AN INTERVIEW WITH HARUN YAHYA

1. To what extent is belief in the Mahdi prevalent in the Sunni faith today? Can you give a percentage?

Belief in the Mahdi has always been of great importance in the Islamic world. That applies to both Sunni and Shia faiths. Although there are some differences in the beliefs of these two major sects, the essence of the belief in the Mahdi is the same. Both Shias and Sunnis are awaiting a saviour who will liberate the world from all its troubles.

According to Sunni beliefs, the fundamental source is the hadiths of our Prophet (saws), in which belief in the Mahdi is described in very clear terms. There is agreement among Islamic scholars that these hadiths are based on reliable sources. The subject of the Mahdi is clearly set out in Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah’s collections of hadiths. In Bukhari and Muslim there is reference to a saviour, described as an imam, who will come in the end times. Belief in the Mahdi is therefore very powerful in the Sunni faith.

2. Does belief in the Mahdi have a widespread influence on all classes, on all sections of society, in Sunni Islam, or have some certain sections adopted it more than others?

Belief in the Mahdi has always enjoyed a very important place in the entire Islamic world. Among Muslims there are and have always been, of course, individuals or groups who have not adopted this belief, who reject certain aspects of it, or who put forward different views. However, these are generally movements or individuals who have adopted views that are incompatible with Islamic beliefs, who reject trustworthy hadiths and have conflicting views. These represent a very small minority in the Islamic world. The fact is that despite there being some differences in belief on the subject of the Mahdi in the Islamic community there is still enormous consensus. I can see this from the very positive reactions from different countries and sections of society to my books dealing with the end times and the Mahdi. I also see how powerful this belief is in the hearts of Muslims from the messages reaching our web sites. Muslims across the globe, from Indonesia to South Africa, from Britain to China, and from Canada to Australia possess a very deep faith and broad information on the subjects of the end times and the Mahdi.

3. What are your personal and religious views on those people who have previously declared themselves to be the Mahdi (Ibn Tumart, Muhammed Ahmed, and Manisali Mehmet in 1930s Turkey)?

I do not wish to concentrate on individuals, but according to what is related in the hadiths it appears that before the return to earth of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and the appearance of the Mahdi there will be a large number of false saviours claiming to be the Mahdi and Jesus. The appearance of such people may cause people to treat everyone who says that they are Jesus or the Mahdi with suspicion. The great Islamic scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi describes such people in these terms:

I have also seen many people who thought themselves to be a sort of Mahdi, and they said that they were going to be the Mahdi. These people are not liars and deceivers, they are deceived. They suppose what they see to be reality. As the Divine Names have manifestations from the sphere of the Sublime Throne down to an atom, and the places of manifestation differ in that relation, so the degrees of sainthood, which consist of manifesting the Names, differ in the same way. (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Risale-i Nur Collection, The Letters, The Twenty-ninth Letter, Fourt Allusion)

As stated by Bediuzzaman, these people will be quite certain that they are the awaited saviour. The existence of these false individuals may also have an important role to play in the recognition of the Mahdi and Jesus. Since people will have been exposed to false saviours for many years they may not recognise the Mahdi for a long time. Similarly, it is very likely that they will not recognise the Prophet Jesus when he returns because they have been exposed to people describing themselves as the Prophet Jesus for so long. However, it must not be forgotten that the appearance of false messiahs is also a sign of the coming of the two personages of the end times — Mahdi and the Prophet Jesus. Our Prophet (pbuh) related these glad tidings in these terms in his hadiths:

The Last Hour will not come before there come forth thirty Dajjals (imposters), each presenting himself as an apostle of God. (Sunan Abu Dawud)

Some false messiahs and mahdis have emerged, and others will do so in the years that follow. (God knows best.) Without any doubt, the days when the false messiahs with all their falsehoods appear are very close. That is because our Prophet (pbuh) has imparted the glad tidings of the return of the Prophet Jesus and the coming of the Mahdi in the wake of these liars.

