List of Mahdi claimants

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In Muslim eschatology, the Mahdi is a Messianic figure who, it is believed, will appear on Earth before the Day of Judgment, and will rid the world of wrongdoing, injustice and tyranny. People claiming to be the Mahdi have appeared across the Muslim world – in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East – and throughout history since the birth of Islam (AD 610).

A claimant Mahdi can wield great temporal, as well as spiritual, power: claimant Mahdis have founded states (e.g. the late 19th-century Mahdiyah in Sudan), as well as religions and sects (e.g. Bábism, or the Ahmadiyya movement). The continued relevance of the Mahdi doctrine in the Muslim world was most recently emphasised during the 1979 seizing of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by at least 200 militants led by Juhayman al-Otaibi, who had declared his brother-in-law, Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, the Mahdi.

Eighth century AD[edit]

Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf[edit]

Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf, the second leader of the Berghouata, proclaimed himself prophet of a new religion in the mid 8th century (second Islamic century). He appeared during the caliphate of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham. According to Ibn Khaldun's sources, he claimed receiving a new revelation from God called a Qur'an, written in the Berber language with 80 chapters. He established laws for his people, which called him Salih al-Mu'minin ('Restorer of the Believers'), and the final Mahdi.

Islamic literature considers his belief heretical, as several tenets of his teaching contrast with orthodox Islam, such as capital punishment for theft, unlimited divorces, fasting of the month of Rajab instead of Ramadan, and ten obligatory daily prayers instead of five. Politically, its motivation was presumably to establish their independence from the Umayyads, establishing an independent ideology lending legitimacy to the state. Some modern Berber activists regard him as a hero for his resistance to Arab conquest and his foundation of the Berghouata state.

Abdallah ibn Mu'awiya[edit]

Abdallah ibn Mu'awiya was a descendant of Ja'far ibn Abi Talib. At the end of 127 AH / AD 744 Shias of Kufa set up him as Imam. He revolted against Yazid III, the Umayyad Caliph, with the support of Shias of Kufa and Ctesiphon. He moved to west of Iran and Isfahan and Istakhr. He managed to control the west of Iran for two years. Finally, he was defeated by the caliph armies in AD 746–7 and fled to Harat in Khurasan. He allegedly died imprisoned by Abu Muslim, his rival. His followers did not believe his death and said that he went to occultation and he would return as Mahdi.[1]

Ninth century AD[edit]

Abu'l-Fadl al-Isfahani[edit]

Abu'l-Fadl al-Isfahani Also known as the Isfahani Mahdi was a young Persian man who in 931 CE was declared to be "God incarnate" by Qarmatian leader of Bahrayn, Abu Tahir al-Jannabi. This new apocalyptic leader, however, caused great disruption by rejecting traditional aspects of Islam, and promoting ties to Zoroastrianism.[2]

Tenth century AD[edit]

Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah[edit]

Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah (r. 909–934), the first caliph of the Fatimid state, established in 909, was one of only two claimants who succeeded in establishing a state. (See Muhammad Ahmad below).

His preacher/Da'i Abu 'Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi'i helped secure for him parts of north Africa using the support of the Berber locals. The Fatimids later built Cairo as capital in Egypt and their descendants continued to rule as Caliphs (the sixth, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, is believed by the Druze to be in occultation and due to return as Mahdi on Judgment Day) until Salah-ud-Din Ayubi (also called Saladin) took over Egypt and ended the Fatimid state. He imprisoned the last Fatimid Caliph and his family in the Fatimid Palace until death.

Muhammad ibn al-Mustakfi[edit]

Muhammad ibn al-Mustakfi was the son and designated heir of the Abbasid caliph al-Mustakfi, he assumed the mantle of the Mahdi in a conspiracy to overthrow the Buyids and their puppet caliph, al-Muti.

Twelfth century AD[edit]

Ibn Tumart[edit]

The Moroccan Ibn Tumart (c. 1080 – c. 1130), sought to reform Almoravid decadence in the early 12th century. Rejected in Marrakech and other cities, he turned to his Masmuda tribe in the Atlas Mountains for support. Because of their emphasis on the unity of God, his followers were known as Al Muwahhidun ('unitarians', in western language: Almohads).

Although declaring himself mahdi, imam and masum (literally in Arabic: innocent or free of sin), Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart consulted with a council of ten of his oldest disciples, and conform traditional Berber representative government, later added an assembly of fifty tribal leaders. The Almohad rebellion began in 1125 with attacks on Moroccan cities, including Sus and Marrakech. But as Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart died in 1130, his successor Abd al Mumin took the title of Caliph - claiming universal leadership in Islam - and placed members of his own family in power, converting the system into a traditional sultanate.

Fifteenth century AD[edit]

Syed Muḥammad Jaunpuri[edit]

Muhammad Jaunpuri's tomb in Afghanistan

Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri (9 September 1443 – 23 April 1505) was born in Jaunpur (modern-day Uttar Pradesh, North India).[3] His father, Syed Muhammad Abdullah was a descendant of the seventh imam, Musa Kadhim.

