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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: http://hnn.us/articles/13146.html; for more in-depth info, see the links here to my other writings, including my book on Mahdism.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Paging Peter Jackson....
1:21 pm edt
For a number of years the U.S. Government has been seeking the ideas of prominent science fiction writers in visualizing
possible futures, and of course has enlisted their help since 9/11 in the War on Islamic Terror (that's what it really
is, no matter how politically-correct and anodyne a title the State Department tries to give it): http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-05-29-deviant-thinkers-security_N.htm
Perhaps they could learn something from a sci-fi writer who's been dead for 20 years--Robert Heinlein. In his story
"Revolt in 2100," a Second American Revolution (led by the Freemasons!) is required to get rid of a Protestant Fundamentalist
Religioius Dictatorship in the U.S. (and no, it's not the Bush Administration). Heinlein's story was originally
written right before World War II, and it posits a backwoods fundamentalist Christian preacher, albeit one blessed with tons
of charisma, inheriting a fortune and gaining enough (presumably right-wing) political allies to get elected President sometime
in the mid- to late-20th century as the "First Prophet"--whereupon his descendants rule an American theocracy for
over a century.
Heinlein's rather irrational fear of evangelical Christians has much in common with many on the Left
today, but the point I wish to focus on here is rather the mechanism he posits the followers of this First Prophet, Nehemiah
Scudder, using to keep their minions convinced of the validity of the theocracy: every year after his death, in a nationally-televised
event, the ruling Prophet actually transforms into the First Prophet, Nehemiah Scudder, himself via special effects so convincing
that no one ever suspects it's a fake. Heinelin didn't yet know the phrase CGI--"computer-generated imagery"--but
that's exactly what he was describing here, from the viewpoint of the protagonist of the story, a former believer who
has become a leader in the Revolution:
"The Prophet started his invocation. His compelling, organlike voice
rolled....Then he asked the blessing of Eternal God for the people....He paused, looked at me again, then rolled his eyes
up to Heaven, lifted his hands, and commenced his petition to the First Prophet, asking him to confer on his people the priceless
bounty of seeing and hearing him in the flesh, and offering for that purpose the flesh of the present prophet as an instrument.
He waited. The transformation started--and my hackles stood up....The features of the Prophet began to change: his rich robes
darkened--and there standing in his place, dressed in a frock coat of a bygone era, was the Reverend Nehemiah Scudder, First
Prophet and founder of the New Crusade. I felt my stomach tighten with fear and dread and I was a little boy again, watching
it for the first time in my parish church."
Substitute "Supreme Leader" for "Prophet Incarnate;"
"Allah" for "Eternal God;" "Twelfth Imam" or "Mahdi" for "First Prophet;"
"black robe, beard and turban" for "frock coat of bygone era;" "Twelfth Imam" or "Mahdi"
for "Nehemiah Scudder;" and "mosque" for "parish church"--then throw in some state-of-the-art
CGI and voila! The Mahdi has (re)appeared. And even if most of the Muslim world scorns and rejects such a "miracle,"
a small percentage of that world's 1.3 billion--or even a minority of Iran's 70 million--buying into it would
be hugely problematic.
Let's hope no one in Iran reads sci-fi, especially Heinlein.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Tactics v. Strategy
12:18 pm edt
In a story about the 1,500 Usama bin Ladin audiotapes seized from Afghanistan and being translated by a University of California-Davis
), Brian Jenkins--terrorism expert at RAND--observes that "the United States has focused almost exclusively on trying
to obtain operational intelligence from Al Qaeda—such as imminent plans and specific threats—and hasn't spent
enough time trying to fully understand the terrorist organization's motivations."
Certainly we should applaud
the good folks in the intelligence agencies and military who are focusing on imminent plans so they can, as they have many
times, thwart specific threats against Americans. But based on my experience with various U.S. government entities and
individuals, there is still a reluctance to even acknowledge, much less "fully understand," those who claim
Islamic texts, history and traditions as their motivations for violence and political activism.
There are still analysts--and
some rather high-profile ones, at that--who refuse to acknowledge that al-Qa`idah's violence has any basis in Islam itself.
