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Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892

After which the Mahdi again held a reception


Since

the occasion on which the Mahdi had interviewed Klootz, I had not seen him. I now saw a considerable change in him; he had grown much stouter, but he still wore the same clothes of rough damur, consisting of drawers, jibbeh, girth, and turban. His conversation soon turned on religion, and he asked me if we Christians used the "Hamdu" (a form used by the Moslems as they bow in prayer) in our prayers. I replied that not only had we one but several, and at his request I repeated the Lord's Prayer in Arabic.

This created much surprise amongst the ignorant listeners, who believe that Christians do not know how to pray, and I was thought quite "fasich" (_i.e._ educated). After a long conversation on the Psalms of David, the Mahdi said, "I know that you Christians are very good people, and that you feed the hungry." He then told me about "deeds of mercy," and added that all such acts were useless, as anyone who did not believe in the Mahdi was but "wood for the fire." Our conversation was interrupted by the Aser or afternoon prayers, after which the Mahdi again held a reception. Amongst others a small dwarf appeared, and the Mahdi spoke to him about his tribe and asked if he were married. The dwarf replied that he had come to ask for a wife, and explained that the possession of one was the desire of his heart, whereupon the Mahdi gave orders that he should at once be provided with one. He then rose up to leave, and I was permitted to go home.

style="text-align: justify;">On the following day I was again summoned before him, and he explained that through the noonday prayers he knew he should win over the whole world. He said that God had given him a period of forty years (as a matter of fact he only lived four years, but a cypher more or less is of no consequence) during which he should make all people believe on him and acknowledge that he was the Mahdi. He added that after the subjugation of the Sudan he would take Egypt, which would only offer a weak resistance, and that afterwards he would attack Mecca, where the most bloody battle which the world had ever seen would take place; from Mecca he should proceed to Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ should descend from heaven. "Of course," I said, "Christ will possess all the characteristics which the Gospel attributes to Him;" but the Mahdi continued, "Would Christ not fight with anti-Christ? If I do not believe in Him He will kill me."

The Mahdi then asked me if I ever had dreams, and I replied that even if I did have dreams I did not believe in them. Then the Mahdi turned round to those who were near and said, "Assuredly the Turks do not believe in dreams, or they would have admitted that I am the Mahdi." It is said that Mahmud Bey Ahmedani, Mudir of Khartum, who had accompanied Hicks and had fallen near Shekan, had seen the Mahdi's shadow on the wall surrounded with a halo of light, but in his obstinacy he still refused to acknowledge him.

Just then a Sherif of Syria came in, and, making obeisance to the Mahdi, said, "Sire, you are my relation!" (By this he meant that as he belonged to the Prophet's tribe, and as the Mahdi had sprung from the Prophet, that therefore they were connected.) The Mahdi was much gratified by this flattery, and ordered Wad Suleiman to give him fifty dollars and a concubine. The conversation was then turned on Gordon. The Mahdi remarked he was full of pity for him, for he said that he was convinced it was the Ulema's arguments which had made Gordon believe that he was not the true Mahdi. He then asked me what was the object of the wires with which Gordon had surrounded Khartum. I replied that I knew nothing of the art of war, but others said that this was telegraph wire, which Gordon had put down so that in case of attack the horses would stumble over it. The Mahdi smiled, and remarked that God was more mighty than all the tricks and artifices of Gordon.


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