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Opinion: Wonders Never Cease - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The wondrous and offbeat behavior of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never ends.

The man has a real mania for reappearance of the Mahdi. A few days ago, Ahmadinejad said he expected the reappearance of the Mahdi, the absent Twelfth Imam revered by Shi’ites.

Al-Arabiya cited the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) when it reported extracts from a speech Ahmadinejad gave on Tuesday in a ceremony held in Narmac mosque in Tehran celebrating his presidency. Asked during the ceremony whether he will run for another presidential term, Ahmadinejad said: “The Mahdi will appear after four years, and he will reform the whole world.”

This means that Dr. Ahmadinejad is of the view that all of the dangerous things happening in the world are of no consequence, because the Mahdi will appear soon to reform the whole world from scratch. He has no reason to talk about “elections.”

In fact, clinging to the idea of the Mahdi’s appearance is a phenomenon that has befallen numerous political and religious groups in Shi’ism, especially in present-day Iraq. The goal is clear: The hope to provoke the sentiments of the poor for political gains.

In human history, many Sunnites have also exploited this idea, which also exists in Sunni Islam. It is true that the belief in the Mahdi’s appearance does not have the same central importance it has in Shi’ism, but it exists anyway. This is evidenced by the many Sunnis who have claimed to be the Mahdi. It was not only the Mahdi idea that was exploited, as may have also claimed to be prophets, and some have even fancied themselves as the anticipated “Christ.”

The world has witnessed many crazy people of this sort in modern times, too. They include Salman Al-Murshed in the Alawite mountains in Syria (executed in 1946), who was succeeded by his son Najib as the leader of the Alawite sect before his followers turned into an independent sect. We also have “Dr. Dahesh” in Lebanon (d. 1984), the founder of the “Daheshiya” sect. Originally, the founder’s name was Salim Mousa Al-Ashi, and he was a Syriac Christian whose father escaped from the massacres committed by the Turks against the Armenians and the Syriacs. His family found shelter in Palestine and then in Lebanon, where he shaped his own odd spiritual inclination.

Apart from this, there have also been individuals who fancied themselves as messengers sent by God for the salvation of humanity.

Recently, I watched an Egyptian TV talk show in which a telephone caller claimed to have had “an advantage from God” and that he wanted to inform the audience of “information” about Egypt in the coming two years.

In history, there was a man who claimed to be a prophet during the days of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mahdi. The man was taken to the caliph, who asked him, ‘Are you a prophet?’ The man answered affirmatively. Then the caliph asked: ‘To whom were you sent?’ The man said, ‘You did not even give me a chance to be sent, for I was put in jail as soon as I was sent.’

Caliph Al-Mahdi burst into laughter and ordered his release.

There is distress that can make you laugh, and there is distress that can make you cry.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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