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The Narcissus Edition: Celebrating the Birth Anniversary of Imam Mahdi

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Biography of Imam Mahdi

The last testamentary successor of the Prophet of God (PBUH), the twelfth Imam of the Shiites, and the fourteenth infallible from the lineage of Prophethood, His Eminence Mahdi (AS), was born at the dawn of Mid-Sha’ban in the year 255 AH in the city of Samarra. His birth fulfilled the long-awaited promise made by the Prophet of God (PBUH) and the Imams (AS) centuries earlier, blessing the earth with his step. His namesake is that of the Prophet (PBUH), and his title mirrors that of the Messenger of God (Mohammad, Abul Qasim). It is advised that during the period of occultation, he should not be referred to by his name, but rather through the many titles he holds, such as Mahdi, the Awaited One, Proof, Master of the Command, Master of the Age, Remnant of Allah, the Upright, the Successor, and more. His father is Imam Askari (AS) and his mother is Narjis, originally named Malika, daughter of Yusha’, a descendant of Caesar of Rome. The existence of this Imam, his attributes, the good tidings of his appearance, the characteristics of his companions, and the nature of his rule are extensively mentioned in traditions. Belief in him is not exclusive to Shiites, as numerous narrations about him can also be found in Sunni texts.

Names and Titles of Imam Mahdi

The respected Thiqat al-Islam Noori, in describing the noble names of the Imam of the Age (AS), references verses, narrations, previous divine scriptures, and the expressions of narrators and historians to list one hundred and eighty-two names and titles for His Eminence Mahdi (AS). He claims to have refrained from personal deductions and preferential interpretations, which otherwise could have significantly increased the number of names and titles derived from various texts. Among these are: Muhammad, Ahmad, Abdullah, Mahmood, Mahdi, Proof, Praised, Righteous Successor, Caller, Exiled Keeper, Absent, Rising, Awaited, and so forth. His titles include Abul Qasim (the same as the Prophet PBUH), Abu Abdullah, Aba Saleh, with Noori also counting Abu Ibrahim, Abu al-Hasan, and Abu Turab among them.

The Visage of Imam Mahdi

Imam Mahdi (AS) bears a resemblance to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in appearance, demeanor, and character. His broad forehead adds to the dignity and grandeur of his beautiful face, and his face shines with a light that overshadows the darkness of his hair and noble beard. His stature is neither excessively tall nor short, but perfectly proportioned. A mole on his right cheek shines like a pearl against his fair complexion, and another mole is present on his left shoulder. His skin is fair, with a slight reddish tinge. Nights of vigil render his complexion towards paleness. His eyes are black, his eyebrows are connected, and there is a slight prominence in the middle of his nose. His teeth are spaced, and he has less flesh on his face. His shoulders are broad, and his stomach and legs resemble those of Amir al-Mu’minin (AS).

Narjis Khatoon, Mother of Imam Mahdi

Narjis Khatoon, the mother of the twelfth Imam, descended from Simon, the disciple of Jesus (AS), was renowned for her external beauty. From childhood, she was educated by her grandfather, the Caesar of Rome, and trained by skilled teachers of her time in various sciences and arts, becoming fluent in multiple languages. When asked how she, being Roman, was so familiar with Arabic, she replied that her grandfather placed great emphasis on her education, selecting a multilingual tutor to teach her Arabic day and night, through which she mastered the language. Imam Hadi (AS) prophesied at their first meeting, promising her a son who would inherit the east and west of the world, filling it with justice at a time filled with tyranny. Narjis asked, “From whom will this child come?” Imam Hadi (AS) replied, indicating it would be from him, and asking if she would recognize him from her visions. She confirmed that she had seen him in her dreams ever since her encounter with Lady Fatima (SA).

