People claiming to be the Mahdi

People claiming to be the Mahdi

Many people through history have claimed to be the Mahdi (مهدي), a messianic figure expected in Islam. These have had varying degrees of success in convincing fellow Muslims of their station, however the predominant set of Muslims regard them as false claimants, or pretenders. These claimants were often at the centre of political intrigue or radical social upheaval. It is believed by Muslims, Shias in particular, that many people will claim to be the Mahdi, although all will be false. Shias believe that the true Muslim will know when the Mahdi has arrived. It is believed furthermore, that when the true Mahdi does arrive, the state of the world will be such that corruption will be at its greatest, and will have reached a level whereby it cannot grow worse.

Eighth century

alih ibn Tarif

Salih ibn Tarif, the second king of the Berghouata, proclaimed himself prophet of a new religion in the eighth century. He appeared during the caliphate of the Ummayad Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. According to Ibn Khaldun's sources, he claimed receiving a new revelation from God called a Qur'an, written in the Berber language with 80 chapters. He established laws for his people, which called him "Salih al-Mu'minin" ('Restorer of the Believers'), and the final Mahdi.

Islamic literature considers his belief heretical, as several tenets of his teaching contrast with orthodox Islam, such as capital punishment for theft, unlimited wives, unlimited divorces, fasting of the month of Rajab instead of Ramadan, and ten obligatory daily prayers instead of five. Politically, its motivation was presumably to establish their independence from the Umayyads, establishing an independent ideology lending legitimacy to the state. Some modern Berber activists regard him as a hero for his resistance to Arab conquest and his foundation of the Berghouata state.

Ninth century

Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali

Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali, the twelfth Imam of Twelver Shi'as, is regarded by his followers as the Mahdi in occultation and is called Muhammad al-Mahdi by them.

The son of the eleventh Iman Hasan al-Askari and of Narjis, he was said to have been born in 868 and to have gone into minor occultation from shortly after his father's death in 874 until 939, and then to have gone into major occultation. His followers believe this will continue until a time decided by God, when the Mahdi will reappear to bring absolute peace and justice to the world.

Tenth century

aid ibn Husayn

Said ibn Husayn, the first Caliph of the Fatimid state, established in 909, was one of only two claimants who succeeded in establishing a state. (See Muhammad Ahmad below).

His Da'i Abu 'Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi'i helped secure for him parts of north Africa using the support of the Berber locals. The Fatimids later built Cairo as capital in Egypt and their descendants continued to rule as Caliphs (the sixth, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, is believed by the Druze to be in occultation and due to return as Mahdi on Judgment Day) until Saladin took over Egypt and canceled the Fatimid state. He imprisoned the last Fatimid Caliph and his family in the Fatimid Palace until death.

Twelfth century

Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart

The Moroccan Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart sought to reform Almoravid decadence in the early 12th century. Rejected in Marrakech and other cities, he turned to his Masmuda tribe in the Atlas Mountains for support. Because of their emphasis on the unity of God, his followers were known as "Al Muwahhidun" ('unitarians', in western language: Almohads).

Although declaring himself mahdi, imam, and "masum" (literally in Arabic: innocent or free of sin), Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart consulted with a council of ten of his oldest disciples, and conform traditional Berber representative government, later added an assembly of fifty tribal leaders. The Almohad rebellion began in 1125 with attacks on Moroccan cities, including Sus and Marrakech. But as Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart died in 1130, his successor Abd al Mumin took the title of Caliph -claiming universal leadership in Islam- and placed members of his own family in power, converting the system into a traditional sultanate.

Fifteenth century

yed Muhammad Jaunpuri

Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443 - 1505), [ Biography - Promised One, a biography of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri] ] another historical claimant was born in northeastern India, in Jaunpur, (presently in state of Uttar Pradesh). His father's name was Abdullah and his mother's Amina. He was descendant of Husayn ibn Ali & through Musa Kadhim.

He claimed being the promised Mahdi on three occasions. He announced his claim; first in Mecca and then two places in India. He attracted a large following, and received opposition from the ulema.

