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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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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Even Better than Waziristan?
Several years ago--perhaps it was around 9/11/07--I was interviewed by a British magazine (I must confess I've forgotten which one, and the author never sent me a copy of the article--despite his promise to do so) on the question "Where's Osama bin Ladin?" I told them I thought he was in Iran, incognito in a safe house perhaps in Qom, but more likely in a lower profile town such as Mashhad or Zahedan.  The conventional wisdom that UBL and his posse have been holed up in the AF-PAK-FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan) region just makes little sense to me: it's crawling with American, Afghan and/or Pakistani troops; the bounty on his head would by now have proved too tempting to pass up for some brigand there; and those periodic radio and TV communiques could hardly be produced from the proverbial cave with donkey-packed equipment.  Also, I think the conventional wisdom that Sunnis and Shi`is are inveterate enemies is overstated, especially considering Tehran's bid to leverage its power and influence in the larger Sunni world.  As circumstantial evidence,albeit not (yet) proof, of my thesis, comes this story from today's "Times" of London: 
Osama bin Laden's missing family found in secret compound in Iran 
"[T]he group, including one of Osama’s wives, six of his children and 11 of his grandchildren, had been kept in a high-security compound outside Tehran. They have been prevented from contacting the outside world while Iran has repeatedly denied that any of the relatives were living in the country [emphasis added]....Members of the bin Laden family are now appealing for the group to be allowed to leave Iran and described them as the 'forgotten victims of 9/11'" (
Leaving aside the twisted (lack of) logic that would make anyone named "Bin Laden" in any wise a "victim" of 9/11, this Iranian confession to harboring family members of the world's most wanted Sunni terrorist and, for some, charismatic leader certainly provides ammunition for those (few) of us who have long suspected that UBL went West, not East, when the American bombs began to fall.

9:27 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sympathy for the Mahdi?
According to yesterday's "Washington Times," repeatedly in recent months American representatives in Iraq have tried, unsuccessfully, to initiate talks with the followers of the Mahdist Muqtada al-Sadr (  This volte-face by the Obama Administration "is intended to help stabilize Iraq as the U.S. draws down its forces and to prevent the Sadr movement from turning into a replica of [Lebanon's ] Hezbollah...."  The article also claims that, simultaneously, this is an effort to separate the erstwhile Jaysh al-Mahdi--now (allegedly) replaced by the Liwa' al-Yawm al-Ma`hud, "The Promised Day Brigade"--from more violent groups such as those that engaged in open combat against U.S. and Iraqi government forces in January of 2007 and 2008 (see my previous blogs on this topic).  Since Muqtada al-Sadr is in Qom trying to attain the rank of ayatollah, his primary spokesman in Iraq would appear to be the "Sadrist leader" Qusay al-Suhail, who is quoted at length in this story.  According to him the Mahdi Army has "been transformed into a cultural institution," while the Promised Day Brigade is the remaining militant organization. 
1) Neither the "Times" reporter, Eli Lake, nor anyone quoted in the story--including
"Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, research director at the Institute for the Study of War," bothers to explain just what the "Promised Day" Brigade refers to:  the coming of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi.   One would think that might be a relevant bit of grist for the analytical mill.
2) Several years ago, Muqtada al-Sadr claimed that the U.S. invaded Iraq in order to stymie the coming out of the 12th Imam.   President Ahmadinezhad of Iran claimed the same thing last week (as I blogged upon).  Yet American officials persist in treating al-Sadr as simply a Shi`i thug worth importuning, seemingly oblivious to his Mahdist beliefs and operating premises.   This reminds me of the willfully ignorant approach of the now-defunct Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report (which I ripped apart soon after it came out almost exactly three years ago:
2:31 pm est          Comments

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mu`tah for Nothing, and Wives for Free?

Last year I published an article on PajamasMedia about attempts by some Shi`i Muslims to advance their institution of mu`tah, "temporary marriage" (although one might describe it with other less polite, but equally accurate, terms--like "legalized prostitution") in the West:
Some thought I was exaggerating the case.  Well, comes now this announcement from the (Shi`i) Association of Muslim Jurists for their conference on "Muslim Family [sic] in the US" in Houston on the day after Christmas:
(Here's the AMJA websiite, if you need to view a larger image:

Note that in that penultimate box, toward the bottom, one conference topic is the combined one of "Pleasure marriage and the non-registered marriage:" zuwaj al-mu`tah wa zuwaj al-`urfi.  I cannot be certain the approach that the attending Shi`i clerics will take toward these two topics; perhaps they will roundly condemn such practices as incompatible with American domestic law?  But somehow I doubt it.  More likely, this is another example of creeping Islamization, with Muslims being advised how to continue, sub rosa in a non-Muslim country, practices allowable under Islamic (in this case, Shi`i) law.  I wonder if anyone in  our government is paying attention? 

