Egyptian police arrest Muslim ‘Facebook messiah’
Egyptian authorities on Tuesday arrested a man who claimed to be the Mahdi – a messianic figure who will appear before the end of the world, according to Islamic tradition.
Media sources in Egypt said that the man, named as Mohammed Habash, made several posts on social media in order to try to gain followers and claimed that "the helpers of the Dajjal" – the Muslim equivalent of the Antichrist – were following him and preventing him from preaching Islam to other people.
He also said that he "walked at God’s command and received instructions from Him".
Habash was arrested in the town of Qutour in Gharbiyah province north of Cairo on Monday.
The Egyptian state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported that authorities detained him for "spreading false beliefs about the Islamic religion, and claiming that he was the promised Mahdi on social media".
An Egyptian security source said that Habash had placed a sign on the door of his house four months ago saying "House of the Promised Mahdi" with his telephone number.
On Tuesday, the Egyptian newspaper Youm7 reported that Habash’s family had taken down and destroyed the sign.
Habash had previously uploaded a video saying that "as long as the Dajjal is there, there needs to be a promised Mahdi."
In Islamic eschatology, the Dajjal – or False Messiah – is a figure who will appear at the end of the world, ruling the world for forty days and spreading evil and corruption before being destroyed after the second coming of Jesus, who in Islam is considered a Prophet.
Some Muslims consider the Dajjal to be a metaphorical, rather than literal figure, associating him with various evils in society.
There are varying beliefs regarding the Mahdi, but most Muslims consider him to be a figure inspired by God who will fight against the Dajjal prior to the arrival of Jesus.
Egyptian authorities have ordered that Habash be held in custody for four days pending investigation.
Over the course of modern and medieval Islamic history, many people have claimed to be the Mahdi.
Last May, Egyptian authorities arrested a man who made a similar claim and in 2017 another person was jailed for two years after saying he was the Mahdi.