The Twelfth Imam from Sunni traditions point of view

The Twelfth Imam from Sunni traditions point of view

Based on Shia thought Imam Mahdi is the 12th Imam but with a glance in Islamic Authentic traditions (Shia/Sunni) we understand easily that Imam Mahdi is strongly accepted and deeply believed by Sunni great Scholars. So Imam Mahdi is one of strong common beliefs between Shia and Sunni Muslims who believe greatly in him even their sholars gave Fatwa that believing in Imam Mahdi is obligatory on all Sunnis.

The present article aims to present a perfect introduction among many authentic Sunni tradition on the subject of Imam Mahdi birth, his ancestor, His occultation etc.


He was born on the 15th Shaban 255 A.H. in the city of Samarra-Iraq. The momentous and singular aspect of his birth greatly resembled the Prophet Musa. The birth of prophet Musa had signaled the downfall and extinction of the empire of Pharaoh, who had ordered the slaying of all the newly born children of Bani-Israel. The Abbasside kings were similarly apprehensive of the continuous traditions of the Holy Prophet about the birth of Imam Mehdi, who was to bring about a curse to their (Abbasside) 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 event of the 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 except to a few devotees.

The Imam's birth had coincided with the reign of al-Mutamad, the well-known Abbasside 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 been conducted by his five year old son, his perplexity knew no bounds.

In a tradition upon whose authenticity all Muslims agree, the Holy Prophet has said:

"Even if the entire duration of the world's existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left before Doomsday (the Day of judgment), Allah will expand that day to such a length of time, as to accommodate the kingdom of a person out of my Progeny who will be called by my Name. He will then fill out the earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice and tyranny before then".

Sunni Reference: Sahih Tirmidhi, V2, P86, V9, P74-75 (There are many more.)

The context of the above precious tradition informs the golden divine promises will take place, sooner or later, one way or another, as mentioned in most of the Shi'ite and Sunni sources.

In a tradition the Holy Prophet said to the Commander of believers, Ali Ibn-Abi talib (PBUH), that:

"There will be twelve Guides (Imams) after me, the first of whom is you, O' Ali, and the last one will be the 'Support' (al-Qa'im), who with the grace of Allah, will gain victory over the whole east and west of the world."

Imam Mahdi after his father Martyrdom (Imam Hassan Askari) prayed funeral prayer and went to Occultation and concealed from people eyes while he was a five years old. So Imam Mahdi (PBUH) became Imam in the age of 5.

The occultation of the twelfth Imam is divided into two parts: the first, the minor occultation (ghaybat al-Sughra) which began in 260/874 and ended in 329/939, lasting less than seventy year. On that period, people were in contact with him through four special appointed by Imam Deputies. That period served as preparing people for the absence of Imam. The second, the major occultation which commenced in 329/939 and will continue as long as God wills it. There is no special and appointed deputy in direct contact with him in this period, and Muslim scholars are regular deputies of him at this time without having ability to see him.

Imam Mahdi (AS) said:

"Rest assured that no one has a special relationship with Allah. Whoever denies me is not from my (community). The appearance of the Relief (al- Faraj) depends solely upon Allah. Therefore those who propose a certain time for it are liars. As to the benefit of my existence in occultation, it is like the benefit of the sun behind the Clouds where the eyes do not see it. Indeed, my existence is an amnesty for inhabitants of the earth. Pray much to Allah to hasten the Relief, for therein also lies the release from your sufferings."

Sunni Documentation on Imam Mahdi (AS)

For our respected Sunni brothers, there are six authentic collections of traditions based on the Sunni standards for verifying the authenticity of a tradition. These six books are: Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Ibn Majah, Sunan Abu Dawud, and Sahih al-Nisa'i.

I just quote few traditions from these six books to prove that a knowledgeable Sunni brother/sister can NOT deny that:

1. Mahdi is going to come in the last days to make a universal Government,

2. Mahdi is from the Progeny of Prophet,

3. Mahdi is from the children of Fatimah (PBUH), the daughter of Prophet,

4. Mahdi is different from Jesus (the messiah),

5. Jesus will be one of the followers of Imam Mahdi and prays behind him.

The following are only some of the traditions out of many, about Imam Mahdi, and are ALL traditions that the Sunnis admit to their authenticity and existence:

The Prophet (PBUH) said:

"Even if the entire duration of the world's existence has already been exhausted and only one day is left before Doomsday (Day of Judgment), Allah will expand that day to such a length of time, as to accommodate the kingdom of a person out of my Progeny who will be called by my name. He will then fill out the earth with peace and justice as it will have been full of injustice and tyranny before then."

Sunni References:

1. Sahih Tirmidhi, V2, P86, V9, PP 74-75

2. Sanan Abi Dawud, V2, P7

3. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, V1, P376 & V3, P63

4. Mustadrak al-Sahihain, by al-Hakim, V4, P557

5. Al-Majma', by Tabarani, P217

6. Tahdhib al-Thabit, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, V9, P144

7. Sawaiq al-Muhraqa, Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, P167

8. Fathul Bari, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, V7, P305

9. al-Tathkirah, by al-Qurtubi, P617

10. al-Hawi, by al-Suyuti, V2, pp165-166

11. Sharh al-Mawahib al-Ladunniyyah, by al-Zurqani, V5, P348

12. Fathul Mughith, by al-Sakhawi, V3, P41

13. al-Hafidh Abul-Hasan Muhammad Ibn al-Husayn al-Sijistani al-Aburi

14. al-Shafi'i (d. 363/974). (Who said the above hadith is related by Numerous authorities and were spread far and wide by many narrators). And also in the works of Ibn Habban, Abu Nua'ym, Ibn Asakir, etc.


