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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, October 31, 2011
12:02 am edt
Last year I was asked, by the "Washington Times" to opine on the anti-terrorism fatwa that had just been released (March 2010) by the Pakistani-born,
London-based Muslim cleric Dr. Tahir al-Qadri. My take was that since al-Qadri is a Sufi of the Qadiri order and a Barelvi to boot--Sufis are Islamic mystics while Barelvis are quasi-Sufi venerators of Muhammad; both groups are despised by Wahhabis and
their South Asian analogs, Deobandis--his 600-page fatwa would have about as much effect among non-Sufis and non-Barelvis
as a papal encyclical would for Southern Baptists.
I recently discovered that al-Qadri also lectures on the Mahdi!
He has put out a book and a DVD set that explicate the hadiths (alleged sayings of Muhammad), over against "people who claim to have seen Imam Mahdi...or
are waiting for his arrival [who] are misleading the ummah [Islamic community]." According to al-Qadri, the Mahdi will
be born in Madinah some two or three centuries before Yawm al-Qiyamah ("Day of Resurrection"), and
at some point in his life will conquer al-Quds (Jerusalem) then live to the age of 80 and die. As for
dates, al-Qadri's exegesis leads him to the conclusion that the Mahdi will be born in the year "204"--but that since
the Sunni hadiths do not provide more specific data than that, his birth year could be 2204, 3204, or 10,204 (Paul Muad'dib,
anyone?). On the other hand, al-Qadri rebukes (modernist) Muslim scholars who would conflate the Mahdi with the centennial mujaddids ("renewers" of Islam) predicted by other
hadith to come every 100 years--mainly on the basis that such such misguided Mahdism allows for mutamahdis, or "pretenders."
The first of Ramadan, 2204 AH (After Hijrah) will be 8 August 2760--so the Obama Administration can safely kick this Mahdist
threat down the road to the Cain Administration and beyond.
2) al-Qadri retains the Sunni belief
in the Mahdi yet moderately (and conveniently) chides those Muslims, both Shi`i (Ahmadinejad) and Sunni (Adnan Oktar of Turkey),
who believe in the Mahdi's imminent appearance.
3) al-Qadri also adduces a Mahdi who will conquer
Jerusalem for Islam--but, again, not before the 28th Christian century, thus disappointing not just Hamas but also the entire
US State Department.
4) The Mahdi for al-Qadri is not simply a reformer or refurbisher of the
ummah, but rather a concrete historical leader who will unite the planet under one (Islamic) banner some several
centuries before the final end; but, again, his coming is at best so far in the future that al-Qadri effectively neutralizes
the issue for Barelvis and at least some Sufis.
The Mahdi, c. 2760 AD/2204 AH.
The Mahdi From Another Planet
3:58 pm edt
Anyone who's interested in Islam and Mahdism but hasn't read Dune really should. Even if you're not as fanatical
about the "Duniverse" as me (I've read not only Dune but all five of Frank Herbert's sequels as well as the dozen prequels and sequels
written by his son, Brian Herbert, in tandem with Kevin Anderson), at least read the original novel. As Orson Scott Card points out: "Remember that Herbert wrote Dune in the 1960s, before the first oil embargo, before any Islamist
government was ever formed. Whether Dune had any causal influence on the rise of Al Qaeda [sic], Herbert certainly
did a superb job of predicting the rise and power of such an ideology. I would be surprised if there were not, among the followers
of Osama bin Laden [sic], at least a few readers of Dune for whom this book feels like their future, their identiy,
their dream. In other words, Herbert got it horribly right." Exactly right. The only thing lacking in Mr. Card's astute
analysis is the importance of the Islamic messianic imperative in the Dune novels.
Now comes the astronomical revelation that not just the future, but space, might belong to the Mahdi: "desert planets like the one depicted in the science
fiction classic 'Dune' might be the most common type of habitable planet in the galaxy." Let's just hope and pray
that Louis Farrakhan isn't right about the Mahdi having a functioning starship.