4. How can a false Mahdi be distinguished from the true Mahdi?

In his hadiths our Prophet (pbuh) has described all the features of the Mahdi in great detail. Islamic scholars have also provided very important information about the Mahdi. Therefore, it is of great importance whether or not an individual supposed to be the Mahdi actually possesses those features. These are: being descended from the Prophet (pbuh), bringing Islamic moral values to prevail over the whole world, cleansing Islam from all the additions and beliefs that evolved after our Prophet, bringing peace and security to the world, establishing Islamic union, eliminating sects, for the entire Islamic world to submit to him, and forming an alliance with the people of the book. When these things take place, then we may consider that this person is the Mahdi or an extraordinary human being.

Throughout history there may have been worthy Islamic scholars who have met some aspects of the criteria I have set out above. However, the actual Mahdi of the end times will combine all these features, on his own and within himself. The great Islamic scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi describes the differences between these people and the true Mahdi thus:

The Great Mahdi will have numerous functions. He will carry out duties in the world of politics, the world of religion, the world of government, and in the many spheres of the world of Islam. Similarly, since every century at a time of despair people are in need of a sort of Mahdi to strengthen their morale or for the possibility of a Mahdi appearing at that time to assist them, through Divine mercy, every age or perhaps every century a sort of Mahdi has appeared from among the Prophet’s (PBUH) descendants, and preserved his forefather’s Shari‘a and revived his Sunna. (Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Risale-i Nur Collection, The Rays, The Second Station of the Fifth Ray, Ninteenth Matter)

Said Nursi has made it clear that the Mahdi will be active in the political arena and be present at the highest level of state administration. Indeed, for him to be active in politics, in religion and in communicating the message requires the very broadest means. We can see from this that the Mahdi will have such very broad means, and that these duties can only be fully carried out with the use of state powers. This is the major difference between the Mahdi and those individuals believing themselves to be the Mahdi in the end times. The Mahdi will be active worldwide, will not be held back by limited individuals, will wage a major intellectual struggle in all spheres, and will, by God’s leave, cause Islam to prevail over the whole world.

5. What kind of relationship will there be between the Prophet Jesus and the Mahdi when both are on the earth?

According to the hadiths, when the Prophet Jesus returns to earth he will act together with the Mahdi, and the two will combine all their powers to bring religious moral values to prevail in the world. The Prophet Jesus will eliminate the Anti-Christ (Dajjal), the leader of the atheistic system in the world, and the Mahdi will assist him in that struggle. The Prophet Jesus and the Mahdi are two brothers with great love for one another in this world and in the hereafter. They will share the same thoughts and beliefs. The Mahdi will be the spiritual leader of the Islamic world, and the Prophet Jesus that of the Christian world. Under their twin leadership the world will enjoy great peace, security and happiness.

6. Could you describe your analysis of the hidden imam in Shiite belief?

As you know, according to Shiite belief, the statements made by Fatima, Zahra and the 12 imams are regarded as equal to those made by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In Sunni belief, on the other hand, only the hadiths of our Prophet (pbuh) are reliable. For that reason, in terms of numbers, the Sunnis possess fewer accounts about the Mahdi than there are in Shiite sources. In Shiite sources some 700 accounts giving the glad tidings of the appearance of the Mahdi are reported. There are some 400 reports that the Mahdi will be from the Ahl al-Bayt (The Prophet’s family). In addition, there are hundreds of other reports describing the Mahdi’s appearance, actions, struggle against the unbelievers, and the kind of environment there will be when he prevails. The subject of the Mahdi is the most important creed in Shia belief, and they believe that the Mahdi, whom they refer to as the “Lord of Time,” will one day appear. Throughout history many people from the Ahl al-Bayt have been regarded as the Mahdi, yet since they have been unable to fulfill what was expected of them, hope has always given way to the expectation of a new Mahdi.

The Shiite belief in the Mahdi is based on “the disappearance of the Mahdi and his coming to earth as the last of the 12 imams.”

