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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, September 6, 2010

Waiting is (Still) the Hardest Part--Especially If You're a Zionist
According to Hujjatollah Mojtaba Zolnour, Ayatollah Khameinei's deputy representative to the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps), "Zionists are waiting for the Hidden Imam to appear to kill him" (Radio Free Europe's "Persian Letters," September 1, 2010:   Zolnour alleges that those wily, perfidioius Zionists have assassins staking out  the likes of Mecca and Karbala, ready to send the 12th Imam (back?) to the domain of the 72 houris.  Of course, according to the fevered Mahdist imaginations of the Zolnours in Tehran and Qom, Israelis are part of the occupying forces in Iraq--hence their ability to case Karbala.  
This paranoid fear for the life of Islam's major messianic figure is strange indeed.  First, we have heard this before: earlier this year Presdient Ahmadinejad claimed that the U.S. was "hindering the Mahdi's return"(; and Moqtada al-Sadr (he of southern Iraq's Shi`i Jaysh al-Mahdi, "Army of the Mahdi"), said the same thing in 2006 (  Second, who is the intended audience for this claptrap--the Basij (the IRGC's domestic, paramilitary auxiliary)? the rural hoi polloi? Iraqi Shi`is? the non-existent Palestinian Shi`i demographic? And third, do not clerics like Zolnour who utter such unadulerated silliness realize just how impotent and vulnerable it makes their expected deliverer appear?  Imagine Christian televangelist John Hagee or, much more seriously, Pope Benedict XVI claiming that the returned Jesus Christ could be hindered, much less killed, by, say, Marxist or "Zionist" hit teams. 
Yet for some reason influential Twelver Shi`i spokesmen (Zolnour, Ahmadinejad and al-Sadr) continue this refrain of the coming Mahdi's vulnerability to profane powers and their weaponry. 
It's almost enough to make one wonder whether these men might be laying the propaganda ground for the attempted assumption of the Mahdi's title by someone, and his inevitable subsequent demise at the hands of Americans, Sunnis or "unbelieving" Shi`is--er, I mean, "Zionists!"  Which would, of course, give the Islamic Republic of Iran an excuse to....well, fill in the blank.  But a live-fire test of a nuclear weapon certainly comes to mind.
10:12 pm edt          Comments

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

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