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Ibn Maymun

Mahdi and the Torah

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Hi friends.

While reading up on the topic of Imam Mahdi, I came across the following narration:

Jabir Ibn Yazid al-Jo'fi from Imam Muhammad Baqr:

"...The reason why Hazrat Mahdi (as) is known as Hazrat Mahdi (as) is this; he will be directed toward a secret matter, will extract the Torah and other Divine books from a cave in Antioch and will judge among the Jews with the Torah and among the Christians with the Gospel."
(Al-Mahdiy al-Mawud)

It leaves me with a few questions.

1.) I came across this narration on a non-Shia website, but it seems to be from a Shia source.  Is this narration considered reliable?

2.) Is the belief that the Mahdi will restore the true form of previous scriptures generally held within the Shia IthnaAsheri community?

3.) What happens after the true form of these scriptures is restored?  The same website had a narration that some Jews and Christians become Muslim, presumably observing the Shariah of Muhammad.  What about the rest? Does a restoration of the true form of Jewish law occur (based upon "will judge among the Jews with the Torah")?  If so, does this render Judaism a purified sort of Jewish Islam?

4.) Any theories on how a pure version of the Torah might have come to a cave in Antioch?  I have some thoughts about the gospel, but the Torah has me stumped.

Thanks so much for your thoughts and knowledge.

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This narration can be found in Kitab al-Ghayba by Nu`mani and in `Ilal ash-Shara'i` by Shaykh as-Saduq, which are early and central Shi`a material.

وفي غيبة النعماني/٢٣٧ ، عن عمرو بن شمر ، عن جابر قال : دخل رجل على أبي جعفر الباقر عليه السلام فقال له : عافاك الله إقبض مني هذه الخمسمائة درهم فإنها زكاة مالي فقال له أبو جعفر عليه السلام : خذها أنت فضعها في جيرانك من أهل الإسلام والمساكين من إخوانك المؤمنين . ثم قال : إذا قام قائم أهل البيت قسم بالسوية وعدل في الرعية فمن أطاعه فقد أطاع الله ومن عصاه فقد عصى الله . وإنما سمي المهدي مهدياً لأنه يهدي إلى أمر خفي ، ويستخرج التوراة وسائر كتب الله عز وجل من غار بأنطاكية ، ويحكم بين أهل التوراة بالتوراة وبين أهل الإنجيل بالإنجيل وبين أهل الزبور بالزبور وبين أهل القرآن بالقرآن . وتجمع إليه أموال الدنيا من بطن الأرض وظهرها فيقول للناس : تعالوا إلى ما قطعتم فيه الأرحام وسفكتم فيه الدماء الحرام ، وركبتم فيه ما حرم الله عز وجل ، فيعطي شيئاً لم يعطه أحد كان قبله ، ويملؤ الأرض عدلاً وقسطاً ونوراً ، كما ملئت ظلماً وجوراً وشراً ) .

From `Amr b. Shimr from Jabir.

He said: A man entered upon Abu Ja`far al-Baqir (as) and said to him: "May Allah forgive you. Take these five hundred dirham from me, for it is the zakat of my wealth." So Abu Ja`far (as) said to him: "Take it and give it to your Muslim neighbours and the poor from among your believing brethren." Then, he said: "When the Qa'im of Ahl al-Bayt rises, he will redistribute the wealth with equity and justice among the people. Whomever follows him will have followed Allah, and whomever disobeys him will have disobeyed Allah. The Mahdi was called the Mahdi because he will guide to a hidden matter. He will bring out the Torah and the other books of Allah from a cave in Antioch, and he will judge the People of the Torah by the Torah, and the People of the Gospel by the Gospel, and the People of the Psalms by the Psalms, and the People of the Quran with the Quran. The wealth of this world will come to him from beneath the Earth and atop it, and he will say to the people: 'Come to those whose blood ties you have cut, and whose blood you have shed unjustly, and have mounted in what Allah has forbidden.' He will be given something that none before him will be given. He will fill the Earth with justice, equity, and light, just as it would have been fraught with oppression, tyranny, and evil.

The full chain in Nu`mani is:

أخبرنا علي بن الحسين قال: حدثنا محمد بن يحيى، قال: حدثنا محمد بن حسان الرازي قال: حدثنا محمد بن علي الصيرفي، عن الحسن بن محبوب، عن عمرو بن شمر، عن جابر

Muhammad b. Hasaan ar-Razi is unknown is status.
Muhammad b. `Ali as-Sayrafi is unknown in status.
`Amr b. Shimr is disagreed upon (weakened by Najashi, but narrates in Tafsir al-Qummi and Kamil al-Ziyarat).
Jabir b. Yazid al-Ju`fi is probably trustworthy, but also disagreed upon.

