The coming of al-Mahdi and the establishment of the Khilafah

The coming of the Mahdi is one of the major signs of Judgement Day. Unlike the minor signs his appearance will signal that the Final Hour is near and that believers must ensure that they are ready to endure its trials and tribulations (fitan).

The Mahdi will come at a time when Muslims will have become disunited and where tyranny and corruption will have prevailed.The situation will be so bad that a person would wish he was not born or that if someone died he would wish that it was him.

The story of al-Mahdi, as recounted in the sunnah, is a story of hope where the struggle between Haqq and Baatil results in the believers gaining victory over the disbelievers, where the earth is filled with peace and justice due to the just rule of al-Mahdi. It is narrated by Abu Said al-Khudri (ra) that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

“At the end of the time of my ummah,the Mahdi will appear. Allah will grant him rain, the earth will bring forth its fruits, he will give a lot of money, cattle will increase and the ummah will become great.” (Reported by al-Haakim in his Mustadrak, 4/557-558).

The story of mahdi is one that encourages the believers to work for the unity of Muslims and the justice of Islam via the establishment of the Khilafah and the application of the Shariah as the believer knows that one day the whole world will be enlightened by the light of Islam and falsehood shall vanish. But until that day comes he must take encouragement from the bashaarat (glad tidings) of the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم and strive and work for Islam following the Sunnah of the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم.

So it is sad to hear sometimes that some find in the story of Mahdi an excuse and justification for inaction, taking the fatalistic view that we as an Ummah cannot, and even should not, do anything about the corrupt situation until the Mahdi appears at the end of time and establishes the Khilafah. Clearly, this is not the message the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) took when they heard the story directly from the lips of the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. They heard this story and they took its lessons and they worked tirelessly, first in Makkah in order to establish dar al-Islam and then after its establishment in Madinah to consolidate and extend the influence of the Islamic state. After the death of al-Mustafa صلى الله عليه وسلم the Sahabah appointed Khulafah who extended the authority of Islam even further until the light of Islam had spread to a large part of the world. So how can it be that the coming of the Mahdi has become an excuse for the resignation to the corrupt reality? Indeed, if we analyse the authentic reports about the coming of Mahdi from both a prophetic and legal point of view we can conclude the following:

The Khilafah will not be established by the Mahdi but he will be a Khaleefah coming after the death of the Khaleefah before him. In other words the Khilafah will have been established by the Muslims before the coming of the Mahdi. This can clearly be seen in the hadith narrated by Umm Salamah (ra) that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

“Disagreement will occur at the death of a caliph and a man of the people of Medina will come flying forth to Mecca. Some of the people of Mecca will come to him, bring him out against his will and give bay’ah to him between the Rukn and the Maqam. An expeditionary force will then be sent against him from Syria but will be swallowed up in the desert between Mecca and Medina. When the people see that, the God fearing people of Syria and the best people of Iraq will come to him and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam. Then there will arise a man of Quraysh whose maternal uncles belong to Kalb and send against them an expeditionary force which will be overcome by them, and that is the expedition of Kalb. Disappointed will be the one who does not receive the booty of Kalb. He will divide the property, and will govern the people by the Sunnah of their Prophet (peace be upon him) and establish Islam on Earth. He will remain seven years…” (Reported by at-Tabarani in al-Awsat.According to Ibn Hajar in his Majma’ az-Zawaid the transmitters in at-Tabarani’s narration are sound and authentic.)

Notice the above hadith states that disputes will take place at the death of the Khaleefah and consequently a man will come forth who after being given bay’ah as the khaleefah will declare himself to be the Mahdi. So clearly Mahdi will not establish the Khilafah Rashidah that will return as foretold in the ahadith, and as well he will not be the first Khaleefah after the destruction of the Khilafah and nor will he be the last Khaleefah. Rather, he will be a just Khaleefah who will establish the justice of Islam on earth. This is from the perspective of the account of the story as prophesised by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.

From a shar’i or legal perspective the hadith which detail the emergence of the Mahdi do not establish any Shariah rules for the reality of Muslims of today, as they relate to a different situation when the Khilafah exists. A Hukm Shar’i or divine rule comes for a manaat (reality to which the hukm pertains) which requires a ruling, which is our current reality and not the end of time which will be signalled by the major signs of the day of judgment.

A hukm shar’i essentially is a request to do an action or refrain from it whether by way of obligation (wujoob), prohibition (tahreem), encouragement (nadb) or discouragement (karaaha). Although the hadiths about the Mahdi do not request the obligation to establish the Khilafah, as they are largely ikhbari (informative) in nature and as the Khilafah will already exist when the Mahdi comes (which is why we say this reality is inapplicable), but they certainly do NOT say it is not obligatory to work for a Khilafah when it does not exist.

Indeed the Shariah rules established at the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم are applicable till the end of time as long as they pertain to the reality for which they came. So not only must the Muslims abide by them, so must the Mahdi and so did ‘Isa عليه السلام who came not as a Prophet but as a follower of the Shariah of Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. So if the coming of a great Prophet like Isa عليه السلام, after the prophethood of Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, cannot suspend the rules of the Shariah, how can the coming of the Mahdi suspend them?

As for the hukm shar’i on what to do when the Khilafah does not exist, as we see in our situation today, we need to refer to the following hadith of the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم as it addressed that very manaat (reality):

“Whosoever dies without a bay’ah on his neck dies the death of Jahiliyyah.” (Reported by Muslim in his Sahih).

This hadith clarifies by its implied meaning (mafhum) that it is not permitted for a Muslim to live without the presence of a Khaleefah as it censures the one who dies without his presence. Consequently, it becomes obligatory on the Muslim to work for the presence of a Khaleefah who will rule justly and work to remove, through only da’wah and political struggle, the Ruwaibidah that are our current despicable rulers. This is our reality today and the work to establish the Khilafah is the vital issue that the Muslims cannot neglect.

Whilst the coming of the Mahdi is an important subject in the books of hadith, it is almost as though some have taken the subject as a “get-out” clause to not work for the return of the Khilafah and the giving of bayah to the next Khaleefah. As though the mere mention of Khilafah in the time of Mahdi in some way excuses Muslims from their obligation of removing the corrupt regimes of today. Yes, there will be a Khilafah again inshAllah, but will we all be of the ummah that lived in darkness and did nothing to change that situation? And wait for Allah سبحانه وتعالى to bring a people that loved him and He سبحانه وتعالى loved.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللّهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ أَذِلَّةٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَعِزَّةٍ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ يُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَلاَ يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لآئِمٍ ذَلِكَ فَضْلُ اللّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

“O you who believe! If you ever abandon your faith, Allah will in time bring forth (instead of you) people whom he loves and who love Him – humble towards the believers, strong towards all who deny truth: [people] who strive hard in Allah’s cause, and do not fear to be censured by anyone who might censure them.” [Al-Maaida, 5:54]