Mahdawi Movement and its development



In 1496 Muhammad Jaunpuri proclaimed himself as Mehdi the saviour and within a short period of time he was able to enroll his followers from across the Indian subcontinent especially from the western part of modern India. His teachings attracted people of the aforementioned subcontinent because he rose after the downfall of the Sharqi Dynasty which witnessed the epitome of cultural and religious center of the contemporary subcontinent. Jaunpur was in chaos and people were expecting the last Medhi to rescue them from their plight.

The figure of Mehdi was not unknown to the muslim world. Several people claimed themselves as Mehdi throughout Islamic history. Many muslims of the 13th and 14th century believe that Mehdi comes in every period to rescue people from the clutches of tyrannical power. Even though the figure of Imam Mehdi was skeptical among Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, who didn’t mentioned narration regarding him with his name in his books, and Ibn Khaldun who didn’t acknowledge the relevance of those traditions which mention him. He accused Fatimids for propagating the weak hadith regarding Imam Mehdi to strengthen their government, the figure was well acknowledged and famous among layman muslims.

After the Mongols invasion, the Islamic land were subdued to a non-muslim ruler which make the Ummah expecting something miracle for the rectification of unislamic state, and simultaneously Muslims eagerly start waiting for someone who would come and save the world from Mongolian disaster. So the discussion about Mehdi once again gained its momentum in the 13th century.

Muhammad Jaunpuri also witnessed similar event when Jaunpur lost its vital position of being the centre of Islamic learning. It was the precise time when muslims all over the world talking about the new hijri millennium which was supposed to be either end of world or the renewer of a altogether new order by Mehdi[1]. Ulema of Mecca and Madina also start preaching hadith which says the Islam came for thousand years not more than that. More and more people started claiming themselves as Mehdi, for instance in the reign of Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq, a man by the name Rukn claimed himself to be a Mehdi and called himself “Mahdi-i Akhir al-Zaman. Sufi were saying from renowned scholars Ibn al-Arabi’s who were of the view that the world has to be lived for 7 thousand years and the ongoing millennia in which prophet came was the second last one and the coming millennium would be the last.

As we could understand by the writing of Kathryn Babayan that the notion of Mehdi would come was not strictly religious sanction on the eve of second millennia Hijri, but at that time it was in the academic discourse that Mehdi always came in the needed time, and it was not that he came only before the end time. Mughal emperor Akber’s historian Badayuni believes, as his book Najat al-Rashid projects, that there were more than one true Mehdi in the passage of Islamic history.

Muhammad Jaunpuri as Mehdi:

 At such a sensitive junction Muhammad Jaunpuri proclaimed himself as the Mehdi the saviour. He was too assertive in proclaiming himself as Mehdi for he believes that it is a divinely commissioned task from which he couldn’t escape. He proclaimed that as Muhammad ibn Abdullah came with the new book Quran to prohibit idolatry so he came to reject the Ajsam and to remove the difference between the various schools of jurisprudence subsequently he rejected all the school and said that God along with His prophet and his book are sole guide to conduct. He, as believed, said that one who doesn’t believe in Mehdi is non-believers in God and his messenger, and they are like the enemy of Muslims.

The one who enrolled themselves in his order of mahdism had to follow strict rules and were restricted to do several things as a mahdawi, the follower of Mahdi. Like a mehdiwi were believed to just read some prescribed books, they were not allowed to read any random book, less their belief was bound to be shaken if they gained much knowledge. The places where Mahdawis settled down are called Daira. They were not allowed to meet their family and were expected to consider their daira as family or community. They don’t stay at a single place for long as for them Hijrat is a part of religion. The unsolicited gifts that are Futuh were only taken if it’s not regularly taken from a single source because then it comes under the regular income which was not permissible to mahdawi. Sawyer was a system in which every member of the community would provide an equal amount of allowance. It has said that once Saiyid Mahmud son of Muhammad Jaunpuri taken grapes out of his child’s mouth because he doesn’t want his child to eat more than what is prescribed to him. Daira dwellers came out every week and publicly proclaimed what sin they committed in the last seven days and they voluntarily received the punishment prescribed by Shari’ah.

Most of the merchant class also believe the claim of being Mahdi by Muhammad Jaunpuri and one can find the followers of Muhammad Jaunpuri in Mughal court. There is need to examine the influence of Muhammad Jaunpuri order’s influence,seperately from Nuqtavi’s influence, and what extent they played their role in the making of mughal as substantial force in North India.


  1. Muhammad Habib: A comprehensive history of India. Chapter: The Sharqi kingdom of Jaunpur.
  2. Ibn Khaldun’s The Muqaddimah
  3. Al-Fiqh Al-Islami according to the Hanafi Madhab
  4. Subrahmanyam, Sanjay: Exploration in the connected History -From Tagus to the Ganges.[1]

    Views expressed by the author are his personal & not of Heritage Times

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