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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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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Mahdi-Gozer Ticket in 2012?
According to a recent story in UPI, many Dutchmen and Dutchwomen expect the end of the world in 2012 (, presumably from having seen "Apocalypto" too many times.  But the most interesting part of this story is this quote:
"You know, maybe it's really not that bad that the Netherlands will be destroyed," Petra Faile said. "I don't like it here anymore. Take immigration, for example. They keep letting people in. And then we have to build more houses, which makes the Netherlands even heavier. The country will sink even lower, which will make the flooding worse."
I wonder what type of "people" Ms. Faile might be referring to? Anyone want to speculate? I'd bet  a guilder that she meant "Muslims."  So there are some Dutch who believe Islamic immigration has become so deleterious that it will spark the apocalypse (at least in Holland)?! 
12:13 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 23, 2008

Show Me the Mahdi!

That top-notch investigative journalism organization Reuters just discovered Adnan Oktar, a.k.a. "Harun Yahya" ("Muslim creationist preaches Islam and awaits Christ,", who heads up a Turkish Islamic group dedicated to 1) dissing Darwin, and 2) preparing the way for the coming of the Mahdi. Not to tell Reuters I told you so, but I blogged on Oktar six months ago (check this site entry for January 3, 2008).  And I mention him in my book. Here's a link to an interview with Oktar by al-Jazeera from 2007 (, from which the most salient part regarding the Mahdi is this:
"Al Jazeera: Sir, from your books and speeches it appears that you believe in the Mahdi. Do you really believe in the Mahdi? And is it certain when he will appear? Around what time will he appear on Earth?

Adnan Oktar: The Mahdi should already have appeared according to the writings of Said Nursi, and according to the accounts in reliable hadith and signs have already taken place. For example, we are told that Afghanistan will be occupied at the time of the appearance of the Mahdi. That has happened. There is also the fact that Iraq will be occupied, which has also taken place. An attack on the Kaaba was predicted, and that has happened as well. The waters of the Euphrates would be cut off. And the dam has done so.  We are told that during the month of Ramadhan in the year of his appearance both the Sun and Moon will be eclipsed in a space of 15 days, and that has happened as well. Approximately a hundred portents like this have already taken place. For that reason, I am convinced that the Mahdi has appeared.

Al Jazeera: Could you be the Mahdi?

Adnan Oktar: There is a rumor that has been going round for a long while that I have claimed to be the Mahdi. The reason for that is that I have written a book on that subject. I have cited all the relevant hadith in that book. They said that I had described myself, that the information about the Mahdi in the hadith was the same. As a result, [they said] you are claiming to be the Mahdi. They say that his forehead is broad, and your forehead is broad, too. That his brow is curved, and your brow is also curved. They say that the Mahdi has a small nose, and a big body. He is a Sayyid of medium height, they say. He has a mole on his cheek, and one on his back. Because you have all these characteristics, you are probably claiming to be the Mahdi. But if everyone who writes a book [on the End Times] were to claim to be the Mahdi, and as there have been at least fifty to sixty books on the Mahdi published in Turkey and as they have all written about him in the same terms, those authors must also have been making such a claim. In fact, they do maintain that those people have been making such a claim.  Therefore, they say, you must be the Mahdi. There is a writer called Mustafa Kaplan. They also say that he claims to be the Mahdi, as he has also written a book on this subject. You are probably the Mahdi, they say to him. That is inaccurate.  No claims can be made regarding the Mahdi. Nobody can claim to be the Mahdi. Nobody can say I am the Mahdi.  Identification with the Mahdi can only be measured in terms of success. In other words, a figure will emerge and will be successful. From his success the conclusion may be drawn that he is the Mahdi. Even if the Mahdi were to appear, we could never say for certain that he was the Mahdi. We can only have a good perception of him. We can only say that he is probably the Mahdi. The Mahdi himself will never claim to be the Mahdi. He cannot say that. He will not say that. That is haram [not permissible]. He would be apostatized if he were to say such a thing.

Al Jazeera: Is celibacy also one of the preconditions for being the Mahdi?

Adnan Oktar: I do not remember such a tradition."


