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Must we wait for the mahdi before the return of the khilafah?

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The mahdi didn't bring back khilafah after the assassination of Uthman bin Affan (ra) when Medina was without a caliph for 5 days, nor in 1258 when the Mongols ransacked Baghdad and Muslims had no caliph for 3 years.

I don't believe he will now.

The duty is a collective one upon the ummah. If they choose not to do it, Allah will not grant it to them as the shari condition is effort is required with conviction.

Furthermore mahdi will emerge during the era of khilafah when one caliph dies. This can be seen in the hadith narrated by Umm Salamah (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:

“يكون اختلافٌ عند موتِ خليفةٍ فيخرج رجلٌ من أهلِ المدينةِ هاربًا إلى مكةَ فيأتيه ناسٌ من أهلِ مكةَ فيخرجونه وهو كارهٌ فيبايعونَه بين الركنِ والمقا ...

Disagreement will occur at the death of a caliph and a man of the people of Medina will come flying forth to Mecca.

Some of the people of Mecca will come to him, bring him out against his will and give bay’ah to him between the Rukn and the Maqam. An expeditionary force will then be sent against him from Syria but will be swallowed up in the desert between Mecca and Medina.

When the people see that, the God fearing people of Syria and the best people of Iraq will come to him and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam.

Then there will arise a man of Quraysh whose maternal uncles belong to Kalb and send against them an expeditionary force which will be overcome by them, and that is the expedition of Kalb. Disappointed will be the one who does not receive the booty of Kalb. He will divide the property, and will govern the people by the Sunnah of their Prophet (saw) and establish Islam on Earth. He will remain seven years…” (Sahih in Sunan Abi Dawood; Hasan in Sahih Ibn Hiban; Tabarani in al-Awsat sahih according to Ibn Hajar in his Majma’ az-Zawaid)

Shaykh al-Albani also noted:

لا يجوز للمسلمين أن يتركوا العمل للإسلام وإقامة دولته على وجه الأرض انتظاراً منهم لخروج المهدي ونزول عيسى عليهما السلام يأساً منهم أو توهماً أن ذلك غير ممكن قبلهما

It is not permissible for Muslims to abandon working for Islam and the establishment of its state on the face of the earth, waiting for the appearance of the Mahdi and the descent of Jesus, peace be upon them both, feeling despair and imagining that is not possible before them. This notion is false. (Source: Fiqh Ashrat al-Saa’ah 311)

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