Here we go again. Another generation redeploying the same old tales as the last one, speaking of amazing prophecies being fulfilled before our very eyes. They don’t remember the exact same claims in the 1990s and 1980s, and back through the centuries.

No, the Taliban is not the Mahdi’s army. They are just one of many rival political movements with the backing of Pakistan. No, they come not from historical Khorasan, but from the Pashtun regions of southern and eastern Afghanistan. They do not even try to mimic the black flags of everybody’s favourite hadith; their flag is white.

What nobody is telling you, dear young fellow, is that the black flags referred to events in the 8th century, 130 years after hijrah, when the Abbasid Revolution overthrew the Umayyad caliphate. Those tales have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary politics. They were deployed a millennium and a quarter ago to galvanise the people behind a political movement claiming religious authority.

Don’t be drawn into associating partners with God, placing your trust in some saviour figure who will never come. That is not the message of your Book at all. That is an invention of the parallel religion made real only by cunning politicians. Go back to the Book. Have faith in it.

They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, “Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. It lays heavily upon the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly.” They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, “Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most of the people do not know.” — Qur’an 7:187

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