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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.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

The Mahdi--Out of Africa?
Iranian Shi`i eschatology is finding fertile ground in, of all places, sub-Saharan Sunni West Africa:

Sierra Leone: Muslims Await Messiah

At the Iranian Cultural Consulate in Freetown which is a centre of Muslim activities, the Chief Imam of the Freetown Central mosque Sheik Ahmad Tejan Sillah said the Holy prophet Muhammad had prophesied on the coming of Imam Mahdi. He said the appearance of the Messiah requires Muslim s to prepare , to have faith and believe in the Messiahood. He elaborated on the concept of justice. "Do unto others what you want them to do unto you" he said, adding that with justice Muslims would be prepared to receive the Messiah when he appeared.

The Chancellor of the Iranian Cultural Consulate Mohamed Reza Gezel Sofla said Imam Mahdi, the Messiah was from prophet Muhammad's progeny. According to him, the appearance of the Messiah is not a matter of sect but has universality..

10:26 pm edt          Comments

Friday, August 31, 2007

They Say It's Your Birthday--Happy Birthday To You!
I'm not sure whether the Mahdi will still allow us to listen to John, Paul, George and Ringo when he comes, but maybe after 1138 years of solitude he'll find the Beatles refreshing.  What? You didn't know that the Hidden Imam's birthday was upon us? According to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting agency (http://www.iribnews.ir/Full_en.asp?news_id=243196&n=2) the time is ripe for him to come and get about Allah's business:
The Imam (AS) will appear at the Ka'aba in Mecca as "Mahdi", generate a global revolution as the "Qa'em", make Kufa in Iraq his seat of world government of justice, and march upon Beit ul Moqaddas to lead the prayers with the exalted messenger Jesus Christ (AS) as his deputy.
He will put an end to injustice and exploitation and humanity will know real peace and order.
al-Qa'im in Arabic means "upright, existing, steadfast."  "Beit ul Moqaddas" means "Holy Land" and refers to Palestine/Israel in general and to Jerusalem in particular.  Note that the Unhidden Imam, as Mahdi (a representation of whom can be found at the bottom of the first page of this site) will travel afar from Mecca in Saudi Arabia, to Kufa, Iraq--which will be the seat of his global caliphate, as I have pointed out several times--and then he'll conquer Jerusalem, where he'll pray in front of the returned Muslim prophet Jesus. 
And we'll all live happily ever after.  Or at least that's what Ahmadinezhad, the ayatollahs, Muqtada al-Sadr, Hassan Nasrallah and millions of other Shi`is--as well as a growing number of Sunnis--think.




12:29 am edt          Comments

Monday, August 27, 2007

Onward Media Warriors

Last week, on three consecutive nights, CNN ran the Christiane Amanpour-hosted "God's Warriors," purporting to analyze the intolerant and violent strains within the three monotheistic faiths. As with much of what CNN produces and airs, it was a frustrating mix of good and bad.  My critique of the final two nights is on the History News Network under the title "Was CNN's 'God's Warriors' Fair?": http://hnn.us/articles/42197.html

11:39 am edt          Comments

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Mahdi

The summary version of the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was made available last week.  Here are what I consider to be its most important points:
"Iraq's sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI [al-Qa`idah in Iraq] retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively." Although "Iraq's security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months...levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high...." The main problems are as follows: "Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities...and the actions of extremists such as AQI and...the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia...." "Tehran...will continue to provide funding, weaponry, and training to Iraqi Shia militants....particularly the JAM."
And this: "[I]ntra-Shia violence in southern Iraq is very different from patterns of violence elsewhere."
This report has two enormous gaps:
1) On the tactical level, it says nothing about the numerous reports of Lebanese Shi`i Hizb Allah (Hizbullah) training members of Jaysh al-Mahdi how to kill Americans and Iraqis.  This is a separate issue from what Iran is doing in Iraq, despite the close relations between the Islamic Republic and its co-religionist Arab allies. 
2) Even more importantly, on the strategic level it totally fails to take note of the eschatological irredentist claims on southern Iraq that Iran has been making recently; a number of influential ayatollahs, as well as--of course--Ahmadinezhad, are convinced that when the Hidden Imam emerges as the Mahdi, he will eventually need Kufa and environs as the seat of his regional (and eventually global) caliphate.  You would think this strong, and openly expressed, belief might be worth factoring into the geopolitical equation--for it portends that Iran is no respecter of recognized international boundaries, especially where the Mahdi might be concerned.

