Rafed English

If this person is so important then why have the sacred scriptures not even mentioned him or referred to his movement?

It is not correct to assert that the sacred texts do not refer to Al-Mahdi (as). Under the answers to questions 30 & 31, we have explained that almost all religions, factions, ideologies and sects have anticipated the appearance of a Just Leader who is expected to create peace on Earth. In the Holy Qur'an alone, there are around 140 verses, which refer to him. The Shi'ah scholar S. Hashem Al-Bahrani in his famous book "Al-Mahaja fima nazale fil-Qaim Al-Hujjah" has explained many of these verses. These verses explain many aspects of the Shi'ah doctrine of salvation as well. There are also many ahadeeth dealing with this subject. Some of them deal with the necessity of his Occultation, its reasons and philosophy and a description of this period, the believer's duty during this period of time and so on. We have discussed some of these verses and ahadeeth under the answer to question 30.

Other sacred texts have mentioned him as well, under the title of Savior, or by indirect descriptions of his personality and attributes. In order to analyze these references, we must see whether or not the names of Al-Mahdi (as) are used in the Hebrew Scriptures in some cognate form, and whether these are associated with factors suggesting the Islamic figure of Al-Mahdi (as) as the terminus of such prophetic expressions. After this, we must examine the functions of Al-Mahdi (as) in comparison with the body of Biblical Scriptures in order to identify parallels. Obviously, such parallels will be more convincing to the skeptic once a clear reference to a specific name can be produced.

Among the many names of Al-Mahdi (as) is, of course, Muhammad. This is the name most likely to be evident in the Bible, and must therefore be examined first. On the other hand, this name is ambiguous, since it refers not only to Al-Mahdi (as), but to other Imams as well. It will thus be necessary to find a Hebrew cognate of this name.

The Hebrew cognate of the root from which the name Muhammad is derived is hamdo which means "to desire", or "to pamper". The Arabic connotation of "to praise", which is the meaning of the trilateral root, is not found in Modern Hebrew. The noun form is feminine with the common feminine suffix added. It is used eight times in the Hebrew Scriptures. There is no problem with the use of this word as a masculine proper name, as there are many examples of feminine words being included in a masculine name, and vice versa.

This word, we would argue, is used as a proper name in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is clearly and unequivocally used in this way in Psalm 106:24.

Yea they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word.

Yet if we leave the word hamda untranslated, we get the following rendering of the verse:

Yea, they despised the land of Hamda, they believed not his word.

We see that no matter which way we translate it, we still have the possessive "his," which requires an antecedent. The nearest possible antecedent is this enigmatic word hamda. Unless this word is conceived of as a proper name, as it is in our second translation, there is no natural antecedent for the possessive.

It remains to be seen to whom this verse refers. Seen in terms of the Islamic concept of the Mahdi (as), the verse makes little sense. But seen in terms of the Prophet of Islam (saws), it makes a great deal of sense. It can be easily understood as referring to the fact that when Prophet Muhammad (saws) came, he was shunned partly on the basis of his geographical origins in Arabia. But what is important to see from this example is that, without any doubt, the word hamda appears as a proper name in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Turning our attention to the concept of the Mahdi (as) as related to this word hamda, we can analyze an ambiguous reference to the death of Jehoram in (Old Testament) 2 Chronicles 21:20, that applies the word hamda to the King:

Thrity and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchers of the kings.

The word hamda is translated in the official translation as "desired". But this is slightly distorted, since the upon substantive is used without any adjectival positioning. However, the translation is certainly possible. But if this use of the word hamda is in the form of a proper name, as it was in our quote from the Psalms, then the relevance of this reference to Al-Mahdi (as) is great. The implication is that, at the time, every king of Judah was evaluated, in order to see whether he fitted the criteria of the awaited hamda. The name itself ("the desired") suggests this awaiting, and it suggests that the people knew of the coming of hamda and longed for him. The king is buried with the nostalgic remark that he, sadly, did not turn out to be the hamda.

We now see a clearer link between the proper name of hamda and the concept of an awaited eschatological figure. We now can find a clear link between the usage of hamda as a proper name referring to an awaited figure, and that of Al-Mahdi (as) in (Old Testament) Haggai 2:7-9:

And I will shake all nations, and the hamda of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace [shalom], saith the LORD of hosts.

