The Position of Al-Mahdi

In the last article, I compared the Islamic end-times figure Al-Mahdi to the Antichrist. If you have not read that article, I suggest doing so first before reading this article to gain a better context of the material being discussed.

The comparisons between Al-Mahdi and Antichrist revealed a striking anti-parallel. These are startling enough, yet the behavior of Al-Mahdi as laid out in the Hadith make his identity even plainer. To explore this topic more fully, consider the Islamic prophecies that discuss Al-Mahdi and his first interaction with Jesus.

Remember that Al-Mahdi, while considered the “rightly-guided one” in Islam, is not a prophet. Though he will unite the world under Islam, both spiritually and politically, he does not hold the office of prophet. Indeed, he cannot be a prophet, as Muhammad is the last prophet within Islam (Qur’an 33:40). Therefore, if Al-Mahdi declared himself a prophet, it would undermine the entire religion of Islam and thus his very status as its rightly guided leader.

Consider also the Muslim view of Jesus during the end times. There are a variety of prophecies within Islam regarding Jesus’ return. These range from where He will first appear, what He will accomplish for Islam, and what He will say and do to Christians. As a Muslim, one prominent Hadith states that Jesus will break the cross, kill the pig, and abolish the jizya, the tax on non-Muslims. In essence, Islam views Jesus as the one who will destroy Christianity once and for all by repudiating the cross, making pork illegal, and eliminating any legal status for non-Muslims in Muslim lands.

Back to the point, though, let’s examine what happens when Al-Mahdi and Jesus meet, and what we might glean from their interaction. There are numerous Hadith that discuss this encounter. One such reference to a hadith and its immediate interpretation is as follows,

And ‘Eesa ibn Maryam (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) will come down and their leader will say to him: ‘Come and lead us in prayer.’ But he will say: ‘No, one of them should lead the others in prayer, as a sign of honour from Allaah to this ummah.’” Narrated by Muslim, 225. So ‘Eesa (peace be upon him) will follow the Mahdi in prayer… [i]

At first glance, this might seem innocuous enough. However choosing who leads the prayer within Islam is an important decision. There are rules governing who it should be, the man to be chosen based on knowledge of the Qur’an and Islam. Now remember that according to Islamic theology, Jesus is a prophet, and Al-Mahdi is not. So, these prominent and well-known Hadith say that a prophet takes a voluntary back seat role relative to someone who is not a prophet. This is odd at best, as the Qur’an teaches that prophets are a special class of humanity (3:161). Yet it seems even stranger when you consider this is in reference to a prophet who was gone for 2,000 years, residing in heaven no less, and has freshly returned to help lead his people into world domination through the cleansing of false religions. According to Islam, one of Jesus’ first acts is to defer to someone else as a means of giving honor in a religious setting. Who exactly is this character who the Muslim Jesus wishes to exalt above himself?

Apparently, some Muslims have caught on to the fact that something here is amiss. However, such doubts are quickly squashed by Muslim scholars who point out the literature does not leave room for such inquiry. Note how the Shi’ite encyclopedia deals with such questioning,

“They say, Jesus has higher status than to pray behind a non-Prophet. This is a bizarre opinion since the issue of prayer of Jesus behind al-Mahdi has been proven strongly via numerous authentic traditions from the Messenger of Allah, who is the most truthful.” [ii]

So the Muslim literature is clear that Jesus is a prophet, Al-Mahdi is not, and yet Jesus defers to him in prayer. Within Islam, the Muslim Jesus raises Al-Mahdi to a higher spiritual status than himself.

The question left to ponder is whether the Bible has a similar anti-parallel prophecy. In Islam, we have two end-times figures, the Muslim Jesus and Al-Mahdi, and Jesus elevates and supports Al-Mahdi. In the Bible, as it happens, there are two beasts, and the second beast, later referred to as the “false prophet” directs worship toward the first beast (Revelation 13:11-12). Once again, we have two strikingly similar but opposite prophecies occurring. In Christianity, the false prophet directs worship toward the Antichrist. In Islam, the Muslim Jesus directs honor and religious position to Al-Mahdi.

Any clever enemy of God would co-opt His prophecies and twist them into the exact inverse scenarios. This is precisely what we see within Islamic end-times literature when contrasted with that of Christianity.


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Identifying Al-Mahdi

The theme of this blog is inversions; theological concepts that are totally reversed when compared within Christianity and Islam. Some are minor yet revealing. Others are nothing short of shocking.

Perhaps no two things are more polar opposites than the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Antichrist. By definition, the word “antichrist” means “against Christ.” Whether the Antichrist is merely an agent of Satan, Satan incarnate, or begins as the former and ends as the latter is less important than the fact that the Antichrist will be a direct force in implementing Satan’s agenda as much as possible here on earth.

