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The Similarities Between Prophet Joseph and Imam Mahdi (A.S)

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1. People Did Not Recognize Joseph

The first similarity is that people did not recognize Joseph. Even his own brothers, upon seeing him, asked, “Are you Joseph?” To which he replied, “I am Joseph.” This revelation caused an emotional outburst. Similarly, it is narrated that Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) walks among us, attends our gatherings, and participates in our assemblies. He knows us, but we do not recognize him, just as Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him while he recognized them. This is one aspect.

There was one person who could sense Joseph’s presence through his scent, and that was his father. Due to his profound knowledge and deep love, he said, “I can smell Joseph’s scent” (Yusuf, 12:94). His children mocked him, saying, “Father, Joseph was separated from you twenty or thirty years ago, and now you claim to smell his scent?” Only certain individuals have the privilege of meeting Imam Mahdi. Not everyone can reach him.

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2. The Enemy’s Conspiracy, the Cause of Imam Mahdi’s Occultation

Due to the conspiracy to kill him, Joseph was separated from Jacob. They said, “Kill Joseph or throw him into the well” (Yusuf, 12:9). Similarly, Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) went into occultation because of a conspiracy to kill him. If he were present, they would kill him. Why is Imam Mahdi not present? Consider this example Imagine the government installs a light bulb, but children keep breaking it. They say, “Fine, install a second bulb,” but it gets broken again. This continues until eleven bulbs are broken. The electric company then decides, “No more bulbs for this street until people learn to behave.” They killed Ali, Imam Hassan, Imam Hussain, and God sent eleven lights of guidance. Now He says, “Do not install the twelfth bulb until people improve.”

Not everyone can understand Joseph, and not everyone can see Imam Mahdi. Some false claimants say they have met Imam Mahdi, but we must tell them, “In the name of God, you are lying.” Anyone who claims to have a relationship with Imam Mahdi is a liar, according to a hadith. There is a discussion on false claimants that I intend to address in the future.

Prophet Joseph was frequently remembered. Jacob continually mentioned Joseph, to the point where his children said, “By God, you will never cease remembering Joseph” (Yusuf, 12:85). Because of his profound love and knowledge, Jacob constantly spoke of Joseph. Similarly, Imam Mahdi has lovers and devotees who continually call out, “O Mahdi, O Mahdi.” This is evident in the supplication of Nudba!

3. The Kindness and Grace of Imam Mahdi Towards His Devotee

Prophet Joseph accepted even small offerings and gave in abundance. During the famine, his brothers came to him and said, “We have brought a small amount of goods” (Yusuf, 12:88). They pleaded, “Do not look at our money, just give us our full measure of grain, for we are many.” Joseph accepted their meager offerings but provided them with an abundance of grain. Similarly, Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) is gracious. Even if we offer him a moment of attention, he responds overwhelmingly. Sending blessings upon him has a profound impact.

Even though our deeds are presented to Imam Mahdi weekly, he has said that he never forgets us. His attention to us far exceeds our attention to him.

A prophet was waiting for Joseph; Jacob was a prophet who eagerly awaited Joseph. All the prophets throughout history are waiting for Imam Mahdi because he is the essence of all prophets. Every prophet aimed to establish a righteous government but could not achieve it. However, the Qur’an contains verses promising the establishment of such a government. This promise is repeated three times in the verse “to make it prevail over all religion” (Tawbah, 9:33). The interpretation is that Islam will encompass the entire earth. “Allah has promised those who believe” (Nur, 24:55), and “My righteous servants shall inherit the earth” (Anbiya, 21:105). In several places in the Qur’an, Allah promises that the government will eventually be in the hands of the righteous servants of Allah. Just as Jacob awaited Joseph, the prophets and saints are waiting for Imam Mahdi. Part of the supplication of Nudba expresses this longing: “Where is the destroyer of the structures of shirk and hypocrisy?” (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 99, p. 106). We call out, “Mahdi, where are you? Come and demolish the buildings of polytheism and hypocrisy.” In the supplication of Nudba, we ask repeatedly, “Where are you? Where are you?” Some people mocked Jacob, saying, “How much will you talk about Joseph? Thirty years have passed since Joseph.” Despite decades of separation between father and son, Jacob continually spoke of Joseph. They said to him, “You are indeed in your old error” (Yusuf, 12:95). Jacob’s children accused him of being deluded. Similarly, there are people today who label those awaiting the righteous government as deluded. They question, “What can Imam Mahdi possibly do?

