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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:; for more in-depth info, see the links here to my other writings, including my book on Mahdism.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Illinois Obama and the Last Crusade--Against ISIS
The Islamic State’s latest Dabiq magazine (#4)  was issued several weeks ago, entitled “The Failed Crusade.”  
Where to now, St. Peter? To take over your square, obviously! 

As with the previous three issues, Dabiq—which, again, refers to a major apocalyptic battle in Syria between Muslims and “Romans” predicted in hadiths—opens with the same quote from IS’s founder, the late Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi:  that the spark lit in Iraq will eventually “burn…the crusader armies in Dabiq.”  Overall, this magazine cites the Qur’an 2o times, adduces 36 different hadiths, and quotes historical Islamic scholars (such as the 14th century Ibn Taymiyah) as well as modern ideologues (al-Awlaki, Bin Ladin and al-Zarqawi)—thus making the claim that ISIS is “ not Islamic”  fatuous at best.  Its main topics are the alleged “Crusade” and its relationship to the looming apocalyptic struggle between “Romans/Crusaders” and Muslims, and  the rationalization for (re)imposing Muslim slavery of non-Muslims. 

If only American and other Western militaries WERE this determined....

The “failing crusade” and its connection to Islamic eschatological prognostication takes up over 1/3 of this 56-page document.   Modern US forays into the Middle East, particularly Iraq (and now Syria) are linked—of course!—to the Crusades of 900 years ago.  American soldiers, who are shown loading coffins containing their dead comrades into C-5s, are equated with “cross-worshipping Romans” (Byzantines, that is) and not the 11th century Crusaders.  This is almost certainly because the relevant hadiths refer to events from the 7th and 8th centuries, when the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Christian Empire was fighting off hordes of belligerent Muslims—and not to the actual Crusades, over three centures later.   The relevant hadiths (too long to reproduce here) are explicated thusly:  Muslims will be at war with the Roman Christians….the Christians of Europe and their colonies….There will be a pause in this war due to a truce….During this time the Muslims and Romans will fight a common enemy [presumably the “Safawis,” or Twelver Shi`is of Iran and Iraq]….These events all lead up to the final, greatest, and bloodiest battle—al-Malhamah al-Kubra—between the Muslims and the Romans prior to the appearance of the Dajjal and the descent of al-Masih [Jesus].  This battle ends the era of the Roman Christians, as the Muslims will then advance upon Constantinople and thereafter Rome, to conquer the two cities and raise the flag of the Khilafah over them.  But according to IS exegesis, they won’t stop there.   The new caliphate, either before the Mahdi comes or, perhaps, after his arrival, also will conquer Jerusalem and eventually “destroy the filthy house called the White House.”  Along the way the armies of jihad will “break your crosses and enslave your women.” 

issue 4 also expends several pages asking why the US is allying in Syria with its mortal enemies Russia and Iran and their proxies, such as “the anti-Christ Nasrullat” (Hizbullah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah).   The “Jewish Crusader” Henry Kissinger,
Michael Scheuer and Ralph Peters  are quoted (selectively) on the greater dangers of Iran than IS to the US.   (However, one might note that the ayatollahs, for all their geopolitical instransigence, have never threatened to march on the White House and enslave our wives and daughters.)   This section would seem to be an attempt corroborate the hadith which mentions a short-lived truce between the “true” Muslims and the Romans while they fight their common enemy:  the Twelver Shi`is.   The “cowardly crusaders” are mocked for relying on proxies like the PKK,  Pershmerga and Free Syrian Army and for futile airstrikes which succeed only in killing Muslim women and children.   President Obama is also ridiculed for being double-minded about fighting,  “unlike Bush whose administration at least understood “what war is and how it should be won.”   Bush is damned with faint praise: “[a]s the liar Bush truthfully said: ‘Either your are with us or you are with the terrorists.’” Of course, the IS spin is that Bush’s and Obama’s “crusade against the Islamic State is the greatest testimony from Allah for the proper manhaj [agenda, plan] of this Khilafah.”   