For almost two millennia now, Christians have tried to identify the groups, systems, or institutions that would formulate the kingdom of Antichrist. Every generation tries to shoehorn the political or religious boogieman of its day into a Biblical framework that will predict future events. Therefore, care must be taken not to make the same mistake in our current times. What we do know is that Satan exists (John 8:44), he has strategies (Ephesians 6:11), and that he masquerades as an agent of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). What we would expect then is that whatever form the kingdom of Antichrist will take, it will look good on the surface. Its evil nature will only be revealed prior to its inception by deeper investigation but after its inception it will become readily apparent once it has had time to run its course and its fruits are manifested (Matthew 7:16).

Speaking of end-times, as it happens, Islam has its own set of end-times prophecies. While a complete analysis of the Islamic end-times scenarios would take way more space than available here, we can focus in on one particular aspect of it. Within Islam, there is an end-times figure known as Al-Mahdi. In Arabic, Al-Mahdi means “the rightly guided one.” Muslims believe that in the last days, Al-Mahdi will come on the scene and unify the world under Islam. He will be considered the best of humanity. For example, consider this quote form Ayatullah Baqir al-Sadr and Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari in the book The Awaited Savior

“A figure more legendary than that of the Mahdi, the Awaited Saviour, has not been seen in the history of mankind. The threads of the world events have woven many a fine design in human life but the pattern of the Mahdi stands high above every other pattern. He has been the vision of the visionaries in history. He has been the dream of all the dreamers of the world. For the ultimate salvation of mankind he is the Pole Star of hope on which the gaze of humanity is fixed..” [i]

Muslims the world over, both Sunni and Shi’a, await the advent of Al-Mahdi. In this previous article, I discussed one irony of how Muslims will recognize his coming. Yet, in a more practical sense, the Hadith do set out some guidelines as to how Muslims can identify him. I have listed them in the following table. Simultaneously, I have listed some Biblical passages describing the Antichrist and his kingdom. Please compare carefully.

Islamic Sources Regarding Al-MahdiChristian Sources Regarding Antichrist
World ruler“He will reappear on the appointed day, and then he will fight against the forces of evil, lead a world revolution and set up a new world order based on justice, righteousness and virtue…ultimately the righteous will take the world administration in their hands and Islam will be victorious over all the religions.” [ii] It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. Revelation 13:7
Leads from Jerusalem“Jerusalem will be the location of the rightly guided caliphate and the center of Islamic rule, which will be headed by Imam al-Mahdi” [iii] who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4
Spiritual Leader“Al-Mahdi will receive a pledge of allegiance as a caliph for Muslims. He will lead Muslims in many battles of jihad. His reign will be a caliphate that follows the guidance of the Prophet.” [iv] All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Revelation 13:8
Changes times and laws“Surely the number of months with Allah is twelve months in Allah’s ordinance since the day when He created the heavens and the earth,” Qur’an 9:36

“It is considered a divine command to use a calendar with 12 lunar months without intercalation, as evidenced from the Holy Qur’an.”[v]
He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. Daniel 7:25
Kills Jews and Christians“The Mahdi will offer the religion of Islam to the Jews and Christians; if they accept it they will be spared, otherwise they will be killed.” [vi] So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 12:17
Uses beheading as method of execution[8.12] When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, Revelation 20:4a
Makes 7 year peace treaty[Muhammad] said: “There will be four peace agreements between you and the Romans [Christians]. The fourth agreement will be mediated through a person who will be from the progeny of Hadrat Haroon [Honorable Aaron] and will be upheld for seven years.” [vii] And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Daniel 9:27
Man on the white horse“I find the Mahdi recorded in the books of the prophets…For instance, the book of Revelation says “and I saw and behold a white horse…and he that sat…on him went forth conquering and to conquer.” [viii] Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. Revelation 6:1-2

In the Islamic end-times prophecies, the names have been changed. The villain is the hero. The antagonist is the protagonist. All of the prophetic details remain intact, but the players have been swapped. Satan knows God’s prophecies and that they cannot be thwarted, so the best approach to lead people astray is by constructing a complete anti-parallel set of prophecies marking himself as the hero.

As a Christian, if this does not break your heart for Muslims, I don’t know what could. Satan has completely turned around prophecies in order to get Muslims to willingly submit to the Antichrist kingdom. As a Muslim, don’t you find it odd that your religion has a completely inverted set of prophecies compared to the Injil?

** This article relied heavily upon the advance research done by Joel Richardson in his book The Islamic Antichrist. I highly recommend it as it delves much deeper into this topic.

