[ by Charles Cameron — uh-oh, it’s Mahdi time again.. giving a little wide-angle context, then passing along a hadith of possible current interest — also an aside about an end-times Shiite trinity ]
We live, as everyone pretty much agrees, in some place called “here” (although that shifts) at a particular moment called “now” (although that shifts too) in a medium often called “spacetime” in honor of Albert Einstein.
The Game-changing Coming Ones of many religions and sects – and even their secular variants, the Game-changing Coming Ideologies and Leaders) – are situated in another area of the same “spacetime” continuum for their respective believers: next up after “wars and rumors of wars” or “come the revolution” or “when the Mayan Calendar runs out” or “next year in Jerusalem”…
My old friend Stephen O’Leary suggests there’s a shifting “window of opportunity” for people who preach “soon comings” – if you warn people that the world will end in a couple of thousand years, or with the heat death of the sun, or even that sea levels are liable to rise precipitously over the next few decades unless remedial action is taken, the view is long-range enough to seriously diminish your impact. Conversely, if you announce the end of the world will occur three minutes from now, nobody has time to get scared or prepared – or to propagate your message.
So “soon coming expectations” generally predict the coming is a little ways around the corner, close enough to matter but no close enough to sell all that you possess and climb Mt Ararat this week.
The “where” is interesting, though. We have news cameras focused 24/7 on the Mount of Olives to catch the Second Coming of Christ, although most observant Jews won’t be expecting that Christianity will be finally vindicated as the true inheritor of Judaism’s mantle there any time soon, and many Muslims expect he’ll descend at one of the minarets of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.
And the Mahdi? Two popular points of anticipated arrival are beside the Kaaba in Mecca, or out of the well behind the Jamkaran mosque, not too many miles from Qom.
But Islamic apocalyptic geography doesn’t end with either place – it extends, minimally, from Khorasan (Iran or Afghanistan) to Jerusalem, with a possible side-expedition to India (the Ghazwa-eh-Hind) and with possible tributaries from Africa and who knows where else… and in at least some Shia strands of apocalyptic thinking, the city of Kufa in Iraq will be the Mahdi’s seat of government.
And now, the hadith:
All this is simply to provide some context for a specific hadith that my friend Aaron Zelin pointed to me today, as recorded yesterday on the Kavkaz Center webpage:
Hadith about Syria, Iraq and Yemen
30 October 2012, 14:58
Sham – the territory of Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon
Abdullah ibn Hawalah [Allah's blessings be on him] narrated from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) that he said:
"Matters will run their course until you become three armies: an army in Sham, an army in Yemen, and an army in Iraq".
Ibn Hawalah said:
"Choose for me, O Messenger of Allah! in case I live to see that day".
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
"You should go to Sham, for it is the best of Allah's lands, and the best of His slaves will be drawn there!
And if you refuse, then you should go to the Yemen and drink from its wells. For Allah has guaranteed me that He will look after Sham and its people!"
(Imam Ahmad 4/110, Abu Dawud 2483. Authenticated by Imam Abu Hatim, Imam ad-Diya al-Maqdisi, Sheikh al-Albani and Sheikh Shu'aib Al-Arnaut).
Department of Monitoring
For more on this, see especially J-P Filiu‘s Apocalypse in Islam, noting in particular his account of “the revelation of Abu Musab al-Suri” (pp. 186-193), including specifically his discussion of “Sham” in a paragraph on p. 189.
And an intriguing aside:
And since were talking Yemen and the greater Sham here, it may be worth noting as an aside, the presence in Islamic apocalyptic traditions of a figure known as the Yemeni — sometimes identified in Iranian Shia apocalyptic as Hezbollah’s Hasan Nasrallah. Filiu writes (p.156) of:
Shaykh Nazrallah’s transformation into the apocalyptic figure of the Yemeni, completing a very political trinity in which Ayatollah Khamenei served as the standard bearer of the Mahdi and Ahmadinejad as the commander of his armies.
Filiu’s book was published in France in 2008, but the same trinity can also be found in the fairly recent video The Coming is Upon Us attributed by Reza Kahlili to circles around Ahmadinejad. I’ve taken this account of the video and the trinity as it reports it from the Counter Jihad Report, because their version succinctly draws together the strands that most concern me here:
A little-noticed documentary titled “The Coming is Upon Us” was produced by Ahmadinejad’s office last year and it lays out the regime’s beliefs and planned path forward, much like Mein Kampf did. And it debunks the notion that the U.S.S.R. and the Iranian regime are equivalent. The film makes the case that the regime’s leaders are the incarnations of specific End Times figures foretold in Islamic eschatology.
Iran is the “nation from the East” that paves the way for the Mahdi’s appearance. Supreme Leader Khamenei is Seyed Khorasani, “the preparer” who comes from Khorasan Province with a black flag and a distinct feature in his right hand. Khamenei’s right hand is paralyzed from an assassination attempt. Khorasani’s commander-in-chief is Shoeib-Ebne Saleh, who the film says is President Ahmadinejad. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is the incarnation of Yamani, a commander with a Yemeni ancestry who leads the Mahdi’s army into Mecca.
These three “preparers” wage war against the Antichrist and “the Imposters”-the U.S., Israel and the West’s Arab allies. The film also mentions that a figure named Sofiani will side with Islam’s enemies. Former Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer Reza Kahlili, who leaked the film, told me that the full-length version identifies him as Jordanian King Abdullah II.
The film lists various End Times prophecies that have been fulfilled to argue that the Mahdi’s appearance is near. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran; the invasion of Iraq from the south and subsequent sectarian violence and death of Saddam Hussein; the Houthi rebellion in Yemen; the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the increasing amount of open homosexuality, cross-dressing, adultery and women taking off the hijab are correlated to specific Islamic prophecies.
As to the video’s authenticity and provenance, I can only express my ignorance and keen interest — but whatever the case, it seems likely that the split between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, together with the latter’s “soon going” from office, renders that particular strain of prophecy moot.
Particular prophetic timelines may fail, and indeed do so repeatedly — the apparatus of apocalyptic hope simply incorporates new figures and events into its calculations, and moves its sense of urgency a little further up along the timeline…