The full chain in `Ilal is:

- حدثنا أبى رحمه الله قال: حدثنا سعد بن عبد الله عن الحسن بن على الكوفي، عن عبد الله بن المغيرة عن سفيان بن عبد المؤمن الانصاري، عن عمرو ابن شمر، عن جابر قال: أقبل رجل إلى ابى جعفر

Sufyan b. `Abd al-Mu'min al-Ansari is unknown.
`Amr b. Shimr is disagreed upon.

So we see two chains going back to `Amr b. Shimr. Neither chains are strong, but generally, Saduq recorded that which has agreeable content, and Saduq is one of our biggest scholars. The two very different chains going back to `Amr b. Shimr makes it probable that he indeed narrated this.

Anyway, the content of the narration has a lot of common tropes found in more authentic traditions. The justice and equity of the Mahdi is his most common attribute. The Imams also have said on many occasions that they have the Ark of the Covenant, all of the books of the prophets, as well as the ring of Solomon, staff of Moses, sword of Muhammad and Ali, etc. The cave in Antioch seems to be a detail that is unique to this report. But this idea of "judging by people of the Torah by the Torah" is common in our tradition.

Some may find it problematic, because the Quran abrogated the previous legal systems. The Prophet (s) judged the Jews by the Torah in Medina, but eventually it appears that his law became the standard, as his message became more complete. But there are other ways to reconcile it. Perhaps the Mahdi will simply prove Islamic rulings through his authentic copy of the previous scriptures.

There are many narrations that indicate that the Mahdi won't even use the shari`a system that we have been taught. Rather, he will judge by whatever the Holy Spirit inspires him, and he will not require any witnesses or evidences. Here are some reliable traditions on that:

: يا أبا عبيدة إذا قام قائم آل محمد عليه السلام حكم بحكم داود وسليمان لا يسأل بينة.

When the Qa’im of the Family of Muhammad عليه السلام rises, he will judge by the judgment of Dawud and Sulayman, and will not ask for evidence. (al-Kafi, Volume 1, Book 4, When the Rule of the Imams Becomes Foremost They Will Judge By the Judgment of the Family of Dawud, hadith #1)


وبهذا الاسناد، عن أبان بن تغلب قال: قال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: إذا قام القائم عليه السلام لم يقم بين يديه أحد من خلق الرحمن إلا عرفه صالح هو أم طالح؟ لان فيه آية للمتوسمين وهي بسبيل مقيم.

When the Qa’im عليه السلام rises, not one of the Merciful’s creatures will be in front of him except that he will recognize whether he is righteous or wicked. In this there is a sign for the anticipative, and it is of an upright path. (Kamal ad-Deen, Volume 2, Miscellaneous, hadith #11)


فيبعث الله تبارك وتعالى ريحا فتنادي بكل واد؟ هذا المهدي، يقضي بقضاء داود وسليمان عليهما السلام، [و] لا يريد عليه بينة.

Allah تبارك وتعالى will send a breeze that shall call out in every valley, “This is the Mahdi who will judge by the judgment of Dawud and Sulayman عليهما السلام, and he will not ask for evidence”. (Kamal ad-Deen, Volume 2, Miscellaneous, hadith #19)


Some have argued that these narrations do not say that the Mahdi will rule by the laws of David and Solomon, but rather he will rule in their style. Notably, he will not need a trial, but he will enact judgment in an infallible way.

The 12th Imam is a descendant of Muhammadan, Jewish, and Sassanid heritage, and our tradition has compared his occultation to that of Joseph, and his rule to be like that of David; and so he corresponds with both Moshiache ben Yusef and Moshiache ben David expectations.

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1 hour ago, Sindbad05 said:

Can you tell me something about these names, I cannot understand them who were they ? Probably because of different pronunciations ? Thanks in anticipation. 

These are Hebrew terms that I discussed here:


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Hi friends.

Thank you, Qa'im for your thorough response.  To expand upon your discussion about our Messianic tradition, there are actually four anointed figures who participate in ushering the end of days.  These are referred to as "the Four Craftsmen" - the Messiah ben David, Elijah the Prophet, The Righteous Priest and the Messiah ben Ephraim (or Yosef).

Our apocalyptic literature is open to interpretation, but it's very clear what Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Ephraim will do.  Messiah Ben Ephraim is the predecessor and in our literature is given another name - "Anointed for War". He reunites Judah with Ephraim, he gathers the exiles home, he brings Israel to full repentance, he ushers the faithful through a time of tragedy and war and opens the way for the coming of Messiah ben David.