In some hadiths, it is reported that after his appearance the Mahdi will twice remain apart from people, once for a short time and once for a long time. This is stated as follows in one hadith: “The Mahdi will twice disappear from human sight. On one occasion he will remain unseen for so long that some people will think he has died and others that he has departed, and apart from his closest followers, nobody will know where he is.” (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman)

In this hadith it is stated that the second disappearance of the Mahdi will be under harsher conditions and will be of a longer duration, that it will be difficult to encounter him during that time and that only his closest followers will be able to do so. As we know, the Mahdi will wage a great intellectual struggle against the deniers, atheists and materialists. He will expend great efforts, using all his power and all the means at his disposal, to bring Islamic moral values to prevail on earth. Since one cannot imagine that the Mahdi would knowingly vanish at such an important time, his separation from people will take place “outside his own will.” Indeed, one hadith reads: “One day it was stated in the presence of Huzaifa that the Mahdi had emerged. He said: ‘You have found happiness if he comes from among you as a companion of the Prophet Muhammed. Certain it is that because of the evils people encounter the Mahdi will not appear until he is the most beloved of people’.” (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, p. 27)

In other words, the disappearance of the Mahdi is not a mythical one that will last for hundreds of years, but may take place in the form of an enforced separation from people at specific intervals. The last part of this hadith indicates that at the time of this disappearance people’s love and longing for the Mahdi will increase due to their being subjected to various evils.

The disappearance of the Mahdi may also indicate his concealing himself. That is because he is under constant assault and pressure from atheists and materialists. He is unable to live a comforatable day-to-day life like other people. He must constantly conceal himself and remain apart from people. He can prevent the attacks and slanders made by the deniers only in this way.

7. What would your thoughts be regarding someone who declared himself to be the Mahdi today? (for example, I have found Sunni sources wondering whether Osama bin Laden might be the Mahdi).

Someone’s declaring himself to be the Mahdi is the clearest proof that he is not the Mahdi. That is because if someone says, “I am the Mahdi,” he is in fact claiming that “I am innocent, I have no need to be tested, I am not torn between hope of paradise and fear of hell, I am under the guarantee of paradise, and revelations come to me.” Such a claim is a violation of the verses of the Qur’an and Islamic moral values. Unless such a claim stems from heedlessness, it must be based on atheism. The Mahdi will not bother saying, “Accept me as the Mahdi,” and will feel no need to make such a claim. That is because being the Mahdi means success. As related in the hadiths of our Prophet (pbuh), being a means whereby Islam comes to prevail on the earth is an undeniable feature of the Mahdi. In his works, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi has set out the attributes of the Mahdi’s blessed person in great detail. In describing the duties of the Mahdi, Bediuzzaman states that the establishment of an Islamic Union will be one of the three greatest of these. The passage in question reads:

THE THIRD DUTY OF THAT INDIVIDUAL(the Mahdi) is to build an Islamic Caliphate on an ISLAMIC UNITY AND TO SERVE ISLAM by allying himself with Christians. This duty can be fulfilled by A GREAT CALIPHATE and force and the sacrifices of millions. The first duty is three to four times more valuable then the other two. However, since the second and third duties will be in a very bright and broad sphere and in a glittering manner they will appear more important in the eyes of the people and the community.” (Sikke-i Tasdik-i Gaybi, p. 9)

As Bediuzzaman makes clear, the Mahdi will first construct an Islamic Union. He will then draw strength and support from the Islamic Union and cause religious moral values to prevail across the world. In fulfilling this sacred duty, by the leave of God, he will possess great power, strength and dominion. When the blessed person of the Mahdi appears, by God’s leave, the Mahdi’s great deeds will be the greatest proof and evidence that this holy individual has actually emerged. It is reported in one hadith that “people will pledge allegiance to the Mahdi, albeit against his wishes:

THEY WILL PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE MAHDI AGAINST HIS WISHES. Later, the Mahdi will cause them to perform 2 rakats of salat and will ascend to the pulpit.” (Ibn Hajar Haytahami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi'alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 23, pp. 34, 50, 44)

The statement in the hadith that allegiance will be pledged to the Mahdi against his wishes is an indication that he will never claim to be the Mahdi. The evident signs of the Mahdi and his own great deeds will show that he is the awaited holy one. He will make no suggestions or claims to that effect. After the Mahdi comes to head the Islamic world, it will be of no importance whether people refer to him as the Mahdi or not. Neither will a person saying that he does not believe him to be the Mahdi change anything. That is because the predestined event will in any case occur. He, like all the other prophets, will fulfill the duty set out in his destiny and will cause the religion to prevail on earth as the Mahdi of God. The Mahdi will not say, “Accept me,” but his destiny will take that form.

