Iran’s New Mahdism Da`wah Video: Letting Slip the Jinns of Jihad?

News Abroad

Timothy R. Furnish, Ph.D., is a recovering college professor and current writer, researcher and analyst specializing in Islamic history, sects, eschatology, ideology and Mahdism. He learned Arabic at taxpayers' expense while in the U.S. Army and, later, studied Farsi, Turkish and Ottoman while a doctoral student at Ohio State University. He blogs at Occidental Jihadist.

Recently the Islamic Republic of Iran put out a video entitled"The Coming Is Upon Us," wherein current events and personalities are explicated in terms of their alleged relevance to the arrival of the Mahdi, the"rightly-guided one" in Islam who will make the entire world Muslim. In Sunni doctrine, the true Mahdi has not yet appeared on Earth (despite the proliferation of mutamahdis, or"false mahdis," over the centuries, as I detail in my first book Holiest Wars). For the Twelver Shi`i Muslims of Iran (as well as Iraq and Lebanon), on the other hand, the Mahdi has already been here, in the person of the twelfth male descendant of Islam's founder Muhammad. This final Imam, according to Twelver Shi`a the rightful leader of the entire ummah, is believed to have disappeared in the ninth century AD /third century AH—a belief which, from a rational historical perspective, would have developed in order to explain away his death and, with it, the extinction of the line of imams and of Twelver Shi`ism. In both Sunni and Twelver Shi`i thought the Mahdi will be assisted by the returned Islamic prophet Jesus in defeating the forces of evil led by al-Dajjal, the"Deceiver" (analogous, in some respects, to the Antichrist of Revelation), whereupon he will go on to establish a global caliphate or imamate. In both major sects of Islam there are views of the Mahdi as doing so peacefully; but there are also equally strong traditions that the Mahdi will usher in malakut Allah, the"kingdom of Allah," via bloody jihad against those who refuse to acknowledge the prophethood of Muhammad and supremacy of Allah. The jinn of Mahdism was released from its lamp after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, having been largely stoppered by the Pahlavi shahs; but it took the election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, 2005, for the Mahdist ayatollahs (and not all are) to begin a concerted effort aimed at getting Sunni Muslims (and, indeed, even Christians) to buy Mahdist lamps—or at least give them an exploratory rubbing and see what comes forth.

The 28-minute video opens with the usual suspects of Mahdist iconography: nature, fast-forwarded opening flowers, sunrises—presumably in order to emphasize the peaceful, renewing character of Islam's messiah figure. This bucolic imagery then transforms into shots of mosques, chanting crowds in Qom, the Ka`bah and the Arabic name al-Husayn in red script (Husayn, one of Muhammad's grandsons, is the chief Twelver"martyr," having been decapitated following an abortive coup against the ruling Sunni Umayyad dynasty in 680 AD). After that come ominous shots of Middle East maps, President Obama, Saddam, al-Qadhafi, Nasrallah. After this apocalyptic stage-setting, the video segues into a pattern of citing specific Sunni and Shi`i eschatological hadith texts (which are extra-Qur'anic sayings allegedly going back to Muhammad or, for Shi`is, to the 12 Imams) then adducing events, individuals and/or situations that supposedly fulfill these utterances.

The first is the hadith about"a people [who] will rise from the East, preparing the way for the Mahdi." Brief videos of the Islamic Republic's founding fathers, ayatollahs Khomeini and Khameini, follow right after and merge seamlessly with an explication of the hadith about"the emergence of the Khurasani." Khurasan being an ancient Arabic term for eastern Iran/western Afghanistan, it's only logical in the Mahdist mindset to follow this hadith with shots of Ahmadinejad (but images of Moqtada al-Sadr, head of southern Iraq's Jaysh al-Mahdi milita, are a bit perplexing). The fifth Imam, al-Baqir, is quoted to the effect that three major signs—"fear, great earthquakes and sedition"—will precede the Mahdi's arising. A Shi`i hadith that another sign presaging the Mahdi will be"the worst kind of humans becoming leaders" is adduced; this of course is followed by a most unflattering shot of George W. Bush, as well as ones of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama. (So much, it seems, for the promise of President Obama restoring our image in the Islamic world.) Prurient pictures of bare-headed Muslimahs accompany the Alid hadith that"women will rid themselves of the hijab," while the Muhammadan one that"adultery will be common, men will dress like women, and men and women will consort each with their own sex" is illustrated with shots of gay and lesbian parades in—where else?—San Francisco.

Hammering home the theme of the"nation from the East" that will serve as John the Baptist to the Mahdi's Messiah, images of Khomeini are interspersed with ones of a man on a white horse, his head hidden inside a bright cloud of light—who will, presumably, do something about the slaughter of"1 million Muslims" by the West; the 10,000 nuclear weapons held by the Americans; the 1 billion in the world who are hungry; and the myriads of youth who"worship evil." Francis"Hokoyama" is shown, along with a quotation from his The End of History, stating that Islam is the only system that"threatens the modernized West." This, presumably, allowed America to rationalize its post-9/11"war against Islam." It is suggested that the Americans invaded Iraq because they might have been"looking for certain individuals"—like the Mahdi; Iraq (Kufa), after all, will be the Mahdi's world capital.

Some Twelver scholars believe that after the Mahdi's appearance, the first of his foot soldiers to arrive will be from Yemen; thus, the attacks by the Yemeni and Saudi governments on the Shi`is of Yemen (the Zaydis, who are Fiver Shi`is with whom the Twelver of Iran had ancient ties) makes perfect sense in this light. As for Egypt, the fall of Mubarak and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood there are perfectly in accord with unspecified hadith. Regarding Palestine, Imam Ali is quoted to the effect that"the Jews will come from the West while the Arabs are disunited." The video claims that"the current generation will witness the defeat of the murderous Zionist regime," the annihilation of which"is one of the most important events in the age of the Coming." The Saudis are equated to the Abbasids, the ruling dynasty in Baghdad from 750-1258 which stymied Twelver Shi`i aspirations to power. As for Iran itself, unspecified hadiths that speak of Iran"serving as preparer of the conditions for the coming of the last messiah" and of"a man from the city of Qom" being instrumental in this, are highlighted with shots of Khomeini.

