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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.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Prepare Ye the Way of the Mahdi
12:19 am edt
From al-Arabiya last week (Monday, 8/17/09):Spokesman says Iran's supreme
leader represents Mahdi
DUBAI (Saud al-Zahed)
spokesman of Iran's Supreme Leader called on neighboring countries to mobilize their forces in preparation for the coming
of the savior of Islam and to unite with the Islamic Republic in paving the way for his arrival, an Iranian news agency reported
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's spokesman, Ali Saeedi, said countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan
should gather together all their forces in order to make drastic changes to prepare for the coming of al-Mahdi al-Montazar,
Arabic for "the awaited guided one." "We still have a long way to go in order to achieve this. We have to train
honest forces that can stop the obstacles that may hinder the coming of the Mahdi like the United States and Israel,"
Saeedi said in statement posted by the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).
Saeedi also said that the supreme leader of
Iran is the direct representative of the Mahdi and that obeying him is like obeying the "guided one," who is the
prophesized savior of Islam.
"Since the armed forces are commanded by the Supreme Leader, they are thus obeying
the orders of the awaited Mahdi," Saeedi said, adding "the Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces in Iran hold
religious authority to prepare for the appearance of the Mahdi...."
tempting to scorn such statements as transparent attempts to upgrade Khamenei's legitimacy in response to the turban tarnishing
he's taken, post-election debacle in Iran. Perhaps so. The assertion that obeying the Supreme Leader is tantamount
to doing the Mahdi's bidding would tend to support this cynical view. However, Saeedi's pious--if belligerent--position is
one that I heard from a number of speakers at the Mahdism Conference in Tehran last year, most notably Majlis Speaker Ali
Larijani (NOT, counterintuitively, President Ahmadinejad). So we should not be too quick to rule out true belief in
the imminent reappearance of the 12th Imam as the Mahdi.
Saeedi's assertion that the "Revolutionary Guards
and the armed forces in Iran hold religious authority to prepare for the appearance of the Mahdi" also reflects
the position of various speakers at last year's Mahdism Conference, and it beggars belief to think that all of them--not
to mention the weeping masses I saw at Jamkaran Mosque in Qom, on the Mahdi's birthday--are consummate phonies.
And it's also possible to both believe in the Mahdi's coming as a religious conviction AND to seek to employ it as a
tool of Islamic unity; the two are not mutually exclusive.
As I have said before ( "The Importance of Being Mahdist" ), Iran is full of many who earnestly and piously long for the Mahdi's coming to ease their suffering, whether
through wealth redistribution, smiting their enemies, or some combination thereof; a smaller group whose members almost
certainly doubt his existence at all but which uses the belief to leverage Iran's power vis-a-vis the rest
of the Islamic world; and a truly dangerous clique which both sincerely believes in the 12th Imam's imminent reentry
onto the world stage AND whose members hope to enlist other Muslims outside Iran under his banner. This latter group,
which would certainly seem to include Saeedi and Khameini (and of course Ahmadinejad and perhaps even Larijani) and which
controls many of the levers of power in Tehran and Qom, is the impetus behind arming Hizbullah and Hamas, supporting the near-co-religionist
Fiver Shi`ite militia Shabab al-Mu'minin fighting against the government of Yemen, and in general working through
the Qods force to propagate Shi`ite da`wah (religious propaganda/missionary activity) around the world. And
it's almost certainly the same clique that is pushing for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, in order to put them at the disposal
of the Mahdi when he comes--or, barring that, at the command of whoever is Iran's Supreme Leader.
Friday, August 7, 2009
They Say It's Your Birthday!
2:42 pm edt
No, NOT Obama's! The Twelfth Imam al-Mahdi's! (Unless you happen to subscribe to the theory that they're one and the same....)
Saturday, August 1, 2009
11:52 am edt
|Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)