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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, October 25, 2008

Backward, Christian Soldiers!
One of my ongoing criticisms of the media, administration, intelligence agencies and even military analysts is that far too many in all of those entities--especially the mainstream media, American and otherwise--refuse to admit the deeply Islamic nature of the various conflicts raging around the world today.  This past week saw a supreme case in point:

Iraq: Sadrist cleric issues edict against security pact with US

Qom, 21 Oct. (AKI) - Ayatollah Seyyed Kazem al Hosseini al-Haeri, the Iraqi cleric said to be the spiritual mentor of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has issued a fatwa against a security pact with the United States that would keep US troops in Iraq until 2011. In a fatwa or religious edict, al-Haeri said the planned pact contravenes Islamic law.
Citing verses 89 and 90 of a sura in the Koran dedicated to Mary, al-Haeri said that a pact between Iraq and the US would be against the laws of Allah [Emphasis added].
"Whoever signs this accord or helps the Americans invade will commit a sin that Allah will never forgive," he said.... (
1) I found at least half-a-dozen news stories on this fatwa, yet only this Italian news agency deemed it important to actually cite the Qur'anic verses employed by Ayatollah al-Ha'iri in his rather problematic decision.  Either most reporters and editors are still incredibly ignorant of Islam, or they still wish to pretend that the violence perpetrated around the world in the name of Islam, and drawing upon Islamic texts and historical examples for support, is really being done for other, non-Islamic reasons.  The same can be said, by the way, of many--not all--in American law enforcement, intelligence,  government and yes, even the military.
2) Ayas (verses) 89 and 90 of Sura al-Maryam [19] read thusly:
Indeed, ye have put forth a thing most mostrous!
At it the skies are ready to burst,
The Earth to split asunder,
And the mountains to fall down in utter ruin.
What is this "monstrous thing?"  Going back to aya 88 we find it is this:
They say 'God Most Gracious has begotten a son!'
And aya 91 repeats the monstrosity:
That they should invoke a son for God Most Gracioius.
There are only two possibilities here: either that al-Ha'iri simply found some Qur'anic language describing something intolerable, and threw it into the fatwa, in which case the rest of the passage condeming Christian belief in Jesus as Son of God is irrelevant; or al-Ha'iri is implicitly condemning the "occupying forces" primarily for their Christian religion.  IF the former, then we can draw some hope from the fact that Shi`i ijtihad (independent judgment in Islamic exegesis) is being practiced by a high-ranking Arab cleric--for even as simple an interpretive act as truncating a Qur'anic text actually bodes well, arguably, for interpretating the Qur'an OTHER than literally (as is the wont of Salafi Sunnis); but IF al-Ha'iri truly intended the latter, anti-Christian meaning, then we have yet more evidence that from the Muslim side--and this time, the Shi`i one, not the expected Salafi Sunni one--the conflict in Iraq (and, by extension, elsewhere) truly is a religious one and Americans are being labled "monstrous" by virture of the fact that the vast majority of us, and of our military forces, are Christian.
3) Finally, note that al-Ha'iri resides in Qom and that there is no doubt he must get the approval of his Iranian hosts before posting anything on his website.  It would seem that all that happy, Christian-Muslim ecumenical talk I saw and heard while in  Tehran this past August at the Mahdism Conference was more window-dressing than sincere, if al-Ha'iri's Islamic Republic minders are allowing him to post fatwas utilizing texts that condemn Christians for their 2,000-year-old belief in Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Son of God.
Here's the full text of al-Ha'iri's fatwa, in Arabic:
بيان المرجع الديني سماحة آية الله العظمى السيد كاظم الحسينيّ الحائريّ «دام ظلّه الوارف»
في تأكيد تحريم القبول بالاتّفاقيّة الأمنيّة
بـسم الله الـرحمن الـرحيم

أبنائي الأعزّاء في العراق... السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته.

لقد علمنا بالضغوط التي تمارسها قوّات الاحتلال على الحكومة العراقيّة لأجل تحصيل موافقتها على الاتّفاقيّة المذلّة المسمّاة بالاتّفاقيّة الأمنيّة طويلة الأمد، والمؤدّية إلى فقدان العراق سيادته الوطنيّة، وقبوله بالذلّ والهوان.

ولقد أوضحنا حرمة الموافقة على هذه الاتّفاقيّة في بياناتنا السابقة، ونؤكّد في بياننا هذا للمرّة الثالثة لتلك القوّات المحتلّة: ﴿لَقَدْ جِئْتُمْ شَيْئاً إِدّاً * تَكَادُ السَّماوَاتُ يَتَفَطَّرْنَ مِنْهُ وَتَنشَقُّ الاَْرْضُ وَتَخِرُّ الْجِبَالُ هَدّاً، كما نؤكّد خطابنا لجميع العراقيّين ذوي العلاقة في هذا الموضوع بقولنا: كلّ من ساعد المحتلّين على ما يريدون فسوف لن يغفر الله له ذنبه هذا، ولن تسامحه الاُمّة العراقيّة المظلومة، ولا الحوزة العلميّة المباركة، ولا أيّ مسلم ذي وجدان وضمير يؤمن بيوم الحساب.

