(Muhammad Ahmad ibn Said Abdullah). Born Aug. 12, 1844, on Labab Island; died June 22, 1885, near Khartoum. Leader of the liberation movement of the peoples of the eastern Sudan, which began in 1881. A member of the Dongala tribe; the son of a carpenter.
Muhammad Ahmad received a traditional religious education in Berber and Khartoum. He joined the dervish order of Samaniyah and, as its sheikh, settled on the island of Abba in 1870. After breaking with the order’s leaders, he proclaimed himself “the Mahdi” and in August 1881 headed a liberation struggle against the Turco-Egyptian authorities and the British colonialists. The Mahdi was the founder of the Sudanese Mahdist state.