Messiah Ben David together with Ben Ephraim will usher in the days of peace when people will no longer fight wars and the world will be ruled on the basis of Torah.

I see some definite parallels with what I've read of Islamic eschatology so far.  Not perfect lining up of details, but like I said, our literature is fairly open to interpretation.

If I assume that the claims of Islamic tradition are true (which I'm more than willing to do in order to think this through), there's a reasonable argument to be made that Imam Mahdi fulfills our prophecies about Messiah ben Ephraim.  Hence my interest.

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Let me share some notes I took while reading Sefer Zerubabbel and Nistorat Simon ben Yohai.

The Secrets of Simon ben Yohai

For centuries, the Jews had suffered under the hands of the Roman occupiers. Rome had destroyed the Temple, stopped the sacrifices, outlawed them from living with tens of miles of Jerusalem, disbanded their high court, taxed them heavily, and persecuted them for siding with the Persians. This pushed many Jews to find refuge deeper into the peninsula. Jewish people everywhere expected a redemptive event that would bring the Jews out of exile.

One apocalyptic text is "The Secrets of Simon ben Yohai". It is attributed to Rabbi Simon ben Yohai (alternatively spelled "Simeon bar Yochai"), who lived in the first and second century CE. He was a mystic and a critic of Rome, and he is renowned in Kabbalist circles. Many medieval esoteric texts are attributed to him and his son, but his authorship is usually doubted by academics. This book, which will be hitherto referred to as "Secrets", was probably written in the seventh or eighth century CE, long after the rabbi. Still, it is written like a prophecy, and it may be based on earlier oral traditions and expectations among Jews. It is an alleged revelation to Simon ben Yohai that tries to tie the events of the Muslim conquests and early Caliphate to Jewish scripture.

In this text, the rabbi is reflecting in a cave, when suddenly Metatron (an archangel in Jewish mysticism) appears and foretells the Arab rule over the holy land. After being frustrated at the upcoming kingdom of the Ishmaelites, Metatron says that God will bring it about to save the Jews from their oppression, and He will "raise up over them a prophet according to His will and will conquer the land for them". This is undoubtedly an acknowledgement of the prophethood of Muhammad in a Jewish text, whom many Jews saw as, at least, a prophet for the Arabs. The expression "according to His will" confirms that he would be divinely sent, and not just a claimant to prophecy. Some later manuscripts of Secrets have tried to change these words, but the paragraph above comes from the earliest versions of the text. The "sons of Esau" are the Byzantine Christians.

The scriptural basis of the Ishmaelite prophet presented in Secrets is the verse, "When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.” (Isaiah 21:7) The text interprets the "riders on camels" to be the Muslims, who conquered the holy land on their animals. Secrets is not the only text that makes this connection. In the debate between Imam ar-Rida and the High Rabbi in the Abbasid court, it says the following:

وَقَالَ شَعْيَاءُ النَّبِيُّ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ فِي مَا تَقُولُ أنْتَ وَأصْحَابُكَ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ: رَأَيْتُ رَاكِبَيْنِ أضَاءَتْ لَهُمُ الأَرْضُ؛ أَحَدُهُمَا عَلَى حِمَارٍ وَالآخَرُ عَلَى جَمَلٍ. فَمَنْ رَاكِبُ الحِمَارِ وَمَنْ رَاكِبُ الجَمَلِ؟ قَالَ رَأسُ الجَالُوتِ: لا أعْرِفُهُمَا، فَخَبِّرْنِي بِهِمَا. قَالَ: أمَّا رَاكِبُ الحِمَارِ فَعِيسَى عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ، وَأمَّا رَاكِبُ الجَمَلِ فَمُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ. أتُنْكِرُ هَذَا مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ؟ قَالَ: لا، مَا أُنْكِرُهُ. ثُمَّ قَالَ الرِّضَا عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ: هَلْ تَعْرِفُ حَيْقُوقَ النَّبِيَّ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ؟

قَالَ: نَعَمْ، إنّي بِهِ لَعَارِفٌ.