10:44 am est          Comments

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Boss, Boss: De Mahdi, De Mahdi!"
Two months ago ABC News reported that in Muslim-majority Russian Daghestan Qur'anic verses in Arabic were appearing on a 9-month old boy's legs (  Thousands of Muslim pilgrims were flocking to see this "miracle," no doubt at least in part because "A Muslim imam who visited... had a more apocalyptic take on the situation, saying, 'It is written that the closer to the end of the world, such signs will appear on a person's body.'"  A Muslim blogger commenting on this was even more specifically eschatological:

"This is possibly a Sign from Allah announcing the birth of Al-Mahdi, either: (a) the Mahdi was born when this Russian baby was born, or (b) the Mahdi has just been born now when appearance of these verses has been publicized and the Russian baby is 9-months old (the period of normal pregnancy, meaning the period from conception of a baby to his birth). However, this boy most likely is not Al-Mahdi. So, if this is true sign about the birth of the Mahdi, we can expect the Mahdi to become the leader of Muslims within the next 30-40 years. Most Hadiths indicate that the Mahdi will be 40 years old" ( 
[And for those of you who don't remember late-1970s TV: the title to this blog is a paraphrase of the line used by Tattoo in every episode of "Fantasy Island."]

5:36 pm est          Comments

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Man with the Golden Rule
Last week I posted, on my History News Network Blog "Occidental Jihadist," an analysis of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (  Obama's belated defense of his country's use of force in good causes was, alas, outweighed by his continued misrepresentation of Islam:

Obama’s final bit of pro-Muslim propaganda was a line he also employed in his Cairo address earlier this year, his ahistorical claim that “one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” This line is actually said by Jesus in Matthew 7:12: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (NASB).” Christianity, obviously, teaches this; so too does rabbinical Judaism and, in a more negative form (“don’t do to others what you would not have them do to you”), Buddhism. But Islam teaches no such doctrine! A loving attitude toward others is simply not one of the (alleged) revelations given by Allah to Muhammad in the Qur’an. And this is far more than merely some abstruse point of theology, akin to how many jinn can dance on the head of a pin. This matters, for if our Commander-in-Chief and those who take their cue from him—miliary leaders, diplomats, intelligence analysts—get such a basic point of Islamic theology and history wrong, how on earth can we expect to win not just the military conflict but, more importantly, the ideological one against Islam?
11:51 am est          Comments

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Messiah v. Messiah?
al-Arabiya yesterday was quoting Iranian news outlet Tabnak to the effect that Iran's President Ahmadinejad "said he has documented evidence that the United States is doing what it can to prevent the coming of the Mahdi...." Speaking in Isfahan to families of men killed in the 1980s war with Iraq, Ahmadinejad also claimed that "they [Americans] have devised all these plans to prevent the coming of the Hidden Imam because they know that the Iranian nation is the one that will prepare the grounds for his coming and will be the supporters of his rule."  Ahmadinejad also "revealed plots by both the East and the West to wipe out the Islamic Republic" and opined on the U.S. "quagmire" in Afghanistan ( 
1) Moqtada al-Sadr, erstwhile head of Iraq's Jaysh al-Mahdi ("Army of the Mahdi") and, rumor has it, aspiring ayatollah in Qom, said almost exactly the same thing three years ago, even adding that we Americans had a dossier  on the Islamic world's "rightly-guided one" lacking only a picture of his august personage (  
Perhaps Ahmadinejad and al-Sadr have been swapping speech notes; maybe they both took this sincere, if daft, trope from a common influence, such as Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi; or possibly this "the Crusaders are out to get the Mahdi" claim is simply a populist tool for exploiting the very real belief in the 12th Imam's return among a substantial chunk of the pious Iranian population (which would certainly describe families who had sons "martyred" in the war against Saddam's army)--understandable since there are reports in the last few days that urban crowds have been chanting "death to the dictator [Khamenei]" in lieu of the usual "death to America." 
2) Recall that in addition to the Mahdi Army, Iraq has seen a number of Mahdist movements in the past two years [see some of my previous blog entries on this topic, as well as my chapter "The Modern Impact of Mahdism and the Case of Iraq," in the new book Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad, Praeger Security International, 2009).  Ahmadinejad, in addition to actually believing this, may also be trying to create a populist religious bond with Iraqi Shi`ites of an eschatological bent.
3) I have seen no reports of eschatological movements in Afghanistan, but with American force levels set to increase by some 30% and a Shi`ite population that makes up ~20% of the population, I fully expect such to develop over the next 18 months--and Ahmadinejad may be thinking along the same lines, positioning the Islamic Republic to exploit such movements.
4) This reference to plots by the "East" to destroy Iran is interesting.  The two leading candidates here would seem to be China and India. The former has come under criticism lately for repression of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province, while the latter of course is full of polytheistic Hindus who oppress their Muslim minority--at least according to conventional Muslim wisdom.
Of course, if the Iranian leadership would just give in and admit --like many on the Left in this country--the messianic powers of Barack Obama, there would be no need for this false dichotomy between the Islamic and the American messiah!
10:51 am est          Comments

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

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