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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, March 12, 2012

Koran Burning: A Primer

Since I have now written four articles on the timely topic of torching the scriptures of the world's second-largest religion, I thought it a good idea to provide links to them all, here, in reverse chronological order (that means "starting with most recent" for those of you from Rabbit Hash, Kentucky): 

1) "Burning Defaced Qur'ans: Islam-Approved" (Geopolitical and historical analysis of Qur'an-burning, and resulting violence, in Afghanistan in February 2012.)

2) "The Qur'an and the Fig Tree" (Mainly theological analysis of how Jesus Christ might treat the Qur'an, written as a rebuttal to my friend Episcopal Father Chuck Treadwell's taking me to the exegetical woodshed over the issue; from September 26, 2010.)


 "The wood from this soon-to-expire fig tree might make a nice bonfire of the Qur'ans, don't you think, Peter?" 

3) "What Would Jesus Do With A Qur'an? Actually, He Might Burn It" (Published 9/22/10; mostly political, but leavened with theological, defense of Pastor Terry Jones' proposed Qur'an burning.)

4) "Fahrenheit 9-1-1: Burning Qur'ans and Bibles." (Originally published September 9, 2010; political critique of the barrage of condemnations aimed at Pastor Terry Jones over his plans to burn a Qur'an.)

* As per correct academic transliteration from Arabic into English, I prefer using "Qur'an," but since the media prefer "Koran," I used that word in the blog title so as to register on more search engines. 

11:12 am edt          Comments

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Soporific Mahdi?

A prominent Turkish Muslim theologian and writer, Hayrettin Karaman, just a few days ago wrote about the Mahdi in the Turkish newspaper "Today's Zaman." The piece was entitled "Is the Islamic world waiting for Mahdi?"  Karaman disagrees with an unnamed "Muslim intellectual"  that only the eschatological Mahdi could create peace and a "just order" and that the establishment of any "new caliphate" prior to the Mahdi's arrival would inevitably transmogrify into a "distorted" brand of a "modern administrative system."  On the contrary, Karaman Bey argues that such "passively awaiting the Mahdi and expecting everything to be accomplished by someone else while doing nothing contradicts Islamic principles," and thus that Muslims need to "shake off this lethargy and learn to ensure harmony between modern and Islamic ideas."


1)  Who is this Muslim thinker that advises waiting for the coming of Islam's primary messianic figure before engaging in political activism? I would very much like to know, but the article does not say.  

2) Karaman is painting all Muslims who believe in the Mahdi as quiescent quislings to the idea of (re-)creating the Caliphate--a common criticism levied by Sunni opponents of Mahdism, but one that is not always accurate.  It is entirely possible to yearn for the coming of the Mahdi and yet simultaneously also take steps to (re-)Islamize society, install a (more) Islamic government and/or politically unify disparate Muslim states.  The historical existence of many Sufi-oriented Mahdist movements in centuries past demonstrates that this is the case in the Sunni world; the ongoing attempts by the Islamic Republic of Iran to "prepare ye the way for the Mahdi" and to establish the Twelfth Imam's state in microcosm there shows that Twelver Shi`is also can walk and chew Mahdist gum at the same time.

3) Relatedly, that Mahdism lulls Muslims to sleep and makes them passive, otherwordly dreamers is an old criticism by Sunni clerics--but one which runs counter to countless historical examples of Sunni and Shi`i activism, political agitation and jihad. 


 The "Seven Sleepers" of Qur'an 18:9ff--whose slumber lasted several centuries but which (contrary to the critiques by the likes of Karaman) was not caused by Mahdism. 

5:49 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hunka' Hunka' Burnin' Qur'ans--OK by Islamic Law!

My article on the latest Qur'an-burning fracas in Afghanistan, and the total ignorance of Islamic strictures and historical examples of the legitimacy of Qur'an-burning, went up on PJ Media yesterday: "Burning Defaced Korans: Islam-Approved" (the media insists on changing the correct transliteration to "Koran").

(By the way: for my not-from-America readers, the title of this entry is a take-off on the Elvis Presley song "Burning Love.") 


8:56 am est          Comments

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

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