While the IS, herein, purports to be brimming with confidence about winning the upcoming Armageddon-like battle, it nonetheless encourages Western Muslims to strike individually and pre-emptively against its enemies.   “At this point in the crusade…it is very important that attacks take place in every country that has entered into alliance against the Islamic State, especially the US, UK, France, Australia and Germany….the citizens of crusader nations should be targeted wherever they can be found. Let the muwahhid [believers in tawhid, “unity” of Allah especially over against Christian Trinitarian theology] not be affected by ‘analysis paralysis’” stemming from undertaking only operations that cannot fail.  “He should be pleased to meet his Lord  even if with just one dead kafir’s name written in his scroll of deeds.”  IS even doubles down on this incitement to jihad: “Every Muslim should  get out of his house, find a crusader, and kill him.  It is important that the killing becomes attributed to…the Islamic State…. Otherwise, crusader media makes such attacks appear to be random killings.”  Exhortation to jihad in the West fi sabil Allah goes on: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian or a Canadian or any other disbeliever…waging war…then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way….” [including, one might well surmise, jihad-by-automobile].  “Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian, or military….”  

The other major theme in this latest IS publication is “the revival of slavery before the [Last] hour.”  In particular Dabiq takes pains to explain why the non-dhimmi Yazidis are enslavable—unlike Jews or Christians.  “Their creed is so deviant from the truth that even cross-worshipping Christians for ages considered them devil worshippers and Satanists.”   IS claims that its scholar “research[ed]  the Yazidis to determine if they should be treated as an originally mushrik [“polytheistic”] group or one that originated as Muslims and then apostasized.”   Obviously IS came down in favor of the former—deeming Yazidis modern descendants of ancient Persian Zoroastrians—and so ruling that “unlike Jews and Christians, there was no room for jizyah payment.  Also, their women could be enslaved…. After capture, the Yazidi women and children were…divided according to the Shari`ah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State…after one-fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority ….”  This literal application of 7th century Islamic law and history has been meted out quite methodically: “the enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers [just] as the mushrikin were sold by the Companions…”  Dabiq also justifies the resurrection of such brutality as “one of the signs of the [Last] Hour, as well as one of the causes behind al-Malhamah al-Kubra.” In fact, there are two entire pages of Qur’an citations and Hadith quotations explaining how slavery must exist in Islamic lands before the eschatological denouement can come.

Medieval Islamic slavery.   Skin color matters not at all; religion (or lack thereof, in the Muslim view) is the determining factor.

Other topics covered in this magazine, albeit in less detail, include: the permissibility of ghanimah (war booty) in terms of seized weapons; gloating about successful military operations against the “nusayris” (Alawis, or Syrian government forces) and the PKK/YPG murtaddin (“apostates,” because they are Marxists);  administrative creation of two new wilayat from conquered regions around al-Bukamal (in southeast Syria) and Fallujah (west of Baghdad)—in order to “eliminate any remaining traces of the kufri, nationalistic borders;” scenes of putative state-building in the IS (bridges rebuilt, elderly being fed, electricity lines under repair); SecDef Hagel’s testimony about IS before the Senate Armed Services Committee; and, finally, five pages about the beheading of Steven Sotloff (blaming it largely on his being a “Jew and citizen of the Jewish state”) and four on British hostage John Cantlie, whose IS apologia appears likely forced.   The last page of this fourth issue of Dabiq repeats, at length, the hadith about the Muslims vanquishing the “Roman Christians” in al-Malhamah al-Kubra.

Damnit, Gandalf! The Rohirrim have gone over to ISIS! I knew we couldn't trust Theoden!

1) Islamic State is honing its eschatological-apocalyptic message to a fine point, by making its jihad against the “Crusade,” as well as the reimposing of slavery over non-dhimmis, Signs of the Last Hour.   
2) The numerous Qur’anic verses and hadith citations employed in this issue of Dabiq—as well as the legions of such in its first three editions—prove once and for all that IS is profoundly and legitimately Islamic.   Quotations from the Qur’an are neither taken out of context, nor “misinterpreted;” they are simply rendered, and applied, literally.  Certain hadiths, however, are glossed as needed; for example, the prediction that the “Romans “ (Byzantines) would land a major force in Syria to fight the Muslims is reinterpreted to mean the medieval Crusaders from Western Europe, because that better fits IS’s message.  
3) A keen awareness and indeed understanding of Western commentary on IS shows in the references to the statements of Obama, Bush, Hagel, Kissinger, Scheuer and Peters—lending further support to suspicions that he is an educated American 
4) IS’s ongoing efforts to degrade the territorial integrity of both Syria and Iraq, as well as to engage in nation-building,  proceed apace. 
5) References to "Constantinople"--the old Greek Christian name for Istanbul--being conquered by Muslims would seem to indicate that IS does not consider the Turks true Muslims, and that the city requires (re) conquest. 
6) IS clearly has now decided to no longer simply focus on its near enemies in the region but will encourage its supporters to strike citizens of its various far enemies in their own homelands.   This will very likely mean an increase in what the media calls attacks by “lone wolves”--better known as “roaming hyenas” whose ultimate pack  loyalty is to Qur’anic literalists such as those of IS.

