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Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah known as Mahdi Sudani, (August 12, 1844 – June 22, 1885) on Labab Island in the province of Dongola in Northern Sudan. He was a Sufi sheikh of the Samaniyya order in Sudan who, on June 29, 1881, proclaimed himself as the Mahdi or messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith. His proclamation came during a period of widespread resentment among the Sudanese population of the oppressive policies of the Turco-Egyptian rulers, and capitalized on the messianic beliefs popular among the various Sudanese sufi sects (or ####tariqa/turuq) of the time. More broadly, the Mahdiyya, as Muhammad Ahmad's movement was called, was influenced by earlier Mahdist movements in West Africa, as well as Wahabism and other puritanical forms of Islamic revivalism that developed in reaction to the growing military and economic dominance of the European powers throughout the 19th century. From his announcement of the Mahdiyya in June 1881 until the fall of Khartoum in January 1885, Muhammad Ahmad led a successful military campaign against the Turco-Egyptian government of the Sudan (known as the Turkiyya). During this period, many of the theological and political doctrines of the Mahdiyya were established and promulgated among the growing ranks of the Mahdi's supporters. After Muhammad Ahmad's unexpected death on 22 June 1885, a mere six months after the conquest of Khartoum, his chief deputy, the Khalifa Abdullah took over the administration of the nascent Mahdist state. Drawing from aspects of the Sufi tradition that were intimately familiar to both his followers and his opponents, Muhammad Ahmad claimed that he had been appointed as the Mahdi by a prophetic assembly.
The Response of the Ulema
Despite his popularity among Sufis of the Samaniyya and other sects, and among the tribes of western Sudan, the Ulema, or Orthodox religious authorities, ridiculed Muhammad Ahmad's claim to be the Mahdi. Six months after the capture of Khartoum, Muhammad Ahmad died of typhus. He was buried in Omdurman. “Abdullah Ta’ayeshi” became his successor.
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