Two Minuets to Midnight: Muslim Eschatology, Part Two

Alea Iacta Est

Nobiscum Deus

Prophecy In The Sudan

Some Talmudic scholars were faced with the question of whether one may “press for the End”, that is to say, to force the coming of the End by ones own actions (Gershom Scholem, The Messianic idea in Judaism, p. 14). It would seem that ideas of Messianism did not always come with a determination to bring about its realisation. There are some cases however of successful attempts at implementation, at least on a political and social front. Around the 19th C the ruler of Egypt, the Khedive, tried to strengthen Egypt’s hold on the Sudan. This would quickly become an almost impossible task since they were mostly a nomadic people and had no fixed place. The best option therefore would be to first get them to settle down in one location. The ruling elite at the time was the Ottoman Empire, even though Egypt was independent it was still a part of that empire. The founder of the dynasty that controlled Egypt at the time was Muhammad Ali who was of Albanian origin. The Ulama (religious scholars) were the only ones given positions of rank that were only approved by the Ottoman Empire and the traditional role of the Sufi saint was interpreted by the Ulama.

(Muhammad Ahmad of the Sudan)

Muhammad Ahmad was born in a time when the society around him was in a state of social/economic/political restructuring in 1844. He was born on the little island of Lebab near Dongola (A. B Theobald, The Mahdiya, p. 27). His family were very humble artisans who had since settled in Khartoum, it was here that he learned the Quran and later Fiqh under Shiekh Muhammad Khair (Ibid). The family was associated with the Sammaniya Order which was a Sufi group and also claimed to be descended from the family of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh). His father was a humble boat builder who had four sons; three of which decided to follow him in his profession. Since he already had three pairs of arms to help with the family business Muhammad Ahmad was free to choose his calling.

Muhammad Ahmad became an orphan at a young age, however in youth he already showed signs of religious and intellectual inclinations and studied among some Sufi ‘Saints’ but not at Al Azhar university. He soon settled on an island to study under a man named Muhammad Sharif Nur Al Din (Ibid) who happened to be the head of the Sammaniya order. It was here that Muhammad Ahmad had gained a reputation as a pious man while studying arduously. Soon Muhammad Ahmad and his teacher would feel a divide between them as the student became more celebrated than the teacher. Eventually Muhammad would be expelled from the order because of the rift that had occurred between him and his teacher due to a difference of opinion. It was during this time that he was accepted as a student by an older rival teacher, Shaykh Al Quraishi Wad Al Zain who extended a hand in friendship (A. B Theobald. P. 29).

After the death of Qurashi Muhammad would meet his future right hand man, Abdullahi Sayid Muhammad, who wanted to become his follower. Abdullahi’s father, before he died, had a vision in which he prophesised for his son a great future in that he would be by the side of a great man who would bring a change in the Sudan and be a great reformer. The situation in the Sudan was quite bad. The old orders were dying and the people were dissatisfied and some even believed that the prophesied Mahdi was coming. Abdullahi had great messianic expectations of his mentor and this perhaps contributed to the fact that Muhammad Ahmad would eventually proclaim himself as such. During much of the 1870s and 1880s Muhammad Ahmad had travelled around from Dongola near the Egyptian border to Sennar on the Blue Nile and the central heartland of Kordofan (Nicoll Fergus, The sword of the Prophet p. xxii). Everywhere he went he saw what he believed to be a society that was in pain and clearly following an unrighteous path. Around 1879 it is claimed that Muhammad Ahmad began telling people, probably those closest to him (most likely Abdullahi) that he was in fact the Mahdi, the rightly guided Khalifa. It was not until around 1881 that he began making public the news that he was the awaited messianic figure that would herald a major change (Ibid). This is somewhat reminiscent of the relationship between Moses and his brother Aaron; for while Moses brought the laws and miracles of God it was Aaron who acted as his brothers voice and hand. Muhammad Ahmad’s teachings gave to those who listened a sense of pride in themselves and a contempt for their rulers. In a sense, Muhammad Ahmad was a Prophet, a preacher, a visionary and a saint to his people; a man who had the ability to inspire and charm the masses. Abdullahi on the other hand was compelled to obedience. Together, this was the perfect combination, for while Muhammad Ahmad was the man to inspire a messianic ideal, Abdullahi was the one to implement it.