While many governments of the world insist on regarding it as a (mere) éminence grise, the Islamic State's grey mantle increasingly covers more and more territory....
10:02 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why "Off With Their Heads" Is So Deeply Islamic
I appeared on "Midpoint" with Ed Berliner of "NewsmaxTV" today, explaining the very legitimately Islamic rationales for beheading. "Prophet" Muhammad and his deity Allah make the Queen of Hearts look positively merciful. (Look for "Show Clips," lower right-hand corner, and my name.)

The Scots should give me a retainer (notice the flag behind me?)!
10:19 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Br'er Mahdi? Luring the US into Eschatological Quicksand in Syria
Last night the United States and several allied Arab nations began airstrikes on the Islamic State [IS], as well as on the al-Qa`ida/Jabhat al-Nusrah offshoot Khurasan (or Khorasan), in Syria.  I wonder if the American political and military leadership realizes that in so doing we are waging war to stave off the end of the world—at least, that’s the opinion of many of our targeted enemies. I have previously explicated the extant and evident End Times beliefs of the major Sunni players in Syria—notably ISIS/ISIL/IS and Jabhat al-Nusrah.  Now comes a new twist: according to, of all sources, an Iranian one, IS is disseminating photos of a one-eyed infant which the group claims is the  Dajjal—the “Deceiver,” or anti-Christ, of Islamic tradition.  The story quotes Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Dempsey from a few weeks ago to the effect that IS has “an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision.”  It also, interestingly, quotes me: “once the caliphate is firmly established, then the likelihood of a Mahdiyah being proclaimed increases."  (Does this constitute damning with faint praise?  Although nice on my trip to Tehran in 2008, official Iranian outlets have written negatively about me since.)  It is curious, as well, that the Ahlul Bay [Ahl al-Bayt, “Family of the House (of the Prophet)”] News Agency would mock IS adducing the one-eyed Dajjal—since the idea is clearly found in both Sunni and Twelver Shi`i hadiths 

Urdu book on the Dajjal.  Now where have I seen this one-eyed chap before? Perhaps some pipe-weed will clear my mind....

This goes hand-in-fist with the many eschatological references in IS’s three issues of “Dabiq” magazine—the very name of which refers to the major apocalyptic battle between Muslim and “Roman/Crusader” forces at that location in northwest Syria.  (Again, see my previous blogalyses on the topic.)   But Levantine eschatological fervor is almost certainly being further inflamed by this newly-revelaled Khurasan organization—which, according to US intelligence and military sources, was planning “imminent” attacks on Americans, probably airliners.  The region of Khurasan is, however, much more than merely “part of the old Islamic caliphate that included Afghanistan [as well as eastern Iran and parts of Central Asia].”  That eastern Islamic territory was considered to be the eschatological font, as it were. There are a number of (Sunni) hadiths which predict that the Mahdi will ride in, with his jihadist entourage, from Khurasan to deliver the Islamic world and subjugate its enemies.  Furthermore, the Mahdi’s forces will bear the (in)famous black flags so beloved of groups like IS and Boko Haram right now.   Knowing the eschatological penchant of Jabhat al-Nusrah, I thus doubt that its splinter group’s name is only a geographical reference.  

Khurasan--also known as Greater Stanistan.

Finally, I sat through all 55:14 of the new IS video “
Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun.”  Frankly, this bloody and boring film is simply a live-action version of “Dabiq” magazine—albeit in the latter one at least is not subjected to interminable, grating Arabic Islamic chants and mind-numbing repetitions of “allah akbar.”  The usual IS suspects are everywhere: jihad is a duty; the caliphate is back, and this time it’s personal Bush/Obama; watch us kill “Nusayris” (Syrian Alawis), “Safawis” (Iraqi soldiers—“Safavids,” referring to the Twelver Shi`i Persian empire of early modern times), “murtaddin” (“apostate”) Kurds, usually en masse.  (IS even makes some of them dig their own graves before shooting them all in the backs of their heads.)   

