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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.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Working On Mahdi Time

According to the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw, Mir Hossein Mousavi—the leader of Iran’s opposition “Green Movement”—is accusing President Ahmadinejad’s administration of “suspending government projects” pending the arrival of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi.  “Some people believe Mahdi will come in the next six months or next year. That is why the government has stopped working on several industrial, as well as water and energy projects,” Mousavi ridiculed. “They paralyze the economy on the prextext of Mahdi’s coming.” Mousavi also claimed that such “superstitious beliefs were growing within the ruling elite” and that “his supporters had increased into the military circles [sic] including high ranking offiicals of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps."
It has become commonplace to accuse “hardline” elements within the Islamic Republic government of such eschatological inanity—but it would be nice to have some proof thereof.  Mousavi may simply be trying to curry favor with secular allies, within and outside Iran, over against the admittedly-apocalpytic-minded Ahmadinejad. 
Ditto for the charge that Mahdist expectations are running rampant in other sectors of the regime.  How about a fatwa, article, sermon text or even purloined email to back up such a charge? Preferably something on Mesbah-Yazdi’s personal stationery.
Which sector of the “ruling elite” is most prone to this alleged Mahdist hysteria? Ahmadinejad’s populist clique?  The “hardline,” “reformist,” or irredentist ayatollahs?  The Hujjatiyeh organization? After all, remember, accusing Shi`is of belief in the Mahdi’s return is like accusing Christians of belief in Jesus’ return—it may alarm secularists, but it’s not exactly abnormal. 
4)  Due to imprecision on the part of either the Rudaw reporter or Mousavi himself, it’s unclear whether “his supporters” refers to those of Mousavi, Ahmadinejad or the Mahdi himself.  It seems to refer to Mousavi, in which case Tehran is no doubt nervous that opposition to Ahmadinejad, and thus perhaps also to Supreme Leader Khameini, would be on the rise within the vilayet-i faqih’s Praetorian Guard.
5) Somehow I doubt that the nuclear weapons industry has seen much of a slowdown....


4:03 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Magical Mahdist Tour

According to a story this week by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s AhlulBayt News agency, celebrations of the 12th Imam’s birthday have now spread to Liverpool, England.  Such festivities honoring the occulted Muhammad al-Mahdi’s birthday, and not his death, remind true believers that he’s only sleeping and that it won’t be long until his return, which could happen any time at all.  However, since the last imam  disappeared over a millennium ago, telling his follower that "you won’t see me" until you come together and get back to the pure faith and community of the early Muslim umma, he’s been something of a nowhere man, and queries directed at him usually get no reply at all (except perhaps when made by Ahmadinejad).   When the Mahdi does come, he will lead an Islamic revolution, getting rid of the Western global taxman. Until then, Twelver Shi`is will just have to let it be.  Insha’allah, he won’t come in through the Jamkaran bathroom window, which while not long might constitute somewhat of a winding road to reappearance.  Remember, all things must pass—including, thankfully for the reader, this post (although I could go on, and on….). 
10:36 am edt          Comments

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

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