defeat Sufyaani’s army. Sufyaani will then lead a separate contingent of his remaining army to face Imam Mahdi himself. This army will subsequently be destroyed by an enormous earthquake at Baidaa on the road to Mecca. The rear of the army will be destroyed first, and when the remaining army retreats to see the devastation that has taken place, they will also be destroyed by an earthquake. When news of the manner of the defeat of Sufyaani’s army spreads, the pious peoples of the world will come to give their allegiance to Imam Mahdi. All doubt will be removed from the hearts of the righteous as to the divine mission given to Imam Mahdi by Allah s.w.t.
The Spiritual Dimensions of Imam Mahdi’s Leadership
Imam Mahdi will lead the Ummah by promoting righteousness and re-establishing the Shariah throughout the world. However, he will not use military might or political persuasion to bring people back to the path of righteousness. He will instead spread a message of spiritual harmony, and encourage all the peoples of the world to look inside their hearts, and conduct a moral audit of their spiritual well-being. This moral audit will consist of the application of two important aspects of spiritual awareness, Muhasibah and Murakibah. The process of Muhasibah involves an inward examination of ones actions, and an assessment of the rights and wrongs of the subsequent behaviour according to the principles of the Shariah. Murakibah on the other hand, is whereby the individual calculates the number of good and bad deeds perpetrated with a view to changing their behaviour. This process of introspection has been used by the Sufis for centuries as means of removing the illnesses of the heart. Once the problems of the heart have been rectified, the individual can then lead a more productive and meaningful life, where the ego is subdued, and the needs of others are put before the individuals. This is the start of the journey on the path to spiritual enlightenment, which will culminate in the true believer making a spiritual connection with their Creator. In effect, what Imam Mahdi will be promoting is a continuation of the mission of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), who preached a message of personal responsibility based on remedying the individuals’ heart through a process of continually remembering Allah s.w.t.
Imam Mahdi’s message of spiritual revival will be facilitated by the example that he will set for others to follow, consequently when people observe the inner peace and spiritual contentment visible on his face; they will automatically be drawn to his message of spiritual renewal. No other world leader apart from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) propagated such a message of spiritual renaissance. It is commonly not well understood that the core of the message brought by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon) was one of spiritual enlightenment coupled with a practical means on how to achieve this goal.
The following Ahadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) illustrates the importance of protecting the heart and the consequences of neglecting its spiritual needs.
On the authority of Abu ‘Abdullah al-Nu’man bin Bashir, radiyallahu ‘anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, say:
“Truly, what is lawful is evident, and what is unlawful is evident, and in between the two are matters which are doubtful which many people do not know. He who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honour blameless, and he who indulges in doubtful things indulges in fact in unlawful things, just as a shepherd who pastures his flock round a preserve will soon pasture them in it. Beware, every king has a preserve, and the things Allah has declared unlawful are His preserves.
Beware, in the body there is a flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart.” (Bukhari & Muslim)4
There is also direct evidence in the Holy Quran where Allah s.w.t. stresses the importance of protecting and caring for the heart:
Truly he succeeds that purifies it, and truly he fails that corrupts it! (91:9-10)
If Muslims are spiritually aware then they will behave according to the Sunnah and as a consequence the whole of society will benefit from their good example. Many of the problems that plague Muslims today can be rectified by cleansing the heart of its impurities. These are not physical impurities, such as blocked arteries; but rather the spiritual decay of the heart resulting from continued neglect, with no attention being paid to the needs of the heart.
There are many laws within the Shariah which are designed to protect both the individual and society at large. However, the behaviour of the Sahabah, the companions of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him), was guided by their deep spiritual awareness of Islam, as opposed to a superficial adherence to the laws enshrined in the Shariah. If we compare their example to the situation in the world today, it then becomes self-evident that our behaviour is based on the needs of the nafs and not on spirituality. Shariah law enables the Islamic state to govern the people, but it cannot legislate on how the heart should behave in any given situation. The condition of the heart can only be altered by the continual remembrance of Allah s.w.t.