9:00 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Live and Let Die
FINALLY the Bush Administration is taking Mahdism seriously!   According to the the Iranian Farda News Agency, by way of the blogger Kamangir, President Bush has formed a study group, consisting of senior American Muslim clerics, to advise him on this important Islamic belief. 
Here is Kamangir's post:
“Bush in the Pursuit of the Islamic Messiah”

Posted by Kamangir on August 15th, 2007

"Farda News reports that George W. Bush has had a meeting with a group of American Muslims three weeks ago. In that meeting, he has learned about the Islamic Messiah, Imam Mahdi. Reportedly, CIA has set up a group of elite American Muslims to advise him on the issues regarding Mehdi. In that meeting, he has stated, “This Mehdi must be something very important that Muslims are willing to be killed for him”. According to Farda News, Dick Cheney is against this team.  A while ago, Ahmadinejad stated, “Thy have completed their file on him [Mehdi]. They are only looking for the address to go kill him. There are foreigners in Tehran who inquire believers about his residence to disrupt [his fight against world powers and the establishment of] Allah’s just government”. Muslims believe that Mehdi is living amongst us and that some have the privilege to communicate with him. He will eventually rise against all world powers and will establish Allah’s rule. The Islamic Republic claims to be the preparation for Mehdi’s revolt."
[The news agency Persian link is here: http://fardanews.com/show/?id=31748]

Observations:
1) I can find no report of this Bush-imams/ulama summit but if it did take place, why not until 2007? Mahdism has been a real and present danger to the West (and, for that matter, to the Islamic world itself) in its modern incarnations since 1979--the year that the Islamic Republic was created in Iran by Khomeini, to await the coming of the Hidden Imam/Mahdi, and also the year of the failed Mahdist coup in Saudi Arabia.  And, as I've written on elsewhere, there have been jihadists who consider Bin Ladin the Mahdi almost since 9/11. Well, better late than never.
2) It might matter who these "elite American Muslims" allegedly advising the President are, exactly.  Let's hope they're not from CAIR. 
3) Not to impugn the folks at the Central Intelligence Agency, but is the organization that wrongly told us there were WMDs in Iraq, and which has a paucity of Arabic- and Persian-linguists, really the best outfit to help the President learn about such a complex and historically-intensive topic?  I'm skeptical.
4) Why on earth would the Vice-President (allegedly) be against learning more about Mahdism?  I would think Mr. Cheney would dearly wish to take the Mahdi quail hunting....
5) Ahmadinezhad's paranoid rambllings echo those of his co-religionist Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, who some years ago said that the U.S. invaded that country because Bush had learned the Mahdi was already present there. 



12:20 pm edt          Comments

Friday, August 10, 2007

Resurrecting the Fatimid Caliphate, Part Deux
In previous posts and articles I've commented on the expansion of Iranian influence into North Africa--to date, most notably, into Libya and Morocco.  Algeria can now be added to the list:

IRI, Algeria after global peace
8/8/07
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said...that the two nations of Iran and Algeria are after expansion of
peace and security based on justice worldwide.  Ahmadinejad told reporters that Iran and Algeria share
common stances on regional and international issues, and are set to expand their political relations [emphasis added].  He made the remarks after signing four memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in Algiers.... (
http://www.iribnews.ir/Full_en.asp?news_id=242053&n=35)

Algeria is less than 1% Shi`i but, like its neighbors Morocco and Tunisia has, historically, been home to powerful Shi`i-tinged Islamic movements, some of which have even tipped over into Mahdist ones.  My suspicion is that the ayatollahs, who know their Islamic history quite well, are fully aware of this and have factored that into their clear geopolitical decision to make inroads into the Maghrib.  
8:30 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Having a website on the Mahdi means (among other things) getting emails from folks of all religious (and political) persuasions--including Muslims.  Recently I received one from a Muslim, who told me the following regarding the Mahdi:

"Based on the signs and the research thru books and the net ... it is not that we are waiting for him, but rather he is waiting for us.
 Also...Ahmedi Najat is trying to create or accelerate the events so that he appears, but in the end it will be God's decision.... 
My personal belief is it will be between Ramadan 2008 - Ramadan 2012 in Makkah, but...we heard that a man did appear in Haj of 2006 called for the coming of the Imam and was beaten by the Saudi forces...[and] ran away to Medinah, followed by the death of hundreds in Mena at the Jamarat. 
I feel sad that the only people to support the Imam will be ONLY over 300 out of over 2 million in Ramadan, but with the will of God to increase to 10,000.... 
The Imam will only appear once it is clear to many that our true enemy is not USA or Israel but our corrupt governments as was Quraish.... 
I urge the true believers of the Imam to...go to Makkah during the last 10 days of Ramadan between 2008 -2012 to be among the 300 or 10,000."
 
