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The Mahdi ( Arabic المهدي, DMG al-Mahdī  'the rightly guided'; in Persian , Turkish and some Arabic dialects also pronounced as Mehdi ) is a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed according to traditional Islamic beliefs, who will appear in the end times and eliminate injustice in the world. Belief in the appearance of the Mahdi is a central component of the Shiite denomination as well as spreading in the chiliastic expectations in Sunni Islam and is accordingly represented in the canonical collections of traditions in the form of hadiths .

Development of the Mahdi concept

The term al-mahdī , which is derived from the Arabic word root h-dy , which generally has the meaning of “divine guidance”, does not appear in the Koran itself, but at one point there is a word that comes from the same word root derived and has a similar meaning: muhtadī ("who lets himself be guided"). So it says in sura 17 : 97: "Whom God guides, he is (in truth) guided" ( wa-man yahdī Llāhu fa-hwa l-muhtadī ).

Since the beginning of Islam, however, Mahdī has been used as a religious and political honorary title, for example by the Arab poet Hassān ibn Thābit for the prophet Mohammed. The poet Sulaimān ibn Surad described al-Husain ibn ʿAlī after his martyrdom at Karbala as "Mahdi, son of Mahdi". During the second civil war after the death of the Umayyad caliph Muʿāwiya I , the term began to acquire a religious-messianic meaning in addition to its political meaning. He now designated the expected ruler who was to restore true Islam. So in the year 685 in Kufa al-Muchtār ibn Abī ʿUbaid proclaimed the Alid Muhammad ibn al-Hanafīya to be Mahdi and carried out a large-scale uprising against the Meccan caliph ʿAbdallāh ibn az-Zubair in his name .

After the death of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafīya in 700, a sect emerged whose followers believed that he had not really died, but had just hidden himself and would soon return to take possession of the earth. This sect was named Kaisānīya after its leader . The Kaisānīya later split into numerous sub-sects. While the so-called Caribites continued to wait for the return of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafīya and said that there could be no other Mahdi but him because his father ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib had designated him as such, the Harbites first applied the Mahdi concept Muhammad's son Abū Hāschim and later to ʿAbdallāh ibn Muʿāwiya, a descendant of Abū Tālib , who rebelled against the Umayyads in 746 and was killed in dungeon in 748/49. As reported in an Arabic doxographic work, ʿAbdallāh ibn Harb, the head of the Harbites, claimed that ʿAbdallāh ibn Muʿāwiya did not die, but “is in the mountain of Isfahan and is the Mahdī of this community, announced by the Prophet and communicated by him have that he will fill the earth with justice and equity. "

The model of the rapture , absence, and expected return of the Mahdi developed by the Kaisanites in the early 8th century was later adopted by other branches of the Shia; the concept of the Mahdi as an eschatological figure finally found its way into the popular eschatology of the Sunnis.

Basics and differences in Mahdi teaching

A general description of the Islamic Mahdi belief is given by Ibn Chaldūn (d. 1406) in the 51st section of the third chapter of his Muqaddima . There it says:

“Know that it has been known among the general Muslim community at all times that at the end of time a man of the Ahl al-bait must emerge who will strengthen religion and bring justice to victory. The Muslims will follow him and he will take possession of the Islamic lands. He will be called the Mahdī. Immediately afterwards, the emergence of Dajāl and all subsequent events will take place, which according to the healthy hadith are prerequisites for the occurrence of the second hour (sc. The resurrection ). After that, Jesus will descend and kill Dajal. Or Jesus will descend with him (sc. The Mahdi), help him kill Dajāl and pray behind him. "

Various hadiths served as the basis for this idea, which Ibn Chaldūn also elaborates on. For example, in a hadeeth narrated by Abū Dāwūd as-Sidschistānī with reference to Abū Saʿīd al-Chudrī, Muhammad is quoted as saying: “The Mahdī is mine. He has a bald forehead and an aquiline nose . He will fill the world with justice and right as it was before with injustice and injustice. He will reign for seven years. ”In another version of the hadeeth narrated by Ibn Madja , the words of Muhammad are:“ There will be the Mahdī in my umma . If it is short, he will rule seven years, otherwise nine. My umma will experience unprecedented prosperity during this time. The earth will produce its food and will not hold back any of it. There will be loads of money. A man will get up and say, 'O Mahdī, give me something.' And he will answer: 'Just take' "

