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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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Friday, June 26, 2009

Hanging Together--or Hanging Separately?

The Iranian Assembly of Experts is considering deposing Ayatollah Khamenei as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, according to a story earlier this week  originating with the Arab Gulf's al-Arabiyah TV and reported by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti (  While many consider this far-fetched I do not, for the following reasons:
I) According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, article 111:
"(1) Whenever the Leader becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or loses one of the qualifications mentioned in Articles 5  and 109, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially, he will be dismissed. The authority of determination in this matter is vested with the experts specified in Article 108.
(2) In the event of the death, or resignation or dismissal of the Leader, the experts shall take steps within the shortest possible time for the appointment of the new Leader. Until the appointment of the new Leader, a council consisting of the President, head of the judiciary power, and a religious men from the Guardian Council, upon the decision of the Nation's Exigency Council, shall temporarily take over all the duties of the Leader. In the event that, during this period, any one of them is unable to fulfil his duties for whatsoever reason, another person, upon the decision of majority of religious men in the Nation's Exigency Council shall be elected in his place."
Article 5 states that in the absence of the 12th Imam, leadership devolves upon "the just and pious person, who is fully aware of the circumstances of his age, courageous, resourceful, and possessed of administrative ability."  Article 109 lays out the "essential qualifications" for the leader: "scholarship," "justice and piety" and "right political and social perspicacity, prudence, courage, administrative facilities, and adequate capability for leadership." Khamenei's scholarship has long been derided by other clerics, although using that as an excuse to dismiss him now would probably be a bit too transparent.  And while his justice and piety might not be in question, certainly Rafsanjani and his allies could make a case that, in light of the unrest in Iran, Khamenei lacks the "political and social perspicacity," "administrative facilities" and thus "adequate capability for leadership."
II) Although Article 131 of the IRI Constitution allows for the "dismissal" of the President (presumably by the Majlis, or Assembly), I would argue that Ahmadinejad's popularity, coupled with the perhaps mortal blow to the regime's legitimacy that would ensue were he to be dismissed now, makes it probable he will stay in power.  In fact, he may very well have actually won the election on the basis of his popularity in rural areas and among the non-elites in Iran.  Therefore, if someone in the government has to be sacrificed on the altar of public opinion, my money is on Khamenei rather than Ahmadinejad.
III) Getting rid of Khamenei makes good (domestic) political sense for many of the clerics, in that the Assembly of Experts' doing so could be spun as a an exercise in popular sovereignty--because the AoE members are elected by popular vote.  This would not totally assuage the folks discontented with clerical rule who are currently throwing their support behind Moussavi, but the clerical factions opposed to Khamenei might see it as preferable to fully opening fire on crowds of Iranians.

11:33 am edt          Comments

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ayatollah Khamenei: Praying Like It's the End of the....Regime?

Yesterday the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei delivered the Friday khtubah (“sermon”) at Tehran University.  All Western commentators and analysts have focused on his defense of Ahmadinezhad’s re-election, and on the Ayatollah’s veiled threats toward Moussavi’s supporters if they do not cease their street protests.  No one, to the best of my knowledged, has remarked on two other noteworthy aspects of Khamenei’s address.  First, Khamenei prayed to, and for, the Hidden Imam:  “Our master [Hidden Imam]! Please do pray for us . . . . You are the real owner of this country and the revolution. You are our true backer. We will continue this path strongly. Please do support us."  Second, several times throughout his speech, many members of the mosque audience broke out in fulminations of “Marg bar”—Death to”--“America,” “Britain” and “Israel.”