Don't believe me? Check out this online debate between Raymond Ibrahim (a native Arabic speaker whose book The Al
translates directly from Arabic texts of Bin Ladin and al-Zawahiri) and Michael Scheuer (former head of
the "get Usamah" team at CIA whose doctorate is in Canadian diplomatic history): http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/09/osama_bin_laden_man_of_love/
Read the entire post, including the comments by Scheuer, then decide for youself who makes more sense.
same sort of willfully ignorant calculus as Scheuer applies--and remember, he was a senior analyst at CIA for a number of
years!--has been regnant in American policy circles regarding Iraq and Iran since we toppled Saddam in 2003. (In fact,
I pointed this out almost two years ago, in a critique of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report: http://hnn.us/articles/33050.html
Perhaps the success of the American surge in Iraq is partially due to a more realistic understanding of, and
grappling with, the ideological bases of our opponents in Iraq and Iran--I have no way of knowing. But as this article by
Babak Rahimi indicates ("The Mumahidun: Muqtada al-Sadr's New Militia," Jamestown Terrorism Monitor
September 4, 20008: http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/uploads/TM_006_017.pdf
), we have also spent an inordinate amout of time and energy analzying weapons trails to and from the former Jaysh al-Mahdi
and not enough delving into what Rahimi calls al-Sadr's (and Iran's) new emphasis on "intellectual jihad."
We need more of the sort of reporting and analysis that Rahimi does in this piece, although I would raise the following reservations
and questions about some of his points:
1) It may not be all that positive that "the change of the
militia's name from 'Jaysh al-Mahdi' to 'Mumahidun' [those who pave the way for the Mahdi] means that
"al-Sadr seems no longer to consider his movement as the immediate embodiment of the Mahdi...but rather a mere prelude
to...a distant messianic future?" Or that al-Sadr is "moving toward a more standardized, institutionalized
Shia-based millenarian position." Hizbullah, with its Imam Mahdi Scouts for the Lebanese Shi`i youth, seems likewise
enamored of a future, not imminent, Mahdiyah--yet it is not exactly peaceful. Similarly, the Islamic Republic of Iran
holds a traditional, "institutionalized Shia-based millenarian position" (in fact, the Tehran/Qom view of such is
Twelver Shi'a one)--yet that's not exactly good news, especially lately, for other
Muslims or for the non-Muslim world.
2) Tehran's role in encouraging (threatening?) al-Sadr to focus on intellectual,
rather than military, jihad does not stem from any sudden wish among the ayatollahs to jump on the peace train; rather,
as Rahimi notes, their concern is to "ensure that Baghdad would thwart any American attempt to use Iraq as a launch pad
for military attacks against Iran." The IRI government basically wants al-Sadr and his minions to calm down long enough
for Tehran to get its nuclear weapons online.
3) Several time Rahimi mentions the "traditional Shia
authority" model toward which the transformation of the Jaysh al-Mahdi into al-Mumahidun represents, seemingly seeing
nothing negative in it. However, "traditional Shia authorities" as every bit as capable of stirring up trouble for
Sunnis and Westerners (as well as for other Shi`is!) as are the non-traditional kind. As noted, Tehran/Qom is a case
in point. But should Ayatollah al-Sistani ever give the word, a good number of Shi`is in Iraq, if not the majority,
would turn against the U.S. Shi`ism, even institutionalized and traditionalist, does not equate to pacifism under the
regnant paradigm of Shi`i jihad extant since for the last two centuries--which I described thusly in the article about my
trip to Iran in "The Weekly Standard," Sep. 8, 2008:
"Long before the Islamic Revolution, Shiite clerics
had ruled that in the absence of Imam Mahdi, offensive jihad could not be waged--only defensive jihad. Hence Larijani's
remark that Iranian long-range missiles would be purely "defensive." But the doctrine of defensive jihad has its
own troubling aspects: It can be waged in the Mahdi's absence; treaties and truces with dhimmis
Jews, who enjoy second-class status under Islamic law) can be broken at will; Muslims who cooperate with non-Muslim occupiers
of Muslim land can be killed; and, most alarming, there are even fewer limits on the types of warfare that can be employed
in defensive jihad than in offensive--in effect sanctioning the use of WMDs" (http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/490jlptz.asp?pg=2
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Post-Messiah Stress Syndrome?