Muhammad Ahmad had raised himself out of poverty to messianic heights by virtue of poverty and an ideal of a Holy War. Against him there was General Gordon in whom the Catholics, Protestants and to some degree the Muslims also saw the makings of a Saint. The thought of this one man who seemed to represent Western civilisation became an obsession for Muhammad Ahmad who ordered that General Gordon be captured alive (R. A Bermann, The Mahdi of Allah, preface p. xiii).

General Gordon was familiar with the Sudan and had “more than a veiled sympathy for the Sudanese revolutionaries who had risen up to replace Egyptian occupation with a doctrinally ‘pure’ Islamic state” (Fergus Nicoll, The sword of the Prophet, p. xxi). Gordon had been previously employed by the state of Egypt and was therefore torn between his opposing loyalties. While he had accepted the evacuation mission on the terms dictated to him by officials of the Gladstone government, he had as previously stated, ‘more than a veiled sympathy’.

As news spread in Khartoum of Muhammad Ahmad (by word of mouth, media and some letters that he sent out with proclamations stating his divine mandate) the governor sent a delegation to bring him the so called Mahdi. In order to do this, a delegation of 800 was sent against him. Muhammad Ahmad only had a small army of 300. And although he had the smaller army by far, his 300 had defeated the delegation sent by the governor. This harkens back to the famous battle of Badr, which is notable as the first major battle of Islam. Clearly a type of imitation of the Prophet (pbuh) and a cyclical nature of eschatological events. To take matters even further, Muhammad Ahmad had invited people to perform a Hijra. His followers were called the Ansar and his closet disciples were called Khulafa – calling his closest companion Al-Siddique – the epithet of Abu Bakr Al-Siddique, The prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) closest companion and ally.

In 1882 there was a revolt in Egypt which resulted in British occupation (Fergus Nicoll, Sword of the Prophet, introduction). in 1884 the governor helped the Sufi orders in that they would side with him against Muhammad Ahmad. They even made him an offer that would have made him leader in Kordofan which he declined. It seems that Muhammad Ahmad may have also believed himself to be a renewer of the faith, as well as the Mahdi as the year 1882 was the beginning of the new Islamic century and this would potentially give him the title of Al-Mujadad.

On the 26th of January 1884 General Gordon had several meetings with British and Egyptian officials as to the matter of the violent revolution in the Sudan (Ibid). During this time the Sudan had been in Egyptian possession since 1821 and was to be abandoned. General Gordon was to be the champion that would extricate the surviving garrisons.

(General Gordon)

During this meeting, Gordon gave a speech on the situation in the Sudan:

“Listen; the Sudan is a beautiful woman who gave herself to Egypt. She now asks for a divorce. How will you refuse it” – Fergus Nicoll, Sword of the Prophet, p. xxi, see also Col. Chaille Long, The three Prophets, p. 60

But in truth, the Sudan had not give itself to Egypt but rather had been taken over and “raped for six decades” before the time of Muhammad Ahmad (Ibid). During this time Muhammad Ahmad had become the single most important figure in the history of the Sudan and remains so to this day. His main objectives; to overthrow the Ottoman empire once and for all and replace it with a pure Islamic state. The fall of Khartoum would then lead on to a take over of Cairo, Mecca, Jerusalem and finally Constantinople.

When Muhammad Ahmad had conquered a fourth of the area of Africa he was at the head of what could be called a ‘Salvation Army’ which would literally interpret the motto of “Blood and fire” (R. A Bermann, The Mahdi of Allah, p. xi). However instead of trying to purposely defeat General Gordon in battle, he made an offer. Muhammad Ahmad sent the British General a Dervish outfit with an appeal to renounce the evil and wicked ways of Western civilisation and to convert to Islam.

