Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Mahdi (Arabic "directed one," hence "director," "guide"), a divinely-inspired teacher or ruler to whose appearance Moslems look forward as the Jews do to that of the Messiah. His advent on earth is said to have been foretold by the prophet himself. The Shiah sect of Mohammedans, who recognise only the kalifs that were lineally descended from the prophet, maintain that the Mahdi has appeared already in the person of Mohammed Abu 'I Qasim (868-79), the twelfth Imam (a term corresponding to the Sunnite kalif), and that he is now concealed but will return before the end of the world. Their opponents, the Sunnis, believe that no Mahdi has as yet appeared. Of the numerous pretenders who have claimed to be the Mahdi, the most recent was Mohammed Ahmed (1843-85), a native of Dongola, who established himself at El-Obeyd, in Kordofan, and excited the Soudanese insurrection.