Arrakis, aka "Dune," c. 10,000 AD. The white spot, upper center, is allegedly the Mahdi's
Pharaoh v. the Mahdi
2:53 pm edt
My good friend, Charles Cameron--blogger and analyst extraordinaire on such eclectic topics as game theory, COIN and Mahdism--alerted me some time back to
an article which claimed that Mustafa Shukri (d. 1978), former head of al-Takfir wa-al-Hijrah ("Charge of Unbelief
and Emigration") in Egypt, had mandated that "the movement's estimated 4,000 adherents...vow complete allegiance...to
Mustafa as the mahdi...." This is according to Jeffrey Cozzens, "Al-Takfir wa'l [sic] Hijra: Unpacking
an Enigma," Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 32 (2009), pp. 498-510. [That specific quote is from p.
Many analysts study Salafist groups such as ATWH (to use Cozzens' rather awkward acronmym--which
inexplicably includes both the initial Arabic definite article "al-" and the conjunction "wa"); some,
albeit far fewer, study Mahdist groups (and the subset of those who actually know what they're talking about is even smaller).
So it's both interesting and refreshing to see that an analyst at least mentions the two trends in the same article.
However, Professor Cozzens, while he may be well-versed in Salafism/jihadism, seems woefully ignorant of Mahdism. He
notes that Shukri "personally reserved the right to arrange divorces and marriages within his sect," as well as
to "determine who was 'in' and 'out'...[and] who had apostasized from Islam....;" likewise, Shukri "sent 'missionaries'
abroad--primarily to Saudi Arabia and Yemen--to both spread ATWH's ideology and raise funds" (p. 494). If Cozzens
knew anything about the topic, he'd know that this was typical behavior of a man who deemed himself the Mahdi. The most
prominent historical precedent to Shukri's behavior was that of Muhammad Ahmad the Sudanese Mahdi, who between 1881-1885 exhibited
exactly the same megalomanical domestic (interpreting Islamic law himself; mandating marriages and divorces; etc.) and foreign
(inviting other Muslim leaders to serve as his caliphs) policies. Other historical Sunni Mahdis also behaved thusly--yet
Cozzens makes no connection thereto.
In the final analysis I must confess to some degree of skepticism regarding
these alleged Mahdist claims of Mustafa Shukri, however. Cozzens cites no primary Arabic sources to corroborate his
claim (ironically, considering that he lambastes other analysts--who allege AWTH's jihadist bent and ties to the al-Qa`idah
network [AQN]--for not using primary sources) and actually adduces simply more secondary sources himself (such as David Zeidan's
"Radical Islam in Egypt," from 1999). The issue of convergence between jihadism/Salafism and Mahdism is far too important a topic to
be left reliant upon a fading rabbit trail of mere secondary sources.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Lies, Damned Lies, and Mahdism
9:53 pm edt
It's probably a good thing that US forces are totally leaving Iraq by the end of this year--because now even Iraqi members of Parliament are not only lying about our role there and in the world, but about the reason
we invaded in the first place. Iraqi MP Maha al-Douri spoke in Tehran last month and spewed the following prevarications about the United States:
1) We are trying to "annihilate
Islam." Really? Look, lady, if the US wanted to annihilate Islam, we could certainly
do it much more easily and cost-effectively than the death-of-a-thousand-cuts approach pursued in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For a clear, albeit horrific fictional example, see Tom Kratman's book Caliphate, pp. 170-172. But of
course such is not even remotely a consideration--unless you're a truth-challenged Muslimah legislator.
Massive conversions to Islam are taking place all over the world. Not really. Anecdotally, while conversions to Islam are all the rage among the media in Eurabia,
the US and Canada, much less attention is paid the conversions to Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa and China. And
in Twelver Shi`ism Central itself, Iran, it seems that conversions to Christianity are a major issue (also, see the following blog post on this). Empirically, there is just as much data that can be adduced showing Christianity winning the conversion battle as can be in favor of Islam. At worst, it's a draw. And since Christians outnumber Muslims
worldwide some 2.3 billion to 1.5 billion, that demographic equation won't be changing any century soon.
