we are used to the practice of everybody having a documented date and place of birth. Do the Twelvers expect that when the true Mahdi comes out of the occultation he will not have credible birth records or people who saw him as a child? Here I note that the “minor occultation” described in Wikipedia seems to imply that the twelfth imam grew up to be an adult in the 9th century before going into “major occultation”.
Or am I being too literal in interpretations here? Do the Twelvers have established expectations about how Mahdi appearance would work so as to fit their unique beliefs?
Not all Shi’as are Twelver. I suppose there could be Twelvers that expect the Mahdi to be actually reborn, but I don’t know why that would be any more expected than a Christian would expect Jesus to return through a rebirth.
There are a couple branches of Shia Islam that believe that the…basically, in their opinions, last good leader did not die, but instead went into hiding (occultation). One day, he will come back. The biggest group is the Twelvers, called so because their favorite was the Twelfth Imam. There are also Seveners (the Ismailis) and Fivers (the Zaydis).
When we talked about this in my History of Islam class back in college, I remember being baffled by the concept of occultation. I definitely don’t recall any kind of specific discussion of how people expected the imams to return.