In this paper, a humble attempt is being made to explain the concept of Mahdism in Islam and its relevance to today’s world. Later the similar concepts in Hinduism and Christianity are explained. Finally, a comparison and contrast among Islamic concept of Mahdism and similar concepts in other religions, is attempted. 
Similarly, this paper is divided into three parts. First part explains Mahdism in Islam and its relevance to today’s world. Second part deals with similar concepts in Hinduism and Christianity. In the third part, comparison and contrast among them is undertaken. 

I. Mahdism in Islam and Its Relevance to Today’s World

Muslims all over the world firmly believe that Hazrat Al-Mahdi (A.S.) will come to earth before Qayamat. He will come to remove falsehood and injustice on earth and establish true religion and truth and justice. A number of Hadees support the above belief.

The book AL-MAHDI (A.S.) BY Ayatullah Sayyed Sadruddin Sadr has, in an elegant way, put together all the relevant Hadees at one place. To illustrate, please allow me to quote some pages from this book:
“The author of Esa’af-ur-Raghebeeb (on page 148) narrates from Hakim (from the book of Sahih) who narrates from the messenger of Allah (S.A.W.A.) as such:
‘At the end of time, a severe calamity shall overtake my nation … Allah will send a man from my progeny or he said: from my Ahl-e-bayt who shall fill the earth with equity and justice.

Ibn-Hajar in ‘Sawa’eq (page 98) has narrated from Ahmad and Muslim who in turn have narrated from the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.A.) as saying:
‘At the end of time, a Caliph will be present who would distribute wealth without any account …

The author of ‘Esaaf-ur-Raghebeen’ has narrated the same tradition on page 149 of his afore-said book.
The author says: ’Caliph’ in the above tradition refers to Mahdi as per the context of some other traditions.
The author of ‘Edud-Durar’ narrates from Imam Abu Omar Mada’eni who narrates from Abu Sa’eed Khudri that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.A.) said: At the end of time a youth with a handsome face and protracted nose shall emerge from my progeny and he shall fill the earth with equity and justice just as it was previously filled with cruelty and tyranny.

The author of Yanabi-ul-Muwadda’ (on page 430) narrates from the author of Mashkat-ul-Massbeeh’ who narrates from Muslim (from his book “Sahih’) and Ahmad (from his book “Musnad’) who narrate from Jabir-ibn-Abdullah Ansari that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.A.) said:
“At the end of time, a Caliph will be present who would distribute wealth without any account’.

Yet another tradition says: At the time of the end of my nation, a Caliph will come who would distribute ‘wealth without any reckoning’. 

The author of ‘Yanabi-ul-Muwadda’ narrates from the author of “Fara’ed-ul-Semtain; who narrates from Ali-ibn-Hallal who narrates from his father that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) said: ‘ Mahdi will come at the end of time and will fill the earth with equity and justice just as it was previously filled with cruelty and oppression.’ 

The author of “Eqdud-Durar’ (in chapter seven)narrates from Hafez Abu Abdullah (from the book of Mustadrak) who narrartes from Abu Sa’eed Khudri that he Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.A.) said:
Mahdi shall emerge with the sword at the time of the end of my nation. Allah shall send rain, the land will cause its own plants to grow, (Mahdi) will bestow wealth in the right manner … “

If we look around and observe the world, it seems that some of the signs before Mahdi’s arrival are perceived. To illustrate:
“To a query on Mahdi, Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) replied : At the time when men will imitate the women and women will imitate the men; when women will ride on saddles; when people will cause their prayers to die and will follow their carnal desires; when people will turn usurers; when shedding of blood will become something insignificant; when trade and business of the people will be based on usury; when people will openly commit adultery; when they will make towering constructions; when they will consider lie to be lawful; when they will accept bribes; when they will follow their lust and desire; when they will sell their religion for this world; when they will sever their relations (with others); when they will hold under obligation the one whom they feed; when they will consider forbearance to be the sign of weakness and feebleness and injustice to be an honour; when their rulers will be evil and their ministers liars; when the trustworthy amongst them will be traitors; when the helpers amongst them will be unjust; when the reciters of Quran will be transgressors’; when cruelty and oppression will become manifest; when divorce will increase; when people will engage in debauchery and libertinism; when they will engage in drinking and gambling; when men will be mounted on; when women shall engage with women (indecent acts); when people will consider ‘Zakat’ to be a booty and charity to be a loss; when they will fear from the tongues of the wicked people; when Sufyani shall revolt from Syria and Yemen; when ‘Baidah’ which is between Mecca and Medina will sink; when a child from the progeny of Muhammad (S.A.W.A.) will be killed between ‘Rukn’ and ‘Maqaam’, and when a live voice will be heard from the heavens crying out that the truth is with Mahdi and his followers.” (Ibid., pp.333-334) 

II. Similar Concepts in Hinduism and Christianity

Hinduism is one of the oldest continuous religious traditions in the world and the predominant religion of India.
The Hindus believe that the 10th Avatar or reincarnation would be Kalki or Kalkin. They believe that the Kalyug has already started and we are living in Kalyug. They are awaiting the descent of Kalki. Kalki is expected to lead
India to glory. He will banish sin and injustice on earth and make truth and justice prevail. Because of his efforts and goodness, Indian religion will prevail all over the earth and every community and nation will become subservient to India

In fact some impostors have claimed to be Kalki. Their claims have been disproved by the rationalists. Recently it has been pointed out by some that Kalki has already taken birth in the
Deccan (southern part of India.) But he has not yet developed the consciousness that he is Kalki. (Oral communication with Prof. Jadhav)

Let me explain the concept of “Great Person Being Awaited” in greater detail:
“Hindus believe that Vishnu, the Preserver, came down to earth in nine Avatars, or incarnations to protect humankind; the tenth incarnation is still to come The popular incarnations of Vishnu are Rama, the hero of the epic story Ramayana and Krishna, the philosopher god of the philosophical work, the Bhagvad-Gita. Despite seeming to have many gods, Hindus worship only one supreme spirit in many forms and under different
ames.” (World Book,1992-93:208) 

At another place, it is mentioned:
“Vishnu is one of the two main gods of Hinduism. The other is Shiva. Vishnu has a kindly nature, and Hindus call him the Preserver. They believe he tries to ensure the welfare of humanity. 

