The Birth of Imam Mahdi AS, the Twelfth Imam
The twelfth Imam, Imam Mahdi, the only son – and only child – of Imam Hasan Askari, was born on Thursday 28 July 869 C.E. in Samera. His mother was called Narjes, a converted Muslim from Christianity and the granddaughter of Rome’s Ceasar. His father, Imam Hasan Askari, was the eleventh Imam, and killed at the age of 28. Mahdi’s age at the time of his father’s death had been five years old. He was also known as the Lord of the Age, the Awaited Mahdi, and the Evidence.
The story of Mahdi’s birth is an interesting one, which might be untold about in non-Muslim resources: On the night of his birth, Hakimeh, Imam Hasan Askari’s aunt – the 11th Imam – paid a visit to their house.
Imam Hasan Askari asks her, “Stay with us for supper and the night because tonight a blessed child will be born who will be God’s evidence over all that is living on earth.”
Hakimeh asks with surprise, “who is the mother of this child?”
Imam Hasan replies, “Narjes.”
“But Narjes does not have the looks of a pregnant woman,” says Hakimeh perplexed.
Imam replies with patience and solemnity, “wait and you shall see for yourself.”
The rest of the story continues from Hakimeh’s point of view as such: “When I entered the house, Narjes came to welcome me and helped me with my clothes. We said our prayers and ate supper. I slept and woke up again at dawn for morning prayers, but still found Narjes sleeping, and no signs of child birth were visible on her. I said my prayers and doa’s and slept again, but rose up suddenly with distress and checked on Narjes. She was still peacefully in sleep. I started doubting Imam Hasan’s promise that all of a sudden Imam Hasan said from the next room, “Do not doubt my aunt! God’s promise is imminent. When I heard Imam Hasan’s voice, I started reciting surahs “Sajdah” or The Adoration and “Ya Seen”. Then all of a sudden Narjes woke up distressed. I went to her and reminded her of God’s name and asked her, are you feeling the change? She replied, “Yes.” I soothed her and persuaded her to stay calm and strong. We again fall asleep afterwards. When I woke up shortly after, I saw the son was born in that quite while that I was asleep. The infant was praying to God saying “Thanks be to the God, the creator of the worlds, and Salam be to Muhammad and his progeny”. I hugged that holy child and saw that unlike other newborns he was clean of all birth filth.
Imam Hasan then called from the next room, “aunt please bring me my son.” I took him to Imam Hassan. He hugged the baby tightly and touched his body parts, kissing him on his lips, and whispering to him, “talk to me my son!” and the infant started talking on his father’s order and said the shahadateyn: “I thereby confess that there is no God but Allah, and confess that Muhammad is His prophet”, he then sent salam to Imam Ali AS and his progeny – his own forefathers – till he reached the name of his own father Imam Hasan Askari. Then the infant opened his eyes and said salam to his own father. Imam Hasan then said, “Aunt please take him to his mother, so that he might salam to her as well, and bring it back again to me.”
Hakimeh then says that on the seventh day after the birth again I saw Imam Hasan Askari hugging his son, and asking him to speak with him. The child again started confessing God’s uniqueness and Muhammad’s prophecy, and said salam to all his forefathers till he reached the name of his own father, then started reciting this verse: “And We desired to bestow a favor upon those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them the Imams, and to make them the heirs, And to grant them power in the land, and to make Pharaoh and Haman and their league to see from them what they had feared from. (The Qasas or The Narrative: Verses 5,6).
The Story of Marriage of Imam Mahdi’s Parents
Imam Mahdi’s mother had been a roman princess. The story of the acquaintance and marriage of Imam Hasan Askari with her is also an interesting one, which might not be so much talked about in non-Muslim sources. The story is as such:
One day Imam Ali Naghi – the 10th Imam – summons Boshr-bin-Soleyman, one of the shite devotees, and gives him a sealed letter written in Latin and a sack of coins to take to the market and purchase a certain person, disguised among slaves.
Imam tells him: “take these to Baghdad, and in the morning of a certain day be present at Forat Bridge. When the ship containing the prisoners arrives and you see the prisoners getting out of the ship, find a man called Omar-bin-Zeyd, a slave trader, who has an imprisoned lady to sell as a slave. She is wearing two gowns made of silk, she constantly tries to cover herself away from the customers. You will hear her complaining in Latin of her imprisonment and the disrespect against her. A customer will tell Omar, I like this slave’s chastity. Sell her to me for 300 dinars. The lady says in Arabic, “even if you are Solomon himself and have his magnitude, I have no interest in you, so do not waste your money!” The slave trader says, “Then what should be done? I should sell you.” The lady answers, “Why are you in a hurry? Wait till the person comes that my heart feels his warmth and is attracted to him.”
