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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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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Revenge of the Mahdi(s)
Less than three weeks into 2008, yet another violent Mahdist movement has erupted, again in Iraq:
By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 19, 2008 BAGHDAD -- Members of an obscure messianic cult fought Iraqi security forces Friday in two southern cities, leaving at least 80 people dead and scores injured, while spreading panic among worshipers marking Shiite Islam's most important holiday.
The clashes, which erupted as Shiites marched, chanted and beat their chests in Basra and Nasiriya, represented the first major test for Iraqi security forces since Britain completed a transfer of responsibility for security in the region last month. They also pointed to dangerous divisions within Iraq's majority Shiite population at a time when U.S. and Iraqi forces are claiming progress in curbing attacks by Sunni militants....
Last January, U.S. and Iraqi forces fought and killed hundreds of members of Heaven's Army, a messianic group they alleged was plotting attacks on the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf. The group's leader, Dhyaa Abdul-Zahra, claimed to be the Mahdi and was killed in the fighting.
The Supporters of the Mahdi believe that Hassan, their leader, is the son of the awaited Mahdi; it was not immediately clear whether the two groups are linked. Last month, security forces detained 12 members of Hassan's group in Basra, eight in Nasiriya and one of its leaders in Najaf, police said....
[,0,4037083.story?coll=la-home-center ]
1) kudos to the mainstream media (MSM) for FINALLY covering such movements; however...
2) note that the "LA Times" and its epigones ("Seattle Times," "The Scotsman," etc.) almost always refer to such Mahdist movements as "cults," whether out of ignorance or an attempt to downplay the eschatological element in mainstream Islam
3) the MSM also invariably repeats the charge that such movements are "doomsday-style cults that believe they can hasten the return of Imam Mahdi by spreading chaos."  As I have
remarked before, there is precious little evidence in Muslim (even Twelver Shi`i) theology or history that such a belief--what Reuven Paz calls "hotwiring the apocalypse"--is operative
4) I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mahdism is a clear and present danger to not only
the U.S. and the West but to Islam and Muslims.  What is our government doing to study it
and help inoculate the Islamic world against the possible outbreak of such a fever?
7:44 pm est          Comments

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Drumming Up Grassroots Support for the Mahdi
The Muslim community in Swanlea, U.K., is sponsoring a public lecture--aimed at the youth--on the imminent appearance of the Mahdi and the Dajjal (the "Deceiver," or antichrist figure, in Islam):

1) Once again, the conventional wisdom that only Shi`ism holds Mahdist belief is demonstrated to be false, since this community appears to be a Sunni one: "these stories [of the Dajjal and the Mehdi {Mahdi}] are not fairy tales."
2) That said, the Mahdi envisioned here would seem to be more concerned with moral behavior--being opposed to alcohol, drugs, male/female "relationships," disobedience--than with creating a global caliphate and destroying Israel and the U.S.  At least in the beginning of his ministry....
3) The Mahdist expert is the "revert"--that is, convert--Hamza Tzortzis.  His blog ( indicates that he is not of the Salafist/jihadist tradition, but it also contains a long article on the centrality of the caliphate to the Muslim community (my next book will be on the caliphate and on modern attempts to resurrect, I should note).
10:41 am est          Comments

Friday, January 4, 2008

Even Better Than the Real Thing
It seems that Adnan Oktar, the head of the Turkish neo-Mahdist sect on which I commented yesterday (as well as several other times previously), thinks not only that the Mahdi is about to come--but that he himself IS the Mahdi!  This is according to an Edip Yuksel, a Turkish blogger who says he used to be involved with Oktar's movement and knows him personally: :
"Adnan Oktar strongly believes that he is the MAHDI (the Sunni and Shiite imitation of Messiah) and he has a powerful charisma, the pool of unlimited gullible rich people and a market of more than a billion individuals easily impressed by the work of his followers...."
In my earlier post on this I speculated as to whether Oktar's influence might extend to members or even leaders of the ruling AK Party in Turkey.  If Yuksel's post is accurate, there would seem to be little doubt of that.  I plan to do a more detailed analysis of Adnan Oktar's alleged Mahdist claims soon.
Thanks to Charles Cameron for alerting me to this; and check out his extremely valuable and interesting site:
11:05 am est          Comments

Thursday, January 3, 2008

All We Are Saying--Is Give Mahdi A Chance
The ubiquitous Adnan Oktar, a Turkish Sunni Muslim "mediavangelist," has recently posted two new articles on the Mahdi on on his pseudonymous website Harun Yahya. Not only is the Mahdi's appearance, as (allegedly) described in the Qur'an, nigh ( but--and we can all
breathe a sigh of relief at this--he will be a much more peaceful chap than most
commentators have imagined he would be (
1) Oktar has to engage in strained Qur'anic exegesis to "prove" the Mahdi from Islam's holy book.  Read the alleged proof texts for yourself, at the aformentioned site.  In reality, the Mahdi is truly only described in Hadiths ("traditions" or "sayings" attributed to Muhammad), and even then only in three of the six major Sunni collections (Abu Da'ud, Ibn Majah and Ibn al-Tirmidhi), NOT in the most authoritative ones (al-Bukhari, Muslim)--which is one major reason that skepticism regarding the future historicity of the Mahdi exists in some parts of the Sunni world (although not, of course, in Shi`ism). 
2) As I've remarked before, the prominence of such overt Mahdist belief in TURKISH SUNNI ISLAM is yet another nail in the conventional wisdom coffin which holds that only Shi`i Islam adheres to a strong belief in Mahdism.
3) Although we infidels can be thankful that the Mahdi espoused by Oktar is not the violent warlord usually posited--examples of which can be found operative in Islamic history from Ibn Tumart  (Morocco, 12th c. CE) to Muhammad al-Qahtani (Sa`udi Arabia, 20th c. CE)--how much solace is there in that, considering that the end result is the same: the global triumph of Islam.
4) Oktar's exegesis that the Mahdi will emerge from Istanbul might be seen benignly as a bone thrown to his Turkish supporters; OR it might also be seen, more ominously, as evidence of a growing convergence between his brand of neo-eschatological Islam and the larger Turkish Muslim scene, almost certainly even including members of the Islamist  Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi
(Justice and Development Party), or AK Party. 
.: All-in-all, the Mahdism of Harun Yahya is much preferable to that of, say, the Jaysh al-Mahdi, Ahmadinejad or some elements of al-Qa`idah.  But will it remain pacific?
5:00 pm est          Comments

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

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