The fact that the number of Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) followers and helpers will be very low in the End Times is part of the law of Allah revealed in the Qur’an. This has applied to all communities of the faithful that have ever existed throughout the course of history. The Qur’an contains information to the effect that the number of people around them who have truly believed in the prophets has always been very small. For example, very few people, consisting of the young, believed in the Prophet Moses (as):
No one believed in Moses except for a few young people of his tribe out of fear that Pharaoh, and the elders, would persecute them... (Surah Yunus, 83)
Allah reveals in another verse that very few people believed in the Prophet Moses (as) and that the Pharaoh of the time said, “These people are a small group” (Surat ash-Shu‘ara’, 54).
The same thing applies to the helpers of the Prophet Jesus (as) when he first appeared. The accounts tell us that only a very few disciples believed in him, and nobody else from among the general populace. The situation of those who believed in the Prophet Jesus (as) is revealed thus in the Qur’an:
You who believe! Be helpers of Allah as Jesus son of Mary said to the disciples, “Who will be my helpers to Allah?” The disciples said, “We will be the helpers of Allah.” One faction of the tribe of Israel believedand the other disbelieved... (Surat as-Saff, 14)
We are told in the Qur’an that the Companions of the Cave were also very few in number:
They will say, “There were three of them, their dog being the fourth.” They will say, “There were five of them, their dog being the sixth,” guessing at the Unseen. And they will say, “There were seven of them, their dog being the eighth.”Say: “My Lord knows best their number. Those who know about them are very few.” (Surat al-Kahf, 22)
It is revealed in yet another verse that the number of those who followed the Prophet Noah (as) was also very small:
... But those who believed with him were only few. (Surah Hud, 40)
It is also revealed in the Qur’an that very few people believed in the Prophet Lot (as). When catastrophe struck the people of Lot, Allah saved only those members of his family who had faith in the prophet, and excluded his wife, who did not believe:
... We are going to rescue him and his family – except for his wife. She will be one of those who stay behind. When Our messengers came to Lut, he was distressed on their account, feeling incapable of protecting them. They said, “Do not fear and do not grieve. We are going to rescue you and your family – except for your wife; she will be one of those who stay behind.” (Surat al-‘Ankabut, 32-33)
There are many reasons why people may not believe in the messengers of Allah. One of these is, as described in previous sections, the negative images that form because of groundless slanders and character assassination. People have preferred to keep their distance from devout believers accused by unbelievers of being “liars,” “self-interested,” “mad” or “perverted.” This is of course a serious error on the part of the people concerned. Many people will also be reluctant to join Hazrat Mahdi (as) and will keep their distance from him for exactly the same reason.
Another reason is that the superstitious beliefs and false practices generally accepted in society will lose all their foundations with Allah sending down the true faith by means of His messengers. For that reason, those messengers have been subjected to powerful reactions, slander and character assassination from people whose interests would be damaged with an end being put to the established order based on unfairness and injustice. As a result of this state of affairs, very few people have ever believed in the prophets and messengers. According to indications in the hadiths, the numbers of those in the community of Hazrat Mahdi (as) will be very small for just those same reasons. The great majority of people will be influenced by the slanders made and concerned about pressure and difficulties that might arise, and will thus keep their distance from Hazrat Mahdi (as) and his community.
Social pressure has always been one of the main causes preventing people assisting the faithful. The young people who believed in the Prophet Moses (as) are cited as an example on this subject in the Qur’an:
No one believed in Moses except for a few young people of his tribe out of fear that Pharaoh, and the elders, would persecute them. Pharaoh was high and mighty in the land. He was one of the profligate. (Surah Yunus, 83)
It is stated in the above verse that nobody believed in the Prophet Moses (as) “except for a few young people of his tribe out of fear that Pharaoh, and the elders, would persecute them.” People thought that if they did believe in the Prophet Moses (as) they would be oppressed, exiled, imprisoned or killed. Because of that fear they kept their distance from the faithful, and failed to draw near because they feared the consequences of doing so. The fact is, however, that by the will of Allah the Prophet Moses (as) and the devout believers with him lived very honorable and blessed lives. In the Hereafter they hope to receive the finest reward for their moral virtues, patience and good behavior. According to the indications in the hadiths, the same thing also applies to Hazrat Mahdi (as), and the great majority of society will be reluctant to draw close to or support him out of a fear of their own interests being harmed.
Another piece of information contained in the verse is that only a group consisting of the young people in society believed in the Prophet Moses (as). It is also indicated in the hadiths that the young will join Hazrat Mahdi (as). According to this information, the community of Hazrat Mahdi (as) will be both small in numbers and will consist of young people. (Allah knows the truth.) Some hadiths indicating that there will be young people around Hazrat Mahdi (as) read as follows:
Hazrat Mahdi (as) is a young man from the Ahl al-Bayt [from the line of the Prophet (saas)]. Your old people will be unable to see him; your young will hope to. Allah will do what He wills.(Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir az-Zaman, p. 23)
Hazrat Mahdi’s (as) standard bearer will be a small, young man, with a light beard and yellow coloring. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, p. 51)
His standard bearer will be a young man from the people of Temimi in the East. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, p. 26)