Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mahdi of Sudan

Muhammad Ahmad bin Abdullah, popularly known as Mahdi of Sudan (1844-1885), is one of the most problematic appearances in the works of Iqbal.

Historically, the Mahdi of Sudan was a Sufi master from North Africa who turned militant and claimed to be Mahdi, the long-awaited redeemer who would set the stage for the Second Coming of Jesus. He extended the kalima – Muslim proclamation of faith – to include, “Muhammad al-Mahdi is the Khalifa of the Prophet of God” and replaced the fifth pillar of Muslim faith, the pilgrimage to Makkah, with an obligatory jihad – mainly against fellow Muslims of Turkish and Egyptian origins – and used force for implementing a wholly uncritical vision of the past, especially in matters of law. Careful not to claim prophet-hood, he nevertheless asserted that he was inspired by Gabriel, the angel who used to bring revelation to prophets.

Since Iqbal was known to be irreverently skeptical about almost all of these ideas, readers may be shocked to find the spirit of Mahdi appearing on the Sphere of Venus in Javidnama (1932), and singing an anthem about the impending birth of Iqbal’s ideal world. However, precisely due to his famous eccentricities, Mahdi is of immense value as a focal point for an intensive study of the turmoil that exists in the heart of the Muslim world in modern times (and unlike some other modern mystics, his movement attempted to “extricate the individuals from an enervating present” rather than slavishly surrendering their souls to its dictates).

A Western counterpart, although incomparably more ignoble, is perhaps the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), who also appears in the works of Iqbal, mainly to personify a spontaneous overflow of tendencies existing in the heart of the Western society.

After taking Sudan in 1898, the British conqueror Lord Horatio Kitchener (1850-1916) opened the tomb of Mahdi and scattered his bones. In Javidnama, Kitchener’s subsequent death in a torpedoed ship is mentioned as the revenge of Mahdi’s spirit, and compared with the drowning of the Pharaoh (according to the Quran, the Pharaoh drowned during the Exodus).


  1. Sir i cannot get the hang of it that who is he :s.Pardon me for my lack of knowledge and understanding.but kindly will you please elaborate about him abit more?

  2. I feel the appearance of Mahdi Sudani in Javednama is parallel with the appearance of Quratulain Tahira!

  3. Interesting that the forerunner of the First coming of the Christ was a kind of Sufi saint who did not lead armies and was himself beheaded at the instigation of a woman trying to cover her crimes.

    Sometimes I wonder in your work, Shafique Sahib, and in history itself, if those who listen carefully and read between the lines are asked to SEE or AWAIT for the TRUE and genuine behind the PSEUDO personifications.

    The PSEUDO or false can come in all manner of clothing from the most harmless to those who regardless of some malady may still teach us important dynamics or show what is still missing and still to come?

    I would like to read more on this chapter of history...ESP. in your versions.

    However, what I've read and learned while living on site in Africa and with Muslim and Christian African friends both) is that the British wrecked many a great and not so great kingdom in Africa and in Sudan this included a beheading by the British of a Sudanese king who's head was put on a platter for all to see. (Of course beheading and the like have been done for way to long and time we all seek alternatives for our sake and the well-being of our precious children.)

    British malevolence in Africa, of course, also included strong cases of wrecking boundaries in Sudan and Uganda. (having made some amends through their great writers such as Shakespeare and other humanitarians since.)

    Thus whatever power play was set in action in the times of this particular "Mahdi" was, of course, in large part due to these interferences which effects have continued to this day and stirred up in more extensive manner - of course - in most regrettable American occupations (this despite some honorable American leaders who have died (and will continue to die) opposing the same.

    Today, there is still also a set-up of all the oil thieves big, small and from both Khartoum and several other nations behind recent bombing of Southern Sudan once again. Likely this is from fear of coming election when Southern Sudan hopes for liberation from the North and the North fears Southern Sudan as a nation will then hold some valuable oil.

    Yet this divergence into some cursory history may not be the manner of comments you are hoping for here? I am even more interested in Iqbal's understanding of these matters and your own vision.

    Do give us more clues, will you?

  4. I think Iqbal has not taken Mehdi Sudani as "The promised Mehdi" instead he takes / praised him as a Mujahid ....I mean a struggler who carries the action and power to guide his people to the right destination. We can make better understanding on this concept when we read " Hay Tery Zamany Ka Imam e Bar Haq Wohi, Jo Tujhay Haazir o Mojod say Bayzaar karay"