Islamic terrorism is a false charge "implanted in the mind of the world" by America. At
the risk of Clintonism, "that depends on what your definition of 'implanted' is." It is, after all the (Hillary)
Clintonian State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations that shows 58% (28 of 48) to be Islamic in motivating ideology, methodology and goals--while Christianity, which has
some 800 million MORE adherents than Islam, has NO groups on the list (the Continuity Irish Republican Army [IRA] and Real IRA are Irish nationalist and only incidentally Catholic; by the same token, I excluded a number of groups from
the Islamic category--such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Kurdish KGK/PKK and the Iranian Mujahadin-i
Khalq, because they are nationalist much more than religious).
4) We Americans "planned
and executed the 9/11 attacks...." Who knew Iraqi Mahdists could be 9/11 Truthers? If that
absurd contention really needs refutation--beyond basic knowledge of the events, the current geopolitical situation and logic--such
was provided several years ago by Popular Mechanics.
5) America is fighting "all the Islamic leaders." This
would be news to the Sultan of Oman; rulers of Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria; Kings of Morocco and Saudi Arabia; Presidents
of Nigeria and Indonesia; Prime Minister of Turkey; new leaders of Libya; and, most tellingly, the current Prime Minister
of al-Douri's own country, Iraq. Perhaps "it depends on what her definition of "Islamic,' is"--which
must be something along the lines of "anyone allied with Iran," in which case the list grows rather thin.
The US has been warring on Muslims in order to "prevent...any Islamic awakenings in preparation for the advent of the
Mahdi;" and in fact "when the Imam al-Mahdi appears....America will fight him, and this is the reason
for its war and occupation of Iraq." As I've noted before, more than once on this
blog, both Muqtada al-Sadr (he of Jaysh al-Mahdi fame, in Iraq) and Ahmadinejad have advanced this claim previously. But
this is the first time that an elected member of the Iraqi government has done so.
1) Is this taqiyah (religously-sanctioned lying allowed within Islam) or simple stupidity? It's hard to believe that anyone could look at US actions over the last few decades and make
these fatuous claims, but the same beliefs are held, contra all logic and facts, by too many on the American
Left. Either way, I would wager that Sayyida al-Douri's views are not unique to her among Iraqi Shi`is; let's just hope
that they are a minority view among them, and particularly among Iraqi legislators. But I wouldn't bet on it.
Although the MEMRI translation and transcript never points this out, al-Douri is speaking not just on Iranian TV but LIVE
FROM TEHRAN (the opening screen shot is of an unidentifiable, because the images are too small, venue; but "Tehran"
in Arabic script is clearly visible). How long will Iraq survive as a quasi-democratic, pseudo-ally of the US when its
leaders are trotting off to the Islamic Republic of Iran to osculate the ayatollahs' derierres?
speaking of derierres, as our troops exit Iraq it's certainly notable that they are being rhetorically kicked in that part
of their anatomies by al-Douri. Like Mark Twain said, the difference between a dog and a human is that if you feed the
former, he won't bite you. But this Iraqi bitch certainly proves the truth of Twain's adage.
Pay Lots of Attention to That Mahdi Behind the Curtain!
3:38 pm edt
Some Americans may be familiar with the plight of Iranian Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who is facing a death penalty for alleged "apostasy." Far fewer, if any, are likely to know that the Islamic Republic
is also hounding expatriate Iranian Christians--and in the name of the Occulted Mahdi! According to "Christian Solidarity Worldwide:
Eleven Iranian Christians who fled Iran in the wake of a government campaign
against evangelical Christianity have received threats via email from ‘the unknown soldiers of the Hidden Imam’
calling on them to either repent or face extra-judicial execution. The ‘unknown soldiers’ are alleged to
have links with Iranian security services.