4. Support of Scholars and Elites for Imam Mahdi

The passage of time did not deter Jacob from awaiting Joseph. Decades passed, but Jacob remained hopeful. Similarly, the prolonged period of occultation does not dishearten the true devotees of Imam Mahdi.

In the story of Joseph, he told his father about his dream where eleven stars prostrated to him. His father advised him not to share this dream, fearing his brothers’ jealousy and potential conspiracy. Likewise, the event of Ghadir Khumm involving Imam Ali was met with jealousy. However, God assured protection, saying, “O Messenger, convey what has been revealed to you, and Allah will protect you from the people” (Ma’idah, 5:67). The danger of jealousy and conspiracy is evident.

Jacob faced disrespect when he continually spoke of Joseph. His sons said, “By God, you are in your old error” (Yusuf, 12:95). Similarly, when the Prophet Muhammad asked for pen and paper to write a final message, some accused him of talking nonsense, saying, “The man is delirious” (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 30, p. 466). This contradicts the Quran, which states, “Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination” (Najm, 53:3). The Prophet’s words are free from whim or error. Despite this, people accused him of speaking irrationally, just as they did with Jacob.

Initially, Joseph’s brothers did not accept him. They questioned why their father loved Joseph more, leading them to throw him into a well out of jealousy. They said, “Joseph and his brother are more beloved to our father than we” (Yusuf, 12:8). However, after Joseph gained power and many years passed, they acknowledged, “Indeed, Allah has preferred you over us” (Yusuf, 12:91), admitting their baseless jealousy. Similarly, Imam Mahdi may initially face resistance, but once his government is established, people will recognize that it is Allah’s will.

Jealous individuals should understand that their envy does not deprive others of blessings; it only causes them personal distress. If a crow sits beside a peacock and laments, “Why is the peacock beautiful and not me?” God will not take away the peacock’s beauty because of the crow’s grief. Jealousy does not strip others of their gifts but only harms the envious.

Joseph actively prepared for his rule. Similarly, Imam Mahdi is not idle. To secure his reign, Joseph cleverly placed a goblet among his brothers’ grain sacks under the pretense that it had gone missing. You might remember this from the film adaptation. When his brothers came to buy grain, Joseph filled a sack for each of them. He then instructed that the royal goblet be placed in the sack belonging to his brother. “He put the drinking cup into his brother’s bag” (Yusuf, 12:70). At the gate, they were stopped and accused of theft, as the goblet was missing. They protested their innocence and agreed that if the goblet was found among their belongings, the owner of the sack would be held responsible.

This was a clever ruse. Instead of going directly to the sack containing the goblet, they searched all the sacks first to avoid suspicion that Joseph had orchestrated the entire setup. The Qur’an narrates, “He began with their bags before the bag of his brother” (Yusuf, 12:76). This careful maneuver ensured that his brothers couldn’t claim it was a setup.

Joseph’s strategic actions were meant to retain his brother and ultimately bring his father and family to Egypt, paving the way for his future governance. Similarly, Imam Mahdi is not sitting idly by. He guides individuals, appoints his own assistants, and directs certain people. Divine inspiration is given to select individuals, preparing the way for his eventual reappearance. Just as Joseph orchestrated events to bring about his family’s reunion and secure his leadership, Imam Mahdi is actively laying the groundwork for his future governance, working behind the scenes and guiding those who will assist in his mission.

