There’s been much in the media lately with regard to the 12th Imam or Mahdi, particularly since Iranian President Ahmadinejad has made it a focal point of his otherworldly responsibilities. The Mahdi is supposedly the reincarnation of a former descendent of Mohammad who was buried in a well or something as a child before having the opportunity to become the head Islamic honcho (12th imam) worldwide. There are a number of strains of Islam but the Sunnis and Shiites are the largest, though there are different strains even within them. They fight and kill each other as a matter of course, the internecine warfare having begun in 656 just 24 years after the death of Mohammad.
The Mahdi, according to at least Shiite eschatology (Ahmadinejad’s) will rule for an infinite time but only after there has been a cataclysmic and essentially worldwide war with much bloodshed. In this respect, the Mahdi is the Islamic counterpoint to Jesus Christ, who, according to the Holy Bible, will appear roughly toward the end of what is called the seven-year Great Tribulation, marked by 3.5 years apiece of relative peace and unmitigated chaos, respectively, during which the war known as the bloody Battle of Armageddon (probably in what is now Israel) will take place, at the end of which will begin a thousand-year rule of Christ.
There are other parallels vis-à-vis Islam and Christianity. According to the Shiite version, Mahdi will come only after the great war necessitating his return has been conducted by an evil character called the Dajjal, who will in turn be dispatched for his trouble by the Mahdi as he begins his infinite reign. According to the view held by most evangelical Christians, Armageddon will eventuate from the work of AntiChrist, a fearless and evil leader who will be dispatched by Jesus Christ leading an army of the heavenly host. Since Mohammed (early seventh century) co-opted scripture in creating the Koran, this parallel is easy to understand, actually just a form plagiarism.
Dajjal and AntiChrist have different origins. Dajjal will be a one-eyed man with a horrible scar on his forehead and his blind eye appearing as a swollen globule. He will arise more or less on his own, probably claim to be the Mahdi, raise his army and make war. AntiChrist will achieve notoriety in some way and will then be encouraged to form an army and wage war, presumably everyone else in the world against the Israelites. Some folks believe AntiChrist is already in existence and actually speculate about his identity.
Some Muslims believe the one-eyed business is merely symbolic of the decadent West as Dajjal (that one-eye on the back of a dollar bill), what with the virtual glorification of dancing, drunkenness, nudity, homosexuality, lewdness of every sort and their spread throughout the world. Some Christians may perceive of AntiChrist as a collection of nations (UN-sponsored, perhaps) that cooperate in fomenting Armageddon. Most folks in both groups are likely to believe in the personages, however, a more literal approach, and some Muslims believe them to be the same.
This explains why Ahmadinejad is so dangerous. He has already prepared the “throne” for the Mahdi, the Jamkaran mosque on the outskirts of Qom, a virtual Shiite holy city some 92 miles south of Tehran. What he desperately needs in order to bring on the Dajjal is, of course, a candidate for the job, and a setting in which the great conflagration can take place. He understands that the earliest Muslim operator (hopefully himself) to bring on the final destruction will get the prize, not of being Dajjal but of fulfilling his destiny as the enabler. One remembers that strange 2005 speech at the UN, in which he was somehow “transported” at its end, feeling, as he explained to a cleric, the hand of God (Allah) entrancing world leaders. He is, if anything, inordinately devout in his faith, sanguinary though it is.
Ironically, the only candidate currently might be Mullah Muhammad Omar, leader of the Taliban and former leader of Afghanistan, who is probably now hiding in the mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Omar was a fearless leader in the war eventuating in the expulsion of Russia from Afghanistan in 1989, was wounded a number of times and in the process was blinded in one eye. He is said to also have a scar on his forehead. There are few pictures of the reclusive Omar, who never entered the capital of Kabul while he ruled the country from his home-base in Kandahar.
Omar has also been designated as the “Commander of the Faithful,” the first such in a thousand years, or the second caliph, or “Amirul Mu’mineen,” presumably the top Muslim in the world. Problem: Omar is a Sunni; therefore, probably not acceptable to Ahmadinejad, besides having no military base at the moment, instead, hiding out in caves.
The thing Ahmadinejad has going for him at present in the interest of fomenting the needed conflagration to bring on the Mahdi is the widespread Muslim chaos throughout the Middle East and Near-East North African countries. As the peoples rise up against their governments they kill each other but also vent their spleens upon the West and provide the atmosphere collectively conducive for attempting to wipe out Israel, the object of their greatest hate and the entity Ahmadinejad has sworn to “erase.” Such an action would plunge the entire world into war, Ahmadinejad’s greatest hope…thus the intro of the 12th imam at its bloody end. In the Mahdi’s reign, infidels (known as dhimmis – all non-Muslims) will pay the tax (be slaves) or die and all Jews will be annihilated.
Sound crazy? Of course! But Ahmadinejad and tens of millions of Muslims believe this, and they are probably far more fervent in their faith than most Christians are in theirs, at least in the West. He may believe in the symbolic Dajjal, in which case all he needs is the setting, now perhaps in place as much of his part of the world is aflame.