What is the Sunni viewpoint about waiting for Imam Mahdi (a)? (question)

Therefore, the matter of Imam Mahdi (a) and issue of waiting for him is something that has been discussed and deliberated upon by Sunni religious scholars and experts of narrated traditions. However, they should have more vigorously propagated this important doctrine of Islamic belief that holds significant political and social implications among the Sunni Muslim masses. Similarly, they should have trained the general Sunni population to reject the tyrannical rule of illegitimate regimes, while continuously thinking about the establishment of a government characterized by fairness and divine justice, so that these masses would have been prepared for the appearance of the Fatimid reformer. If this had occurred, the belief in Imam Mahdi (a) would have flowed like revitalizing blood within the veins of the entire Muslim nation stretching throughout all Islamic lands, and would have created fervor and enthusiasm for resisting tyranny and oppression, while also enlightening and supporting the souls, intellects, psyches and hearts of these Muslims by way of allowing them to seek intercession and focus their attentions upon the hallowed reality of the divine "wilayah" of Imam Mahdi (a).

Comprehensive Answer

Waiting for Imam Mahdi (a) and Belief in the Existence of Imam Mahdi (a) From the Point of View of Sunni Muslims

Belief in the existence of Imam Mahdi (a) and his reappearance is not exclusive to the Shi'a school of Islamic thought[1]. In fact, belief in the Promised Mahdi (a), in principle, is a matter of consensus and a well established religious doctrine amongst Sunni Muslims. Sunni Muslims believe that once the Earth is filled with tyranny and injustice during the End of Days, a man from the tribal lineage of Quraysh and from the progeny of the Prophet (s) will appear and establish a government through which he will fill the Earth with justice and fairness[2]. However, they believe that, firstly, such a person is yet to be born and will come into this world whenever God so wishes, and secondly, that this person will be from the descendants of Imam Hasan (a) and not from the progeny of Imam Husayn (a)[3].

The Sunni concept of the doctrine of waiting for Imam Mahdi (a) and belief in the appearance of a righteous government is different from that of Shi'a Muslims. Within the Shi'a worldview, this doctrine and belief entails struggling for the establishment of justice, rejection of all tyrannical regimes and seeking spiritual connection and intercession from Imam Mahdi (a), whereas such elements do not exist with the Sunni idea regarding the Promised Imam (a). Nevertheless, there exist certain pieces of academic evidence and instances of research amongst the works created by Sunni scholars wherein they speak of the ideology of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) and yearning for the establishment of an Islamic utopia characterized by universal justice. Some of these instances are listed below[4]:

Evidence of belief in Waiting for Imam Mahdi (a) Amongst Sunni Muslims

  1. Narrated traditions within Sunni sources about awaiting Imam Mahdi (a): Qunduzi reports that the Prophet (s) said : "The best form of worship is to await the deliverance". In explanation of this prophetic narration, Qunduzi writes that the "deliverance mentioned therein actually signifies the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a)[5].[6] Similarly, there exist many credible narrated traditions from the Prophet (s) wherein he declares that the Mahdi (a) will be from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and will rule for seventy years, filling the Earth with justice[7]. In a renowned narrated tradition, Prophet Muhammad (s) is reported to have said : "Even if there remains only a single day in this world, God the Almighty will most certainly send forward a man from my family during that very day, and this man will fill the world with justice and fairness just as it was previously permeated with tyranny"[8]
  1. The emphasis placed by Sunni scholars upon the issue of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a): Some Sunni scholars have spoken explicitly about the importance of awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) amongst Muslim masses. Some have even issued religious edicts declaring that the belief in waiting for Imam Mahdi (a) is obligatory upon all Muslims. Shaykh Muhammad al-Saffarini writes : "The reality is that the Mahdi is different from the prophet 'Isa (Prophet Jesus) and that he will rise up before the latter returns. There exist so many narrated traditions about this issue that their number reaches a level at which the veracity of their contents can no longer be doubted. As such, the belief in Imam Mahdi (a) is considered to be one of the principle beliefs of the Sunni scholars...Therefore, having faith and conviction regarding the uprising of Imam Mahdi (a), as it is described by the academic experts and in accordance to what has been recorded within the essential doctrines of the Sunni school of Islamic thought, is obligatory"[9]. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzi, Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, 'Abd al-'Aziz b. Abd allah b. Baz and many other Sunni scholars across various centuries have also expressed similar views upon this matter[10]</ref>. Ali b. Nayif al-Shahud states : "For us, waiting for a promised one does not mean that we sit within our houses and restrict ourselves to merely a verbal form of anticipation. Waiting for Mahdi (a), apart from being jurisprudentially sanctioned and emphasized, is also something that the intellect itself recommends"[11].[12]
  1. Waiting for Imam Mahdi (a) within the ritual prayers and supplications of Sunni Muslims: Some Sunni scholars have expressed the ideology of awaiting Imam Mahdi in the form of ritual prayers and supplications. Muhammad Badruddin states: "O' Almighty! Remove these innumerable worries and difficulties from this nation by way of his blessed appearance and presence (i.e. the Imam of the Age). Indeed, some see his appearance to be far off but we consider it to be imminent"[13].
  1. Awaiting Imam Mahdi (a) within Sunni poetry: Certain foremost Sunni scholars and sages have expressed their anticipation and wait for Imam Mahdi's appearance in the form of verses and poetry. Sayyid Jamaluddin al-Husayni wrote: "O' Imam who guides our slogans, Return! Beyond all limits is the sorrow of how we yearn"[14]!

After mentioning the names of all the Immaculate Imams (a), Shaykh Fariduddin 'Attar al-Nayshapuri states: "A hundred sacred sages upon this worldly realm – Pray to God for Mahdi with faith overwhelm – O' Lord, from concealment let the Mahdi return – So the Earth may be filled with justice that is clear to discern[15]."

References

  1. Ibrahimi, Ibrahim, Intizar wa Umid, pp. 43-44.
  2. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?; Ja'fari, Jawad, Ma'na Shinasi-ye Tatbiqi-ye Intizar wa Zamina Sazi-ye Qiyam-e Imam Mahdi dar Fariqayn, p. ?.
  3. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?.
  4. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?
  5. Qundudhi al-Hanafi, Sulayman b. Ibrahim, Yanabi' al-Mawadda, vol. 3, p. 379; Ibn al-Jawzi, fara'id al-Simtayn, vol. 2, p. 335.
  6. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?
  7. Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?
  8. Ibrahimi, Ibrahim, Intizar wa Umid, pp. 43-44.
  9. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?
  10. Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?; Ja'fari, Jawad, Ma'na Shinasi-ye Tatbiqi-ye Intizar wa Zamina Sazi-ye Qiyam-e Imam Mahdi dar Fariqayn, p. ?.
  11. Al-Shahud, ali b. Nayif, Mawsu'a Fiqh al-Ibtila, vol. 4, p. 308.
  12. Ja'fari, Jawad, Ma'na Shinasi-ye Tatbiqi-ye Intizar wa Zamina Sazi-ye Qiyam-e Imam Mahdi dar Fariqayn, p. ?; Ilahinijad, Husayn, Barrisi wa Tahlil-e Intizar dar Ahl-e Sunnat, pp. 59-61.
  13. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?.
  14. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?.
  15. Mahdawi Fard, Mirza Abbas, Falsafa-ye Intizar, pp. 39-46; Furuhi, Nasir, Intizar-e Faraj, p. ?.