One aspect of the IS propaganda was new, however;  speaking directly to the United States, the self-styled Caliph Ibrahim says “O defender of the cross…a proxy war won’t help you in Sham [Syria] just as it didn’t help you in Iraq….you will be forced into a direct confrontation…despite your reluctance…” [emphasis added].    


1) IS is not the only belligerent in the Middle East with an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision; Jabhat al-Nusrah has one, as well—as does, most likely, Khurasan.
2) Said eschatological paradigms are not “extremist” but very much in the Islamic mainstream (both Sunni and Shi`i)—and it would behoove analysts to consider them. 

3) Last month, in my break-down of the second issue of “Dabiq,” I wrote the following:  
IS atrocities like the beheading of James Foley and the mass murders of Shi`is and Yazidis are, in effect, "bizarre rituals intended to bring about the end of the world"--or at least to spark the Mahdi's coming.  I truly think that IS has passed into the realm of trying to hotwire the apocalypse.   “Caliph Ibrahim’s” latest warning to us—that the US is destined for direct conflict (meaning ground forces) with IS—clearly supports my contention.  IS leadership is firmly convinced, based on its literal reading of relevant hadiths, that a great force of “Romans/Crusaders” (Americans) will invade Syria and that a pious group of Muslims, the Islamic State, will defeat it.  Thus, I am convinced that Ibrahim and his ansar WANT massed American boots in Syria, the sooner the better—and are trying to goad us into providing them. 

4) Finally, a very important point which no one in the analytical or journalistic community notices--or cares to admit: the new Caliph refers to the United States of America as "defender of the cross."  Not "proponent of Ayn Rand," "guardian  of the Enlightenment" or "warden of Jeffersonian democracy."  The Islamic State's leader forthrightly and inconveniently spells out exactly why they hate us: because, in the eyes of him and his Muslim followers, we are a Christian nation.   There are those who will dismiss this as a mere progagandistic trope.  But they would be wrong to do so.  IS, along with Boko Haram and al-Qa`ida and Jabhat al-Nusra and the Taliban (to name only a few), as well as the non-terrorist but Muslim fundamentalist strains such as Wahhabism and Deobandism and Salafism--all view the world through a simplistic but legitimately Islamic lens of Dar al-Islam v. Dar al-harb: the "house of Islam" v. the "house of war."  And for 14 centuries the vanguard of the latter has been Christendom.  Some decry pointing this out as crass  "Crusaderism."  But as that combat veteran J.R.R. Tolkien points outs, "it needs but one foe to breed a war"--and when that enemy declares its war on us in religious terms, should we pretend otherwise?

4:26 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Islamic Historical Roots of ISIS: Furnish on Fox News Channel
The Fox News Special "Greta: Investigates ISIS" has now aired thrice.  The entire 60 minutes is not yet available online, but a long trailer (8:34) is, and much of my commentary appears therein.

8:45 am edt          Comments

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You Say ISIL, I Say ISIS--Let's Blow the Whole Thing Up

I was interviewed for 90 minutes last week by the good folks at Fox News Channel in New York City for the upcoming Greta van Susteren special "Greta: Investigates ISIS." It will air on Friday, September 19 at 7 pm Eastern Time (US) and again Saturday, September 20 at 10 pm and Sunday, September 21 at 9 pm.

I will provide historical background opinings on the caliphate, Sunni-Shi`i differences, Ottomans v. Safavids, Qur'anic doctrines, etc., which will serve as springboards for the panel discussion on the show. 
Here's a one-minute trailer (in which I appear for just a few seconds):


11:33 pm edt          Comments

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

Mahdi, Mahdism, Eschatology, Usama bin Ladin, Dajjal, Ahmadinejad, al-Sadr, Hizbullah, Yajuj wa-Majuj, Dabbah, Jesus, `Isa, Holiest Wars, Nasrallah, End of Time, Twelfth Imam, Middle East Politics, Iran, Iraq, al-Sistani, Awaited Mahdi, al-Mahdi, the Mahdi, Hojjatiyeh, Armageddon, Dabbah, Muhammad, Hadith, Jihadists, Apocalypse, Consultant, Islamic Mahdis, Osama bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda, al-Qa`ida, Azzam, Muhammad Ahmad, Ibn Tumart, al-Utaybi, Islam, Islamic, Muslim, Messiah, Ahmadinezhad, Khamanei, Ayatollah