Vishnu sometimes descends from heaven to the earth in one of his avatars (physical forms). He does so when a catastrophe faces the universe or if humanity needs comfort and guidance. According to Hindu belief, Vishnu has already appeared in nine principal Avatar. The two most important one were as the Indian prince Rama and the god
Krishna. As Rama, Vishnu was the hero of the Ramayana, a Hindu epic. As Krishna, Vishnu took part in the Bhagvad-Gita, a philosophical dialogue that forms part of the Mahabharata, another epic. Hindus believe that Vishnu will return to the earth one day to destroy all evil and begin a new Golden Age of humanity. (Ibid., p.409)

Another reliable source on this concept in Hinduism states as follows:
“The concept of ‘Avatara’ (literally descent) issues from the belief that in times of trouble a god, notably Vishnu descends and incarnates himself as a man or hero to set matters aright.” (Encyclopedia Britannica,1977:928) 

“The Mantra, name of a diety, .. is said to be the sacrifice of this, the Kalyug (age), the last and most degenerate of the traditional Indian ages of the world. The Vishnu-Purana points out that men, in this age of degradation, are incapable of performing the Vedic sacrifice properly; the gracious diety therefore has given his name as an easier means to salvation.” (Ibid., p.926) 

“Classical myths develop around the notion of Yuga (world age), of which there are four. These four yugas, Krta, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali – they are called after the four throws, from best to worst, in a dice game – comprise a Mahayuga (large Yuga), and, like the comparable ages of the world depicted by the Greek poet Hesiod, are periods of increasing deterioration. Time itself deteriorates, for the ages are successively shorter. Each Yuga is preceded by an intermediate ‘dawn’ and ‘dusk’. The Krtayuga lasts 4,000 years with a dawn and dusk of 400 years each, or a total of 4,800 years. Treta a total of 3,600 years, Dvapara 2,400 years, and Kali (the current one)), 1200 years, which observes the usual coefficient of 12, derived from 12 month year, the unit of creation. These years are the ‘years of the gods’ each lasting 360 human years, 360 being the days in a year. Two thousand Mahayugas form one Kalpa (aeon), which is itself but one day in the life of Brahma, whose full life lasts 100 years; the present is the midpoint of his life. Each aeon is followed by an equally long period of abeyance (pralaya), in which the universe is asleep. Seemingly the universe will come to it’s definite end at the end of Brahma’s life.” (Ibid., p.929)

Regarding Avatara, it is elaborated further as follows:
“What little mythology attached to Vishnu consists largely of the mythology of his incarnations (avatara). Though the notion of ‘incarnation’ is found elsewhere in Hinduism, it is basic to Vaisnavism. The concept is particularly geared to the social role of Visnu; whenever Dharma (universal law and order) is in danger, Visnu departs from his heaven, Vaikuntha, and incarnates himself in an earthly form in order to restore the good order. In each of these incarnations, there is a particular mythology.

Picture of Different Avatars 

The classical number of these incarnations is ten, ascending from theriomorphic (animal form) to fully anthropomorphic (human form) manifestations. These are: Fish (Matsya), Tortoise (Kurma), Boar (Varaha), Man-Lion (Narasimha), Dwarf (Vamana), Rama-with-the-Ax (Parasurama), King Rama, Krsna (Krishna), Buddha and the future incarnation, Kalkin.” (Ibid., p.930)

Further, a “cultural hero can easily be assimilated to a god-type by identifying him with an incarnation of god. Thus great religious teachers are considered manifestations of the god of their devotional preaching, and their lives become part of mythology. There is another mythology concerning great ascetics that is very rich. These ascetics are practically gods on earth, who have amassed tremendous powers that they are not loathe to use. The sage, Kapila, meditating in the nether world, burned to ashes 16,000 Princes who had dug their way to him. Another sage Bhagiratha, brought the river
Ganges down from heaven to sanctify their ashes, in the process creating an ocean. Agastya, revered as the Brahmin who brought Sanskrit civilization to South India, drank up and digested the ocean. When the Vindhya mountain-range would not stop growing, Agastya scaled it and commanded it to cease growing until his return; he still has not returned. Visvamitra, a king who became a Brahmin, created a new universe with its own galaxies to spite the gods...

Moving from myth to legend, there are also stories told of the great teachers, and every founder of a sect is soon deified as an ‘incarnation’ of a god, the philosopher Sankara (circa 788-820) an incarnation of Siva, the religious leader (Ramanuja) (died AD 1137) as that of Narayana-Visnu, the Bengal teacher Caitanya (1486-1533) as that of Krsna and his beloved Radha at one and the same time.” (Ibid., p.931-932)

Now let us move to Christianity. In Bible, two streams of thought follow: one – Christ was a man, he was born, lived and died on the cross. He was a carpenter and started preaching at the age of 30.


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