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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, April 18, 2011

A Muslim Prophet Is Not Without Honor--Except in Somaliland
Somalilandpress reports that a man claiming to be a prophet and the Mahdi was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison as well as a back-breaking (in the Horn of Africa) $300 fine:

A local court in the capital Hargeisa on Saturday sentenced an ethnic Somali man to two years imprisonment and $300 fine for claiming to be a prophet. Judge Abdulrashid Mohamed Hersi said Ethiopian national Sharif Ahmed Ali was found guilty of claiming prophethood. The judicial official added he claimed to be Prophet al-Khadar and the Mahdi....During the five-day proceedings, he pleaded innocent and denied all the accusations but the court insisted they have seven witnesses. Mr Ali was carrying a stick which he claimed holds define powers [sic] like Prophet Moses, the court ordered to be destroyed. He also told locals he controls mother nature and that he will ensure it does not rain in the country for the next eight months. His words come as the region is hit by the worst drought in two decades. The court finally ordered him to be deported back to his native land in the Ethiopian administered Somali Region once he finishes serving his two year term. This is the first time such case has occurred in Somaliland and there is no blasphemy law but Muslims believe that prophet Mohammad is the last prophet from God. Numerous such cases have been reported in places such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Iran.
1) al-Khidr is a strange figure in Sura al-Kahf [18] who meets Moses and does some perplexing things.  al-Khidr is a favorite of the Sufis (some of whom believe he never died) and of  Twelver Shi`is (some of whom believe he accompanies the Mahdi--so being both al-Khidr and al-Mahdi is a twofer!). 
2) Who knew there was a WMD problem in Somalia?  Good thing the court ordered that boomstick destroyed.
3) Since the chap was from Ethiopia (although, presumably, a Muslim), why not just deport him back there rather than sentence him to the hell of a Somali prison?  Perhaps the judge deemed him a stooge of those perfidious Ethiopian Christians, and that a couple of years on ice (or, in the Horn of Africa case, on brimstone) would sufficiently detach him from his handlers. (IF it's only a couple of years--$300 is several years' income there, and if he can't raise the money he might never get out.)
4) If there is no blasphemy law, why is it a punishable offense to claim prophethood? Come to think of it, this might be a good idea here in the US--especially before the 2012 Presidential election, just in case Obama gets any wild ideas.
5) Even Somali news organs are now noting the "numerous cases" of folks claiming to be the Mahdi in recent years.  In all seriousness: isolated incidents of such deranged individuals are indicative of very little; but a large and growing pattern of such, all with the same  Mahdist derangement, is much more noteworthy. 

10:08 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Meccan Mahdi?!
As if Barack Husayn Obama's resurrection of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy wasn't enough to make you feel like it's 1979 all over again:  "A man snatched the microphone at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and declared he was the Mahdi, the prophesied redeemer of Islam who is expected to come prior to the Day of Resurrection. According to eyewitnesses, the imam has just started the Asr (afternoon) prayer when the man grabbed the microphone and made his announcement, Saudi daily Arab News reported. Security officers inside the mosque quickly arrested the man who was said to be an Egyptian national in his 30s. The man was taken to the police station on the mosque premises for investigation. Initial reports say that the man was suffering from mental problems..." (according to
1) For any journalists or politicians who read this: 1979 was the year not only of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the creation of the Islamic Republic in Iran, but also of the attempted Mahdist take-over of Saudi Arabia by forces loyal to the Mahdi Muhammad b. Abd Allah al-Qahtani and his eminence grise, Juhayman al-Utaybi.  These Mahdists occupied this same Grand Mosque for some three weeks in late 1979, until killed or captured by French forces hired by the Saudis (who did not trust the incompetent Carter CIA to help). 
(Mahdi al-Qahtani at room temperature.)

2) Evidence suggests that this new Meccan Mahdi is a Sunni, not a Shi`i: he is in the stronghold of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, and he proclaimed himself Mahdi, not the returned 12th Imam--as would have been the case if he were Shi`i (in the Twelver Shi`ism or Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, the Mahdi has already been here and disappeared over a millennium ago; in Sunni Mahdism the Mahdi has yet to arrive, despite false claims over the centuries by legions of self-styled Mahdis). 
3) There are several ways to parse his being an Egyptian national.  This may simply be a ruse to lay blame on someone other than a Saudi.  If he truly is Egyptian, perhaps the recent events there excited him so much that he decided to go to Sunnism Central and kick the revolutionary fervor up a notch--and the highest level of such in Islam is the holiest war of eschatological Mahdism.  Also, as I reported on this blog last fall (November 17, 2010), followers of Ahmad Hassan al-Yamami, an Iraqi who claims to be the "son of the 12th Imam," were arrested in Egypt.  Was this Mahdi claimant one of al-Yamami's group (which would seem to put him at loggerheads with the chief of Ansar al-Mahdi), or perhaps influenced by the Egyptian branch thereof? 

4) "Suffering from mental problems" is a diagnosis that one might reasonably well apply to anyone in history who claimed to be the Mahdi--from the 11th century AD Ibn Tumart, whose followers took over most of northwest Africa; to Shah Isma'il of Iran whose fanatical Safavids followed him as the Mahdi and violently converted that country to Shi`ism in the 17th century; and to Muhammad Ahmad of Sudan whom hundreds of thousands of Sudanese revered as the Mahdi enough to kill not just General Charles Gordon and his British and Egyptian troops but scores of their fellows who did not share their Mahdist convictions.   But such mental problems--megalomania perhaps the chief of them, often accompanied by delusions of hearing the voices of Allah, the angel Jibril and the deceased prophet Muhammad telling him he was the Mahdi--did not stop these men (nor the scores of others, less successful, such as Mehmet the Mahdi in early Republican Turkey or the aformentioned al-Qahtani) and, in fact, probably empowered them with charisma in the eyes of their followers. 
5) A deluded chap temporarily pulling a Mahdist Phil Donahue in Mecca may not seem like much, but when you add this example to the scores of others in recent years (as discussed on this site--see the archives) it's hard not to conclude that another avenue of popular protest, alongside that calling for toppling of tyrants and more input from the Arab (and other) hoi polloi,  that may once again emerge in the Muslim street is Mahdism. In fact, Mahdism has proved the most Islamically-legitimate means of overthrowing "unjust" and "unIslamic" rulers in both Sunni and Shi`i sections of the ummah for a millennium.  The Saudis know this, courtesy of 1979; the Iranians (at least the leaders) live it.  Even staid, still somewhat secular modern Turkish society has produced two men with Mahdist aspirations: Fethullah Gulen and Adnan Oktar.  Mahdism is a force whose power has yet to be fully realized in the 21st century Islamic world.
10:28 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Iran's New Mahdism Video: Letting Slip the Jinns of Jihad?
My article on the aformentioned topic is up on the History News Network:
8:21 pm edt          Comments

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

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