Today in North African history: Muhammad Ahmad declares himself the Mahdi (1881)

Long before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself Caliph in 2014, a decision that probably hasn’t worked out the way he’d intended it, a Sudanese Sufi named Muhammad Ahmad (d. 1885) had similar, though really even more spectacular, delusions of grandeur and proclaimed himself the Mahdi. The Mahdi, of course, is a once-in-history messianic redeemer who is supposed to appear in the Last Days—usually, at least for Sunnis, either accompanied by or around the same time as Jesus returns to Earth—to rule the world, defeat evil, all the usual things one does in preparation for the Day of Judgment. Declaring yourself to be that guy is way more grandiose than declaring yourself to be a caliph, if only because there have been a lot of caliphs over the centuries, but the next Mahdi to show up will, kind of by definition I guess, be the first.

And the last, now that you mention it.

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