The Mahdi is the manifestation of our Lord’s titles of the Compassionate and Merciful, and at the same time of those of the Subduer and the Irresistable. Nobody can stand in the way of the Mahdi and the dominion he will have over the world. Atheists, deniers and materialists will resort to various means to stand in the Mahdi’s way, but God, as the Subduer and the Irresistable, will cause religious moral values to prevail on earth. By the will of God, however, that dominion will come about through love and dialogue, and God’s spiritual obligation.

The Mahdi will come to lead the Islamic world, so what will it matter then whether or not he is called the Mahdi?

8. If someone claiming to be the Mahdi emerged today or in the near future, how should you or a devout Sunni Muslim react?

As revealed in the verse "Indeed, all things We created with predestination." (Kamer Suresi 49), our Lord has created everything in line with a specific destiny. Like the destinies of all living and non-living things, that of the Mahdi is set out in the sight of God. The identity, signs and appearance of that blessed individual, his establishment of an Islamic Union and bringing Islamic moral values to prevail in the world are all part of a destiny set out in the sight of God.

Whoever God ordains to be the Mahdi will be so. The Mahdi is a blessed individual whose physical and other features, deeds, services and influence on the world were all described by our Prophet (pbuh) 1400 years ago. In the same way that it is impossible to imitate or strive to acquire these features, so it is also impossible, by the leave of God, to stand in the Mahdi’s way. No human being can acquire the rank of Mahdi by expending even the greatest efforts. This is something that comes about in God’s creation and destiny. The Mahdi must be accepted because the true Mahdi is the predestined Mahdi. The Mahdi will perform all the services promised by our Prophet (pbuh) and by the leave of God will cause religious moral values to prevail across the whole world. This is a destiny set out by God.

9. What do you think about the claim that Muqtada al Sadr is the hidden imam or represents the “army of the Mahdi” since the coming of the Mahdi is close at hand?

The entire Islamic world is in any case the army of the Mahdi. However, this army is an army of love, not of bloodshed. Opposition to bloodshed, cruelty, violence and terror is the main attribute of the Mahdi. The Mahdi will cause religious moral values to prevail by means of knowledge, information and culture. As revealed in the hadiths and in the works of great Islamic scholars, the Mahdi will inflict a total intellectual defeat on atheist ideologies, will teach people the essence of the religion and religious moral values, and will wage a major intellectual struggle to turn people to faith and proper values. Our Lord will make the Mahdi and the great intellectual struggle he wages a means whereby the troubles of the end times are eliminated. This feature of the Mahdi is revealed in another hadith:

The most auspicious of the community of Muhammad AND YOUR PROTECTOR WHO WILL DO AWAY WITH YOUR TROUBLES ... IS THE MAHDI! (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, p. 57)

In another hadith it is reported that corruption will come to an end by means of the Mahdi, to be replaced on earth by peace and security:

God WILL PUT AN END TO BLIND CORRUPTION BY MEANS OF HIM (the Mahdi). Everywhere will be made safe... (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, p. 58)

According to the information in the hadiths, people suffering from troubles and poverty will seek refuge in the justice, compassion, love and generosity of the Mahdi. In one hadith it is stated that:

The community will SEEK REFUGE IN THE MAHDI as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world, that was once full of cruelty, with justice, and people will return to the golden age of Islam ... (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman, p. 11)

When the Mahdi causes Islamic moral values to prevail on earth, poverty, hunger, suffering and troubles will come to an end and bloodshed will stop, and people will attain the true happiness, peace and security for which they have longed for so long. This climate of love, peace and plenty, which the Mahdi will be instrumental in bringing about, is described thus in the hadiths.

