List of Mahdi claimants

For the groups who claimed that their leader was Messiah, see Messianism.

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

Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf

Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf, the second king of the Berghouata, proclaimed himself prophet of a new religion in the 8th century. He appeared during the caliphate of the Umayyad Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. 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 wives, 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

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 Shia's 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

Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Mahdī

Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali (29 July AD 869/15 Sha‘bān 255 AH – ?), more commonly called Muhammad al-Mahdi, is the twelfth imam of Twelver Shia Islam. He is believed by Twelver Shī‘a Muslims to be the Mahdī, an ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams. Twelver Shī‘a believe that al-Mahdī was born in 869 and did not die but rather was hidden by God (this is referred to as the Occultation) and will later emerge with Isa (Jesus) in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world. He assumed the Imamate at 5 years of age. Some Shi‘īte schools do not consider ibn-al-Hasan to be the Mahdī, although the mainstream sect Twelvers do.

Tenth century AD

Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah

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.

Twelfth century AD

Ibn Tumart

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

Syed Muḥammad Jaunpuri

Main article: Mahdavia

Muhammad Jaunpuri[2] (9 September 1443 – 23 April 1505) was born in northeastern India in Jaunpur (modern-day Uttar Pradesh). Syed Muhammad Bin Syed Abdullah was a descendant of the seventh imam, Musa Kadhim.

He claimed to be the Mahdi on three occasions, first at the holy city of Mecca, right in front of Kaaba (between rukn and maqam) in the Hijri year 901(10th Hijri), and later twice in India, attracting a large following, and opposition from the ulema.

His five deputies were Sani e Mahdi, Shah Khundmir, Shah Neymath, Shah Nizam and Shah Dilawar.

Muhammad Jaunpuri died in 1505, aged 63, at Farah, Afghanistan. His followers, known as Mahdavis, continue to exist and are centred around the Indian city of Hyderabad, although there Mahdavi communities in Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as well as in Pakistan and overseas in the United States, Canada, Australia, Africa and the United Kingdom.[2]

Sixteenth century AD

Shah Ismail I Safavid

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 Ismail headed the Safaviyya Sufi order. An genealogy claimed that Sheikh Safi (the founder of the order and Ismael's ancestor) was a lineal descendant of Ali. Ismail also proclaimed himself the Mahdi and a reincarnation of Ali.<citation required>

Seventeenth century

Ahmed ibn Abi Mahalli

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.

Nineteenth century

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


Prince Diponegoro (11 November 1785 – 8 January 1855), prince of Yogyakarta, Java. He saw himself as a Javanese Mahdi, or Ratu Adil (prophesied by King Joyoboyo), against Dutch colonialism. Now a National Hero of Indonesia.

Alí Muḥammad Shírází (Báb)

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 Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.

The Báb is considered the forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh (pronounced ba-haa-ol-laa / Arabic: بهاء الله / English: Glory of God), and both are considered prophets of the Bahá'í Faith. The declaration by the Báb to be the Mahdi is considered by Baha'is to be the beginning of the Bahá'í calendar.[3]

Muḥammad Aḥmad

Muhammad Ahmad (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

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 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

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 July 4, 1930.[5] The Nation of Islam teaches that W. Fard Muhammad was both the "Messiah" of Judaism and the Mahdi of Islam.

Twentieth century

Muḥammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani

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

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.

Shahi's supporters claim that his face became prominent on the Moon, Sun, nebula star and the Black Stone in Mecca,[9] 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

See also: Sky Kingdom

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.[10]

Twenty First century

Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim

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

According to seminary expert, Mehdi Ghafari, more than 3,000 Mahdi claimants were in prison in Iran in 2012.[11]

People claimed to be the Mahdi by their followers or supporters

See also


  1. Halm, Heinz (2004). Shi'ism (2nd ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 22.
  2. 1 2 Biography - Promised One, a biography of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri
  3. Smith, P. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. pp. 55–59 & 229–230. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
  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". 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. Face of Gohar Shahi appeared on Kaaba
  10. "Escape from Islam", Weekend Standard, 23–24 April 2005
  11. Iran’s multiplicity of messiahs: You’re a fake
  12. Claimed on the official site Gohar Shahi, and all other major sites of MFI as accessed on August,19 2015

External sources

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