The Birth of Imam Mahdi

A notable narrative comes from Hakimah, the noble daughter of Imam Jawad (AS) and aunt of Imam Hasan Askari (AS), as related by Sheikh Saduq in “Kamal al-Din.” Imam Hasan Askari (AS) invited her to break her fast with them on the night of Mid-Sha’ban, revealing that God would manifest His proof on Earth that night. When asked about the mother of this divine proof, he named Narjis, despite no visible signs of pregnancy. Imam Hasan Askari (AS) reassured her of God’s will. Shortly after, Narjis went into labor, and upon waking, Hakimah found the newborn prostrating, clean, and pure, with no trace of birth upon him. Imam Hasan Askari (AS) then took the baby, performed a series of blessings, and the infant spoke, professing faith in God and the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), blessing the Imams up to his father.

The Minor Occultation of Imam Mahdi

The Minor Occultation began following the martyrdom of Abu Muhammad, Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS), and commenced with the appointment of the first deputy of Imam Mahdi (AS), Uthman bin Sa’id al-Amri, starting from the 8th of Rabi’ al-Awwal in the year 260 AH. This period lasted until the 15th of Sha’ban in the year 329 AH, marking the demise of the last special deputy, Ali bin Muhammad al-Samri, spanning over 69 years. After Imam al-Askari’s (AS) martyrdom, news gradually spread of a son born to him, who was the twelfth Imam and the awaited Mahdi. This news instilled fear among the Abbasids, as it became clear that a son, a successor, had survived from Abu Muhammad. Consequently, at the order of the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu’tamid, agents were dispatched to the Imam’s (AS) residence to search and subsequently seal the property, in an attempt to find the child, but to no avail. Al-Mu’tamid ordered that midwives examine the women and servants of Imam al-Askari (AS) for any signs of pregnancy and report back to the Caliph if found.

The Major Occultation of Imam Mahdi

Why is Imam Mahdi (AS) in occultation, and what are the reasons behind it? Answering this question is profoundly challenging because it is not a matter that can be resolved through rational proofs nor is it customary, to be understood by common intellect or reason. Instead, this issue is one of devotional submission and its answers must be sought from divine revelations; through the Messenger of God and his Pure Household (AS). When we refer to the narrations of the Family of Muhammad (AS), we find diverse opinions on this matter. Narrations have attributed the occultation to various reasons: fear, avoidance of allegiance, paralleling the experiences of other prophets, completing vengeance upon disbelievers, testing the believers, intellectual development, the disclosure of secrets by Shiites, and being one of the divine mysteries. Volume 13 of Bihar al-Anwar quotes the esteemed Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH), as saying: “By God, who appointed me as a prophet, people will benefit from his guidance during his occultation just as they benefit from the sun when it is hidden behind clouds.” The invisible rays of the sacred existence of Imam Mahdi, during his concealment behind the clouds of occultation, bear various significant effects, including inspiring hope within the community, safeguarding God’s religion and the true creed, nurturing a group of the worthy, widespread spiritual influence, outlining the objectives of creation, and supervising the deeds of his Shiites.

Messianism and the Concept of a Savior in Religions

The emergence of the promised savior in the final era of the world, known as the End Times, after widespread injustice and tyranny, is a reality agreed upon by all religions and divine revelations. Prophets and divine messengers have heralded the arrival of a time filled with justice and love to their followers. Although many of the previous scriptures may not have escaped distortion, this deeply rooted truth is still apparent in many of them. Interestingly, some of these prophecies are so comprehensive that they even specify the lineage and name of the savior; as extensively introduced in the last and most complete of these books. A general overview of the prophecies about the savior of the End Times, as stated by divine prophets or significant figures known for possessing a divine scripture among the followers of various religions and nations, can be categorized into four groups: The first group includes verses and prophecies detailing the characteristics of the savior’s emergence and particularly his universal and international aspect. The second group comprises verses identifying the savior and his lineage, especially his relation to the lineage of the last prophet of the End Times. The third group consists of verses describing the features and circumstances of the emergence, and the fourth group includes verses that encourage and invite waiting for the savior’s arrival. These groups represent the prophecies found within the collection of divine scriptures.

