Is belief in al-Mahdi required in the beliefs of Muslims, in particular Ahl as-Sunnah?
Belief in the Mahdî is Obligatory in Islam
Belief in al-Mahdî ‘s coming and in his God-sanctioned reformative functions is an obligatory tenet of belief in Islam. The opening lines of Shaykh al-Islam, Ibn Hajar al-Haytamî’s book on the Mahdî entitled Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamât al-Mahdî al-Muntazar (“The Brief Discourse on the Portents of the Awaited Mahdî “) are:
It has been related that the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, said: “Whoever denies belief in the Dajjâl, has certainly committed disbelief (man kadhdhaba bi al-dajjâli fa qad kafara), and whoever denies belief in the Mahdî , has certainly committed disbelief (wa man kadhdhaba bi al-Mahdî fa qad kafara).” Abû Bakr al-Askafî narrated it in Fawâid al-akhbâr, and also [the hadith master] Abû al-Qâsim al-Suhayli in his book Sharh al-Sira. End of Haytamî’s words.
The hadith mentioned above is also narrated by the hadith master Ibn Nâsir al-Dîn al-Dimashqî in his book `Uqud al-durar fî `ulum al-athar (The pearl necklaces in the science of tradition) p. 156 and the hadith master Jalâl al-Dîn al-Suyûtî in his monograph al-`Arf al-wardi fî akhbâr al-Mahdî (The roselike fragrance in the reports of al-Mahdî ) in his collected fatwas entitled al-Hâwi li al-fatâwi 2:161.
Under note18 Dr. Suhaib Hasan in his book An Introduction to the Science of Hadith wrote:
Although the Mahdî is not mentioned explicitly in the collections of al-Bukhâri and Muslim, numerous sahîh ahadîth which are mutawâtir in meaning speak of the coming of the Mahdî, a man named Muhammad bin `Abdullâh and a descendant of the Prophet (s) through Fâtimah who will be the Leader (Imam, Khalîfah) of the Muslims, rule for seven years and fill the world with justice and equity after it had been filled with tyranny and oppression. He will also fight along with Jesus son of Mary. The author, in his The Concept of the Mahdî among the Ahlul Sunnah has named 37 scholars who collected ahâdîth about the Mahdî with their own isnads and 69 later scholars who wrote in support of the concept compared to 8 scholars who rejected the idea. (page 62 of An Introduction to the Science of Hadith published by Darusalam, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
The author he means seems to be `Abd al-`Alîm `Abd al-`Azîm who wrote a Master’s thesis titled al-Ahâdîth al-Wâridah fi al-Mahdî fi Mîzân al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dîl in which he states that there are thirty two authentic (hasan or sahîh) Hadiths about Mahdî . Of these, nine of them mention the Mahdî explicitly while the others simply give a description of him. This quantification, of course, is unreliable as the man is obviously not a hadith master and is using a computer to reach his conclusion. However, he and Hasan can be cited insofar as they confirm what actual hadith masters and the `ulama of Ahl al-Sunnah have long since established.
W ‘Allâhu Ta`ala A`lam wa âhkam.
Blessings and peace on our Master Muhammad, his Family, his Companions, and all those loyal to him until the end of Time.
Wal-Hamdu Lillâhi Rabbi-l-`Alamîn.
Hajj Gibril Haddad