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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: http://hnn.us/articles/13146.html; for more in-depth info, see the links here to my other writings, including my book on Mahdism.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Quasi-Mahdi from Kashmir
One of the commentators at the
Islamic online think-tank Grande Strategy claims to have seen the Mahdi, or at least a Mahdi “prototype,”
in his recent post “To the Unknown Mujahid, May We Never Forget You.” This near-Mahdi experience was alleged
to have happened back in 2001, right after the U.S. invasion of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The commentator
was in the Faisal Masjid (presumably the huge Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan) “doing special war prayers
for the Taliban in Afghanistan when “at one point, a CIA operative showed up, pretending to be Italian” (and who
must have been at least a station chief, if not the CIA director himself, because “one day, we did not have those prayers
and the next day we found out that it was because the CIA requested that we don’t pray against them.”)
However, he and his brethren soon defied the CIA directive and returned to war prayers (in a religion of peace?); furthermore,
between sessions of invoking Allah’s wrath upon the infidel Americans, they soon noticed something striking about the
chap teaching Arabic classes in the mosque:
12:03 pm edt
This particular class was being taught by
a man, the like of whom I had never seen before, nor since have ever seen again. When you reach a certain level of spiritual
enlightenment…sometimes you can “see” or “feel”… the “noor” or “aura”
or “spiritual light” of another… This man did not have a glow – it was like a 1000 watt halogen
lamp…. I checked myself by discretely asking a few other brothers… and they too confirmed. [H]e
was tall, bearded wore a military camo jacket and in all his manners was as if he had walked out of the 1st century Hijri.
He spoke English well enough that you could tell he was well-educated and belonged to a noble family. He
was from Kashmir…. Some close relatives of his were also senior officers in the Pakistan Army. He was obviously
a mujahid, although… one that was fighting against India and in Kashmir and had nothing to do with the Afghanistan
war…. Your average jihadi does not have this noor. Some even have a black aura, i.e. they are doing something very
wrong. This man was special in a very real way but when you try to describe why, you are found wanting. I knew his name then,
but… I can’t remember it now…. I later found out that he was taken by the Americans….
I have no idea… if he is dead in a ditch or in Guantanamo bay or some place worse. I would like to put this in the
record that if we ever manage to establish an Islamic state insh’Allah, it should be a top priority to have
this man released insh’Allah….Why? Because I believe…that if he is not the Mahdi
himself or one of his men, at the least he is the precursor to the kind of men that would make up the army of the Mahdi.
Or for those who do not believe in the Mahdi, he is the category of men that can save us from our present circumstances. A
prototype to our success…. Disclaimer: I don't want to claim that he is the Mahdi.
As to the reasons for this
posting, the anonymous Grande Strategist says this is “information that could be useful for the Muslim world”
which could “be lost forever if something happens to me”—although “not intending
this as a farewell address, I fully intend to live long…and see the tables turn [sic]….”
Strategy” appears to be a Pakistani, and most likely Sunni, forum (although it is registered in Bellevue, Washington).
Once again, the lingering conventional wisdom (both scholarly and popular) that only Twelver Shi`is
believe in a coming Mahdi is demonstrated to be wrong.
2) The purveyors of
this site appear to be educated, articulate chaps—so the prejudic e (again, both scholarly and popular) that only ignorant
fellahin (“peasants”) believe in such an eschatological figure is demonstrably false.
Kashmiri Mahdi or mujaddid (“renewer” of Islam) might be problematic, because several hadiths state that
the Mahdi must be an Arab, like Islam’s founder, Muhammad. (This was one of my criticisms of the
otherwise-entertaining fiction book from 1999 by Margo Dockendorf, The Mahdi: A Millennium Thriller—she has the Mahdi coming from India.)
4) The Mahdist “glow”
or “aura” attributed to this unknown Mahdist mujahid sounds like that claimed by Mahmud Ahmadinejad in his initial U.N. speech in 2005. Sunni hadiths about the Mahdi do not predict
such a phenomenon—but representations of the Shi`i imams regularly portray them thusly. And, interestingly enough, this puts the allegations
that Ahmadinejad may think that he is the Mahdi in a whole new light.
5) One has to wonder just
how powerful the Islamic deity is if his “rightly-guided one”—or even an epigone thereof—can be taken
prisoner by an infidel Christian power. Again, the thesis that the U.S. invaded Iraq
to gainsay the Mahdi’s coming-out party has been advanced before, by both Ahmadinejad and Muqtada al-Sadr. But does it not occur to these chaps that such a claim simply make Allah look impotent?
On the other hand, perhaps the Marines at Gitmo have been briefed that the Mahdi is under their care; this might at least
explain why American military guards, most of whom are Christian, have been ordered to “revere” the Qur’an there.
6) This Grande Strategist
wants to bring back the caliphate (as he, or someone on that site, has advocated at length previously)—and thinks this quasi-mahdi may be just the chap to head it up, or at least
to help build it.
7) The author carefully avoids a categorical claim that
he saw the Mahdi in Islamabad—but he comes very, very close to doing so. And his willingness to do
so now, some eight years later, another bit in the growing pile of evidence that even educated, Sunni Muslims have convinced
themselves that the plight of the ummah is so dire that only the Mahdi can save it. This will
become an increasingly problematic factor in global geopolitics as the 21st century advances, especially as 2076
AD (1500 AH) appoaches, since Mahdist expectations increase at the turn of every Islamic century.
|Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)