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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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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Man from Qahtan
Last week I received the following email (name withheld at my discretion) from a Muslim purveyor of this site:
"Dear Dr.Timothy Furnish,
I have always been fascinated by the concept of the Mahdi.I was mindlessly surfing the web and sort of stumbled on your site. It does not surprise me at all that you are a Christian and yet you are very interested in what goes on with my religion. I am Muslim, Sunni of the Shafie mazhab and belief in the Mahdi had always been an article of faith for my family.
It used to distress me that there are a lot of Muslims who have never heard of the Mahdi. or the Dajal or the second coming of Isa bin Maryam.And there are people who are adamant that the Mahdi will be Isa bin Maryam-but I guess it is too late for them to understand. I have been fortunate to have all these information as a youngun and to have it consolidated again in my old age.
Many people believe that the Mahdi is already here- I for one. You know so much about my religion and I'm sure you know that hadith by the Prophet (s.a.w) something to the effect that the deen (Islam) will be revived every 100 years. The prophet was born in 570 CE(some say 571 CE) and there was a 900 years gap between him and Isa bin Maryam.Would you think it is too far-fetched if the Mahdi had been born in say 1970/1971 CE (dates which are pretty close to 12 Rabiulawal -the Prophet's birthday in Islam).He would be about  40 years old in 2009- I reckoned his age at the time of his "baiat"  is calculated by the Islamic calendar.
There are several curious features about 2009. The middle of Ramadan 2009 could fall on a Friday and wukuf of the Hajj 2009 could also fall on a Friday. It will be a winter Hajj -remember the hadith about the  Black army and crawling in snow to join them? (27th.December 2009 will be 10thMuharram 1431).And the black army from Khorasan-call them Taliban or terrorists, but they will emerge from Afghanistan (Khorasan of old) and it is interesting how the Afghans had never been conquered by non-Muslims and they have always been mostly Sunnis.
I never believed Osama is the Mahdi-but he could well be the man from Qathan.There are so many teams working very hard to find the Mahdi-search & destroy teams all-
and they will never ever find him, that is Allah will conceal him until the great baiat.
You probably already  know that when he comes-some Muslims will turn against him and become disbelievers while some non-Muslims will accept Islam from him. I only wish that there were more Muslims who were interested in watching out for him...
Best wishes,
1) My correspondent is Sunni--yet more anecdotal evidence that Mahdism is an issue not just in Shi`i areas like Iran and Iraq.
2) This reader believes not that the Mahdi is coming but that he is ALREADY HERE!
3) She references a hadith recounted by Ibn Majah that advises going to the Mahdi even if it requires crawling on ice or snow, and also that the family of Muhammad's house will suffer afflictions until delivered by "a people...from the East bearing black banners." Her interpretation of this is it applies to the Taliban of Afghanistan.  This might make President-elect Barack Obama's proposed surge in Afghanistant a bit more problematic.
4) "I never believed Osama is the Mahdi--but he could well be the man from Qathan [sic].  What she means is the man from Qahtan. As David Cook points out in his superb book Studies in Muslim Apocalytpic, "the all likelihood is a figure older than Islam and represents the messianic hopes of the South Arabian tribes....As the Mahdi traditions became the standard ones in Islam, there were attempts to connect the Qahtani with him in some way....For this reason he is glossed as the brother of the Mahdi, though whether the relationship is a blood relationship or a religious unclear....At any rate, he is specifically said to be no less important than the Mahdi...ruling for 20 years and dying a violent death....." (pp. 179-80).  So Usama bin Ladin, according to this representative of the Sunni street, is perhaps the Mahdi's brother?!
5) My interlocutor not only believes the Mahdi is here on Earth, but that "search & destroy teams" are gunning for him.  Presumably these are American and/or Israeli ones.  And presumably their intell is as bad as that we had about Saddam's WMDs....
6) "I only wish there were more Muslims who were interested in watching out for him..."  She should have seen the masses at Jamkaran this past summer, pining for the Mahdi's coming.  Again, this is yet more anecdotal evidence that the Islamic Republic of Iran's attempts to use Mahdism as a way to gain leverage in the Sunni world are not without cause.
8:07 pm est          Comments

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

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