Mahdism in Islam

Nearly all Muslims, with few exceptions, agree that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) foretold the coming of “Mahdi” and described his names and attributes. The narrations from both Shiite and Sunni traditions on this subject are overwhelmingly numerous. Therefore, the Islamic community universally holds this belief, and anyone who denies this fundamental belief, after becoming aware of such narrations, essentially deems the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as false. Narrations about this matter are found in credible Shiite books as well as in the Sahih collections, Sunan, and compendiums of the Sunni tradition. Additionally, Shiite and Sunni scholars have separately authored books on Imam Mahdi (AS). Beyond hadiths, numerous verses from the Holy Quran have also been interpreted to refer to Imam Mahdi (AS). The most renowned compilers of hadiths about Imam Mahdi from the Sunni tradition include: Abu Bakr ibn Abi Khaythama (died 279 AH), Nu’aim bin Hammad al-Marwazi (died 288 AH), Abu Husayn bin al-Munadi (died 336 AH), Abu Nu’aim al-Isfahani (died 430 AH), Abu al-‘Ala’ Attar al-Hamdani (died 569 AH), Abdul Ghani al-Maqdisi (died 600 AH), Ibn Arabi al-Andalusi (died 638 AH), Sa’d al-Din al-Taftazani (died 650 AH), Abu Abdullah al-Kanji al-Shafi’i (died 658 AH), Yusuf bin Yahya al-Maqdisi (died 658 AH), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (died 685 AH), Ibn Kathir al-Dimashqi (died 774 AH), Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (died 911 AH), Shahab al-Din Ibn Hajar al-Makki (died 974 AH), Ali bin Hissam al-Din al-Muttaqi al-Hindi (died 975 AH), Nur al-Din Ali al-Qari al-Harwi (died 1014 AH), Muhammad bin Ali al-Shawkani (died 1250 AH), Ahmad bin Siddeeq al-Ghumari (died 1380 AH).

Imam Mahdi in the Narrations of the Infallibles (AS)

According to Shiite and Sunni interpreters and Islamic historians, many verses in the Holy Quran refer to the significant issue of Mahdism and messianism. The following verses emphasize this matter. Additionally, we cite a sacred narration in this context. “And We wanted to confer favor upon those who were oppressed in the land and make them leaders and make them inheritors.” Imam Ali (AS) explained this verse, saying, “The world will turn to us after its defiance as a she-camel turns to her offspring, and then he recited this verse.” Furthermore, the noble Imam in explaining this verse said, “They are the Family of Muhammad; God will raise their Mahdi after they have gone through hardship and oppression, granting them dignity and humbling their enemies.”

Imam Mahdi in the Words of Scholars and Thinkers

In the era of the emergence of the promised Mahdi—peace be upon him—whom God has preserved, no one, neither in the past nor in the future, has been granted the power that is exclusively bestowed upon Imam Mahdi to spread justice throughout the world. What the prophets were unable to achieve, despite their missions, God has reserved for him. This mission, which all prophets aspired to but were hindered by obstacles, and which all saints wished for but could not implement, will be realized by this noble figure… How auspicious and blessed will be the day when the world is cleansed of deceit and sedition, and divine justice governs the entire universe. Hypocrites and schemers will be removed from the scene, and the flag of justice and the mercy of the Almighty will be hoisted across the land. Only the law of Islamic justice will prevail over humanity, the palaces of oppression and the minarets of tyranny will crumble, the ultimate goals of the prophets’ (AS) missions and the supporters of saints (AS) will be fulfilled, the blessings of the Almighty will descend upon the earth, and the pens of infamy and the tongues of hypocrisy will be broken. The sovereignty of the Almighty will illuminate the world, and the devils and those with devilish traits will retreat into obscurity.

The Etiquette of Waiting

The most important duty of those awaiting Imam Mahdi (AS) is to envision a constructive, rational, and dynamic anticipation for themselves. An anticipation that inherently prepares and facilitates the ground for the emergence of that Imam. The question then arises: What are the characteristics of constructive anticipation? And how can we be hopeful that our anticipation is constructive and in accordance with religious teachings? Among the most significant manifestations and criteria of constructive anticipation is to emulate Imam al-Qa’im (AS), following his noble path. True anticipation forms when there is a spiritual harmony—even relatively—between the “waiter” and the “awaited,” and this harmony when one side is the Imam and the other the follower, takes shape within the framework of obedience and following. Simply put, the followers (those waiting) must consider the future goals of the Imam (the awaited), and follow him so that through this emulation and following, a bond of affection, spiritual consonance, and genuine heartfelt anticipation is created. Otherwise, “anticipation of appearance” will not go beyond mere lip service. In hadith texts, the matter of following Imam Mahdi (AS) during his occultation is mentioned. As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Blessed are those who find themselves in the presence of the Qa’im, those who have followed him before his rise. They love his friend passionately and oppose his enemy vehemently.”

