Word of the day: occultation

I’m reading a new book on the recent history of the Middle East with particular reference to the rivalry between Sunni Islam Saudi Arabia and Shia Islam Iran. The work is called “Black Wave” and it is written by the Lebanese Emmy award-winning journalist Kim Ghattas

In one of the early chapters, there is an account of the 1979 occupation of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by Saudi zealots who included a man whom they declared to be the Madhi, a messianic figure who will emerge from occultation to signal the arrival of the end of times and the age of righteousness. Inconveniently, this so-called Madhi – who was supposed to be immortal – was killed on the third day of the siege.

Occultation in Shia Islam refers to a belief that the messianic figure, or the Mahdi, an infallible male descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, was born and went into occultation and will one day return and fill the world with justice and peace. Some Shia, such as the Nizari Ismailis, do not believe in the idea of the occultation.

The groups that do believe in it differ on the succession of the Imamah, and therefore which individual is in occultation, with the largest Shia branch – the one dominant in Iran – holding it is Hujjat-Allah al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam who has been in hiding for the past eleven centuries.

It’s been a long wait and I suspect that it’s going to be a whole lot longer ..

One Comment

  • Peter Clark

    In paragraph two you use the title MADHI but you later use hyperlinks that spell it as MAHDI (DH/HD)
    Is that simply a typo error or is it one of those muslim titles that can be spelled different ways?
    (Genuine interest – no need to reproduce in the item)


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