﴿وَقُلِ اعْمَلُوا فَسَيَرَى اللّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ

والسلام عليكم أبناءنا الغيارى في العراق من أب قريح العينين جريح الفؤاد ورحمة الله وبركاته.

كاظم الحسينيّ الحائريّ
20 / شوّال / 1429

12:37 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mahdi for Nothing and Chicks for Free
Here's a story from this past week's "LA Times" about Mahdist activity in Iraq:

Shiite cults seek to wreak havoc in Iraq
By Usama Redha, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 15, 2008
BAGHDAD -- Falling into a depression after her husband was killed last year, Iman immersed herself in religious studies and became fixated on a Shiite Muslim saint.
Soon, a secretive group of worshipers tried to recruit the young widow, telling her that she could help bring the holy figureback to Earth. All she had to do was sleep with the group's male followers.
Horrified, Iman, now 20, refused.
Her experience shines a light on the rise in Iraq of fanatical cults devoted to Imam Mahdi, the Shiites' 12th imam....The Shiite faithful believe that in the world's darkest hour, Imam Mahdi will return and bring justice and calm....
Devout Sunnis also believe in the Mahdi's coming, but do not think it involves the Shiite imam....
Dr. Hassan, a psychology professor at Baghdad's Mustansiriya University who declined to give his full name because of worries about his safety, explained that some Iraqis had embraced conservative Shiite traditions with zeal after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, who had oppressed the country's Shiite majority....
Iman, who also declined to give her full name, discovered the world of cults as she sought solace in religion in the months after her husband's death. A friend suggested she do something positive while waiting for Imam Mahdi's return....
The woman suggested that Iman sleep with her husband if she wanted to help speed up the Mahdi's return....
Others shared similar stories about the group, called Mumahidoon, or "those who prepare the way....."
Although Iraqi security officials dismiss the idea that such cults pose a genuine threat, Hassan is not convinced. "The cults in our society," he warned, "could pose a danger." (,0,7562112.story)
1) Kudos to the "LA Times" for  being one of the few outlets to consistently cover Mahdism in Iraq, but it nonetheless gets some basic facts about Mahdism wrong: a) the Mahdi is far more than merely a "Shiite Muslim saint;" b) groups of Mahdist believers are not ipso facto "fanatical cults"--unless one wishes to posit that Shi`ism itself, with 150 million or so followers worldwide, is a huge "cult;" and c) most importantly, this correspondent creates a false dichotomy between mainstream Shi`is who, in his words, believe the Mahdi "will return and bring justice and calm" and members of these "cults" who see him as more violent.  I just spent a week in Tehran and Qom this past August at the annual Mahdism conference, and I can assure you that there are plenty of mainstream Twelver Shi`is there--not just clerics, but academics and politicians, as well as ordinary Iranians--who believe that the Mahdi will create a global caliphate by force of arms; in fact, one of the points of debate at the conference in Iran was whether the Mahdi would force all Jews and Christians to convert to Islam, or simply kill us all [see my earlier, archived posts].  This attempt--whether willful or not--by the "LA Times" to reduce the Mahdi to a benign, pacifist, Christ-like figure who would never use violence reminds me of the ongoing attempt by those in the media to redefine jihad as merely "trying to be a good Muslim," ignorning all the Qur'anic, Hadith and historical evidence of jihad as violent holy war.
2) More kudos to the "Times" for avoiding the mainstream media take that Mahdism is purely a Shi`i phenomenon. What would be interesting--indeed, crucial--is some information on whether Sunnis in Iraq are involved in any of these Mahdist movements.  Anecdotal information I've been able to  glean indicates that they are, at least in small numbers.  If Mahdism in Iraq, or anywhere else in the Islamic world, truly becomes ecumenical--watch out.
3) This Mustansiriya University professor confirms what I wrote and said in a paper I presented at the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa in Washington, D.C., in April of this year: that before the American invasion, "Saddam Husayn kept such a tight Sunni Ba`athist lid on Twelver Shi`ism that Mahdism would never boil forth in Iraq"--at least as long as he was in power.  President Bush's toppling of one of the Muslim world's most brutal tyrants, ironically enough, has now unleashed the jinn (genie) of Mahdism in that country--although it's Ahmadinejad who keeps rubbing the lamp.
4) Past Mahdist claimants in Islamic history often had multiple wives, as per the ancient acceptance of polygamy in Islam. This is the first instance I've seen, however, of hastening the Mahdi's appearance by having women serve as concubines to his male followers.  But considering the ongoing validity of mu`tah--"temporary marriage"--in Shi`ism, why should this come as a surprise? (For some background on mu`tah, see my piece in PajamasMedia:   At least sex to hasten his appearance beats violence to do so (no pun intended; and let's just hope no one decides to combine the two). 
5) Is there any relationship, beyond the name, between these Mumahidun and the newly-reconfigured Jaysh al-Mahdi of Muqtada al-Sadr? Might al-Sadr be one of the "Friends of the Mahdi" enjoying, well, such fringe benefits?
6) I concur, again, with the good Iraqi professor that the government in Baghdad (and Washington, I would add) dismisses such eschatological movements at its own peril.  The very basis of Shi`ism is the belief which even this professor reduces to a "cult:" the appearance of a supremely-charismatic, divinely-directed religious figure who will take over the world. And again, such belief is NOT limited to the minority branch of Islam.  If history is any guide, odds are that at some point in the not-too-distant future a Muslim leader will arise who has sizable contingents of followers among both Shi`is and Sunnis. If we're lucky, such a movement will be confined only to Iraq.
But I wouldn't bet on it.
10:00 am edt          Comments

