Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)
How do we prepare for the coming of Imam al-Mahdi?
The coming of Imam al-Mahdi, may Allah’s peace be upon him and all of the Prophets and pious people, comes into the category of unseen things of which the Messenger of Allah ﷺinformed us. It is similar to the coming of the Dajjal or Ya’jaj and Ma’juj, the return of Sayyiduna `Isa bin Maryam or the Day of Judgement. We must believe in these things just as the Prophet mentioned them.
However, these unseen things should not distract us and prevent us from fulfilling our obligations. We should not become absorbed by baseless beliefs regarding them. People become obsessed with certain dream visions which cause them to claim that they have attained certain stations or that the Imam al-Mahdi is in a certain place. Some claim to know his age while others deny his existence altogether! People tend to become distracted by these things even though they are not required to concern themselves with them.
We have to ask that if Imam al-Mahdi did come in their time, would these people who speak so much about him be among his true supporters? Or would they surrender to the desires of their lower selves or to their own delusions and fail to do so? If people are unable to support the cause of the Prophet ﷺ in themselves, their families and their households then it is feared that they will be unable to support the cause of Allah and His Messenger when Imam al-Mahdi comes.
In whatever time we are living, we must obey the commands that we have received through revelation. If someone lives in the time in which Imam al-Mahdi comes, it is obligatory for them to support him because the Prophet ﷺ clearly informed us that he will be the true leader of the Muslims.
The Prophet ﷺ did not specify when Imam al-Mahdi would come or when Sayyiduna `Isa would return but we must have absolute certainty that these events will take place at their appointed time as the Prophet described them.
It is not our duty to speculate on the time or the place in which he will come unless these things have been specifically mentioned in the Sacred Texts. We know, for example, that people will first pledge allegiance to him next to the Ka`bah, between the Corner and the Maqam.1 This has been narrated in the Sacred Texts and we believe in it as it has been narrated.
We should busy ourselves with performing that which is incumbent upon us. This is what would please Imam al-Mahdi when he comes and this would be a means of supporting him.
1 Meaning the corner of the Ka`bah, in which the Black Stone is embedded. The Maqam is Maqam Ibrahim.