The"man of Khurasan," or"Sayyid Khurasani," who will lead the people of the East before the coming of the Mahdi is said to be—of course—Ayatollah Khameini. Now while Khameini does ostensibly meet the hadiths of"disorder in his right hand" (partial paralysis thanks to a near-assassination) and an army to put at the Mahdi's service ("scores of warships, hundreds of bombers, thousands of missiles and millions of willing martyrs" under his command), his Azerbaijani origin makes it a stretch to say that he is from Khurasan. The"Yamani" eschatological figure is said to be Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon's Hizbullah Shi`i militia—because it is claimed that his ancestors came to Lebanon from Yemen. The Khurasani and the Yamani will" coordinate the revolt against evil"—and in case there was any doubt about the nature of this evil, a burning American flag accompanies this section.

As for the Dajjal, we are treated to a montage of Usama bin Ladin, al-Qadhafi, King Abdullah of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama and the King of Saudi Arabia—who are, it seems,"types" of the actual Iblistic (Satanic) figure who will oppose Jesus and the Mahdi. The Dajjal, of course, is linked to the Freemasons, who aspire to"a devilish government of the world centered in Jerusalem" and whose signs are the"devilish eye" (the reverse side of the Great Seal of the U.S., the famous"Novus Ordo Seclorum" with the eye on top of the pyramid) and the"six-pointed star" (of David). George Bush is shown making the sign of the devil—which Iranian propaganda film makers seem to have confused with the University of Texas"hook'em horns" hand sign. All these Freemasons and satanic Texans work for the Dajjal—who looks amazingly like the Witch King of"Lord of the Rings."

Another positive eschatological figure who will set the geopolitical table for the returned
Twelfth Imam is Shoaib bin Saleh, sourced from Shi`i hadith and rumored to be President Ahmadinejad of Iran. He will be appointed by the Khurasani, and will have as his final goal the conquest of Jerusalem just before the Mahdi returns. Many shots of Jamkaran Mosque (where it is believed by many Iranians that the Mahdi will rematerialize) and of Ahmadinejad drive home this point. The video ends with the co-narrators pleading for viewers to" come forth with the jihad of faith" because"we have the hope of seeing the beautiful face of the Last Imam in the very near future."

Very little here is new under the sun—at least to anyone who has been following Islamic Mahdism, and Iran, closely. As I wrotein"The Lutheran Witness" following my trip to Tehran in 2008 for the annual Mahdism conference:"It was clear that the conference—and the sponsoring, government-funded Bright Future Institute—had a dual aim. On one level, it was an attempt to spread Mahdism among Sunni Muslims, to convince them it's acceptable to believe in the Mahdi….Shi`i Iran is hoping to rival Sunni Saudi Arabia as the leading Islamic nation, and is trying—with some success—to use belief in the Mahdi as leverage to do so. But the ayatollahs who rule Iran are also trying to gain influence in the non-Muslim world by pushing Mahdism among Jews and particularly Christians, claiming that the messianic hopes of both religions will be fulfilled in the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi." The Islamic Republic has also, since its inception in 1979, seen itself as the self-appointed leader of the planet's dispossessed over against the"arrogant powers" who exploit them—putting Iran at loggerheads with the not just the most arrogant power, the U.S., but the entire post-World War II international political, diplomatic and economic system which the U.S. vouchsafes. Since one of the Mahdi's major goals will be to institute a globally"just" economic order, it is incumbent upon the ayatollahs and their supporters to begin creating such an equitable Islamic state in microcosm in Iran—which is what Tehran and Qom believe they have been doing for a quarter-century.

While the overall tenor of this Mahdist propaganda video is unexceptional, three aspects of it do stand out. First, in its prognostication about the eschatological game plan and players, Iran's clerical regime seems to have Shi`ized the"newspaper exegesis" approach popularized in evangelical Christian circles by Hal Lindsey and Carole Carlson in their 1970 book The Late Great Planet Earth. (I say"Shi`ized, not"Islamized," because there is a veritable legion of Sunni eschatological works published since 1967 that take their apocalyptic cues from evangelical Christianity—but this video is the first major effort by Iranian Twelver Shi`is to do likewise.) Second, several major eschatological actors spelled out in the Sunni traditions—most notably al-Dabbah,"the Beast"and Yajuj wa-Majuj, "Gog and Magog"—are totally ignored, while another, al-Sufyani, is mentioned only in passing. Since the Shi`i writers and producers saw fit to adduce other Sunni hadiths when it suited their purpose, one can only surmise that , they constituted rather inconvenient eschatological truths for Shi`i exegetes—presumably since convincing analogs for al-Dabbah, Yajuj and Majuj and al-Sufyani could not be found. Finally, it is striking that this video claims"this current generation" will witness the defeat and annihilation of Israel, and that Ahmadinejad, channeling Shoaib bin Saleh, will"have as [his] final goal conquering Jerusalem and on the threshold of the Coming this holy place will be conquered by him and his forces." Again, this is nothing that has not been alleged by the Iranian leadership for some years, as I explained several months ago in"A Western View of Iran's WMD Goal: Nuclearizing the Eschaton or Pre-Stocking the Mahdi's Arsenal?" But in these allegations the Tehran-Qom axis does seem to have moved its role vis-à-vis the Mahdi from the passive to the active register. An eschatological alarm clock has even been set, one might argue, in the contention that Shoaib bin Saleh's authority starts seventy-two months before the Mahdi comes—and since Ahmadinejad was first elected President of Iran in August 2005, time should be up.

The fact that is it not is clear evidence that Iran's apocalyptic hourglass will never totally run out of sand. While some ayatollahs would no doubt like to try and"liberate" Jerusalem, the collective clerical clique is far too intelligent and fond of its own skin to actually attack Israel directly with conventional weaponry, much less with nuclear weapons in an attempt to"hotwire the apocalypse." Israel-bashing is much more valuable to the clerical regime as a propaganda tool than as a true weapon. Most importantly, the Mahdi would not be very happy with his devotees if they were to present him, at his Coming Out party, a radioactive wasteland over which to rule—which even the most virulent anti-Israel ayatollah knows would be the inevitable outcome of any Iranian assault on al-Quds. This video, then, shows the Islamic regime certainly crying eschatological havoc—but a far cry from letting slip the jinns of war.

