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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 slave relations which were shaped during the Turco-Eyptian administration continued unchecked during the Mahdist era (Nugud 1995).
The British public, in the meantime, deluded by a hopelessly naive faith in the power of Gordon's personality to subdue the vast hordes of Mahdists, was convinced that if anyone could pull off a miracle in such straits, it would be the legendary Gordon.
As `Sirdar' or commander-in-chief of the Anglo-Egyptian army, Major-General Herbert Kitchener, an engineer and veteran of the Indian army, had spent over two years training his troops and building up extensive railway and steamship supply lines with a view to attacking the Mahdist state to the south.
To forestall French approaches to the Nile but also to prevent any possible alliance between Menelik and the Mahdists, the British began to contemplate a return to Sudan in the name of the Egyptian government.
Kitchener repulsed two determined charges before slaughtering the hapless Mahdists with machine guns and artillery.
In Africa, Kitchener defeated the Mahdists at the Battle of Omdurman on September 2, 1898, and took Khartoum.
Anniversaries: 1666: The Great Fire of London started at a bakery in Pudding Lane and ultimately destroyed 13,000 buildings in four days; 1726: Birth of prison reformer John Howard; 1834: Death of civil engineer Thomas Telford; 1898: Lord Kitchener won the Battle of Omdurman against the Mahdists; 1937: Death of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics; 1939: Men between the ages of 19 and 41 conscripted in Britain under the National Service Bill; 1942: Germans destroyed the Warsaw Ghetto leaving 50,000 Jews dead; First television station opened in China; 1973: Death of novelist J R R Tolkien; 1980: John Arlott, the Voice of Cricket, retired at the end of the Lord's Centenary Match after 35 years of broadcasting.
Such ambitions and varying political perspectives of different members of the family have led to internal conflicts, and it appeared that Sadiq al Mahdi, putative leader of the Ansar since the early 1970s, did not enjoy the unanimous support of all Mahdists. Moreover, Ms.
Anniversaries: 1666: Great Fire of London began; 1807: British bombardment of Copenhagen began; 1898: Lord Kitchener defeated the Mahdists at Battle of Omdurman; 1910: Death of French painter Henri Rousseau; 1923: The Irish Free State held its first elec tions; 1939: Men between the ages of 19 and 41 were conscripted in Britain; 1958: First television station in China opened in Peking; 1973: Death of author J.R.R.
Soldiers of the Sudan Armed Forces' 18th infantry brigade stationed in nearby Kosti attempted to replay a scene from Sudan's Mahdist history for entertainment.
Principal wars: Crimean War (1853-1856); Kaffir War (1855-1857); Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878); Mahdist War (1882-1889).