Imam ar-Rida [a] said, "As you and your friends said, the Prophet Isaiah has said in the Torah that ‘I have seen the picture of the Rider of the Donkey. He was wearing gowns of light. And I have seen the Rider of the Camel - who is as bright as the moon.’ Who is the Rider of the Donkey? Who is the Rider of the Camel?” The High Rabbi said, “I do not know who they are.” The Imam said, “The Rider of the Donkey is Jesus and the Rider of the Camel is Muhammad (s). Do you deny that this is from the Torah?” The High Rabbi said, “No, I do not deny that.” (`Uyoon Akhbar ar-Rida)

While the verse quoted in this hadith is not word-for-word the same as the existing biblical verse, it is certainly referring to Isaiah 21:7. Like Secrets, it equates the camel with the Ishmaelite prophet.

Afterward, Secrets contains a chronological record of the early Caliphate that then leads into the apocalypse. The first sign is the rise of a wicked warrior king, who will come during a dispute in leadership. This is similar to Shii narrations that say that the Sufyani would rise during the succession crisis of Banu Fulan (traditionally "Banu Abbas"). Then, the text describes the fall of western gate of Damascus. This is similar to Shii narrations on the earthquake of al-Jabiyya, the western gate of Damascus - and in other reports, the fall of the western wall of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus.

Then, the secrets speaks of the destruction of the Ishmaelites, and rebellions in the Arab world - just as the Sufyani would be fought by the Yamani, the Khurasani, the Misri, Nafs az-Zakiyya, and others. The wicked king's armies will invade Iraq, until they are defeated. According to this text, the wicked king will "rise for 3 months and reign for 9 months". This is confirmed in Shii sources: one report says that the Sufyani would reign for the duration of a human pregnancy (9 months), and the other says that he would reign for the duration of the pregnancy of a camel (about 12-13 months).

حمل امرأة تسعة أشهر.
حمل جمل

This expectation comes from Micah 5, in which God says, "Israel shall be abandoned until the time when she who is in labour gives birth" (Micah 5:3). This is because the Sufyani would rule over the Levant, which would include Palestine, for 9 months. Then, God would raise one "who will rule over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:2) - the Messiah - who would "stand" (qa'im) and be the shepherd of his flock in the name of God, until he conquers the world (Micah 5:4).

Then comes the rise of Armilus. Armilus here has some parallels to the Dajjal: while the Dajjal has a deformed eye, Armilus has a deformed ear. Armilus then kills the Messiah ben Joseph, who will be mourned. Thereafter, the Messiah will blow into the face of Armilus until he perishes - similar to the account in Sefer Zerubabbel.

Again, another Jewish text with remarkable syncretic references to our prophecies.

The Mahdi and Sefer Zerubabbel

In the Sefer Zerubabbel, a Jewish apocalyptic text written in Palestine between 629 and 636 CE (just before or just after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad (s)), an exegetical vision of the End Times is illustrated. This was a tumultuous period for the Israelites, because the Byzantines and the Persians were at war with one another, and the Byzantines had put down the messianic rebellion of Nehemiah ben Hushiel (d. 619). Nehemiah ben Hushiel was killed in Jerusalem.

According to Nistorat Simon ben Yohai (7th-8th century), Sefer Zerubabbel's sister text, the rise of the Muslims ushered in a redemptive fulfillment of prophecy that freed the Israelites from the Romans.

The killing of Nehemiah ben Hushiel caused the Jews to see him as a Messiah ben Joseph figure - that is to say, a suffering, righteous precursor to the final Davidic Messiah, the one who would fill the world with justice and peace. Some Jews expected a line of these suffering Messiahs to come before the final Messiah. The death of Nehemiah ben Hushiel re-energized those expectations.

Sefer Zerubabbel describes a prophetic vision in which its protagonist, Zerubabbel ben Shealtiel, is introduced to the Davidic Messiah. Zerubabbel is lifted up from time-space, and brought to a man in a painful and wretched state. This Messiah was hidden, solitarily confined in a place (Nineveh; Mosul province). As soon as Zerubabbel gains true recognition of this man, knowing that he was the Messiah, the man transformed into a young, adorned, handsome and strong man. He held a wooden rod that was inherited from the prophets.

The angel then reveals to Zerubabbel that this Messiah was lifted up and concealed in this place, and will only be revealed when God chooses.

Here, we already see tremendous parallels to the Mahdi. The Mahdi is preceded by a line of prophets and Imams who are despised, rejected, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. The exact arrival of the Mahdi comes right after the unjust killing of Nafs az-Zakiyya, a pure and righteous man who will make a stand and be killed in Mecca. Just as the Davidic Messiah is hidden, the Mahdi is hidden until God chooses. Just as the Davidic Messiah is not recognized, the Mahdi is not recognized. Just as the Davidic Messiah is transformed into a strong young man, it is the same with the Mahdi. The two inherit the relics of the prophets. They are both rulers like David (as), outside of time-space for now. They are both one and the same man, and Allah knows best.