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Debating the Mahdi

Watching the last Presidential debate of 2008 last night, I started to wonder: rather than make tactical attacks on the 12th Imam's, er, Barack Obama's voting record and associations with nuts in ACORN, why couldn't McCain scale the strategic heights and simply make three important points?
1) Senator BHO is a quasi-socialist, believing--as his remarks to Joe the Plumber indicate--that it is the government's job to redistribute wealth.  I, however, am a believer in a free market that also takes care of the less fortunate, but without redistribution.  If you believe it's the government's job to be Robin Hood during a recession--a sure-fire way to further drive down the economy--vote for him. If you believe it's not, vote for me.
) Senator BHO does not believe that there is such a thing as Islamic terrorism. My friends, there is. And while most Muslims, especially in the U.S., are good law-abiding folks, it cannot be denied that the major ideology used to justify terrorism today IS a variant of Islam. We cannot hope to defeat that ideology if we pretend it doesn't even exist.  If you think Usama bin Ladin, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, Ayman al-Zawahiri and their ilk are motivated by something OTHER than Islam, vote for my opponent. If you think their understanding of Islam might have SOMETHING to do with their violence,  terrorism and hate, vote for me.
3) Senator BHO is a good man but he lacks the experience to be President of the U.S. at this critical time in history. Perhaps after my one or two terms as President, after he has more experience, you can vote for him again. But right now, I am the logical choice to lead the Free World.  If you think 160 days in the U.S. Senate qualifies a man to be President, vote for him; if you think that five terms in the Senate, on top of two terms in Congress and--more importantly--combat and POW experience in the U.S. military is more qualifying, vote for me.

Thank you. And God bless America.

12:24 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Into, Not Out Of, Africa.
Much attention has been paid lately to the People's Republic of China's economic and political inroads into Africa (an excellent example is "The New Colonialists," The Economist, March 13, 2008:  The newest U.S. military command, AFRICOM, officially sprang into existence today and serves notice that the U.S. is going to stay very involved on the continent even after the Bush Adminstration ends.  But there are those in the Islamic world working to gain influence on the world's second most populous continent. As I have discussed before on here, Iran is heavily involved there, in places like Sengegal, Zimbabwe and even South Africa (Michael Rubin,"Iran's Global Ambition,"March 17, 2008:  At the United Nations last week President Ahmadinejad of Iran stated  that "the Islamic Republic of Iran considers it a duty to stand beside the peoples and governments of this impressive continent, " in the face of "hegemonic powers...still in existence that eye the continent with greed."  (And no, he didn't meant the PRC.)  But Iran faces Muslim competition: in August of this year an African Union Summit was held in Istanbul, with the Turkish government agreeing to cooperate with African nations in a number of areas (trade, agriculture, health, peace and security, etc.).  The credit for this seemingly unlikely Turkish-African agreement is being claimed by Adnan Oktar, a prominent Turkish Mahdist and Pan-Islamic organizer. Mr. Oktar favors what might best be described as "Neo-Ottomanism:" "The Ottoman Empire, which at its height covered an area of 24 million km2, was a truly global empire that spread peace and security as far as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Indeed, the security and well-being constructed under Ottoman rule are still remembered with love and aspiration even today. African states and nations, and not just those of North Africa, are looking to the foundation of an alliance under Turkish leadership"   (
I like to sometimes kid my Arab friends that there were fewer problems in the Middle East when the Ottoman Turks ran things.  It seems that there are those in Turkey today who take such ideas seriously.  And while the U.S. should at this point be more concerned about Mahdist Iran making hay in Islamic Africa, it might behoove AFRICOM and the State Department to start paying attention to Neo-Ottoman Mahdism there, as well.   
11:52 pm edt          Comments

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

Mahdi, Mahdism, Eschatology, Usama bin Ladin, Dajjal, Ahmadinejad, al-Sadr, Hizbullah, Yajuj wa-Majuj, Dabbah, Jesus, `Isa, Holiest Wars, Nasrallah, End of Time, Twelfth Imam, Middle East Politics, Iran, Iraq, al-Sistani, Awaited Mahdi, al-Mahdi, the Mahdi, Hojjatiyeh, Armageddon, Dabbah, Muhammad, Hadith, Jihadists, Apocalypse, Consultant, Islamic Mahdis, Osama bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda, al-Qa`ida, Azzam, Muhammad Ahmad, Ibn Tumart, al-Utaybi, Islam, Islamic, Muslim, Messiah, Ahmadinezhad, Khamanei, Ayatollah