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An online encyclopedia of the school of Ahl al-Bayt (a), affiliated with the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly.
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Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-'Askarī (born in 255/869), also known as Imam al-Mahdi (a), is the twelfth Imam in Twelver Shi'ism. He is the promised savior, who will rise one day and fill the earth with peace and justice. Imam al-Mahdi (a) has been in occultation from the early years of his life. Shi'as regard him as the Imam of the present age. Among his well-known titles are Imam al-Mahdi (the Imam of the time) and Wali l-'Asr (the guardian of the age).

Imam al-Mahdi (a) became the Imam after the martyrdom of his father Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a) in the year 260/874, when he was five. From that time until the year 329/941, he was in contact with his followers through his Four Deputies. After that, his Major Occultation started, in which period the direct guidance and leadership of the Shi'a community rests with religious scholars.

There are many hadiths transmitted from the Imams (a) about Imam al-Mahdi (a), his life, his Occultation, and his government, and many collections of such hadiths have been written. In addition to hadith collections, many works have been published about Imam al-Mahdi (a).

Every year, on fifteenth of Sha'ban, Shi'as celebrate the Imam's birth, marking one of the greatest Shi'i festivals. The possibility of meeting the Imam (a) during his Major Occultation, when and how he reappears, and the incidents related to his reappearance are some of the popular discussions among Shi'as.

In Shi'a hadiths, the Twelfth Imam (a) is referred to by names such as Muhammad, Ahmad, and 'Abd Allah. However, among the Shi'as, he is most famously referred to as al-Mahdi which is one of his titles.

According to a number of hadiths, he is the Prophet's (s) namesake. In some hadiths and written Shiite sources, such as al-Kafi and Kamal al-din, his name is written with separate letters as "م ح م د" (M Ḥ M D). This is in accordance with hadiths forbidding any mention of Imam al-Mahdi's (a) name.

There are many hadiths in Shiite sources according to which it is forbidden to mention the Twelfth Imam's (a) real name. There are two well-known theories about these hadiths: the first view, which is propounded by scholars such as al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Fadil al-Miqdad, al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, and others, restricts the ban to the period in which the Shi'as had to practice taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation). However, Mir Damad and al-Muhaddith al-Nuri take the ban to be in force before the Reappearance. Read more...

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