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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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Monday, April 30, 2012

Predator v. Alien (Detainees): Bush Was Right!
Four years ago I wrote an article entitled "Supreme Ignorance: America's Highest Court Disregards the Law of Land Warfare" in which I dissected modern SCOTUS decisions affecting what we then called the global war on terror--namely, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) and Boumedienne et al. v. Bush (2008).  I critiqued the justices (even the conservative ones) for failure to consider the Law of Land Warfare (LLW) and the relevant Geneva Convention protocols (GC) in rendering their decisions--in particular, that on Boumedienne, which granted habeus corpus rights to irregular forces (terrorists), in clear contradiction of LLW and GC.  I predicted that one of the military and intelligence ramifications of these decisions, notably Boumedienne, would be that "contra Justice Scalia's fear that this decision [would] result in more American soldiers being killed, I think it equally likely that it will result in more Muslim terrorism suspects being killed, since field commanders and...11Bs ([Army] infantrymen) will be more prone to shoot first, handcuff later."
Last night, on "60 Minutes," Jose Rodriguez--the CIA's Director of Operations, 2004-2007, and a 31-year veteran of the agency--confirmed what I had predicted: "this [Obama] administration's default position is to kill people, not to capture them.  How is that more ethical?"  The only aspect on which I was off was the level at which the decision to kill, not capture, suspected terrorists would be made. It's easy to make Obama look like a massive hypocrite on this issue--so I won't pile on. I think the bigger issue, however, is not that the über-liberal Obama is less humane and more bloodthirsty than President Bush via, in essence, enacting these recent SCOTUS decisions; rather, the major point is that we are losing out on crucial intelligence by shooting first and not being able to ask questions later.
BHO: We don't need no stinkin' detainees/POWs, gringo!

Dubya: Let'em play that not-from-America game before
we waterboard'em for more info! Yee hah!
11:40 am edt          Comments

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Goatskins and Torahs and Arks--Oh My!

Several days ago I commented on political Mahdism in North Africa and "al-Andalus" (once-Islamic Spain), leading with an observation that Muslim messianism is an integral substratum of all Islamic (Sunni as well as Shi`i) civilization--not reducible to (or dismissable as) a belief that is merely episodic and ephemeral.
Today I wish to adduce two further examples of the very deep roots which Mahdism has in Islamdom.  One new case, from Twelver Shi`i Iran, consists of an unidentified ayatollah on one of the state-run TV channels there
babbling on breathlessly at some length about how the real Torah (Hebrew Scriptures) and "Injil" ("Gospel," what Muslims call the New Testament) are currently in the possession of the 12th Imam al-Mahdi, probably somewhere in Kufa or Najaf--and he has these divine books wrapped up in a goatskin for safe-keeping, until such time as he finally reveals himself (whereupon said holy books will serve as literal proof texts of his divine legitimacy for Jews, Christians and Muslims--or so the theory goes).
somewhat different take on the Mahdi proffering his bona fides exists in the Sunni tradition, as articulated most recently (and cogently) by Adnan Oktar, a.k.a. "Harun Yahya" ("Aaron John"), the famous Turkish sect leader whose followers fancy him the Mahdi.  The Sunni Mahdi has a bit more class about stowing recorded divine revelations than the Shi`i one, however--rather than rank animal skins, he will use the Ark of the Covenant, which he will (re)discover near Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) upon his return, according to several Sunni hadiths (alleged extra-Qur'anic sayings of Muhammad).  Oktar glosses these hadiths to mean that the Mahdi could find the Ark in Antioch, Mecca, Jerusalem or even Istanbul (although only the first of those is "near" the relevant body of water). 
The Mahdi, disguised as Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., looking for
the Ark. 

