The story of the Mahdist Revolution is as complex as it is compelling. Several monographs aided us in not only detailing Muhammad Ahmad's life and religious teachings, but also the political and religious context of the nineteenth-century Sudan preceding his rise.
Furnish, Timothy R. Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005.
Furnish's book analyzes Mahdist movements throughout history and was helpful in placing the Sudan's Mahdist Revolution within the context of nineteenth-century British imperialism. It certainly helped us understand why the Suez Canal is an important part of the revolt's story. While there were several small uprisings against the Turkiyah prior to Muhammad Ahmad's, the Mahdi's was successful in large part due to its timing which coincided with other pivotal international events.
Holt, P.M., and M.W. Daly. A History of the Sudan: From the Coming of Islam to the Present Day. 6th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson, 2011.
Historian P.M. Holt authored the foundational monograph The Mahdist State in the Sudan, 1881-1898. Thus, this more recent text that he co-authored provided a wealth of background information on the people who joined the Sudan's Mahdist movement. Holt and Daly describe the tribes and ethnic groups who were most likely to ally with the Mahdi for either religious or pragmatic reasons.
Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdulhussein. Islamic Messianism: The Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981.
In order to tell the story of the Mahdi in the Sudan, we first needed to describe what the Mahdi is for those unfamiliar with the concept. Islamic Studies scholar Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina's monograph helped us do just that. He comprehensively deconstructs how Sunni and Shia Muslims conceptualize the Mahdi while focusing primarily on Twelvers, members of the largest denomination of Shia Islam.
Searcy, Kim. The Formation of the Sudanese Mahdist State: Ceremony and Symbols of Authority, 1882-1898. Leiden: Brill, 2011.
Searcy's book was the source that we kept finding ourselves returning to again and again throughout the script writing process. She asserts that in order to achieve the status of legitimate sovereign, the Mahdi needed to rely on symbols and rituals appropriated from Sufi brotherhoods and previous Sudanese polities such as the Funj and Darfur Sultanates.
We also consulted the following articles while writing this episode:
Beattie, Hugh. "The Mahdi and the End-Times in Islam." In Prophecy in the New Millennium: When Prophecies Persist. Edited by Sarah Harvey and Suzanne Newcombe. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013.
Deal, R. Don. "Mahdi." In War and Religion: An Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict. Vol. 1. Edited by Jeffrey M. Shaw and Timothy J. Demy. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2017. Available online here.
Deal, R. Don. "Mahdist Revolution in Sudan." In War and Religion: An Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict. Vol. 1. Edited by Jeffrey M. Shaw and Timothy J. Demy. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2017. Available online here.
Saritoprak, Zeki. "The Mahdi Tradition in Islam: A Social-Cognitive Approach." Islamic Studies 41, no. 4 (2002).
The above clip comes from the 1966 film Khartoum starring Charlton Heston. In it, Charles "Chinese" Gordon (Heston) meets his end at the hands of Mahdist forces.