Observation 1:       Belief in the return of the 12th Imam from occultation may be more popular among the rural masses than among the Tehran University crowd, but that hardly qualifies it as mere “folk religion.” The very real tears shed by many in Khamenei’s audience at his invocation of the messianic figure of Twelver Shi`ism—clerics and lay alike—demonstrate one of the reasons that the eschatologically-minded Ahmadinezhad may very well have actually won the election (although no one in Iran will believe it now).  The Constitution of the IRI states, Article 5, that “[d]uring the Occultation of the Wali al-Asr (may God hasten his reappearance), the wilayah and leadership of the Ummah devolve upon the just ('adil] and pious [muttaqi] faqih, who is fully aware of the circumstances of his age.”  The Wali al-Asr,  “Guardian of the Age,” is another term for Imam Mahdi.  Conventional wisdom has it that Khamenei and his clerical supporters would never acknowledge anyone as the returned 12th Imam, since that would make them laughingstocks and, more importantly, officially dissolve the raison d’etre of the IRI.  However, what if declaring someone the Mahdi were the only way to head off a secular counter-revolution against the clerical regime?  It’s not impossible.
Observation 2:      Imagine if during one of Pope Benedict’s homilies during Mass at St. Peter’s, or Dr. Charles Stanley’s sermons at First Baptist of Atlanta, members of the congregation began shouting “ Death to…”—well, anyone or anything.  The Pope would be accused of sparking a new Crusade,  at best, and Dr. Stanley would be rounded up by Homeland Security for “hate crimes.”  The “Marg bar Amrika” trope may be largely a cliched way of showing one’s allegiance to the ayatollahs, but its continued presence in Muslim houses of worship show how far even Shi`ism has to go before it’s even remotely as tolerant as Christianity. 
11:33 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Camille
I've been a fan of Camille Paglia for a number of years, mostly because I admire her intellect and willingness to think outside the normal lines of Leftist dogma. But in a recent article on Obama's Cairo speech (, she wrote this moronic line:
"But the now widespread stereotyping of Islam as medieval and inherently violent and intolerant ensures eternal war."
Note: the problem as Paglia sees it is not the legion of violent acts done daily in Allah's or Muhammad's name; or the fatwas legitimizing the beheadings, wife-beatings and suicide bombings. No, for Paglia--as for far too many on the Left--the problem is rather the "stereotyping" of Islam as "inherently violent and intolerant."  I would be willing to bet a month's wages that Paglia has never read the Qur'an, nor much about Islamic history (except perhaps for that misleading Islamic apologist Karen Armstrong).
The Left really is in trouble if Paglia has succumbed to such willful denial of reality.  At least Christopher Hitchens is still holding out (although he seems to hate all religions equally, for some strange reason).
2:27 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to My Right

