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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.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Revenge of the Mahdi--or The Empire Strikes Back?
Mahdist violence is now out in the open in Iraq:
11:22 am est
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces killed some 250
gunmen from an apocalyptic Muslim cult on Sunday [Jan. 28, 2007] in a battle involving U.S. tanks and aircraft near the Shi'ite
holy city of Najaf, Iraqi police, army and political sources said....According to one Iraqi political source, hundreds of
fighters drawn from both Sunni and Shi'ite communities were still fighting....political and security sources said they
were followers of Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni and described him as an apocalyptic cult leader claiming to be the vanguard of the
Mahdi -- a messiah-like figure in Islam whose coming heralds the start of perfect world justice. He had been operating from
an office in Najaf until it was raided and closed down about 10 days ago....
Of course Reuters' description
of such Mahdism as "an apocalytpic Muslim cult" really doesn't do such a movement justice, imputing to it a
fringe, lunatic nature--whereas in reality Mahdist movements have been at times almost mainstream. The relationship
of this al-Yemeni to Muqtada al-Sadr, as well as to Iranian Shi`ism and Hizbullah in Lebanon, is a topic that needs to be
examined. Note, however, that this report indicates Sunni and Shi`i members in al-Yemeni's Mahdist vanguard--a development
that bodes ill for the West, and that further illustrates the vacuuity of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations.
Friday, January 19, 2007
A Uniter, Not a Divider....
10:09 pm est
The real leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, is promoting Islamic unity across the Shi`i-Sunni divide over against--as
he sees it--American, Israeli and British opposition("Imam Khamenei says Islamic unity is within reach," al-ManarTV,
Jan. 15, 2007: http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=9565). "All the better for the Mahdi when he comes" is undoubtedly a consideration in this Iranian bid for leadership
of the ummah. While there is still plenty of rancor between the two major sects of Islam, Khamenei's rhetoric--as
well as active Iranian monetary and weapons support for Sunni groups like Hamas--indicates a countervailing "ecumenical"
trend within Islam, one that should greatly concern our intelligence community and policy-makers.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Masters of the Obvious
11:49 am est
I'm shocked, shocked to learn that according to our intelligence experts Shi`i radicalism is growing and that Iran's
eschatological pawn Hizbullah is "a growing threat" to the U.S.: http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/shiite-radicalism-on-the-increase/2007/01/12/1168105181436.html
Not to say I told them so, but....I've been telling them so (or at least trying to) for several years now.
Furthermore, it's NOT just Shi`i eschatological radicalism that's waxing--the Sunni variety is, as well. Stay
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Springtime for the Mahdi?
11:28 am est
On Christmas Day IRIB, the English-language radio voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, posted
a long, rambling--but revealing--transcript of a program entitled "The World toward Illumination" (http://english.irib.ir/IRAN/Leader/Illumination.htm). This appears to be the penultimate espisode in a series of broadcasts on predicting when the Mahdi/Hidden Imam will
come. Several Western websites and blogs have been claiming that this document predicts the Mahdi will come in the spring
of 2007--but this is untrue. What it actually says is the spring equinox is but one of the possible dates for his appearance,
along with a Friday, or the 10th of Muharram, or the 25th of Zhu al-Qa`dah. No year is specified, however.
Furthermore, the author(s) also take care to point out that "only God knows about the exact timing of the reappearance
of Imam Mahdi..." Eschatologists (almost) always hedge their bets.
The rest of "The World toward Illumination" is an eclectic mix of mainstram Islamic escahtological thinking, typically
Middle Eastern conspiracy theorizing and specifically Iranian pseudo-philosophical cultural critique of the West. The
Mahdi needs to come because of "the unjust world order imposed by the so-called big powers." But the Mahdi will
not only serve as a global Muslim Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor; but he will also usher in "astounding
growth of science and technology....The Mahdi will correct man's scientific mistakes and bring up new and astonishing
methods that had never occurred to man before." He will also unite humanity--under the banner of Islam, of course--and
create a "justice-spreading universal government...." Of course "expansionists [neocons?] may be averse
to such concepts," but they will fail to stop him.
