Islam from a Biblical Perspective XXI
Among the Major Signs, the most anticipated and central sign that Muslims await is the coming of a man known as “the Mahdi”. In Arabic, al-Mahdi means “the Guided One”. He is also sometimes referred to by Shi’a Muslims as Sahib Al-Zaman or Al Mahdi al-Muntadhar, which translated mean “the Lord of the Age” and “the Awaited Savior”. The Mahdi is the first of the Major Signs.
The coming of the Mahdi is the central crowning element of all Islamic end-time narratives. According to Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, “The coming of the Mahdi is established doctrine for both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, and indeed for all humanity”.
In the simplest of terms, the Mahdi is Islam’s messiah or savior. The “rising” of the Mahdi is to the majority of Muslims what the return of Jesus is to Christians.
A Man from the Family of Muhammad
The first and most often cited Islamic belief with regard to the Mahdi is the tradition that states that the Mahdi will descend from the family of Muhammad and will bear Muhammad’s name: “The world will not come to pass until a man from among my family, whose name will be my name, rules over the Arabs”. “The Prophet said: The Mahdi will be of my family, of the descendants of Fatimah (Muhammad’s daughter)”
A Universal Leader for all Muslims
Throughout the Islamic world today there is a call for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate. The caliph (Khalifa) in Islam may be viewed somewhat like the Pope of the Muslims. Muslims view the caliph as the vice-regent for Allah on the earth. When Muslims call for the restoration of the caliphate, it is ultimately the Mahdi that they call for; the Mahdi is the awaited final caliph of Islam: “If you see him, go and give him your allegiance, even if you have to crawl over ice, because he is the Vice-regent (Khalifa) of Allah, the Mahdi”. “He will pave the way for and establish the government of the family (or community) of Muhammad… Every believer will be obligated to support him”.
The Ruler of the World
The Mahdi is believed to be a future Muslim world leader who will not only rule over the Islamic world but the non-Muslim world as well. The Mahdi is said to lead a world revolution that will establish a new Islamic world order throughout the entire earth: “The Mahdi will establish right and justice in the world and eliminate evil and corruption. He will fight against the enemies of the Muslims who would be victorious”. “He will reappear on the appointed day, and then he will fight against the forces of evil, lead a world revolution, and set up a new world order based on justice, righteousness, and virtue… ultimately the righteous will take the world administration in their hands and Islam will be victorious over all religions”. “He is the precursor of the victory of the Truth and the fall of all tyrants. He heralds the end of injustice and oppression and the beginning of the final rising of the sun of Islam which will never again set and which will ensure happiness and the elevation of mankind… The Mahdi is one of Allah’s clear signs which will soon be made evident to everyone”. While some Muslims believe that most of the non-Muslims of the world will convert to Islam peaceably during the reign of the Mahdi, most traditions picture the non-Muslim world coming to Islam as result of conquest by the Mahdi.
The Army of Black Flags
The Mahdi’s ascendancy to power is said to be preceded by an army from the East carrying black flags or banners of war. “Hadith indicate that black flags coming from the area of Khorasan will signify the appearance of the Mahdi is nigh. Khorasan is in today’s Iran, and some scholars have said that this hadith means when the black flags appear from Central Asia, i.e., in the direction of Khorasan, then the appearance of the Mahdi is imminent”. “The Messenger of Allah said: The black banners will come from the East and their hearts will be as firm as iron. Whoever hears of them should join them and give allegiance, even if it means crawling across snow”. Islam waves two flags. One is white and one is black. Written across both flags in Arabic are the words, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger”. One flag is governmental and the other is military.
The white flag is called Al-Liwaa and serves as the sign for the leader of the Muslim army and is the flag of the Islamic state.
The black flag is called Ar-Raya and is used by the Muslim army. It is also called the flag of jihad and is carried into battle.
The Conquering of Israel
Islamic tradition pictures the Mahdi as joining the army of Muslim warriors carrying black flags. The Mahdi will lead this army to Israel and re-conquer it for Islam. “Rasulullah (Muhammad) said: “Armies carrying black flags will come from Khurasan. No power will be able to stop them and they will finally reach Eela (Baitul Maqdas in Jerusalem) where they will erect their flags”. It is important to note here the reference to Baitul Maqdas. In Arabic, this means “the holy house”. This is referring to the Dome of the Rock Mosque located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The Islamic world speaks of the Mahdi’s military campaign against Israel. “The Prophet said… the last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him”. According to their traditions, the Mahdi will have control over the wind and the rain and the crops.
