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Imam Mahdi (PBUH) Longevity and Occultation
Question:

 Shiites claim that the 12th Imam of the Shiites is still alive, but he is experiencing the occultation era. How can that be possible? What does the occultation of Imam Mahdi (PBUH) exactly mean? 


Answer:

Today, medical science has proven that all the organs and structure of the human body have the capability of functioning a longer period of time than normal life span of humans. A shorter life is often due to the misuse of one's own body.  Even if we assume that this discovery is wrong, it would still be logical that Imam Mahdi (PBUH) live such a long life. This is simply because Allah (SWT) has willed it. He does whatever He wants to do (1), and He is omnipotent. Allah (SWT) is the One who has given existence to mankind and created him from nothing, along with the creation of all the skies and galaxies. Would it be really impossible for Him to protect one from the factors that may cause death? It is remarkable that those factors are creatures and under the control of Allah (SWT) as well.

Moreover history has even shown that there have been many people who lived much longer than Imam Mahdi (PBUH).  Prophet Nuh (Noah) (PBUH) for instance lived at least 950 years according to the Holy Quran (2) and 2500 years from other Islamic sources. Also, according to the Holy Quran, Prophet Jesus (PBUH) is still alive.

The absence and occultation of Imam Mahdi (PBUH) does not imply that he does not exist, but it means that people do not recognize him. It has been mentioned in the narrations that Imam Mahdi (PBUH) is like Prophet Yusof (Joseph) (PBUH). He lives amongst them, walks in the streets and bazaars, but people do not identify him.(3) Or in some other narrations he performs the rituals of Hajj, and the people see him but they do not know him.(4)


 
1- ''(Allah is) Doer of what He will.'' (The Holy Quran, 85:16)
 
2- ''And certainly We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people, so he remained among them a thousand years save fifty years. And the flood overwhelmed them, while they were unjust. ''(The Holy Quran, 29:14)
 
3- Imam Sadiq (PBUH) said:'' Qa'im (Mahdi (PBUH)) has a tradition from Yusof The brothers of Yusof were the descendants of the prophets, while they were the brothers of Yusof and he was their brother, they did not identify him till Yusof told them:'' I'm Yusof and this (Benjamin) is my brother.'' So why the people of this community deny that Allah does the same thing He did towards Yusof to His representative. In such a way that he walk amongst them, walk in their bazaars, puts his feet on their carpets and they do not know him, until Allah permits him to introduce himself to them, just like He permitted Joseph to introduce himself to his brothers while he said:'' Do you know how you treated Yusof (Joseph) and his brother when you were ignorant? -They said: Are you indeed Yusof (Joseph)? He said: I am Yusof (Joseph) and this is my brother; ''(The Holy Quran, 12: 89 & 90)
(Narration from I'lam al-Wara, p.423)
 
4- Imam Sadiq (PBUH) said:'' By Allah I swear that the owner of this affair (Mahdi (PBUH)) will be present at the rituals of Hajj each year and he sees the people and knows them and the people also see him, but they do not identify him.'' (Kamal al-Din, vol.2, p. 440)
 
5- ''(Allah is) Doer of what He will.'' (The Holy Quran, 85:16)
 
6- ''And certainly We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people, so he remained among them a thousand years save fifty years. And the flood overwhelmed them, while they were unjust. ''(The Holy Quran, 29:14)
 
7- Imam Sadiq (PBUH) said:'' Qa'im (Mahdi (PBUH)) has a tradition from Yusof The brothers of Yusof were the descendants of the prophets, while they were the brothers of Yusof and he was their brother, they did not identify him till Yusof told them:'' I'm Yusof and this (Benjamin) is my brother.'' So why the people of this community deny that Allah does the same thing He did towards Yusof to His representative. In such a way that he walk amongst them, walk in their bazaars, puts his feet on their carpets and they do not know him, until Allah permits him to introduce himself to them, just like He permitted Joseph to introduce himself to his brothers while he said:'' Do you know how you treated Yusof (Joseph) and his brother when you were ignorant? -They said: Are you indeed Yusof (Joseph)? He said: I am Yusof (Joseph) and this is my brother; ''(The Holy Quran, 12: 89 & 90)
(Narration from I'lam al-Wara, p.423)
 
8- Imam Sadiq (PBUH) said:'' By Allah I swear that the owner of this affair (Mahdi (PBUH)) will be present at the rituals of Hajj each year and he sees the people and knows them and the people also see him, but they do not identify him.'' (Kamal al-Din, vol.2, p. 440)