Many ask about the name of the Imam Mahdi and say that was it not supposed to be Muhammad Ibn Abdullah and that the Imam Mahdi would be an Arab. If a person comes today, whose name is Muhammad and his father is Abdullah and his mother’s name is Amina, would the Muslims accept him? It is obvious that no one would accept him based on this premise. Nor is this what the hadith says. Let us take sign step by step.
Firstly, in Khana Kaba, a person claimed to be the Imam Mahdi and his name was Muhammad, his father’s name was Abdullah and his mother’s name was Amina. All present should have accepted him. However, he was killed right there and was not even able to leave Mecca.
In regards to this narration, there is not only one name mentioned. The narrations give the Imam Mahdi countless of names. This shows that the names are attributive names, not physical names. Prophecies of Prophets mention attributive names and this is the way of the Prophets of the past as well.
Imagine a person is named Muhammad and he marries Amina and names his son Muhammad. Who would accept him? One of the names of the Prophet (sa) was Ahmad as well and this does agree with the name of the Prophet (sa). One of the name of Hadhrat Ahmad (as) was also Muhammad by way of reflection, since he resembled the Prophet(sa). The Mahdi is also called the Messiah, Dhul Qarnain, Ahmad, Muhammad, and Imam ul Qaim. We should focus on the signs and see who fulfills all of these signs. For example, the signs of the eclipses.
If we take every narration literally, we will never reach anywhere. For example, the Prophet (sa) said he would be buried with me in my grave. Can anyone ever believe that the grave of the Prophet (sa) would be opened? Of course not. It was a phrase to show the resemblance the Imam Mahdi would have with the Messiah. Secondly, this means the truth of the mahdi cannot be shown until he dies and is buried since it would not be fulfilled in him. Who would bury him there?
Hadhrat Ahmad (as) is the fulfillment of the Imam Mahdi about whom the Prophet (sa) said there is no Mahdi except Isa. The Mahdi who would have eclipses for him and break the cross and kill the swine. The other ahadith have to be interpreted. Many scholars said these titles refer to the closeness the Messiah would have to the Prophet (sa). Like we say, his father is our father. We are not two, we are one. If you mock him, you have mocked me. These ahadith simply show how close they would be. Like Hadhrat Ahmad (as) said whoever differentiates between me and Mustafa (sa), he has not seen or recognized me. This is metaphorical which hints to the love the Mahdi and the Prophet had for each other.
If we don’t take these meanings, and take everything literally we will put ourselves into trouble. Hadhrat Ahmad (as) himself explained this in his book Nuzulul Masih page 381, on the footnote. He explained that the Prophet (Sa) said the Mahdi and Messiah would have my name and not bring a new name, meaning he would not bring a new law rather would have the cloth of the Prophethood of Muhammad (sa) and his life would be like the life of the Prophets and he would die in the name of the Prophet (Sa), so it is known that he is not a new person rather a spiritual second coming, as Sahih Bukhari tells us.
If someone continues to insist and wants the literal fulfillment, then Hadhrat Ahmad (as) name was the same as the Prophet Muhammad (sa) because he (sa) was also called Ahmad. He (sa) fathers name was Abdullah (slave of Allah) and the name of the father of Hadhrat Ahmad (as) was Ghulam Murtadha, the slave of Muhammad (sa). These two names also resemble because all true slaves of Allah are also slaves of the Prophet (sa).
The hadith says that the Mahdi would be of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his father’s name would agree with the name of the Prophet (sa) and his name would agree with the name of the Prophet (sa). As for him being Arab, Bukhari makes it clear that the Imam Mahdi would be of Persian lineage, not Arab
Majority of the ahadith just say his name will be my name. The father name is an addition and not present in the other ahadith.
For example, in Musnad Ahmad it is narrated:
حدثنا عبد الله، حدثني أبي، ثنا سفيان بن عيينة، ثنا عاصم، عن زر، عن عبد الله، عن النبي ﷺ: «لا تقوم الساعة حتى يلي رجل من أهل بيتي يواطئ اسمه اسمي».” (مسند أحمد، ج 1، ص 377)
Here it simply says his name will resemble my name. There is no mention of the fathers name being the same in the other narrations. However, we have no issue in accepting both signs. These signs are meant to be taken in the spiritual sense showing the blessed qualities of the Imam Mahdi (as).
In Tirmidhi, it is narrated:
اَ تَذْهَبُ الدُّنْيَا حَتَّى يَمْلِكَ الْعَرَبَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ بَيْتِي يُوَاطِئُ اسْمُهُ اسْمِي
‘Abdullah narrated that the Messenger of Allah(s.a.w) said: “The world shall not pass away until a man from the people of my family rules the Arabs whose name agrees with my name.” (Jamia’t Tirmidhi, Hadith #2230)
Then again in Tirmidhi we have:
يَلِي رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ بَيْتِي يُوَاطِئُ اسْمُهُ اسْمِي
“وأمّا توارد اسم الأبوين كما جاء في حديث نبيّ الثقلَين، فاعلم أنه إشارة لطيفة إلى تطابُق السرَّين من خاتم النبيين. فإن أبا نبينا صلى الله عليه وسلم كان مستعدّا للأنوار فما اتفق حتى مضى من هذه الدار، وكان نورُ نبيّنا موّاجًا في فطرته، ولكن ما ظهر في صورته، والله أعلم بسرّ حقيقته، وقد مضى كالمستورين. وكذلك تشابهَ أبُ المهدي أبَ الرسول المقبول.” (سر الخلافة)
“واعلم أن المراد من مواطأة الاسمين مواطأة روحانية لا جسمانية فانية، فإن لكل رجل اسم في حضرة الكبرياء، ولا يموت حتى ينكشف سرّ اسمه سعيدًا كان أو من الأشقياء والضالين. وقد يتفق توارُدُ أسماء الظاهر كما في “أحمد” و”أحمد”، ولكن الأمر الذي وجَدْنا أحقّ وأنشد، فهو أن الاتحاد اتحاد روحاني في حقيقة الاسمين، كما لا يخفى على عارفٍ ذي العينين.” (سر الخلافة)
The true meaning of the ahadith would be spiritual showing that the Imam Mahdi would be a true follower of the Prophet Muhammad (sa). In these passages, he (as) explains that as for the name of the father agreeing, this is from the secrets of the seal of Prophethood and also shows that although the Prophet (sa) father was capable of accepting the truth, he had passed away. He had the noor of the Prophet (sa) but it could not manifest as he passed away before the claim of the Prophet (sa). In the same way, the father of the Imam Mahdi would be similar. He (as) also explains the connection of names refers to the spiritual connection.