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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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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blue Mahdist Cult

This past week PBS' Frontline ran a dispatch by Babak Sarfaraz, "The Hidden Imam and His Cult," which while showing flashes of astute analysis also makes a number of questionable statements about Mahdism in Iran.  For example, Sarfaraz claims that "the cult of Mahdi...had never become a full-fledged mass movement until the last 20 years."  He also refers to the "ultra reactionary millennialist Hojjatieh [sic] Society." Twelver Shi`ism--with its core belief in the occultation of the 12th Imam who will return as the eschatological Mahdi--has been the majority religion of Iran since the early 1500s, and mass movements motivated by a perceived imminent Mahdist arrival have occurred many times in the last 500 years (most notably during the reign of the Safavids, in the early 16th century; and during the outbreak of the Babi/Baha'i movement, during the late 19th century).  Working for Frontline (and being, presumably, Iranian) does not absolve one from knowing the history of the faith and region upon which one is reporting.  As for the Hojjatiyeh: that organization, if it still even exists in Iran, is neither “ultra reactionary” (a term that should be banned from liberal outlets like PBS for overuse) nor any more millennialist than Twelver Shi`ism in general. Anjuman-i Hujjatiyah was founded in the 1950s to reconvert wayward Baha’is to Shi`i Islam, and was dissolved by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1983 because of insufficient support for the vilayet-i faqih (“rule of the jurisprudents”). The organization is, if anything, less millennialist than mainstream Twelver Shi`ism. (As I explain here, in a lecture at the Hudson Institute in June 2010).

Most interesting are two allegations by Sarfaraz. The first is that "by 2008, the newspapers were replete with reports of self-procalimed "Mahdis" announcing their reappearance and offering various prophesies or end-of-the-world scenarios. Every week, someone claimed to be the Mahdi or to be in special communion with him." And the second is this: "What finally convinced Khamenei that the Mahdaviat movement had gone far enough was last year's presidential election and its aftermath. For instead of aligning closer to the Supreme Leader, the ungrateful and ambitious president has decided to become a major rival to his erstwhile benefactor." It would be nice to see some corroboration for the claims of multiple mutamahdis (“false mahdis”), but after going to Iran in 2008 I opined that such would be the case. As for the alleged Ahmadinejad-Khamenei rivalry: Western caricatures aside, it’s very likely that the President of Iran is actually more popular in his own country now than the Supreme Leader, and has been since last summer’s post-election disputes. Ahmadinejad’s popular Islam, his own personal popularity (especially among the lower classes and in rural areas) and his Iran-Iraq War veteran status may put in in a pivotal position should the Iranian military decide to assume power from the ayatollahs.

5:21 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Islamic Decapitation Rearing its Ugly Head Again
According to a story in the VOA yesterday "Insurgents Behead 6 Police in Afghanistan" ( 
This took place in northern Baghlan province, in the  country's northeast.  NATO "condemned the incident as 'brutal' and 'barbaric.'"  Yet, as is always the case with Muslim "insurgents" separating victims' heads from their bodies, no mention is ever made that the Qur'an mandates such a fate for "unbelievers" on the battlefield--as I explained at length, five years ago, in my Middle East Quarterly article "Beheading in the Name of Islam" (  The Obama Administration can bury its collective head in the sand all it wants, but the hard fact will remain that according to scripture and tradition of the world's second-largest religion, decapitation of Islam's enemies is fully legitimate. 
11:49 am edt          Comments

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kashmir, Maybe?
SecState Clinton is "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren (Fox News Channel) right now (evening of July 19).  She's repeating the conventional wisdom that Usama bin Ladin is somewhere in Pakistan and that someone in the Pakistani government knows his location.  What's that definition of insanity--doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?  What's the syndrome when you say the same thing repeatedly, and hope that such ritual incantation will shape reality?  Either magic or propaganda, methinks. Or perhaps self-delusion.
Bin Ladin is in Iran, and likely has been for years.  But admitting that would require a whole new constellation of thought, and the ideologically-blinkered Obama administration is not about to go there. 
10:40 pm edt          Comments

