For our respected Sunni brothers, there are six authentic collections of traditions based on the Sunni standards for verifying the authenticity of a tradition. These six books are: Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Ibn Majah, Sunan Abu Dawud, and Sahih al-Nisa'i. I just quote few traditions from these six books to prove that a knowledgeable Sunni brother/sister can NOT deny that:
1. Mahdi is going to come in the last days to make a universal Government,
2. Mahdi is from the Ahlul-Bayt of Prophet,
3. Mahdi is from the children of Fatimah (AS), the daughter of Prophet,
4. Mahdi is different than Jesus (the messiah),
5. Jesus will be one of the followers of Imam Mahdi and prays behind him.
The following are only some of the traditions out of many, about Imam Mahdi, and are ALL traditions that the Sunnis admit to their authenticity and existence:
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Even if the entire duration of the world's
existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left before
Doomsday (Day of judgment), Allah will expand that day to such a
length of time, as to accommodate the kingdom of a person out of my
Ahlul-Bayt who will be called by my name. He will then fill out the
earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice
and tyranny before then."
1. Sahih Tirmidhi, V2, P86, V9, PP 74-75
2. Sanan Abi Dawud, V2, P7
3. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, V1, P376 & V3, P63
4. Mustadrak al-Sahihain, by al-Hakim, V4, P557
5. Al-Majma', by Tabarani, P217
6. Tahdhib al-Thabit, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, V9, P144
7. Sawaiq al-Muhraqa, Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, P167
8. Fathul Bari, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, V7, P305
9. al-Tathkirah, by al-Qurtubi, P617
10. al-Hawi, by al-Suyuti, V2, pp165-166
11. Sharh al-Mawahib al-Ladunniyyah, by al-Zurqani, V5, P348
12. Fathul Mughith, by al-Sakhawi, V3, P41
13. al-Hafidh Abul-Hasan Muhammad Ibn al-Husayn al-Sijistani al-Aburi
14. al-Shafi'i (d. 363/974). (who said the above hadith is related by
numerous authorities and were spread far and wide by many narrators).
and also in the works of Ibn Habban, Abu Nua'ym, Ibn Asakir, etc.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Al-Mahdi is one of us, the members of the
Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4085
As we see Imam Mahdi is from the Ahlul Bayt of Prophet Muhammad, so he can not be Jesus (the Messiah; al-Maseeh). Mahdi and Messiah are two different personalities but they come at the same time, Mahdi as Imam and Jesus as his follower. The following tradition clearly mentions that Imam Mahdi is one of the children of the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HF):
The Messenger of Allah said: "Al-Mahdi is one of the children of
Fatimah (the Prophet's daughter)."
Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4086
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "We the children of Abd Al-Mutalib are the
Masters of the inhabitants of Heaven: Myself, Hamza (RA), Ali (AS),
Jafar (RA), Hasan (AS), Hussain (AS), and Al-Mahdi (AS)."
Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4087
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "The Mahdi will appear in my Ummah. He will
appear for a minimum of 7 or a maximum of 9 years; in that time, my
Ummah will experience a bountiful favor like never before. It shall
have a great abundance of food, of which it need not save anything,
and the wealth at that time is in great quantities, such that if a
man asks the Mahdi to give him some, and the Mahdi (AS) will say:
Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #5083
Remark: According to Shi'i sources, the Government of Peace and equality that Imam Mahdi will establish will last hundreds of years with no rival, and then the day of Judgment will be set. What is mentioned in the above tradition as 7 or 9 years is related to the length of time that Imam Mahdi will fight to conquer the world when he starts his mission.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "We (I and my family) are members of a
household that Allah (SWT) has chosen for them the life of the
Hereafter over the life of this world; and the members of my household
(Ahlul-Bayt) shall suffer a great affliction and they shall be
forcefully expelled from their homes after my death; then there will
come people from the East carrying black flags, and they will ask for
some good to be given to them, but they shall be refused service; as
such, they will wage war and emerge victorious, and will be offered
that which they desired in the first place, but they will refuse to
accept it, until a man from my family (Ahlul-Bayt) appears to fill the
Earth with justice as it has been filled with corruption. So whoever
reachs that (time) aught to come to them even if crowling on the
Sunni ref: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4082, also in the History Tabari
The Messenger of Allah said: "The world will not perish until a man
among the Arabs appears whose name matches my name."