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Arnold Shcherban - 4/15/2011

I'm the one ... for you gentlemen.
So far, all but one of my socio-political predictions have become realities: in 1989 I predicted the dissolution of the Soviet Union in two-three years; after Sept. 11 of 2001 I argued that Taliban had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks against the USA and that the US did not have any solid evidence against even Osama Bin Laden himself as the mastermind and organizer of those attacks; during the furious anti-S.Hussein's regime campaign I argued that they didn't have WMDs and the respective accusation is false and was not based on any serious intelligence data; then I argued that the official numbers of civilian deaths, caused by the American aggressions in Afghanistan and Iraq, circulated in US mainstream media are greatly diminished (the Wikileaks' documents confirmed this fact.);
I also argued that American intelligence services and military was engaged in practice of torture in those countries and beyond, which was later also confirmed. (I predict now that the practice of torture was and still is much more widespread than we know now; we'll learn about this later - perhaps in the next 5-10 years);
I warned euphoric supporters of Obama, already during his election campaign in 2008 not to rely too heavily on his promises of the big "Change" in either domestic or foreign policies and we know now how that one has played out;

I'm truly the ONE!

Arnold Shcherban - 4/15/2011

Why they hate Chomsky and other intellectuals like him?
The answer as simple as the question: 'cause he's almost invariably right in his brilliant analysis, accurate conclusions and prognosis on the US and its allies' foreign and internal policies and 'cause they cannot ever prove the opposite or even get close to his political mastery in their own works! (Forget Chomsky - their "pundits" cannot match even me...)
I challenge anyone to present any piece of solid evidence that Chomsky ever lied or seriously distorted any facts, quotes, or even engaged in a sort of a wishful thinking.

R. Craigen - 4/15/2011

"Jewish special attachment to Palestine"?

Hmm, an interesting way to put it. Not some, but all of the holiest sites in Judaism are spread throughout that land. And the -- what is it -- fourth, fifth, sixth? -- holiest site (who's counting) in Islam happens to be plunked exactly on top of the most holy site in Judaism, the temple mount, as ancient exercise in dominance from a time when Muslims had hegemony. Any Jew puts a foot onto that property and the whole worldwide Ummah would threaten (very credibly) to start WWIII. Got a solution to that one?

By any measure the Jewish state -- which you'll agree, I'm sure, has overwhelming military superiority -- could simply walk in and take back their holiest site. Nobody could stop them. That they haven't done so in 60 years of military superiority puts the lie to all the stupid ISM mythology concerning the evil, colonial Zionist brutalism. Palestinian arabs are persecuted all over the middle east, where they are crowded into refugee camps and denied the privilege of citizenship in the arab nations in which they have lived for 3 generations now. But Israel is the only middle-eastern country in which they are permitted the rights of full citizenship.

I also agree that a solution and reconciliation is possible in that land -- Israel has proven it by the way it treats its Arab citizens, and for the most part they have reciprocated with goodwill, unlike many in the surrounding region, who have clear genocidal aspirations, and the many, many Islamic extremists who labour continually to provoke and accellerate hostilities there.

The lesson of the last 60 years in Palestine proves the following tautology:

If the neighbors of Israel laid down their weapons today, there would be peace in the land tomorrow.

If Israel laid down it's weapons today, there would be no Israel tomorrow, and most of her citizens would quickly perish in the most brutal fashion.

james joseph butler - 4/14/2011

Peter darling if I can brighten your world, your smile is mine.

Regarding Prof Furnish's sage insight on the Mahdi's "Coming Out party"; my buddy Omar had it right. The point of this piece isn't the machinations of the divine or the prosaic pandering of the powerful. The point is, why now?

I can read it two ways: Furnish is a contributor and we run X Furnish pieces a year or HNN is part of the mind warp that constitutes the American take on the Middle East, naturally I choose both.

I certainly found Dr Furnish's writing on Iran and mahdi shiism illuminating. However given the constraints of a world where either PM Netanyahu or Sec of State Clinton reflexively mentions Iran's grand designs for dominance weekly I'm afraid the impact of a piece such as this is more of the same: Fear the Ayatollah. I fear America and Israel as much as I do Iran.

Peter Kovachev - 4/12/2011

Jimmy, I have to ask: Are your progressively more outlandish cognitive tics to be the daily fare now? If so, I plan to check here more often for the chuckles. By all standards, Professor Furnish wrote a jolly good tratment on a fascinating and little-known topic, and plainly stated his take on its meaning as is his priviledge. It's what historians do, or should be doing, if it's ok with you. Yet you, together with Omar, our rough-hewn Eddy Said wanna-be, somehow managed to yet again turn this into a vent-session for your America-bashing and advanced antisemitism ...oops, beggin' yer pardon again, "anti-Zionism" appears to be the accepted neologism for that malady nowadays. I mean really; our Tim Furnish a "tool" for "hate and misunderstanding"? Where on earth do you come up with such cheese?

james joseph butler - 4/12/2011

If Israel/Palestine is only "tangenital" to the Iranian government's use of escatological Mahdi agitprop why does Prime Minister Netanyahu unfailing reference the current regime's "messianic, apocalyptic, cult"?

Professor Furnish, how does someone as intelligent and well informed as yourself become a tool of those who want to use ancient belief for hate and misunderstanding?