The traditions of the Mahdi in classical sources can be somewhat obscure and as a result can be invoked/claimed by the right person with the right circumstances, in the right situation. To the Shi’a, this is fundamental as they believe that the Mahdi must be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad via his daughter Fatima from his nephew Ali Ibn Abu Talib (the fourth Khalifa of Islam) through a direct continuation of this prophetic line in the form of twelve Imaams as previously mentioned. The problem here is that the twelfth and final Imaam seems to have died without issue. This of course is a matter of disspute among scholars as many believe that the twelfth Imaam disappeared in his youth or went in to a type of ghayba, occultation, and is destined to return as the Mahdi. The devoted followers of Muhammad Ahmad were not theologians or scholars and were only vaguely aware of the Mahdi Traditions (A. B Theobald, p. 32). Therefore, when Muhammad Ahmad announced that he was the Mahdi it would have seemed like the most natural thing to have occurred since the messianic expectation was already present among the people. This revelation would also have explained all the visions and his mystical nature to the people. Many comparisons have been made between the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Muhammad Ahmad. For example, in Ismail bin Gadir’s ‘The life of the Mahdi’ evidence is cited to confirm that Muhammad Ahmad was indeed descended from the family of the Prophet (pbuh); not only was he apparently related to the Prophet (pbuh) but he had the same name as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his fathers name was like the Prophets (pbuh) fathers name, Abdullah (p.73/5). Reference is also made to a birth mark and the V shaped gap between his front teeth that traditionally mark a man of favour in the eyes of God.

Muhammad Ahmad also offered an amnesty in Khartoum if people would follow him. However, they refused. Shortly afterwards he conquered Khartoum after a city wide siege that lasted near a year. By the time the British government sent reinforcements, it was too late for general Gordon who had already fallen in battle on the steps of the palace. With the death of general Gordon, a short while later Muhammad Ahmad himself died of an illness, possibly typhus. Abdullahi, who had been with him from the start of this messianic endeavour was named as the Mahdi’s vice regent in 1885 (A. B Theobald, p. 140-41). It may well have been the case that the Mahdi and his Caliphate would have endured to this very day as a stately power as the Moors once did in Spain. However, the fact that it was a movement built on slavery with a conquest motto of ’join us or die’ would prove to be its downfall. The fact that they did not have the fire power that was available to the west was a also a major key element. The Mahdiya had come against a civilisation whose military might was dependant on an advanced knowledge of arms and was therefore doomed to fall just short of its ambitions having finally been defeated in 1989 by general Kitchener. It is said that during this time the tomb of Muhammad Ahmad was desecrated and destroyed with his bones being cast in to the Nile whilst Kitchener kept his skull which was eventually recovered and buried in Wadi Halfa, a city in the Northern area of Sudan on the shores of ‘Lake Nubia’.

(Gordon’s Last Stand – George William Joy, 1844/1925)

The Winds of Change

The Al – Qassim Province, a settlement established by King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, was mostly occupied by members of the ‘Utayba tribe (Robert Lacy, The Kingdom, 1981) which was one of the more prominent tribes of the Najd region which comprises of Riyadh, Al – Qassim and Ha’il. A good number of the ‘Utayba tribe members would participate in what came to be known as the battle of Sabilla (mar 29th 1929) during the Ikhwan uprising which was a move against King Abdulaziz whom they felt had betrayed them by going against them and their religious ideals, they were led by Faisal Al – Dawish and Sultan bin Bajad bin Hameed Al – Otaibi (Lacroix, S., & Holoch, G, Awakening Islam). The Ikhwan was Saudi’s first real army that comprised of the nomadic tribesmen and were also a major factor in bolstering King Abdulaziz as the ruler of much of the Arabian Peninsula and becoming the King of Arabia prior to the uprising. The Ikhwan would eventually come to form what is known as the Saudi National Guard (Commins, David, The Mission and Saudi Arabia). The result of this rebellion was a defeat of the Ikhwan by Saudi forces which was technologically more advanced than its more antiquated counterpart. For the House of Saud, this decisive win over the Ikhwan was a necessary step up in the continued dominance of the Arabian Peninsula, however, for the Ikhwan, it was more akin to annihilation and betrayal as the House of Saud seemed to be, in their eyes, in collusion with the British Empire.

(Sultan bin Bajad bin Hameed Al-Otaibi – 1876/1931)

It was in to the ‘Utayba tribe, one of the clans that felt betrayed by the House of Saud, that Juhayman al Otaibi belonged. Juhayman was born in the Al – Qassim Province in 1936, the grandson of Sultan bin Bajad Al – Otaibi. He had grown up learning about the stories of the rebellion and how his tribe had been effectively seduced, mislead and ultimately betrayed by the Saudi family regarding their apparently shared principles as Arabs as well as their religious beliefs (Lacroix, S., & Holoch, G). It isn’t hard to imagine that there would have been some deeply buried resentment for the way things played out in his families history at the hands of the ruling monarchs. Juhayman had finished school without the ability to fluently write, but it is said that he was enamoured by religious text and read as much as he could (Robert Lacey: Inside the Kingdom).

