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Muhammad al-Mahdī, also known as Hujjat ibn al-Hasan (approximately July 29, 869 – ? believed by twelvers to be in Occultation) is the individual believed by Twelver Shī‘a Muslims to be the Māhdī, an ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams. Twelver Shī‘a believe that al-Māhdī was born in 869 and did not die but rather was hidden by God (this is referred to as the Occultation) and will later emerge with Jesus in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world. He assumed the Imamate at 5 years of age. ####Twelver Shi'as believe that Mahdi was born in 869 AD as Abu'l Qasim Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn ‘Alī. His mother, Narjis (Melika), was a Byzantine princess who pretended to be a slave so that she might travel from her kingdom to Arabia. His father, Hasan al-Askari, is believed to have been the eleventh and penultimate Shi'a Imam. Shi'as believe that his birth was kept a secret due to the persecution that the Shi'a were facing during this time at the hands of Al-Mu'tamid, the Abbasid Caliph. To support Imam Mahdi's claim, Twelver Shi'as along with all other Muslim sects quote the following Hadith: "I and `Ali are the fathers of this nation; whoever knows us very well also knows Allah, and whoever denies us also denies Allah, the Unique, the Mighty. And from `Ali's descendants are my grandsons al-Hasan and al-Husayn, who are the masters of the youths of Paradise, and from al-Husayn's descendants shall be nine: whoever obeys them obeys me, and whoever disobeys them also disobeys me; the ninth among them is their Qa'im and Mahdi." The eleventh Shi'a Imam Hasan al-Askari died on 1 January 874 AD (8th Rabi' al-awwal, 260 AH) and since that day, his son Mahdi is believed by Shi'as to be the Imam, appointed by Allah, to lead the believers of the era. The most popular account of al-Mahdi in Shi'a literature is taken from his father's funeral. It is reported that as the funeral prayer was about to begin, al-Mahdi's uncle, Jafar ibn Ali approached to lead the prayers. However, al-Mahdi approached and commanded, "Move aside, uncle; only an Imam can lead the funeral prayer of an Imam." Jafar moved aside, and the five-year-old child led the funeral prayer for his father. It is reported that it was at this very moment that al-Mahdi disappeared and went into ghaybat, or occultation.
Shi'as believe that, for various reasons, God concealed the twelfth and current Shi'a Imam, al-Mahdi, from humankind.
The period of occultation (ghaybat) is divided into two parts:
• Ghaybat al-Sughra or Minor Occultation (874–941), consists of the first few decades after the Imam's disappearance when communication with him was maintained through deputies of the Imam.
• Ghaybat al-Kubra or Major Occultation began 941 and is believed to continue until a time decided by God, when the Mahdi will reappear to bring absolute justice to the world.
During the Minor Occultation (Ghaybat al-Sughra), it is believed that al-Mahdi maintained contact with his followers via deputies. They represented him and acted as agents between him and his followers. Whenever the believers faced a problem, they would write their concerns and send them to his deputy. The deputy would ascertain his verdict, endorse it with his seal and signature and return it to the relevant parties. The deputies also collected zakat and khums on his behalf. For the Shia, the idea of consulting a hidden Imam was not something new because the two prior Shia Imams had, on occasion, met with their followers from behind a curtain. Shia Tradition hold that four deputies acted in succession to one another:
1. Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Asadi
2. Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Uthman
3. Abul Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh al-Nawbakhti
4. Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri
In 941 (329 AH), the fourth deputy announced an order by al-Mahdi, that the deputy would soon die and that the deputyship would end and the period of the Major Occultation would begin.
The fourth deputy died six days later and the Shi'a Muslims continue to await the reappearance of the Mahdi. In the same year, many notable Shi'a scholars such as Ali ibn Babwayh Qummi and Muhammad ibn Yaqub Kulayni, the learned compiler of al-Kafi also died.
According to the last letter of al-Mahdi to Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri "from the day of your death [the last deputy] the period of my major occultation (al ghaybatul kubra) will begin. Hence forth, no one will see me, unless and until Allah makes me appear." Another view is that the Hidden Imam is on earth "among the body of the Shia" but "incognito." "Numerous stories" exist of the Hidden Imam "manifesting himself to prominent members of the ulama."
Twelver Shi'as cite various references from the Qur'an and reports, or Hadith, from Imam Mahdi and the twelve Shi'a Imams with regard to the reappearance of al-Mahdi who would, in accordance with Allah's command, bring justice and peace to the world by establishing Islam throughout the world. Mahdi is reported to have said: Shi'as believe that Imam al-Mahdi will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war emerges between the human race for no reason. At this time, it is believed, half of the true believers will ride from Yemen carrying white flags to Makkah, while the other half will ride from Karbala, in Iraq, carrying black flags to Makkah. At this time, Imam al-Mahdi will come wielding Allah's Sword, the Blade of Evil's Bane, Zulfiqar , (the Double-Bladed Sword). He will also come and reveal the texts in his possession, such as al-Jafr and al-Jamia. Shi'as believe that Jesus will also come, (after Imam Mahdi's re-appearance to follow him.) the Imam Mahdi to destroy tyranny and falsehood, and to bring justice and peace to the world.
The 12th Imam is known by many titles in Shia Islam, including:
• Al-Mahdi (the Guided one)
• Al-Muntazar (the Awaited one)
• Al-Qa'im (the Rising one)
• Sahab az-Zaman (the Master of the Age)
• Imam az-Zaman (the Leader of the Age)
• Wali al-'Asr (the Guardian of the Era or alternatively, the Guardian in the Twilight [of man])
Al-Hujjah (the Proof [of Allah's justice]).
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