Tim R. Furnish - 4/12/2011

Was that a premature reply? It certainly doesn't qualify as a substantial question.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/12/2011

I do NOT believe there is any glory in any inter religions wars in which the poor masses bleed while the religious leadership(s) only accrue more power over them.
The glorious wars ,that ultimately benefit the masses, are those waged against political doctrines/systems that degrade, exploit and subjugate the masses such as wars waged against
colonialism,imperialism,Zionism ( a unique combination of the three)
and Nazism etc.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/12/2011

" I am not going to discuss Palestine/Israel, because that is only tangential to my topic--which is the attempted propaganda usage of Mahdism by the Islamic Republic of Iran. If you wish to honestly discuss that issue, I shall reply. "


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/11/2011


besides Turkey has been fighting wars with the Christian world since the 11th century, the longest interruption being the cold war where the US did protect Turkey from her nemesis, Russia. This gave Turkey a chance to catch up with the West and she has gone a long way on that road. So the benefits of the alliance were real enough.

But I am sure not every country in the West likes Turkey catching up, a good explaination of their support of the PKK. Leading Turkish historian Ilber Ortayli said without the PKK Turkey would have catched up with France, now guess which side France is supporting?

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/11/2011

Dear Omar,

the main concern I was quoting is the PKK and they have been a (Western supported) problem since the 1980ies. The AKP has been obeying western instructions to appease them with the result that the PKK is more powerful than ever.

I think too that Turkey should work on good relations with her Arab neighbors but you should not expect too much from the AKP.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/11/2011

I agree with the general thrust of your posts particularly your comment:
"By now they all agree that US policies in the Islamic World are unacceptable.
This is what honest American intelectuals need to understand and discuss.
An article about Mahdism is a disatraction "

But, of course, I do NOT partake in your implicit worry about the future of Turkish/USA relations .
Those relations were of great benefit for the USA during the COLD WAR era (for which Turkey paid a great deal in Korea)and of little benefit to Turkey who received, then, great military assistance and very little economic assistance.

Now that Turkey is branching out towards its real milieu and, consequently, against the foreign implant, Israel, the USA, Israel's main stay and empowerer , is bound to constantly resist and frustrate Turkish ambitions ; if it fails to bring back to power its old friends!
The true and genuine significance of the new Turkish orientation is Turkey's effort/thrust to assert its, hitherto absent,role as a MAJOR influence in the Middle East.
An effort that is bound to be resisted by the USA since it would necessarily detract from Israel's.

The USA immoral and anti USA interests fixation with Israel, for no real reasons except ultimately AIPAC & Co influence in the USA, will eventually loose the USA all its present and potential friends in the region.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/11/2011

Professor Furnish
If responding to a question from a gentleman I respect is "tangential" then your cheese comment thereon is inane , superfluous and childish;
Hardly professorial!
I was hoping though that you would respond to my challenge re your objectivity and work methods.( Re: Very interesting article (#147946)
by omar ibrahim baker on April 8, 2011 at 2:06 AM )an issue, Professor, that should be of concern to you.
I still fail to see any response !

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/11/2011

PKK is the devil. Iran is hell. A'nejad is the devil or the Mahdi, you say it,

Tim R. Furnish - 4/10/2011

Yes....so who's Hell in your analogy, who's Churchill, and who's the devil?

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/10/2011

As Churchill said, if Hitler attacked hell, he would make an alliance with the devil.

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/10/2011

Turkey. The two cooperate in the war against the PKK. Iran regularly bombs PKK bases in .

Tim R. Furnish - 4/10/2011

Iran is an ally of....whom? Turkey or the US?

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/10/2011

Iran does not let US pressure stop them from bombing the PKK bases. That is why they are an ally in this war.

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/10/2011

We have the PKK making war on Turkey from bases under US military protection in Iraq. We also have extermely heavy US pressure not do act against those bases so that the PKK can make its war on Turkey.

The London Economist says no guerilla war where the guerilla got protection from a neighboring country was ever won.

The US knows that.

Kurds blogging in the internet are sure they have won the war because the US prevents Turkey from fighting them.

So are the Turks.

Tim R. Furnish - 4/10/2011

You really believe the US wants to break up Turkey--its ally for decades and a fellow NATO member? Other than conspiracy theories in Turkey, what is your evidence for that?

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/10/2011

The Gulen people are mad for money and power, that is their Mahdi. They are widely believed to be CIA operatives serving the US using the name of Islam. It's not for nothing that the movement is allowed to operate from theri center in Philadelphia.

Never heard of Adnan Oktar who might be a nut as you say.

The people running Turkey are being forced into alliances with whomever they can find because the US is using the PKK to break up Turkey. That is what I am telling you.

No matter what their ideology, the people running Turkey will have to cooperate with the alternatives to the US: Russia, China and Iran.

A lot of people are in jail because they are said to have worked on an alliance with China and Russia. That is what the Ergenekon trial is all about.

Tim R. Furnish - 4/10/2011

"The Mahdi plays no role whatsoever in Turkey"--? Is not the Gulen movement an influence, perhaps major, on severak AK party strategists? And Gulen's ideas are drawn from those of Said Nursi, within which Mahdism is a major factor.
Also, Adnan Oktar is a major transnational influence, as well, through his website and publications on Mahdism. I'm sure you think he's crazy, but his media apparatus is pretty powerful.
If you think Mahdism is a distraction, then take it up with the folks running Iran, not me. I simply reported on it. Also, you might want to critique the folks who run Turkey, since they seem to be rather fond of Iran these days.

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/10/2011

Yes and no.

The people I know are the people the US needs as friends and is losing by her policies.

Differnet types of people will have different explainations about events they see.

The religious might see God or the devil at work, liberals racism and the left might be annoyed about imperialism and colonialism.

By now they all agree that US policies in the Islamic World are unacceptable.

This is what honest American intelectuals need to understand and discuss.

An article about Mahdism is a disatraction. It offers an alternative reason why Moslems are annoyed with the US. They can avoid seein what their own country is doing to become hated. This is NOT in American interest.

It is, like God, the devil, and Zionism, an explanation, which prevents people from understanding the real world.

I shall repeat: the Mahdi plays no role whatsoever in Turkey and the US is losing the last friends it has for what it is doing.

