Book Review: Mahdi – The Promised Caliph
We live in an increasingly confusing world, the religio-political domain is in a state of constant flux, in times like these we need to take a step back and truly understand our faith so as to ensure we don’t fall prey to misguidance and propaganda. It is in this context that a book on the Mahdi plays an instrumental role.
This book tackles quite a few fundamental questions that are being asked today by young Muslims worldwide:
- Who is the Mahdi and is he an imaginatory figure of Islamic mythos?
- Are extremist groups representative of a Caliphate?
- Are the hadiths about the end times fabricated?
The book is written for the layman and scholar alike, for the Muslim and non-Muslim. It’s language is plain and simple, Islamic terms are thoroughly explained and the writing style is straightforward. Meaning then, that there are no complex theories here, there is no obfuscation by the author, no flowery language, they get straight to the point. This is no better displayed than in the first chapter where the author explains why there is no mention of the Mahdi in the Qur’an. In answering this question, they set a foundation from which to explain the traditional Islamic understanding of who the Mahdi is. He is not some fanciful, legendary figure with magical powers who with the flick of his fingers will fix all the ills of the world. This is simply, not the traditional Islamic perception of the Mahdi.
It is important to understand that eschatology (end time beliefs) is a highly contentious topic, with speculation as its mainstay. A lot of people will be familiar with Islamic personalities who apply various narrations to modern day countries and groups based on highly problematic interpretations that seem to change with whatever direction the wind is blowing in. Many Muslims have been mislead by the series the Arrivals, others by Imran Nazar Hosein, who as it should be known is a countryman of myself, we are fellow Trinidadians. No one doubts the importance of studying Islamic teachings on eschatology, we all in some way want to understand how these narrations relate to our world today. In one way, it’s a means of removing existential doubt as we find our place in the world today, on the other hand it is also a means of hoping for a better future for the world. This is another place where a book like this becomes instrumental, it lets us know that yes we can in some cases apply some narrations from the hadith corpus to today’s world but it also makes it clear that there is a lot we can’t know for certain and that the authentic narrations may not apply to our generation at all.
A point of note is the author’s handling of recent extremist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda. The author dutifully points out in a systematic and objective way that the interpretations of the hadiths used to give legitimacy to the aforementioned groups are purely speculative and absolutely false. In no uncertain words, the author plainly states that neither ISIS nor al Qaeda have any relation to the Mahdi or a genuine Caliphate, he agrees that they are extremist groups and their claims for a Caliphate or Khilafa are absolutely illegitimate. Here’s an excerpt of the author’s analysis of a hadith used by extremist groups:
The primary meaning of Harith is tiller or ploughman. If Usama meant a farmer or a villager it would have made more sense, however, it means lion and hence does not apply. Saying that one of the meanings of Harith is a young lion is also a stretch and leads one to incorrect conclusions. Using this logic, we find that one of the meanings of happy is willing whereas the primary meaning is being glad or feeling pleasure. A person may be happy to help and hence willing in that sense but this does not change the main meaning of the word. Such dodgy logic has been used for both Usama and Zawahiri.
Harith, Harrath, Mansur, Usama, and Laden are all Arabic words and it does not make sense at all that the Prophet (ﷺ) would use one Arabic name to describe another Arabic name. Describing a president (in English) as Ameer (in Arabic) or a mayor (in English) as Haakim (in Arabic) makes sense but describing one Arabic name with another is actually insulting the Prophet (ﷺ) because the Prophet (ﷺ) did not speak in confusing terms – he was concise, clear, and eloquent.
Simple and straight to the point. For a young Muslim to read this, they will surely see through the propaganda of extremist groups, and as for a non-Muslim, it demonstrates that Islam does not endorse or provide an intellectual basis for extremist groups. In other words, this section of the book serves two purposes, a means of guiding young Muslims away from extremist groups by grounding them in a traditional understanding of Islam, and on the other hand it does da’wah towards our non-Muslim brothers and sisters by demonstrating the intellectual beauty of Islam.
Towards the end of the book the author has compiled a vast collection of fabricated and weak hadith narrations from various hadith collections. This is important, as I am not aware of someone having done so in English previously. The internet has fueled the use of “fake news”, and Islamic eschatology has not escaped this onslaught of fake news. To this end, the author has some 29 pages of the book dedicated to this collection of weak and fabricated narrations. This in effect provides Muslims with a reliable resource to refer to when reading or seeing end times media on the internet. It is astounding to see the number of weak narrations that are used by those who profit off of making “prophecies” on behalf of Islam. The author has no doubt done a dutiful service to the religion of Islam in providing us with such an extensive collection of fabricated and weak narrations on this topic.
Lastly, the author provides a breakdown of the general order of events that will occur before, during and after the time of the Mahdi. This is important because if left to our own devices to delineate the series of events that should take place, we would be no better off than watching a random YouTube video on the topic. By providing us with a simple progression of events, a lot of the propaganda out there is rendered useless. Not only does the author go through each narration in detail throughout the book, the chronology that summarizes the events at the end of the book serves as an excellent conclusion. In a sense some scholars of literature have referred to this as the inclusio literary device, a powerful language device used to aid a reader in fully understanding what has been written. This in itself demonstrates the level of careful detail and planning that went into the development of this book. While I must admit I am not one who is fond of or interested in Islamic eschatology, this book has provided me with a comprehensive study of the topic, one that has given me meaningful and useful knowledge about Islam and Islamic thought. I would definitely recommend this book, it’s only been available for a few days but I honestly see it as something which is needed in our time.
The book is now available and can be bought at the following links:
- http://amzn.to/2ovE1US (Amazon US)
- http://amzn.to/2Cp6u79 (Amazon UK)
- http://amzn.to/2oTNxQK (Kindle)
For further works by the same author please see their Qur’an Answers website.
and God knows best.