"After his uprising
from Mecca all of Arabia will be submit [sic] to him and then other parts of the world as he marches upon Iraq and established
[sic] his seat of global government in the city of Kufa. Then the Imam [Mahdi] will send 10 thousand of his forces to
the east and the west to uproot the oppressors." This is interesting, both because it does not posit the Mahdi
emerging from Iran but from Arabia--thus dovetailing with Sunni beliefs about the Mahdi--and it predicts that Kufa, in southern
Iraq, will be the seat of the Mahdiyah. I wonder if the Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton will have to reconvene their study
group and recommend we negotiate with the Mahdi?
The Mahdi's personal appearance
is described, drawing on the usual hadiths (traditions): "radiant forehead, black piercing eyes and a broad chest,"
as well as "exuding the fragrance of paradise." He "will appear all of a sudden on the world scene with
a voice from the skies announcing his reappearance at the holy Ka`ba in Mecca. The cloak and other special belongings of Prophet
Muhammad...will be with him." (No explanation given as to how Muhammad's cloak, currently under lock and key in the
old Ottoman sultan's palace in Istanbul, will make its way to Sa`udi Arabia.) The Mahdi will shortely thereafter
move to Medina, where he will gather an army and defeat "Sofyani" (al-Sufyani), the traditional opponent of the
Mahdi (likely modeled on an enemy of Muhammad in the 7th c. CE), who will have invaded from Syria and besieged Kufa.
Sofyani will "commit great crimes against humanity in Iraq, slaughtering people who bear the names of the infallible
Imams [that is, Shi`is]. But a "venerable, God-fearing individual from Iran...fights oppression and corruption
and enters Iraq to lift the siege of Kufa and holy Najaf and to defeat...Sofyani....He then pledges allegiance to Imam Mahdi."
Then Jesus descends from heaven (remember, in Islam he never died on the cross but was taken to heaven) and serves as the
Mahdi's "lieutenant." "The seat of the Mahdi's global government will be the city of Kufa, where his
headquarters will be the Sahla Mosque....From here he will dominate the east and the west to fill the earth with justice."
If the Mahdi has not yet come "it is not because the world is not full of oppression,
but because the time must come for the people to be wise enough....Pure and sincere people must be trained in order to help...in
his implementation of global justice." (This process is already underway, with groups like the Imam Mahdi Scouts
being trained as Mahdist cadres by Hizbullah in Lebanon.)
The rest of the document
departs from this standard eschatological prognostication into paranoid, indeed bizarre, claims of the American media's support
for Christian Zionism; for example, did you know that "more than 1500 TV networks, 80 000 priests [ministers, that is],
200 scientific institutes and colleges as well as Hollywood" are working for and with the right-wing Christian agenda?
Basic elements of Christian eschatology are misrepresented, such as the claim that "the Christian Zionist sect believes....that
Christ will appear and will take the followers of this religion to heaven on a spaceship." Iranian eschatologists
obviously are confusing Baptists with Heaven's Gaters. In a truly paradigmatic example of the pot calling the kettle
black, this document claims that "one of the characteristics of the West in the current era is obsession with the end
of time." That might have been true about 7 years ago--but today? And of course, all this ultimately goes back
to the nefarious Jews and Zionists, to whom even Hollywood is in thrall. Did you know that "The Ten Commandments"
and "Ben Hur" were made, and awarded Oscars, by "the illegal Zionist entity...in order to cover up its legimitacy
crisis...."? Neither did I, having always thought they were part of a brilliant plot to pump up Charlton Heston's
career before he began consorting with primates.
There is more here, much of it reconfiguring
of Fukuyama, Huntington, Marx, and others, in order to show both the vacuuity of their ideas and how these ideas were
used to forestall the victory of Islam. I can't wait for the last installment, for the authors "invite you
to tune in to our next programs to see how the future will turn out...."
|Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)