(Juhayman Al – Otaybi, 1936 – 1980)

Juhayman later served in the National Guard from around 1955 to 1973 (Al Majalla, The Dream that Became A Nightmare, 20th Nov, 2009). After his time in the Guard he then moved to Medina and joined the local Salafi group Al Jaami’a Al Salafiya Al Muhtasiba. It was during this period in his life where he met Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al Qahtani (his future brother in – law whom he met in prison, both serving time for sedition) in a relationship that would lead to one of the darkest moments in Mecca’s recent history. The Jaami’a group that Juhayman belonged to would sometimes receive support in the form of fundraising by the likes of Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah bin Baz who was a Saudi scholar of Islamic studies, a ‘figurehead for institutional Wahabism’ (Kepel, The War for Muslim Minds) who would go on to become the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1993 to 1999.

(Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah bin Baz, 1910 – 1999)

Around 1977, Abdulaziz Bin Baz had departed Medina for Riyadh and Juhayman had become the figurehead of his group which had split down the middle when they were confronted by older members about their methods and beliefs. Juhayman labelled them ‘government stooges’ and renamed the group Al – Ikhwan, most likely hearkening back to the original Ikhwan military group (Robert Lacy, Inside the Kingdom) but differing in some fundamental ways in that “they were millenarians, they rejected the monarchy and they condemned the wahhabi ulama” (Commins, David, The Mission and Saudi Arabia). Juhayman and his followers were disenchanted with the older generation as well as with bin Baz as they felt that instead of pandering to the West, they should be returning to a way of life that resembled that of the early Muslims. In the next year Juhayman and his Ikhwan were arrested after demonstrating against the monarchy but were eventually released without charge after having been questioned by bin Baz who found them to be harmless to anyone and maintaining traditional religious views (Robert Lacy, The Kingdom, also Graham, Douglas F.; Peter W. Wilson, Saudi Arabia: The Coming Storm).

It wasn’t until November 1979 when Juhayman and his brother in – law, Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al Qahtani, would enter the history books and written with the pen of infamy. On what was otherwise a seemingly peaceful day at the courtyard of the holy Ka’ba there was an unusually large number of mourners carrying coffins on their shoulders. It should be noted that the sight of coffins at the Ka’ba was quite normal at the time as funerals were not uncommon. Access to the holy site was free flowing and unrestricted with anyone and everyone allowed to enter without the need for a visa, certificate or other form of legal documentation. Mecca and the Ka’ba was open to all without reservation or restriction, anyone who was a Muslim that is. This would all change because of what transpired there on that November day. Those that were carrying the coffins were not mourners at all but members of Juhayman’s followers, and the coffins contained not deceased Muslims but were filled with arms and ammunition that were being smuggled in to the holy site, a place where confrontation and bloodshed is strictly forbidden.

As it transpires, Juhayman had a dream (or vision) in which it was revealed to him that his brother in – law, Al Qahtani, was in fact the awaited Mahdi. According to Juhayman and his followers regarding Al Qahtani, his name and the name of his father were identical to that of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and he had travelled to Mecca from the north. For Juhayman and his followers, this seemed to justify Juhayman’s dream and the legitimacy of Al Qahtani as the Mahdi (however according to the hadith, the Mahdi will be of the Hashemite family from the line of Hassan ibn Ali, a distinction which Qahtani did not meet and one Juhayman and his followers either chose to ignore or simply did not know about which seems unlikely). Futhermore, the day of the planned attack from within Mecca also coincided with the tradition of the Mujadad as it was the first day of the 1400th of the Islamic calendar, a new century that needed a new renewer of the faith. The piecss of the eschatological puzzle regarding the Mahdi were too snuggly fit for Juhayman to ignore, regardless of a few missing pieces. The goal then would become one that Juhayman had been pushing for since he moved to Mecca: a return to the original ways of Islam, the expulsion of non Muslims from the holy site, the abolition of television, the institution of a theocracy for the preparation of the coming End, all the while proclaiming that the Saudi Royal family “had lost its legitimacy because it was corrupt, ostentatious and had destroyed Saudi culture by an aggressive policy of Westernisation” (article: 1979 Makkah – Grand Mosque aka Holy Mosque, Global Security). This line of thought was in heavy resonance with “his grandfather’s charge in 1921 against Abd al Aziz. This also resembled the revolt of the Ikhwan against Ibn Saud 50 years before” (ibid). In a letter by Juhayman himself, he made it absolutely clear how he felt regarding the House of Saud: “We owe obedience only to those who lead by God‟s book. Those who lead the Muslims with differing laws and systems and who only take from religion what suits them have no claim on our obedience and their mandate to rule is nil” (Rifat Sayyid Ahmad, rasa’il juhayman al-‘utaybi, qa’id al-muqtahimin li-l masjid al-haram bi-l makka, Letters of Juhaman al-Utaybi, Leader of the Invaders of the Holy Mosque in Mecca, Cairo: Madbuli, 2004). What is interesting here is that unlike groups such as ISIS or Al Qaeda, even though Juhayman would call Saudi leadership non Islamic, he did not call individuals kafirs. Whilst he believed that the monarchical system that was governing the people to be non compatible with his idea of Islam he would not denounce an individual as such.