5. Transforming a Corrupt Global System into an Effective Religious Order

Joseph entered into a government that was non-divine. When he ascended to power and became responsible for the grain, the system was not a godly one. However, Joseph, within this non-divine government, gradually led the king to believe in him, ultimately transforming the ungodly government into a divine one. This is akin to what Imam Khomeini did; he came to a country where people chanted, “Long live the Shah!” but transformed it into a country where people chanted, “Death to the Shah!” Joseph entered a non-divine regime and turned it around, and Imam Mahdi will do the same. When the king of Egypt converted to Joseph’s faith, others followed. Similarly, when Jesus (peace be upon him) comes and follows Imam Mahdi, many Christians will also believe. They will say, “Our leader has arrived,” and where the leader goes, the followers will go too. Just as the king of Egypt believed and others followed in groups, when Jesus follows Imam Mahdi, Christians worldwide will also follow in groups.

Joseph emphasized his lineage, saying, “I follow the religion of my fathers” (Yusuf, 12:38). He named his forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Imam Mahdi will also emphasize his lineage. He will stand by the Kaaba and say, “Whoever wants to see Adam, should see me. Whoever wants to see Noah, should see me. Whoever wants to see Moses, should see me. Whoever wants to see Jesus, should see me. Whoever wants to see the Prophet Muhammad, should see me. Whoever wants to see Ali, should see me. Whoever wants to see Imam Sadiq, should see me.” Just as Joseph highlighted his ancestors, Imam Mahdi will highlight his.

6. Seizing All Resources to Establish a Global Government

The Quran speaks of how Joseph was given resources and authority: “Indeed, you are today established [in position] and trusted” (Yusuf, 12:54). The king of Egypt told Joseph, “Since you have interpreted my dream, today the governance and control are in your hands. You will be responsible for the grain and economy.” In a moment, with the interpretation of a dream, Joseph seized control of the entire government. Similarly, the Quran says about Imam Mahdi: “so that He may make it prevail over all religion” (Tawbah, 9:33). Islam will dominate the earth.

The story of Joseph served as a source of encouragement for the Prophet Muhammad. The story was revealed in Mecca when the Prophet was under severe pressure. His followers were tortured, and he was socially and economically boycotted. The polytheists of Mecca imposed various hardships on the Prophet, and it was during this time that God revealed the Surah of Joseph. This conveyed that just as Joseph faced hardships but was eventually elevated from the pit to the palace, the Prophet’s tribulations would also lead to eventual triumph. Similarly, the story of Imam Mahdi is a source of solace for us. When we reflect on the future events, we are reminded that we have a leader, a guardian, and an Imam. God has promised us, “Allah has promised those who have believed… that He will surely grant them succession [to authority]” (Nur, 24:55). “And Allah does not fail in His promise” (Hajj, 22:47). God’s promises are true, as He says, “And who is more truthful than Allah in statement” (Nisa, 4:122). Just as the story of Joseph was a source of comfort for the Prophet during the pressures of Mecca, the narrative of Imam Mahdi is comforting for his followers.

Joseph was not visible to the people; he was in prison but still provided benefits. He interpreted the king’s dream while in prison and also interpreted the dreams of his fellow inmates. This illustrates that one does not need to be present in society to offer benefits. There are people who, even if they are not in Iran, can still contribute by building schools, mosques, clinics, and hospitals in their name. Just as Joseph provided benefits from prison, Imam Mahdi provides benefits from behind the veil. Though not physically present, his beneficence is felt.

Joseph’s brothers initially acted arrogantly towards him. However, when they faced hunger and famine, their need drove them to seek Joseph’s help. Similarly, some people may act arrogantly towards Imam Mahdi, but pressure and need will eventually lead them to submit.

Joseph’s brothers were forced by their need to come to him and say, “Give us charity” (Yusuf, 12:88). God rewards those who give charity. Although some people do not initially accept Imam Mahdi, they will eventually submit.