Once the earth is full of cruelty and enmity, one of my line will emerge. He will fill the Earth with equity and justice, just as it was previously filled with oppression and tyranny. (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-zaman, p. 11)

Heaven will send down rain upon them in torrents, the earth will not withhold any of its plats, and wealth will be available to all. (At-Tabarani)

The younger ones wish they were grown-ups, while the adults wish they were younger... The good become even more good, and even the wicked ones are treated well. (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-zaman, p. 17)

As can clearly be seen from the information in the hadiths, the Mahdi will treat people with love and compassion, provide solutions to disagreements by peaceful means, and patiently call people to faith and proper moral values. The Mahdi’s struggle against atheistic ideologies will be an intellectual one, in which he will be victorious, by the blessing of God, using very rational and wise methods. According to the hadiths, this great struggle of the Mahdi’s will be waged in great calm, tranquility and order:

In this time, neither a man will be awoken from sleep, nor will a person’s nose bleed. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar, p. 44.)

The Mahdi will follow the way of the Prophet. He will not wake up a sleeping person or shed blood. No Sunnah will fail to be brought to life, and no bid’at (innovation not sanctioned by the Qur’an) will fail to be eliminated ... (Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rasul Barzanji , Al-Isha‘ah li-ashrat al-sa‘ah, p. 163)

As stated in the hadiths, Islamic moral values will prevail over all the world by means of the Mahdi. He will provide just solutions to tensions and disagreements that will be acceptable to all sides, and all problems will be resolved peacefully. The Mahdi will call people to the compassion, patience, goodness and beauty commanded by Islamic moral values and, in this as in all other matters, will represent a role model for people with his superior values and attitudes. This call of the Mahdi’s to people is reported thus in the hadiths:

After performing the evening prayer, he (the Mahdi) will speak in the loudest voice: “O people! I remind you of God. I tell you what your place will be in the presence of God tomorrow, on the day of judgement. God has sent you much evidence and the prophets, He has revealed to you the Qur’an and commanded you to ascribe no partners to God but to maintain your obedience to God and His prophet. Reanimate what is given life by the Qur’an, forbid what is forbidden and assist and support the Mahdi. Because the world is about to experience ill and to come to an end. I call on you to labour with His book, to eliminate superstition and to reanimate the Sunnah’.” (Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir al-zaman, pp. 55-56)

Our Prophet (pbuh) has given notice of the great change that will take place with the coming of the Mahdi:

The world filled with oppression and tyranny WILL OVERFLOW WITH JUSTICE AFTER HE (THE MAHDI) COMES. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar, p. 20.)

Again according to the hadiths, there will be no more enmity or hatred in the time of the Mahdi, and violence and terror will come to an end. Some of the hadiths on this subject read as follows:

Enmity and hatred between people will cease. Scorpions and snakes will not be poisonous, and even children will play with snakes without being bitten… Wolves will be among sheep like sheepdogs. THE WORLD WILL FILL WITH RELIGIOUS UNITY LIKE THE CUP FILLS WITH WATER. Nobody but God will be worshipped. NOTHING WILL BE LEFT OF WARFARE AND CONFLICT. (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Then the Earth will become safe so that LIONS MAY GRAZE WITH CAMELS; TIGERS WITH COWS, WOLVES WITH SHEEP; and so that children may play with snakes without being harmed. (Ibn Ahmad Hanbal)

As can be seen in the hadiths, in the time of the Mahdi there will be great brotherhood among peoples who are now in conflict, and peace, friendship and love will replace all forms of enmity. The moderate, contemporary, rational and civilised Islamic model that will form during the time of the Mahdi will illuminate the whole world.

All this information clearly reveals that the road to be taken by the Mahdi will lead to great cultural progress all over the world and turn people in the direction of Islamic moral values.

The Mahdi is actually here now, but is concealed. The reason for that concealment is to protect himself from political and other forms of attack by atheists, materialists and deniers.

In my view, the Prophet Jesus has also returned to earth, but he too is hidden. He is obliged to conceal himself because of the terrorist and political attacks he would be exposed to. However, he too will emerge in the very near future and together with the Mahdi will embark upon his intellectual struggle.

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