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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, October 14, 2015

Apocalypse Defused? Ben Carson's Plan to Stymie the Mahdi--and Jesus?!

Dr. Ben Carson, currently polling second (behind Donald Trump) as a Republican Presidential candidate, was interviewed this past Sunday by Sharyl Attkisson on her new show "Full Measure." Starting at 1:35 or so, the following exchange takes place:

Attkisson: "Are we at the End of Days?"

Carson: "You could guess that we are getting closer to that. You do have people who have a belief system that sees this apocalyptic phenomenon occurring and that they are a part of it and who would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if they gain possession of them.

Attkisson: "Is there a chance to change the course if it is something that is prophesized?"

Carson: "I think we have a chance to certainly do everything that we can to ameliorate the situation and provide....I would always be shooting for peace.  I wouldn't just take a fatalistic view of things."

SimpsonsFourHorsemenjpeg.jpg The Four Horsemen of the Simpsons' Apocalypse! 


1)  Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist, a denomination of about a million in the US but 18 million worldwide, which began in the 19th century.  It's largely Evangelical Protestant, albeit infused with several heterodox doctrines such as an insistence on keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as well as the eschatological view that after Judgment sinners will be annihilated rather than cast into Hell.  

2)  "You could guess that we are getting closer" to the Apocalypse would seem to mean Carson believes that it IS approaching.  

3) The "people who...see this apocalyptic phenomenon occurring and...would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons" would be, I think it's safe to assume, the rulers of Iran.  As I've explained before, and at some length, this "hotwiring the apocalypse" thesis is NOT true of either Twelver Shi`ism or Iranian geopolitical imperative.  It IS true of ISIS/ISIL, but I doubt Carson was speaking of them. 

4) In the most intriguing part of the interview, Attkisson asks a man with a very real chance to be the next POTUS whether the burning eschatological cord can be stamped out.  Carson replies steps can be taken to "ameliorate the situation" and "shoot for peace" (a rather oxymoronic phrase, that) because he would not be "fatalistic."  As the famous Vulcan analyst would have said: "Fascinating."  Does Carson mean that Iran's alleged zeal for using nuclear weapons can be reduced or eliminated? Or does he mean, more theologically (and grandiosely), that the Christian apocalypse itself can be headed off, or at least deferred, by actions of the American President? (That would be a case of, I suppose, defusing the apocalypse rather than hotwiring it.)  Perhaps Carson thinks both are true.

It's probably good that a Presidential contender who is also a conservative Christian believes the POTUS can actually tamp down apocalyptic fervor; this is certainly preferable to one who wishes to inflame such sentiments. But it is unfortunate that he seems to share the Evangelical/Right-wing misconception about alleged Iranian apocalyptic use of WMDs. 

11:07 am edt          Comments

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

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