Unlike his siblings, Muhammad Ahmad, the son of a boatbuilder, was interested in religious studies. His enthusiasm for Islam, especially ‘Samaniyya Sufism,’ evolved as a result of being instructed by some of the finest spiritual masters in Sudan. For this reason, he requested Sheikh Muhammad Sharif Nur al-Dai’m as his instructor. After studying Islam, the young lad established his own career as a religious educator. On Aba Island, where he taught the ‘Quran,’ he gained the affection of the locals. This sparked discord between his followers and Sheikh Sharif’s disciples. Sheikh al-Qurashi was approached by Ahmad when the two spiritual leaders had a falling out due to their divergent beliefs. With al-passing, Qurashi’s the youthful leader gained even more powerful and proclaimed himself the ‘Mahdi,’ or Islamic savior. While some Muslims believed him and welcomed him as the “Successor of God’s Messenger,” the majority of conservative practitioners of Islam rejected him and prompted Egyptian authorities to arrest him. By that time, however, he had amassed a vast army of supporters known as ‘Ansar,’ and after years of fighting, they emerged victorious and eventually seized control of the whole country of Sudan. After his death, his pupil Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, who became known as ‘Khalifa,’ continued the cause.
Youth and Early Life
Muhammad Ahmad was born on August 12, 1845, on Labab Island-Dongola, Northern Sudan, to Abdullah, a boat maker, and his wife.
Several years later, Abdullah made his home in Karari, a town located to the north of Omdurman, the main city in Sudan.
Sheikh al-Amin al-Suwaylih and Sheikh Muhammad al-Dikayr ‘Abdallah Khujali, both renowned religious scholars in Sudan, were among those who instructed the young kid in Islamic theology.
Sheikh Muhammad Sharif Nur all-day’s was a prominent proponent of the ‘Samaniyya’ Sufi order in Sudan. Ahmad, who was profoundly impacted by the teachings of Islam, paid him a visit. The adolescent child lived with Sharif from 1861 to 1868, mastered the complexities of his religion, and was awarded the title ‘Sheikh’ as a result.
Muhammad Ahmad’s Career
After acquiring the title of ‘Sheikh,’ Muhammad was permitted to provide spiritual education, also known as ‘tariqa,’ to new sect members.
In 1870, Ahmad’s family relocated to Aba Island, south of Khartoum, where the young man built a mosque in order to teach the Quran. Due to his teaching style and devotion to the holy book, he became well-liked among his students.
Two years later, in 1872, Muhammad invited Sheikh Sharif to reside in the al-Aradayb district near Aba Island. The two religious leaders maintained a cordial relationship for some time, but gradually their differences began to emerge.
In 1878, Sharif began to dislike the adoration that his former student was receiving, resulting in a violent brawl between the disciples of both teachers. Sharif expelled Ahmad from the ‘Samaniyya’ sect after a second disagreement arose, despite the fact that the initial dispute had been resolved.
After this disagreement, the expelled leader and his supporters petitioned rival ‘Samaniyya’ instructor Sheikh al-Qurashi wad al-Zayn to accept him as a disciple, to which Sheikh al-Qurashi wad al-Zayn gladly agreed. In the same year that al-Qurashi passed away and Muhammad became the new leader of the order, he met al-successor, Qurashi’s Abdallahi bin Muhammad al-Ta’aishi.
On June 29, the head of the ‘Samaniyya’ movement proclaimed himself to be the ‘Mahdi,’ the Islamic prophet who would repair the holy order and save the world from evil. He asserted that he was selected as the ‘Mahdi’ by a ‘hadra,’ or a gathering of all prophets from Adam to Muhammad.
The spiritual instructor made various analogies to demonstrate that he was a divine manifestation of God’s Messenger. He also designated his sect’s adherents as “Ansar” to distinguish them from practitioners of other kinds of Sufism.
The conservative Islamic officials knew as ‘Ulema’, including lecturers such as Mufti Shakir al-Ghazi and Qadi Ahmad al-Azhari, ridiculed his claims despite his popularity among Samaniyya adherents.
