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al-Mahdi is "the rightly-guided one" who, according to Islamic Hadiths (traditions), will come before the end of time to make the entire world Muslim.  Over the last 1400 years numerous claimants to the mantle of the Mahdi have arisen in both Shi`i and Sunni circles.  Modern belief in the coming of the Mahdi has manifested most famously in the 1979 al-`Utaybi uprising of Sa`udi Arabia, and more recently in the ongoing Mahdist movements (some violent) in Iraq, as well as in the frequently-expressed public prayers of former Iranian President Ahmadinezhad bidding the Mahdi to return and, in the larger Sunni Islamic world, by claims that Usamah bin Ladin might be the (occulted) Mahdi.  Now in 2014 Mahdism is active in Syria, as the jihadist opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra claims to be fighting to prepare the way for his coming; and in the new "Islamic State/caliphate" spanning Syrian and Iraqi territory, as its leadership promotes the upcoming apocalyptic battle with the West at Dabiq, Syria.  This site will track such Mahdi-related movements, aspirations, propaganda and beliefs in both Sunni and Shi`i milieus, as well as other  Muslim eschatological yearnings.
For a primer on Mahdism, see my 2005 article, "What's Worse than Violent Jihadists?," at the History News Network:; for more in-depth info, see the links here to my other writings, including my book on Mahdism.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The Blind Leading the Blind

When I was in high school and college, one of my heroes was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both for his Christian faith and his opposition rooted therein to the apartheid regime in South Africa.  But while the good archbishop is no doubt still as innocent as a dove, he seems to have forgotten the other part of Christ's admonition about being as shrewd as a snake.  How else to explain some of his frankly fatuous comments this past week:
"'Muslim terrorism' - have you ever read anywhere 'Christian terrorism'? - as if Islam propagates violence, but you have never spoken about what happened in Northern Ireland as Christian terrorism," he said.
"Fundamentally there is no faith that I know that propagates violence, that says it's a good thing to oppress anybody"
(complete story is at Worldwide Religion News,
These statements, delivered to journalists in London this past week, are so incredibly ignorant as to defy belief.  First, I'm not sure it's true that the media "never" described the violence in Northern Ireland as having a basis in Christianity. But whether it was painted thus or not, the fact remains that Protestant and Catholic violence absolutely cannot be justified from the New Testament and, in fact, to do violence in the name of Christ is to expressly violate His teachings. However, to do violence in the name of Islam and Muhammad is really not that hard a task. One simply can  turn to Sura Muhammad:3ff and Sura al-Anfal:12ff to find that the beheading of unbelievers is sanctioned; Sura al-Nisa':34ff to see that a man is allowed to beat his wives; Sura al-Ma'ida:33 to read that those who fight against Islam are to be killed, crucified or have their hands and feet amputated on alternate sides. The founder of Islam himself led armies in battle and ordered the execution of hundreds of Jewish Arabs in Medina.  And then there's this little matter of jihad that has been waged on and off (mostly the former) by Muslims and Muslim states over the last 1,400 years, most notably (but by no means only) by Islamic leaders who have declared themselves mahdis.  As I've said many times in other writings, past and modern violence perpetrated by Muslims is justified from the Qur'an, the Hadiths (traditions allegedly going back to Muhammad) and the precedents of Islamic history. 
So when Archbishop Tutu says "there is no faith that I know that propagates violence," he's simply proving that he knows nothing about Islam.  In which  case he should stop making public pronouncements about it. 
By the way, the title to this post refers to Desmond Tutu, who should know better, purporting to instruct those who certainly don't: journalists.

