President Erdoğan’s military advisor and the founder of the armed group SADAT, Adnan Tanrıverdi, recently spoke at Üsküdar University. He said, “Will there be Islamic unity? Yes, there will be. When? When Mahdi comes. When is Mahdi going to come? Only Allah knows that. Until he arrives, we have to be ready. This is what ASSAM does.” This was how he explained the function of ASSAM, his own think tank.

Tanrıverdi is not an important figure in Turkish politics. He is now one of the figures who is close to Erdoğan. Tanrıverdi is an ex-soldier. He joined the army in 1980 and just before the 1980 coup, he was appointed as a colonel. In 1992, he was appointed as a brigadier general. He seems to have had a successful career in Turkish army, which is not actually surprising. Starting with the 1980 coup, the Turkish army positioned itself against communism and socialism in Turkey and saw Islamism as a means to fight communism. This was compatible with American National Security Advisor Brezinski’s Green Belt Theory.

After he left the army, he joined the press, and apparently had a nose for influential positions. He coordinated the conservative radio station Üsküdar FM and wrote for the Islamist newspaper Vakit. Now, he is leading the military consultancy group SADAT. Some say that SADAT resembles the American military company Blackwater, and some fear it is going to turn out like the Iranian IRGC, an alternative army loyal to one man and Islam. 

It was claimed that SADAT was active on the night of the infamous July 15 coup attempt. It was rumored that SADAT members, behind big trucks with guns on their hands, encouraged people to go out to the street. Now SADAT members are rumored to be in Libya, readying for the fight against Hafter forces. Since transparency is the last thing in Turkey these days, who knows how many of these rumors are true. 

Faith in a Mahdi who will come just before the Armageddon exists in both the Shia and Sunni schools of Islam. It is a stronger part of Shia Islam, however. According to the Shia school, Mahdi is the last of the Twelve Imams, Imam Zaman. He is mentioned more frequently in the daily lives of Iranians and in Iranian politics. 

Former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave grave importance to the arrival of Mahdi. Ahmedinejad started his political career as the mayor of the Iranian Turkish city of Ardabil. Then he was elected as the mayor of Tehran. One of the first tasks after he was elected was to prepare a master plan for the city of Tehran for the arrival of Mahdi — which roads will be open, which will be closed, and which roads will be used by security forces as Mahdi arrives were all stated in the master plan. 

In 2010, Ahmedinejad’s deputy minister of tourism, Hamid Bagai, surprised journalists in a presser. He claimed Tehran needed new hotels immediately. When one journalist asked what the hotels would be for, since Iran is not receiving many tourists, he answered that Tehran needed new hotels for the arrival of Mahdi, because when he arrives people will be pouring in to see him.

Islamist politicians tend to be seen as pragmatists who use religion to influence people or consolidate their supporters. However, they are not staunch pragmatists most of the time; they sincerely believe in religious orders and fallacies. Islamism is usually not just an element of politics, but the core of it. 

When Erdoğan said in November, “We will not place the conditions of today at the center of our lives, but rather the rules of our religion,” he is not just saying it. He sincerely means it. 

Erdoğan’s military advisor announcing his mission to prepare for Mahdi’s arrival is definitely not a good sign for Turkey’s near future.