The Views of Muhyi-ad Din Ibn Arabi on the Infallibility of Imam Mahdi (AS):
Ibn Arabi in his works “Futuhat Al-Makkiya” (The Meccan Revelations) says: “Mahdi (AS), during his time is the sign of Allah for the people of the world. His position is like that of the Prophets’ (Peace Be Upon Them) which is sometimes also possible for others to share.”
In the Glorious Qur’an, Allah tells His Prophet (P.B.U.H): “Say, ‘this is my path. With sure knowledge, I call on you to have faith in Allah, I and my followers.” (12:108)
Mahdi (AS) is a follower of the Messenger. Therefore, just as the Messenger’s invitation (to Islam) is free from any doubts and errors, the one who follows him is free from errors too. Rather, he treads the same path. Thus the Prophet (P.B.U.H) has said in this regard: “He treads on my path and is free from error.” And this is the same position of infallibility inviting towards the way of Allah…. (Ibn Arabi, “Futuhat Al-Makiyya” – vol. 3, p. 332)
Elsewhere in the same book, he writes: “The very being of Mahdi (AS) is Mercy, just as the being of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) was Mercy.” In the Qur’an, Allah says: “We have not sent you forth but as a Mercy to mankind.” (21:107)
Ibn Arabi further states: “Except for Mahdi (AS), the Prophet (P.B.U.H) has not said so explicitly for any of the other Imams as he has said of Mahdi (AS) that would come after him and would continue his mission and would do so impeccably.” This proves that in stating the Divine decrees, Mahdi (AS) is infallible. And of course sound reasoning (based on various historical and metaphysical proofs) testifies that the Prophet (P.B.U.H) of Allah was infallible in conveying this message.” (Ibid., pp. 337-338)
In his book “Kamal ad-Din wa Tamam an-Ne’ma” – Sheikh Saduq quotes Imam Muhammad Baqir (AS) as saying: “The knowledge of Allah’s Book and Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) Tradition has blossomed in the heart of our Mahdi (AS) like a perfect plant. Should anyone of you meet him, tell him “Greetings on you, the household of Mercy and Prophethood and the Fountain of Knowledge and Heir to the Messenger of Truth.” (Kamal al-Din wa Tamam al-Ne’mah, vol. 2, p. 653)
Those who are critics of the ideology of Al-Mahdi (AS), the Awaited One, mainly raise two questions:
a) How can it be possible for any man to live so long?
b) How can a child who has not yet reached maturity attain to the position of Imamate?
That this long a span of life is not in the least impossible. Very often we come across ordinary people who have very long life spans. Even regarding Prophet Noah (PBUH), the Qur’an says: “We sent forth Noah to his people, and he dwelt amongst them for one thousand years, less fifty.” (29:14)
Even today science agrees that if a human being lives far off from the pressures and stress of the hustle bustle of a hectic city life, it would be possible for him to live a long and healthy life for hundreds of years without any anxieties and illness.
According to medical and social scientists, the automated and mechanized life of today’s electronic age, limits the physical activities of human beings and is thus responsible for shortening his span of life. (Al-Najjar Abdul Wahhab, “Qisas al-Anbiyya, p. 98)
Physicians believe that untimely deaths of people in advanced societies are due to abnormal diseases that afflict them. Thus, if an individual takes good care and gives due attention to his health, it would be quite possible for him to live a reality life for centuries. Wouldn’t this especially be possible for great and noble human beings who are completely under the protection of the Almighty Allah?
Allah states in the Qur’an regarding Prophet Yunus (PBUH):
“A whale swallowed him, for he had some amiss; and had he not devoutly praised Allah, he would have stayed in its belly till the Day of Resurrection. We threw him gravely ill upon a desolate shore and caused a gourd tree to grow over him. Thus, we sent him to a hundred thousand strong or more. They believed in him and we let them live in ease awhile.” (37:142-148)
Regarding Prophet Isa (PBUH) Allah says:
“Those that disagreed about him were in doubt concerning him, for what they knew about it was a sheer conjecture; they didn’t kill him for certain. Allah lifted him up to Him; He is Mighty, Wise. There is none among the People of the Book but will believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them.” (4:158-159)
The above-mentioned verses prove that death has not yet overtaken Prophet Isa (PBUH) and that his death will take place after descending from the heavens at the time of the re-appearance of Mahdi (AS), the promised. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) has been quoted as saying: “Isa (PBUH) the Son of Mary is not dead. Rather, before the Day of Resurrection, he will come back to you.”
