This is the story of the bewilderment of Mirza Mahdi Isfahani in search of the Divine Knowledge and how Imam Mahdi showed him the way. We narrate the story according to Shaikh Maḥmud Ḥalabi, one of his disciples:
I had a master. He was from this same town of yours, Isfahan; his name, Mirza Mahdi Isfahani. He was a jurist (Faqih), Usuli, erudite; an extraordinary man, a sea of knowledge. He was also trained under great men, who I do not want to mention now.
This gentleman, himself, told me that, once, I was stuck in an intellectual turmoil of what to do. A group of practitioners of philosophy were attracting him towards philosophy. A group of mystics and Sufis were pulling him towards mysticism and Sufism. Others pulled him towards another special kind of Sulūk (method of conduct). He has described them all to me, but I do not want to go into details.
Confusion and Supplication of Mirza Mahdi
He got very confused of what to do. “God, what is the path? Should I go this way? or that way?” Another gentleman, too, was inviting him to the mere path of Sharia, the mainstream Fiqaha (jurisprudence); the same path that your jurists are now taking.
He was perplexed. These are among the secrets he confided in me. I was not allowed to speak of them while he was alive. Now that he has died and passed away, I am telling you; to train your thoughts; out of sincere concern for the students of religion.
[Mirza Mahdi] said, one day, in Wadi-al-Salaam by the tombs of Hud and Saleh–peace be upon them–I entreated, saying,
“God! I am helpless, incapable, confused. God! I do not know which way to go? Show me the straight path! I am lost.”
As he was telling me these, he got tearful… .
He said that I was praying to God, asking what to do, “I am confused. I don’t know.”
Guidance of Wali al-‘Asr
[Mirza Mahdi] said that I was in this state, when suddenly Baqiyatullah graced me with his presence. He came with his physical being, and I saw him with these material physical eyes. Twenty feet away, he stopped in front of me.
I saw a green banner, twenty-centimeter wide, seventy-centimeter long, in front of his chest, visible. He got to me and pointed me to pay attention. I looked at the banner. On it, I saw a luminous writing:
طَلَبُ المعارفِ مِن غَیرِ طَریقِنا أهلِ البَیت مُساوِقٌ لِإنکارِنا
Mirza said that I forgot whether it was “is equal” or “equates”. The writing continued:
وَ قَد أقامَنِی اللهُ وَ أنا حُجَّةُ ابنُ الحسن
And Hujjah ibn al-Hasan was written like a signature.
He said, “My heart opened. I read, I looked, but was not allowed to talk.” Once I had looked well, and the writing was engraved in my mind, he left my sight.
Emphasis on the validity of the story
If you consider me pious, I have not narrated this from books. So that you may say that it is not clear whether it is true or not. If you consider me impious, then so be it. If you consider me a deceiving devil that has come to lead you astray, that I am such an evil person, then ignore this. If you consider me a Muslim, whose concern is your guidance and has nothing but good will, then I have narrated these two stories directly from two individuals who met his eminence [i.e., Imam Mahdi]. Both were from your town (Isfahan), one has met him in this town, and the other in Wadi-al-Salaam of Najaf.
- The meaning of the Arabic sentences are: Seeking (divine) knowledge from a path other than ours is equal to denying us. And Allah has appointed me and I am Hujjah ibn al-Hasan.
- The other story that Sheikh Halabi is pointing to is apparently related to Sheikh Hassan Ali Nokhodaki (?)