The Mahdia in the Sudan, 1881-1898

P.M. Holt depicts 'an organized revolutionary movement... resulting in the establishment of a territorial Islamic state'.

In the November 1957 issue of History Today, Christopher Hill wrote of the connection in European history between Millenarianism and revolution. This phenomenon is not confined to the Christian world. Traditional Islam shares with traditional Christianity a world-view in which God is the Lord of History, and the story of humanity is the realization of a divine plan. In times of social and political stress, Muslim communities have shown an unusually heightened response to eschatological concepts, while individuals have seen themselves as actors in the supreme crisis of the cosmic drama.

One such phenomenon, occurring in modem Islamic history, was the Sudanese Mahdia of 1881 to 1898. This movement produced events that aroused a particular and painful interest in Egypt, of which in 1881 the Sudan was a dependency, and in Britain. In English writings on the Mahdia, the story is dominated by two alien figures, Gordon and Kitchener; the events chronicled are mainly hostilities in which British or British-officered forces were involved, and the whole movement is seen as a footnote to imperial history, rather than a development of intrinsic interest.

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