It could be argued that this particular usage, with the construct, speaks against interpreting the word hamda in this case as a proper name. However, the text is a late one, and the lexicalized expressions would have become so ingrained that the proper name had become synonymous with an awaited figure. Perhaps a middle ground translation of the term would best express the meaning of the text, if we said instead of "the hamda of all nations" we said "the desired one of all nations". We will discuss later the concept of Al-Mahdi (as) as a pan-religious figure, and he is, without a doubt, the desired one of all nations. Beyond this, if we translate the word peace [shalom] as Salam (whose meaning, peace, is similar to that of shalom), we receive a meaning that is clearer than that of the above translation. The tone of this sentence indicates that the grace of a particular event, rather than the more generalized concept of peace held by the word (salam) peace will be bestowed in the wake of hamda's arrival.38

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Early in summer 1947 there was sensational news from Palestine about a new archaeological find near the Dead Sea. It was an amazing new discovery in the field of biblical archaeology. The biblical manuscripts were probably the least important of what appeared to be the remains of a Jewish sectarian library dating from shortly before the time of Jesus Christ (as). More discoveries in the same area followed in the ensuring years. There were hundreds of scrolls covering a period that had hitherto been one of the most meagerly documented, yet important, periods in man's history.39 Then in January 1952, four caves were throughly explored; and the material that was discovered there must be reckoned to be the most amazing archaeological treasure. It ranges from a wooden azde handle, complete with leather thongs for binding on the flint blade and is dateable to 4000-3000 B.C.40 These finds have actually led to knowledge of the Qumran Sect, who looked to the coming of a Priestly Messiah (Anointed One), whom they call the Interpreter of the Law'. This then, was the priestly Messiah, but it obvious that along with him they expected the appearance of another 'Anointed One' a Prince from the line of David. It is surprising that scholars realized that phrases like 'The Messiah of Aaron and the Messiah from the line of David' referred to two different persons.41 The Messiah of Aaron and the Messiah of David are referred to as arising together at the end of time. While the first is the interpreter of the law, the second is really a war leader and a blessed judge as said in one of these scrolls:

"He will renew for Him the Covenant of the Community (charging him) to establish the kingdom of his people for ever, to judge the poor justly, and to reprove with equity the humble of the land, to walk before Him perfection, in all the ways of ... and to restore His Holy alliance in the time of distress with all those who seek him.42

Altogether there were four caves, the fourth one in particular contained many useful pieces of information. In his book "The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English" has G. Vermes translated a document saying:

This short document from Cave 4 (Q175), dating to the early first century BCE and similar in library style to the Christian Testimonia or collections of messianic proof-tests, includes five quotations arranged in four groups ... The first group consists of two texts from Deuteronomy referring to the prophet similar to Moses; the second is an extract from a prophecy of Balaam about the Royal Messiah ... etc43

Here we will quote the first part of the translation, which follows:

The Lord spoke to Moses saying:
You have heard the words which this people have spoken to you; all they have said is right. O that their heart were always like this, to fear me and to keep my commandments always, that it might be well with them and their children for ever (Deut.v, 28-9). I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren. I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell them all that I commanded him. And I will require a reckoning of whoever will not listen to the words which the prophet shall speak in my Name. (Deut.xxxvii, 18-19) 44

In another document it states:

... [The hea] vens and the Earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the Holy ones. Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service! All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the lord in this?
For the Lord will consider the pious, and call the righteous by name.
Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with his power.
And He will glorify the pious on the Throne of the eternal Kingdom. He will liberate the captives, restore sight to the blind. Straightens the bent. 45

The question as to the identify of these two Messiahs arises, especially as to that of the Apocalyptic Messiah, who is expressed at the end of the time? One can also specify the question more, as to which phrase refers to the Prophet Muhammad (saws) and which one to Imam Al-Mahdi (as)?
38. Taken from a paper presented by Prof. Ali Haydar to the Conference on Imam Mahdi and Jesus Christ's second coming in London at the Islamic Centre of England, on 27 & 28 Oct. 2001

39. John Allegro. The Dead See Scrolls. p.17. Second Edition. Penguin Books. London 1964

40. John Allegro. The Dead See Scrolls. p.41. Second Edition. Penguin Books. London 1964

41. John Allegro. The Dead See Scrolls. p.167. Second Edition. Penguin Books. London 1964

42. John Allegro. The Dead See Scrolls. p.167. Second Edition. Penguin Books. London 1964

43. Geza Vermez, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. p.495. Eighth Edition. Penguin books, London 1998

44. Geza Vermez, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. p.495. Eighth Edition. Penguin books, London 1998

45. Geza Vermez, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. p.391-2. Eighth Edition. Penguin books, London 1998

Adapted from the book: "The Awaited Saviour; Questions and Answers"

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