11:06 pm edt          Comments

Friday, June 22, 2007

The enemy of my friend friend?
Several months ago on this blog I predicted that recent fulminations by al-Qadhafi and Khamaenei regarding Pan-Islamic unity portended increasing cooperation between Libya and Iran--and thus yet another strategic Islamic headache for the U.S. (April 27, 2007: "Reunited and It Feels So Good--Libyan and Iranan PLans for a 'New Empire of the Mahdi').  Things are moving even faster than I anticipated, according to this story from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting yesterday (June 21, 2007):

"IRI, Libya close on regional issues
First Vice President Parviz Davoudi said on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Libya have common and close view points on regional and international issues....prior to seeing off ceremony for Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, he said that Tehran and Tripoli could adopt closer stand [sic] in dealing with regional developments....
Davoudi [also] said the two sides also reviewed latest developments in Iraq and called for forging unity between Muslims and avoiding factional disputes between the Shia and Sunni Muslims....he said the two sides are determined to broaden all-out ties [emphasis added]. IRI and Libya could have constructive cooperation in Latin America and African continent [sic]relying on their capabilities and potentialities, Davoudi said....IRI and Libya are scheduled to sign agreements on expansion of bilateral cooperation."
Complete link:
1) Again, contrary to the conventional wisdom that Sunnis like the Libyans and Shi`is like the Iranians cannot ever get along, this represents an ecumenical, Pan-Islamic movement that could be either a danger or an opportunity for the Islamic world and the West: the danger is that Iran could expand its role as self-styled leader of the ummah and, beyond that, the possibility of operational and even political unity under a Mahdi that at least some Sunnis and and Shi`is could both acknowledge; the opportunity (less likely, but extant) is that the concept of ijtihad, "independent judgment," in Islamic law could backwash from Iran into Libya and thus into Sunni world--perhaps making a dent in the rigid Manichaean world-view of the Salafists/Wahhabis.
2) al-Qadahfi's coming clean on WMD programs a few years ago--motivated by his fear that the 82nd Airborne might soon be dropping into his tent--obviously has not eliminated his long-held desire to foster both Pan-Islamic and Pan-African unity. Again, this could be a blessing or a curse from our diplomatic point of view, depending on whether the State Department is smart enough to exploit, if you will, our new North African "friend."
3) That no-doubt pointed reference to Latin America is intended to remind the U.S. that El Jefe Hugo Chavez and the Mahdi's wanna-be front man, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, are twin sons of different mothers and that the possibility exists for a Tehran-Caracas-Tripoli alliance that could operate on at least three continents (Asia, Africa, Latin America).

9:28 am edt          Comments

Monday, June 18, 2007

A New Indian Mahdi?

A new Mahdi claimant has arisen in India, one "Mohammad Shakil" al-Mahdi:

"Mehdi followers arrested for instigating Muslim youths"

("UNI," June 16, 2007)

Raisen, India - Twelve people who were arrested yesterday for tutoring Muslim youths to wage a holy war, are followers of the controversial Mehdi sect, which believes that the 'prophet' would come to this world again when injustice increases.

One of the arrested, Mohammed Shakil, claimed that he was Mehdi and would become omnipotent in a few years."

The story goes on to say that while small (slightly over 100 followers), the group had members throughout India.  Furthermore, after taking a "pledge" to the new Mahdi, they would be taken to meet Usama bin Ladin!

In my book Holiest Wars two of the eight Mahdist movements treated therein were Indian: those of Muhammad Jawnpuri in the late 15th/early 16th c. CE, and of Ahmad Barelwi in the 19th c.  These new Mahdists are likely in the same tradition, although more research needs be done.  The four most striking elements of this story are:
1) it's the second openly-declared Mahdist claim of 2007, the first being that of the Najaf Mahdi of southern Iraq in January
2) it proves that Mahdism is NOT limited to the Middle East proper, and so confounds the conventional wisdom that radical Islamic movements are almost certainly to occur only in the Salafi/Wahhabi Arab Middle East
3) it shows that even when Usama bin Ladin himself is not declared or considered the Mahdi (as has been done), even a self-styled Mahdi and his followers acknowledge UBL's importance!
4) reporters [and analysts] continue to manifest a colossal ignorance of Mahdism: for example, this articles says that only a "section of Islam" believes in the Mahdi (untrue; the vast majority, both Sunni AND Shi`i, do), and it refers to the Mahdi as a "prophet" (again, untrue).

