Al-Mahdi, the promised Caliph to lead the Ummah
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
Al-Mahdi (meaning “the guided one”) is a righteous leader who will appear in the last days of the Ummah, just before the descent of Jesus, peace be upon him. He will be from the prophetic lineage (Ahl al-Bayt) and will be forced to become Caliph by righteous believers in front of the Ka’bah. Allah will aid him with a miracle that will leave no doubt he is the long awaited figure.
Many leading hadith scholars, including Al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah, have devoted chapters to reports about the Mahdi. Some scholars have said that the reports about him are unanimous (tawattur), confirming that this is indeed an essential prophecy in Islamic eschatology.
However, like all eschatological matters of the Unseen, we need to properly contextualize the prophecy, sift the authentic narrations from the weak ones, and protect ourselves from impostors and pretenders who try to exploit it for their own gain.
The Mahdi, may Allah be pleased with him, will appear shortly before the second coming of Jesus, peace be upon him. Together they will fight against the False Messiah (al-Masiha al-Dajjal) and defeat him, which will signal the end of secular history and the beginning of an era of faith, peace, and justice on earth.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
كَيْفَ أَنْتُمْ إِذَا نَزَلَ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ فِيكُمْ وَإِمَامُكُمْ مِنْكُمْ
How will you be when the son of Mary descends upon you while your leader is among you?
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3265, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “
يَنْزِلُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَيَقُولُ أَمِيرُهُمْ تَعَالَ صَلِّ لَنَا فَيَقُولُ لَا إِنَّ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ أُمَرَاءُ تَكْرِمَةَ اللَّهِ هَذِهِ الْأُمَّةَ
Jesus the son of Mary, peace and blessings be upon him, will descend and the Muslim leader will say: Come lead us in prayer. Jesus will say: No, some of you are leaders over others, as Allah has honored this nation.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 156, Grade: Sahih
One of the most prominent signs of the true Mahdi is that he will be a descendant of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, through his daughter Fatimah, may Allah be pleased with her.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
لَا تَذْهَبُ الدُّنْيَا حَتَّى يَمْلِكَ الْعَرَبَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ بَيْتِي يُوَاطِئُ اسْمُهُ اسْمِي
The world will not pass away until the Arabs are ruled by a man from my household, whose name agrees with my name.
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2230, Grade: Sahih
Umm Salamah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
الْمَهْدِيُّ مِنْ عِتْرَتِي مِنْ وَلَدِ فَاطِمَةَ
The Mahdi will be from my offspring, among the descendants of Fatimah.
Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4284, Grade: Sahih
The False Messiah will gain prominence before the appearance of the Mahdi, so the earth will be filled with unbelief, idolatry, tyranny, and oppression. The Mahdi will reverse this situation with help from Allah and the righteous believers.
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
الْمَهْدِيُّ مِنِّي أَجْلَى الْجَبْهَةِ أَقْنَى الْأَنْفِ يَمْلَأُ الْأَرْضَ قِسْطًا وَعَدْلًا كَمَا مُلِئَتْ جَوْرًا وَظُلْمًا يَمْلِكُ سَبْعَ سِنِينَ
The Mahdi will be from my lineage, with a curved nose. He will fill the earth with justice and equity, just as it had been filled with tyranny and oppression. He will rule for seven years.
Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4285, Grade: Sahih
In another narration, the Prophet (ṣ) said:
يَخْرُجُ فِي آخِرِ أُمَّتِي الْمَهْدِيُّ يَسْقِيهِ اللَّهُ الْغَيْثَ وَتُخْرِجُ الْأَرْضُ نَبَاتَهَا وَيُعْطِي الْمَالَ صِحَاحًا وَتَكْثُرُ الْمَاشِيَةُ وَتَعْظُمُ الْأُمَّةُ يَعِيشُ سَبْعًا أَوْ ثَمَانِيًا
The Mahdi will appear in the latter part of my nation. Allah will grant him rain to bring produce from the earth. He will give out wealth appropriately, cattle will be plentiful, and the nation will become great. He will live as ruler for seven or eight years.
Source: al-Mustadrak ‘alá al-Ṣaḥīḥayn 8716, Grade: Sahih
And in another narration, the Prophet (ṣ) said:
يَكُونُ فِي آخِرِ الزَّمَانِ خَلِيفَةٌ يَقْسِمُ الْمَالَ وَلَا يَعُدُّهُ
There will be near the end of time a Caliph who will distribute wealth without counting it.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2913, Grade: Sahih
The appearance of the Mahdi will be quick and unmistakable. Unlike many impostors claiming to be the Mahdi, the true Mahdi will rise to prominence in a single night and the righteous believers will agree upon his piety, leadership, and authority.