The late Allama Tabarsi says that the Prophet (P.B.U.H) has been quoted as saying: “How will it be when Isa, Son of Mary descends among you, when your Imam Mahdi (AS) has risen from among you.” (Al-Bukhari, Isma’il ibn Ibrahim, Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, p. 205. Abul-Hussain, Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj, Sahih Al-Muslim, vol. 1, p. 94)
Coming to the second question regarding the validity of an underage Imam. We must say that when this same thing has been possible for many great Prophets (Peace Be Upon Them). Why would it not be possible for Imam Mahdi (AS)? Allah says in the Qur’an regarding Prophet John (PBUH): “O Yahya, hold fast to the Book. We bestowed on him wisdom while he was a child.” (19:12)
Similarly it is recorded thus in the Qur’an regarding Prophet Isa (PBUH):
“She pointed to him. But they replied, ‘How can we speak with a baby in the cradle?’ (Whereupon) he said: ‘I am the servant of Allah, He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet. He made me blessed wherever I go and He has commanded me to be steadfast in prayer and to give alms to the poor as long as I shall live.” (19:29-30)
Many traditions from the Prophet (P.B.U.H) regarding the importance of the need for existence of Imam Mahdi (AS) as well as knowledge regarding him have been quoted by great Sunni scholars. Some of these are as follows:
1 “Anyone who dies without knowing his Imam-e Zaman has died in ignorance.”
2 “Anyone who dies and has not declared faith in an Imam, dies ignorant.” (Ibn Hanbal Ahmad, Masnad-e-Ahmad, vol. 3, p. 446 and vol. 4, p. 96; Sahih al-Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 21-22; Abu Bakr Al-Bayhaqi Al-Sunan Al-Kubra, vol. 8, p. 156; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azeem, vol. 1, p. 517; Allamah Amini, Al-Ghadeer, vol. 10, p. 359.
Many such traditions have been quoted often by Sunni scholars. Therefore, it could be considered incumbent on every good Muslim to follow his Imam-e Zaman, albeit an infallible Imam, who is free from errors and misjudgment. Especially so since an Imam is an exemplar of the highest virtues and thus it would not be appropriate for him to be afflicted by errors and imperfections. The Need for Intercession in Seeking Divine Grace:
A very important issue to refer to here is the need for intercession in seeking Divine Grace. We read in the Qur’an: “O you who believe! Have fear of Allah and seek the means by which you get His favor.” (5:35)
Elsewhere the Qur’an says: “Those to whom they pray themselves seek to approach their Lord.” (17:57)
Sheikh Saduq quotes Sulaiman ibn Ja’afar as saying: “I asked Imam Reza (AS). Will the earth ever be devoid of a sign of God?” The Imam replied: “Even if that were to happen for as long as the blinking of an eye, the earth would cave in with all its inhabitants.” (Sheikh Saduq, “Uyun-e-Akbar al-Reza”, pp. 150-151)
Elsewhere he quotes Imam Baqir (AS), saying: “If the earth would be devoid of an Imam from our Household for even a single day, it would swallow in all its inhabitants. And Allah would afflict the dwellers of the earth with a severe punishment. The Lord Almighty has appointed us as this sign and for the safety of the dwellers of the earth. As long as we live among them, those who would otherwise be swallowed into the earth are in safety.” (Sheikh Saduq, Kamal ad-Din wa Tamam an-Ne’ma, pp. 150-151)
Thus, in the same way that these Imams are intercessors for the True Religion, they are also the intercessors for Grace and Earthly and Heavenly abundance for mankind.