Sunni reference: Sahih Tirmidhi, V9, P74
The Messenger of Allah said: "Mahdi from my family will bring about
a revolution and will fill the world with justice and equity before
which it was filled up with injustuce and inequity."
1. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, V1, P84
2. Jami'us Sagheer, by al-Suyuti, PP 2,160
3. al-Urful Vardi, by al-Suyuti, P2
4. Kanzul Ummal, V7 P186
5. Aqd al-Durar Fi Akhbaar al-Mahdi al-Muntazir, V12, Chapter 1,
6. al-Bayan fi Akhbar Sahib al-Zaman, By Ganji Shafi'i, Chapter 12
7. al-Fusool al-Muhimmah, by Ibn Sabbagh Maliki, Chapter 12
8. Arjahul Matalib, by Ubaidallah Hindi hanafi, P380
9. Muqaddimah, by Ibn Khaldoon, P266
Also Ahmad Ibn Hanbal narrated that:
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Allah will bring out from concealment Mahdi
from my Family and Progeny before the Day of Judgement, even if only
one day were to remain in the life of the world, and he will spread on
this earth justice, and equity and eradicate tyranny and opression."
1. Sunni reference: Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, p99
Ibn Majah in his Sunan quotes Mohammad Ibn Hanafiyyah and Imam Ali saying that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
"Mahdi is from our Ahlul-Bayt, no doubt Allah will enforce his Amr
(appearance) within a night (i.e., his coming is very unpredicted)."
Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, P269
The more recent fatwa in this issue is given in Mecca by the Muslim World League (Rabitatul `Alamul Islami) on Oct. 11, 1976 (23 Shawwal 1396). This fatwa states that more than twenty companions narrated traditions concerning al-Mahdi, and gives a list of those scholars of Hadith who have transmitted these narrations, and those who have written books on al-Mahdi. The fatwa states:
"The memorizers (Hafiz) and scholars of Hadith have verified that
there are authentic (sahih) and acceptable (hasan) reports among the
traditions related to al-Mahdi. The majority of these traditions are
related through numerous authorities (Mutawatir). There is no doubt
that the status of those reports are Sahih and Mutawatir. (They have
also verified) that the belief in Mahdi is obligatory, and that it is
one of the beliefs of Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama'a. Only those ignorant of
the Sunnah and innovators in doctrine deny it.
For the transcription and reproduction of this fatwa, see, among others, the Introduction of al-Ganji al-Shafi'i, in the book named "al-Bayan," Beitut, 1399/1979, PP 76-79 and in Appendix.
Among Shi'ite scholars, I would like to mention the masterpiece of Lutifullah Al-Safi al-Golpaygani, who compiled an encyclopedia called "Muntakhab al-Athar". In this book, there is a comprehensive narration of the traditions relating to the appearance of the Mahdi (AS). He has used over 60 Sunni sources, including their Six Authentic Books of Tradition; and over 90 Shi'ite sources to illuminate the fact that Al-Mahdi is NOT a fabricated event.
The Prophet (PBUH&HF) said: "He who dies not knowing the Imam of his era, has died the death of Al-Jahiliyya (Days of Ignorance; the era before Islam)."
Shia beliefs about Imam Mahdi (AS)
Shia believe that Imam Mahdi is the only son of Imam Hasan al-Askari (the 11th Imam) who was born on 15th of Sha'ban 255/869 in Samarra, Iraq. He became the God-appointed Imam when his father was martyred in 260/874. Imam Mahdi went into occultation (disappearance; leaving among people while they can't recognize him) at the same time. He will re-appear when Allah wills. More specifically:
His title is "al-Mahdi" which means "The Guided One."
His name is Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan (AS).
His lineage, traced back to al-Imam Ali (AS), is: Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Musa Ibn Ja'far Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn al-Husain Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib (AS).