Joseph’s honor was based on his merit. At the end of Surah Yusuf, the Quran says: “And thus We reward the doers of good” (An’am, 6:84). Joseph was a good and pure person, and his elevation was based on his merit. Similarly, Imam Mahdi’s leadership is not arbitrary; it is based on his merit. “Indeed, the earth will be inherited by My righteous servants” (Anbiya, 21:105). Joseph’s selection was based on his capability and merit, and the governance of Imam Mahdi is also based on his capability and merit. Joseph’s success was attributed to his qualities: “Indeed, I will be a knowing guardian” (Yusuf, 12:55). He was knowledgeable and knew how to manage the grain and ration it wisely. In interpreting dreams, he said, “This is from what my Lord has taught me” (Yusuf, 12:37). The criterion for Joseph’s honor was knowledge, and the criterion for Imam Mahdi is also knowledge.

7. The Words of the Imams about Imam Mahdi

In the realm of dreams, eleven stars prostrated to Joseph. Similarly, all eleven of our Imams have spoken words about Imam Mahdi. For instance, Imam Ali said, “I long to see him” (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 51, p. 115). Although he lived several centuries before Imam Mahdi, he expressed his deep desire to see him. Imam Sadiq said, “If I were to reach him, I would serve him” (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 51, p. 148). It is an honor for a person to work in the Jamkaran Mosque, in Mahdi’s service, or in charitable institutions. Imam Sadiq further said, “If I were to reach him, I would serve him for the duration of my life.” Imam Reza said, “May my father be sacrificed for you, O son of the best of women!” (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 51, p. 110). Here, Imam Reza is saying that his father, Musa ibn Ja’far, would sacrifice himself for Imam Mahdi. Just as in the story of Joseph, where eleven stars prostrated to him, eleven Imams have uttered blessed words regarding Imam Mahdi.

Joseph’s imprisonment was not his own doing; it was due to Zulaikha’s desire that he was incarcerated. Similarly, the occultation of Imam Mahdi is not by his own choice but due to external circumstances. Just as Zulaikha’s false accusations led to Joseph’s imprisonment, Imam Mahdi’s occultation is due to threats against him, not his own wish. Joseph accepted both the people of Canaan and the Egyptians. Likewise, Imam Mahdi will accept people from both the East and the West when he reappears. He will be an Imam for all.

In our understanding, we have identified about thirty-three similarities between Joseph and Imam Mahdi. The night of mid-Sha’ban is a significant one. Here are some actions you can take:

1. Naming Children: Ensure that every household has a child named Mahdi. Do not say, “My brother already named his child Mahdi,” just as you wouldn’t say, “My brother has a refrigerator, so I don’t need one.” Every household should have names like Fatima, Ali, Muhammad, and Hassan. If your brother has a child named Hassan, you should still consider the name for your own child.

2. Giving Imam Mahdi’s Share: Paying Khums: It is obligatory to pay Khums, Even if we decorate and provide various services, if we do not give Imam Mahdi his rightful share, it’s like owing someone money and instead of paying, continually kissing them. Imam Mahdi has a rightful share, and we must give it. Otherwise, we are no different from those who usurped Fadak. The person who usurped Fadak did not give Lady Fatima her due, and similarly, if we do not give Imam Mahdi his due share, we are both guilty of theft. One stole from Fatima, and the other from Imam Mahdi. Give the Imam’s share to someone you trust and accept, like your Marja’ Taqlid (religious authority). Your Marja’ is someone you have chosen based on their knowledge and piety, not out of compulsion.

Name our children after Imam Mahdi. Remember that our deeds are presented to him weekly. Strive to live a life that aligns with the values of Imam Mahdi. Ensure that every household has a book about Imam Mahdi. We and our children can be the arms of Islam and supporters of Imam Mahdi.

By Muhssen Qurati

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