Tim R. Furnish - 4/10/2011

Please read the comments I posted in reply to Fahrettin's separate post. I am not going to discuss Palestine/Israel, because that is only tangential to my topic--which is the attempted propaganda usage of Mahdism by the Islamic Republic of Iran. If you wish to honestly discuss that issue, I shall reply. But please, before you do so, actually read CAREFULLY my article--because, as I've had to point out now thrice on here, I actually critique the alarmist position (and you might want to go to the embedded link to my piece on "Iran's WMG Goal" to read my 17-pp., heavily-sourced article on that very topic. As I have pointed out in numerous articles and that first book, while Mahdism is institutionally more powerful in Twelver Shi`ism, it is actually much more historically present in Sunnism--so despite Fahrettin's allegation that Mahdism matters to no one, history says otherwise.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/10/2011

Funny and possibly hilarious that cheese aside you raise except that was an answer to a question from agentleman I happen to respect.
I was hoping you would have something else than cheese to say about his question.
Still do hope!

Tim R. Furnish - 4/10/2011

Omar, I could write an article about Swiss cheese, or about life on planets orbiting Alpha Centauri, and you'd find a way to make it about Palesine and "Zionism." It's actually quite amusing.

Tim R. Furnish - 4/10/2011

Mr. Tahir,
Please note that the conclusion of my article refutes the alarmist view of Iranian Mahdism peddled in certain American media venues and by certain commentators.
That said, I think that claiming that no one cares about Mahdism is falling off the horse on the other side (besides, your data set is "no one I knows cares about Mahdism stuff"--which only proves that in YOUR circles of friends/acquaintances that is true; it says nothing about the issue among the world's other 1.29+ billion Muslims). There are active, violent Mahdist groups in southern Iraq and, like it or not, one of the world's most populous Muslim states--Iran--has Mahdism as one of its motivating factors, and deems it important enough for its President to talk about constantly and to issue a video promoting it. I simply watched the video and commented on it--my doing so is not "promoting" Mahdism, nor is it any sort of conspiratorial attempt (as Messrs. Baker and Butler seem to think) to undermine Muslims by doing so. I am an academic who studies Mahdist movements throughout history--and there have been many, Sunni as well as Shi`i--and thus I duly take note when the same crop up today, as they are. Just because you may not like them, or find them embarrassing, does not mean someone should not study them.

Peter Kovachev - 4/10/2011

Ha! I got hooked too and read through all of them as well. I do like the new prequels; they are easier to read than Herbert's originals, but lack the multi-layered depth.

Folks like to snicker at sci-fi, but in the case of Herbert, his fiction blows away anything put out by supposedly revolutionary modern lit and its obsession with social justice, introspective navel gazing, being cool and trying to convert the English language to baby-talk or a lunatic's babble. I'm thinking of Herbert's brilliant elimination of computers, without which "device" his work would be dated, and his astute treatment of the paradoxes of prophecy and prescience. I also can't think of any work of fiction that dealt with human nature, historical and economic cycles and ecology in such a rich, mature and sophisticated manner. And, I'm guessing that the reason most people stopped reading past Emperor, or even Dune, is that because Herbert's stark (and dark) "super-realistic" world reminiscent of bloody Renaissance politics disappointed a readership weaned on the pabulum of our times; idealized heroes, happy romance, "correct" social-political comentary and never-ending progress.

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/10/2011

Dr. Furnish

I am not shooting the messenger.

Here is a short quotation for a liberal Turkish newspaper, a commet of (justified) US criticism of AKP dealing with human rights issues:

"It is hard to believe that the US is honest because their only target seems to be to divide Turkey into smaller states which would be easier for them to run in the project they started as the greater middle east and they can see that they are close to their target. "

I do not know anybody who is interested Mahdi stuff. The people I know all think that is nonsense.

But it has become conventional wisdom that the US is devastating one country after another in the Islamic world and breaking up existing countries into smaller entities which would be easier to dominate.

This is leaving the US without friends in Turkey and I would guess the rest of the Islamic world.

That is far more dangerous for your country than any Mahdi stuff.

The problems the US has will be further exacerbated by the fact that an increase in the number of states will be increasing the probability that some of them will be controlled by fanatics.

That is what they will get for using Stalinist terrorists of the PKK to break up Turkey, which had been their ally and never did them any wrong.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/10/2011

Mr. Butler
I note your :" I can defer to Omar who thinks everything is an Jewish conspiracy (Please correct me Omar.) "
I will tell you and anybody who cares to listen what I, exactly, DO believe in and what I DO NOT believe in apropos your request .

a-There is a great deal of cooperation and coordination in plans, outlooks and exertion of pressure between ISRAEL, The world Zionist Organization and the upper echelons of World Jewry ( who once made a more or less rare JOINT public appearance at the funeral of Edmund Safra in Switzerland, some years back).
b-That this intense cooperation and co ordination did and does produce a JOINT global outlook and a MASTER PLAN of action.

2-That subsidiary bodies, mainly organizations like AIPAC and, inter alia, the Jewish Strategic Defense League ( that might not be its exact, official name) and that people such as Wolfowitz and Richard Perle ( Members and founders of JSDL ? ) do implement the MASTER PLAN drawn, explicitly or implicitly, by the above triumvirate in their respective spheres of action and influence as their PRIMARY mission.

3- That both, the main upper body and their subsidiaries, exert an inordinate amount of influence in and do exert a great deal of pressure on Western ruling establishments and Western Governments ; that, in one case, had ended by their de facto takeover of USA Middle East policies and orientations.

4-That many Jews have come to realize the historical error of implanting Israel in Palestine and have come to regret it on humane and/or as an unwise adventurous action that could/would negatively rebound against ALL Jews.

5-That neither, the triumvirate or subsidiaries, nor both are OMNIPOTENT .

I DO NOT believe that:
a-All Jews are Zionists nor that they ALL support Israel and Zionism
b-nor that they ALL partake in the denial of Palestinians’ civil and political rights in their homeland Palestine
c- nor that ALL Jews are our enemies.

2-That the de Zionization of Palestine, and/or the de legitimization of Israel, will
a-preclude the existence of a sizable Jewish community in Palestine
b-or would lead to whole sale massacres or to any other form of whole sale ethnic based crimes or acts of revenge.