Observations:
1) This interlocutor is most likely Shi`i but nonetheless expects Imam Mahdi to appear in Saudi Arabia (Makkah=Mecca), not in Karbala or Qom--thus contradicting official pronouncements by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
2) He agrees with the oft-repeated analysis that Ahmadinezhad is trying to hasten the Mahdi's arrival by not only talking him up but possibly taking action to force the Mahdi's hand, as it were--most notably acquiring nuclear weapons and perhaps using them, most likely against Israel. Reuven Paz calls this "hot-wiring the apocalypse" and, while I am not convinced by it, it is a viable view.
3) This is the first account I've seen of any Mahdist invocations at the Hajj last year, but it would be expected that the Saudis would keep such a potentially-disruptive  claim quiet (as well as that they would beat the chap), for remember that in 1979 Juhayman al-Utaybi attempted to overthrow the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] government in the name of the Mahdi.
4) My interlocutor believes that the danger of the "near enemy"--corrupt Muslim governments--outweighs that of the "far enemy"--the U.S.--and, it seems, even the "intermediate enemy"--Israel.  Of course, once Imam Mahdi arrives, after he consolidates his power throughout the Muslim Middle East he will eventually move on to conquering the entire planet in the name of Islam.
5) This fellow calls for action, urging believers in the Mahdi to go on Hajj between 2008 and 2012.  Although this call is nonviolent, it is definitely not quietist. 
6) The Mayan calendar calls for the end of the world in 2012.  Coincidence?

9:43 am edt          Comments

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Fourth Mahdi Claim in 2007?!

Yet another Mahdi claim has surfaced, this time among the predominantly-Sunni Kurds, according to "Newsmax":

An Iranian Kurdish group whose fighters have clashed frequently with government forces in Iran has sent its top leader to Washington, D.C., to seek assistance from the United States government.

Rahman Haj Ahmadi, president of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), told NewsMax in an exclusive interview that he hoped to meet with senior administration officials to discuss the situation inside Iran and how the U.S. could help the opposition....

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he is waiting for the badieh zaman," the legendary 12th imam of Shia Islam whose return brings justice to the world.

"We also believe in the badieh zaman," he chuckled. "For us, he is George W. Bush"
(http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/8/2/205735.shtml?s=lh).
This should make the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission--the Iraq Study Group, that is--rather easy to implement, since President Bush in his newly-minted Muslim messianic role should be able to issue commands to Ahmadinezhad and the ayatollahs in Allah's name now. 
It's an open question whether Mr. Bush will be  able to retain his membership in the Methodist Church, however. 

11:25 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A Mahdist Trifecta in 2007?
Two overt Mahdist claims have been made this year: the violent one in southern Iraq in January, and the pacific one in India more recently (both of which I've dealt with in previous posts).  Now, according to the Dhaka "Daily Star," just this week in Bangladesh a man claiming to be the Mahdi's top military commander was arrested:

So-called military chief of Imam Mahdi held
Staff Correspondent

Police detained a man, who claimed himself as the military chief of Imam Mahdi, raiding his rented house at Ganderia in the capital's Sutrapur after midnight last night.

His nine followers were also arrested during the raid.

Sutrapur police said they recovered a huge quantity of books written on Imam Mahdi, the spiritual leader who, according to Muslims, will be sent by Allah to bring back justice and fairness,

The so-called military chief of Imam Mahdi was identified as Luthfor Rahman Faruq, 55. Identity of the other detainees could not be known immediately.

"We have detained Faruq and his associates as they were giving anti Islamic statements for the last two years" Mohammad Ali, officer-in-charge of Sutrapur Police Station, told The Daily Star.

The OC said Faruq admitted that he has more than 300 disciples (http://www.thedailystar.net/2007/08/04/d70804012316.htm).


Observations:
1) Bangladesh is overwhemingly Sunni, yet it is home to a nascent Mahdist movement--one looking for someone to follow as Mahdi (paging Usama....).  Once again, the conventional wisdom that Islamic messianism is only operative in Shi`i areas is proved wrong.
2) Books on Mahdism are popular and dangerous and having an effect (no doubt the same is also true of Mahdist websites) on the popular imagination.  (And I should add that despite the huge quantity of such books in my study, I've managed to avoid their siren call--so far, at any rate.)
3) History indicates that previous Mahdist movements have tended to erupt in two parts of the Muslim world: the Maghrib (North Africa) and the Indian subcontinent.  This near-Mahdist movement fits the pattern of the latter.
4) Note that the government authorities are delegitimizing this group by accusing them of making "anti Islamic statements"--as if the Mahdi were not an orthodox belief in Sunni Islam! More interestingly, this fits the historical pattern of previous counter-Mahdist agendas established by the likes of the Saudis (v. the 1979 al-Utaybi uprising), the Ottomans (v. the 1881 Muhammad Ahmad rebellion), and others (outlined in my book).
Strategically, this is yet more ammunition for my argument that a substantial--yet vociferous--minority in the Islamic world, Sunni as well as Shi`i, yearns for someone to proclaim himself Mahdi. 

4:55 pm edt          Comments


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Iran130.jpg
Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)

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