During the whole period of history there were
some people who for the sake of political gains claimed to be Mahdi in
spite of the fact that they did not profess the religion of Ahle Bayt
(a.s). We shall discuss a few of such claimants in the following pages:
1. Mahdi Sudani
Among such well-known characters was Mahdi Sudani from the African continent.Mahdi
Sudani was born in 1848 at the Sudanese village of Dolga inhabited by
people whose main occupation was building boats. He became the most
well-known pseudo-Mahdi in Europe. His real name was Muhammad Ahmad and
he assumed the title of Mahdi. By displaying excessive piety, he gained
respect and honor at the age of twenty-two years. He was an eloquent
speaker and he mostly condemned Egyptian authorities in his speeches. He
exposed the tyranny of the rulers to the people and laid great stress
upon the reappearance of Mahdi.
This self-proclaimed deputy of the
Prophet and the false leader of the Muslims raised the standard of
revolt in Sudan, which was under the rule of Egyptians in connivance
with the oppressive Britishers. In his eloquent speeches he condemned
the tyranny of the Egyptians to such an extent that Sudanese people
began to hate them. He made special references to Imam Mahdi (a.s) and
gradually proclaimed himself to be connected with the Mahdi as had been
the usual practice of all false claimants at the start of their claim.
Finally, he claimed to be Mahdi himself from the lineage of the Holy
Prophet (a.s), the 12th Imam and the son of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s).
obtaining basic education, he entered into the Sanusiya Sufi order and
on the Island of Abba began to spend his time in meditation. His false
claim of Mahdaviyat received support for the first time on this Island,
which is 150 miles south of Khartoum.Beginning of his MissionSome
historians state that after joining the Sanusiya Sufi order he had an
argument with his Peer (Sufi guide) and hence began to collect his own
disciples and subsequently claimed to be Mahdi of the time and the last
Imam. At the outset itself Abdullah Al-Taaisha (Caliph) supported and
advised him to accompany him to a place where the militant tribes could
be instigated to rise in revolt.
In May 1881 the Egyptian government
issued an order for him to present himself in Khartoum and clarify his
position. But Muhammad Ahmad ignored this order, assumed rulership of
the country and declared a holy war against the infidels as well as the
The Egyptian government dispatched an army of
two hundred soldiers under Rauf Pasha to subdue him. On 11th of August
the Egyptians landed on the Island of Abba to attack the followers of
Muhammad Ahmad. The supporters of Muhammad Ahmad did not possess any
firearms so they kept themselves hidden till night fell. As soon as it
was dark they surrounded the Egyptian army and attacked it ferociously
till the complete army was wiped out. After this Muhammad Ahmad fled to a
secluded place where the possibility of retaliation from the Egyptian
army did not exist. On the way he met the local leaders from whom he
learned that there was great discontent among the people regarding the
Egyptian government. The abolishing of slave trade was also a cause of
At the Jebel Ghadir he had to face the men of Yusuf
Pasha and they compelled him to retrace his steps. In May 1882 the
Egyptian government dispatched an army of 6000 to attack Muhammad Ahmad.
One night, Muhammad Ahmad attacked the army of Yusuf Pasha and put them
to death. After victory Muhammad Ahmad gained more clout and was joined
by many people greedy for the spoils of war.
In the last part of the
month of November 1882 Muhammad Ahmad concluded that he had sufficient
military strength to capture the Egyptian fort of Al-Abeed. So he
attacked Al-Abeed and captured it. Then he converted the fort as his
residence and made it the seat of power.Muhammad Ahmad used to wear a
simple cotton dress. His followers also imitated him in his style of
dressing. Outwardly he put up a facade of simplicity but used to lead a
life of sensuality in secret. Women were his weakness. He tried to
imitate the conditions of the Holy Prophet (a.s) and called his wife
Ummul Momineen Ayesha. He also named his followers after the companions
of the Holy Prophet (a.s) viz. Abu Bakr, Umar, Hassaan Ibn Saabit,
Khalid bin Waleed, etc. The common followers were called as helpers
(Ansar) He seemed to bring about the condition similar to the time of
the Holy Prophet of Islam (a.s). But actually it was not so. If it had
not been for the spread of oppression by the British and the Egyptians,
this pseudo Mahdi would have never succeeded. But the oppressed people
were tired of the tyranny and hence various tribes joined hands with
When Muhammad Ahmad traveled for the first time from
the Island of Abba towards Masat he termed his journey as "Hijrat" -
migration. He also appointed his four caliphs. The first caliph was
Abdullah Al-Taaisha. He was given the title of Abu Bakr. He pretended to
establish a rule on the Quranic principles but the actual fact was that
he wanted to put up this false show so that he could collect people
under himself. In order to administer the country, he collected both
Zakat and Khums. But the distribution of the same was with favoritism.
