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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: http://hnn.us/articles/13146.html; for more in-depth info, see the links here to my other writings, including my book on Mahdism.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March Badness: the Ultimate Terrorist Tournament!

The Sweet 16 Terrorist Groups of March Badness have been selected! The first rounds were dominated by one-beheading wins and the surprising strength of some Marxist squads,  But eventually the psychopathic, thuggish power of the Islamic groups imposed its will on the less-motivated infidel ones.  

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Haqqani Network took out the Tea Party, Boko Haram bested Jundullah and MB got the nod over the Marxist PKK. Jabhat al-Nusrah beat Libyan jihadists, BH's rival in Nigeria, Ansaru, advanced as did Hizbullah, leaning on its McFalafel's All-Stars from Iran. CAIR pummelled al-Shabab with subterfuge and Obama administration support, while TTP overwhelmed its Bangladeshi cousin with sheer numbers. ISIS, the #1 seed, easily moved into the Sweet 16 (and proved it's no longer just the "JV"), but the AQ-offshoot al-Mulathimun Battalion eked out an overtime win over Abu Sayyaf. Core AQ beat the fictional Dunedain Rangers, although the latter managed to take out several of the former's #2 leaders. JAT also advanced, as did Mali's Ansar al-Din and, of course HAMAS. Continuity IRA's bid to be the lone non-Muslim group in the Sweet 16 fell short, as the loaded lads were no match for the teetotaling Army of Islam. Who will win the crown? Stay tuned!

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6:22 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Goals of the Islamic State: Hijrah, al-Haramayn and Hegemony

What are the goals of the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL/”Da`ish?”  Some commentators and journalists seem to think these are simply to continue beheading, oppressing and terrorizing.  But self-proclaimed Caliph al-Baghdadi and his ansar have more concrete aims in mind—based on my reading of ISIS publications, review of its videos, scrutiny of its actions and putting all those in the context of Islamic history.  

Short-term, ISIS wants to consolidate the Iraqi and Syrian territories which it  has occupied into a functioning state.  This plan appears to be working quite well, for ISIS has expanded its area of control since US (and “Coalition”) airstrikes began late 2014.  (If you don’t like Department of Defense-derived “Wall Street Journal” maps, take a look at these of Syria and Iraq by an independent observer—both clearly show ISIS expanding its domain.)  At the same time, it conducts an on-going agenda of both jihad and da`wah—the former mainly against near enemies, but also including appeals for individual sympathizers to go after Western targets where they live; the latter focused on attracting as many Muslims as possible to make the hijrah from their current locales to the Islamic State.  Again, both sides of this Islamic coin are well-spent, from al-Baghdadi’s perspective. 

Long-term, ISIS—as many breathlessly have reported—aspires to not just ruling all the Islamic portions of the Middle East, Europe and South/Central Asia, but Rome and points further west, including the United States.  This may be a hookah-dream, but considering that the ideology—if not quite all the brutal activity—of ISIS has solid grounding in Salafism, both its Wahhabi and Deobandi (South Asian) versions, it’s something that should be taken seriously by non-Muslims. 

It is the medium-term goals of ISIS that should most concern us.  I submit that these primarily are two-fold:  1) to goad us—that is, the United States—into inserting ground troops into, particularly, Syria, as a means of fulfilling the hadith about the great apocalyptic battle  near Dabiq; and 2) to take over Saudi Arabia, or at least to cause such regional instability that Riyadh’s regime fractures, and ISIS Toyotas ride triumphantly into al-Haramayn, the “two holy places” of Mecca and Medina. 

RaqqahtoMecca.jpg The circuitous, quasi-road route for ISIS Toyotas to take to Islamic legitimacy.  Cutting straight south would shave many km/miles off this trip.

The first objective I have discussed at length on this website, in many posts going back into 2013. (Feel free to review.)  The second one, thus, I will now address.  The idea had  occurred to me before, but struck home again recently as I was re-reading portions of the insightful  God’s  Caliph:  Religious  Authority in the First Centuries of Islam by Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds (Cambridge, 1986/2003)—in particular this: “[I]t was control of these places [Mecca and Medina] rather than world domination which gave the Ottoman caliphate a certain plausibility, just as it is control of the same places which gives the Sa`udi monarchs a quasi-caliphal role today” (note 18, p. 100).  

