Imam Muhammed al-Mahdi (a.s) is the twelfth Shi’a Imam. His father was Imam al-Hasan al-Askari (a.s) and his mother was a wholesome and religious woman named Nargis, who was a descendant of a noble family.
Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) was born in Samarra (Iraq) on the 15th of Shabanin in the year 256 AH. His birth took place in secret so as to make sure he was not killed by the Caliph of the time who did not like the Ahlulbayt.
Imam al-Mahdi (a.s) went into hiding immediately after he led the funeral prayer (Salat al-mayt) over his father in the year 260 AH.
The first time the Imam went into hiding it was for a brief period which is known as The Minor Occultation (Al-Ghayba al-Sughra). During the Minor Occultation the Imam communicated with his followers through his most trusted four followers:
- Uthman b. Said al-Amri
- Muhammed b. Uthman al-Amri
- Husayn b. Ruh b. Abi Bahr al-Nawbakhti
- Ali b. Muhammed al-Sammari
The death of the fourth agent (al-Sammari) was the beginning of a new era for Shi’a Muslims, known as the Major Occultation (al-Ghayba al-Kubra). This is where the Imam is not in direct communication with his followers, but still provides guidance to them. In this period his followers are expected to prepare for his return by purifying themselves and their actions.