Juhayman (November 20, 1979) On the first day of the Islamic year 1400, Juhayman al Uteybi of the Ikhwan Islamic

revivalists, fired several shots into the air of the Grand Mosque courtyard, signaling the arrival of the Mahdi – redeemer of Islam. To the shots fired, there chanced an unlikely narrative: were it not for the 18th century scholar Muhammad Ibn Abdal-Wahhab, who preached the purification and unification of Islam, Ikhwan would not take form from Wahhabism; if Juhayman was the descendent of any tribe other than Bedouin, his ties to Ikhwan would not be a strict one; Juhayman’s father was a vocal dissenter against the corrupt Saudi rulers whose government was influenced by the ‘infidel’ West, from his father, perhaps he inherited the same disdain and the will to lead an insurrection –– however the chain of events may follow, even Wahhab had his descendants. Above all unlikelihood, there was Mohammed Abdullah al Qahtani, the Mahdi. Without much convincing, the insurgents were captivated by the similarities between Qahtani and the predict Mahdi, so much so that their doubtless zeal negated the fact that he was the wrong man. It was foretold in many ahaadith that the coming Mahdi would possess the features of the prophet Mohammed: pale skin, tall, broad forehead, a large birthmark on his right cheek, of Quraysh tribal lineage, and that he must carry the same name as the prophet; all of which Mohammed Abdullah al Qahtani corresponded with. To further consummate destiny, time was the crucial and interrelated element. According to one hadith, the Mahdi was to arrive on the first day of the new century in the Islamic calendar (November 20, 1979 = 1400) to bring forth justice before the imminent apocalypse. Juhayman and his men, seeing that the time was ripe, were set on ushering in this millenarian vision. * * * During the Hajj, in the holiest place in Islam, thousands of pilgrims were taken hostage. All fifty-one gates were chained shut, forming a coop. Those who were unknowing faced each other or towards God for telltale signs as to the source or reason for the resounding gunshots. * * * As the shooting became more and more sporadic and less frequent from killing off guards, the crowd came to settle. Juhayman grabbed the microphone from the Imam and passed it to Sayid, the Mahdi’s older brother and fellow lead conspirator. He spoke, with the kind of authority garnered by learned clerics, of the nearing apocalypse. The evidence: the miscreants that occupy the house of Saud and simply the outlook of things. Modernization and Westernization is synonymous according to Ikhwan. All forms of angst from encroaching modernity, in the root of it all, were the doings of the infidel West. After the proper theological introduction, the Mahdi stepped forward. In his resolve, he would rid injustice and infidels and unify the world under Islam. Such revolutionary feat can only be seeded in the Grand Mosque, where an initial obligatory army of unbelieving Muslims would besiege the Mahdi and his loyalists – they would defend, prevail, and expand as the prophecy decrees. The perpetrators, obsessed and eager to sway history, requested all Muslims to offer to the Mahdi the oath of bayat. Those pilgrims who gave their pledge were free to leave to spread the word that the Mahdi came. Some stayed, took up arms and joined the movement. Most left, but not all

were quick to leave before Saudi forces stormed the Mosque, catching some pilgrims at crossfire. Although the renegades were just over a hundred men, they were well trained and well stocked in arms. The battle lasted two weeks, with more than 250 casualties. Down in the Qaboo, where Juhayman and his men stationed their headquarters, smoke and heat rose from burning tires; urine, feces, and putrefying bodies littered the floor, turning the place into a steaming latrine. Varied rooms where dead or dying Muslims were splashed with Zamzam water (from the holy well by the Kaaba), for its faculty to heal, festered bacteria like a disease-propagating estuary. TOW missiles were fired at minarets that shielded rebel snipers and M-113s and APCs rumbled through the courtyard, leaving trails of smithereens. The Grand Mosque was desecrated. Among the desecration was the dead Mahdi. * * * In disturbance to a universe in harmony, the Mahdi was killed by an exploded grenade. During the battle, the Mahdi would repeatedly exhibit his immortality by dodging bullets. If a grenade landed near by, he scooped it and returned it within seconds before the explosion. As the siege was one week in, a truth was revealed to him: that he and the others had mistaken him to be the ‘Guided One’. One of the grenades the Mahdi picked up went off before it was tossed, sending piercing shrapnel into his mortal flesh and carbonizing his lower body. The time of his death was uncertain, but it was not immediate – when the Saudi forces ousted the rebels, a search crew was dispatched to find Mohammed Abdullah al Qahtani’s body; the found corpse’s autopsy indicated that he died days after the impact – In the account of Yaroslav Trofimov’s The Siege of Mecca, it was alleged that some of the militants who did see the Mahdi’s frayed and dying body reported it to the most senior members. Juhayman, upon receiving such information, responded with disbelief and despair. However, he and the rebel leaders decided to contain their army in ignorance and continue to fight until the very end. * * * For the renegades who either witnessed, heard, or concluded the death of the Mahdi and the surviving captives whose prophecy expired, there was no prospect of salvation and suicide is forbidden in Islam. As damned as they were, still they played out the unfolding – that they would be inextricably linked to the uprising and unforgivably convicted as such. The rebel leader Juhayman was linked to the uprising for years to come as a revolutionary idol to the Shiite minority. Juhayman, a Sunni, a member of the Shiite oppressors, emerged as the symbol of defiance to House of Saud.

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