He (Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri) claimed to be the Mahdi-e-Maoud on three occasions:

  1. Between the rukn and maqam in front of the Kaaba in Masjid al-Haram (901 AH)
  2. Taj Khan Salaar Mosque, Ahmedabad, Gujarat (903 AH)
  3. Badli, Gujarat, where he attracted a large amount of followers but opposition from the ulema. (905 AH)

His five deputies were: 1) Bandagi Miyan Syed Mahmood also known as Sani-e-Mahdi, 2) Bandagi Miyan Syed Khundameer also known as Siddiq-e-Vilayat, 3) Bandagi Miyan Sha-e-Neymath also known as Miqraaz-e-Biddath, 4) Bandagi Miyan Sha-e-Nizam also known as Dariya-e-Wahdath-o-Ashaam, 5) Bandagi Miyan Sha-e-Dilawar also known as Maqbool-e-Mahdi.

Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri died in 1505 AD, aged 63, at Farah, Afghanistan. His followers, known as Mahdavis, continue to exist and are centred around the Indian city of Hyderabad, although there are Mahdavi communities in other parts of the world migrated from Hyderabad India Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as well as in Pakistan and overseas in the United States, Canada, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Africa and the United Kingdom.[3]

Sheikh Bedreddin[edit]

Sheikh Bedreddin (1359–1420) (Ottoman Turkish: شیخ بدرالدین), full name Sheikh Bedreddin Mahmud Bin Israel Bin Abdulaziz was an influential mystic, scholar, theologian, and revolutionary. He is best known for his role in a 1416 revolt against the Ottoman Empire, in which he and his disciples posed a serious challenge to the authority of Sultan Mehmed I and the Ottoman state.

Sixteenth century AD[edit]

Shah Ismail I Safavid[edit]

In 700/1301, Safi al-Din assumed the leadership of the Zahediyeh, a significant Sufi order in Gilan, from his spiritual master and father-in-law Zahed Gilani. The order was later known as the Safaviyya. Like his father and grandfather IsmaiI headed the Safaviyya Sufi order. A genealogy claimed that Sheikh Safi (the founder of the order and Ismael's ancestor) was a lineal descendant of Ali. IsmaiI also proclaimed himself the Mahdi and a reincarnation of Ali.[citation needed]

Seventeenth century[edit]

Ahmed ibn Abi Mahalli[edit]

Ahmed ibn Abi Mahalli (1559–1613), from the south of Morocco, was a Qadi and religious scholar who proclaimed himself mahdi and led a revolution (1610–13) against the reigning Saadi dynasty.

Eighteenth century[edit]

Āghā Muḥammad Rezā[edit]

Agha Muhammad Reza, a Shia Muslim of Iranian ancestry living in the Sylhet region of Bengal rose to prominence as a Sufi pir. He gained a large following of thousands and started a movement in 1799 by invading the Kachari Kingdom and claiming independence from the British. Declaring himself the Mahdi, he was defeated after a number of battles against the East India Company. He escaped but was later caught and sent for lifetime imprisonment in Calcutta.

Nineteenth century[edit]

The 19th century provided several Mahdi claimants, some of whose followers and teachings survive to the present day.

Alí Muḥammad Shírází (Báb)[edit]

Alí Muḥammad Shírází (20 October 1819 – 9 July 1850), claimed to be the Mahdi on 24 May 1844, taking the name Báb (Arabic: باب / English: Gate) and thereby founding the religion of Bábism. He was later executed by firing squad in the town of Tabriz. His remains are currently kept in a tomb at the Baháʼí World Centre in Haifa, Israel. The Báb is considered a central figure of the Baháʼí Faith.

Muḥammad Aḥmad[edit]

Muhammad Ahmad or Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah (12 August 1844 – 22 June 1885), a Sudanese Sufi sheikh of the Samaniyya order, declared himself Mahdi in June 1881 and went on to lead a successful military campaign against the Turko-Egyptian government of Sudan. Although he died shortly after capturing the Sudanese capital, Khartoum (1885), the Mahdist state continued under his successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, until 1898, when it fell to the British army following the Battle of Omdurman.

Mīrzā Ghulām Aḥmad[edit]

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (13 February 1835 – 26 May 1908), claimed to be both the Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus in the late 19th century in British India. He founded the Ahmadiyya religious movement in 1889, which, although considered by its followers to be Islam, is not recognized as such by the majority of mainstream Muslims. In 1880, Ahmad claimed to be the Mahdi in his book Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya, where he claimed to have received revelations. In 1974, the Pakistani parliament adopted a law declaring the Ahmadis to be Not-Muslims. Since Ghulam Ahmad's death, the Ahmadiyya community has been led by his successors and the number of Ahmadi has grown considerably.[4]

Wallace Fard Muhammad[edit]

Wallace D. Fard Muhammad (26 February 1877? - 1934?) founded the Nation of Islam (Arabic: أمة الإسلام), an Islamic religious movement, in Detroit, United States on 4 July 1930.[5] The Nation of Islam teaches that W. Fard Muhammad was both the "Messiah" of Judaism and the Mahdi of Islam.