12:05 am edt          Comments

Monday, June 9, 2008

Mustafa v. the Mahdi: Still Hazy After All These Years
In 1930 there was a short-lived Mahdist revolt against the new Turkish Republic in the west-central Anatolian town of Menemen.   A self-proclaimed Mahdi named Mehmet, probably a  Naqshabandi Sufi from Manisa, gathered some followers and briefly took over Menemen, decapitating several opponents in the process.  The most prominent of these was one Mustafa Fehmi Kubilay, a military reservist.  This much of the story I covered in the relevant section of my book Holiest Wars. However, as Umut Azak points out in a new article ("Kubilay: Icon of Secularism," International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Spring 2008, pp. 38, 39), the struggle against Turkish Mahdism did not end with the besieging of the town and eradication of the Mahdists by the Turkish Army.  Four years later a "monument dedicated to the memory of Kubilay and  the two village guards who were martyred [sic?] during the incident was erected on a hill outside Menemen...making them the only people, besides Atatürk himself [emphasis added], in whose name a monumental statue was erected." Eventually, says Professor Azak, "Kubilay became an ideal icon for...secularism in opposition, which has gradually developed a victim psychology."  Most notably this has occurred since "the 1990s, when the army designated Islamism [as] the major threat to national security....Since the AKP government took power in November 2002, commemoration ceremonies in Menemen became platforms for the army as well as the opposition parties and Kemalist associations to protest the government's allegedly hidden Islamist agenda" [emphasis added].  Also, unfortunately for the folks from Menemen, "the official memory about the...incident has resulted in the stigmatization of the townspeople as religious fanatics," with the result that "townspeople feel...obliged to assert themselves as true secularists."  Furthermore, various factions has developed their own narratives about the incident: for example, for the more pious Muslim Turks the local Naqshabani shaykh, Esad, who was killed as a purported ringleader of the Mahdist outbreak, has achieved martyr status and the mosque housing his tomb has become a pilgrimage site. 
Eighty-year-old Mahdism can still invoke intense political and religious division in modern, secular Turkey?  What would happen if someone tried to claim the Mahdiyah in Turkey today? 
11:27 am edt          Comments

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tehran on the Niger--and the Nile?

The newly-formed U.S. military command AFRICOM had best hire some Farsi linguists, in addition to a stable of Arabic, French, Hausa and Swahili ones.  Iranian Shi`i influence in West Africa proceeds apace.  When politicians in tiny Sierra Leone praise the Islamic Revolution and the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that's one thing ("Cultural Minister Says Ayatollah Khomeini Was Inspirational Leader," The Independent (Freetown), June 5, 2008:; but when Shi`i celebrations of al-Quds"--"Jerusalem"--Day are increasing in popularity in Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria, well, that's a much more serious issue.  Here are excerpts from an excellent piece by Maren Milligan entitled "Nigerian Echoes of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," in the latest issue of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World newsletter (Spring 2008, pp. 36, 37):
"Because Nigeria's Muslim population is largely Sunni, the observance of al-Quds day in Kano and other cities of the north is quite unexpected. One of the Nigerian Muslim activists most popularly associated with this phenomenon is Ibraheem Zakzaky" who, in 1980, traveled to Iran and "was deeply impressed with the political and social transformation in Shia Iran"--so much so that he abandoned the Sunni Muslim Students Society of Nigeria and "began a movement, called the Ikhwan, inspired by the success of Iranian students." Since then "Zakzaky as well as many of his followers have studied in Qom and he himself  traveled several times to Lebanon for conferences.  Through Zakzaky, the route from al-Quds to Kano thus goes through Qom" [emphasis added]. 
Furthermore, Iran is redoubling its efforts to reestablish relations with the most populous Arab country, Egypt (MEMRI, "Iran's Attempts to Renew Relations with Egypt,"  Pulling Egypt into the anti-American camp would be two-fer for Tehran, giving the clerical regime leverage in both Africa and the Arab Middle East (well, more than it already has, that is) and furthering the ayatollahs' claims to represent true leadership of the umma.
1) Coupling these Iranian inroads into West Africa with the recent one into Libya--which I wrote about last year in "A New Empire of the Mahdi? Libyan and Iranian Pan-Islamic Agenda" ( might note that rumors of the demise of the Shi`i Crescent would seem to be greatly exaggerated. In fact, if the Islamic Republic gets its way, Shi`ism's political influence (if not a numerial majority) would hold sway in an arc across northern and into western Africa.
2) Iranian oil money funding mosques and "cultural centers" works syngergistically with Twelver Shi`i religious training in the seminaries of Qom to win hearts and minds outside the Persian world. 
3) People with no dog in the Israeli-Palestinian fight--Sierre Leonians, Nigerians--are being inculcated with the fervent Islamic position on that issue courtesy of the IRI. 
4) What, if any, U.S. efforts are being made to win hearts and minds over against Tehran's influence?  President Bush is more popular in many parts of Africa than he is in the rest of the world (or, for that matter, than he is in certain parts of the U.S.), thanks to U.S. aid during his Administration (particularly on the AIDS front).  One would hope a President Obama would make the U.S. even more popular on that continent.  But Iran is making a concerted, focused effort to win friends and influence people in Africa, and we'd best take that into consideration on both the political and military fronts.

3:36 pm edt          Comments

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

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