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Mahdi

MAHDI

Arabic term for the redeemer or messiah.

In Arabic, the term al-mahdi means "the guided one." For Islam, the term developed through medieval Shiʿite thought into a concept charged with genealogical, eschatological (referring to the end of the world), and political significance. By the eighth century, the mahdi would be characterized as a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, whose appearance as the redeemer, or messiah (from Hebrew mashiah, the anointed), presaged the end of the world and all earthly political and religious corruption.

Today, in Iraq and Iran, and in portions of Arabia and the gulf, the Shiʿa branch of Islam is represented by Twelver Shiʿites, who believe in the return of the hidden twelfth descendant of Muhammad as the mahdi. Until he reappears, Twelver Shiʿites believe that only their mujtahids (an elite group among their religious learned) have the power as the mahdi 's intermediaries to interpret the faith.


The concept of the mahdi is not central to the beliefs of Sunni Islam, but it has popular appeal. In 1881, Muhammad Ahmad (d. 1885) claimed to be the mahdi and led an uprising in the Sudan that outlasted him and was not put down by the British until 1898. Mahdism inspired unrest during the nineteenth century in both West and North Africa. In 1849, Bu Zian led a revolt in Algeria against taxation and the French occupation in the name of the mahdi.

see also ahmad, muhammad; shiʿism; sunni islam.


Bibliography


Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdulhussein. Islamic Messianism: The Idea of Mahdī in Twelver Shīʿism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981.


denise a. spellberg

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Mahdi

Mahdi (mä´dē) [Arab.,=he who is divinely guided], in Sunni Islam, the restorer of the faith. He will appear at the end of time to restore justice on earth and establish universal Islam. The Mahdi will be preceded by al-Dajjal, a Muslim antichrist, who will be slain by Jesus. This belief is not rooted in the Qur'an but has its origins in Jewish ideas about the Messiah and in the Christian belief of the second coming of Jesus. Among the Shiites the concept of the Mahdi takes a different form (see imam).

In the history of Islam, many men have arisen who claimed to be the Mahdi. They usually appeared as reformers antagonistic to established authority. The best known of these in the West was Muhammad Ahmad, 1844–85, a Muslim religious leader in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He declared himself in 1881 to be the Mahdi and led a war of liberation from the oppressive Egyptian military occupation. He died soon after capturing Khartoum. In his reform of Islam the Mahdi forbade the pilgrimage to Mecca and substituted the obligation to serve in the holy war against unbelievers. His followers, known as Mahdists, for a time made pilgrimages to his tomb at Omdurman. The final defeat of the Mahdists in 1898 at Omdurman by an Anglo-Egyptian army under Lord Kitchener gave Great Britain control of Sudan.

See P. M. Holt, The Mahdist State in the Sudan (2d ed. 1970).

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Mahdi

Mahdi in popular Muslim belief, a spiritual and temporal leader who will rule before the end of the world and restore religion and justice. Not part of orthodox doctrine, the concept of such a figure was introduced into popular Islam through Sufi channels influenced by Christian doctrine. Notable among those claiming to be this leader was Muhammad Ahmad of Dongola in Sudan (1843–85), whose revolutionary movement captured Khartoum and overthrew the Egyptian regime.

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Mahdi

Mahdi (Arabic, ‘Rightly Guided One’) Messianic Islamic leader. The title usually refers to Muhammad Ahmad (1844–85) of the Sudan, who declared himself the Mahdi in 1881, and led the attack on Khartoum (1885) in which British General Charles George Gordon died. The Mahdi set up a great Islamic empire with its capital at Omdurman. His reign lasted only about six months. The British eventually defeated his followers at Omdurman in 1898.

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mahdi

mahdi spiritual and temporal leader expected by Muslims. XVIII. — Arab. mahdīy ‘he who is guided right’, pp. of hadā lead in the right way.

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Mahdī

Mahdī (the awaited Imām): see AL-MAHDĪ.

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Mahdi

Mahdibaddy, caddie, caddy, daddy, faddy, kabaddi, laddie, paddy •alcalde, Chaldee, Fittipaldi, Vivaldi •Andy, bandy, brandy, candy, dandy, Gandhi, glissandi, handy, jim-dandy, Kandy, Mandy, modus operandi, Nandi, randy, Río Grande, sandhi, sandy, sforzandi, shandy •cadi, cardy, Guardi, Hardie, hardy, jihadi, lardy, Mahdi, mardy, Saadi, samadhi, tardy, Yardie •foolhardy • autostrade •already, Eddie, eddy, Freddie, heady, neddy, oven-ready, ready, reddy, steady, teddy, thready •bendy, effendi, Gassendi, modus vivendi, trendy, Wendy •Monteverdi, Verdi •Adie, Brady, lady, milady, Sadie, shady •landlady • charlady • saleslady •beady, greedy, needy, reedy, seedy, speedy, tweedy, weedy •wieldy •biddy, diddy, giddy, kiddie, middy, midi •higgledy-piggledy •Cindy, Hindi, indie, Indy, Lindy, Rawalpindi, shindy, Sindhi, Sindy, windy •perfidy • raggedy • tragedy • remedy •comedy, tragicomedy •Kennedy • Cassidy • accidie • subsidy •bona fide, Heidi, mala fide, tidy, vide

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