Archive for the ‘apocalyptic’ Category

Tim Furnish posts significant Q&A on Iraqi Mahdism

March 16, 2008

My blog-friend Dr. Timothy Furnish, who wrote the book on Mahdism, has been in recent contact with representatives of Sayyid al-Yamani, the head of the Ansar al-Mahdi group which was involved in violent altercations (they were accused of instigating them) in Basra and Nasiriya around the commemoration of Muharram in late January of this year.

Mahdism tends to be “under the radar” but already plays a significant role in the region, which could become very significant indeed very quickly if a major Mahdist movement caught on.

His MahdiWatch blog article carries significant information not easily available elsewhere:

http://www.mahdiwatch.org/2008.03.01_arch.html#1205465357892

Background can be found at the sites of Reidar Visser and at the Jamestown Foundation:

http://www.historiae.org/mahdists.asp
http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2373990

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I have a minor quibble with Tim Furnish’s post — he quotes his Ansar informant as writing, “Imam al Mahdi and Sayid al Yamani expect followers from all sects and religions. They’re for all and from all.” and comments:

This is a sort of universalism not normally seen in Mahdist thought.

It is found in the writings of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr, though. I’ve been fascinated by this passage since I first encountered it:

The Mahdi is not an embodiment of the Islamic belief but he is also the symbol of an aspiration cherished by mankind irrespective of its divergent religious doctrines. He is also the crystallization of an instructive inspiration through which all people, regardless of their religious affiliations, have learnt to await a day when heavenly missions, with all their implications, will achieve their final goal and the tiring march of humanity across history will culminate satisfactory in peace and tranquility. This consciousness of the expected future has not been confined to those who believe in the supernatural phenomenon but has also been reflected in the ideologies and cult which totally deny the existence of what is imperceptible. For example, the dialectical materialism which interprets history on the basis of contradiction believes that a day will come when all contradictions will disappear and complete peace and tranquility will prevail.

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Furnish has already posted a couple of other important notices, one about a Mahdist claim from Sunni Palestine, this month.