Thursday, February 2

Ahmadinejad: Apocalypse soon!

I've been reading scattered stories about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's connection to the "Twelver" sect, a branch of Islam popular in Iran that looks to the return of a ninth century Imam. I've also read the suggestion from my friend and former law review co-editor Daveed Gartenstein-Ross that the influence of this messianic belief on Ahmadinejad is being exaggerated by rivals within Iran to make him look foolish or unstable. For that sort of speculation, I will defer to Daveed; I hope that he is right about the exaggeration, because what I read elsewhere is not reassuring:

Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect believes this will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.

He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.

This is similar to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the Hidden Imam is expected to return in the company of Jesus.

Mr Ahmadinejad appears to believe that these events are close at hand and that ordinary mortals can influence the divine timetable.

The prospect of such a man obtaining nuclear weapons is worrying. The unspoken question is this: is Mr Ahmadinejad now tempting a clash with the West because he feels safe in the belief of the imminent return of the Hidden Imam? Worse, might he be trying to provoke chaos in the hope of hastening his reappearance?

Imminentizing the eschaton my not be the sin that immanentizing it is, but it still sounds pretty dangerous.

[The Twelver Sect made me think of my own corner of the world's resident kook--Brother Twelve. A strange story that fascinated me as boy.]