He is also sometimes referred to by Shi’a Muslims as Sahib Al-Zaman or Al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar which translated mean “The Lord of the Age” and “The Guided/Awaited One.” The Mahdi is the first of the Major Signs. This is confirmed by Ibn Kathir, the renowned Muslim scholar from the eighth century: After the lesser signs of the Hour appear and increase, mankind will have reached a stage of great suffering. Then the awaited Mahdi will appear; He is the first of the greater clear, signs of the Hour.
The coming of the Mahdi is the central crowning element of all Islamic end-time narratives. So central to Islamic eschatological expectations is the coming of the Mahdi, that some Muslim scholars do not even refer to “the Minor Signs” as such, but instead, refer to them as, “The signs accompanying the Mahdi”. While there are some variations of belief between the Sunni and Shia’ sects of Islam and while certain quarters of Sunnis reject him altogether, general belief in the Mahdi is not a sectarian issue within Islam, but is universal among most Muslims. According to Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America: The coming of the Mahdi is established doctrine for both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, and indeed for all humanity.
Ayatullah Baqir al-Sadr and Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari, both Shia’ Muslim scholars in their book, The Awaited Savior, describe the Mahdi this way: A figure more legendary than that of the Mahdi, the Awaited Saviour, has not been seen in the history of mankind. The threads of the world events have woven many a fine design in human life but the pattern of the Mahdi stands high above every other pattern. He has been the vision of the visionaries in history. He has been the dream of all the dreamers of the world. For the ultimate salvation of mankind he is the Pole Star of hope on which the gaze of humanity is fixed… In this quest for the truth about the Mahdi there is no distinction of any caste, creed, or country. The quest is universal, exactly in the same way as the Mahdi himself is universal. He stands resplendent high above the narrow walls in which humanity is cut up and divided. He belongs to everybody. For all that and much more, what exactly is the Mahdi? Surely that is the big question which the thinking people all over the world would like to ask.
Indeed, just who is this “awaited one” that the Islamic world is longing for, and what is it that he does that has them all in such a state of anticipation? This chapter will attempt to thoroughly answer this question primarily by citing various Islamic traditions and the interpretations of Muslim scholars that study them. I would like to encourage you to take the time to read each and every quote. It is in these references that we find an articulation of one of the central beliefs and passions of many of the 1.3 billion Muslims that we presently share the Earth with. Those of us who desire a greater understanding of one of the primary underlying spiritual factors affecting the world today should pay very close attention.