Why is spirituality such an important aspect of Imam Mahdi’s leadership? Is it not conceivable that he would rule as other political or military rulers have done in history? The answer to this question lies in the nature of Imam Mahdi i.e. the essence of his inner being, in other words he will be an exceptional individual who will be chosen by Allah s.w.t. The only other people who are chosen by Allah s.w.t. to fulfil such missions are prophets. This then implies that he cannot be compared to any other type of great leader in history, regardless of their achievements or status amongst the people. Men are driven by their egos and they live for the glory of this world, take for example military dictators who are obsessed with conquest and world domination e.g. Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. There are more recent examples of such self-centred behaviour, Saddam Hussain had enormous statues, and paintings of himself put up throughout Iraq. This is clearly an example of megalomaniacal behaviour, which is designed ultimately to feed the individuals’ ego. In contrast to this ego-centric behaviour, the Sufiya have dedicated their lives to eliminating all worldly desires by cleansing the heart through the remembrance of Allah s.w.t. This dichotomy clearly illustrates the main difference in outlook between the Auwliyah, the friends of Allah s.w.t., and those who have rejected faith for a life of self-indulgence and hedonism. Although it is possible that a leader can be just and lead his people under the banner of righteousness; however these are exceptions to the rule as opposed to the norm. It is the absence of an inner spiritual understanding which prevents them from acting according to their moral principles and not on the basis of their ego.
Spirituality allows the individual to attain a balance between the material world and spiritual world. These individual’s who lack faith, clearly do not believe in an afterlife and as a consequence they live only for this world. The belief in a supreme being and a final day of reckoning, when the whole of humanity will be held to account for their actions, enables the faithful to re-prioritise their behaviour. Spirituality is about reforming the status of the heart and it is the heart which determines whether a person refrains from a particular type of behaviour. If the heart is strong and full of Iman (faith) then the believer is protected from acting in contravention of Allah s.w.t.’s law. Spirituality is the glue that binds the individual together in such a way that the world and its problems, short comings, injustice and inequality can be contextualised within Allah s.w.t. grand design. It is only human arrogance which presumes that everything in the material can be ultimately explained by scientific reasoning and logic. Imam Mahdi will show what can be achieved when the heart is cleansed, and the positive effects that these changes will have on the lives of all the peoples of the world.
There is no doubt that Imam Mahdi will appear near the day of judgement to restore justice and equality throughout the earth. His message of spiritual revival will be a continuation of the legacy left by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). No one knows when exactly Imam Mahdi will emerge; this situation then raises the question, what are the Muslims of the world to do in the mean time? The current situation around the Muslim world sometimes seems completely hopeless, however even with all the immense obstacles that have been put in the way of Muslims, there is still something that we can do.
A bold vision of spiritual revival has been created at Hijaz College, where the future leaders of the Ummah are being trained, so that one day they will be able to assist Imam Mahdi in his divine mission to re-establish the Khilafat under the banner of truth and righteousness. The Hijazi vision encompasses creating a balance between spirituality and modernity, so that the individual can lead the life of a true believer in the modern world, without compromising his or her identity, moral principles, and beliefs. It is therefore vital that we continue to struggle in the way of the Deen to re-establish the Khilafat and follow the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), and that is not to despair or lose hope. As Allah s.w.t. states in the Holy Quran:
“And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive” (22.78)
1. Boseley, Sarah; The Gaurdian 2006, ‘Depression is UK’s biggest social problem, government told’, [online]http://society,.gaurdian.co.uk/socialcare/news/o0,,1763540,00.html [Accessed 22 May 2006].
2. Sharaf al-Nawawi, Muhyi al-Din Abu Zakariya Yahya bin, The Complete Forty Hadith, Ta-Ha Publishers: London, UK, 1998; pp.109-110.
3. Sharaf al-Nawawi, Muhyi al-Din Abu Zakariya Yahya bin, The Complete Forty Hadith, Ta-Ha Publishers: London, UK, 1998; pp.37-38.
4. Arif, Muhammad ibn Izzat, Al Mahdi and the End of Times, Dar Al Taqwa Limited: London, UK, 1997; p.31.
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