A "well-researched" account of the nineteenth-century Sudanese cleric who led a bloody holy war, from a New York Times-bestselling author (Publishers Weekly).

Before bin Laden, al-Zarqawi, or Ayatollah Khomeini, there was the Mahdi -- the "Expected One" -- who raised the Arabs in pan-tribal revolt against infidels and apostates in Sudan.

Born on the Nile in 1844, Muhammed Ahmed grew into a devout, charismatic young man, whose visage was said to have always featured the placid hint of a smile. He developed a ferocious resentment, however, against the corrupt Ottoman Turks, their Egyptian lackeys, and finally, the Europeans who he felt held the Arab people in subjugation. In 1880, he raised the banner of holy war, and thousands of warriors flocked to his side.

The Egyptians dispatched a punitive expedition to the Sudan, but the Mahdist forces destroyed it. In 1883, Col. William Hicks gathered a larger army of nearly ten thousand men. Trapped by the tribesmen in a gorge at El Obeid, it was massacred to a man. Three months later, another British-led force met disaster at El Teb. This was followed by the infamous conflict at Khartoum, during which a treacherous native -- or patriot, depending upon one's point of view -- let the Madhist forces into the city, resulting in the horrifying death of Gen. Charles "Chinese" Gordon at the hands of jihadists.

In today's world, the Mahdi's words have been repeated almost verbatim by the jihadists who have attacked New York, Washington, Madrid, and London, and continue to wage war from the Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean. Along with Saladin, the Mahdi stands as an Islamic icon who launched his own successful crusade against the West. This deeply researched work reminds us that the "clash of civilizations" that supposedly came upon us in September 2001 in fact began much earlier, and "lays important tracks into the study of terror, fundamentalism and the early clash between Islam and Christianity" (Publishers Weekly).

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