*Includes pictures*Explains the history of Islam, the concept of the Mahdi, and how this belief affects todays Middle East*Includes online resources, footnotes, and a bibliography for further reading*Includes a table of contentsThere are fewMore*Includes pictures*Explains the history of Islam, the concept of the Mahdi, and how this belief affects todays Middle East*Includes online resources, footnotes, and a bibliography for further reading*Includes a table of contentsThere are few things which the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for many the leader of the world’s Shi’a community, and the leadership of al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of the Sunni terrorist organization Al-Qaida agree upon.
One of the few points that they can agree upon in the midst of their war of mutual annihilation is that the Apocalypse is coming and that they are the soldiers of its harbinger and messiah: the Mahdi.Across the Islamic world, the figure of the Mahdi has appeared with increasing prevalence in the last few decades: the “Mahdi Army” patrols Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, thousands of Mahdi impersonators rot in Iranian prisons, the feared Boko Haram army aims to bring about the arrival of the Mahdi in Nigeria , and the leader of the Islamic State renamed himself “Caliph Abdullah Ibrahim Ibn Awaad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad of Qurasysh Al-Baghdadi of the tribe of the prophet Muhammad” allowing him to fulfill the prophecy that the Mahdi would be named “Abdullah” and “ibn Muhammad.”The Shi’as have always had a deep emotional connection to the belief in the coming of the Mahdi.
In fact, most Shi’a believe that he has already come to earth in the form of their hidden (“occulted”) Twelfth Imam who has watched over humanity for centuries, and as the minority group within Islam, they have often lived in lands dominated by Sunnis and typically view the Sunni rulers as corrupt and having turned their backs on true Islam.At the same time, the Mahdi has played a crucial role among Sunnis, and the contemporary obsession with the Mahdi, the “Mahdaviat,” led to the rise of apocalyptic Sunni groups like ISIS.
Sunnis, who are often in power in Islamic lands, have been less comfortable with the fundamental assumption of the fallen states of the leadership. However, since the fall of the last Caliphate (the Ottoman Empire in 1924), and the domination of most of the Islamic world by European colonial powers and then obviously corrupt and often secular strongmen has made many Sunnis turn away from their leadership and look to the Mahdi for inspiration.
Outside of formal Islamic authorities, there has also been a long tradition of Mahdi claimants who seek to rise up and overthrow the authorities of their day and establish a truly sacred Muslim community on earth.Throughout it all, there are certain shared characteristics that all Mahdi myths and claimants hold. The first is an assumption that true purity of faith has been lost in modern Islam and that the authorities have turned their back on Islam (even if they still claim to be Muslims). Out of this time of absolute darkness, the Mahdi – a mortal man – will emerge to restore political power and religious purity to the land.
With his followers, they will be driven back by the forces of “Rome” (usually interpreted to be the West but often thought today to be the United States, secular Turkey, Israel or the Vatican). Finally, there will be a great battle, perhaps at a place in Syria called Dabiq. The Mahdi will be joined by Jesus (who is an important figure in Islam), and together they will rule over the world.
This is connected to Judgment Day, as all Muslims will be tried in this period of strife.The Mahdi: The History of the Prophesized Figure Muslims Believe Will Redeem Islam and Bring About the End Times looks at the history behind the beliefs and how they have shaped Islam over the centuries.