for the Mahdi
Scary Thing about
’s Nuclear Program
January 19, 2006
the leaders of six nations, including the
, met to discuss
’s restarting its nuclear research program. To quote Secretary of State
’s actions “crossed the threshold.”
threshold? The threshold between actions that are irritating or worrisome
and those that keep you up at night. This is especially true of
if you understand the religious—and, I would say, scary—vision that
shapes Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s decisions.
’s president is not only a devout
Shiite Muslim; he is also a believer of what is known as Mahdaviat.
The term means “faith in the imminent coming of the Mahdi.” The Mahdi,
also known as the “Twelfth Imam,” is the Shiite equivalent of a
messiah: “the restorer of religion and justice who will rule before the
end of the world.”
Ahmadinejad, preparing for the Mahdi has included “secretly
[instructing] the [
] city council to build a grand avenue to prepare for the Mahdi,” the
building of a special mosque dedicated to the cult of the Mahdi, and
construction of a railroad line to transport pilgrims there.
his “preparation” is not limited to actions within
: When he addressed the UN, Ahmadinejad prayed for God to “hasten the
emergence of . . . the Promised One . . . that will fill this world with
justice and peace.”
“peace,” he does not mean an Isaiah-like “peaceable kingdom.” As
political scientist John von Heyking has noted, some Mahdaviats go beyond
believing that the Mahdi will “return to save the world when it had
descended into chaos.” Some of them believe that they can hasten that
process by more chaos; and there is good reason to suspect that
’s president is one of these.
this sounds familiar, it ought to: In my book Kingdoms
I wrote about a fictitious evangelical American president who learns about
a plot to blow up the Mosque on the Dome of the Rock. While he knows that
this will lead to an all-out war in the
, he hesitates because his beliefs tell him that this will hasten
Christ’s return. The results of his hesitation are catastrophic.
not the only one who has noticed the parallels. Ross Douthat of the Atlantic
wrote that no Christian, regardless of eschatology, thinks God is
commanding him to nuke Tel Aviv. Nor is he hosting Holocaust-denial
conferences as Ahmadinejad is.
more, from the start Christianity, unlike Islam, has distinguished between
the two kingdoms: God’s and man’s. That is why Augustine wrote the City
And that is why I wrote my book describing the two kingdoms, titled Kingdoms
. But there’s no such distinction in Islam.
beliefs and his call for the destruction of
’s nuclear program even more ominous. And it would be the height of
folly for the West to regard his carefully chosen words as mere hyperbole
or bombast for internal Iranian consumption. It also ought to make us
wonder what people like British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw are thinking
about when Straw says that we should not “rush” to impose sanctions.
is a ticking time bomb.
Richard Weaver noted, ideas have consequences, and the sooner world
leaders understand this, the better we’ll all sleep.