The Concept of the Mahdi Among Ahl As-Sunna
The Mahdi, “the guided one”, has been popularly awaited throughout Islamic history as a just and pious leader who would be extremely successful during his reign over the Muslims. This study, based on the author’s original PhD thesis written in 1991, aims to investigate the concept of the Mahdi among Ahl al-Sunna according to the methodology of the traditionists. It includes the analysis of over one hundred narrations, mostly found in the Kitab al-Fitan, by Nuʿaim b. Ḥammād (which, in 1991 was only available in manuscript form). Both Sunni and Shi’a literature throng with extensive descriptions of this Mahdi, the concept of which has prompted a great number of people to claim this title throughout the fourteen centuries of Islam, in different parts of the Muslim lands. The attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, led by a Mahdi claimant, during the year 1980 rekindled the debate on the authenticity of this belief. The scholars of Islam were divided on this issue: some rejected the idea completely by labelling all those Aḥādīth that speak of the Mahdi as spurious, while others supported this belief vehemently but rejected the claimant on the grounds that he did not fulfil the criterion laid down in the texts for the true Mahdi. The incident also moved the writer of these lines as well to seek the oldest Sunni source on the Mahdi.
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