The Confusing History Of Shia Mahdi


One of the main beliefs of Twelver Imami Shia sect is that their 12th Imam is the Mahdi. Throughout shia history, the identity of who is the Mahdi has caused many disputes & controversies among Imami followers. Shias often split and follow different imams after the previous one has passed away. If there were instructions or wills written then how could these disputes arise so often?

Those disputes were recorded in detail by a 3rd century shia scholar, al-Hasan bin Musa al-Nawbakhti in his book Firaq al-Shia (link). He is one of the foremost respected early Shia scholar. Famous Shia rijali scholar, al-Najashi described him as “Our Shaikh, the Mutakallim, who surpassed his contemporaries before the year 300H and thereafter” and he went on to list over 40 of al-Nawbakhti’s works. al-Tusi also praised al-Nawbakhti as a pious Imami.

Let us see whom the early shias believe were their true Mahdis:

1. Ali

“….Ali was not killed and he did not die. They said that he would not die until he had driven the Arabs with his cane and filled the earth with justice and fairness, after it has been filled with oppression and injustice. This was the first sect in Islam that believed in waqf (considering Ali the hidden imam), after the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his family. They were also the first extremists (Ghulat). They were called “the Saba’iyya”, the followers of Abdullah b. Saba’ who publicly criticised Abu Bakr, Umar…“ [page 67-68]

“…some scholars who were close to Ali peace be upon him said that Abdullah bin Saba’ was a Jew before he converted to Islam…” [page 68]

“….he was the first to declare that the imamate of Ali (AS) was mandatory…” [page 69]

[al-Nawbakhti mentioned that the first people to be known to hate Abu Bakr & Umar RA were the followers of Abdullah bin Saba the Jew, the same person whose existence many Shias scholars & writers of today try to deny. They believe Ali was Mahdi, not the 12th imam]

2. Muhammad bin al Hanafiyya

“….They said al Hasan bin Ali fought against Mu’awiyah with the permission of Muhammad and made the truce with his permission too. Al Husayn too, they said, fought Yazid with his permission, otherwise, both (al-Hasan & al-Husayn) would be misguided and would perish, for anyone who opposes Muhammad b al-Hanafiyya is blasphemous…” [page 76]

[Hasan & Husein were the followers of the true imam, Muhammad al-Hanafiyah who was also Mahdi]

3. Abdullah bin Muhammad bin al Hanafiyya (Abu Hashim)

“….he was called Abu Hashim and he was his father’s oldest son. His father designated him for succession….he was al Mahdi and that he did not die….” [page 80]

[Muhammad al-Hanafiyah’s son, not Hasan nor Husein was the next imam & also Mahdi]

4. Abdullah bin Mu’awiyah bin Abdullah bin Ja’far bin Abi Talib (appointed by Abu Hashim)

“….Abdullah bin Mu’awiyah is al Mahdi, who was mentioned by the Prophet peace be upon him, and his family and that he will rule the world, filling it with fairness and justice after it has been filled with injustice and oppression. Then, when he dies, he will leave his place to a man from Bani Hashim – from the descendants of Ali bin Abi Talib….” [page 86]

[Mahdi is from Ja’far bin Abi Talib’s lineage not Ali’s]

5. Muhammad bin Abdullah bin al Hasan (al-Muthanna) bin al Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib (known as an-Nafs az-Zakiya)

“When Abu Ja’far, peace be upon him died, his followers became 2 sects. One sect believed in the imamate of Muhammad bin Abdullah bin al Hasan bin al Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib who revolted in Madina and was killed there. They claimed that he was al Mahdi and that he was not killed….” [page 117]

[Mahdi is from al-Hasan’s and not al-Husein’s lineage]

6. Ja’far al-Sadiq

“Ja’far bin Muhammad did not die and that he will not die until he revolts and rules the people and that he is al-Mahdi” [page 122]

[Ja’far al-Sadiq was Mahdi, however it is very interesting to note that after his death the majority of Shia’s scholars & respected figures believed in Abdullah, not Musa al-Kadhim as the next imam. After Abdullah died, they then followed Musa al-Kadhim (look up page 133). Why didn’t the majority of Shia scholars back then know that imam after Ja’far was Musa, instead Abdullah? Is it possible those scholars who were followers of a living imam didn’t know or maybe the 12 imam belief didn’t exist back then?]

7. Ismail bin Ja’far al-Sadiq

“….they denied the death of Ismail during his father’s life – saying that it was a trick plotted by his father, who was afraid for him, so he hid him. They claimed Ismail would not die until he ruled the world and cared for the people and that he was al-Mahdi, because his father appointed him for the imamate after him….” [page 123]

[Ismail was the true imam and Mahdi (not Musa al-Kadhim)]

8. Muhammad bin Ismail bin Ja’far al Sadiq

“….There are only 7 imams after the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his family. These are Ali bin Abi Talib (who is an imam-prophet), al-Hasan, al-Husayn, Ali bin al-Husayn, Muhammad bin Ali (al-Baqir), Ja’far bin Muhammad, Muhammad bin Ismail bin Ja’far, who is al-Qaim al-Mahdi and he is a Prophet” [page 127]

[True imams were only 7 not 12. Muhammad bin Ismail was Mahdi and Prophet. Note: Shia of today believe imams have higher status than most Prophets although stopped short of saying calling them prophets]

9. Musa al Kadhim

“Musa bin Ja’far did not die, nor will he die until he rules the world from east to west. He would fill it with justice after it had been filled with oppression. They claimed that he was al-Qaim al-Mahdi” [page 137]

“al-Rida, peace be upon him and his successors were not imams, rather they were [Musa’s] deputies – one after another – until the time of his return…” [page 138]

[Imamate ended with al-Kadhim and he was Mahdi and did not continue after him. Ali al-Ridha and all imams after him were only al-Kadhim’s deputies, not true imams]

10. Muhammad bin Ali bin Muhammad bin Ali bin Musa

“When Ali bin Muhammad bin Ali bin Musa al-Ridha, peace be upon him died, one sect of his followers believed in the imamate of his son, Muhammad, who died in Samarra (Surra Man Ra’a) during his father’s life…despite the appearance of his death, he did not really die….and that he is al-Mahdi” [page 150-151]

[Ali al-Hadi/al-Naqi appointed Muhammad (who was made to appear to die during his father’s lifetime). He was Mahdi and the true imam, not Hasan al-Askari]

11. Hasan (al-Askari) bin Ali

“His followers became fourteen 14 sects after his death. One sect said that al-Hasan bin Ali is alive, but he dissapeared and he is al-Mahdi, for it is impossible for him to die not leaving an acknowledged son….” [page 153]

[The 11th imam is Mahdi. This is one of the most confusing death as his followers were divided into many groups and this deserves a separate article as out of 14, only 4 believed he had a son]

As we can see, the claim that shia imamate belief is as clear as the sun has been contradicted by this disputes as described by their own scholars. Imamate which shia said would prevent the ummah from misguidance, became the main cause for their misguidance and confusion for even their scholars during their imam’s life.

Are these not enough proofs for any sincere person to see how confused, misguided and baseless shia imamate beliefs are?!

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