According to a popular belief, the Mahdi is one of the descendants of Fatima and her husband Ali ibn Abi Talib , i.e. a Hasanid or a Husainid. Ibn Chaldūn said, however, that the Mahdī must necessarily emerge from the Hasanid or Huzainid Bedouins , who ruled Mecca , Medina and the Hejaz , because they alone had enough ʿAsabīya and fighting spirit to assert themselves militarily.

Sunni Islam

In Sunni Islam there is no canonical view the Mahdi and the belief in these varies among Sunnis and Sunni scholars. While some scholars like Ibn Chaldūn considered the few hints in the Sunni hadiths to be inauthentic and thus completely rejected the belief in an eschatological Mahdi, other scholars like Ibn Kathir worked out detailed end-time scenarios in which the Mahdi and Jesus against the Dajjal fight. Another opinion includes a Mahdi as an eschatological redeemer figure, but rejects the idea that the Mahdi is a separate, independent person. Instead, the term Mahdi is understood as a title that Jesus receives on his return. According to this idea, Jesus performs the task that is alternatively assigned to the Mahdi and then judges humanity.

Furthermore, the idea of ​​the Mahdi established itself in popular belief. Unlike the Shiite idea of ​​the Mahdi, all Sunni ideas reject the fact that the Mahdi was already born as a human and remains in secrecy.

Shiite Islam

The Twelve Shiites , the largest group of Shiites, consider the Hidden Imam to be the Mahdi. He is supposed to come back one day when humanity calls for redemption out of dire need and save the world, because he is the messianic figure. With them the Mahdi is not isolated. There have been eleven generations of imams who, according to oral tradition, were all ultimately murdered by the rulers of their time for reasons of state. The 12th Imam, the Mahdi, evaded this fate by fleeing as a child. Therefore, Muhammad al-Mahdī is the living imam and lives on in secret to this day. Initially, he is said to have kept in touch with the community in writing for four generations (about 70 years) through ambassadors (high scholars) - this time the Shiites call the "little absence" ( al-ġaiba aṣ-ṣuġrā ). In the year 941 of the Christian calendar he also interrupted this type of communication, but is always informed about each of his followers. This is the period of the "great absence" ( al-ġaiba al-kubrā ), which is to last until God orders his reappearance. The Shiites therefore longingly wait for his return. Consequently, the constitution of Shiite Iran from 1979 also designates the twelfth Imam as the actual head of state. According to this view, the clergy only rules in their substitution until they return from concealment ( Arabic ولاية الفقيه, DMG Wilāyat al-faqīh  ' Lieutenancy of the Legal Scholar ').

Ahmadiyya community

The Ahmadiyya equates the expected Mahdi with Jesus, while Shiites and, in some cases, Sunnis reject this and refer to different traditions. While many Islamic groups expect a Mahdi to act politically or in a warlike manner, Ahmadi Muslims believe that the Mahdi will lead a spiritual and intellectual jihad .

Interpretations in mystical interpretations

According to some mystical ideas, the Mahdi is referred to as one's own guide to defeating the inner Dajāl . In other words, those insights, not to look at oneself as a body, but as a consciousness in a body, and thus lead to the Fana or thoughts and actions that cancel out the illusion of the self .

Historical Mahdi movements

In the past there have been a number of people who have claimed to be the Mahdi and who claim to have attracted followers. Some of them were even able to found their own states.

10th and 11th centuries

After moving to North Africa in 909-934, Abdallah al-Mahdi was the first caliph from the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty. Supported by the rebelling Kutama, al-Mawati, a young man from the Banu Mawatan clan of the Urisa tribe, appeared in 912 as the "anti-Mahdi" to the first Fatimid caliph. Although his warriors succeeded in conquering Mila and Constantine from Ikdschan , he was soon defeated by a Fatimid army led by al-Qaim , captured and, after being displayed in Kairuan , executed in Raqqada .