In order to have true, historical caliphal legitmacy, one must rule the two most holy sites of Islam.  And while ISIS labels all extant Sunni regimes in the Middle East as ţaghūt, “idolatrous” and/or “tyrannical,” the Sa`udi one which holds sway over Mecca and Medina is obviously the most odious.  So those who think that ISIS will drive toward al-Quds, Jerusalem, first are wrong—its primary near enemy is the Sa`udis, not the Jews/Israelis.  

In addition, those writers and analysts who stress the vast differences between [pseudo-] Caliph al-Baghdadi and his Ottoman predecessors might want to take a few courses in Ottoman history.  While not, institutionally, a fundamentalist Islamic state (if for no other reason than a large, and influential, minority of the Empire was Christian), some Ottoman sultans were not all that dissimilar to the ruler of ISIS.  Murad IV (d. 1640) hated Sufis, Shi`is, tobacco, coffee and alcohol (in that order), waging jihad—both personal and public—against  all of them (although he died of cirrhosis, probably from secretly imbibing).  Murad was heavily influenced by the 17th century Ottoman Sunni fundamentalist movement known as the Kadizadelis, whose ideas ISIS echoes, albeit probably unknowingly.  

Unlike al-Baghdadi, however, Murad led his troops personally into battle and, of course, already ruled the two holy cities down in Arabia (the Ottomans having conquered them in 1517).  Perhaps if Islamic State’s caliph would emulate his Ottoman predecssor regarding the former activity, American forces could ensure that we wouldn’t have to worry about him gaining the legitimacy that comes with the latter.  But if al-Baghdadi stays “above” the fray—conveniently out of it, that is—then ISIS’s goal of extending its caliphate 1400 miles south remains a worrisome one, that should concern not just the Sa`udis but American policymakers.

MuradandBaghdadi.jpg Murad IV and his current epigone. The former had a bigger sword, albeit a smaller watch. 

11:39 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Radio Primer on Mahdism

was on the "Peter Boyles Show," KNUS AM 710, Denver, this morning ostensibly to discuss the Israeli election--but I wound up speaking for most of the 30 minutes on Mahdism.  This is a good primer for those wishing to learn about the topic. 

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The Mahdi gets validated by Allah--well, actually by a laser from a satellite (according to AJ Quinnell's excellent 1981 fiction book, The Mahdi). 

1:19 pm edt          Comments

Lying, and Lying About It: Grima Wormtongue and Islam

"You lie," said Wormtongue. "That word comes too oft and easy from your lips," said Gandalf. "I do not lie. See, Théoden, here is a snake. With safety you cannot take it with you, nor can you leave it behind. To slay it would be just. But it is not always as it now is. Once it was a man...."--"The King of the Golden Hall," Lord of the Rings, p. 520.

Grimacloseup.jpg Shaving the eyebrows, or shaving the upper lip--both work well for Liars.

Increasingly on social media, especially on Twitter, I am confronted by (passive-aggressive) Muslims who accuse me of lying about Islam.  Following are two recent examples:

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And:

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After that string, ISIS-sympathizer "Jamal" also posted this reply to me:

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So...."Ali" says that Islamic truth is somehow separate from the Qur'an, and further that reading it in Arabic is irrelevant--which of course goes against 1435 years of Islamic teachings.  Meanwhile ISISite "Jamal," whose first reply to me contained two posters with pictures of President Obama and SecState Kerry over the caption "wanted dead or alive," brands me a liar for asking him about the indisputable beheadings and kidnappings/slavery in which ISIS engages. 

What is going on here? Are such Muslims as Ali and Jamal really that stupid (due to lack of education, or perhaps even incest)? Or do they simply think that we are that stupid--enough to be taken in by taqiyya?  

Perhaps such men been so blinded by the incessant need to apologize for Islam and Muslims, at all costs, that they are no longer capable of even discerning right from wrong, truth from error--or they are, like Gríma Wormtongue, cognizant of the differences but simply, totally subervient to the Lie. M. Scott Peck, in his unsettling but brilliant book People of the Lie, said such folks are immersed in "militant ignorance." I can think of no better term to describe those who slavishly follow a 7th c. literal understanding of Islam, like ISIS--and their enablers, like Ali and Jamal.  Such follow the path of Gríma Wormtongue, abandoning their humanity for lies--all the while throwing up a smoke-screen, accusing others of doing so.  Only when Islam no longer theologically privileges lying to non-Muslims will such madness begin to cease--and that may take decades, if not centuries, alas. 

Of course, there is not much difference between what these Muslims said to me, and a POTUS who denies the Islamic bona fides of jihad or a CIA director who does likewise.  Both are declaiming "you lie" to anyone pointing out the inconvenient theological and historical truths about Islam.  And as long as our leaders emulate Gríma, keeping as many as possible willfully blind to the truth, the West shall remain, like Théoden, enfeebled and incapable of rising to the challenge.  

