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The Charismatic Leader

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analyzes the Mahdī as the locus of power and authority of the Mahdiyya and explores the role that ceremonial played in buttressing his authority. It begins with a discussion of Max Weber's concept of charismatic authority and explores how and if the Mahdī fits this paradigm. Many of the northern Sudanese apparently considered the Mahdī as the charismatic and spiritual heir of the indigenous Muslim holy men, who, according to Neil McHugh, were responsible for the Arabization and Islamization of much of the northern Sudan beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing well into the nineteenth century. Finally, the chapter advances the notion that there was a connection between the Mahdī's authority and the eschatological ideas that had entered the upper Nile Valley via the western Sudan in the nineteenth century.

Keywords: charismatic authority; Mahdī; Muslim; Sudan



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