The Mahdi Ibn Tumart (1077–1130) founded the Almohad dynasty in what is now Morocco .

19th century

Muhammad Ahmad , the Sudanese Mahdi

Usman dan Fodio , the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate , compared himself to the Mahdī in a Fulfulde poem, but affirmed that he himself was only the harbinger of the Mahdī.

The resistance against French rule in Algeria in the 1830s included the Islamic theologian Emir Abd al-Qadir , who was unable to assert himself against the French because the Muslims were at odds with one another. His main opponent was Muhammad ben Abd Allah al-Baghdadi, an avowed Mahdi who led an uprising against the emir in protest against tax payments.

The Bab , whose real name is Sayyid Ali Muhammad - the founder of the religion of Babism - reinterpreted the Mahdi concept of the Shiites insofar as he saw the expected Twelfth Imam as a purely spiritual innovator without any worldly claim to power. From 1844 he claimed to be this innovator himself and thus established a new era . The Bab taught the imminent coming of an "even greater" Messenger of God whom God would "reveal". Most of his followers saw these prophecies fulfilled in Baha'u'llah , became his followers from 1863 and called themselves Baha'i after him .

Muhammad Ahmad , the leader of the Mahdi uprising in Sudan , also referred to himself as Mahdi . In 1881 Muhammad Ahmad headed an uprising against the Egyptian occupation of Sudan. The turmoil in Egypt during the Urabi movement favored the spread of his idea. After the suppression of the Urabi movement, new supporters flocked to him. From 1881 to 1898 they created their own state in Sudan. This Mahdi became famous through the conquest of Khartoum on January 26th, 1885. Charles George Gordon was killed. A few months after the conquest of Khartoum, Muhammad Ahmad died. His successor and closest confidante Abdallahi ibn Muhammad , with the title of Caliph , succeeded in conquering the entire area of ​​Sudan between the provinces of Darfur in the west, Suakin in the east (excluding the city), Dongola in the north and Bahr al-Ghazal in the south. A British-Egyptian expeditionary force under Horatio Herbert Kitchener was deployed against him and defeated the Sudanese on September 2, 1898 at the Battle of Omdurman .

In British India in 1890 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad , the founder of the Ahmadiyya , referred to himself as the prophesied Mahdi and Messiah. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad declared the (religiously motivated) jihad to be abolished, on which the pacifist stance of the Ahmadiyya is based. From this he established his office as Messiah and Mahdi of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and all other world religions (e.g. in relation to Hinduism as the Avatar of Krishna). As a result of this claim, he was declared an apostate by many Sunni scholars . In addition, God reportedly told him that long after the crucifixion, which he survived, Jesus died of natural causes and was buried in Kashmir, India.

20th century

Mahdist expectations were particularly widespread in the British colony of Nigeria in the early 20th century . A center of Mahdist activity was Dumbulwa near the city of Fika in the northeast of the country. Around 1919, under the leadership of Sheikh Sa'id ibn Hayatu from the Toronkawa clan of the Fulani, a Mahdist-oriented community formed here, which grew to 3,000 people within four years. In 1923, Sa'id ibn Hayatu was arrested by the British and deported to Cameroon . A second center of the Nigerian Mahdi movement was Kano . Here, in 1941, a Hausa trader wrote a work on the "Signs of the Mahdī" ( Dalāʾil al-Mahdī ), in which he wrote: "There are clear indications of the imminent appearance of the Mahdī. One of this evidence is the advance of Europeans into it Hausaland The emirs have no more power, but go to Kaduna (sc. The colonial capital of northern Nigeria) ... All this is what God foretold, and it will happen among his servants, to the things that come , Heard the appearance of the Mahdī, and he will come very soon. "

In December of that year, said at the Ijebu the Tidschaniyya (1896-1960) -Anhänger Muhammad Jumat Imam Mahdi and the Messiah and called for unity between Muslims and Christians. He opened a religious building in Ijebu-Ode in 1944 , which was to be both a mosque for Muslims and a temple for Christians. Shortly before his death in 1959, his community had 20,000 followers spread across all areas of Ijebuland.

