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Mahdism in Iraq, redux

[ by Charles Cameron — news bulletin on Mahdist messianism, with a muddling mixing of metpahors ]

prominent ISCI leader Jalal al-din Ali al-Sagheer, via Rudaw

Dated yesterday, Hevidar Ahmed‘s piece on the Kurdish news site Rudaw, Shia Leader: The Awaited Imam Mahdi Will Fight the Kurds, confirms that Iraq’s Mahdist undercurrent has at least one well-placed adherent while also denying the specific applicability of one particular sermon — except in case of earthquake:

Jalal al-din Ali al-Sagheer, a prominent leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), denies saying that the awaited Imam al-Mahdi will fight the Kurds when he emerges.

Sagheer also sent a letter to the president of Iraq Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani explaining his intentions behind a lecture he delivered on Aug. 10.

The lecture, delivered in Baghdad’s Buratha Mosque, was about recent political activities of Kurds in Iraq and Syria and the relation of these activities to the appearance of the awaited Shia imam.

Sagheer cited some texts about the subject and concluded that “these could be some of the signs of the appearance of the awaited imam, but in order for these expectations to come true, a strong earthquake needs to hit Syria and Turkish soldiers must land in Cizre region.”

A tip of the hat to Timothy Furnish, whose MahdiWatch blog has a longer and more detailed version of story. Among Dr. Furnish’s points:

Modern Iraqi Mahdism has, heretofore, been largely a phenemenon manifesting among outre groups there: Ahmad al-Hasan’s Ansar al-Mahdi, the late Abd al-Zahra al-Qar`awi’s Jund al-Sama’, or Mahmud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi’s Jaysh Husayn, as well as (albeit probably more politically and less seriously) Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi. Now, however, a mainstream Iraqi politician is espousing Mahdist views–and not just pious ones reflecting some far-off, future hope but beliefs working eschatology into the modern political scene in the Middle East.

Ali A Allawi said Iraqi Mahdism was flying “under the radar” of western analysts when he spoke at the Jamestown Foundation on October 9, 2007. The video of that meeting is no longer publicly available, and as far as I know, no transcription exists online.

Are we paying attention to Mahdism as a significant current in the Middle East yet? If not — and switching my metaphors in midstream — it’s probably “up periscope” time again.

One Response to “Mahdism in Iraq, redux”

  1. Tim Furnish Says:

    Charles: thanks.
    And the answer to your question? No.  

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