Muhammad proceeded to propagate his beliefs despite disputes, eradicating the four Sunni orders of Islam. He also rewrote the “Shahada” profession of faith, incorporating the new wording “Muhammad al-Mahdi is the Khalifa of God’s Prophet.”
The Egyptian authorities decided to arrest the ‘Mahdi’ after consulting with orthodox leaders from the ‘Ulema’. However, the disciples of the ‘Samaniyya’ commander destroyed the 200 Egyptian soldiers in the ‘Battle of Aba’.
The ‘Mahdi’ proclaimed ‘jihad,’ a resistance movement against the Turks, and ordered his adherents to murder any Turks they encountered. This action was considered blasphemy by orthodox Muslims, yet Ahmad traveled with his pupils to the Central Sudanese province of Kurdufan.
In Kurdufan, he recruited members of the Baqqara, Rizeigat, Hadendoa Beja, and Ta’aisha ethnic communities to form an army. Sheikh Madibbo ibn Ali, Osman Digna, and Abdallahi ibn Muhammad were among the army’s distinguished leaders.
The popularity of the ‘jihad’ movement among the Nuer, Bahr Alghazal, Shilluk, and Anuak ethnic groups of southern Sudan gave the insurrection national significance. The army of “jihadis” initiated their protest by mounting an assault against the orthodox Khatmiyya religious order in eastern Sudan’s Kassala.
In 1883, the adherents captured 4,000 Egyptian soldiers near El Obeid in Kurdufan using only swords and spears. After this invasion, they prevailed in the “Battle of El Obeid” over an 8,000-strong Anglo-Egyptian army led by British Colonel William Hicks, better known as Hicks Pasha.
Following the two wars in El Obeid, Muhammad totally conquered western Sudan. They continued their rampage in the Suakin port but were defeated by General Gerald Graham at the Battle of El Teb.
In December 1883, the British officer Charles George Gordon, better known as Gordon of Khartoum, was tasked with removing soldiers from the majority of Sudan. Gordon arrived in February of the same year and, anticipating difficulty in his mission, prepared for a battle against the ‘Ansar’.
The British soldiers were able to fend off the ‘Ansar army for nearly a year, but when Gordon reached Khartoum, his infantry witnessed the ‘Mahdists invade the city in the ‘Battle of Khartoum’.
The militants made their way to Gordon’s garrison, where they slashed his body and severed his head. Lord Garnet Joseph Wolseley and his forces were forced to evacuate after being attacked by “Mahdists.”
The army of Muhammad continued to seize Sudanese towns, including Sannar and Kassala. The self-proclaimed ‘Mahdi’ established a new government by reforming all Islamic law, known as ‘Shariah’, after gaining control over the majority of Sudan. He also ordered the burning of other holy texts because they permitted coexistence amongst different religions.
Ahmad’s Major Opera
Ahmad is renowned for having led his ‘Samaniyya’ adherents in a protracted war against the Turks and leaders of orthodox Islamic groups, therefore establishing his authority in Sudan.
Personal History and Legacy
The ‘Mahdi’ succumbed to typhoid on June 22, 1885, and was afterward entombed in Omdurman, close to Khartoum. The religious teacher selected three deputies to head his followers, of whom Abdallahi ibn Muhammad quickly became the only leader.
After Abdallahi, also known as “Khalifa,” Ahmad’s son Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi continued the movement. Imam Sadiq al-Mahdi, the great-great-grandson of Muhammad, is the current leader of the “National Umma Party” in Sudan.
Estimated Net Worth
Muhammad is one of the wealthiest Religious Leaders and one of the most prominent Religious Leaders. According to our research, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Muhammad Ahmad has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million.
This religious leader substituted the ‘hajj’ (holy pilgrimage) to Mecca with ‘jihad’ (battle) as one of the most essential tasks of a faithful Muslim upon seizing control of Sudan.