Ali ibn Abi Talib reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
الْمَهْدِيُّ مِنَّا أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ يُصْلِحُهُ اللَّهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ
The Mahdi is from us, the prophetic household. Allah will set right his affairs in a single night.
Source: Sunan Ibn Mājah 4085, Grade: Sahih li ghayrihi
‘Ali al-Qari commented on this tradition, writing:
يُصْلِحُ الله أَمْرَهُ وَيَرْفَعُ قَدْرَهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ وَاحِدَةٍ أَوْ فِي سَاعَةٍ وَاحِدَةٍ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ حَيْثُ يَتَّفِقُ عَلَى خِلَافَتِهِ أَهْلُ الْحَلِّ وَالْعَقْدِ فِيهَا
Allah will set right his affairs and raise his status in one night, or in a moment of one night, such that those invested with authority will agree upon his Caliphate.
Source: Mirqāt al-Mafātīḥ 8/3439
There will be a miraculous event that will signal to believers worldwide that the true Mahdi has arrived. In a time of civil conflict following the death of a Muslim leader, many factions will vie against each other for power. The Mahdi will be recognized by some people and they will force him to become the Caliph against his will, demonstrating his humility and fear of Allah, and they will pledge allegiance to him in front of the Ka’bah in Mecca.
Following this initial pledge, an army from Syria will be dispatched to attack the Mahdi and his followers. That army will be swallowed up in the desert, a miracle akin to the parting of the sea for Moses, peace be upon him. Upon witnessing this miracle, the righteous believers of Syria, Iraq, and all throughout the Muslim world will recognize him as the true Mahdi and they will come to him to pledge their allegiance.
Umm Salamah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
يَكُونُ اخْتِلَافٌ عِنْدَ مَوْتِ خَلِيفَةٍ فَيَخْرُجُ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ هَارِبًا إِلَى مَكَّةَ فَيَأْتِيهِ نَاسٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ مَكَّةَ فَيُخْرِجُونَهُ وَهُوَ كَارِهٌ فَيُبَايِعُونَهُ بَيْنَ الرُّكْنِ وَالْمَقَامِ وَيُبْعَثُ إِلَيْهِ بَعْثٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الشَّامِ فَيُخْسَفُ بِهِمْ بِالْبَيْدَاءِ بَيْنَ مَكَّةَ وَالْمَدِينَةِ فَإِذَا رَأَى النَّاسُ ذَلِكَ أَتَاهُ أَبْدَالُ الشَّامِ وَعَصَائِبُ أَهْلِ الْعِرَاقِ فَيُبَايِعُونَهُ بَيْنَ الرُّكْنِ وَالْمَقَامِ
There will be a conflict with the death of a Caliph and a man among the residents of Medina will go out fleeing to Mecca. Some people will come to pledge allegiance to him, although he is unwilling, and they will pledge allegiance to him between the corner of the Ka’bah and the station of Abraham. An army from Syria will be dispatched for him and they will be swallowed in the desert between Mecca and Medina. When the people see that, the saints of Syria and the strong tribes of Iraq will come to him and pledge allegiance to him between the corner and the station.
Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4286, Grade: Hasan
Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
يَغْزُو جَيْشٌ الْكَعْبَةَ فَإِذَا كَانُوا بِبَيْدَاءَ مِنْ الْأَرْضِ يُخْسَفُ بِأَوَّلِهِمْ وَآخِرِهِمْ
An army will raid the Ka’bah but when they reach a desert land, all of them will be swallowed by the earth.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 2012, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
Aside from this miracle, a key sign of the true Mahdi is his sincerity, humility, and fear of Allah with respect to his authority. He does not want to be the Caliph, even though he is righteous, which is exactly what makes him qualified to lead. The Sunnah is to avoid taking leadership positions unless absolutely necessary.