The Mahdi: Living on Mayan Time
A nice Swedish chap, Mikael,  emailed me, providing a link about an Iraqi fellow, Hamid,  living in Stockholm who is, allegedly, the Mahdi (  It seems that this dispensation of the world will end with its last leader, Barack Obama, on December 21, 2012 and half the world will perish as a rogue red star approaches Earth, stops the planet's rotation and, presumably, causes dogs and cats to live together before both are irradiated to death.  My evangelical friends would note that the last line of the site mentions the "Luciferian knowledge" that the Mahdi's helper manifests. 
At least this Mahdi isn't the typical jihadist kind that Islamic history usually throws up.
10:22 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stop the Planet of the Apes!
This has absolutely nothing to do with Mahdism--but it's nonetheless irresistible:
"Taliban Trains 'Monkey Terrorists' to Attack U.S. Troops"
Afghanistan's Taliban warlords have developed a bizarre way to deal with foreign forces: they have trained monkeys who love to eat bananas and peanuts to be killers. Taliban forces have taught monkeys how to use the Kalashnikov, Bren light machine gun and trench mortars. They also teach them how to identify and attack soldiers wearing U.S. military uniforms....It is reported that these monkey soldiers are mainly composed of macaques and baboons hunted at an early age in the jungle and sold to the Taliban. These monkey babies who lost their mothers are sent to a secret Taliban training base one-by-one to become killer monkeys. Taliban militants use a series of rewards and punishments to gradually teach them how to use the lethal weapons....Apparently, the Taliban look on monkeys as "propaganda tools." "If a person who loves animals knows the monkeys may be injured in the war, they might pressure the government to force the withdrawal of western forces in Afghanistan," said one Taliban insider. (
This story may be bananas, but it if true it will certainly cause every American soldier and Marine to mutter, while on partrol, "I hate every ape I see/from chimpan-A to chimpan-Z." 
Perhaps the Pakistan Defence Forum--as well as the Chinese news site that originally "broke" the story--should stop monkeying around.  But if this is true, it could become the "blurst of times" for our troops there, as per this Simpsons video:
Here's a covertly-acquired picture of one of these Taliban monkey-trainers:
No word in the article on whether the simians were forced to convert to Islam for the training.
12:44 pm edt          Comments

Iranitizing the Eschaton in DC

Here's the link to the video of the symposium on Iranian Mahdism and WMDs at the Hudson Institute--sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center--in Washington, DC, on June 29.  After Senator Santorum's brief intro, I speak for about 40 minutes, then Michael Ledeen and Cindy Ayers (from the Army War College) respond and then there's a Q & A.

10:42 am edt          Comments

Monday, July 12, 2010

An Imam We Can Do Business With

This site focuses like a laser beam, with good reason, on the eschatological Mahdism of Sunnism and Twelver Shi`ism.  But there are other variations of messianic belief in Islam--one of which is that of the Sevener Shi`is, or Isma'ilis, who believe that the current Aga Khan, who just celebrated 53 years in authority ( is the 49th Imam descended from Muhammad through Ali; these 15 million or so Shi`i Muslims also believe that jihad is NOT violent but, rather, consists of education, economic development, disaster relief and the like (  As I've argued in other venues, Isma'ilis are truly moderate Muslims with whom the U.S. should be cooperating, in lieu of chasing the chimerical "moderate Taliban."

11:45 am edt          Comments

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Internet is Mightier than the Sword?
Al Gore would be happy (if he weren't too distracted by sexual harassment claims by masseuses). According to Adnan Oktar (, the Mahdi's sword will be not a wickedly-curved Damascus steel scimitar but rather, simply, the personal computer and the Internet which will allow the people to hear his divine message.
Also, Mahdism and Neo-Ottomanism are closely linked in Oktar's thought--as evidenced by the old Ottoman imperial crest wall-hanging behind him in the video.  Here's another rendering:
Tragically, it seems, the Mahdi will be a computer nerd; good thing for non-Muslims, however, because I count at least a dozen weapons (swords, pikes/axes, pistols and cannon) in that crest! 
1:02 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Somebody's Comin'....
Somebodies, that is--at least according to Adnan Oktar, a.k.a. Harun Yahya:  Jesus and the Mahdi will both return in the 21st century (my money's on 2076, which is not only the American Tricentennial but the year 1500 AH in the Islamic world).
Oktar, by the way, is a prominent Turkish Mahdist and anti-Darwinist, whom I interviewed two years ago (link is in the archives on this site).  Some Turkish followers think he himself is the Mahdi. 
Note on the linked page the claim that the Mahdi will come from Istanbul. 
11:12 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ground Control to 12th Imam

According to a report in "Satellite PR News" (who knew the satellite market had its own news site?), the Islamic Republic of Iran was to have "unveil[ed]" (their word, not mine) three new "home-built" satellites earlier this year. (By "home-built" I assume they mean "produced domestically," not cobbled together in Ahmadinejad's basement.)  One of the satellites will be named "Ya Mahdi," an "experimental" satellite "that will be used for testing telecommunications and camera equipment." 
Naming this satellite "O Mahdi!" is not just for propaganda purpose; there are highly-educated Iranians, both lay and clerical, who believe that part of the IRI's agenda is to prepare the way for the return of the 12th Imam as the Mahdi--including creating a technological network that will enable him to communicate globally, and instantaneously, with his followers on a planetary scale.  This was a major topic of the "Imam Mahdi: Justice & Globalization" conference in London in 2004, as well as the Mahdism conference in Tehran in 2008--both of which I attended.
Of course, the Mahdi will also be thankful for such satellites that enable him to keep an eye on his enemies, much notably those perfidious Zionists and duplicitous Sunni Arabs.
Here's the link:

9:56 am edt          Comments

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

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