At this time, go to the seller and show him the letter and say one of the aristocrats has written this in Latin and explained everything in it. Then ask him to show the letter to the lady, and if the lady consents tell him, “I will buy her from you.”
Boshr does as Imam Ali Naghi told him. When the lady read the letter, she cried heavily and asked Omar to sell her to the writer of that letter, and if he didn’t, she would kill herself.
Boshr gives Omar the money and takes the lady to a place he had rented for her in Baghdad. On their way, Boshr sees the lady smelling and kissing the letter several times and putting it on her eyes. Boshr, surprised, asks her, “How do you love and kiss a letter so much while you have never met its writer?”
The lady then tells her story: “I am Melika, daughter of Joshua, son of Rome’s Caesar. My mother was a descendant of one of Christ’s apostles, Simon; therefore I become a descendant of him also. My grandfather, Caesar, wanted to engage me to his nephew when I was 13. He summoned 300 priests and saints that were descendants of Christ’s apostles, and 700 of the aristocrats, and 4 thousand of rulers and political leaders. Then decorated a throne with all kinds of jewels. When he seated his nephew on the throne, and the ceremony started and the priests came forward and opened the bibles, suddenly all the crosses fall down and the throne broke down and the nephew fell to the ground. One of the cardinals said to Caesar, this is a cursed sign for Christianity, please forgive us for we cannot stay. My grandfather again ordered his servants to erect the throne and to raise the crosses. Again his nephew sat on the throne and the engagement started. But again the same thing happened, and my grandfather canceled the ceremony in disappointment.
At night I saw in a dream that Jesus and Simon and a group of apostles have gathered in my grandfather’s palace and instead of the throne, there was a seat that shone out as if it was the source of light itself. Not long after, prophet of Islam, Muhammad, his son-in-law, his successor and a group of his progeny entered upon us. Jesus AS rushed forward and greeted Mohammad AS and Mohammad AS told him: “I have come to ask for the hand of Simon’s daughter, your apostle, in marriage with my son” and pointed to Imam Hasan Askari AS. Jesus then turned towards Simon and said, “Honor has come after you, so accept this holy marriage.” And Simon said, “I agreed.” Then Mohammed ascended the seat and gave a speech and engaged me to his son, and took Jesus, the apostles and the angels as witness.
When I woke up I did not say anything about the dream to my grandfather for the fear of my life. After that night I fall so much in love with Imam Hasan Askari AS that I could not drink or eat anything, so I became weak and sick. My grandfather summoned all the doctors, and nobody could heal me. He then asked if I had any wishes he could fulfill. I asked him, “O father! If you release the Muslim prisoners, Jesus and his mother might heal me.” My father accepted my request and I pretended to be better and started eating. My father became so exhilarated that he treated Muslim prisoners with respect since then. Fourteen nights after this, I again saw Fatima AS, Mary AS, and some angels paying me a visit. St. Mary faced me and said, this lady of all women in the world is your mother-in-law. I grabbed Fatima’s gown and started crying, and complaining about Imam Hasan Askari’s delay in visiting me. She said, “He will not come to visit you because you are not a Muslim, and are a polytheist. This is my sister, Mary, who asks refuge in God from the religion you have acquired. If you want the God of Jesus and Mary to be satisfied and wish that my son pays you a visit, confess the uniqueness of God and the prophecy of Muhammad AS, the last of the prophets. When I recited the statements she told me, Fatima AS hugged me and I recovered. She then said, “Now wait for my son, Imam Hasan Askari AS, and I will send him to you.”
When I woke up, I was so eager to meet him. The next night, I saw Imam Hasan AS in my dream and complained to him why he had not come before, and he replied that the only problem had been my religion and promised to come to visit me every night till the time we meet in real life. Ever since, I have been seeing him in my dreams.”
Boshr then asked, “How did you get imprisoned?”
She said, “In one of my dreams Imam Hasan Askari AS said, on this specific day, your grandfather, Caesar, will send an army to fight with Muslims. You disguise yourself as a servant and join the army.” Then the Muslim war leaders defeated us and imprisoned us. Since then, I never told anyone that I had been the granddaughter of Rome’s Caesar.”
Boshr then asks, “it is weird that you are roman but speak Arabic so well?!”
She replied, “Caesar was so careful about my education. I had a personal tutor that taught me Arabic.”
After they arrived at Imam Ali Naghi AS’s house, his sister, Hakimeh, greeted Narjes and taught her Islam and its rules and task.