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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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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Mahdi Went Down to Georgia....

Little did I know that only 100 miles or so from where I live in Georgia (USA, not the former USSR), there are concrete--well, granite--signs of the Mahdi's coming.  East of Atlanta the so-called "Georgia Guidestones" were erected in 1980, funded by a still-unknown, allegedly-Neo-Rosicrucian benefactor (perhaps Ted Turner, but my money is on Umberto Eco).  These enormous slabs are engraved, in eight different languages, with rather anodyne rubrics on how to achieve an Age of Aquarius, er, Reason. 


Now, over three decades after their construction and emplacement, Mr. Van Smith claims to have ascertained the real reason for this "modern Stonehenge:" serving as a harbinger of the imminent coming of the Mahdi!  According to Smith, the Georgia Guidestones are somehow linked to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's tallest building, in pointing to the Mahdi's arrival.  Smith also weaves into his conspiratorial apocalyptic narrative the usual suspects: Freemasons (of course!), the Dajjal, the "Eye of Providence" on the dollar bill and a recently-discovered comet.  In a bit of a twist, however, Smith downgrades the Mahdi to the level of having "occult puppet masters pulling his strings"--so that "World War III [would] be waged in order for the Mahdi to ascend to his global throne, with the ultimate resolution being the destruction of the West: the United States, Great Britain, Israel and their closest allies must be toppled, with billions of human lives extinguished." (The end goal is a reduction of the planet's population to only 500 million, in order to fulfill the Guidestones' secular commandments to live in harmony with nature.  I think I've read this story already--Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six.)


Smith yet again demonstrates the inaccurate understanding of these matters evinced by many armchair eschatologists: he thinks that only "Shiite[s]" (sic) believe in the Mahdi (actually, many Sunnis do, as well, and the belief more often manifests in Sunni venues); he claims that Iran's eschatological video "The Coming Is Upon Us" set a date for the Twelfth Imam's reappearance (it did no such thing, as I pointed out in my article on the topic); and he thinks that only recently have "Shiite leaders" begun equating the Dajjal with Freemasonry--but in fact this exegetical trope has been around for decades (as I point out both in my dissertation, and in my book).  

At least he didn't claim that the Mahdi plays the fiddle....

12:33 am edt          Comments

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Between the Devil and Imam al-Mahdi: Islamic and Christian Eschatology since 9/11

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, I lectured on "Eschatology since 9/11" at the Concordia University-Irvine (CA) memorial "9/11: Ten Years Later." Herewith are some of my major points from that talk:

♦  Sometimes momentous events spur eschatological aspirations in the Islamic world, as happened when Ottoman Sultan Süleyman besieged Vienna twice in the 16th century and was thought to be the Mahdi.  Conversely, the cusp of almost every Islamic century has seen Mahdi claimants who took it upon themselves to fight for the end times caliphate--such as Muhammad Ahmad in 1300 AH/1883 and the Saudi Mahdists of 1400/1979.  The 9/11 attacks are examples of events leading to Mahdist expectations and claims, while as the important date 1500 (2076 AD, by the way) approaches, the world will increasingly see self-styled Mahdis striding onto the historical stage and influencing events.

♦  There are several different varieties of Mahdism extant in the modern world:

  Sunni v. (Twelver, Sevener/Isma'ili, and Fiver/Zaydi) Shi`i

  State (Iran) v. Non-state (Jaysh al-Mahdi, Ansar al-Mahdi, Jund al-Sama'--all of Iraq)

  Violent (JAM, JAS, al-Qa`idah splinters) v. Non-violent (Turkish Gülenists, followers of Adnan Oktar)

  Programmatic (most of the aforementioned) v. "Sudden Mahdi Syndrome"--a chap who seems to suddenly decide he's the Mahdi, and take action accordingly  (archived here for years)

♦  Mahdism and expectations of a global Islamic state are increasingly  Pan-Islamic, with cross-pollination between heretofore distinct Sunni and Shi`i world-views--and this line is increasingly promoted by Iran's leaders (as a means of achieving titular, if not real, leadership of the entire ummah over against their arch-enemy, Saudi Arabia)

♦  An eschatological "blowback" in the Christian--particularly evangelical Protestant--world has developed, and the idea of the  Mahdi/12th Imam of Islam as the Antichrist of Revelation has taken hold (via authors such as Perry Stone, Joel Richardson, and  Jack Smith); caveats, however are:

