Billy Preston and Ibn Khaldun

Earlier today The Stream published my latest article: “History: Will It Go ‘Round In Circles?” Other children of the 1970s will recognize that as the title of Billy Preston’s #1 hit from the summer of 1973. Therein I look at four prominent historians’ concepts of cyclical history–only one of whom is Ibn Khaldun–and how those comport with the Christian linear one. As the Fifth Beatle sang, history does “let the bad guy win every once in a while.” But does that mean that it’s “a story [that] ain’t got no moral?” And will it just go round and round in circles?

On this same topic, in 1992 Francis Fukuyama published the controversial, but highly influential, book The End of History and the Last Man. In it he argued that with the collapse of the USSR the preceding year, Western-style “liberal democracy” had proved itself the ultimate form of human government–and thus that political history was effectively over.

About that….

The Facebook Messiah?

Yesterday I blogged on a fellow arrested in Egypt for claiming to be the Mahdi. A story last night in The New Arab shed more light on this: “Egyptian ‘Facebook Messiah’ Arrested after Claiming to be Muslim Mahdi.” According to the latter, his name is Muhammad Habash and he had posted on social media–not just via a sign on his house–that he was the Mahdi, and that “helpers of the Dajjal” were hindering the promulgation of his message. Egyptian authorities arrested him for “spreading false beliefs about the Islamic religion and claiming that he was the promised Mahdi….”

The staff writers of this article do manage to admit hat “over the course of modern and medieval Islamic history, many people have claimed to be the Mahdi….” And that Egyptian security forces had arrested similar Mahdi claimants in 2020 and 2017.

As I have explained at length, and many times–starting in 2005 with my first book, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden–the Mahdi is predicted in a number of hadiths; dozens (at least) of Muslim men over the centuries have claimed to be him; and belief in his imminent coming is held by at least 1/3 of the planet’s Muslims.

So how was Sayyid Habash spreading false beliefs? Although not in the Quran, the statements about the Mahdi by Islam’s founder are accepted by hundreds of millions in the Islamic fold. And maybe Habash really is the Mahdi–because when it comes to Islam’s militant “messiahs,” past performance may not always be indicative of future results.

By the way: if Facebook is so obsessed with preventing the spread of “disinformation,” why did its “fact checkers” allow Habash to make his eschatological claims on that platform?

The coming of the Mahdi, according to the cover of a book in my library. The dove belies the jihads he will wage.

The Sign–of the Mahdi

Less than two months ago I blogged on a Saudi who put himself forward as the Mahdi–and in the Grand Mosque of Mecca, no less. Well, the same thing just happened in Egypt, albeit rather more sedately. Egyptian police just arrested a certain “Muhammad” for claiming to be Islam’s major eschatological figure. But unlike that Saudi chap–or many previous militant Mahdis–this man had simply (if grandiosely) posted a sign on his house reading “the House of the Awaited Mahdi for Memorisation of the Holy Quran.” This may get him charged with “contempt for Islam.”

The Gulf News correspondent, Ramadan al-Sherbini, then throws in a reference to the (in)famous 1979 “siege of Mecca”–but gets a major element thereof wrong. Juhayman al-Utaybi, the leader of the occupation of the Meccan Grand Mosque, did not claim to be the Mahdi himself; he announced that his brother-in-law, Muhammad al-Qahtani, was. And the “security forces” which evicted them and their armed followers were French, not Saudi. Al-Sherbini also mentions the May 2021 Meccan Mahdi claimant.

Still, an addled (or pretentious) Quran teacher just posting a Mahdist sign would seem to be harmless. Maybe he was simply announcing his belief in the Mahdi’s coming–although you’d think Islam’s deliverer wouldn’t need Quran lessons. Clearly, Egyptian officials were telling this Muhammad:

if Allah was here, he’d tell you to your face–man, you’re some kind of sinner.”

The Mahdi! (Actually, Bluto from “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s 40 Thieves,” 1937).

A Jihad By Any Other Name….

This morning The Stream published my 50th article: “A Guide for the Misled–on Islam.” Therein I give accurate definitions–not apologetic/media spin–for 20 key Islamic terms, and then provide four essential truths about the world’s second-largest religion. And I do so in a non-partisan fashion; in fact, some of what I write may anger conservatives–although most will run counter to liberal fantasies.

The Dome of the Chain, overshadowed by the Dome of the Rock. From my trip to Jerusalem, 2013.

War Worlds Worth Wrestling With

Over the last month or so I’ve guest-blogged at zenpundit.com, on the topic of military science fiction which I think should be on the various recommended readings lists for our armed forces–especially the officers. I focus on the excellent “Future History” series of books in the universe that grew out of (or, perhaps more properly, grew up to support) the 1974 novel by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, The Mote in God’s Eye. Here are the links:

Recommended readings real and imagined for military leaders–Part I

Recommended readings real and imagined for military leaders–Part II

Recommended readings real and imagined for military leaders–Part III

War World: Jihad! edited by John F. Carr, and superb cover art by Alan Gutierrez.