The Mahdi and the Ideal society

The Mahdi and the 'Ideal' society To hope for the appearance and revolution of the Mahdi is an inspiring Islamic social idea. Besides being a repose of trust in the future, it is an appropriate mirror in which the nature of the Islamic aspirations of mankind can be seen. This prophecy comprise many elements, some of them philosophical, others cultural, political, economic or social and still others human or physio-human. There are divergent views about the future. There are some who believe that adversity, distress, disorder and mischief are the lot of humanity and on that account life has no value. According to Islam a very happy and bright future awaits humanity, a great man will appear who will uproot all corruption and mischief.

To hope for the appearance and revolution of the Mahdi is an inspiring
Islamic social idea. Besides being a repose of trust in the future, it is an
appropriate mirror in which the nature of the Islamic aspirations of mankind can
be seen.

This prophecy comprise many elements, some of them philosophical, others
cultural, political, economic or social and still others human or physio-human.

It is not possible in this short article to discuss the subject in detail nor to
quote extensively from the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, but, in order to make the
nature of "The Big Expectation" clear, we propose briefly to throw some light on
its salient features. They are as below:

Optimism about the future of humanity

There are divergent views about the future. There are some who believe that
adversity, distress, disorder and mischief are the lot of humanity and on that
account life has no value. In the eyes of such people the most judicious action
would be to put an end to life.

Some others think that human life has already been thrown into disarray. They
believe that, following the marvellous technological progress and the
accumulation of huge stockpiles of the means of mass destruction, mankind has
reached a stage where its final annihilation is Imminent.

The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, says in his book, ‘New Hopes’ that
there are people, including Einstein, who see the possibility of man having
completed his span of life and think that with his wonderful scientific skill he
may, in a few years, succeed in completely exterminating himself.

According to this theory there is a great possibility of the total extinction of
the human race just when it is on the threshold of attaining maturity. If we
rely on perceptible evidence only, such a possibility cannot be ruled out.

According to a third theory distress and disorder are not a part of human
nature. Nor will the tragedy of collective suicide ever take place. In fact, a
very happy and bright future awaits humanity. A great man will appear who will
uproot all corruption and mischief. This is a religiously inspired theory and it
is in this context that Islam gives the glad tidings of Mahdi’s revolution. Its
salient features will be:


– Final victory of righteousness, virtue, peace, justice, freedom and truth
over the forces of egoism, subjugation, tyranny, deceit and fraud.

– Establishment of a world government (one government in the whole world).

– Reclamation and rehabilitation of the whole earth so that no area remains
waste.

– Attainment of full sagacity by mankind, adherence to ideology and
emancipation from animal impulses and undue social restrictions.

– Maximum utilization of the gifts of the earth.

– Equal distribution of wealth and property among all human beings.

– Complete eradication of all vices like adultery, fornication, usury, use of
intoxicants, treachery, theft and homicide and total disappearance of abnormal
complexes, malice and ill-will.

– Eradication of war and restoration of peace, friendship, co operation and
benevolence.

– Complete coherence between man and nature.
 

All these points require detailed discussion and analysis but here the idea
is just to acquaint the readers with the nature of the Islamic tidings and
aspirations.

Big expectations

It simply means hoping and aspiring for the materialization of the order
(referred to above) which the Divine Will has destined for the world. Now let us
turn back to the point that the expectation is of two kinds. One kind is
constructive and dynamic which is an act of virtue and the other is destructive
and paralysing which is a sort of licentiousness. We have already mentioned that
these two kinds of expectations are the outcome of two divergent notions of the
great appearance of the promised Mahdi. These two notions have sprung from the
two approaches to the nature of historical development. Now let us explain
further the two kinds of expectations.

