Mahdism Doctrine and Urbanism

The basic concept of Mahdism is that the just ruler and the virtuous awaiting Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s.), the twelfth Imam of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), will appear in the future -in an unknown time- to fill the earth with justice and equality as it would have been filled with oppression and injustice. At that time, humanity would reach highest levels of integration and amalgamation, so everything would be ideal and perfect in that ideal Islamic state.

The idea of 'filling the earth with justice and equality' suggests a global system and regulations that rules the earth under the tenets of Islam, which could be called as 'Islamic globalization'.

The term 'globalization' refers nowadays to a global system based on the increasing integration of economies around the world, particularly through trade and financial flows. It also refers to the movement of people (labour), knowledge (technology) across international borders, in addition to the broader cultural, political, and environmental dimensions. The most dominant fields are the economic and communal globalizations, which are critiqued for encouraging domination, unparalleled growth, and increased inequality, because the strongest gains have been made by the advanced countries only.

In urbanism, globalization refers to the adaptation of urban forms that are out of their native habitats. It has been the material of debate and conflict between urban designers in the last fifty years. It is strongly rejected and critiqued for it's by products like domination, segregation, placelessness (diminishing importance of place), isolation, and insertion. At the same time, urban designers are in favour of a retrospective view that recognizes the social and cultural dimensions of urban life and maintains the authenticity and identity of place.

This paper discusses globalization phenomenon from the urban design perspective, which is related to social policy. The paper first reviews the literature of urbanism in the historic Islamic cities, and discusses the preliminary arrangements and tools necessary to build the future State of Al-Mahdi (a.s).

Then the paper explores issues of globalization and culture, aiming to contribute to this growing literature by bringing together diverse themes to be discussed in conjunction with one another. The main purpose is to establish a new theoretical approach for 'Islamic globalization' in the field of urbanism, and determine the positive issues that could lead to create the right regulations and guidelines for building a perfect Islamic state.


The attempt to establish conceptual linkages between urbanism, globalization, and cultural studies on one hand, and Mahdism theory, which is strongly related to Islam, on the other hand, is a critical one. The researcher is responsible to bring out clear discussion of issues of methodology embedded within this type of study. The wrong understanding of Islamic ideals, the difficulty of constructing a clear image of pure Islamic experience from the Islamic history, the ambiguity of some aspects of the Mahdism doctrine; especially for non-Muslims, the bias attitudes of those strongly admiring Western civilization, and the lack of correspondent studies regarding these issues, are all challenges to the researcher.

Moreover, there is the important question of the researcher's position as an insider or outsider in the process of transferals of Islamic ideas and methodologies, "If the method of research and thinking is not an Islamic one or does not, at least, go along with its tendency, the effects will be wrong to unite with the Islamic spirit" (Al-Balagh, 1994). The complicated factors that shaped traditional Islamic cities make it a dilemma to explore them, and establish subtle conception of those factors them, and the main forces that controlled the building process at that time.

This study aims to bring out a discussion of the conflict of the interlocking terminologies of urbanism, globalization, and culture, in relation to Islamic principles and fundamentals. For this purpose, the paper briefly reviews Islamic doctrine in relation to urbanism, the urbanism practice in historic Islamic cities, and how globalization effects has reshaped their urban fabric interconnectedly, in order to reconstruct Islamic urban theory and reconceptualize globalization to develop the notion of 'Islamic globalization'.

Thus, the first section focuses on urbanism experience in the historic Islamic cities, including the economic, social, and political conditions in which they were produced, and the influences exercised on their production. The second section concentrates on the current issues of urban design and its implications on urbanism in the future Islamic State, particularly recent theories of globalization and culture. The third section tries to address the context of urbanism in the future Islamic cities based on Islamic doctrine, and depict a picture of 'Islamic globalization' in the Islamic State of Al-Mahdi (a.s).

However, it is important to note that this study attempts at analyzing concepts and establishing a broad image of the planning regulations for the state of Imam Al-Mahdi (as). Further studies and extensive researches are essential.

1. Islam and Urbanism

The perfect Islamic state, associated with the appearance of Al-Mahdi (a.s) would not be built from scratch. Current urban fabrics of existent cities are the basis for its construction. This realistic vision requires a pragmatic analysis of the current urban forms. Although future Islamic State of Al-Mahdi (a.s) would conjoin all the cities in the globe together, this study focuses on the specific features of traditional Islamic cities, as they are considered idols and references for many of the researchers in this field.

Before analyzing issues of urbanism in Islamic cities, it is useful to define the term 'urbanism' and its related components, which would emphasize its significance in building our cities.

Urbanism, Meaning and Objectives

Urbanism is defined as "the study of cities; their economic, political, social and cultural environment, and the imprint of all these forces on the built environment" (Encyclopedia). Urbanism is about creating human communities and living together. It is about 'quality of life'. It is dynamic, diverse, moving, consistent, aesthetic, and systematic. Urbanism is beyond limits, the urban designer is an artist, ecologist, archaeologist, socialist, scientist, historian, and philosopher.

The word 'urban' refers to the city life, in contrary to rural. Urbanism is a system established to overcome problems of urban rural areas, and pursue a clear understanding of contemporary living. In the beginning of 20th century, the awareness of urbanism increased in many parts of the world, basis for planning established, and town planning laws and building laws for urban areas were adopted.

Urban design regulations are important to create a new art of city planning that encompasses policies and strategies regarding land use, zoning regulations, urban change, living standards, sustainable use of resources , and economic proficiency, based on the social structure of the city. The essential urban design qualities include; context, accessibility, connectivity, versatility, legibility, compatibility, creativity, choice, and collaboration.