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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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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back in the Bishkek Mahdiyah....

It seems that police stations, sports centers and synagogues were not the only locales on the Mahdist target list in Kyrgyzstan.  So too was (and probably still is) the USA Manas airbase, a "critical logistics hub for the US war effort in Afghanistan."  According to this new report from "The Telegraph," it was on the hit list of "a newly formed Kyrgyz militant group, calling itself Jamat Kyrgyzstan Jaish al-Mahdi, or 'the Army of the Righteous Ruler', which is dedicated to establishing an Islamic caliphate across Central Asia" ( 
Mahdists, of course, are proponents not just of a caliphate but a Mahdiyah, a divinely-guided Islamic state headed not merely by a caliph but by the eschatological Mahdi, directly guided by Allah. 
No word yet on whether or not Mahdist-caused explosions were accompanied by balalaikas ringing out.

5:25 pm est          Comments

Those Kyrgyz Mahdis Really Knock Me Out

Iraq. Pakistan. Palestine.  Now add Kyrgyztan to the roster of Muslim-majority states with openly declared Mahdist movements:
The chairman of Kyrgyzstan's state committee on national security, Keneshbek Duishebaev, said a group called "Zhayshul Mahdi" (Army of the Righteous Ruler) was responsible for a series of bombings in Bishkek, including one near a synagogue last autumn and one outside a sports complex, as well as a recent attempted bombing outside a Bishkek police station.
Duishebaev said the leader of the group, whom he identified as Sovetbek Islamov, was killed during a security operation. Duishebaev said the group has 16 members: 15 Kyrgyz nationals and one Russian. He said of those, 11 are under arrest, two are dead and three are currently being sought.
1) "Jaysh al-Mahdi" is the same name (transposed to Kyrgyz from Arabic) as Muqtada al-Sadr's group in Iraq. This may mean some connection, but more likely it simply reflects the militant jihadistic bent of many current Mahdist ideologies.
2) Note that the targets of this Mahdist jihad have been a police station, sports complex and synagogue.  Considering that of Kyrgyzstan's 5.5 million population, only perhaps 1,300 are Jews--one has to ask why this miniscule population was singled out for Mahdist violence?  Christians, mainly Russian Orthodox, make up a substantial minority and would seem to be a more logical target of Islamic Mahdist wrath. Most analysts will lay the blame on jihadist and conservative Muslim rage at Israel, conveniently ignoring that Islamic teachings in general, and eschatological ones in particular, condemn Jews as minions of al-Dajjal, the "Deceiver" (or Antichrist). 
3) One should take the Kyrgyz government claim of this group's small number with a healthy dose of skeptical salt.  Governments are always loathe to give accurate numbers of opposition groups--especially eschatological ones.
4) But even if there really are only 16 active, jihadist Mahdists in this central Asian nation, it's yet more evidence that even in an overwhemingly Sunni context Mahdism can develop--no surprise to anyone who has studied this aspect of Islamic history.

10:45 am est          Comments

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Nuclearizing the Eschaton, or Pre-Stocking the Mahdi's Arsenal?"

That's the title of my newly-published paper on the website of INEGMA (Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis):
This is the print version (somewhat revised) of the presentation I gave at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, last summer.
My thesis is that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT pursuing nuclear weapons in order to "hotwire the apocalpyse" and, via a nuclear attack on Israel, spark the return of the Twelfth Imam as the Mahdi; my research indicates that Twelver Shi`i theology does NOT support such a position (although there are Sunni apocalyptic groups that do hold to that view) and thus that Iran's WMD aspirations are more mundanely geopolitcal rather than eschatological.
Read it for yourself and tell me what you think.

6:19 pm est          Comments

Dueling (Turkish and Iranian) Mahdisms
Today I learned from a source in the camp of the Turkish Mahdist Adnan Oktar, a.k.a. "Harun Yayha," that just this past week a delegation of eight Iranian clerics (one ayatollah and seven hujjatollahs) had been in Istanbul with Oktar and his staff to discuss harmonizing their respective views on the Mahdi.  I was told that "briefly, their [the Iranians'] main concern is that [the] US and Israel will try to stop [the] Mahdi and will fight against him" and that Oktar "told them to work on the Islamic Union and not to be concerned about Israel and [the] US. He promised them that he will handle that part and that they have nothing to worry about. And he also explained in detail why Mahdi will not shed any blood."  The Iranian clerics then departed for their own country--although sans evidence of divine warnings via dreams and/or any need to do so via a different route. 
1) Yours truly deserves at least some credit (or blame) for this Turkish-Iranian Mahdist dialogue, since it was after my trip to the 2008 Mahdism conference in Tehran that, while in Istanbul, I mentioned the idea of Oktar and his people participating in that annual gathering.  (Does this mean I get special dispensation from the Mahdi when he comes--despite my Christian beliefs?)
2)  Twelver Shi`i fears that American and/or Israeli forces are planning to interdict and battle the Mahdi, heretofore believed to be the province only of Ahmadinejad and his closest allies, would seem to be more wide-spread in Iranian religio-political circles than that.  Of course, my previous blogged-upon question remains:  just what kind of divinely-guided leader is it that can be stymied by secular (infidel, even!) powers?
3) Oktar is pushing his brand of "Neo-Ottomanism" as an Islamic unity vehicle to the Iranians; knowing the historical geopolitical enmity between the Ottoman Turks and the Iranians (under various dynasties, especially the Safavids), that might be a tough sell in Tehran.
4) Oktar's view of the Mahdi is of a pacific one--not the global warlord expected by some (but not all) Twelver Shi`is  and far from the violent Islamic conqueror figure beloved of Sunni eschatological prognosticators.  This is a very positive view and one that, instead of mocking, perhaps Western analysts and even policy-makers might consider applauding.
6:08 pm est          Comments

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

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