At around 5am of November 20th after the morning prayer, Sheikh Muhammad Al – Subayil, Imam of the Grand Mosque at the time, was getting ready to address the fifty thousand or so worshipers at the mosque which included, and what seemed to be, mourners carrying coffins of the recently deceased. The Shiekh was then abruptly pushed aside before his address by men who produced weapons from under their robes, commandeered the microphone and announced that “The Mahdi has appeared” (article: 1979 Seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca: The Attack and the Siege That Inspired Osama bin Laden, ThoughtCo., retrieved 16th Oct, 2019). It turns out that Juhayman and his followers had been stashing weapons in the holy area in underground chambers for the past few weeks or days before the planned attack and the assailants numbered in the region of 500 followers, all armed (Ibid). The doors to the holy place were also barricaded so as not to allow anyone inside. This siege would last a total of two weeks, with repercussions that would not only be felt in Mecca but other countries as well. What turned out to be a false report that the United States of America was behind the attack’s would send a group of Pakistani students in to a rage resulting in an attack on the US embassy in Islamabad and the killing of two Americans (ibid). In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini refered to the attacks as a “great joy” and blamed the US and Israel as the underlying reasons for what was happening in Saudi Arabia (ibid)

Back in Mecca, the Bin – Laden family, who were the main contractors for construction at the holy site would share maps and blueprints of the area with the Saudi special forces in order to better determine how they would flush out the rebels without hurting any of the hostages. Eventually, the Saudi authorities would receive help in the form of three French commando teams from the ‘Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN)’ (Lawrence Write, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the road to 9/11, 2007) . The commandos had to undergo a brief ceremony in which they became Muslim due to Mecca being off limits to non Muslims at the time. Other reports state that it was not the French GIGN but the Pakistani SSG commandos that carried out the operations that finally brought an end to the conflict. Whatever the case may be, the commandos would try to smoke out the rebel’s by pumping tear gas in to the chambers they had taken refuge in, the plan did not work. Finally the Saudi forces would drill holes in to the ground of the courtyard and drop grenades down in to the chambers which finally forced the rebels above ground where they could be more easily targeted by snipers. After two weeks of mayhem, the rebels finally surrendered. Qahtani himself was killed during the attack, which seemed to break the spirit of the rebels, and Juhayman along with 67 of his followers were captured.

On the 9th of January in 1980, just under two months after the siege, Juhayman Al – Otaibi and his surviving followers were executed by beheading in a very public fashion in eight different locations so as to make the point very clear, this type of behaviour would be dealt with without hesitation and not tolerated. Although the siege and Juhayman’s future plans were finally thwarted, there would be repercussions and changes in the very fabric of Saudi Arabia. King Khaled, who was the reigning monarch at the time would make changes in the country that would be felt for a very long time affecting the way the country represented itself. Instead of purging the country of radical fundamentalists, the king would advocate and emphasise the teaching of religion above many other subjects at school. The ‘ulama (religious scholars) would be given more power and authority. Women would be prohibited from driving, their pictures removed from magazines and newspapers. Cinemas and shops that sold music were shut down and any history being taught that was deemed non Islamic would be scrapped in favour of teaching only from historical Muslim sources. The Saudi religious police, the Mutaween, were also given more assertive power over the people creating an oppressive atmosphere, one that flies in the face of some Quranic verses such as “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion” (Quran 109:6), and “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion…” (Quran 2:256).

