Not knowing history, many today do not realize it but in 1898 Africa was temporarily saved from radical Islam by the Nile battle of Omdurman. This city was on the banks of the Nile River some distance from the sixth cataract inland on that great body of water.
In 1884 General Cyrus Gordon, the great Christian and Bible reading British General, was slain on the steps of his headquarters at Khartoum. Thousands of frenzied Muslim dervishes stormed his building. He stood before the Muslims defiant knowing that as a believer in Christ he would die a martyr's death at their hands. This revived fanatical group of Muslims wanted to conquer Africa and the entire world for Allah.
The leader of the dervishes was the Mahdi, the Muslim "messiah" who was a charismatic prophet that would conquer the world either by submission or by the sword. Everyone must submit to him and Allah. But Christian England stood in the way. (Many orthodox Muslims today are looking for the "savior," the Mahdi who will be the conqueror of the world for Allah!)
In 1898 by cool and calculated planning the English began to assemble a large army to avenge the blood of General Gordon. General Horatio Herbert Kitchener knew that the Muslim army had its headquarters on the bank of the Nile in the city of Omdurman just across from Khartoum. His army would be large and well equipped with Sudanese and Egyptian soldiers and other Africans who agreed with the British that this may be one of the final opportunities to stop the Muslims from slaughtering so many Africans and placing so many others under the sword blade of forced conversion. Conversion by the sword was their practice! (It is true however, that the Muslims let many survive if they made no disparaging remarks about Islam. But if they converted to Islam, or were born into the faith, and then left it, they could die!)
This large army set out from Cairo. A railroad was constructed southward as far as possible to take up troops and supplies. And five new river gunboats were sailed or "dragged" up the Nile to lay siege against Omdurman when the time was right and the attack begun. The Grenadier Guards, kilted Highlanders, and the 21st Lancers made the journey up river. The new Muslim leader, the Khalifa, was waiting with thousands of dervish troops in the city.
The British opened up the battle by a bombardment of canon fire from the gunboats. 5,000 African troops of the elite Camel Corps charged the dervishes. The battle was a clash of modern British weapons, but also of spears and swords. Towards the climax came the last great cavalry charge in history. The 21st Lancers charged into the dervish troops five men deep to bring about a terrible slaughter that would be used providentially to stop the inroads being made by fanatical Islam. A future world leader survived that terrible cavalry charge. A young office by the name of Winston Churchill, weighed in on his horse with pistol blazing. Many of the enemy fell in front of him.
As all oriental potentates, the Khalifa, rode on a donkey among his troops before the attack telling them that the Mahdi and the Prophet Mohammed came to him during the night promising them victory and a quick rise to paradise if they died. He added that the legions of hell would tear to shreds the spirits of the defeated Christian infidels. But victory would be theirs, paradise would be theirs, their fame would live forever. Though the masses of Muslim dervishes had heard this before they lurched forward onto the field of battle to defeat Christianity.
Thousands and thousands of the dervish forces perished in about two days time. Only a small number of the British and their allies died. At least for awhile, Islam would be blunted, at least the fanatical branch that was bent on making converts by the sword. And for some years afterward English missionaries would be free and continue to work in Africa with some semblance of safety.
Dr. Mal Couch