True anticipation forms when there is a spiritual harmony—even relatively—between the “waiter” and the “awaited”

The Islamic Revolution of Iran as a Prelude to the Emergence

Although Imam Khomeini (RA) initiated a period that marked the return of Muslims to Islamic values and teachings, isolated atheistic and materialistic ideas globally, and revitalized divine religions and their followers, with an unprecedented inclination towards Islam among Christians, especially Westerners, there are abundant and compelling evidences suggesting that these were not “the sole purpose” of Imam’s (RA) divine uprising. Our great Imam, fully aware of his critical and divine mission, saw the ultimate goal of the Islamic Revolution and its final objective as something beyond the mentioned aspects; namely, preparing for the global Islamic revolution and setting the stage for the emergence of humanity’s savior, Imam al-Zaman (AS). Based on this belief, the noble Imam guided and led the Islamic Revolution and the profound changes it brought about. Years before the victory of the Revolution, aiming to fully acquaint his companions with the lofty goals of the Islamic Revolution and increase their preparedness, he detailed the steps forward, emphasizing that establishing an Islamic government in Iran and reviving Islam in Muslim countries are only part of the sacred ideals considered, and preparing for the emergence of the Supreme Guardian of Allah, may our souls be sacrificed for him, is the lofty and ultimate goal of the Islamic Revolution.

The World on the Verge of Emergence

The signs of emergence are those events that, based on the predictions of the Infallibles (AS), occur before or at the threshold of Imam Mahdi’s (AS) appearance. The realization of each sign heralds the nearing of that global uprising; such that with the fulfillment of the predicted series of events, and following the last sign, Imam Mahdi (AS) will rise. It’s clear that not all these signs hold the same level of credibility; however, this doesn’t justify dismissing them all, just as accepting them all uncritically is unwise. While there are various classifications of the signs of emergence, what appears most crucial is dividing these signs into definitive and non-definitive ones. The definitive signs are those whose occurrence is absolutely certain and obligatory, unlike the non-definitive signs. From the numerous narrations, including authentic ones, it is understood that the following five signs are definitive:

The rise of Sufyani; 2. The emergence of Yamani; 3. The sinking in the area of Baida; 4. The killing of Nafs-e-Zakiyyah; 5. The heavenly cry.

The Golden Era of Emergence

When the time of emergence arrives and the world’s savior steps out from behind the veil of occultation and reveals himself, the Almighty will rectify His command in one night, and all the beauties post-emergence will unfold one by one. On the morning of emergence, as the servants of God awaken, a hand will have swept over them. They look at themselves, their knowledge, and their intellectual comprehension, and suddenly see that the light of faith in their hearts shines as bright as the sun. Before this, the servants of God were scattered, each with a different thought. After the emergence, a hand will sweep over their heads, directing their intellects toward one direction. Confused and divergent thoughts will converge, as if all intellects transform into one “perfect intellect,” like drops from across the globe gathering into rivers, miraculously traversing long distances to pour into the sea. They are no longer drops. Their identity in the civil registry changes from drop to sea, and they all acquire one identity—the boundless sea.