3-That a historical RECONCILLIATION between Palestinian/Arab/Moslem and Israeli/Jewish IS IMPOSSIBLE as long as it is based on:
a-the recognition of ALL Palestinian rights in Palestine and
b- recognition of Jewish special attachment to Palestine,

Such a historical reconciliation is NOT IMPOSSIBLE .

Tim R. Furnish - 4/9/2011

Mr. Butler, I write for HNN and other venues. If anyone should "go away," it would be you. Or, here's a suggestion: YOU write something for HNN and let's see what responses it gets.
And, as I suspected, you were/are not truly interested in any honest intellectual quest for truth but siimply in exhibiting your trolling abilities. Bravo! You've proved, once again, your mastery of sarcasm, insults and sophomoric humor.

james joseph butler - 4/9/2011

Wow! Professor Furnish "printed" my paper. That is so cool. Ok, he did it "in the interest of fairness", but still, even if it does contain, "typically Leftist, jejune, sexual imagery" he "printed" it. A thousand thanks and I love that manly mustache.

OK I'm now exiting high school.

Iran, Israel, the Middle East. Politics is personality professor. You like reading science fiction, I don't(Movies are a different story.). You know a heck of a lot about the inner workings of Islam. I've read a handful of books on Iran and Islam you've read dozens and original texts too. Can you read either Persian or Arabic? (Just wondering, cuz of course some say any transliteration of Koran is wrong.) You have an understanding of Islam, Shia and Sunni, that I envy.

I read novels because of their proximity to now. I want characters who are similarly self-involved. I find science fiction distant. I'm sure I'm wrong.

The reason why I don't possess your knowledge of Islam is that religion is always theoretical and aspirational. I love it, except for the fact that we all know it's nonsense.

Enough theories: Mr. Buffner; "Let's get it on." (Ok, I know Buffner is way beyond your skill set; ordinary American guy.) Columbus Ohio or Venezuela?

1)"No, there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that the US has killed a million Muslims." Why is that you guys have to be right all the time!? Dang!
Mr. Professor, our realities don't matter. Awakenings! It's their reality that matters. Israel, the US and the UK, our relations over the last century matter. As much as I admire your knowledge it doesn't matter. Your eschatological meandering is irrelevant today.

Look around. How many people in Ohio or New York or Iran care about the seventh century? HNN printed your exegesis of some ossified Iranian irrelevancy because; I can defer to Omar who thinks everything is an Jewish conspiracy (Please correct me Omar.)or choose the ordinary, you have an agreement/contract and they, HNN, are supposed to "printed" you. Which is fine. Except this piece of gimcrack mountebank exhibitionism is something that only Omar and I care about because we have no lives, (Please correct me Omar.)and it promotes the misapprehension that poor pitiful Israel is a victim.

2)Boo Hoo! Why can't America and Israel be judged like the rest of those pathetic excuses for sovereignity? Hmmmm, I don't know, maybe because you're God's gift to capitalism and theme parks. Wait a second.! We are also really considerate of our indigenous tribes.

Prof Furnish, "These truly are religious-based killings, unlike what the US is doing now Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya".

Timothy no one cares why they murder, what matters are the murders. This is essential. If I blow your brains out with a pistol tonight(This is purely theoretical, for any Homeland Security droids listening.)you'll hate me, your family will hate me, but will anyone really care that I hate you because your mustache is really ugly? Timothy, I think the point is motive matters not a whit. (He hates me cuz my second cousin six times removed tinks me sweet.) What matters is life or death.

3) Gee whiz, wow, how many miles comped? Glenn Beck. Can we not agree that we all like Mr. Beck? An honest man.

Dr. Furnish has been invited to discuss his truths with the ayatollahs. The ayatollahs invited you because you gave them what they wanted. You were there because you gave them what they wanted. Whoops, DUH, what was I thinking? Professor Furnish penetrated Al Quds intellifucksia and persuaded those bad guys: Israel is a bastion of good guys and Davy Crockett.

4)Dude you forgot four. Not that that's a problem, dude. Hold on a second everybody. Sure e'nuff five sometimes follows four, generally, always. We are the chosen people, why not choose our own math? Picky picky. Grow up, even professors, from the great and powerful, OHIO STATE, make mistakes.

5)Precious Professor Pea, my sweet Furnish, my warm accessible Doctor, Professor Pea, regarding Professor Beck; Duh. Whoops. I am so afraid that someone might think I don't get it. Beck is a who f-ing cares. I am sorry: I will now pay heed to your math: 3 = 5. New and improved: Israel is a democracy.

4)Reverend Terry Jones equals Prime butt head Ahminedejad. Surrender Dorothy. I do not believe true believers.
Who cares what some PHD'd dope like you says when you're mired in the 7th century.

5) A man who can't count is deeply concerned. Hell yeah mr professor feller. Sweet Pea you can't count. So I am supposed to trust you with my future cuz you can recite ancient texts. I Love you you're irrelevant.

10) Pleeeeze go away.

Tim R. Furnish - 4/9/2011

I have read every Dune book every published--not just Herbert's original six (most folks never make it past "God Emperor of Dune" and Leto II's 3500-year reign as a human-sandworm symbiote) but the sequels and prequels co-written by Herbert's son, Brian, and Kevin Anderson). Frank's weaving in of Islamic themes and terms, especially the jihad and Mahdi concepts, is quite fascinating. Of course, messianism in all its manifestations is not just an important theological, but nowadays an geopolitical, topic--a point which Messrs. Baker and Butler miss (willfully or through legiitimate ignorance).