The text mentions another apocalyptic figure: Armilos ("he will destroy a nation" in Greek). Armilos is a Dajjali/Sufyani figure in Jewish apocalyptic texts, ruling over Rome and the holy land. He will conquer the world, fight the saints, deceive the people, and kill the Messiah ben Joseph. According to this text, the Davidic Messiah would then appear on the 14th of Nisan (on Passover, in the first month of the calendar). He will then breathe into the face of Armilos, which will kill him. The author probably presumed that Heraclius, the emperor of Byzantium, was the prophesied Armilos, because he killed Nehemiah ben Hushiel, the Messiah ben Joseph candidate.

This bears some similarity to Islamic eschatology. The Sufyani is associated with Byzantium (Sham), and the Dajjal will conquer the world and deceive the people. The Mahdi appears on the 10th of Muharram (the first month), while the Passover sacrifice was selected on the 10th day of the first month. It is further reported that Jesus would breathe into the face of Dajjal and destroy him with the breeze of Paradise.

The timing of Sefer Zerubabbel makes it a very valuable text. It shows that these ideas were present in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s), and not simply a product of the Abbasid revolution, as some claim. InshaAllah in the next post I will comment on Nistorat Simon ben Yohai.

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Dear Qa'im,

I'm unfamiliar with the Secrets of Simeon bar Yochai.  Do you have a link that you could send me?  I was only able to find the article by John C. Reeves about it (which was illuminating on its own).

Are you claiming the role of Mashiach Ben David for Mahdi or simply showing parallel beliefs?  I thought that Muslims believed that Jesus fulfilled the role of Davidic messiah.  If not, what does it mean when the Qur'an refers to Jesus as al-Masih?  Did Muhammad or Ali claim to be the scion or heir of the house of David?

Thanks for all of your help.

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8 hours ago, Ibn Maymun said:

Dear Qa'im,

I'm unfamiliar with the Secrets of Simeon bar Yochai.  Do you have a link that you could send me?  I was only able to find the article by John C. Reeves about it (which was illuminating on its own).

Are you claiming the role of Mashiach Ben David for Mahdi or simply showing parallel beliefs?  I thought that Muslims believed that Jesus fulfilled the role of Davidic messiah.  If not, what does it mean when the Qur'an refers to Jesus as al-Masih?  Did Muhammad or Ali claim to be the scion or heir of the house of David?

Thanks for all of your help.

The text starts after the first paragraph: https://clas-pages.uncc.edu/john-reeves/research-projects/trajectories-in-near-eastern-apocalyptic/nistarot-secrets-of-r-shimon-b-yohai-2/

The eschatological role of Jesus is more secondary to the Mahdi, especially in Shia Islam. Jesus is a descendant of Aaron in the Quran (19:27-28). Zechariah was a priest, and Elizabeth, who was Mary's relative, was a Levite (Luke 1:5). In our hadiths, the Mahdi rules, while Jesus prays behind him - much like the dual leadership structure in Judaism (King and Prophet). So in short, Jesus is the Messiah of Aaron, and his role in the eschatology is more priestly. In our hadiths of Jesus, his main role is inward purification.

As for the Mahdi and David: the Imams have illustrated that the Mahdi will rule as David ruled. There is some genealogical research by David Hughes and Rabbi Ben Abrahamson that suggests that Ali (as) was a descendant of the Davidic exilarchs on his mother's side. You can read about that here: http://www.shiachat.com/forum/topic/235019422-ahl-al-bayt-in-judeo-christian-literature/?do=findComment&comment=3048917


So in a word, we see: (1) Muhammad (s) as the Prophet like unto Moses, mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:18, and in "Community Rule" and other Dead Sea Scroll documents. He received prophethood at 40, led an exodus, brought a new Law, produced miracles, became the ruler over his people, and crowned a new Temple. (2) Ali (as) as the "Aaron" of this Second Moses, and therefore his eloquent and patient vizier, and father of his descendants. (3) The 2nd to 11th Imams as the suffering and oppressed line of Messiahs, all of whom were murdered by the rulers of their time. (4) Nafs az-Zakiyya as the righteous man who will be killed next to the new Temple (Mecca), whose killing will usher in the coming of the Mahdi. (5) The Mahdi as the Davidic Messiah, who will rule with utmost strength, illuminate the whole world with his light, elucidate the religion of God to all people, and bring justice and equity. (6) Jesus as the Righteous Priest, who will be a minister under the Mahdi.

And Allah knows best!

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