He prohibited the study of religion and Fiqh. He only stressed on the
recitation of the Holy Quran but strictly prohibited any discussion on
it. Like the Wahabis he prohibited the consumption of tobacco and
considered it more sinful than drinking wine. He did not forgive even
the smallest of the sins.
Control on Sudan Due to
the Egyptian and the British rule, Sudan was passing through a very
critical period. The British dispatched an army of 10,000 under William
to attack Muhammad Ahmad. On the 3rd of November Muhammad Ahmad reached
Kashgil to confront the army and inflicted a terrible defeat upon it.
Now the whole of Sudan was virtually under his control.
1884 the army sent by Salauddin Pasha under an Austrian officer was
defeated by Muhammad Ahmad after a conflict which lasted a whole year.
At this defeat the British prepared to flee Sudan. In order to
facilitate this exit, General Charles George Gordon was dispatched.
Prior to this, he had held the post of the Governor General of Sudan and
hence was very popular among the locals.
Secondly, he was capable to
handle Muhammad Ahmad who had by now established himself as the Mahdi
and the complete master of Sudan. He reached Khartoum on the 18th
February 1884 and made an offer of recognizing the rule of Muhammad
Ahmad if he would free all the prisoners. He also offered to permit the
resumption of the slave trade.
Instead of accepting these conditions
Mohammed Ahmad prepared to attack Khartoum and on the 22nd August laid
siege to the city. Even though he could not face the fire arms and the
sophisticated weapons he prolonged the siege so much that the people
began to worry. There was a great shortage of the necessities of life in
the city as Muhammad Ahmad had prevented all sort of communication.
Muhammad Ahmad found the time ripe for his purpose and entered the city
on 25th January 1885 and started plunder and destruction.
Gordon was killed just outside his palace. Sudan was completely lost by
the British and Muhammad Ahmad made Khartoum the seat of his Caliphate.
In order that he may exercise a complete control over Sudan he sealed
all the borders and even prohibited the people from going for Hajj.
Death of Mahdi Sudani This
false Mahdi died on 22nd June 1885 due to high fever. He had already
appointed Abdullah Al-Taaisha as his successor but due to his weak
disposition he faced defeat at the hands of General Kitchener. Sudan
once again fell into the hands of the British. In order to take revenge
the British dug up the grave of Muhammad Ahmad, cut off his head and
sent it to England.
2. Mahdi Tahama
Tahama was a native of Yemen and around the year 1159 A.D. he appeared
and claimed that he was the Awaited Imam whose glad tidings were given
by the Prophet (a.s). A group of Bedouins followed him and he annexed
the Kingdom of Hamadani dynasty in Sanaa and Najjahi Kingdom in Zubaid.
His grandson, Abdul Nabi took over the position of his grandfather in
1162 AD and continued the efforts of his predecessor. However, Turan
Shah, on behalf of Salauddin Ayyubi destroyed his rule.
3. Mahdi of Senegal
1828 A.D. a character appeared in Senegal and claimed to be the Awaited
Mahdi. He took up the standard of revolt against the regime of that
time but was defeated badly and executed.
4. Mahdi of Soos
is a town in Western Arabia. In this place a man arose and claimed to
be the Awaited Imam. A large number of people began to follow him but he
was shot dead.
5. Mahdi of Somalia
person named Muhammad, the son of Abdullah Somalian claimed in 1899 A.H.
to be the Awaited Imam. He had great influence in his tribe, Ujadin and
he fought the British and Italian forces for almost 20 years and died
in 1920 A.H.These were some persons who claimed to be the Promised Mahdi. Here we conclude our discussion on this subject.