1) This trope that the Mahdi will reveal the true teachings of Judaism and Christianity--which will no doubt look remarkably like those of Islam--stems from the core Islamic doctrine that both the other major monotheistic faiths are "corrupted" and need purifying and, indeed, supplanting.
2) Asserting the 12th Imam al-Mahdi of Iranian and Iraqi Shi`ism is already present on Earth is a major development in that branch of Islam; heretofore, for the previous eleven centuries since he went missing, Twelver Shi`is have been limited merely to looking forward to his advent and only on rare and remarkable occasions (such as with the claimed eschatological inception of the Safavid Dynasty in the early 16th century) has this orthodoxy been challenged with allegations that the waiting is over.  Other examples of the claim to realized Mahdism in Iran/Iraq, as with the Bah`ai faith starting in the 19th century, have resulted in marginalization and persecution.  The eschatological escape hatch (from heresy) for this ayatollah would seem to be that he never claims any particular person in Kufa or Najaf is the Mahdi--but only makes vague allusions to an unspecified Mahdi being there (in a David Nivenish sense, one suspects).
3) Note that the Twelver Imam al-Mahdi lurks about Kufa or Najaf, Iraq.  Certain Shi`i  traditions hold that the once-and-future Mahdiyah (Mahdist state) will be headquartered in one of those two cities--another reason for Iran to have as its eventual goal the incorporation of at least those parts of Iraq into its ambit. 
4) I would wager that Adnan Oktar adds the possibility of Istanbul being a resting place of that particular ancient "radio for talking to God" just in case he ever decides to openly claim the Mahdiship, and/or to keep the air of Mahdist legitimacy hovering about the old Ottoman imperial capital. (Who knows, maybe President
Erdoğan will beat Oktar to it--although I'd expect a caliphal claim from him first.) 
5) On a more archaeological note: perhaps it is not out of the realm of possibility that some shred of historical memory survived in the Sunni hadiths regarding the Ark, and that rather than being buried under the Temple Mount, sequestered in the Chapel of the Ark in Axum (Ethiopia), or lost in a huge government warehouse the Lost Ark of the Covenant is hidden somewhere in northern Israel?  Any archaeologists who wish to discuss this idea, please contact me!
Even the Twelfth Imam will need help finding it in that mess.  He should solicit the assistance of top men. Top. Men.

5:06 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Evolution of US Foreign Policy toward Islam, 1776-2016
The "Ignorant Bliss" of the lost-in-the-desert years,

Hey, get that jihad sword away from me, Khomeini and
Bin Ladin!  c. 1979-2003.

My what big 5 Peaceful Pillars you have! Don't want to
offend you and them! 2003-2009

"I yam mesmerized by your culture, Genie! It's making
my DHS forget all about 1400 years of jihad!" 2010

"CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood say these chains
are just for my own protection, so I don't teach the military
anything 'inflammatory' about Muslims!" 2011-2012

