The Messianic Mahdist Moebius strip — or maybe Maze?

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick look at some confusing clashes between messianisms, with specific reference to the MUJAO — also the late Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr sounding an ecumenical note ]

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image: Dajjal, from Okasha Abdelmannan al-Tibi's The Whole Truth about the Antichrist

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Tim Furnish opens his book Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden, with the words:

One man’s messiah is another man’s heretic.

What he doesn’t state outright, which is also true, is that all too often that heretic is the anti-Messiah.

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I use that term “anti-Messiah” deliberately, because in discussing Islamic end times beliefs, the term “Antichrist” is frequently used by both Christians and Muslims to refer to the Muslim “equivalent” of the Christian Antichrist — ie the “deceiving messiah” or Masih al-Dajjal, whose coming at the end of days is predicted in Islamic apocalyptic narratives in negative counterpoint to the coming of the Mahdi, in much the same way that some Christian apocalyptic narratives predict the coming of the Antichrist in negative counterpoint to the return of the Christ.

This issue was brought home to me once again today when Aaron Zelin pointed me to this tweet from Afua Hirsch [ @afuahirsch ], West Africa Correspondent for the Guardian:

Frankly, I think that’s a very natural question to raise, and one that has an even more intriguing answer.

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One other note, which I’ve separated out between asterisks here because I think it’s a crucial one at that:

by Afua Hirsch’s account, Mali’s Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has the apocalyptic fever…

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Strange things happen when different views of the end times, as prophesied one way or another in various branches of all three Abrahamic religions, clash.

Here’s where I see the moebius strip effect, whereby apocalyptic figures are turned into their opposites by rival sets of beliefs:

Some Muslims call the Dajjal (literally, “the deceiver”) the Antichrist — here, for instance, is a video clip of Sheikh Imran Hosein, whom I have discussed on Zenpundit before, quoting a hadith or tradition of the Prophet from the Sahih Muslim collection, and using the term “Antichrist” without further comment in his translation of the term Dajjal —

YouTube video

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