I recently came across this article and I think the author makes a few good points. The reader should note that, unlike the vast majority of the (non-shia) Muslim world, the Shia are regarded as a heretical sectarian religious movement by a consensus of Islamic scholars and religious authorities. The Shia have essentially created a faith-within-a-faith, if you will, complete with its own all powerful religious bureaucracy. This bureaucracy, or clerical establishment, is an essential component in all aspects of Shia life. Therefore, it does come as much of a surprise to see a unique cult of personality that is formed around these figures as well as their most die-hard supporters.
Think, for a moment, about Iraq’s supreme Shia leader — the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani. Sistani, is arguably the preeminent religious figure in all of Shiism at the moment. Also, consider the “firebrand” leader Muqtada al Sadr. Unlike the elder and reclusive Sistani, Al Sadr does not miss a single photo-op. Whole Shia neighborhoods throughout the middle east are awash with his pictures, posters, and statements. You can’t even escape his image in Bahrain (a tiny island nation that is economically and geographically dwarfed by it’s regional neighbors)! How about Hasan Nasrallah? Talk about a cult of personality. This guy is more popular than hummus in some parts of the middle east! Nasrallah is also an inescapable fixture in much of the Shia world — including Bahrain. The images of such men have become part of the structural landscapes in many Shia cities/neighborhoods — a truly ubiquitous part of the Shia cosmos.
So it also shouldn’t come as much of surprise that the Shia, followers of the Imamate, have spawned ultra-radical apocalyptic cults in middle east as well. Essentially, the whole sphere of influence that the Shia enjoy in various quarters of the Muslim world is owned not simply to a cult of personality (current leaders and historical “imams”) — but more to a sense of alienation and return of the “hidden” Mahdi. The Shia believe that they are the sole victims of this Earth and that in order for true justice to prevail and ultimately be established they must not only await the return of the Mahdi — but hasten his glorious return. The perceived victimization and alienation that the Shia feel is nothing more than a cruel ploy concocted by an ecclesiastical polity to exert control over the masses. Think about for a moment. What better way to control the “hearts and minds” of a nation than by invoking emotions of alienation and victimization in every moment possible? Enter the hidden Mahdi — whom the Shia believe has been in a state of occultation for quite some time now. The article that I have posted below speaks to this very notion somewhat.
Opinion of Ahlus Sunnah wal’Jamaah toward the Shia:
Those Shia that believe in or promote the idea of the Imamate are not from within the fold of Islam. However, those Shia who are not ideological followers of the Imamate (and related concepts of Shirk & Kufr) are indeed misguided sinners who must immediately repent. They are neither disbelievers nor, however, are they upon the correct Islamic methodology. Furthermore, those Shia that blindly follow, promote, and believe in the concept of the Imamate (and other extreme Shia concepts) must immediately repent and return to the authentic teachings of Islam – as embodied in the Qur’an and Sunnah – for their own salvation in this life and in the hereafter.
Other names for the Shia: Rafidaah, Twelvers, Shia Imamiya, Ithna Ashariya, etc.
Someone could use serious dental work — Muqtada…I’m looking in your direction…
Doesn’t Sistani kind of look like a cross between Gandalf the Grey and Gargamel from the Smurfs?
Waiting for the Hidden Imam
It’s hard to imagine how sectarian warfare marked by suicide bombing and the targeted killing of innocents could get more troublesome, but it appears that the emergence of the Shiite cult ‘Soldiers of Heaven’, so thorougly decimated by a combined U.S.-Iraqi Army force this week in the Holy City of Najaf, marks the next stage of descent into chaos for this sharply divided former nation.
In its account of the battle, the Associated Press reports “the planned attack on Najaf was an attempt by the cult to force the return of the “hidden imam,” a 9th-century saint who Shiites believe will return to bring peace and justice to the world…the gunmen planned to distribute leaflets in Najaf saying that the hidden imam will appear again…in the tents outside Najaf, troops found pamphlets titled “Heaven’s Judge,” according to the senior Iraqi security officers.
In a conflict fraught with serious developments, this latest episode is probably the most disturbing yet. The mixture of an end-times messianism with an already splintered fundamentalist conflict is a combination as explosive as ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel. Couple this with a U.S. administration shown to be deeply linked to an equally fundamentalist evangelical version of Christianity, with an equally apocalyptic world-view, and the seeds of disaster would appear to be well on their way to germination.
Of course, one doesn’t have to be toeing the U.S. administration’s party line to see the fine hand of Iran in this latest complication. As recently as December 19 , Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, in his ‘Christmas message’ mentioned that he is expecting both Jesus Christ and Imam Mahdi to return and ‘wipe away oppression’.
World Net Daily has written several articles about Ahmedinijad’s belief that his main mission “is to pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Mahdi Imam, may Allah hasten his reappearance.” Ahmedinajad, it says is challenging America, engaging in a final conflict with it over who will be the ‘final salvation’ in the region — the rightful Mahdi, or the “unjust” U.S.
The article goes on to describe actions the government of Iran has taken to prepare for the Mahdi, including the creation of an institute for study of the Mahdi, staffed with 160 employees, and the donation of $17 million to Jamkaran mosque, “where the link between devotees and the Mahdi is closest.”
There have been numerous claimants to the title of Mahdi over the years, with the one possibly most familiar to Westerners being the infamous Muhammad Ahmad, whose army laid siege to and overran Khartoum and defeated the forces of the British General Charles “Chinese” Gordon.
The Soldiers of Heaven are only the latest messianic, end-times sect to appropriate the coming of the Hidden Imam. The Mehdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr is also said to be faithful to this eng-times harbinger (hence the name), which is why al-Sadr has said he cannot disband the militia, as they belong to the Mahdi , not to him.
So the emergence of even-more-fanatical sectarians, bent on hastening the end times, should be enough to cause a cold ball of fear to coalesce in the viscera of all right-thinking persons. And to have it take place in a deeply divided carcass of a nation, surrounded by nuclear weapons aspirants, nuclear weapons holders and fuelled by petro-dollars, all the while occupied by the only nation that has ever actually used nuclear weapons…
We should none of us sleep easy.