Today’s history thought: The Mahdi Army

The “army” of Moqtada Sadr that is causing my country’s military such trouble in Iraq is called the “Mahdi Army” or “Mehdi Army”. This name is significant. The Mahdi, as I understand it, is a kind of Messianic figure to Shiite Muslims. One particular Mahdi figure shows up in the history of the British Empire. An Islamic revolutionary, he carried out a successful uprising against the English in Sudan which resulted in the loss of Khartoum and the famous death of “Chinese” Gordon, their obsessively fundamentalist general and governor. It took several years for Kitchener, his successor, to build a railway and mass up troops to retake Khartoum.

So here we are, uncomfortably perched in a Muslim country as Christian invaders. It’s no coincidence that Moqtada Sadr chose this name for his army. I hope for the sake of our troops that Paul Bremer is no “Chinese” Gordon.

Also, here’s how to identify the real Mahdi in case you’re on the lookout.

3 thoughts on “Today’s history thought: The Mahdi Army

    1. The word apparently has multiple meanings and, like any good religious word, lots of arguments associated with it.

  1. I’m the real Mahdi, yes I’m the real Mahdi
    All you other Mahdis are just imitating
    So won’t the real Mahdi please stand up,
    please stand up, please stand up?
    Rinse and repeat

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