Twentieth century[edit]

Muḥammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani[edit]

Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani (28 September 1935 – 9 January 1980), was proclaimed Mahdi by his brother-in-law, Juhayman al-Otaibi, who led over 200 militants to seize the Grand Mosque in Mecca on 20 November 1979. The uprising was defeated after a two-week siege in which at least 300 people were killed.

Riaz Aḥmed Gohar Shahi[edit]

Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (born 25 November 1941) is the founder of the spiritual movements Messiah Foundation International (MFI) and Anjuman Serfaroshan-e-Islam.[6][7][8] He is controversial for being declared the Mehdi, Messiah, and Kalki Avatar by the MFI.[9]

Shahi's supporters claim that his face became prominent on the Moon, Sun, nebula star and the Black Stone in Mecca,[10] and that these appearances were signs from God that Gohar Shahi was the awaited Imam Mehdi, Messiah, and Kalki Avatar in 1985. Shahi has also supported this claim, saying that God had revealed the images of Shahi on the Moon and various locations, for which Shahi himself was not responsible, and if questions should be raised, they should be raised with God.

Messiah Foundation International claims the alleged images to be signs from God, pointing to Shahi being the awaited Mehdi, and quote religious texts. His whereabouts are unknown: a Pakistani news agency says he died in 2003 and some say he is serving a lifetime prison in Pakistan, while others say he is in the United Kingdom.

Ariffin Moḥamed[edit]

Ariffin Mohammed (born 1943), also known as "Ayah Pin", the leader and founder of the banned Sky Kingdom, he was born in 1943 in Beris, Kampung Besar Bachok, Kelantan. In 1975 a spiritual group was formed in Bagan Lebai Tahir, Butterworth, Penang. He claimed to be the incarnation of Jesus, as well as Muhammad, Shiva, and Buddha. Devotees of Sky Kingdom believe that one day, Ayah Pin will return as the Mahdi. His followers consider him the king of the sky, and the supreme object of devotion for all religions.[11]

Shukri Mustafa[edit]

Shukri Mustafa is the leader of Takfir wal-Hijra also known as Jama'at al-Muslimin who was executed in 1978.

Twenty First century[edit]

Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim[edit]

Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim (1970 – January 2007), a Shia Iraqi former leader of Soldiers of Heaven, claimed to be the Mahdi.

Mohammed Abdullah al-Nasr[edit]

In 2016, Mohammed Abdullah al-Nasr, a Sunni Egyptian television preacher known as Sheikh Mizo, declared on his Facebook page that he is the Mahdi, quoting the Prophet Muhammad and calling both Sunnis and Shiites to comply with his ruling.[12]

Other cases[edit]

According to seminary expert, Mehdi Ghafari, more than 3,000 Mahdi claimants were in prison in Iran in 2012.[13]

People claimed to be the Mahdi by their followers or supporters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Halm, Heinz (2004). Shi'ism (2nd ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 22.
  2. ^ Abbas Amanat (9 February 2002). Imagining the End: Visions of Apocalypse from the Ancient Middle East to Modern America. I.B.Tauris. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-86064-724-6.
  3. ^ a b "Biography - Promised One, a biography of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri". Archived from the original on 27 September 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2006.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Nation of Islam. "Nation of Islam in America: A Nation of Beauty & Peace". Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Messiah Foundation International Site about Shahi". Messiah Foundation International. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  7. ^ "Website from Pakistan Sector". Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  8. ^ "Gohar Shahi, chief of Anjuman-e-Sarferoshan-e-Islam, granted pre-arrest bail". Dawn newspaper. 18 November 1997. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  9. ^ Claimed on the official site Gohar Shahi, and all other major sites of MFI as accessed on August 19, 2015
  10. ^ Face of Gohar Shahi appeared on Kaaba
  11. ^ "Escape from Islam" Archived 6 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Weekend Standard, 23–24 April 2005
  12. ^
  13. ^ Iran’s multiplicity of messiahs: You’re a fake

External sources[edit]

  • Yohanan Friedmann, "Prophecy Continuous - Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background"; Oxford University Press (2003) ISBN 965-264-014-X
  • Timothy Furnish, "Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden" (Greenwood, 2005)
  • Peter Smith, the Bábí and Baháʼí Religions - from messianic Shi'ism to a world religion; Cambridge University Press (1987); ISBN 0-521-30128-9
  • Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal - the Making of the Bábí Movement in Iran 1844–1850; Cornell University Press (1989); ISBN 0-8014-2098-9
  • Esslemont, J.E. (1980). Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, An Introduction to the Baháʼí Faith (5th ed.). Wilmette, Illinois: US Baháʼí Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-160-4.