On the other hand, the majority of Sunnis are not so sure that he has been born yet. They believe he will be born some time before his mission. The name of Imam Mahdi is Muhammad (which is the same as what Shia believe). There is however one single Sunni report which adds that the name of the father of Imam Mahdi is Abdullah.
Now let us see what is the argument of each side:
Some Sunnis question Shia that how a five year old boy can become an Imam for the people? And why attribute all this importance to him?
First, we must question whether or not in the history of religion, the phenomenon of young leaders has a parallel. Undoubtedly, there is. The Quran strikes two examples which are worthy of mentioning:
We have the example of Jesus (AS) who became Prophet and spoke people when he was a baby in the cradle:
"But she pointed to the baby. They said: `How can we talk to one who
is a CHILD in the cradle?' He said: `I am indeed a servant of Allah.
He HAS GIVEN me Scripture and ASSIGNED me a Prophet, and He has made
me blessed wherever I be, and has enjoined on me Prayer and zakat
as long as I live.'" (Quran 19:29-31)
Thus Jesus (AS) became Prophet and received revelation and book while he was less than two years old!
Furthermore, in few verses before, Quran mentions the case of Prophet Yahya (John), to whom Allah (SWT) said:
"`O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with might:' And We gave him the
appointment (of prophethood) in his CHILDHOOD." (Quran 19:12)
So if a two-year old boy can become a prophet and receives revelation, then why can not a five-year old boy become Imam?
Have you ever heard of prodigies? They are kids between the ages of four to 18 that exhibit signs of exceptional skills that are usually found in highly qualified adults only. Here are some examples from history:
"John Stuart Mill (1806-73), a 19th-century English philosopher and economist, advocated utilitarian reforms in his many writings and as member of Parliament. A child prodigy, Mill had mastered Greek by the age of 7 and studied economics at the age of 13. His works express his social thought with great clarity and thoroughness. (The Bettmann Archive)"
"The French thinker, mathematician, and scientist Blaise Pascal, b. June 19, 1623, d. Aug. 19, 1662, has been credited not only with imaginative and subtle work in geometry and other branches of mathematics, but with profoundly influencing later generations of theologians and philosophers. A prodigy in mathematics, Pascal had mastered Euclid's Elements by the age of 12. Pascal invented and sold the first calculating machine (1645)."
"Wolfgang was the greatest musical child prodigy who ever lived. He began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9."
"Beethoven's own talent was such that at the age of 12 he was already an assistant to the organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, with whom he studied."
"Sarah Caldwell, born Maryville, Mo., Mar. 6, 1924, is a conductor and producer. A child prodigy in both mathematics and music, before reaching the age of ten."
While not exhaustive, the list serves the purpose of demonstrating that this phenomenon occurs naturally among normal human beings from all walks of life. So scientifically speaking, it is quite possible that a child demonstrates abilities that adults can not. Also religiously speaking anything Allah desires will happen no matter how strange. Indeed Allah (SWT) asserts unequivocally in Quran that if He wanted something, all He has to do is to say to it: "Be! and it will be!".
Every body is mortal. How can he live so long?
Yes, in fact Imam Mahdi will die too. But the difference is the length of life in this world. In fact Quran and the prophetic traditions tell us that some people have had/are having long life in this world. So it is possible to see this phenomena again.
Are you aware that according to the Quran (see 29:14), Prophet Noah has just been prophet for 950 years? In fact, he was alive even more than that because we should add his age before prophethood to the above number. Who knows how much it was.
Do you agree that Prophet Jesus (AS) is still alive? He is in fact 1,994 years old now. Of course, he is not living on Earth right now; he is living in the Heavens. But according to Muslim's belief, he will come back to Earth, and will pray behind Imam al-Mahdi (AS).
Do you agree that al-Khidr (AS) is still alive? Quran mentions his story with Moses (AS). He existed before the birth of the Prophet Moses (AS), so al-Khidr (AS) is now more than 3000 years old. He lives right here on this Earth, but we can not recognize him (fairly similar to the case of Imam Mahdi). He serves Allah (SWT) as one of His agents.
No doubt Allah has the ability to give a very long life, but He also has assigned a death time for every body (including the above mentioned individuals) which can be so soon or so late.