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12:30 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Red Heifers and Red Herrings: "Dig" Ignores Islamic Apocalyptic Activism

As if I don’t get enough eschatology in my day job—now I’m immersing myself in the topic by night, once weekly, with the new TV show “Dig.”  An FBI agent stationed at the US consulate in Jerusalem gets embroiled in a nefarious eschatological plot, led by a mysterious Orthodox rabbi and a Protestant minister to hotwire the apocalypse via a red heifer and 13-year old holy child who may or may not be the clone of Jesus.  The usual tropes appear: Peter Connelly almost became a Catholic priest before joining the FBI—but now is having an affair with his boss and brooding over the death of his daughter;  Tad Billingham is not just a Protestant cult leader but, of course, merciless and conniving (is there any other kind of fundamentalist Christian?); the Israeli cop chain-smokes, wisecracks incessantly, gruffly orders around subordinates—and has an uncle who knows all about the Urim and Thummim.  And the red heifer connection between Old Testament Judaism and fundamentalist Christian eschatology has been ripped from modern news stories.   

There are a few twists: a Jewish faction seemingly working to stop  (or perhaps hijack?) this attempt to move the apocalyptic needle is called the Essenes—but I wonder whether the modern descendants of those who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls would have Special Forces-level military training? The US Ambassador, revealed as part of the plot, spends her time in the Jerusalem consulate rather than the actual US embassy over in Tel Aviv.  Peter’s dead daughter appears reincarnated in a young American archaeology student whom he meets—the night before she is brutally murdered. 

Of course, the most striking aspect of “Dig” is that it posits a Jewish-Christian cabal trying to spark the coming of the Jewish Messiah/the return of Jesus—or at least the apocalyptic conditions for that to happen.  There are “Christian Zionists” who believe the Temple must be rebuilt so that Jesus can come again (even if the Antichrist has to dwell in it first); there are also some Jewish groups, such as the “Temple Institute,” which wish to do so—although for non-Jesus-related reasons.   (There is even one Muslim group, that of Adnan Oktar of Istanbul, which promotes a Third Temple on the Mount alongside the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.)  

But in the modern world, the only folks actively attempting to hotwire the apocalypse are Salafi (fundamentalist) Sunni Muslims, most notably ISIS (ISIL/”Da`ish”) and Jabhat al-Nusrah—as I have explained before, at length, in various posts on this site going back to 2013.  ISIS in particular, in the many issues of “Dabiq”—named after the northwestern Syrian town where hadiths say the great victory of Muslims over Christian forces will occur—trumpets its firm belief that the pre-Mahdi End Times are upon us, and that its actions are helping to realize the eschaton. 

Regarding eschatology, the media often “conflate[s] the conservative evangelical view with [that] of all Christians”—as they tend to do with, for example, evolution.   But the mainstream Christian view is not one of knowing when the End will come—much less triggering it.   Regarding Jesus’ discourse on the End of the Age in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, the Lutheran Study Bible says the following: “No one knows when the events Jesus prophesied will take place; therefore, Christians are to focus on the work He has given them” and quotes St. Augustine’s admonition “Let no one then search out for the last Day, when it is to be; but less us watch by all our good lives, lest the last day of any one of us find us unprepared” (LSB, p. 1687).  The Roman Catholic  New Testament of the New American Bible speaks likewise of the Matthew text: “The vigilant waiting…does not mean a cessation of ordinary activity and concentration only on what is to come, but a faithful accomplishment of duties at hand, with awareness that the end…will entail the great judgment…” (p. 110).   Perhaps the best summation of the historical Christian position on the eschaton is found in the Orthodox Study Bible, in commentary on II Peter 3:10-12, which describes Christ returning: “Christians can actually hasten the coming of that day. How? Through evangelism…prayer…and repentance and obedience” (p. 1695).   Not by rebuilding the Temple, killing anyone—even Islamic terrorists—or electing the right folks into office.  

“Dig” is a fun show, and having been to Jersualem thrice, I particularly enjoy identifying all the scenes shot in place where I’ve been.  But I hope it doesn’t refocus the media's and public’s attention away from the apocalyptic cult that really should concern us: ISIS.  

PulpMahdi.jpg A pulp-style rendering of Islamic eschatological activism--which I created over at "Pulp-O-Mizer!"

11:19 am edt          Comments

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

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