Expectation of the Millennium: Shi'Ism in History by Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr

By Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr

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These traditions indicate the frustration of the Shicis at the delay in the appearance of the Mahdi. But the consequences of the qiyam were obvious to them, since they were repeatedly reminded that the rise of the Mahdi would be no less than the sword and death under the shadow of the sword of al-Qa'im, the Master of the Sword (sahib al-sayf). " Another remarkable theme in these apocalyptic traditions is consideration about the place where the Imam will rise, whenever he does. Most of the traditions that report the rise on the day of cAshura also mention the place of zuhur.

For when that event shall come, each man among you will begiven the strength of forty men. " The report on the one hand, discourages fixingof any particular time of the appearance of the Mahdi in the nearfuture; on the other hand, the reference to the conflict among theenemies, which reflected the political turmoil of that period, assuredthat Shicis that the great event thezuhur would take place. Thus, the knowledge of the time, evenin vague terms, of the appearance was necessary to sustain theShicis during the difficult days of trials andseditions of the ghaybah.

The fruits of conquest, in the form of the booty and the revenue from the conquered lands, had created an unequal distribution of wealth among all Arab Muslims. Consequently, the wealth was concentrated among the conquering families, affording them privileges based on arbitrary distinctions of rank. According to al-Zahabi, during cUthman's reign there was so much wealth in Medina that a horse would sell for one-hundred thousand dirhams, while a garden would fetch four-hundred thousand. The Umayyads, says alZahabi, had, during this period, acted indiscriminately in amassing wealth to the extent that they had discredited the caliphate as the guarantor of the equality of all Muslims in sharing the wealth acquired through the spoils and the taxes from the conquered lands.

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