Father: Imam Hasan Askari (AS)
Mother: Nargis Khatoon – was a Byzantine princess who pretended to be a slave so that she might travel from her kingdom to Arabia
Kunniyat (Patronymic): Abdul Qasim
Laqab (Title): Mahdi, Saheb-ul-Asr and Al-Hujjat
Birth: He was born in Samarra, on Friday, 15th of Shaban 255 A.H
1st Heavenly Concealment: 8th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 260 A.H
2nd Heavenly Concealment: 10th Shawwal, 328 A.H
Imam Muhammad Mahdi (AS) Birth
There Existed a good deal of harmony and uniformity between the aspects pertaining to the births of Prophet Muhammad, the last Apostle of Allah and Imam Mahdi, the last Apostolic Imam.
Just as the coming of the Holy Prophet was prophesied well in advance by the preceding prophets, similarly the impending news of the gracious birth of Imam Mahdi was foretold by the Holy Prophet.
He was born on the 15th Shaban 255 A.H. in the city of Samarra. The momentous and singular aspects of his birth greatly resembled those under which the Prophet Musa (Moses) was born.
The birth of Hazrat Musa had signalled the downfall and extinction of the empire of Pharaoh, who had ordered the slaying of all the newly born children of Bani-Israel. The Abbaside Kings were similarly apprehensive of the continuous traditions of the Holy Prophet about the birth of Imam Mahdi, who was to bring about a curse to their (Abbaside) very empire. They were, therefore, laying in ambush to discover the birth of the Imam and to put an end to his life.
But the events of Imam’s birth was enveloped and shielded by the same Divine protection and miraculous phenomena which had marked the historical birth of Prophet Musa. His birth remained strictly confidential and his nursery shrouded in secrecy expect to a few devotees.
The Imam’s birth had coincided with the reign of Mutamad, the well-know Abbaside king. He, being aware of the prophecy of the twelfth Imam’s birth occurring in his reign, was extremely worried and anxious to trace him out. But on the death of Imam Hasan Askari, when he was informed about the Imam’s funeral prayer having being conducted by his four year old son, his perplexity knew no bounds.
It stuck his mind that this very boy must be the Imam, but he managed to hide his inner concern at the news of the existence of the young Imam. In order to get confirmation that the young Imam did in fact exist, he ordered the arrest of the Imam’s mother, Janab-e-Nargis Khatoon.
Imam Muhammad Mahdi (AS) Mother Arrested
When Janab-e-Nargis was brought before Mutamad and inquires were made about the birth of the twelfth Holy Imam, she, in order to safeguard her own life as well as to protect her son replied that she had never felt the symptoms of maternity and labour pain. So for the moment, he did not harass her, but did put her under the strictest surveillance of Qazi Abu Shorah, entrusting him with the task of killing any child bore to her.
Soon after the incident, the Abbaside kingdom passed through a revolutionary phase which greatly bewildered Mutamad. He was forced to face the invasions of Sahib-Al-Zanj who raided Hejaz and Yemen and let loose the hounds of loot and arson throughout the Abbaside kingdom, subjecting the administration of Baghdad, the capital, to utter chaos.
Mutamad was, therefore naturally too occupied by warfare to pay any attention towards Janab-e-Nargis Khatoon, who was consequently released after six months and questioned no further about the birth of the twelfth Holy Imam.
Imam Muhammad Mahdi (AS) Upbringing
The Holy Imam was brought up by his father Imam Hasan Askari, the eleventh Imam who resorted to the same underground and secret measures in rearing his child as Hazrat Abu Talib had adopted in connection with safe-guarding the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
He used to take care of his child in one portion of the house for a few days and then shift him to another with a view not to let the exact whereabouts be known.
While Imam Hasan Askari kept the birth of the young Imam-to-be and the affairs of his infancy a well guarded secret, he did put him within the access of some exclusive devotees and sincere friends in order to familiarise them with their would-be Imam to who they would pledge their allegiance.