  No Rapture of believers occurs in Islam

  Jesus returns as a Muslim prophet, having been neither crucified nor resurrected according to the Qur'an

  In Islamic eschatology, unlike Christian, their "savior" returns within the normal space-time continuum and reconfigures the world as a powerful, divinely-guided (but not really mystical) historical actor (an Islamic Napoleon, in effect)--whereas in Revelation much of the action takes place post-history (Left Behind notwithstanding)

  Messianism as a revolutionary political and military movement has been the norm in Islamic history, whereas in Christian history such has been the exception (16th c. German "Kingdom of Münster,"  19th c. messianic Taiping rebellion in Qing China) rather than the rule

.: Bottom line here is that Muslims and (certain Protestant) Christians are locked in a dialectic in which each sees the GWOT/"war on Islam" as not just military but spiritural and indeed eschatological--very similar to what happened in the times before and after the year 1000 AD, which saw Islamic conquests leading to Crusades, and Crusades in turn sparking more jihads. 

♦  Watch the Sufis! These mystics of Islam could either turn out to be the soporific antidote to frenetic, jihadist Mahdism--or its most willing recruits (both are roles which Sufis have played in the past vis-a-vis Mahdist movements).   The aformentioned Gülen and Oktar movements are  the former; the Naqshbandis in modern Iraq have assumed the guise of the latter.  

♦  Muslim eschatologists are now practicing "newspaper exegesis," borrowed from the likes of Hal Lindsey (author of The Late Great Planet Earth) and LaHaye and Jenkins (Left Behind authors). Before 9/11 this was mainly the province of Sunni writers; but since then the Iranians have adopted this paradigm, most notably in their government-sponsored video "The Coming Is Upon Us" (which I wrote about earlier this year, in "Letting Slip the Jinns of Jihad?"). 

♦ Anti-Semitism (more properly, since Arabs are Semites too, anti-Judaism) is not an ideology that just developed in the Islamic world courtesy of Nazi influence.  Not only did the early Islamic community, at Muhammad's order, wipe out the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah in Medina, but there are Islamic hadiths, "sayings" allegedly going back to the religion's founder himself, that the Islamic antichrist--al-Dajjal (literally "the Deceiver")--and his followers would be Jewish.  Thus, ramped-up Islamic eschatology goes hand-in-fist with rising anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions among too many Muslims--and both feed into Egyptian, Turkish and Iranian disgust with Israel, over and above the mundane issue of Palestinian rights. 


 Islamic Last Judgment, Iranian, Late 19th c.

10:13 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If There's a Messiah Row at the Concertgebouw....
Last week, in Amsterdam, at a Concertgebouw event marking 100 years of Dutch composers, a Muslim grabbed the microphone on the stage and announced "in the name of Allah" that he was...wait for, not the Mahdi, but Jesus! The Radio Netherlands story says "the 39-year-old Amsterdam resident is well-known to the police. He has been detained on several occasions for interrupting public gatherings and...'making a confused impression.'" Security marched him off, and there was no word on whether Queen Beatrix, or her jewelery, was rattled (obscure Beatles reference--John Lennon, specifically--in case you're wondering).
Speaking of the Beatles, this blog post title is courtesy of McCartney's "Rock Show"--probably the only song in history to use "Concertgebouw" in the lyrics.  
Serious questions: Is it illegal in the Netherlands to make "confused impressions?"  If so, shouldn't most Dutch politicians be incarcerated, since few of them are willing to speak the truth about Islam? And who, or what, is this addled gentleman misrepresenting: Jesus or Allah; Christianity or Islam?  Let us hope that Dutch law is not dhimmified such that it is now in the business of enforcing only "correct impressions" about Islam--but I am not so sure.
Hunka' hunka' burning messiahs, as seen by
a medieval Persian artist.
1:32 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Years After 9/11: The Role of Islamic Eschatology

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, I will be speaking at Concordia University-Irvine's Convocation 9/11: Ten Years Later on "Eschatology on the Middle East".  Two distinguished speakers will precede me: Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathon Shaw, and Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto, who will deal with, respectively, "The Role of Religion in the War on Terror" and "Where Have All Those Weapons Gone?"  If you're in SoCal, please come out.


8:56 am edt          Comments

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

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