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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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Monday, August 24, 2009

Prepare Ye the Way of the Mahdi
From al-Arabiya last week (Monday, 8/17/09):
Spokesman says Iran's supreme leader represents Mahdi

Muslims must unite for Islam's savior: Iran

DUBAI (Saud al-Zahed)

The spokesman of Iran's Supreme Leader called on neighboring countries to mobilize their forces in preparation for the coming of the savior of Islam and to unite with the Islamic Republic in paving the way for his arrival, an Iranian news agency reported Sunday.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's spokesman, Ali Saeedi, said countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan should gather together all their forces in order to make drastic changes to prepare for the coming of al-Mahdi al-Montazar, Arabic for "the awaited guided one." "We still have a long way to go in order to achieve this. We have to train honest forces that can stop the obstacles that may hinder the coming of the Mahdi like the United States and Israel," Saeedi said in statement posted by the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).
Saeedi also said that the supreme leader of Iran is the direct representative of the Mahdi and that obeying him is like obeying the "guided one," who is the prophesized savior of Islam.
"Since the armed forces are commanded by the Supreme Leader, they are thus obeying the orders of the awaited Mahdi," Saeedi said, adding "the Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces in Iran hold religious authority to prepare for the appearance of the Mahdi...."
 It's tempting to scorn such statements as transparent attempts to upgrade Khamenei's legitimacy in response to the turban tarnishing he's taken, post-election debacle in Iran.  Perhaps so. The assertion that obeying the Supreme Leader is tantamount to doing the Mahdi's bidding would tend to support this cynical view. However, Saeedi's pious--if belligerent--position is one that I heard from a number of speakers at the Mahdism Conference in Tehran last year, most notably Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani (NOT, counterintuitively, President Ahmadinejad).  So we should not be too quick to rule out true belief in the imminent reappearance of the 12th Imam as the Mahdi. 
Saeedi's assertion that the "Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces in Iran hold religious authority to prepare for the appearance of the Mahdi" also reflects the position of various speakers at last year's Mahdism Conference, and it beggars belief to think that all of them--not to mention the weeping masses I saw at Jamkaran Mosque in Qom, on the Mahdi's birthday--are consummate phonies.   And it's also possible to both believe in the Mahdi's coming as a religious conviction AND to seek to employ it as a tool of Islamic unity; the two are not mutually exclusive.
As I have said before ( "The Importance of Being Mahdist" ), Iran is full of many who earnestly and piously long for the Mahdi's coming to ease their suffering, whether through wealth redistribution, smiting their enemies, or some combination thereof; a smaller group whose members almost certainly doubt his existence at all but which uses the belief to leverage Iran's power vis-a-vis the rest of the Islamic world; and a truly dangerous clique which both sincerely believes in the 12th Imam's imminent reentry onto the world stage AND whose members hope to enlist other Muslims outside Iran under his banner.  This latter group, which would certainly seem to include Saeedi and Khameini (and of course Ahmadinejad and perhaps even Larijani) and which controls many of the levers of power in Tehran and Qom, is the impetus behind arming Hizbullah and Hamas, supporting the near-co-religionist Fiver Shi`ite militia Shabab al-Mu'minin fighting against the government of Yemen, and in general working through the Qods force to propagate Shi`ite da`wah (religious propaganda/missionary activity) around the world.  And it's almost certainly the same clique that is pushing for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, in order to put them at the disposal of the Mahdi when he comes--or, barring that, at the command of whoever is Iran's Supreme Leader.

12:19 am edt          Comments

Friday, August 7, 2009

They Say It's Your Birthday!

No, NOT Obama's! The Twelfth Imam al-Mahdi's! (Unless you happen to subscribe to the theory that they're one and the same....)

2:42 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, August 1, 2009

American Caliphate?
Two weeks ago I attended the American "coming out party" of the pro-caliphate group Hizb al-Tahrir, in Chicago's suburbs.  My first article on the group and conference is running in tomorrow's "Washington Times" (special thanks to Bill Gertz!):
11:52 am edt          Comments

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

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