(Arabic: "The Deceiver"; derives from dajjala dhahab, "(he who) adulterates gold with base metals"; full title al-Massih al-Dajjal, "the false Messiah")
A false Mahdi, the last of a series of these to appear, prior to the advent of the true Mahdi. Al-Dajjal is a quasi-legendary figure in Islamic tradition. Despite the fact that al-Dajjal is mentioned, in passing, in numerous hadith, a serious (which is to say, a moderate) alim will generally downplay his rôle as steeped in superstition.
The traditions surrounding al-Dajjal describe him as red of face; stunted in growth; corpulent; having one eye, in the middle of his face; and bearing the word kafir inscribed upon his forehead.
As his coming marks the coming of the true Mahdi, the figure of al-Dajjal, while somewhat odd, is far from unimportant. The Islamic Eschaton revolves around a number of signs and portents which are to occur before the Day of Judgement can arrive. Among these are:
- The coming of the final prophet, Muhammad (which, needless to say, has already occurred)
- A general decline in morals, particularly sexual morals and the breaking of the haram on the consumption of alcohol by Muslims (I'd be hard put to think of a time in Islamic history when this wouldn't have been applicable, in one sense or another)
- The coming of al-Dajjal, the false "redeemer" of Islam.
- The coming of al-Mahdi, the true redeemer of Islam, a descendant of Fatima (see note at bottom). This is supposed to occur immediately subsequent to the advent of al-Dajjal, and the two will struggle. Isa (Jesus) will also return at this time, and aid al-Mahdi. He (Isa) will call the People of the Book (Christian, Jew and Muslim) to the true faith (Islam) and personally slay al-Dajjal.
- The appearance of Yajuj and Majuj. (Which is to say, Gog and Magog)
- Numerous natural disasters (fire, flood, earthquakes) - and the Sun rising in the West.
- A noxious smoke (though more noxious to unbelievers than to the faithful) will fill the Earth, and an angel will appear and blow a trumpet, signalling the Day of Judgement.
The eschatological beliefs of any faith are deeply revealing of its inner workings - and the traditions surrounding al-Dajjal, like those surrounding the Antichrist, throw much light upon Islamic religious culture. However, strict devotion to such beliefs within Islam are (as is also the case within Christianity) generally reserved for the more extremist versions of Islam.
Some hadith related to al-Dajjal:
There are literally dozens of hadith on this subject - these are but a few.
On a related note, al-Dajjal was also one of the supernatural titles adopted by the American occultist and rocketry pioneer, Jack Parsons (friend to both L. Ron Hubbard and Aleister Crowley), who took for himself the "magical name" of Belarion Armiluss Al Dajjal AntiChrist, apparently considering himself a candidate for the rôle of al-Dajjal / Antichrist. Modern-day occultists tend to dismiss Parsons as a crank, but to the extent that they take him seriously and are willing to comment, the consensus would appear to be that he was genuinely trying to usher in a New Age - to bring on the Eschaton, albeit in a ham-handed fashion.
On another related note, the qualification that the true Mahdi must be a descendant of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima is actually not that strict a requirement. In fact, large portions of Europe's nobility and royalty is descended from Muhammad - see Frederick II, descendant of Muhammad for an example. One wonders whether one of the Danish royals (who are descendants of Fatima) might one day convert to Islam and become the true Mahdi...