The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Al-Mahdi is one of us, the members of the household (Progeny)."

Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition No: 4085

As we see Imam Mahdi is from the Progeny of Prophet Muhammad, so he cannot be Jesus (the Messiah; al-Maseeh). Mahdi and Messiah are two different persons but they come at the same time, Mahdi as Imam and Jesus as his follower. The following tradition clearly mentions that Imam Mahdi is one of the children of the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

The Messenger of Allah said: "Al-Mahdi is one of the children of Fatimah (the Prophet's daughter)."

Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4086

Shia reference: Al-Irshad, V2, P 341


The Prophet (PBUH) said:

"We the children of Abd Al-Mutalib are the Masters of the inhabitants of Heaven: Myself, Hamza, Ali, Jafar, Hassan, Hussain and Al-Mahdi (PBUTH)."

Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4087

The Prophet (PBUH) said:


"The Mahdi will appear in my Ummah (Community) He will appear for a minimum of 7 or a maximum of 9 years; in that time, my Ummah will experience a bountiful favor like never before. It shall have a great abundance of food, of which it need not save anything, and the wealth at that time is in great quantities, such that if a man asks the Mahdi to give him some, and the Mahdi (AS) will say: Here! Take!"

Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #5083


According to Shi'a sources, the Government of Peace and equality that Imam Mahdi will establish will last hundreds of years with no rival, and then the Day of Judgment will be set. What is mentioned in the above tradition as 7 or 9 years is related to the length of time that Imam Mahdi will fight to conquer the world when he starts his mission.

The Prophet (PBUH) said:

"We (I and my family) are members of a household that Allah has chosen for them the life of the Hereafter over the life of this world; and the members of my household (Progeny) shall suffer a great affliction and they shall be forcefully expelled from their own homes after my death; then there will come people from the East carrying black flags, and they will ask for some good to be given to them, but they shall be refused service; as such, they will wage war and emerge victorious, and will be offered that which they desired in the first place, but they will refuse to accept it, until a man from my family (Progeny) appears to fill the Earth with justice as it has been filled with corruption. So whoever reaches that (time) ought to come to them even if crawling on the ice/snow."

Sunni ref: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, Tradition #4082, also in the History Tabari

The Messenger of Allah said:

"The world will not perish until a man among the Arabs appears whose name matches my name."

Sunni reference: Sahih Tirmidhi, V9, P74


The Messenger of Allah said:

"Mahdi from my family will bring about a revolution and will fill the world with justice and equity before which it was filled up with injustice and inequity."

Sunni references:

1. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, V1, P84

2. Jami'us Sagheer, by al-Suyuti, PP 2,160

3. al-Urful Vardi, by al-Suyuti, P2

4. Kanzul Ummal, V7 P186

5. Aqd al-Durar Fi Akhbaar al-Mahdi al-Muntazir, V12, Chapter 1,

6. al-Bayan fi Akhbar Sahib al-Zaman, By Ganji Shafi'i, Chapter 12

7. al-Fusool al-Muhimmah, by Ibn Sabbagh  Maliki, Chapter 12

8. Arjahul Matalib, by Ubaidallah Hindi hanafi, P380

9. Muqaddimah, by Ibn Khaldoon, P266

Also Ahmad Ibn Hanbal narrated that:

The Prophet (PBUH) said:

"Allah will bring out from concealment Mahdi from my Family and Progeny before the Day of Judgment, even if only one day were to remain in the life of the world, and he will spread on this earth justice, and equity and eradicate tyranny and oppression."

1. Sunni reference: Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, p99

Ibn Majah in his Sunan quotes Mohammad Ibn Hanafiyyah and Imam Ali saying that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:

"Mahdi is from our Progeny, no doubt Allah will enforce his Amr (appearance) within a night (his coming is very unpredicted)."

Sunni reference: Sunan Ibn Majah, V2, P: 269

The more recent fatwa in this issue is given in Mecca by the Muslim World League (Rabitatul `Alamul Islami) on Oct. 11, 1976 (23 Shawwal 1396). This fatwa states that more than twenty companions narrated traditions concerning al-Mahdi, and gives a list of those scholars of Hadith who have transmitted these narrations, and those who have written books on al-Mahdi. The fatwa states:

     "The memorizers (Hafiz) and scholars of Hadith have verified that there are authentic (sahih) and acceptable (hasan) reports among the traditions related to al-Mahdi. The majority of these traditions are

     related through numerous authorities (Mutawatir). There is no doubt that the status of those reports are Sahih and Mutawatir. (They have also verified) that the belief in Mahdi is obligatory, and that it is

     one of the beliefs of Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama'a. Only those ignorant of the Sunnah and innovators in doctrine deny it.

For the transcription and reproduction of this fatwa, see, among others, the Introduction of al-Ganji al-Shafi'i, in the book named "al-Bayan," Beirut, 1399/1979, PP 76-79 and in Appendix.

Among Shi'ite scholars, I would like to mention the masterpiece of Lutifullah Al-Safi al-Golpaygani, who compiled an encyclopedia called "Muntakhab al-Athar". In this book, there is a comprehensive narration of the traditions relating to the appearance of the Mahdi (AS). He has used over 60 Sunni sources, including their Six Authentic Books of Tradition; and over 90 Shi'ite sources to illuminate the fact that Al-Mahdi is NOT a fabricated event.

The Prophet (PBUH) said: "He who dies not knowing the Imam of his era, has died the death of Al-Jahiliyya (Days of Ignorance; the era before Islam)."