Muhammad Jaunpuri died at the age of 63 in the year 1505 AD while at Farah, Afghanistan. The burial location is a preserved sanctuary, looked after by the local inhabitants.

The widespread but lesser known community of the followers of Muhammad Jaunpuri, who find him being the Promised Mahdi are called Mahdavis, who follow strict sunnah as stressed by him and their belief is called Mahdaviat. Now centralized in the Indian city of Hyderabad, yet larger settlements are found in Gujarat. Wide spread in Karnataka, Maharashtra. Some other states have minor populations scattered, while some in southern Pakistan. Many have recently migrated and settled in United States and the United Kingdom.

Nineteenth century

The nineteenth Century provided a large number of Mahdi claimants, some of whose subsequent followings survive to the present day in significant numbers.

iyyid 'Alí-Muhammad (the Báb)

In 1844 in Shiraz, Ali Muhammad declared to be the promised Mahdi, taking the title of "the Báb" (Gate).

The Báb established a religion independent from Islam. He established his religion as a precursor to an even greater message yet to come. As most Bábís believed the claims of Bahá'u'lláh to be the author of this greater message, the Báb's religious tradition continues today by way of the Bahá'í Faith.

Muhammad Ahmad

Muhammad Ahmad, who founded a short-lived government in Sudan in the late nineteenth century, made a claim to be the promised Mahdi. His army laid siege to Khartoum starting on March 13 1884 against the defenders led by British General Charles George Gordon. The heavily damaged city fell to the Mahdists on January 26 1885. Muhammad Ahmad died later that same year, but the Mahdist state he created lasted until 1899, when the British once again took control of Sudan.Descendants of Muhammad Ahmad are sufi religious leaders of the Ansar sufi brotherhood and Umma Party in Sudan.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (1835-1908) claimed to be the awaited Mahdi as well as the promised Messiah (Second Coming of Christ) being the only person in Islamic History who claimed to be both. He founded the Ahmadiyya Movement within Islam in 1889 envisioning it to be the rejuvenation of Islam, and claimed to be commissioned by God for the reformation of mankind [ [ Jesus in India, Preface] ]

Ghulam Ahmad appeared within British India. He was actively engaged in religious polemics and controversies with the Christian, Hindu and even Muslim priesthood. He authored around 80 books on various religious, spiritual and theological issues. He promoted the peaceful propagation of Islam and emphatically argued agaisnt the necessity of Jihad in its form of physical fighting in this age. [ Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, An Overview] ]

Twentieth century

ayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan

Mohammed Abdullah Hassan was called the "Mad Mullah" of Somaliland by the British, although he was neither mad nor a mullah. He was a problem for the British and Italian authorities in Africa from 1900 to 1920.

He was a charismatic figure credited by his followers with supernatural powers. At first peaceful, he began attacking neighbouring tribes friendly to the British and declared himself the Mahdi.

Juhayman ibn-Muhammad ibn-Sayf al-Otaibi

In November of 1979 the Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized by a well-organized group of 1,300 to 1,500 men under the leadership of Juhayman al-Otaibi. A former corporal in the Saudi White Guards (National Guard), he declared Mohammad Abdullah al Querishi to be the Mahdi, the redeemer of Islam. [] .

After the two week long siege of the Mosque by Saudi special forces, foreign paramilitary troops from France and Pakistan were brought in to end the fight.


Timothy Furnish, "Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden" (Greenwood, 2005)
*Peter Smith, the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions - from messianic Shi'ism to a world religion; Cambridge University Press (1987); ISBN 0-521-30128-9
*Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal - the Making of the Bábí Movement in Iran 1844-1850; Cornell University Press (1989); ISBN 0-8014-2098-9
*cite book|author=Esslemont, J.E.|year=1980|edition=5th edition|title=Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, An Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith|publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, USA.|id=ISBN 0877431604

The forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda THE SIEGE of MEKKA by Yaroslav Trofimov (2007) ISBN 978-0-385-51925-0 Publisher Doubleday

ee also

*List of people who have claimed to be Jesus

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