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MAHDI, AL-SADIQ AL- (December 25, 1935), Sudanese Islamic-Mahdist theologian and contemporary political leader. As great-grandson of the Sudanese Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad ibn `Abdallah (d. 1885), Sadiq was born into a leading Islamic family and trained for his leadership role from birth. [See Mahdi; Mahdiyah.] He received a broad traditional Muslim education and later a modern one at Victoria College in Alexandria. He then studied at the University of Khartoum and graduated from St. Johns College, Oxford, where he read philosophy, politics, and economics. Sadiq rose to prominence in 1961 following the death of his father, Imam Siddlq al-Mahd-1.

Sadig Al-Mahdi

Sadig Al-Mahdi

The shura council of the Ansar decided that he was too young to become their imam and appointed his uncle al-Hadi instead. With the leadership divided and Sadiq heading the Ummah party, a split within the Ummah and the Ansar became unavoidable. It paved the way for a long-term pact between Sadiq and Hasan al-Turabi, the leader of Sudan’s Muslim Brothers. This was probably one of the factors that led Sadiq, a presumed liberal, to announce his intention, on becoming prime minister in 1966, to promulgate an Islamic constitution and found an Islamic state. Sadiq and his followers were defeated in the 1968 elections and had to seek a reconciliation with his conservative uncle. This seems to have turned him into a conservative, and the Ummah-Ansar complex in the 1980s was as autocratic as it had been under previous imams. As prime minister after the 1986 elections, Sadiq was in full control of both the Ansar and the Ummah. His failure to lead on the most crucial issues, the Islamic nature of the state and its interethnic and interreligious relations, probably caused his downfall in June 1989.

Sadiq was the most prominent leader to oppose the so-called shari’ah laws implemented by President Ja`far Nimeiri in September 1983. He denounced them as unIslamic because shari`ah could only be implemented in a just society in which Muslims were not forced to steal in order to survive. He failed to abolish these laws, however, while he was prime minister in 1986-1989, owing both to his ambivalence and to his weak leadership. His ambivalence was the result of his reluctance to abolish the existing Islamic laws, which after all he too had advocated, without introducing alternative ones first. He assumed that he would lose popular support if he submitted to southern and secularist demands for unconditional abrogation.

Sadiq has expressed his views on the Islamic state in many of his writings, and in these his ideology is by far more liberal and progressive than his political career would suggest. He rules that modern formulation of shari’ah should be entrusted to universities, with lay scholarly supervision; otherwise shari `ah will wither away, and Muslim leaders will have abdicated their trust. Islamic states may be traditional, modernizing, or revolutionary, as long as they abide by the general constitutional principles of Islam and as long as their legal systems are based on a traditional or modern formulation of shari `ah. In the sphere of economics, two principles should be applied. First, wealth is collectively owned by humanity, and while individual ownership is legitimate, society has to provide for the poor. Second, it is mandatory to implement special injunctions such as zakat, inheritance laws, and the prohibition of usury. Hence there is no contradiction in an economic system that is both Islamic and modern. Islamic international relations, according to Sadiq, are to be based on peaceful coexistence; war is justified to deter aggression and is not permitted as a way of enforcing Islam. Even pagans are not to be converted by force. In Islamic international relations there are four basic principles: human brotherhood, the supremacy of justice, the irreversibility of contracts, and reciprocity. Finally, Sadiq regards taqlid, or the uncritical adoption of a tradition or a legal decision, as a major curse; he claims that when non-Muslim opinion refers to Islamic fundamentalism, it is taghd they have in mind, which therefore should be abolished.

[See also Ansar; Sudan; Ummah-Ansar; and the biography of Turabi.]


Mahdi, Al-Sadiq a1-. Yas’alunaka `an al-Mahdiyah. Beirut, 1975. Mahdi, Al-Sadiq al-. “The Concept of an Islamic State.” In The Challenge of Islam, edited by Altaf Gauhar, pp. 114-133. London, 1978. Mahdi, Al-Sadiq al-. “Islam-Society and Change.” In Voices of Resurgent Islam, edited by John L. Esposito, pp. 230-240. New York and Oxford, 1983.

Mahdi, Al-Sadiq al-. Al-dimuqratiyah ft al-Sudan, ‘a’ida wa-rajihah. Khartoum, 1990.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/mahdi-al-sadiq-al/

  • writerPosted On: July 30, 2014
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