Mid-Sha’ban, the Laylat al-Qadr of the Awaiters

The night of Mid-Sha’ban recalls the birth of the first and last hope of prophets and divine messengers, and the savior of humanity, Imam al-Zaman (AS), and holds immense virtue. The infallibles (AS) have emphasized the revival of this night to the extent that the noble Prophet of Islam (PBUH) has stated about the luminous night: “Whoever revives the night of the middle of Sha’ban, his heart will not die on the day when hearts die.” Religious leaders and scholars, as heirs and continuators of the divine prophets’ mission and true promoters of the rich teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (AS), have not only themselves made special efforts to revive the night of Mid-Sha’ban but have also invited all believers, awaiters, and lovers of Imam al-Zaman, Imam al-Hujjah (AS), to celebrate this precious night and pray for the health and hastening of the appearance of the Guardian of the Age (AS). Imam al-Hujjah (AS), the last divine proof and the “best of the people of the earth” of our time, was born on the dawn of Mid-Sha’ban in the year 255 AH. This blessed night, marking the joyous birth of His Eminence could possibly be Laylat al-Qadr, as some acts of worship specific to the Nights of Decree are also recommended on this night.

Celebrations and Rituals of Mid-Sha’ban

Spiritual heritages are our cultural assets. Spiritual heritage showcases a nation’s beliefs and thoughts to the world. By studying spiritual heritage, one can understand how the people of a country display their beliefs and what their customs mean. One of the spiritual heritages registered in our faith is the celebration of Mid-Sha’ban, a celebration rooted in religious and spiritual origins, as widespread as Nowruz and Eid, and observed in various forms throughout our Muslim countries. For the Muslim people, Mid-Sha’ban is a day of hope. On this day, in addition to various celebrations, there are specific ceremonies starting several days before Mid-Sha’ban. Fasting, decorating, distributing votive offerings, reciting eulogies, performing local music, and visiting the graves are among the activities carried out on Mid-Sha’ban, each of which could individually be recognized as a spiritual ceremony, but currently, only the entirety of Mid-Sha’ban is registered to study and document the various aspects of this Islamic day of hope for future generations.

The Meeting Place of the Awaiters

The holy Mosque of Jamkaran is one of the most important bases for Shia Muslims and ardent lovers of Imam al-Zaman (AS), located six kilometers from the religious city of Qom. Now, with the expansion of Qom and attention to this sacred place, the mosque is connected to the city of Qom. According to statistics, millions of devoted hearts from across the Islamic homeland and the world visit this spiritual base annually to perform the salutation prayer of the mosque and the prayer of Imam al-Zaman (AS) in this sacred place. They seek assistance from the Almighty and entreat Imam al-Zaman for the fulfillment of their needs and resolution of their problems, praying for his reappearance.

Pathology of Mahdism

Every significant matter is subject to risks and vulnerabilities proportional to its importance. The critical issue of Mahdism, with its life-giving and joy-bringing effects—the least of which is hope for the future and not succumbing to incidents, injustices, and hardships—is not exempt from this rule. These vulnerabilities include: Deviant interpretations of the concept of awaiting the relief, extremism and negligence in presenting the compassionate and wrathful aspects of Imam al-Zaman (AS), engaging in unnecessary discussions, haste and impatience, predicting and specifying the time of the appearance, incorrect application of the signs of appearance, extremes in explaining the concept of occultation, obsession with meeting the Imam, inactive wishful thinkers, worldly pretenders of love, false claimants of Mahdism and special or general representation, non-following of the Guardianship of the Jurist and general deputies, activities of the West and orientalists.

Imam al-Zaman (AS) in Literary Texts

My heart rains spring-like, my soul blooms like poppies, and my being hums with being with You; my garden of thought is brimming with the sound of Your presence, the fences of longing aflame with Your sight, and anticipation opens its heart’s window towards You. Prayer has erected its green tent at the gateway of the city of wishes, and supplication raises hands to the heavens, counting stars until dawn, awaiting Your arrival. O the springiest mirror of existence, O the desire of times, hearts have adorned themselves for Your presence, and eyes scatter flowers along the path of waiting. I wish You would come sooner and break the cold solitude of silence, so my heart reaches the clarity of peace! Every morning, I plant flowers of “Al-Ghawth” and smell the buds of “Adrikni,” finding peace in the shade of “Al-Sa’ah,” performing ablution in the stream of “Al-Ajal”; I spread the prayer rug of hope on the meadow of desire and pray two units of “Raja” prayer; I entrust the blossoms of need to the breeze of acceptance, waiting for fulfillment, for waiting is a yearning for eternity. I know You will come and fill me with love and illuminate me with the light of appearance.

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