Similar ideas in other religions

End-time redeemers and saviors recur periodically in the Indian religions, in the prophetic religions they appear at the end of days. The Indian Vishnu came down in nine avatars to save the disordered world. In his tenth appearance as Kalki , he is to return at the end of the present world age. The future Buddha Maitreya corresponds to him in Buddhism . In the prophetic teachings the Savior appeared once or will come again: in the form of the Messiah of the Hebrew Bible and Christ, who is to appear as World Judge. In Zoroastrianism , Saoschjant will bring about a renewal of the world ( Frashokereti ) and defeat evil. The prophet Zarathustra has therefore not completely disappeared, from his seed Saoschjant will one day be born.


Arabic sources
Secondary literature
  • Peter B. Clarke: Mahdism in West Africa. The Ijebu Mahdiyya Movement. Luzac Oriental, London 1995.
  • Heinz Halm: The Empire of the Mahdi. The rise of the Fatimids (875–973). CH Beck, Munich 1991.
  • Denis MacEoin: The Messiah of Shiraz. Studies in Early and Middle Babism (= Iran Studies. Volume 3). Brill, Leiden 2009, ISBN 978-90-04-17035-3 .
  • W. Madelung: al-Mahdī. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition . Volume V, pp. 1230b-1238a.
  • Hannes Möhring : The world emperor of the end times. Origin, change and effect of a thousand-year prophecy (= Middle Ages research. Volume 3). Jan Thorbecke, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-7995-4254-X , pp. 375-414.
  • Mariella Ourghi : Shiite Messianism and Mahdī Belief in Modern Times. Ergon-Verlag, Würzburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-89913-659-3 .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Mahdi  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ W. Madelung: Mahdī. In: EI². Volume V, p. 1231a.
  2. Heinz Halm : The Islamic Gnosis. The extreme Schia and the Alawites. Artemis, Zurich / Munich, 1982, p. 54.
  3. Quoted from Halm 1982, 70.
  4. Heinz Halm: The Schia . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1988, p. 25.
  5. Ibn aldūn: al-Muqaddima . Volume II, 2005, p. 124. - Cf. Engl. Übers. Franz Rosenthal . Volume II, Routledge & Paul Kegan, London 1958, p. 156.
  6. Ibn aldūn: al-Muqaddima . Volume II, 2005, p. 128.
  7. Ibn aldūn: al-Muqaddima . Volume II, 2005, p. 129.
  8. Ibn aldūn: al-Muqaddima . Volume II, 2005, p. 145.
  9. Hong Beom Rhee: Asian Millenarianism: An Interdisciplinary Study of the Taiping and Tonghak Rebellions in a Global Context. Cambria Press, 2006, ISBN 1-934043-42-7 , p. 230. (English)
  10. Oddbjørn Leirvik: Images of Jesus Christ in Islam. 2nd Edition. A&C Black, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4411-8160-2 , p. 41.
  11. ^ John L. Esposito: Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-512559-2 , p. 75.
  12. In the Koran, Isa (i.e. Jesus of Nazareth ) was given the title Messiah, but not Mahdi. (e.g. Sura 3: 44-49, 4: 170-174)
  13. Ahmed Hulusi: The Observing One. 2015, ISBN 978-0-615-63664-1 , p. 49.
  14. ^ John O. Hunwick: Arabic Literature of Africa. Vol. II: The Writings of Central Sudanic Africa . Brill, Leiden 1995, p. 174.
  15. Mervyn Hiskett: The Course of Islam in Africa. Edinburgh University Press, 1994, pp. 17, 26.
  16. PB Clarke: Mahdism in West Africa. 1995, p. 36.
  17. Quoted from John N. Paden : Religion and Political Culture in Kano . University of California Press, Berkeley et al. a. 1973, p. 172.
  18. ^ Peter B. Clarke: Charismatic Authority and the Creation of a New Order. The Case of the Mahdiyyat Movement in South-Western Nigeria. In: Donal B. Cruise O'Brien, Chritian Coulon (Ed.): Charisma and Brotherhood in African Islam. Oxford 1988, pp. 157-182.