Tim R. Furnish - 4/8/2011

Mr. Butler,
In the interest of fairness, I printed your piece and tried to ascertain a point to it--but I can find no logical thread as you lurch from Madeline Albright to carping at HNN for publishing me to AIPAC and al-Jazeera. And your typically Leftist jejune sexual imagery ("wet dreams") says more about your own mindset than anything else.
To answer your undoubtedly ill-faith questions and innuendo:
1) No, there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that the US has killed a million Muslims, the musings of a former Clinton SecState notwithstanding. Of course, neither the Left nor the irrational apologists in the Islamic world can ever see fit to mention that that the US (and NATO) saved tens of thousands of Muslim lives in Bosnia and is doing so again in Libya.
2) No mention is made in the Left of the scores (Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, in particular) killed daily by literalist followers of Qur'anic teachings in places like Pakistan and Indonesia. These truly are relgious-based killings, unlike what the US is doing in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya--where the military power of a predominantly-Christian nation actually (re)builds mosques and madrasas (probably violating its own Constitution in doing so) in order to "win hearts and minds."
3) My "cluelessness" about Islam and Iran in particular has gotten me invited to Iran, Turkey and Israel to speak on the topic, Mr. Butler. The ayatollahs didn't think I was "clueless." And, like Omar, you're confusing cause and effect and revel in shooting the messenger. Mahdism has been around for almost all of Islam's 1400+ years, and has been a militant ideology that sparked dozens, if not hundreds, of Islamic jihads from Morocco to Malaysia. But since you are "untutored in...Muslim history" you are ignorant of that fact, and imagine that the Iranians are fabricating beliefs out of whole cloth and that I am somehow remiss in reporting on that. If you would try some hard thinking about this topic, you would see that my view is actually criticial of that of the Glenn Becks and other alarmists (including the ones at CBN), whom I take to task for hyperventilating about Iran's alleged impending attack on Israel. But you're too busy overgeneralizing and castigating anyone with whom you disagree to see that.
5) Your linking of Pastor Terry Jones to Ahmadinejad proves just how clueless, and incapable of rational discrimination, you are. Pr. Jones burned a book; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the leader of a government that kills gays, persecutes Baha'is and Christians (some to the point of death), supplies weapons to insurgents who kill Americns (and other Muslims) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and jails, tortures and kills its own political opposition. Your moral eqiuavalence between Jones and Ahmadinejad is not only, frankly, stupid but vile.
4) The last sentence of your first post, frankly, makes no sense--so I am unable to formualate a response.

Peter Kovachev - 4/8/2011

Glad to be back...although I've been appearing a bit here there for a while. And glad to note that you're still contributing as one of the few historians who doesn't march to dreary drum beats of official academia. I doubt you'll be invited as the president of MESA, though.

I also agree with Mr Friedman here that this one of your best. I've always been fascinated by messianic movements of all kinds, especially since coming across the work of the late and great anthropologist, Marvin Harris, back in the early 80s. Also, in studying pre-modern Jewish history, I was drawn to the puzzle of periodic messianic fevers in Europe, their effects and their tremendeous costs to their host societies. My quip about Herbert's Dune now reminds me to ask you whether you have ever read that series. It's pure, unabashed sci fi, but behind it is Herbert's eclectic genius and a serious study of mahdism, which back in the 60s and 70s only a few specialists cared about.

james joseph butler - 4/8/2011

Regarding my "Chomskian stream of consciousness rant", huh? As much as I'm flattered by your commingling; where is the stream of consciousness rant? Is it beyond the pale to think that the readers of this stuff have a passing familiarity with Rev. Hagee or Madeline Albright's response to Leslie Stahl regarding the deaths of half a million Iraqi children? No one can argue that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have not resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. The USA estimates tens of thousands have died, the Lancet estimates that more than 600,000 have died in Iraq alone.

Terry Jones, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hollywood, military industrial complex; maybe my "matrix" is too obscure for Jay Leno's man in the street but here?

I'm left with;the deaths of thousands of Arabs is different for you than the deaths of Americans or Israelis,name calling, "Chomskian", is what passes for a response.

Tim R. Furnish - 4/8/2011

Glad you've come back in from the cold.
I just calls'em as I sees'em.

Peter Kovachev - 4/8/2011

"...Mr. Butler--his Chomskian stream-of-consciousness rant..." (T Furnish)

LOL! I've been mildly puzzled over where else I've run across garble similar to Butler's; you Professor, unveiled the mysterious source our Jimmy-the-Dhimmi attempts to emulate!

Alas, in defense of one of Chomsky's linguistic theories, the stream-of-consciousness method presupposes an intellectual matrix and infers a pre-existing knowledge base. Without such, as Butler is (or is not) discovering, all we'll get ...with apologies to Frank Herbert's *Dune,*...is a "Butlerian Gobledeygook Jihad."

N. Friedman - 4/8/2011

Hi Tim,

I was not commenting on Omar's views about Mahdism among Sunni; only on his point that most in the Islamic world likely do not sit up at nights thinking about the matter.

I shall read your article and then, if I have any questions, I shall address them here. Thanks for the link.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/8/2011

This Is what I had to say, above, about Mahdism in Shiite versus Sunni beliefs:
"2- The issue has a much more central location and role in the beliefs system of Shiite Moslems than with Sunni Moslems"
To which the learned Professor Furnish retorted with:
"If Omar thinks Mahdism is just a Shi`i phenomenon, he's woefully ignorant of the religion to which he adheres. "
How to conclude the latter statement, the Prof's, from the former, Omar's, is a mystery of intellectual acrobatics in which "targeted" research admits that anything goes as long as the desired goal (" he's woefully ignorant of the religion to which he adheres.") is attained.
So much for the Prof's objectivity, scrupulousness and intellectual honesty in a minor aside still fresh in everybody’s mind ; it does however outlay and reflect a working method that surely affects his major works!

Tim R. Furnish - 4/7/2011

Omar and Fahrettin: you're shooting the messenger. I didn't fabricate a belief in Mahdism and attribute it to Muslims--it is in fact a long-standing belief and, more importantly, revolutionary and jihadist motivator in both Sunni and Shi`i societies (every single Mahdist movement I discuss in my first book is a Sunni one).
As for Mr. Butler--his Chomskian stream-of-consciousness rant makes about as much sense as usual.

Tim R. Furnish - 4/7/2011

Thanks much. Methinks Omar and his ilk doth protest too much; after all, I am not inventing or propagating Mahdism--I am simply reporting on it. If Omar thinks Mahdism is just a Shi`i phenomenon, he's woefully ignorant of the religion to which he adheres.
Here's a link to a much longer and more sourced piece I did on Iranian Mahdism and WMDs for INEGMA (the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Affairs) which addresses your points: http://www.inegma.com/reports/Special_Report12/Special%20Report%2012.pdf

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/7/2011


the Christian World tried to exterminate the Moslems of Europe murdering 5 millions between the 1860ies and the 1920ies.

