Discussion of the appearance of the Mahdi, a messianic figure who will appear to restore justice to the world, is not a hot topic on Sunni Jihadi forums (in contrast with Shia miliants, who talk about it a lot).
So a post today on Eklaas by al-Fata al-Jurani caught my eye. In it, he argues that the Mahdi will not appear until a caliph once again rules Muslims. After the caliph dies, the black banners will be unfurled and the Mahdi will appear. In support of his thesis, he offers two hadith:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Disagreement will occur at the death of a caliph and a man of the people of Medina will come flying forth to Mecca. Some of the people of Mecca will come to him, bring him out against his will and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam. An expeditionary force will then be sent against him from Syria but will be swallowed up in the desert between Mecca and Medina. When the people see that, the eminent saints of Syria and the best people of Iraq will come to him and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam. Then there will arise a man of Quraysh whose maternal uncles belong to Kalb and send against them an expeditionary force which will be overcome by them, and that is the expedition of Kalb. Disappointed will be the one who does not receive the booty of Kalb. He will divide the property, and will govern the people by the Sunnah of their Prophet (peace be upon him) and establish Islam on Earth. He will remain seven years… (Sunan Dawud)
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them). When they will arrange themselves in ranks, the Romans would say: Do not stand between us and those (Muslims) who took prisoners from amongst us. Let us fight with them; and the Muslims would say: Nay, by Allah, we would never get aside from you and from our brethren that you may fight them. They will then fight and a third (part) of the army would run away, whom Allah will never forgive. A third (part of the army). which would be constituted of excellent martyrs in Allah’s eye, would be killed ani the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople. And as they would be busy in distributing the spoils of war (amongst themselves) after hanging their swords by the olive trees, the Satan would cry: The Dajjal has taken your place among your family… (Sahih Muslim)
So if the caliphate were to be declared and acknowledged, would hitherto non-messianic Jihadi groups like al-Qaeda become messianic?
Document (Arabic): 6-25-08-ekhlaas-mahdi-appears-after-death-of-caliph
That is a very fascinating question! As someone who has written a book on Mahdism (“Holiest Wars”) and who is writing one currently on the Caliphate, I think that is a question worthy of research!
Nice to see that Dr Furnish got here first with his comment!
As he mentions in his book (Holiest Wars, p 153), there was already enough ferment around the Mahdist issue in 2003 that AlQ felt it would be helpful to issue a statement titled, “God Does Not Entrust Knowledge of the Mahdi to Anyone before His Appearance”.
Thanks, Charles. You know my book better than I do!
I wonder why the poster on the forum did not interpret those traditions to mean that we are currently in the post-caliphate period that will precede the arrival of the mahdi.
The mahdi issue in Sunnism has always been troublesome, its not as ingrained into the dogma as it is in Shi’ism, and I would say that the exact nature of the specifics surrounding concept aren’t well defined in Sunnism.
From my own research, it appears that the idea of the mahdi in Sunnism as a messianic figure (there were a number of false “mahdis” in the early Islamic period, and an Abbasid ruled with the name of Al-Mahdi) was given a particular focus only after the occultation of the Shi’a mahdi, as part of a larger Sunni development of religious traditions during the “Sunni Revival.”