The email, which
was sent to each individual on 14 September, warned the recipients that although they may have managed to flee Iran, they
are not hidden from the ‘acute eyes of the unknown soldiers’, who claim they have been advancing to the heart
of the ‘Zionist regime’ over a number of years. The email concludes by offering the eleven Christians ‘the
opportunity to repent and ask forgiveness from the presence of the Hidden Imam.... Otherwise, according to the Fatwa given
by Mehdi the Hidden Imam, they must be killed.’
Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries, who has been closely involved in the house church movement in Iran, has indicated that he and
his network of churches are taking the threat very seriously.
1) Are these "Iranian security services"
from the Iranian Republic Guards Corps--Quds Force [IRGC-QG] (the same group alleged to have been involved in the botched plan to hire Mexican drug dealers to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US), or perhaps from the more shadowy Ansar
al-Mahdi, an Iranian "Praetorian Guard" group tasked with protecting top IRI leaders as well as covert ops? The
phrase "unknown soldiers of the Hidden Imam" would tend toward the latter explanation, since Ansar al-Mahdi means
"Helpers of the Mahdi." Or it could simply be a more ad hoc faction: President Ahmadinejad's executive assistant?
zealous members of the Bright Future Institute? an ayatollah with a macabre sense of humor and excellent online skills?
2) "Asking forgiveness" of the 12th Imam al-Mahdi
is an interesting novel twist, since he is traditionally not a figure who proffers atonement (like Christ), but rather one
that guides the Shi`i community while in occultation (hiddenness) and leads it directly once returned to earth. Does
this represent a novel understanding of Twelver Shi`i theology, and/or a convergence with Christian beliefs?
3) Should these "apostates" spurn the (alleged)
merciful Mahdi, they are threatened with death--and that according to a putative fatwa rendered by the Hidden Imam! This
is fascinating. Either the Mahdi's minions sending these emails are lying through their teeth, or they really believe
that the 12th Imam is back in communication with his flock and actively issuing guidance in the form of Islamic jurisprudential
rulings. Both Ahmadinejad and Musa al-Sadr of Iraq have in recent years claimed to be in contact with the Mahdi--but neither
has ever asserted something as sophisticated as a fatwa had been forthcoming from him. While it's quite tempting to
scoff at such allegations, there are possible serious ramifications thereof--such as, for example, the remote but real
possibility that if the Hidden Imam can issue rulings against Christian converts from beyond the spectral veil, he might also
be able to do likewise regarding utilization of nuclear weapons.
4) In 873/4 AD Muhammad al-Mahdi, according
to Twelver Shi`i propaganda, disappeared but remained in communication with his followers via "deputies"; this was
the so-called "Minor Ghaybah [Occultation]." In 941 he went silent, and this "Greater
Occultation" was supposed to last until his physical reapperance. However, with this account of a Mahdist fatwa
and the aformentioned other claims of commo links with the 12th Imam being re-established, it seems that the Greater Occultation
has devolved back into a Minor one--something not predicted by Twelver Shi`i doctrines and hadiths. Is this just a case of
geopolitical considerations trumping more mundane theological ones, or is a more profound re-ordering of Twelver doctrines
occurring? In either event, it seems that the 12th Imam al-Mahdi is, while not fully revealed, also no longer fully
hidden behind his curtain.
The Mahdi prepares another fatwa for communication to his followers--respectively, from left to right: Khamenei (Tin
Man), Muqtada al-Sadr (Cowardly Lion), Hillary Clinton (Dorothy) and Barack Husayn Obama (Scarecrow).
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Mahdi, R.I.P--He Didn't Even Have Time to Bleed
4:12 pm edt
CIA confirmed Tuesday that a drone killed the 12th Imam last Thursday. The CIA waited for the results of DNA testing to confirm that the 12th Imam, known as the Mahdi was
dead. The CIA report contained few details. The Mahdi, known as "the secret Imam" was hiding in an undisclosed
location when a missile from a CIA drone struck the building; he died instantly. It was not immediately clear if the
Mahdi was the intended target but it was clear that the Mahdi is confirmed dead. Unconfirmed reports
from the White House indicate that President Obama may be preparing an apology for the death--which may be accidental, but
a spokeswoman from the administration would neither confirm nor deny.
