Mahdi in Classical and Modern Shi’ite Tafsirs 1

Shi’ite Messianism and all that concerns the Mahdi have, of course, been studied in a number of works, but this chapter focuses on the Qur’anic verses reported as concerning the Mahdi and their interpretation according to classical and modern Shi’ite commentators. Although only a few mufassirin are mentioned in this research, three regularly refer to their predecessors and their opinions, therefore we will report on these in the translation we will give of their tafsir.

Under each verse, we will only give the opinions and commentaries of the mufassirin as far as they concern the Mahdi, and not their commentary in its entirety, while we will give the relevant verses of the Qur’an and some of the traditions concerning the Mahdi in the footnotes in Arabic. Subsequently, in the conclusion, we will attempt to compare the manner in which classical and modern mufassirin - experts in different fields of Islamic thought - view the Mahdi in their tafsir of the same few verses that we will use in this research.

As part of our research in this third chapter, we first studied separately, within three different Tafsir works, the Tafsir Majma’ al-Bayan, the Tafsir al-Mizan, and the Tafsir Makhzan al-‘Irfan dar ‘Ulum-e Qur’an (Kanz al-‘Irfan), examining each one of the 120 verses from the Qur’an which are believed to have been revealed for the Mahdi according to Seyyed Hashim al-Bahrani (d.1107 AH/1695 AD), a prominent Shi’ite scholar and mufassir, who relied upon the Shi’ite traditional reports. (1)

Results of our research show that:

- In his work (Majma’ al-Bayan), Shaykh Tabarsi has interpreted as concerning the Mahdi only nine verses from among the 120 verses reported by al-Bahrani. These nine are the following:

 

   The Qur’an 2 : 3

   The Qur’an 4 : 159

   The Qur’an 9 : 33

   The Qur’an 8 : 39

    The Qur’an 21 : 105

   The Qur’an 11 : 8

   The Qur’an 24 : 55 

    The Qur’an 34 : 51

   The Qur’an 48 : 28

 

- In his book (Tafsir al-Mizan), Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i has also interpreted nine verses and eight of them are the same as those interpreted by Shaykh Tabarsi, although he gives a broader meaning to the verses of the Qur’an.(2) His nine are as follows:

  The Qur’an 2 : 3

  The Qur’an 4 : 159

  The Qur’an 9 : 33

 The Qur’an 8 : 39

  The Qur’an 21 : 105

  The Qur’an 11 : 8

  The Qur’an 24 : 55 

  The Qur’an 34 : 51

  The Qur’an 41 : 53

 

- In her Makhzan al-‘Irfan, Banu Nusrat Amin has interpreted six verses from among the 120 verses and four of her verses are the same as those of the above authors:   

  The Qur’an 2 : 3

  The Qur’an 21 : 105

  The Qur’an 61 : 9

  The Qur’an 24 : 55 

  The Qur’an 34 : 51

  The Qur’an 97 : 5

 

Therefore, the Majma’ al-Bayan, the al-Mizan and the Makhzan al-‘Irfan have four verses in common. The Majma’ and the al-Mizan have eight verses in common and in total there are twelve verses discussed by these three mufassirin that we will present below. We may therefore conclude that these twelve verses are among the most important ones.

1) The Qur’an (21: 105)

Before this, we wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth. (3)"(4)

A- Tafsir Majma’ al-Bayan by Shaykh Tabarsi

Concerning the meaning of the first part of the verse “wa laqad katabna fi az-zabur mim ba’di adh-dhikr” (“Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses)”), Shaykh Tabarsi reports several views:(5)

1- Zabur are all the Prophets’ Books. The meaning of the verse is then 'We wrote in all the Prophets’ Books after the Mother of the Books which is in Heaven'. Zabur and Kitab (Book) have the same meaning here.

2- Zabur are the Books which were revealed after the Tawrah (Torah), and Dhikr in this verse means Tawrah, so the verse means “after the Tawrah, We wrote in the Zabur”.

3- According to Sha’bi, Zabur is the Book of the Prophet David and Dhikr is the Book of the Prophet Moses. He also says that Dhikr is the Qur’an and transforms mim ba’d (after) to min qabl (before).

Concerning the second part of the verse: “inna al-ardh yarithuha ‘ibadiya as-salihun” (“My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth”), Tabarsi reports its meaning from several commentators: 

1- Some define the word ardh as the earth of Heaven. So the verse means: “My righteous servants shall inherit the earth of Heaven”. According to this view, this verse does not concern the Mahdi.

2- Some define the word as the same Earth we are living in and which will belong to the Umma of the Prophet Muhammad. As the Prophet says: “The Earth was gathered for me, and the Eastern and Western parts of it were offered to me. And soon the Kingdom of my Community (Umma) will recover all of them.”(6) Regarding this verse, Imam Baqir asserts that these righteous servants are the Companions of the Mahdi at the End of Time.

To confirm these statements, there is a tradition that both the Shi’ites and the Sunnites report as emanating from the Prophet: “Even if there remains only a day on the Earth, God will prolong it until He will bring forth a pious man from my progeny so that he will fill the earth with justice and equity as it was filled with oppression and tyranny.”(7)

Continue in the next article: ()

NOTES:

______________________________________________________________________________________

1. Seyyed Hashim al-Bahrani : Sima-ye Hazrat-e Mahdi dar Qur’an, p.23

2. The Holy Quran: 2: 3,and [21: 105 and 24: 55.

3. وَلَقَدْ كَتَبْنَا فِي الزَّبُورِ مِن بَعْدِ الذِّكْرِ أَنَّ الْأَرْضَ يَرِثُهَا عِبَادِيَ الصَّالِحُونَ؛

4. Translated by: Yusuf Ali 21:105

5. Majma’ al-Bayan, Vol. 16, p. 170

6. فأريت مشارقها و مغاربها و سيبلغ ملك أمتي ما رؤي لي منها. قال (ص) : روئيت لي الأرض؛

7. قال النبي (ص) : لو لم يبق من الدنيا الا يوم واحد لطول الله ذلك اليوم حتى يبعث رجلا صالحا من أهل بيتي يملأ الأرض عدلا و قسطا كما قد ملئت ظلما و جورا