The Birth of Imām Mahdī

Author: Alī Aṣghar Riḍvānī
Reviewed by: Morteza Karimi

ʿAlī Aṣghar Riḍvānī, Tavallud-i aḍrat-i Mahdī (The Birth of Imām Mahdī), 3rd ed., 1 vol., Qom: Jamkarān Mosque Publication, 1386, 97 pp.

One of the challenging issues regarding Imām Mahdī (a) is the proof of his birth based on historical and ḥadīthi sources. Usually, when Shiʿa and Sunni differences about Imām Mahdī (a) are discussed, the most important difference is about his birth: Shiʿa believe that Imām Mahdī (a) is the 12th Imām and the son of Imām ʿAskarī (a), and that he was born in 255 AH, and he is now in major occultation, while Sunnis believe that he will be born in the future. Tavallud-i Ḥaḍrat-i Mahdī (a) in Persian by ʿAlī Aṣghar Riḍvānī tries to prove that, firstly, the birth of Imām Mahdī (a) is definite according to Shiʿa authentic narrations, and secondly, many Sunni scholars have also confirmed the birth of Mahdī, the son of Ḥasan ʿAskarī (a).

Alī Aṣghar Riḍvānī Born in 1331 (solar) in Aligudarz, Iran, ʿAlī Aṣghar Riḍvānī in addition to academic studies in geography, has extensive religious studies, especially in the field of Wahhabism and Mahdism, and has authored several works, including Wahhābiyyat va Tawassul (Wahhabism and Tawassul), Imāmat va Ghaybat (Imamate and Occultation), and Ghaybat-i ughrā (Minor Occultation).

Tavallud-i Ḥaḍrat-i Mahdī consists of 2 chapters: the birth of Imām Mahdī (a) from the Shiite point of view and the birth of the promised Mahdī from the Sunni point of view. In the first chapter, the author reports the story of Imām Mahdī’s birth based on narrations and then responds to the claims of the weakness of the narrations related to his birth. According to him, there are 15 reasons for the certainty of his birth, including the 214 narrations related to his birth and the glad tidings about him, the narrations related to his personal characteristics, his tawqīʿs, the existence of 4 special deputies during the minor occultation, the testimony of those who met him in different periods, and the testimony of Muslim historians to his birth. Then the author mentions some of the narrations that were narrated from the Prophet (s) and 11 Imāms (a) (from Imām ʿAlī (a) to Imām ʿAskarī (a)) about the birth of Imām Mahdī (a).

One of the important points in the study of narrations related to the birth of Imām Mahdī (a) is the secrecy of his birth, the most important reason for which is the political conditions during the time of Imām ʿAskarī (a). In a part of the first chapter, the author explains in detail about the difficult political conditions and concludes that Imām ʿAskarī (a) followed two duties: one is that he was trying to prove the birth and existence of his child, and the other is that he should introduce his child so that his life would not be in danger. In this part, it is also explained by referring to historical sources that the Abbasid caliphs during the time of Imām ʿAskarī (a) and after his martyrdom, despite the general weakness of the caliphate system, considered the Ahl al-Bayt (a) as their main enemy, and tried to find and kill Imām Mahdī (a) as they planned to kill him three times.

It is sometimes asked if the Almighty God has willed to fill the world with justice at the end of human history, and this requires divine leadership, what is the necessity of creating him before establishing the universal government of justice? The author gives three answers to this question and then discusses the objections of Aḥmad Kātib regarding the narrations related to the birth of Imām Mahdī (a), including the Shiites’ disagreement about the Imām after Imām ʿAskarī (a), the denial of birth by Jaʿfar, Imām Mahdī’s uncle, and the Shiites’ condolences to Jaʿfar.

The second chapter consists of two parts: the first part about the Sunni scholars who accept the birth of Mahdī (a), the son of Ḥasan ʿAskarī (a), but do not consider him the promised Mahdī (which, in any case, proves the birth of Imām Mahdī (a)) and the second part about the Sunni scholars who, in addition to accepting his birth, consider him to be the promised Mahdī (which is completely in line with the Shiite belief). In the first part, the names and statements of 41 Sunni scholars are stated, including Qāḍī Ibn Khallakān Shāfiʿī, Ibn al-Athīr al-Jazarī, ʿAlī b. Ḥusayn Masʿūdī, Muḥammad Farīd Wajdī, Sibṭ b. al-Jawzī, Muḥammad b. Ṭalḥa al-Shāfiʿī, Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī, Ibn ʿArabī, Ibn Khaldūn al-Maghribī, Ibn Ṣabbāgh al-Mālikī, Muḥammad b. Yūsuf al-Ganjī al-Shāfiʿī, Aḥmad Amīn, Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, and Abū al-Barakāt Ālūsī. The second part contains the names and statements of 9 Sunni scholars, including ʿAbd al-Wahhāb Shaʿrānī al-Ḥanafī, Shaykh Sulaymān al-Qundūzī al-Ḥanafī, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī al-Ḥanafī, Shaykh Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār Nayshābūrī, Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī, and Jalāl al-Dīn Balkhī al-Rūmī.