Imam Mahdi’s Birthday
Observed on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Imam Mahdi’s Birthday is a holiday widely observed across Iran. This holiday commemorates the anniversary of the birth of the last Imam of the Twelver Shia.
Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Mahdi is believed to be the eschatological redeemer of Islam and the final Imam of the Twelve Imams, who will emerge with Isa to fulfill their mission of bringing justice and peace to the world. He was born on 15 Sha’ban 256 AH and disappeared in 873. In Iran, this holiday is a public one, which means many banks and other businesses are closed.
The History of Imam Mahdi’s Birthday in Iran
In the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam, it is believed that the 12th Imam would be the final one, who would guide humanity until the Day of Judgment. Approximately 1,200 years ago, the 11th Imam, Hassan Asgari, sired a son named Muhammad.
Because of the Abbasid Caliph’s crackdown to prevent the birth of the 12th Imam, Hassan kept his child’s birth a secret and only informed those closest to him that he had sired the 12th Imam.
At the age of five, Muhammad al-Mahdi disappeared on the exact same day that his father died. In Shia theology, Imam Mahdi is the Messiah who will administer justice and purify the world of evil. It is said that he will appear alongside Jesus, and they will rule together until the Day of Judgment arrives.
Observing Imam Mahdi’s Birthday in Iran
To many Shiite Muslims, this is an extremely important day and is therefore celebrated very seriously. People decorate their homes, congregate in mosques, and spend time with friends and family members. Because it is a public holiday, government buildings, schools, and many banks are also closed on this day.