Even though Juhayman and his rebels were put down and executed, it would seem that in a way, his ideals and beliefs had in the end won out. The monarchy had succumbed to its fears and the demands of those who would have Arabian culture be returned to its 7th century state… in this writers opinion, a very skewed and distorted version of what Islam is supposed to be, a grotesque and tribal way of life that bears more resemblance to the pre Islamic cultures that had no problems burying their daughters in infancy (although not quite that bad), but this is a different topic altogether. It wasn’t until a good thirty years later and more that things have begun to seemingly relax in Saudi Arabia for the better with the return of things such as the cinema, and women being allowed to drive again; as to whether the the current Saudi monarchy is acting out of an altruistic and benevolent place is yet to be seen. Suffice it to say, what happened as a result of the 1979 debacle would shape the country for years to come, possibly even indirectly inspiring groups such as Al – Qaeda and ISIS to behave in a way that seems to be, at least in part, representative of the Islam that Juhayman believed in, fought for, and ultimately died a miserable death for.

As previously mentioned, Juhayman wasn’t properly educated, his head was filled with ideas of salvation and a return to a more ‘golden age’ but guided with a tribalistic mind borne out of the culture he was raised in. With feelings of betrayal, resentment and dismay at what The House of Saud had done to his tribe and the way in which they conducted their affairs internationally, he clearly felt that something had to be done. He failed on so many levels because he couldn’t understand that progress in all aspects of life was to move forward with the world which was speeding toward a new age of technological advancement; and for some, this kind of change can be frightening, even viewed as representative of evil if it is not borne out of their own culture and beliefs. Regardless of where that advancement comes from, East or West, it should not be a hindrance to anyone and encouraged by the religiously minded, not shied away from. After all, humanity is one race, we are all we have. The tribal mentality was meant to have been abolished with the advent of Islam as it was a dangerous one that had no place in the new world that the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his predecessor prophets were vouching for, even more so when coupled with eschatological ideas that are better off left alone rather than ‘pressed for’ or engineered to fruition as this can only lead to catastrophe that is self inflicted as demonstrated by Juhayman.

Final thoughts

Of the accepted collected compilations of Hadith – Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Da’ud, Al Nasai, Ibn Maja, Al Tirmidhi, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and Malik Ibn Anas; we find that in the Collection of Bukhari, who is the most respected of all the compilers of tradition, and does indeed also include a section on Fitan (affliction/tribulation) in his works, is more concerned with the inter – Muslim conflicts rather than the eschatological ones. He does include traditions on the Dajjal (briefly) and on Yajuj Majuj (most probably because the latter is actually mentioned in the Quran) but nothing else. Muslim on the other hand, the second most prominent figure in Hadith compilations, like Bukhari, is more concerned with inter – Muslim conflict also, but still includes more apocalyptic traditions than Bukhari including that of Ibn Sayyad, the Dajjal, Yajuj Majuj and the coming of Jesus. He does not however include any Messianic cycles like that of the Sufyani. It seems that Bukhari and Muslim follow more of a traditional pace in that they are more concerned about the present rather than the somewhat vague and distant future; as time went on, it may be the case that some traditions were added at later stages, although this is difficult to determine. Even the Quran itself, the main source of information and guidance does not mention many of the stories presented by some of the hadith literature. There is no mention of the Dajjal or the Mahdi whatsoever. What we do find in the Quran are verses about the Hour itself, Yajuj Majuj and the figure of the Messiah, Jesus (e.g. Al Zilzal Ch 99, Al Adiyat Ch100, Al Qari’ah Ch 101, Al Inshiqaq Ch 84, Al Infitar Ch 82 , Al Takwir Ch 81). Here is the dilemma, If the main source of Islam (the Quran) does not support much of the eschatology that are accepted as ‘sahih’ or authoritative, then on what basis are they accepted? The problem with apocalyptic traditions is that we often find the same traditions rewritten in several different time periods with different chains of narration and with sometimes slightly differing circumstances such as those on Ibn Sayyad or Tammim Al Dari.