The Moslems of cyprus only survive because Turkey protects them and the USA and Europe do their best to force the Turks out of the Island.

The Moslems of Bosnia had nothing to do with Israel and were slaughtered by Anglo-French supported Serbs in the 1990ies.

Yes, they are devastating one Moslems country after another, including the Kurdish war in Turkey, from bases under US protection in Iraq. Turkey was an ally of israel when this war started and so it has nought to do with Israel.

These are Christians fighting Moslems. One French minister called the attack against Libya a crusade.

The Jews are getting the bill for a lot of killing which has nothing to do with them.

Or do you really think French colonialism was invented by Zionists?

Fahrettin Tahir - 4/7/2011

Yes, we all know: there is such a thing as a religious nut. Among Moslems and elsewhere.

Looking at the Islamic World today the big problem are not Moslem religious nuts.

It is Western colonialism which is systematically devastating one Moslem country after another.

Each time they have logical sounding reasons to do what they are doing but if we look at the forest instead of the trees, we have the sight of one Moslem country after another being devastated.

Each and every time we Moslems are guilty and not the people who send the bombers.

N. Friedman - 4/7/2011


You have written one of your best articles to date. While I suspect - and I hate to say it - that Omar has a point that most Muslims likely have concerns other than the arrival of a Mahdi to think about, that does not detract from your excellent report.

I might note - and this goes back to a comment I recall you making some years back, either in an article or in post on the comment board -, there is the question of whether Muslims can take steps to bring about the arrival of the Mahdi. I recall you said that such is not Shi'a belief. At the same time, I understand, from reading elsewhere, that, notwithstanding the notion's lack of provenance, there are Shi'a who do believe that the Mahdi can be helped to appear by human agency.

Another point. While I like to think you are correct that all of this Mahdist eschatology does not signal a plan to make an actual war, from the perspective of those non-Muslims who know of this ideology and who are in the line of fire, I think your comment is comforting but not comforting enough for us to beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. That, and I note that other analysts believe that there is a sufficiently large group among Iran's rulers who believe this sort of stuff and who, as Bernard Lewis is fond of saying, believe that mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, but an inducement.

Last point. Omar appears to pooh pooh Mahdism among Muslims in general and Islamists in particular. Whether or not that is true or not, his aim is to downplay anything which might somehow stand in the way of his goal (i.e. Israel's demise). Talk of the Mahdi is certainly something crazy sounding which surely does get in the way of his agenda; if Westerners believed, as is, in fact, the case, that religion was an important force driving the agenda against Israel, that might complicate his agenda by giving Westerners second thought. Of course, religion is part of the mix here, an important part.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/7/2011

Mr Butler
(Why does HNN print this in the midst of so much else?), is the real meaningful question that you ask.
I guess the answer is a combination of:
a-keep up the campaign to vilify Islam and Moslems
b-draw attention away from more pressing issues, to both Moslems and Americans, such as the situation in the Middle East re the Arab/Israeli conflict and the civil war in Libya.

However I give much greater weight to (a) being an integral part of a long term Zionist/Jewish strategic drive to further alienate the WEST from the Arabs and Islamdom in general and to ensure the aggravation of the problems that beset them from time to time than (b) which has become routine and lost a lot of its sensationalism.

Zionism/World Jewry /Israel have long ago realized that the only hope for the long term survival of their colonialist project/alien implant Israel in Palestine lays in a state of continuous, uninterrupted Arab/Islam-West/Christian enmity periodically flaring into wars and armed confrontations that would make the Judeo/Christian West actually fight the battle of Israel for Israel…as has been occurring in the last decades.
9/11 gave them an ideal opening to go hyper public and hyper vocal, particularly in the USA, with their campaign that will go on in diverse forms including, of course, "learnrd" dissertations.

james joseph butler - 4/6/2011

Yup Omar the idea that most Iranians believe the Mahdi Da'wah video is akin to most Americans believing in Rev. John Hagee's DVDs.

Untutored as I am in ancient Muslim history I prefer recent history starting with Furnish's inference here that "the slaughter of 'one million Muslims' by the West;" is an absurdity. Madeline Albright is on record, 1996, as stating that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children to discomfit Saddam Hussein was "worth it". Since then, 1996, the USA, via Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or US sponsored Israel,is directly responsible for the deaths of many, many, thousands of other residents of these lands, Muslim, or otherwise. Yes Doctor, I know, in America, who cares?

Furnish is right about the theocracy in Iran, it's cynical, solipistic, and self-mythologizing, like a few other countries it thinks it's special. His fascination with baroque Mahdi eschatology,even now(Why does HNN print this in the midst of so much else?), is emblematic of the all American cluelessness evident on both sides of the aisle in Washington. As long as AIPAC is potent and Al-Jazeera is all but illegal Furnish and company will take the wet dreams of the impotent, Terry Jones or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and use them to embellish their own desires for more.

Sometimes I think America's military industrial complex is part of its Hollywood entertainment complex. Peace and prosperity are boring let's resuscitate the end of days. Step away from the Holy Land.

Isn't it nice that President Obama has found a new war.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/6/2011

Professor Furnish seems to be unduly over engaged , over concerned and feverishly preoccupied over an old bit of Islamic beliefs ,strongly held by some, but more of a bit of Islamic mythology output to most others: the majority of Moslems; I suspect.
Two points worthy of putting out though are :
1- The issue of Mahdi and Mahdism is not, by any means, a crucial issue with most contemporary Moslem theologians nor with active Islamists some of whom, a minority, reject it out of hand or accept it unquestioningly while others, a majority, simply ignore it as irrelevant to what is going on now in, about and with the problems and challenges facing Islam and Islamdom.
2- The issue has a much more central location and role in the beliefs system of Shiite Moslems than with Sunni Moslems