[iii] Muhammad ibn Izzat, Muhammad ‘Arif, Al Mahdi and the End of Time (London, Dar Al-Taqwa, 1997) p.40
[iv] Abdulrahman Kelani, The Last Apocalypse, An Islamic Perspective, (Fustat, 2003), pp. 34-35
[v] Dr. Waleed A Muhanna, A Brief Introduction to the Islamic Calandar
[vi] Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini in Al-Imam Al-Madhi: The Just Leader of Humanity.
[viii] Muhammad ibn Izzat, Muhammad ‘Arif, Al Mahdi and the End of Time (London, Dar Al-Taqwa, 1997) p.15

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Unraveling Jihad

Due to events of the past years, the idea of whether Islam is a religion of peace has been put forward by any number of pundits and media outlets. We hear how the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people. We also hear other voices insist that Islam is not a religion of peace. Can these two seemingly opposing viewpoints both be true? If so, how can this be?

Part of the answer rests on the difference between Islam and Muslims. On the one hand, there is the issue of Islam and its theology. What does the religion teach? What are its major tenets? What are the commands given to Islam’s adherents? Are there multiple ways in which these commands can be interpreted? On the other side of this, how do Muslims choose to live out their lives on a daily basis? How do they interact with others, and what values to they hold dear?

In other words, what are the differences between theology and practice? To understand this distinction, consider the Christian concept of forgiveness. The Bible teaches Christians are to forgive those who wrong them. In fact, Christians are not only told to forgive, but to actually pray for those who are persecute them (Matthew 5:44). This isn’t a command that has multiple interpretations; it stands squarely in plain language. It’s an outrageous concept and it goes against every fiber of our being. Our natural instinct calls us to fight back and retaliate. So many Christians don’t practice this kind of countercultural response and instead hold on to a grudge or become embittered toward those who harm them. Why is it that many Christians don’t live out this ideal as prescribed by Jesus Himself? We could apply this same idea to any number of concepts, such as tithing, extreme hospitality, or not worrying about tomorrow’s troubles. The point is that there is doctrine that a religion teaches and then there is how its adherents actually live out their faith.

Islamic sources such as the Qur’an and Hadith teach jihad as a mandatory part of Islam. There isn’t any way to avoid this issue, and I have documented that in abundance in previous articles (here and here). I have heard Muslim apologists refer to jihad solely as the internal struggle, but the Qur’an and Hadith don’t support this view. For example, blind and lame people were excluded form jihad, and Muhammad’s orders regarding jihad were given within the context of his army preparing for and returning from military battle. Yet the reality is that the vast majority of Muslims don’t live up to this ideal practice as directly by Islamic theology. I believe there are three major reasons for this inconsistency.

First, many Muslims are basically good and moral people. The idea of jihad is repugnant to them. Therefore, they find ways to diminish or completely ignore the statutes. People have a tremendous capacity to mold a religion to fit their own personal belief system. This is basic human nature, and certainly is not confined to Muslims. Many Muslims follow their conscience rather than the commands regarding jihad as laid out within Islam.

Second, many Muslims are unaware of what their religion teaches. Many mosques, such as the one nearest myself, tend to overlook and sidestep any teachings relating to jihad. They focus on other aspects of the Islamic faith. Any good heretical movement that can split theology and practice does so by overemphasizing some aspects of the religion, while underemphasizing or completely ignoring others. Many Muslims haven’t been exposed to the dictates and requirements placed upon them in the Qur’an and Hadith concerning their duty to fight the infidels. In their minds, they are following Islam as best they know how given the partial theology they have been taught.

Third, there are many Muslims who do believe in jihad. However, part of Muhammad’s teaching relates not only to jihad itself, but also speaks to its timing. When Muslims are vastly outnumbered, Islam teaches that provisions should be made to bide their time. There are stages of infiltration to increase Muslim numbers. At a later date, when the time is more ripe, more aggressive and direct action can be taken.[i] There are many Muslims who secretly believe in jihad, but know that here in the West, that day is still several years away. What the media defines as the “radical” Muslims are those in the third camp who also believe the time is now rather than later. What percentage of Muslims that fully subscribe to jihad, but is patiently waiting for better timing is unknown. Such statistics could probably never be gathered.

In summary, Islam is not a religion of peace. Yet many Muslims are indeed peaceful. It isn’t the “radical” Muslims who have perverted Islam. It is the peaceful Muslims who have perverted Islamic theology in order to fit their consciences, their lack of knowledge, or their desire to await a more opportune time to launch more direct and combative action.

[i] Shoebat, Walid. God’s War on Terror. Top Executive Media, 2008, p 118-121.

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