The "undisclosed location" was either Jamkaran, Iran or Sa`ada, Yemen. Considering the Mahdi before
he went back to Allah appeared to be relatively clean and well-groomed, it was probably the former--which at least has running
2) It is unclear where the CIA obtained baseline genetic material for comparison, but
anonymous intell community sources have indicated possibilities include the Aga Khan, Barack Obama and Viggo Mortensen.
Official Iranian news outlets have released statements claiming that the man actually killed, pictured above, was
not the 12th Imam al-Mahdi but either one of his "body doubles" or, alternatively, a Zionist impostor. Or possibly
George W. Bush.
4) President Obama, reading from a prepared statement after this announcement,
expressed his personal condolences to all 1.3 billion Muslims in the world and said that, had it had been up to him, the Mahdi
would not have been killed but rather brought to the U.S. in order to replace Joe Biden as his running mate in 2012; however,
his advisors had convinced him otherwise.
5) Sunni eschatological groups have claimed that the man
killed was not the Mahdi but rather the Dajjal, whom the heretical Twelver Shi`is mistakenly were following.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Will the Real Mahdi Please Grab the Kindjal?
6:45 pm edt
On September 22, 2011 Iranian President Ahmadinejad delivered his by-now traditional U.N address invoking the Mahdi and excoriating the West in general and the U.S. in particular for the sins of slavery, colonialism, racism,
wars and rumors of war against Islam and Muslims, indebtedness, forcing dogs and cats to live together and going off the gold
standard. (Okay, I made that penultimate one up.) This litany of grievances against the "arrogant powers"
will not be redressed, according to Ahmadinejad, until the return of the 12th Imam as the Mahdi, who will come to rule the
world in accordance with "universal human values such as monotheism, justice, freedom, love and the quest for happiness"
and usher in a period of "shared and collective management of the world" in order to build a "bright future."
Sounding increasingly like an out-of-touch liberal describing Barack Obama, Ahmadinejad also gushed that this "perfect
human being" will be a "true and sincere lover of all human beings" who "will come alongside Jesus Christ
to lead the freedom and justice lovers to eradicate tyranny and discrimination, and promote knowledge, peace, justice, freedom
and love across the world." This...is...Imam al-Mahdi, the once and future 12th Imam, the "Ultimate Savior
of mankind!" (One suspects that the European and American diplomats who walked out during his address might have done so not for political reasons but because they desperately needed insulin, courtesy of
this massive Mahdist sugar rush.)
However, even as a somewhat astute analyst of Iranian Shi`ism and Mahdism,
I am confused--because the month before, Ahlul Bayt News Agency (an official Iranian media organ), published quite a different
view of the returned 12th Imam in a piece entitled "Imam al-Mahdi's Code of Conduct with Enemies," by Najmuddin Tabasi.
Tabasi's Mahdi is nothing like the one described by Ahmadinejad, who seems to return
from ghaybah somewhere in Candyland. For Tabasi, the Mahdi's enemies "will deserve nothing but annihilation"--these
enemies will include those with bloodstained hands, the "indifferent," those who fight against the Imam Mahdi, and
the "crooked-minded." Tabasi bases his analysis on the exegesis of a number of Twelver Shi`i hadiths (sayings
allegedly going back to Islam's founder, Muhammad, as well as to--at least for the Shi`a--their line of Imams descended from
him). For example, one from Imam al-Sadiq says that while the "Prophet" [Muhammad] "used to deal with
enemies leniently, gently and kindly...Hadrat al-Qa'im [His Honor the Arising One--the Mahdi], however, will adopt the policy
of killing...and accept no one's repentance." (This claim of Muhammad's gentleness would come as a surprise to
the Jews of the Banu Qurayzah, some 700 men of which were slaughtered by beheading at Muhammad's order.) Imam al-Sadiq
also is said to have related that the Mahdi will be empowered and allowed to "kill deserters and the wounded."