"I yam what I yam--a good dhimmi."  2012-2016.
6:32 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Plague of Mahdis
While the news headlines in recent months, as far as the Islamic world is concerned, have been dominated by the likes of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Iran's nuclear program and the civil war in Syria, the long durée of Mahdism continues to simmer just under the surface, sometimes bubbling up into the more mundane world of histoire événementielle.  Cases in point:
The Mahdi is running for the Presidency of Egypt--or so one Muhammad Muhammad Musa maintains about himself.  Even a self-deluded, messianic candidate might gain some electoral traction when he runs on a platform of claiming that his predecessor (Mubarak), Bashar al-Assad and the now-room-temperature al-Qadhafi are all "minions of the Deceiving Dajjal" [Muslim "AntiChrist"], however. (Special thanks to my friend Ray Ibrahim for first alerting me to this story!)  
2) Last month nine members of Ansar al-Mahdi in Spain, er, occupied al-Andalus
went on trial for planning jihad to spark the re-Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula in the name of Islam.  These members of the "religion of peace" believe that "any land that was once owned by Muslims shall always and forever be Muslim."  Substitute "owned" with "conquered," "was once trod upon" or even, really, "touched" and you have the perfect recipe for unceasing war by Muslims against those who simply won't give back such lands--employed not just in Spain and Portugal but Palestine, India, southern Russia, the Balkans, Xinjiang, ad nauseum.  But note that this sharp concept never cuts the other way--Christians are not allowed to demand back, say, Constantinople and all of Asia Minor; or North Africa, which was entirely Christian under the late Roman Empire. 
3) Also last month, just across the Strait of Gibraltar, the
Moroccan group Yamaa Mahdaiuya [Jama`ah Mahdawiyah, "Mahdist Community/Troop/Gang"] was "dissolved" by Rabat for heretical teachings but not--at least officially, or at least not yet--for promoting jihad.  Supposedly "surrounded by a halo of mysticism," members of this organization had to sell all their property and give the proceeds to the leaders--whom they also had to ask permission before having sex with their own wives.   And ignorance of own's own societal history must be as rampant in Morocco as in the US--at least among journalists--as the correspondent for "Morocco Tomorrow" editorializes that belief in the Mahdi "is a concept linked more to Shiite [sic] Islam than to Moroccan religious culture." Really? No. Actually, Mahdism is part and parcel of North African history in general, and Moroccan history in particular--exemplified by the perhaps the most successful Mahdist leader--and a Sunni, at that--of all time, Abd Allah Ibn Tumart (d. 1130), creator of the al-Muwahhid ("Almohad") empire, predicated on belief in him as the Mahdi.
4) The Sunni cleric
Imran Nozar Hosein--born in Trinidad, educated at prestigious al-Azhar in Cairo, former diplomat and Islamic da`i ("missionary") in New York--recently presented a lecture series on Mahdism, one primary presentation of which postulated that the "Arab Spring" was in reality a Mahdist one, that the uprisings across North Africa and into Syria and the Arabian peninsula presage not the advent of Jeffersonian democracy--as the Twittersphere, NPR and the "NY Times" would have it--but rather the first stirrings of a transnational Mahdist state.
Famous Gondorian Military Leader and Geopolitical Analyst

1) It may be tempting to dismiss such Mahdist-minded movements and individuals as outliers in the Muslim world; but as 
history's favorite mustachioed dictator once said, quantity has a quality all its own, eventually.  Mahdism just keeps rearing its mystical, oft-problematic and violent head in the Muslim world, even here in the age of Twitter, the Internet and planned asteroid mining.  Even if one postulates that "modernized" Muslims--member of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example--reject out-of-hand such "outmoded" beliefs, that still leaves a substantial minority of 1.5 billion people which does not, most notably among the Salafist-minded pious in the Sunni world, to include (to name just a few) members of massive organizations and movements like Tablighi Jama`at, Deobandis, Barelvis, many Sufi orders, etc.   (Of course, Mahdism is a key doctrine in all branches of Shi`ism, wherever they exist.)
2) Mahdist movements can be peaceful and nutty (Yamaa Mahdaiuya), or violent and nutty (Ansar al-Mahdi, not just in Spain but in Iraq or anywhere else such a group coalesces).  In this regard, Mahdism greatly resembles Sufism (Islamic mysticism)--which, not coincidentally, has been the germination ground for many Mahdis over the centuries.   Just remember: "nutty" does not equal harmless.
3) Relatedly, note how easily Mahdism elides into the irredentist Islamic jihad so beloved of modern Muslim ideologues and provocateurs.  Mahdists are, in effect, the jihadists par excellence, with absolutely no brakes on their behavior except those which their self-styled Mahdi may apply. 
4) Note that even seemingly "moderate," Westernized, loquacious and intelligent Islamic scholars like Hosein believe in the Mahdi, promulgating and rationalizing that belief for the (Sunni) masses--in this regard playing a role vis-a-vis the hoi polloi
rather like that of Tablighi Jama`at, in terms of not directly advocating jihad but preparing the way of the one who will.  

al-Muwahhid (Almohad) Empire in gun-metal blue, Maghrib and Spain; Fatimid Empire, olive-drab,
in Egypt and western Arabia, c. 1100 AD.  Both were Mahdist: Sunnis to the left, (Sevener) Shi`ites
to the right; would you want to be stuck in the middle?  It might happen again.

12:32 pm edt          Comments

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

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