Under Mahdi’s rule, the world will live in prosperity. Islamic tradition relates that Muhammad once said: “In the last days of my ummah (universal Islamic community), the Mahdi will appear. Allah will give him power over the wind and the rain and the earth will bring forth its foliage. He will give away wealth profusely, flocks will be in abundance, and the ummah will be large and honored…” “In those years my community will enjoy a time of happiness such as they have never experienced before. Heaven will send rain upon them in torrents, the earth will not withhold any of its plants, and wealth will be available to all. A man will stand and say, Give to me, Mahdi! And he will say, Take.” As a result of the numerous benefits that the Mahdi brings, it is said that all the inhabitants of the earth will deeply love him: “Allah will sow love of him in the hearts of all people” “Al Mahdi appears; everyone only talks about Him, drinks the love of Him, and never talks about anything other than Him”.
One particular hadith places this event at the time of a final peace agreement between the Arabs and the Romans. Romans refers to Christians, or generally, the West. Although this peace agreement is made with the “Romans”, it is presumably mediated through a Jew from the priestly lineage of Aaron. The peace agreement will be made for a period of seven years. “Rasulullah (Muhammad) said: “There will be four peace agreements between you and the Romans (Christians). The fourth agreement will be mediated through a person who will be from the progeny of Hadrat Haroon (Honorable Aaron- Moses’ brother) and will be upheld for seven years”. Most traditions state that his reign will last seven years: “The Prophet said… He will divide the property and will govern the people by the Sunnah of their Prophet and establish Islam on Earth. He will remain seven years, then die, and the Muslims will pray over him”. The Prophet said… The Mahdi… will fill the earth with equity and justice as it was filled with oppression and tyranny, and he will rule for seven years”.
Al-Mahdi, The Rider on a White Horse
The Mahdi is believed to ride on a white horse. Muslim scholar Ka’b al-Ahbar, viewed among Muslims as a trustworthy transmitter of hadith as well as isra’iliyyat. Ka’b al-Ahbar’s view, that this description of the rider on the white horse as found in the Book of Revelation is indeed the Mahdi, is supported by two well-known Egyptian authors, Muhammad Ibn Izzat and Muhammad Arif. In their book, 'Al Mahdi and the End of Time', they quote Ka’b al Ahbar as saying: “I find the Mahdi recorded in the books of the Prophets… For instance, the Book of Revelation says: “And I saw and beheld a white horse. He that sat on him… went forth conquering and to conquer”. Izzat and ‘Arif then go on to say: “It is clear that this man is the Mahdi who will ride the white horse and judge by the Qur’an (with justice) and with whom will be men with marks of prostration on their foreheads (marks on their foreheads from bowing in prayer with their head to the ground five times daily)”.
Al-Mahdi the Miraculous Archaeologist
In one final very interesting series of traditions regarding the Mahdi, we find that he is said to produce some previously undiscovered Bible scrolls – even the Ark of the Covenant itself: Ka’b al-Ahbar says, “He will be called ‘Mahdi’ because he will guide (yahdi) to something hidden and will bring out the Torah and Gospel from a town called Antioch” “As-Suyuti mentioned in al-Hawi that the messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “He is called the Mahdi because he will guide the people to a mountain in Syria from which he will bring out the volumes of the Torah to refute the Jews. At the hands of the Mahdi, the Ark of the Covenant will be brought forth from the Lake of Tiberias and taken and placed in Jerusalem”. Ad-Dani said that he is called the Mahdi because he will be guided to a mountain in Syria from which he will bring forth the volumes of the Torah with which to argue against the Jews and at his hands a group of them will become Muslims”.
The purpose of finding these “lost” portions of the Old and New Testaments as well as the Ark of the Covenant is to help the Mahdi win converts from both Christianity and Judaism prior to “eradicating” the remainder who do not convert to Islam.
In review, here’s the man that the Muslims of the world eagerly await:
- The Mahdi is Islam’s primary messiah figure.
- He will be a descendant of Muhammad and will bear Muhammad’s name (Muhammad bin Abdullah).
- He will be a very devout Muslim.
- He will be an unparalleled spiritual, political, and military world leader.
- He will emerge after a period of great turmoil and suffering upon the earth.
- He will establish justice and righteousness throughout the world and eradicate tyranny and oppression.
- He will be the caliph and imam (vice regent and leader) of Muslims worldwide.
- He will lead a world revolution and establish a new world order.
- He will lead military action against all those who oppose him.
- He will invade many countries
- He will make a seven-year peace treaty with a jew of priestly lineage.
- He will conquer Israel for Islam and lead the “faithful Muslims” in a final slaughter/ battle against Jews. - He will establish the new Islamic world headquarters from Jerusalem.
- He will rule for seven years (possibly as much as eight or nine).
- He will cause Islam to be the only religion practiced on earth.
- He will appear riding a white horse (possibly symbolic).
- He will discover some previously undiscovered Biblical manuscripts that he will use to argue with the Jews and cause some Jews to convert to Islam.
- He will also rediscover the Ark of the Covenant from the Sea of Galilee, which he will bring to Jerusalem.
- He will have supernatural power from Allah over the wind and the rain and crops.
- He will possess and distribute enormous amounts of wealth.
- He will be loved by all the people of the earth.