Here's the link:

3:11 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Leaving Facts Behind: Tribulation Force on Glenn Beck

Last night (Friday, June 15, 2007) Glenn Beck had on his TV show three prominent fiction authors who deal with eschatology: Joel Rosenberg (Epicenter), Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye (the Left Behind series).  While I appreciate the fact that someone in the mainstream media (Beck is on CNN Headline News) is at least talking about eschatological motivations affecting modern events, it's very disappointing that he featured three self-styled "experts" on CHRISTIAN eschatology and did not bother to bring on someone well-versed in ISLAMIC eschatology--which would have made sense, considering that the bulk of the discussion centered around the Middle East and in particular the end of time obsessions manifested by President Ahmadinezhad of Iran.  If anyone knows Glenn Beck, suggest he read my book on the topic of Mahdism.  The most egregious oversight was the ignorance of the fact that belief in the coming of the Mahdi is strong in BOTH Sunni and Shi`i Islam, not just in the latter--as these "experts" seemed to think.

3:48 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Preparing the Way for the Mahdi?
Recently I wrote about the convergence of interests within the Islamic world, possibly overriding the Sunni-Shi`i split, evidenced by statements from al-Qadhafi of Libya and Khamanei of Iran.  Further evidence for this trend comes from Iraq, where Shi`i leader Muqtada al-Sadr has now cast himself as an ecumenical Muslim, as well as from Lebanon:

"Shiites Rising: Sect leaders craft message for masses"
by Scott Peterson ("Christian Science Monitor," June 7, 2007) 
Baghdad, Iraq - Emerging for the first time after months in hiding from US forces and Shiite rivals, Moqtada al-Sadr swept into Iraq's Kufa mosque in late May to deliver a potent sermon.
"No, no, no to Satan! No, no, no to America! No, no, no to occupation! No, no, no to
Israel!" he roared, wearing a white shroud over black robes to indicate his readiness for martyrdom.
But along with strident calls to resist, the cleric struck another theme that is increasingly heard from ascendant Shiite leaders: Muslim unity.
"I want to say now that the blood of Sunnis is forbidden to everyone," preached the cleric. "They are our brothers in religion and in nationality."
The message is a pan-Islamic blend of Shiite ideology and nationalism heard also in Lebanon from Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and in
Iran from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Those populist leaders, at the fore of new Shiite prominence in the Middle East, are defining an "axis of resistance" to America and its allies in rhetoric and action. That stance is winning some support across the sectarian divide, while their extensive social programs inspire support from the region's poor. 
Besides the usual geopolitical aspects to this, it's worth noting that many modern supporters of Mahdism, both Sunni and Shi`i, envision that when the Mahdi comes true Muslims of both persuasion will cast aside their differences and follow him as he creates a global caliphate.  Furthermore, the Mahdi will also function as something of a global "Robin Hood," redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor--a function which Hizbullah and the Islamic Republic of Iran are already engaging in.

Here's the complete link:
8:43 am edt          Comments

Where's Usamah?
I have repeatedly argued that Usamah bin Ladin is likely in Iran, rather than in Afghanistan or the Afghan-Pakistani border region, contrary to the conventional wisdom among government officials and analysts.  Circumstantial evidence supporting my thesis has come recently from Bin Ladin's former bodyguard, Nasser al-Bahri, in a recent interview with al-Arabiya TV:

Interviewer: "Do you think there is any coordination between the [Al-Qaeda] organization and Iran?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "There is coordination on the basis of joint interests."

Interviewer: "In what way?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "For example, there is a common enemy - the U.S. - and the Iranians, for your information, know that the [American] strike in inevitable. Therefore, they have to take advantage of all those available on the scene, including the Al-Qaeda organization."

Interviewer: "So the way you see it, the Al-Qaeda organization can cooperate with the Iranians against America?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "It can cooperate with the Iranians but it won't operate under the Iranians. But there is no problem with regard to cooperation."
Here's the full link:

7:49 am edt          Comments

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Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)

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