Destructive expectation

The concept which some people have of the rising of the Mahdi and the revolution
which he will bring about is only of an explosive nature. These people believe
that the appearance of the Mahdi depends solely upon the spread of injustice,
discrimination, frustration and disasters. They are of the opinion that,
immediately prior to the appearance of the Mahdi, the forces of evil will gain a
complete hold and not a single good man will be left in the world. They look
forward to an explosion, following which the divine forces will redeem the truth
but not the supporters of truth, for they would not be existing. On this basis
they would condemn every reform and regard every sin, every excess and every
injustice as valid and proper, because, according to their idea, corruption and
tyranny bring the explosion nearer and pave the way for the eventual betterment
of a permanent nature. They believe in the maxim that ends justify the means and
as such unlawful means become lawful if the objective is desirable. That is how
deadly sins besides giving pleasures are supposed to help in bringing about the
final sacred-revolution. The following lines most appropriately apply to their
case:

"Win the heart of your beloved even by deceit and treachery. Commit a sin if you
are unable to perform a good deed."

Such people naturally dislike the reformers and all those who enjoin good and
forbid evil, because they think that their action is delaying the appearance of
the promised Mahdi. They, even if they do not commit the sins themselves, at
least appreciate the reprehensible activities of the sinners who, according to
them, are preparing the ground for the appearance of the Mahdi.

This sort of notion may be called semi-dialectic, because it regards corruption
and distress as a prelude to the sacred explosion. The dialectic thinking also
opposes partial reforms and allows the creation of unrest, but it has some
merit, because it does so with a view to making the split wider and the fight
hotter, whereas the supporters of this outrageous notion simply allow corruption
and disorder and then do nothing except to sit back and hope for the desired
result to follow automatically. It need not be added that this sort of notion of
the appearance of the promised Mahdi is against the tenets of Islam and must be
regarded as a sort of licentiousness.

Constructive expectation

All the verses of the holy Qur’an, which form the basis of the concept of the
Mahdi and all the traditions cited in support thereof go against the above
notion. What is inferred from the holy Qur’an is that the appearance of the
Mahdi is a link in the series of fights between the righteous and the wicked and
the Mahdi is the symbol of the final and complete victory of the righteous and
the faithful. The holy Qur’an says:

Allah has promised the righteously striving believers to appoint them as His
deputies on earth, as He had appointed those who lived before. He will make the
religion that He has chosen for them to stand supreme. He will replace their
fear with peace and security. They will worship their Lord without fear and will
not submit to anyone other than Him and will associate nothing with His worship
and obedience. (Surah al-Nur, 24:55)

The appearance of the Mahdi is Allah’s favour for the oppressed and the weak and
is a means of their coming to power and gaining the promised Divine succession
in the whole world. The holy Qur’an says.

We have decided to grant favour to the suppressed ones by appointing them
leaders and heirs of the earth. (Surah al-Qasas, 28:5)

The appearance of the Mahdi means the realization of the promise Allah made to
the righteous in His sacred Book.

Verily We have written in the Psalms after the Torah had been revealed: My
righteous servants shall inherit the earth. (Surah al Anbia, 21:105)

The well-known saying of the holy Prophet that Allah will fill the earth with
justice after its having been filled with injustice and tyranny testifies to the
fact that at the time of the appearance of the Mahdi there will exist two
classes. One will consist of the oppressors and the other, howsoever small, of
the oppressed who are subjected to injustice and tyranny.

Shaykh Saduq narrates on the authority of Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad al Sadiq that
the Mahdi would appear only when the virtuous would become the most virtuous and
the wicked the most wicked. From this also it is evident that both the virtuous
and the wicked will be in existence.

Islamic traditions make mention of a group of people who will come forward and
join Imam Mahdi immediately on his appearance. From this again it is evident
that the virtuous will not be completely wiped out and though their number may
be insignificant, yet they will be best in the quality of faith and comparable
to the companions of Imam Husayn ibn Ali.

According to Islamic traditions the rising of the Mahdi will be preceded by
other risings of the virtuous. What has been mentioned as the Yamani’s rising is
an instance.

In some Islamic traditions a mention has been made of a government of the
righteous people which will continue to exist till the rising of the Mahdi (May
Allah hasten his solace) and, as we know, some Shi’ah ulama, who held good
opinions about some of their contemporary Shi’ah governments, considered it
probable that it would be those very governments which would last till the
rising of the Mahdi.

It is gathered from the various Qur’anic verses and traditions taken together
that rising of the promised Mahdi will be the last one of the chain of the
battles which have taken place between truth and falsehood since the creation of
the world.

The promised Mahdi will realize the ideal of all the prophets, saints and
fighters in the path of truth.

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