10:03 am edt
Most politically-astute Americans have noticed, by now in this Presidential campaign, that some of Barack Husayn Obama's
supporters hold, shall we say, a rather elevated view of him--many have even termed this "messianic." I have
received emails here from both Muslims and non-Muslims speculating whether Barack Husayn Obama might be, if not the Second
Coming of Jesus, then the Mahdi (which, for some evangelical Christians, equates to the Anti-christ). Suffice it to
say, then, that the Presidential campaign of BHO is fraught with eschatological overtones for a fair number of people, American
and foreign, especially those supporting him who do cast him in something of a messianic role.
over on PajamasMedia has commented on the political and, to some extent, the psychological fallout among BHO supporters from
an Obama defeat (http://pajamasmedia.com/richardminiter/2008/09/15/what-if-obama-loses/); but considering the truly eschatological import which some Obamaites attach to his winning the Presidency, I think
that "Post-Messiah Stress Syndrome" is a good term for the existential despondency we can expect should McCain win.
And not just among Americans on the Left; there will be blood and tears in the foreign press, especially in the Middle
East and Islamic world, over this missed opportunity for America and the world. America will be branded, by some of
its own (Democratic) citizens, and by too many foreigners (especially, but not only, Muslim), as not just dishonest (Republicans
will have stolen the election) and racist but frankly anti-messianic. Mark my words.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Taqiyah by Any Other Name
1:38 pm edt
The Islamic Information Center in Washington, DC--an umbrella group for American Shi`i Muslims--has condemned Mayor Rudy Giuliani's
remarks at the Republican National Convention this past week as "derogatory and demeaning to all peaceful Muslims
in America and around the world" (http://www.islamicinformationcenter.org/
). According to the IIC "the majority of the world's 1.4 Billion Muslims are peaceful, law abiding, family
oriented people - and for Mr. Giuliani to use the phrase 'Islamic Terrorism' implies the opposite, especially when
he prefaces such comments with words such 'John McCain will keep us on offense against terrorism at home and abroad'.There is no such thing as 'Islamic Terrorism'
. Islam and terrorism are intrinsically opposite.
Whereas Islam teaches fasting, prayer, and good will
to one's neighbors, the goal of terrorism is to
use fear and intimidation to accomplish political goals. Furthermore, of the eight million Muslims living on [sic] the
the overwhelming majority are active participants in American society....No religion can be
associated with terrorism
, and to do so contradicts both common sense and logic. Religions are focused on the betterment
of society, and attaining closeness to God."
Let's analyze the IIC's contentions. First, there are nowhere
near 8 million Muslims in the U.S.; the latest demographic assessment by the Pew Research Center showed 2.35 million American
Muslims--so since the IIC is so blatantly propagandizing on such a simple, clear-cut issue, how reliable are the rest of their
assertions? More importantly, the IIC is at best half-right in saying that "Islam teaches fasting, prayer and good will"--indeed
it does, in Surah al-Baqarah :256, "no compulsion in religion" and Surah al-Furqan : Allah redeems righteous
living. BUT the Qur'an also teaches dislike of, and even violence toward, non-Muslims: Surah al-Ma'idah :54 says
"befriend not Jews and Christians;" Surah al-Nisa' :34 says "those wives whom you suspect of...ill-conduct,
admonish them, refuse to share their beds and beat them." And it gets even uglier: Surah Muhammad :3 and Surah al-Anfal:12 both state
"behead the unbelievers in battle;" Surah al-`Imran :157, 169, Surah al-Nisa':74-76, 94ff and 101 say
that fighting fi sabil Allah
--in the path of Allah--gets one directly to heaven (and huris, those much-ballyhooed
virgins, as rewards). Also, the IIC folks seem woefully ignorant of the directives and teachings coming out of Shi`ism
Central Command in Tehran and Qom, where the senior ayatollahs, the President and the Speaker of the Majlis all together say
that the Mahdi will not come to power without breaking a few--okay, many--infidel skulls. Perhas the IIC staff should
go on a fact-finding mission to Qom and get with the program. (Presuming, of course, they're legitimately misinformed
about the teachings of their own religion, and not simply engaged in taqiyah, or dissimulation, about it.