Since  the publication of my article "Sectsploitation" and Bill Gertz' "Washington Times" piece about President Obama's Cairo speech which quoted me at length, the response has been interesting, to say the least.  Some of my friends and colleagues of a conservative bent have taken me to task for daring to say there is such a thing as "moderate" Islam; and some of my friends or acquaintances who consider themselves liberals, or at least non-conservatives, have frankly excoriated me for my insistence that Islam has intrinsic violent proclivities.
Both of these views are disheartening, the former perhaps not as much as the latter.  My critics on the Right seem wedded to the very view I was trying to disabuse folks of in my article--namely, that Islam is monolithically Sunni and thus locked permanently into a mode of Qur'anic literalism and violence.  Upon being told that sectarian Muslims "are always killed," I had to point out that if that were the case, why are there--to name but one sect--15 million Isma`ilis?  It's just historically inaccurate to say that members of non-Sunni sects are always and forever terminated with extreme prejudice.  Persecuted, repressed, ignored, sometimes executed, yes--but never wiped out.  I realize that the purveyors of Islamic terrorism--al-Qa`idah, the Taliban, Hamas--predominantly come from the majority-Sunni milieu. But that milieu is NOT the totality of Islam. 
As for my critics who fall off the horse on the other side--the side that tends to sport "COEXIST" bumper stickers on their vehicles and to take umbrage at any mention of the violence-promoting ayahs of the Qur'an--they, frankly, are more insidious and more dangerous to Western civilization. Why? Because they are so smugly convinced of their own tolerance and open-mindedness and their willingness to ignore the ISLAMIC element in global terrorism, as well as the intrinsic Islamic religious motivation to achieve global supremacy, facilitates Islamization both here and abroad.  The certifiably ISLAMIC roots of Islamic triumphalism, terrorism and violence are well-documented by my own writings and those of many others, most notably and recently Ray Ibrahim (, so I shall not beat that dead horse here; but I will provide some data refuting the charge that I've had levied against me lately to the effect that "only a few extremist Muslims support violence." 
Almost exactly three years ago the Pew Global Attitudes Project released the study "The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other" (   Data therein clearly shows the enormous support for violence among Muslims in key Islamic-majority countries. For example, on the question of "when can violence against civilian targets in order to defend Islam" be justified, the responses were as follows for the responses "sometimes" + "rarely:"
Nigeria: 69%
Jordan: 57%
Egypt: 53%
French Muslims: 35%
Indonesia: 28%
Turkey: 27%
Spanish Muslims: 25%
British Muslims: 24%
Pakistan: 22%
That is, in Nigeria, Jordan and Egypt only a MINORITY of Muslims think violence against civilians is NEVER justified.  The two most amazing aspects of this particular poll question's results are that Pakistan's Muslims are the LOWEST in terms of support for attacking civilians; and that a substantial minority of Muslims in France, Spain and the UK seem not to be assimilating (okay, that latter is NOT that surprising to anyone who's read Mark Steyn or Tom Kratman).  Also, this poll indicates that millions of Muslims either don't know the Qur'anic cite which Obama quoted (one of four) in his Cairo speech to the effect that killing one person is like killing all of humanity (Sura al-Ma'idah [V]:35) or they are putting other, more violent verses, higher in priority.
Another part of the poll survey asks Muslims  in several key Muslim countries whether they identify more with "fundamentalists" or "modernizers." For Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan, the average percentage support for "fundamentalists" is 10%.  Hardly a SMALL minority, and in real terms an enormous population supportive of Islamic fundamentalism: the combined populations of those five Muslim countries alone is over 500 million, which translates into 50 million folks who self-identify with the Taliban of the world.  A reasonable extrapolation of the 10% figure to the entire Islamic world's population of 1.5 billion yields 150 million willing to "identify" with the Taliban and al-Qa`idah members of their faith.  Nothing to be concerned about, eh? Only if you're a fool or coward.
Note that Pew only polled Muslims in majority-Sunni countries, where support for a literal reading of the Qur'an predominates.  A similar poll of majority-Shi`i Iran, Iraq and Lebanon would be enlightening, as would polling done among Muslim sectarian minorities such as the Isma'ilis of India, the Zaydis of Yemen, the Ibadis of Oman or the Alevis of Turkey--not to mention of the various and sundry Sufi (mystical) orders that exist from Mauritania to Malaysia, in the tens of millions.
One final note: Pew in its methodology nowhere defines "modernizer" and "fundamentalist" in that relevant polling section, although the implication is that a "modernizer" is one who can live as a Muslim in a modern society.  That definition is so malleable as to be almost meaningless; and the Pew folks make no effort to define "fundamentalist," seemingly leaving it to each person being polled to define it for himself.  This Potter Stewart-esque "I can't define Islamic fundamentalism, but I know it when I see it" (as that Supreme Court Justice said about pornography) cries out for refining.  My own position is that the basis of Islamic fundamentalism is a demand to interpret the Qur'an literally, including--perhaps even especially--the passages mandating violence against non-Muslims.

6:27 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Talk Like an Egyptian

Bill Gertz interviewed me this week for his "Washington Times" piece on President Obama's Cairo speech to the Muslim world.  While I gave BHO credit where credit was due, I also critiqued him for his denial about the roots of Islamic violence, and I suggested a better approach to the Islamic world:

11:20 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 1, 2009

My article "Sectsploitation: How to Win Hearts and Minds in the Islamic World" has been published by History News Network:
11:30 am edt          Comments

A Kuwaiti Mahdi?

Perhaps this chap was just gearing up for the Mahdism Conference this summer on the other side of the Gulf: 

Security guard goes haywire: An Egyptian security guard working at the Farwaniya Hospital has been referred to the Psychiatric Hospital for behaving abnormal, reports Al-Watan Arabic daily.
The guard reportedly kept screaming that he is the Al-Mahdi al-Muntazar (Muhammad al Mahdi (the guided) is the 12th and last Imam of the Twelve, and is also known as Muhammad al Muntazar (the awaited) [].
Folks like this give Mahdism a bad name!  Seriously, however, it's fascinating that an EGYPTIAN--thus almost certainly a Sunni--would have such a delusion.  Perhaps Iranian Shi`i proselytizing is indeed having an effect in the Arab world!

11:16 am edt          Comments

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

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