Mahdi in Classical and Modern Shi’ite Tafsirs 2

After having reported that the verse concerns the Mahdi, Shaykh Tabarsi mentions a tradition which denies the Mahdi and gives his own opinion. He writes that, in his work al-Ba’th wa an-Nushur, Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Husayn Bayhaki cites several traditions in this regard; his grandson ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad also reported all of these in the year 517 AH, but the tradition reported from Abu ‘Abdullah Hafez from Muhammad ibn Khaled from Aban ibn Saleh from Hasan from Anas ibn Malek, claiming that the Prophet said: ‘The people are living in difficulty and miserliness ... .

And Mahdi is no one but ‘Isa ibn Maryam’(1) is first of all a tradition reported only by Muhammad ibn Khaled, and secondly both the latter and Abu ‘Abdullah Hafez are unknown. Finally, declared Tabarsi, there is also disagreement in the Isnad or the transmissional chain of the Hadith: once Muhammad ibn Khaled reports the tradition from Aban ibn Saleh from Hasan from Anas from the Prophet, and once he reports the tradition from Aban ibn Abi ‘Ayyash (who can be omitted) from Hasan from the Prophet, and this chain of transmission is broken.

Tabarsi finally confirms his position, saying: “The traditions which clearly concern the reappearance of the Mahdi have a more trustworthy chain of narration. In these same traditions, it is reported that the Mahdi is from the Prophet’s progeny. Among them, there is one that Bayhaki’s grandson reports in his work from Abu Ali Rudbary, from Abu Bakr ibn Das, from Abu Dawud Sajestani..... from the Prophet who said: ‘Even if there remains only one day on the earth, God will prolong it until He will bring forth a pious man from my progeny.

And in some of these traditions it is reported that the Prophet also said: ‘His name is the same as my name and he will fill the earth with justice and equity as it was filled with oppression and tyranny.’ Also he reports a tradition from the Prophet who said: ‘The Mahdi is from my progeny, and from the descendants of Fatimah’.”

B- Tafsir al-Mizan by Allamah Tabataba’i

As for the Zabur, several meanings are reported by Allama Tabataba’i(2) from different commentators:

1- Apparently, the Zabur is the Book which was revealed to the prophet Dawud as mentioned in another part of the Qur’an: “wa aatayna Dawuda Zabura”.

2- Some commentators believe that this refers to the Qur’an.

3- Some are convinced that it concerns all the Books in general that were revealed to the Prophets, or that were revealed to the Prophets after Moses. However, there is no apparent support for this view.

For the word Dhikr, Tabataba’i reports that:

1- Some believe it means the Tawrah because God used the word Dhikr in two other places of this same chapter, clearly referring to the Tawrah.

2- Some say that it refers to the Qur’an because God used it several times in the Qur’an with that meaning. If this is so, the fact that the Zabur comes after the Qur’an in this verse where the Qur’an was revealed before the Zabur is not a problem because this order corresponds to the rank of the Books and not to their chronology.

3- Dhikr is also said to mean al-Lawh al-Mahfuz (the Protected Tablets), but according to Tabataba’i this is not correct.

For Inheritance (waratha), Tabataba’i reports that Raghib says Inheritance means the donation of goods to someone without any monetary exchange and that the inheritance of land means in this verse the transfer of that land from others to the virtuous people as well as the wealth and abundance of this land which belongs exclusively to them. This inheritance may be this-worldly or otherwise.

Tabatabai’s view is that the verse here has a general meaning and that the inheritance to which it refers concerns both this world and the hereafter, and that those who say that it concerns only the inheritance in the hereafter are in error. Also, the commentators who believe that the verse concerns exclusively the inheritance in this world, interpreting it for the time of the Mahdi's reappearance (about which there are authentic traditions from the Prophet reported by both Sunnites and Shi’ites) are also in error.

The traditions concerning the Mahdi, even authentic and certain, cannot be applied exclusively to this verse, according to Tabataba’i. Tabatabai also refers to the Tafsir al-Qummi in which it is written that the word Dhikr means all the divine Books and that the Zabur comprises the predictions, praises and prayers (du’a). As far as the inheritance of land by the virtuous is concerned, it is mentioned that it refers to the Mahdi and his followers.

Tabatabai concludes that the traditions concerning the Mahdi and his advent, whether originated by the Shi’ites or the Sunnites, by the Prophet or the Imams, are so numerous that they are considered as mutawatir, reported by several unbroken chain of transmitters, and authentic. It would perhaps be better to refer to the works devoted specifically to this subject.

C- Tafsir Makhzan al-‘Irfan by Banu Nusrat Amin

Banu Amin(3) first reports from several commentators the meaning of Zabur and Dhikr. The meaning of Zabur:

1- According to some commentators, the Zabur means the Book of the Prophet Dawud (David), as God says in the Qur’an (“wa aatayna Dawud Zabura”).(4)

2- Others claim that the Zabur refers to the Qur’an.

3- Also, the Zabur is said to consist of all the revealed Books or the Books revealed after that of the Prophet Musa (Moses).

The meaning of Dhikr:

1- According to some commentators, it means the Tawrah, because God used the word Dhikr several times in the Qur’an when referring to the Tawrah.

2- It is also said to refer to the Qur’an because it was used to indicate the Qur’an on different occasions. In this case, the fact that the Zabur comes after the Dhikr (Qur’an) in the verse does not mean after in chronological time but in the sense that it comes after the Dhikr because of its lower rank.

3- The Zabur is said by some to represent the al-Lawh al-Mahfuz.

Banu Amin then briefly reports the commentators’ views concerning the second part of the verse (“My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth"):

1- The meaning of Ardh is the earth of Heaven which the virtuous and pious servants of God will inherit, as we can see in the Qur’an.(5)

2- Ardh is also said to be a sacred land that the Community of the Prophet will inherit.

3- Ardh is the earth and the verse concerns people who have faith in general.

4- The virtuous members of the Community are being referred to here; it is said that, at the End of Time, the Umma of the Prophet will conquer the earth and its unbelievers, and will rule it.

At this point, Banu Amin reports a tradition from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (fifth Imam) concerning the Righteous mentioned in the verse: “These are the Companions of the Mahdi at the End of Time, who will conquer the Eastern and Western parts of the earth”. She adds that, in confirmation of this, there is a tradition reported by the Shi’ites and the Sunnites, according to which the Prophet said: “Even if there remains only one day on 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”.(6) Moreover, she adds that the traditions concerning the reappearance of the Mahdi and his descendency from Fatima are numerous among the Shi’ites and the Sunnites.”

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NOTES:

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1. قال النبي (ص): لا يزداد الأمر إلا شدة  ولا الناس إلا شحا و لا الدنيا إلا إدبارا و لا تقوم الساعة إلا على أشرار الناس و لا مهدي إلا عيسي ابن مريم.

2. Al-Mizan, Vol. 14, p. 453

3. Makhzan al-‘Irfan, Vol. 10  p. 309

4. The Holy Quran 4:126 and 17:55.

5. The Holy Quran 23:11 and 39:74

6. The same tradition is reported by Shaykh Tabarsi in his tafsir of the same verse, see note 5.