Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ahmadinejad's Apocalyptic Faith

from Patrick Poole's blog, Existential Space:

In light of the present visit to the US by Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I would direct readers to an article I wrote more than a year ago at FrontPage, "Ahmadinejad's Apocalyptic Faith". There I wrote about the Hojjatieh brand of Shi'ism that Ahmadinejad follows, which I described as follows:

Most Shiites await the return of the 12th Shiite Imam, Muhammad ibn Hasan, the last direct male descendent of the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, who disappeared in 874AD and is believed to be in an invisible, deathless state of existence, or “occultation”, awaiting his return. Though it is discounted even by the most extremist clerics, a popular belief in Iran holds that the 12th Imam, also called the Mahdi or the sahib-e zaman (“the Ruler of Time”), lives at the bottom of a well in Jamkaran, just outside of Qom. Devotees drop written requests into the well to communicate with the Mahdi. His reappearance will usher in a new era of peace as Islam vanquishes all of its enemies. The Sunnis, who reject the successors of Ali, believe that the Mahdi has yet to be born.

But rooted in the Shiite ideology of martyrdom and violence, the Hojjatieh sect adds messianic and apocalyptic elements to an already volatile theology. They believe that chaos and bloodshed must precede the return of the 12th Imam, called the Mahdi. But unlike the biblical apocalypse, where the return of Jesus is preceded by waves of divinely decreed natural disasters, the summoning of the Mahdi through chaos and violence is wholly in the realm of human action. The Hojjatieh faith puts inordinate stress on the human ability to direct divinely appointed events. By creating the apocalyptic chaos, the Hojjatiehs believe it is entirely in the power of believers to affect the Mahdi’s reappearance, the institution of Islamic government worldwide, and the destruction of all competing faiths.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has clearly indicated that he is a true believer in this faith. It has been reported that he has told confidants that he anticipates the immanent return of the Mahdi. When he previously served as Mayor of Tehran, he advocated for widening the roads to accommodate the Mahdi’s triumphal entry into the city. One of his first acts of office as President was to dedicate approximately $20 million to the restoration and improvement of the mosque at Jamkaran, where the Mahdi is claimed to dwell.

This personal belief directs his official policies as President. He has publicly said, “Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi. We should define our economic, cultural and political policies on the policy of the Imam Mahdi’s return.”

However, Ahmadinejad’s messianism doesn’t stop with the Mahdi. In fact, he has made it clear that he believes he has personally received a divine appointment to herald the imminent arrival of the Mahdi, tacitly acknowledging his own role in setting aright the problems of the world.

The Hojjatieh sect is so extreme, it was banned by Ayatollah Khomeini (which is saying something). Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor is Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, known affectionately (or not so) by his moniker, "Professor Crocodile". Mesbah-Yazdi has been pushing to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as I noted in another article, "The War Ayatollah".

Understanding the worldview of our enemies (Iranian-made IEDs and EFPs are killing dozens of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan each month) is essential for understanding their intentions. You might also want to visit my friend Timothy Furnish's website,, and read his History News Network article, "What's worse than violent jihadists?" for additional background on the virulent brand of Shi'ism practiced by Ahmadinejad.

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