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Muhammad al-Mahdi

Muhammad al-Mahdi (868 - ?) is the twelfth and final Imam of the Shia. His given name was Muhammad bin Hasan bin Ali.

Muhammad al-Mahdi is an extremely controversial figure, and some doubt if he ever existed. However, according to the Twelver Shia Muslims, Muhammad al-Mahdi was born in 868 to Hasan al-Askari and his Byzantine wife, Nargis. However, his birth was kept a secret due to the persecution that the Shia and Hasan were facing at the time.

The most famous story of Muhammad al-Mahdi comes from his father's funeral. As the funeral prayer was about to begin, his uncle, Jafar bin Ali got ready to lead prayers. However, Muhammad al-Mahdi came out and told his Uncle that: “set aside uncle, only an Imam can lead the funeral prayer of an Imam”. Jafar set aside, and the five-year old child led the funeral prayer for his father. Immediately after, he went back into his house, and he was never seen from again.

Despite this story, there is some evidence which shows that Jafar denied the existance of Muhammad al-Mahdi, and that he in fact claimed the Imamate for himself. The Mahdi would appear though at key moments to show his uncle's claims to be false. For seventy years after his last appearance, he used babs or gates who maintained contact with the Mahdi, and communicated for him. Upon the death of the last bab, a letter was found on his deathbed from the Mahdi claiming that no more babs would be necessary and that he would return at the end of time. Until then, he would continue to intercess for those who asked for help.

There are also many interesting stories about Muhammad al-Mahdi which point to his special nature. Many stories relate how he was able to speak while in the womb, how he was raised by birds, and how he grew to the size of a man by the time he was five.

Although he never died, there is a shrine for him in Samarra located next to those of his father and grandfather.

Muhammad al-Mahdi should not be confused with the Sunni Muslim view of the Mahdi, which refers to a different person.

External Links

Muhammad al Mahdi from Oriental Encyclopedia The Twelfth Imam