In many cases, it is difficult to determine the relative authenticity of the traditions and as seems true of many hadiths on different various topics, it appears that there is a possibility that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his later followers filled in some of the ‘gaps’ that were left out of the narratives. From the 3rd C onwards traditionalists expanded on apocalyptic material on the areas that they felt or thought that the Holy Quran was silent on (Jane Idleman Smith, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, The Islamic understanding of death and ressurection, 1981, P. viii preface). Because of the fact that all the traditions, not just the apocalyptic ones, were transmitted orally from generation to generation until some scholars took the initiative to compile them may have been a factor. The problem lies therein, how much authenticity can one ascribe to a tradition that has been handed down orally for generations without any apparent change. The promise of God in the Quran to keep it from corruption or change is for the Quran only, nothing else. If God decides that it is time for the world to End, then it will be on His terms and not because some misguided souls have determined that it is up to them to make it happen or because they can ‘see the signs’. The fact that anyone would want to speed up an apocalypse seems a little sadistic and counter intuitive to wanting the best for your fellow person. Apocalypse or no, it is better to be productive rather than destructive:

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.” – Musnad Ahmad, no. 12491

My suggestion… Muslim, Jew, Christian, Athiest… whatever… God’s mercy outweighs his wrath, so live and let live.

The Eccentric Seeker.

References for part one and two:

The Quran, Towards Understanding the Quran, Abridged version of Tafhim Al Quran, Sayyid Abul Al’a Mawdudi, translated ed. Zafar Ishaq Ansari, The Islamic Foundation 2006.

Sahih Al Bukhari vol. 9. Kitab Al Fitan, Vol. 4 Kitab Al Anbyaa, Ed Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Islamic university, Al Madinah Al Munawara

Sahih Muslim, Vol 4, Kitab al fitan wa Ashrat as sahih, Dar al Arabia publishing 1971.

Arabic text

Abu Da’wud, Sunnan Abu Da’wud, Kitab Al Malahim, Syrian press 1973.

Other cited texts:

Ali Akbar, Israel and the Prophecies of the Holy Quran, Seraj publications 1971.

A. B Theobald, The Mahdiya: A history of the Sudan 1881-1899. William Clowes & son limited, 1967

Ahmad Thomson, Dajjal: The Antichrist, Ta ha publishers 1987.

Col. Chaille Long, The three Prophets: General Gordon, Muhammaad Ahmad (Al Mahdi), Arabi Pasha, New York 1884.

David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic, The Darwin press, 2002.

David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature, Syracuse University press, 2005.

David J. Halperin, The Ibn Sayyad Traditions and the Legend of al-Dajjal, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 96, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1976), pp. 213-225.

Ella Landau-Tasseron, The “Cyclical Reform”: A Study of the Mujaddid Tradition, Studia Islamica, No. 70 (1989).

Fergus Nicoll, Sword of the Prophet: The Mahdi of Sudan and the Death of General Gordon, Sutton publishers 2004.

Gershom Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, George Allen & Unwin LTD 1971.

Arabic text

Ismail bin Abdul Gadir Al Kordofani, Kitab sa’adat al-mustahdi bi sirat al Imaam Al Mahdi, ed. Muhammad Ibrahim Abu Salim, Oxford, Clarendon press 1972.

Jane Idleman Smith, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, The Islamic understanding of death and ressurection, State university press New York 1981.

Muhyi’d din ‘Abd al Hamid, Yajuj and Majuj, Dar al-Taqwa ltd, 1996.

Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Revelation, Rationality: knowledge and truth, Islam, International publications 1998.

Marius Baar, The unholy war: Oil, Islam and Armageddon, Thomas Nelson publishers 1980.

Arabic text

Muhammad Ibrahim Abu Salim, Al-athar Al kamila lil Imaam al-Mahdi, Khartoum university press, Vol. 1, 1990

R. A Bermann, The Mahdi of Allah, London New York 1931

Timothy R. Furnish, Holiest wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden, Praeger publishers 2005.

Lacey, Robert (1981). The Kingdom. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Lacroix, S., & Holoch, G. (2011). Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Commins, David (2009). The Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris

Lacey, Robert (2009-10-15). Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia. Penguin Group US.

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Kepel, Gilles (2004). The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and The West. Harvard University Press

Graham, Douglas F.; Peter W. Wilson (1994). Saudi Arabia: The Coming Storm. Armonk, NY: M.E

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