Abdur Rahman ibn Samurah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said to him:
يَا عَبْدَ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنَ سَمُرَةَ لَا تَسْأَلْ الْإِمَارَةَ فَإِنَّكَ إِنْ أُعْطِيتَهَا عَنْ مَسْأَلَةٍ وُكِلْتَ إِلَيْهَا وَإِنْ أُعْطِيتَهَا عَنْ غَيْرِ مَسْأَلَةٍ أُعِنْتَ عَلَيْهَا
O Abdur Rahman, do not ask for authority. If it is given to you at your request, you will be held fully responsible for it. If it is given to you without your request, you will be helped by Allah in it.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6727, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
Hence, people who claim to be the Mahdi and ask for leadership, wealth, and other worldly gains in return are exposed as liars and impostors. The true Mahdi will not declare himself to be the Mahdi, nor will he desire to become Caliph, nor will he ask people for worldly gains.
Indeed, some deviant militant groups in our time raise black flags, an alleged sign of the Mahdi which is based on weak hadith, demanding by threat of violence that we pledge allegiance to them.
Many charlatans have appeared in the Ummah claiming to be the Mahdi, or the incarnation of Jesus, or another such saintly figure. The Prophet (ṣ) warned us about these impostors, especially their increased prominence near the end of time.
Thawban reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
إِنَّهُ سَيَكُونُ فِي أُمَّتِي ثَلَاثُونَ كَذَّابُونَ كُلُّهُمْ يَزْعُمُ أَنَّهُ نَبِيٌّ وَأَنَا خَاتَمُ النَّبِيِّينَ لَا نَبِيَّ بَعْدِي
Verily, there will be thirty liars among my nation, all of them claiming to be a prophet, but I am the seal of the prophets. There is no prophet after me.
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2219, Grade: Sahih
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
يَكُونُ فِي آخِرِ الزَّمَانِ دَجَّالُونَ كَذَّابُونَ يَأْتُونَكُمْ مِنْ الْأَحَادِيثِ بِمَا لَمْ تَسْمَعُوا أَنْتُمْ وَلَا آبَاؤُكُمْ فَإِيَّاكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ لَا يُضِلُّونَكُمْ وَلَا يَفْتِنُونَكُمْ
There will be impostors near the end of time, liars who will bring narrations you have never heard, neither you nor your fathers. Beware, lest they misguide you and afflict you with trials.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 7, Grade: Sahih
Ibn Umar reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
يَخْرُجُ فِي آخِرِ الزَّمَانِ رِجَالٌ يَخْتِلُونَ الدُّنْيَا بِالدِّينِ يَلْبَسُونَ لِلنَّاسِ جُلُودَ الضَّأْنِ مِنْ اللِّينِ أَلْسِنَتُهُمْ أَحْلَى مِنْ السُّكَّرِ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ قُلُوبُ الذِّئَابِ
Men will appear near the end of time who deceive the world with religion, confusing the people. Their skin is as soft as sheep, their words are sweeter than sugar, yet their hearts like the hearts of wolves.
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2404, Grade: Hasan
Thus, anyone claiming to be the Mahdi should be met with deep skepticism, as the true Mahdi will be made known not by his claims but by the miracle supporting him and the gathering of righteous believers around him in Mecca from all over the Muslim world.
Lastly, it is important to understand that the prophecy of the Mahdi is not an excuse to do nothing, neglect our communities, or maintain a defeatist attitude, merely waiting for the Mahdi or Jesus, peace be upon them both.
Shaykh al-Albani said:
لا يجوز للمسلمين أن يتركوا العمل للإسلام وإقامة دولته على وجه الأرض انتظاراً منهم لخروج المهدي ونزول عيسى عليهما السلام يأساً منهم أو توهماً أن ذلك غير ممكن قبلهما
It is not permissible for Muslims to abandon working for Islam and the establishment of its state on the face of the earth, waiting for the appearance of the Mahdi and the descent of Jesus, peace be upon them both, feeling despair and imagining that is not possible before them. This notion is false.
Source: Fiqh Ashrāṭ al-Sā’ah 311
In sum, the Prophet (ṣ) told us in several narrations about the Mahdi, his signs, and what to expect near the end of time. The purpose is to prepare us for these massive world-changing events when they occur, as well as to protect us from false prophets and impostors who exploit religion for their own selfish purposes.
Moreover, we should not become apathetic in doing good works by waiting for the Mahdi. Rather, we need to continue to build up our own faith and communities so that, when the time comes, we will respond appropriately. Upon seeing the Mahdi, the believers will need to lend him and his followers their full support, even if that means emigrating to him. If it happened tomorrow, would you be ready for it?
May Allah keep us upon the straight path, protect us from impostors, and guide us to the company of righteous Muslim believers.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.