According to Imam al-Baqir the Mahdi will "not take anything but the sword or give...anything but the sword," starting
with the tribe of Quraysh--meaning those recalcitrant Arab Sunnis. In another hadith al-Sadiq describes the future deliverer
of Shi`ism as one who "wil behead anyone who would not accept the faith, or [at least] ask him to accept the jizyah"
(the poll tax on dhimmis, or non-Muslim Jews and Christians). Imam al-Rida later added that the Mahdi either
order, or personally practice, amputating the hands of certain Arab tribes who oppose him "and hang them in the Ka`bah"
(whether the hands or the mutilated persons is not explained clearly). The Mahdi, according to yet another of the 12
Shi`i Imams, al-Kazim, will “rise up against the Jews, Christians…and the infidels of the east and west”
and “behead anyone who refuses to become Muslim….” (And to think that, in the article I published a few years back on the Qur’anic and hadith roots of decaptitation, I posited the issue as almost exclusively a Sunni
one!) On the infamous Sunni hadith that on the Day of Resurrection the rocks will betray the Jews hiding behind them, the loquacious Imam al-Baqir glossed that
said Jews will be followers of al-Dajjal [the “Deceiver,” or Muslim Antichrist], who will of course be defeated
by al-Mahdi and Jesus working together—whereupon the Mahdi will proceed to Kufah (Iraq), “unsheathe his sword
and kill” more opponents, then make that city his capital. In addition, the returned 12th Imam will
make a sortie over to Najaf and “from the noon of Monday until the night…draw his sword…and put them all
to death”—such that “the flowing blood will be as as high as the foreleg.” According
to Imam al-Sadiq, most of these the Mahdi kills will be “infidels and hypocrites;” “so many,” in fact,
“that God would be pleased.”
The Mahdi of the Shi`i hadiths sounds more like a pre-modern Terminator
than the syrupy saint of sweetness and light adduced by Ahmadinejad at the U.N. Why is that?
Either view can be correct, but both cannot be. It’s hard to believe that Ahmadinejad simply
misunderstands the clear words of the traditions of his branch of Islam; so either 1) he’s re-interpreting, which may
be allowed in Twelver Shi`ism by mujtahids—but certainly is not permitted to a politician with a PhD in Traffic Control; 2) he’s practicing taqiyah—allowable lying, in effect, for Shi`is. If it’s the former, then Khameini
has bigger problems than we had thought and Ahmadinejad is a true moderate on the order of a Persian Gorbachev.
But if it’s the latter—as is more likely for a pious Muslim like Iran’s President—then that’s
yet another reason not to trust him as a geopolitical interlocutor.
What difference does it make, you may well ask--my
good secular or Christian (or “other”) reader--how Muslims like Ahmadinejad view their messianic figure?
In one sense, perhaps very little—since as I’ve argued in other publications the chance that someone might stake a valid claim to be the returned 12th Imam al-Mahdi is slim to nonexistent in modern
Iran (unlike the situation in Sunni contexts, where as history indicates “free lance” Mahdis have many times proclaimed
themselves and, not occasionally, even gained power). But in another sense, this is an important issue,
indicating as it does that the second-largest branch of Islam (Twelver Shi`ism) shares with the largest (Sunnism) a fervent
belief in, not a victimized and suffering Christ-like Redeemer but a global warlord who will not only humble his enemies but
decapitate, dismember and destroy them—and this figure is venerated as worthy of emulation.
Mahdi v. Wanna-be Mahdi on Arrakis, c. 10,000 AD (Note: it is not in Feyd Rautha's favor that, according
to other Islamic hadiths, the Dajjal will have red hair--and Gurney Halleck, aka Patrick Stewart, will have none.)
|Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)