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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, February 23, 2011

You Say Gadhafi, I Say Qaddafi: Let's Blow the Whole Place Up!

A number of conservative analysts have been deriding the Obama Administration's policies as Jimmy Carter-esque for some time; in fact, there's an entire blogsite dedicated to this proposition, entitled “Carter’s Second Term.”  But now a more vexing 1970s-style problem than high-priced gasoline, a feckless foreign policy, chronic high unemployment and the unfortunate return of Sam Donaldson is upon us: how to pronounce the name of Libya’s current dictator.  Not just Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have been struggling with this issue, but the non-radio media: AP uses “Moammar Gadhafi;” BBC employs “Muammar Gaddafi;” the “Christian Science Monitor” and Bloomberg News refer to him as “Muammar Qaddafi;” and Fox News prefers “Muammar al-Qaddafi.”  In point of fact, the academically-correct transliteration(rendering of one language's sounds into another language register) of معمر القذافي is Mu`ammar al-Qadhdhafi: his "last name" begins with the Arabic definite article, followed by the letter qaf which is equivalent to the "Q" in English but which in a number of Arab cultures is pronounced closer to a "G" sound.  The "D" or "DH" in the middle of the beleaguered tyrant's name is actually the Arabic letter dha, for which there is really no analogous English sound; furthermore, this letter is doubled, making it even more confusing and virtually unpronounceable (and seemingly unwritable) by Westerners.  Bottom-line: the correct transliteration of the Libyan el jefe is al-Qadhdhafi, but the easiest and most accurate rendering for Western media outlets would be al-Qadhafi.  Of course, whatever we call him, odds are he won't be in power much longer--a topic upon which I am writing a more profound piece; stay tuned.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Apocalyptic Refrigerator
One of my favorite "Pearls Before Swine" strips (with Rat as the rattled skeptic):
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Mahdist Song Remains the Same

Last Friday President Mahmud Ahmadinejad of Iran said that the anti-government uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were being directed by the 12th Imam (whether still occulted or not, Ahmadinejad did not elaborate).  "`This is a global revolution, managed by the imam of the ages,' he told the crowds gather in and around Tehran's central Azadi Square."  Iran's President also "predicted the formation of a world government, ruled by the 12th Imam" (
Imam Ali Mosque, Qom, Iran 
For anyone who's been living in a well (other than the 12th Imam himself, that is), Iran's brand of Shi`i Islam is called "Twelver" precisely because it posits that there were 12 imams, or rightful leaders of the Islamic community, after Muhammad the Muslim prophet.  The majority Sunni Muslims have always disagreed, however, and so none of those imams (except the first one, Ali) ever held real power.  And in fact the 12th one, Muhammad al-Mahdi, died in the 9th century AD and so the sect developed the belief that he had, instead, gone into ghaybah, "occultation," whence he would return before the end of time to create a global Islamic state (imamate or caliphate), along with the help of his returned friend the "prophet Jesus."  This belief is a staple of Twelver Shi`ism, and not some particularly cultish variation thereof (as Glenn Beck and others claim).  However, what is rather novel about Ahmadinejad's propaganda is his seeming belief that the 12th Imam has already returned, or is at the door.  (Note, too, that WaPo's article title shows the mainstream media once again ignoring Ahmadinejad's Mahdism: "Ahmadinejad says Egypt, Tunisia were inspired by Iran's anti-Western protests."  They should have written "Ahmadinejad claims long-dead Shi`i leader running the protests.")
A point of historical importance regarding Tunis, Libya (where anti-Qadhafi protests are raging), Egypt and Mahdism: In 909 AD another branch of Shi`ism, the Seveners, took power in Tunis (even establishing the city of al-Mahdiyah as their capital) and then moved on to conquer Egypt in 969 AD, which they ruled until 1171 as the Fatimid Imamate (Fatimid stemmed from Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad who married Muhammad's younger cousin Ali and whence came the lilne of Imams). 
So North Africa has an ancient Islamic tradition of Shi`ism, and even Shi`i states.  (For more on  this topic, see my article "A New Empire of the Mahdi? Libyan and Iranian Pan-Islamic Agendas:"
Iranians praying for the return of the 12th
Imam, Jamkaran Mosque, Qom, Aug. 2008
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Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)

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