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(mä`dē) [Arab.,=he who is divinely guided], in Sunni IslamIslam
, [Arab.,=submission to God], world religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad. Founded in the 7th cent., Islam is the youngest of the three monotheistic world religions (with Judaism and Christianity). An adherent to Islam is a Muslim [Arab.,=one who submits].
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, the restorer of the faith. He will appear at the end of time to restore justice on earth and establish universal Islam. The Mahdi will be preceded by al-Dajjal, a Muslim antichrist, who will be slain by Jesus. This belief is not rooted in the Qur'an but has its origins in Jewish ideas about the Messiah and in the Christian belief of the second coming of Jesus. Among the ShiitesShiites
[Arab., shiat Ali,=the party of Ali], the second largest branch of Islam, Shiites currently account for 10%–15% of all Muslims. Shiite Islam originated as a political movement supporting Ali (cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam) as the
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 the concept of the Mahdi takes a different form (see imamimam
[Arab.,=leader], in Islam, a recognized leader or a religious teacher. Among the Sunni the term refers to the leader in the Friday prayer at the mosque; any pious Muslim may function as imam.
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In the history of Islam, many men have arisen who claimed to be the Mahdi. They usually appeared as reformers antagonistic to established authority. The best known of these in the West was Muhammad Ahmad, 1844–85, a Muslim religious leader in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He declared himself in 1881 to be the Mahdi and led a war of liberation from the oppressive Egyptian military occupation. He died soon after capturing Khartoum. In his reform of Islam the Mahdi forbade the pilgrimage to Mecca and substituted the obligation to serve in the holy war against unbelievers. His followers, known as Mahdists, for a time made pilgrimages to his tomb at Omdurman. The final defeat of the Mahdists in 1898 at Omdurman by an Anglo-Egyptian army under Lord KitchenerKitchener, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl
, 1850–1916, British field marshal and statesman. Trained at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (1868–70), he had a brief period of service in the French army
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 gave Great Britain control of Sudan.


See P. M. Holt, The Mahdist State in the Sudan (2d ed. 1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the Muslim messiah or savior.

Among the Shiites, the Mahdi is the “hidden” imam. The teachings about the Mahdi attracted the oppressed and exploited masses who believed that the Mahdi would appear before the end of the world and would restore justice on earth. In medieval and modern times, belief in the Mahdi has been widespread in antifeudal and national liberation movements.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the title assumed by Mohammed Ahmed. ?1843--85, Sudanese military leader, who led a revolt against Egypt (1881) and captured Khartoum (1885)
2. Islam any of a number of Muslim messiahs expected to forcibly convert all mankind to Islam
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The new Mahdis II will be used by Petropars and Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Co.
He died at the hands of Mahdi warriors in Khartoum in 1885.
Garcia-Arenal (Arab Studies, CISC) examines the nature of Muslim eschatology and messianic beliefs of the period, and what they have to do with the relations between God and men, as well as the relationship between the Mahdi, the powerful and charismatic man, and the legitimacy of power which is in the Imamate, an institution relying on the succession to the Prophet Muhammad as head of the community of believers.
All of these groups displayed distinct religious features, which can be summarily categorized as "revolutionary Mahdism." The belief in charismatic leaders as Mahdis explains the religious and political vigor of these groups: (8) once the end of days is believed to be close, the believer is urged to take an activist stance and engage for the case of the Mahdi (Dressler, Die alevitische Religion 45f.).
The contribution from Mahdis Azarmandi and Roberto Hernandez draws attention to the (re)emergence of unresolved tensions when contemporary narratives attempt to address continuities of racial/colonial injustice when re-naming city places and spaces.
Mahdis Keshavarz of The Make Agency led the group in an exercise aimed at emphasizing cultural identity in the larger American society, asking the campers a series of questions and telling them to take a step forward if their answer was affirmative.
Holiest wars; Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden.
As an emergent power, the Islamic Movement invested considerable ideological effort in the discredit of the allegiances that bind a decisive mass of the Sudanese to the Mirghanis and the Mahdis. The 'rebel' educated sons and daughters of the Khatmiya and the Ansar flocked to the Movement attracted by its 'modernist' dispositions, fresh re-interpretation of Islamic scriptures, and transformative potential.
The two items are strictly prohibited in the teachings of the Mahdi, Sudan's 19th century revolutionary, and are almost as haram as alcohol in the Ansar's belief system, but belong to the standard effendi armour of Khartoum's political class, old and new.