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Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari and Traditions about the Mahdi

It is important to emphasize that if the traditions about the Mahdi were not recorded by Bukhari and Muslim, this does not mean that the reports were weak in transmission. After all, these two compilers had no intention of shedding light on all the traditions. According to Bayhaqi, Muslim and Bukhari did not intend to search for all the traditions. The evidence is provided by the inclusion of numerous traditions that were recorded by Bukhari and which are not part of Muslim's collection. At the same time, there are traditions in the Sahih of Muslim which were avoided by Bukhari.1

Just as Muslim claimed to have recorded only the authentic traditions in his compilation, so did Abu Dawud in his collection. This latter fact has been observed by Abu Bakr b. Dasa who heard Abu Dawud say: "I have recorded 4,800 traditions in my collection of which all are either reliable or close to reliable." In addition, Abu al-Sabah confirms that it was reported to him that Abu Dawud made a similar claim about the traditions in his compilation, Sunan, adding that if he included a weak tradition he made that clear. "Hence any tradition about which I have not made any comment should be regarded as reliable." A similar positive opinion about Abu Dawud's Sunan has been related from Khatabi in the introduction to the present edition by Sa'ati.2

In short, the traditions in Muslim and Bukhari are not different in reliability from the traditions recorded by other authors of the Sahih. What is important is that their transmitters should be investigated in order to establish their credibility or the lack thereof. To be sure, the Sahihs of Muslim and Bukhari, whose authority is accepted by all the Sunnis, are not completely devoid of traditions about the Mahdi, although the term mahdi has not been used to express this belief among Muslims. Following is one such hadith: It is reported from Abu Hurayra that the Prophet said: "What will be your reaction when the son of Mary descends and your Imam is among yourselves?"3 There are a number of other traditions on a similar theme in these two compilations. It is also important to bear in mind that Ibn Khaldun has neither totally falsified all the traditions about the Mahdi, nor has he claimed that he does not accept them. The context of Ibn Khaldun's remark about these traditions is provided by his opening statement in this section when he says: It has been well known (and generally accepted) by all Muslims in every epoch, that at the end of time a man from the family (of the Prophet) will without fail make his appearance, who will strengthen Islam and make justice triumph. Muslims will follow him, and he will gain domination over the Muslim realm. He will be called the Mahdi. It is evident that he has briefly accepted the fact that the belief in the awaited Mahdi is common among Muslims. Moreover, after his critical evaluation of the traditions and their transmitters he concludes the discussion with the following observation: This is the situation of the traditions about the awaited Mahdi. It has been seen in the books that, with the exception of very few, most of these traditions are regarded as unreliable.4

Hence, even at this point he has not rejected all the traditions on the subject. Rather, as he confesses, some of them are authentic. Furthermore, it is relevant to point out that the traditions on the subject of the Mahdi are not confined only to those mentioned and critically evaluated by Ibn Khaldun. Quite to the contrary, most of the books on hadith, both by the Sunnis and the Shi`ites, narrate traditions in an unbroken chain of transmission which actually comes close to their verification as being credible. Had Ibn Khaldun known about the existence of all these traditions, he would have probably regarded the belief in the Mahdi as deeply rooted in the Islamic revelation. To conclude this discussion, we can say that it is incorrect to maintain, as some scholars do, that Ibn Khaldun rejected the tradition about the Mahdi. On the contrary, it is these authors who have read into Ibn Khaldun such an opinion. Other Opinions from Ibn Khaldun: Ibn Khaldun concludes this section on the traditions concerning the Mahdi thus: The truth one must know is that no religious or political power's propaganda can be successful, unless power or group feeling exists to support the religious and political aspirations and to defend them against those who reject them, and until God's will concerning them materializes. We have established this before, with rational arguments which we presented to the reader. The group feeling among the Fatimids and Talibids, indeed, that among all the Quraysh, has everywhere disappeared. The only exception is a remnant of the Talibids -- Hasanids, Husaynids, and Ja'farites -- in the Hejaz, in Mecca, al-Yanbu', and Medina. They are spread over these regions and dominate them. They are Bedouin groups. They are settled and rule in different places and hold divergent opinions. They number several thousands. If it is correct that a Mahdi is to appear, there is only one way for his propaganda to make its appearance. He must be one of them, and God must unite them in the intention to follow him, until he gathers enough strength and group feeling to gain success for his cause and to move people to support him. Any other way -- such as a Fatimid who would make propaganda for (the cause of the Mahdi) among people anywhere at all, without the support of group feeling and power, by merely relying on his relationship to the family of Muhammad (peace be upon him) -- will not be feasible or successful, for the sound reasons that we have mentioned previously.5

In response to this assertion by Ibn Khaldun it must be pointed out that there is no doubt that anyone who wishes to revolt and gain power so as to establish a government must have the unquestioning support of his followers in order to reach that goal. Similar conditions must be fulfilled in the case of the awaited Mahdi and his universal revolution. However, it is not necessary to require that his supporters be among the descendants of 'Ali and the Quraysh. The reason is that if the government and leadership is based on ethnic and group feeling then the support has to come from that feeling. Moreover, these should be the ones to support him unquestioningly. This was certainly true in the case of ethnic groups and dynasties that came to power by means of this sense of loyalty and solidarity. In general, a government that comes to power through the specific and limited sense of group feeling is necessarily dependent upon a specific and limited group of supporters. This is true in all such cases of nationalistic, ethnic, and ideological states. However, if a government is founded upon a specific program, then it has to gain support of those who favor it. And this order can succeed only if a group recognizes the value of the program and desires to implement it by supporting the leadership that is committed to it. The revolutionary program of the Mahdi is of this kind. The Mahdi's program is profoundly universal. It desires that humanity, which is being driven into extreme forms of materialism and opposition to divine commands, respond to the divinely ordained system which rests upon moral and spiritual goals. It wishes to resolve the problems facing humanity by clarifying the boundaries in such a way as to remove any cause of conflict in society. It wants to bring people together under the banner of the Unity of God and universalize submission and service to God. Such a program, if implemented, would end tyranny and injustice and spread peace through justice all over the world. In order to achieve this universal goal it is not sufficient to rely on the leadership of the descendants of 'Ali, who are spread all over the Hejaz, and to expect that the group feeling would help the Mahdi to reach his universal goal. To be sure, there is a need for the peoples of the entire world to prepare themselves to respond to the call of the Mahdi. Besides the divine endorsement of this program, the Mahdi's victory is dependant upon a reasonably large and earnest group of people, who, being aware of the merits of the divinely ordained system, would seriously aspire to see such an order implemented. Moreover, they would be willing to sacrifice their lives for that cause. Consequently, if the people see an infallible and incontestable leader who has access to the divine plan for humanity and has divine endorsement of his program, they would not hesitate to assist him in establishing the ideal public order, even if this means that they would have to sacrifice their lives.

1 Sahih muslim, Vol. 1, p. 24.

2 See the introduction to the Sunan abi Dawud by Sa'ati.

3 Sahih muslim, bab nuzul 'isa, volume 2; Sahih bukhari, kitab bad' al-khalq wa nuzul 'isa, volume 4.

4 Muqaddima, p. 322.

5 Muqaddima, p. 327.

Adopted from the book : "Al-Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.); the Just Leader of Humanity" by : "Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini"

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