Home | About Me | Links to My Articles | Info on My Books | Contact Me

Welcome to!

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.

Archive Newer | Older

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Wages of Mahdism Is Death

Yesterday "The New York Times'" Campbell Robertson reported that "Iraq Hands Death Penalty to 28 Cultists for Attacks" (  This is the same group that fought American and Iraqi government forces in January 2007 and again in January 2008.  You can read the article for yourself and then peruse my observations:
1) Mr. Robertson refers to the group as a "Shiite messianic cult." Doesn't that describe Shi`ism itself?  This is akin to referring to Christianity as a "messianic cult" whereas in reality messianism is its core doctrine. 
2) The "Followers of the Mahdi, itself a part of the Soldiers of Heaven" faction is painted as a "fringe cult that believes sowing chaos will pave the way for the coming of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, who...will return as a savior of humanity." Wrong, Campbell. The 12th Imam is a not a "savior" but rather a military and political leader who will humble the recalcitrant Sunnis and convert, both peacefully and through conquest, the entire world to (Shi`i) Islam. Caling him a "savior" injects (albeit certainly unintentionally on the correspondent's part, we can be sure) an unwarranted Christian concept. And, again, what is the source for the assertion that this "cult" promotes violence to spark the Mahdi's appearance? Iraqi government spokesmen?
3) Likewise, Mr. Robertson seems to accept without question the Baghdad government's view of the "cult" as "brutal" and "bizarre" without bothering to talk to any of the group's members or anyone in the areas in question (Najaf, Basra, Nasirya).  Perhaps other sources might provide a different, fuller, less hostile perspective.
4) .: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mahdism has been one of the most potent and dangerous sub-ideologies within Islam, both Shi`i AND Sunni.  And there is no reason to assume that its power to inspire violence within Islam has been spent in past centuries. Recent events in Iraq bear me out.

4:47 pm est          Comments

Fears of a Persian Shi`ite Gulf
That important body of water bordering Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the south and the Islamic Republic of Iran on the north is usually referred to as the Persian Gulf, although some Arabs prefer to call it the Arab Gulf--both for ethno-nationalist reasons and because they'd prefer it be thought of as a Sunni, rather than a Shi`i, great (salt) lake.  Two events of the past week should remind us that the "religion of peace" is anything but when it comes to this gulf region. 
Early last week the Saudi newspaper al-Watan ran an editorial blasting the Islamic Republic for its (alleged) persecution of Iranian Sunnis and waxing eloquent about the forced conversion of Sunni Persia to Shi`ism under the Safavid rulers of the 16th century (  It also stoked Arab fears of Iranian irredentism in the region, with good reason, for as the MEMRI editors point out, in footnote 1, earlier in February of this year an advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Khameini gave a speech claiming that Bahrain been a province of Iran before the Pahlavi regime lost it.
More ominously for the Saudis, an AP story at the end of last week described Shi`ite demonstrations against Wahhabi Sunni rule in the town of Awwamiya.  AP claims that Shi`ites are a "small minority of the country's 22 million people," but a 2005 study by the International Crisis Group ("The Shi`ite Question in Saudi Arabia: puts their number at 10-15%.  Shi`ites are said to be angered by not having their madhdhab, or "interpretive school" of Islam, included with the three Sunni ones granted recognition alongside the official Saudi Hanafi school by King Abdullah in recent reforms.
These two events mark further escalation of the Saudi-Iranian struggle for leadership of the global Islamic community.
4:32 pm est          Comments

Archive Newer | Older

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