pamphlet summoning true believers to purify their religion from the defilements of the “Turks” i.e. the Egyptian officials and all non-native inhabitants of the Sudan. The influence he gained at length aroused the anxiety of the authorities, and in May 1881 a certain Abu Saud, a notorious scoundrel, was sent to Abba Island to bring the sheikh to Khartum. Abu Saud's mission failed, and Mahommed Ahmed no longer hesitated to call himself al-Mahdi al Montasir, “The Expected Guide.” In August he defeated another force sent to Abba Island to arrest him, but thereafter deemed it prudent to retire to Jebel Gedir, in the Nuba country south of Kordofan, where he was soon at the head of a powerful force; and 6000 Egyptian troops under Yusef Pasha, advancing from Fashoda, were nearly annihilated in June 1882. By the end of 1882 the whole of the Sudan south of Khartum was in rebellion, with the exception of the Bahr-el-Ghazal and the Equatorial Provinces. In January 1883 El Obeid, the capital of Kordofan, was captured. In the November following Hicks Pasha's force of 10,000 men was destroyed at Kashgil, and in the same year the mahdi's lieutenant, Osman Digna, raised the tribes in the eastern Sudan, and besieged Sinkat and Tokar, near Suakin, routing General Valentine Baker's force of 2509 men at El Teb in February 1884. The operations undertaken by Great Britain in face of this state of affairs are narrated under Egypt: Military Operations. It need only be added that General Gordon (q.v.) was besieged at Khartum by the mahdi and was killed there when the town was captured by the mahdists on the 25th–26th of January 1885. The mahdi himself died at Omdurman a few months later (June 22, 1885), and was succeeded in power by his khalifa Abdullah.
When he announced his divine mission Mahommed Ahmed adopted the Shi'ite traditions concerning the mahdi, and thus put himself in opposition to the sultan of Turkey as the only true commander of the faithful. To emphasize his position the mahdi struck coins in his own name and set himself to suppress all customs introduced by the “Turks.” His social and religious reforms are contained in various proclamations, one of which is drawn up in the form of ten commandments. They concern, chiefly, such matters as ritual, prayers, soberness in food and raiment, the cost of marriage and the behaviour of women. How far the mahdi was the controller of the movement which he started cannot be known, but from the outset of his public career his right-hand man was a Baggara tribesman named Abdullah (the khalifa), who became his successor, and after his flight to Jebel Gedir the mahdi was largely dependent for his support on Baggara sheikhs, who gratified one of his leading tastes by giving him numbers of their young women. In the few months between the fall of Khartum and his death the mahdi, relieved from the incessant strain of toil, copied in his private life all the vices of Oriental despots while maintaining in public the austerity he demanded of his followers. His death is variously attributed to disease and to poisoning by a woman of his harem. On the occupation of Omdurman by the British (Sept. 1898) the mahdi's tomb was destroyed, his body burnt and the ashes thrown into the Nile (see Sudan: Anglo-Egyptian).
See Mahdiism and the Egyptian Sudan by F. R. Wingate (1891); Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp (1882–1892) from the MS. of Father Joseph Ohrwalder by F. R. Wingate (1892) and Fire and Sword in the Sudan (1879–1895) by Slatin Pasha (trans. F. R. Wingate, 1896). Both Ohrwalder and Slatin were personally acquainted with the mahdi, and their narratives contain much first-hand information. Wingate prints many translations of the proclamations and correspondence of the mahdi.
MAHOMMEDAN INSTITUTIONS. Of all the institutions of Islam the caliphate is the oldest, the most fundamental, and in essence the most enduring. For its history see Caliphate; the present subject is its origin and nature. Mahomet enjoyed absolute rule over his people as a divinely inspired and guided prophet. He led the public prayers; he acted as judge; he ruled. If he consulted with others or paid attention to public feeling or local usage, it was as a matter of policy; the ultimate decision lay with himself. He was the state. On his death a leader was put in his place of similar authority, though without the divine prophetic guidance. He was called the “successor” (khalīfa, caliph) of the Prophet, later also the amīr-al-mu'minīn,The Caliphate. commander of the faithful, and was elected by the Moslems, just as the Arab tribes had always elected chiefs. He was thus an absolute ruler, but was democratically elected; and such is the essence of the caliphate among Sunnite Moslems to this day. For them it has been a matter of agreement (see Mahommedan Law) from the earliest times that the Moslem community must appoint such a leader (see Imām). The Shi'ites, on the other hand, hold that the appointment lies with God, and that God always has appointed, though his appointment may not always have been known and accepted. Their position may be called a legitimist one. Some few heretical sects have held that the necessity of a leader was based on reason, not on the agreement of the community. But, for all, the rule of the leader thus appointed is absolute, and all authority is delegated from him and, in theory, can be resumed by him at any time. lust as God can require unreasoning obedience from his creatures (his “slaves” in Arabic), so can the caliph, his representative on earth.
But Abu Bekr, the first caliph, nominated his successor, Omar, and that nomination was accepted and confirmed by the people. So a second precedent was fixed, which was again carried a step farther, when Moawiya I., the first Omayyad caliph, nominated his son, Yazīd I., as his successor, and caused an oath of allegiance to be taken to him. The hereditary principle was thus introduced, though some relics of the form of election persisted and still persist. The true election possible in the early days of the small community at Medina became first a formal acceptance by the populace of the capital; then an assertion, by the palace guard, of their power; and now, in the investiture of the sultans of the Ottoman Turks, who claim the caliphate, a formal ceremony by the 'ulemā (q.v.) of Constantinople. The Ottoman claim is based on an asserted nomination by the last Abbasid, who died in exile in Egypt in 1538, of the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Great, as his successor. Such a nomination in itself was a perfectly legal act, but in this case had a fatal flaw. It is an absolute condition, laid down in tradition, that the caliph must be of the tribe of Koreish (Quraish), that of the Prophet.
The duties of this democratically elected autocrat are, in theory, generally stated as follows. He shall enforce legal decisions and maintain the divinely revealed restrictive ordinances; guard the frontiers and equip armies; receive the alms; put down robberies, thieving, highwaymen; maintain the Friday services and the festivals; decide disputes and receive evidence bearing on legal claims; marry minors, male and female, who have no guardians; divide booty. He must be a free, male, adult Moslem; must have administrative ability; must be an effective governor and do justice to the wronged. So long as he fulfils these conditions he is to be absolutely obeyed; private immorality or even tyranny are not grounds for deposing him. This is a position reached by Islam practically. But a caliph who openly denied the faith would be as impossible as an unbelieving pope. The caliph, therefore, is the highest executive officer of a system assumed to be definite and fixed. He, in a word, administers Islam; and the content of Islam is determined by the agreement of the Moslem people, expressed immediately through the 'ulemā, and ultimately, if indirectly and half consciously, by the people. To depose him a fatwā (see Mufti) would be required—in Turkey from the Sheikh-ul-Islām—that he had violated some essential of the Moslem faith, and no longer fulfilled the conditions of a caliph.
But it was impossible for the caliph personally to administer the affairs of the empire, and by degrees the supreme office was gradually put into commission,The Dīwāns. until the caliph himself became a mere figurehead, and vanished into the sacred seclusion of his palace. The history of the creation of government bureaus (dīwāns; see Divan) must therefore now be sketched. The first need which appeared was that of a means of regulating and administering the system of taxation and the revenues of the state. Immense sums flowed into Medina from the Arab conquests; the surplus, after the requirements of the state were met, was distributed among the believers.