Yes, yes, Christianity
had the Crusades and the Inquisition and some of the ancient Israelite rulers and even prophets had plenty of blood on their
hands. BUT no one with any power or shred of respectability in either of those religions TODAY is citing Biblical (Old Testament
or New Testament) texts to justify killing "unbelievers," strangling recalcitrant wives or daughters, or dispossessing
Muslims of their rights in the U.S. (or anywhere in the West, for that matter). On the other hand, Bin Ladin, al-Zarqawi,
some of the leadership of Iran, and a host of other Muslims in positions of authority (official or unofficial) DO quote the
Qur'an, and/or the example of their prophet Muhammad, to reserve the right to, and sometime employ, violence. They do
so by quoting their OWN religious texts and traditions--not a clever handbook published by the CIA or Centcom or even Vice-President
Cheney's nefarious office. What kind of cognitive dissonance--or outright lying--does it take to make the incredibly
fatuous statement that there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism? And here I thought that the Shi`is were more
honest about this sort of thing than their Sunni brethren. Guess not.
And note that this difference on whether
Islamic terrorism actually exists is a major one separating the Republican and Democratic parties. Congressman
Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is, according to IIC's webpage, intimately involved with this organization--yet more proof of the
Democratic party's continuing willingness to whitewash the ugly aspects of Islamic political ideology.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Paging Tom Petty
8:33 am edt
Next time I'm in Qom I really need to have tea with this chap:
Qom Seminary Official: Establish 'Ministry
A high-ranking official at the Iranian Qom Seminary School, Samamedding Ghavami, has called
for the establishment of a new ministry under the name of "Ministry of Waiting," to facilitate the emergence
of Imam Zaman, the Messiah in Twelver Shi'a.
Source: Rasanews, Iran, August 24, 2008 (http://www.thememriblog.org/iran/blog_personal/en/9545.htm)
Maybe they should call it "The Ministry of Waiting-is-the-Hardest-Part?"
Seriously, recall that
the Left's narrative caricature of the Bush Administration runs something like this: W, Condi and various other Cabinet
officials circle up in a revival tent pitched on the South Lawn, listen to bombastic sermons by James Dobson and John Hagee,
chant "What Would Jesus Do" in unison, then dispatch the 101st Airborne to invade and forcibly convert another Muslim
country to Right-Wing Protestantism. In reality, however, it is in Tehran and Qom that government officials actually
try to figure out what their messiah (the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi) would do and make serious calls for an entire government
ministry devoted to such and to paving the way for his coming.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Bringing the Mahdi to the (Neocon?) Masses
8:26 am edt
My article on the political aspects of the Mahdism Conference in Iran has been published by The Weekly Standard
the September 8 issue, under the title "The Importance of Being Mahdist." Here's the link: http://www.theweeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/490jlptz.asp?pg=1
And below are more pictures of the conference in Tehran, and of Qom.
Here is the Ahl al-Bayt ("Family of the
House [of the Prophet]") Mosque in Qom:
This is the entranceway onto the grounds of Jamkaran Mosque:
Here's a shot of one of the two large minarets set off some distance from Jamkaran; they are of quite different
architectural and aesthetic design--a Belgian scholar/convert described them to me as "Neo-Mamluk"--from the more
graceful ones immediately joined to the mosque:
This is the central interior of Jamkaran; I managed to take this picture before being told to stop (seems
we were allowed to use cameras only in the side areas, not the central one):
This is another view of the inside of Khomeini's memorial mosque, with his actual tomb
visible on the
This is a shot out my hotel window of a huge radio/TV tower to the north, with the Elborz Mountains
This is a scene of the conference hall, in-between panels:
Here's another shot of the Hall of Leaders, where the opening and closing ceremonies
took place. Ahmadinejad
and Larijani spoke here:
And finally here I am at one of the booths between panels (lots of publishers and web-hosting outfits showed
up, almost all of them eschatologically-related--of course):
|Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)