Hazrat Imam Mahdi (as) bears the special characteristics and more from the previous prophets. He is the embodiment of their virtues and qualities. He carries their signs and is the inheritor of all that they stood for and what was revealed upon them. The following article mentions the similarity between Hazrat Zulqarnayn (as) and Imam Mahdi (as).
Zulqarnayn was not a prophet but he called the people to the path of Allah and he called towards piety and fear of God. Imam Mahdi (as) is also not a prophet because there is no prophet after our Prophet Mohammed Mustafa (sawa), however he (as) would also invite to the Almighty Allah, to piety and devoutness.
Zulqarnayn was a Divine Proof on the people. (The author notes, A tradition says that his name was Ayyash and another tradition says that it was Ayyasha. And Allamah Majlisi has said, According to reports he was other than Alexander and he lived at the time of Ibrahim and the first rulers after Nuh (as).
Hazrat Imam Mahdi (as) is also a Divine Proof on all the people of the world.
The Almighty Allah took Zulqarnayn on the sky of the world and the whole world was unveiled for him. He saw all the earth – including the mountains and the deserts – from the east to the west; and the Almighty Allah bestowed him the knowledge of everything so that by this he may recognize truth and falsehood. And on his two horns He appointed a chunk of cloud having darkness, lightning and thunder so that he is obeyed. After that he was sent to the earth and it was revealed to him that he must travel to the eastern and the western-most points of the earth. (Beharul Anwar Volume 12 page 198) This is mentioned by Allamah Majlisi in the fifth volume of Beharul Anwar in a lengthy tradition related from Amirul Momineen (as).
Allah took Imam Mahdi (as) higher than the first sky then returned him to the earth as we have previously explained in the discussion about his birth.
Zulqarnayn was in occultation away from the sight of his people and had a very long occultation.
Imam Mahdi (as) is also having a very long occultation and in the tradition of Imam Hasan Askari (as) related by Ahmad bin Ishaq it is mentioned that Ahmad asked, “What is the resemblance to Zulqarnayn and Khizr?” He replied, “A long occultation, O Ahmad…”
Zulqarnayn, on the basis of what is mentioned in the Holy Quran reached upto the eastern and the western limits of the earth. Imam Mahdi (as) would also be such.
Jabir Ibne Abdullah Ansari said, I heard the Messenger of Allah (sawa) say, “Zulqarnayn was a righteous servant of Allah whom the Almighty Allah appointed as a Divine Proof on the people. So he called his people to God and piety. They hit on his horn and he disappeared from them for a long time till they began to debate about him saying, He has died or he has gone into which wilderness? After that he reappeared and came back to his community, but once again they happened to strike at his horn. And there is among you (Muslims) someone who is on his practice and manner. And indeed Allah, the Mighty and Sublime settled Zulqarnayn in the earth and bestowed him with a cause of everything. He reached up to the eastern and the western limits of the earth. The Almighty Allah would repeat his Sunnah in the Qaem of my progeny till he conquers the east and the west of the earth. Till there does not remain any wet and dry place, mountain and highland, that Zulqarnayn had crossed. And the Almighty Allah would expose for him the treasures and mines and He would help him by giving him awe and through him He would fill the earth with justice and equity in the same way as it would be full of injustice and oppression.” (Kamaluddin, volume 2 page 394)
Zulqarnayn had jurisdiction and control over the whole world. Hazrat Imam Mahdi (as) would also have jurisdiction and control over the whole world.
Zulqarnayn was not a Prophet but he was a recipient of Divine revelation as mentioned in the traditions. Imam Mahdi (as) is also not a Prophet, but as mentioned in the traditions, divine revelation would descend on him.
Zulqarnayn rode on a cloud. Imam Mahdi (as) would also sit on a cloud. Imam Baqir (as) said, “Zulqarnayn was given a choice to choose between two clouds and he chose the tame one and the hard cloud is saved for your master. The narrator says, I asked, Which is the hard one? He replied, That which is having lightning and thunder. Your master would ride on that cloud, once he will ride the cloud and reach to the ‘Sevens’ the seven heavens and the seven earths, five for building and two for demolishing.” (Beharul Anwar volume 12, page 182; Al-Ikhtisas, page 194)
And through the chains of those two (Basair and Ikhtisas) from Imam Sadiq (as) it is narrated that he said, “The Almighty Allah gave Zulqarnayn the choice of two, hard and tame clouds and he chose the tame one and it is one in which there is no lightning and thunder. And if he had chosen the hard one it would not have become available for him because the Almighty Allah has stored it for Qaem (as).” (Beharul Anwar volume 12 page 183)
(The above article was taken and adapted from the book Mikyalul Makarim Fee Fawaedid Dua Lil Qaem)