It is mentioned by Abi Ghanim that when Imam Mahdi was born he named him after Muhammad and on the third day after his birth, bringing forth the child to show him to some of his followers, declared:
“Here is my successor and your would-be Imam! He is that very Qaim to whose reverence your heads will bow down. He will re-appear to fill the earth with the blessings and justice after it will been abounding with sins and vices.”
Further it’s mentioned that they called upon Imam Hasan Askari with a deputation of forty persons. The Holy Imam showed them his newly-born child and said:
“This is your Imam after me! All of you should unanimously submit your allegiance to him and should not allow any controversy on the subject which will lead you in peril! Mind that he will no more be visible to you!
Imam Muhammad Mahdi (AS) Imamate & Occulation
Imam Hasan Askari died on the 8th Rabi-ul-Awwal 260 A.H. and the day marked the inception of his sons Imamate and his elevation to the Apostolic office being the source of spiritual guidance for the whole universe.
Minor Occulation – (Ghaybat-e-Sughra)
The minor occultation marks the first phase in the Imamate of the Twelve Imam. From the time that had been predestined, from the time he assumed the role, he remained hidden from the outside world, distant from all the events that were taking place although being at the same time proximate to them in his mind and heart.
However if the occultation occurred suddenly, the result would have been a great shock among the popular masses, who believed in the Imamate since they were used to contacting their Imam in every period, to consulting him for solutions to their various problems. Thus, had he suddenly vanished, his supporters would have felt cut off from spiritual and intellectual leadership.
Such an event would have created an enormous gap which would have thoroughly shaken the whole structure and undermined its unity.
Therefore, it proved necessary that the way should be paved to this occultation, so that these bases might get used to it and gradually adapt themselves to the new situation.
The plan was the minor occultation, during which Imam Mahdi vanished from the universal scene, while keeping in touch with his popular bases and supporters through his delegates or representatives and the most reliable among his companions who acted as a link between the Imam and those who believed in his line.
The position of representative of the Imam was held in those times, by four personalities, whom the popular bases agreed as to their fear of Allah, piety and integrity.
1) ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id al-‘Amri;
2) Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id al-‘Amri;
3) Abu’l-Qasim al-Husayn ibn Ruh; and
4) Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad as-Samuri.
These four individuals assumed the role of representative of the Imam according to the above classification. So whenever one of them died, the other succeeded him, after being designated by Imam Mahdi.
The representative of the Imam used to get in touch with the believers and submit their questions and problems to the Imam and return to them with his answers. Sometimes orally and very often in a written form.
The masses who lacked the vision of their Imam, found some comfort and consolation in these indirect communications. Moreover they could notice that the signatures and the letters were all written in the same way, during the time of the four representatives that lasted nearly seventy years.
The last representative, as-Samuri, declared that the period of the minor occultation, which was characterized by the designated delegates, was over; that the period of the major occultation, in which there would be no designated individuals to mediate between the Imam and the believers, had began.
Major Occulation – (Ghaybat-e-Kubra)
The second, the Major Occultation which commenced in 328 A.H and will continue as long as God wills it.
There is no special deputy in direct contact with him in this period, and Muslim scholars are his general deputies at this time without having ability to meet him. It might be that the Imam Mahdi showed himself to someone during the major occultation, but it was never a regular occurrence, and no one can claim to meet him anytime he wishes.
Moreover, even if Imam Mahdi appears to a person and gives him an instruction, it is only personal, and is not meant for all people. The Shia doctrine quite clearly states that the Imam Mahdi would not deputize a person at this time.
Also there is no specific place of residence known for Imam Mahdi and no one knows his whereabouts on the earth except Allah, and he has been seen by different people throughout his life in various locations of the world.
Imam Muhammad Mahdi (AS) Arrival / Reappearance
It was by the will of God that he disappeared and will again reappear by the Will of God. This will be a prelude to the Day of Judgement.
Some of the tasks on his reappearance will be:
1. Putting an end to despots and suppressive regimes
2. Destruction of polytheism and evil
3. Annihilation of sinners
4. End of opposition to religion
5. Termination of liars and accusers
6. Respect and pride for the friends and putting to shame and disheartening the enemies
7. Inviting the people towards piety and devoutness
8. Uniting the scattered ones