Over the past several years, I’ve been one of the leading figures warning the church and the Western world concerning the Islamic doctrine of a coming messiah figure known as the Mahdi. In sounding this alarm, I have certainly had my share of critics, not only from the Pollyannas on the left, but also from within the Christian church.
One of my most outspoken critics has been Dr. David Reagan, a well-known prophecy teacher and televangelist. Among Reagan’s many criticisms, one of his most pronounced has been to accuse me of misleading my audience by claiming, as I do, that the Islamic belief in the Mahdi is more than just a Shiite doctrine, that in fact, much of the Sunni world also is expecting the coming of a Mahdi. Reagan’s initial criticism comes as follows:
Richardson’s presentation of what Muslims believe about the end times is very misleading, for what he presents is the Shiite version, which revolves around the concept of an Islamic messiah called the Mahdi. He leaves the impression that all the Islamic world is living in breathless anticipation of the appearance of the Mahdi, when the reality is that 90% of all Muslims – the Sunnis – are not looking for a Mahdi.
Several other critics not familiar with Islamic doctrine have since parroted Reagan’s claims. In response, I’ve repeatedly cited numerous modern and classical Muslim scholars who state unequivocally that belief in the Mahdi is, in fact, a universal doctrine for all Muslims.
But apart from citing these various Muslim scholars and my own anecdotal experiences over the past decade reaching out to Muslims, disproving this claim – that 90 percent of all Muslims reject belief in the Mahdi – has not been easy to do. Until now.
Last week, Pew Research firm released a comprehensive study of opinions among Muslims, and one of the questions was related to the Mahdi!
Now, for the first time, a comprehensive study including tens of thousands of Muslims in more than 23 countries asked if they believed the Mahdi’s emergence was imminent and that it would occur within their lifetimes. The results conclusively prove that which I have been warning about all along.
Below is an image of the Pew Research firm’s findings, nation by nation:
Obviously, the false claim that a mere 10 percent of the Islamic world is awaiting the Mahdi may now be satisfactorily put to bed. The bottom line is that it is far worse, far more widespread than even I would have guessed.
Of the 23 countries whose Muslim citizens were polled, nine have majorities which expect the Mahdi in their lifetimes.
The overall average percentage of Muslims globally who believe in the imminent return of the Mahdi: 41.8 percent
Extrapolating this data means of the 1.6 billion Muslims globally, 672 million Muslims expect the Mahdi’s imminent return!
The average is higher for Sunni majority nations: 45 percent!
Despite the conventional wisdom, three of the four countries with the highest percentage expecting the Mahdi are majority-Sunni ones: Afghanistan (83 percent), Turkey (68 percent) and Tunisia (67 percent).
Furnish then states: “Bottom-line: Mahdism is a far stronger and more-widely held belief than even I had thought – and I’ve been preaching its pervasiveness for years.”
Adding to Furnish’s observations, it is also important to observe that 68 percent of Turks, a large majority, are expecting the imminent appearance of the Mahdi. Turkey, of course, is the nation that I believe will produce the Antichrist.
Certainly the popularity of Mahdism within Turkey, when combined with the concurrent radical rise in 1) Turkish nationalism and Neo-Ottoman aspirations, and 2) anti-Semitism within Turkey, in so many ways, sets the stage for this nation to move toward fulfilling many of the last days prophecies of the Bible.
Another important point I have been trying to make for years is, although conventional wisdom has placed all emphasis on Iran as the nation that would produce a false Mahdi claimant (I say claimant, as there actually is no such thing as the Mahdi), the real danger lies with the Sunni world.
The primary reason for this is because while the leaders of Iran regularly make a lot of noise concerning the Mahdi – often referred to by them as the 12th Imam – there are some very strong reasons that it is highly unlikely that Iran will ever see a genuine Mahdi claimant figure arise. What outsiders must understand is that Iranian Muslim scholars have developed a very thorough systematic theology to essentially guard against any false Mahdi claimant from emerging. The 12-er Shi’a sect that dominates the nation of Iran is expecting a very specific person to return. 12-er Shi’a also look to the Mahdi as being almost omniscient and omnipotent. In order for any man to suddenly arrive and to actually be received as their Mahdi would be nothing short of impossible. I do not believe Iran will ever produce Mahdi claimant who will be received widely by the leaders or the people of that nation..
On the other hand, there is a certain fluidity among Sunni Mahdist traditions and prophecies that could very easily be manipulated. When one considers how loose Sunni traditions are concerning the Mahdi, it is not difficult to imagine a significant leader gaining a reputation and developing a massive grassroots following, all the while never even claiming to be the Mahdi. In fact, throughout Islamic history, several significant Mahdi claimants have arisen and gathered a significant following. They have all been Sunni Muslims.
In my book, “Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast,” I walk the alert reader through the frightening world of Islamic apocalyptic views, comparing them with the biblical prophecies concerning the coming of the Antichrist, showing beyond any doubt that in the Islamic doctrine of the Mahdi, the world should be very concerned. In my new book, “Mideast Beast,” I demonstrate beyond any doubt, the scriptural case for an Islamic Antichrist. As always, it is time for the Christian world to wake up and fall to their knees in prayer. The hour is far later than most think.