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Sunday, August 20th 2006

The Stress of Modern Life Gets To Some People

I’m not going to lie to you. This is just a wierd post, and as far off topic as I’m ever been.

I wonder how today’s individual would deal with being transported back to say the 10th century. They’d probably fit right in judging by the media coverage.

In anycase, I thought I’d provide an exstensive post (instead of studying) on the rumblings going on concerning Iran and August 22nd. if you haven’t heard, let the mainstream media (*rolls eyes*) introduce you to it, below,


According to the belief of some Shi’ites (twelver shi’ites is a good descriptive name), the messiah figure (known as the Mahdi) is going to be the 12th Imam.

Mahdi is a title, a general term for the messiah who will come and apply a just and peaceful Islamic nation across the world. Sunnis do not believe the Mahdi is the 12th Imam and neither do some shi’ites. Most Iranians however do. What has some people freaking out is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be a profoundly hard line believer that the 12th Imam’s appearance is soon. Several media outlets reported after Ahmadinejad prayed for the appearance of the Mahdi during his speech in 2005 to the United Nations. To make matters worse, after the speech a tape leaked in which Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke about how he and the entire UN General Assembly were guided by God during the speech and a light shown around him. You can read about here and here and here.

“On the last day when I was speaking, one of our group told me that when I started to say ‘Bismillah Muhammad,’ he saw a green light come from around me, and I was placed inside this aura,” he says. “I felt it myself. I felt that the atmosphere suddenly changed, and for those 27 or 28 minutes, all the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they didn’t move an eyelid, I’m not exaggerating. They were looking as if a hand was holding them there, and had just opened their eyes – Alhamdulillah!”

The president has strong ties to the Hojjatieh Society which believes that violence will procede the return of the 12th Imam. Indeed according to twelver shi’ite tradition the appearance of the Mahdi is associated with great violence.

The 6th Imam:

“Before the appearance of the one who will rise, peace be upon him, the people will be reprimanded for their acts of disobedience by a fire that will appear in the sky and a redness that will cover the sky. It will swallow up Baghdad, and will swallow up Kufa. Their blood will be shed and houses destroyed. Death will occur amid their people and a fear will come over the people of Iraq from which they shall have no rest.”

Besides the UN speech, which naturally has gotten the most attention, speeches in Iran continually invoke the Mahdi. Here a speech is recounted where Ahmadinejad claims,

“Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi,” Ahmadinejad said in the speech to Friday Prayers leaders from across the country.

“Therefore, Iran should become a powerful, developed and model Islamic society.”

“Today, we should define our economic, cultural and political policies based on the policy of Imam Mahdi’s return. We should avoid copying the West’s policies and systems,” he added, newspapers and local news agencies reported.

In general the Iranian government and society appears to have embraced a more apocalyptic Islamic view since he took power. The Christian Science Monitor had a very nice article on it in 2005.

Beyond calling for Isreal to be wiped off the map, he continually refers to the glory of martyrdom, more like a man strapping a bomb to his chest than one of the most powerful figures in the middle east.

When an aircraft crashed in Teheran [in December 2005], killing 108 people, Mr Ahmadinejad promised an investigation. But he also thanked the dead, saying: “What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow.”

Of course, this may not be all that appears. The everyday man and woman in the west have a hard time deciphering Arab culture sometimes. The Telegraph and the Ashbrook Center both have article addressing the political goals of the Iranian president in invoking the Mahdi (although the Ashbrook Center article is a little more alarmist. Probably to be expected from the evangelical Ashland University).

By putting himself inside this aura, Mr Ahmadinejad may be at once sincere and cynical. He may truly think that God is bringing the Mahdi his way, but he will also know that by identifying with this strand of Shi’ism he can seem to be a Robin Hood for the poor against corruption. He may also be hinting, some experts believe, that, if the Hidden Messenger is coming, the increasingly unpopular clergy and their Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) could be superseded by truly holy, non-clerical persons, eg himself and his Revolutionary Guard.

What is scary is that it is becoming evident that not only does Mr. Ahmadinejad think that the Imam’s return is evident but that he has a responsibility to hasten it and to pave the way. As far back as February major media opines were talking about how there may be a belief in Iran that a preemptive strike by them (say, on Israel) would cause massive Western retaliation and bring about the global chaos necessary for the Mahdi to appear.

The issue has been stepped up in the past several weeks (as you can see by the videos) because of the impending formal Iranian response to the incentive package the US presented them to halt their nuclear ambitions. This although, they’ve already said they won’t give up their nuclear program.

In anycase, months ago they gave the wierd reply to the American incentive package that they wouldn’t respond formally until the end of August, and then it got more specific – August 22nd. Well, it is complex, I suppose they just could’ve been studying it this entire time, but it made some people scratch their heads.

The 22nd is the 27th day of Rajab in the Islamic world. The 27th day of Rajab for shi’ites is always an important date. On this date Mohammed is said to have been taken to the furthest mosque (Jerusalem) where from the mount (as the sky was light up for his ascent) he headed into heaven where he met with the other prophets and then returned.

Putting the dots together (or maybe just making stuff up as he went along), on August 8th, notable historian Bernard Lewis published this in the Wall Street Journal:

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to “the farthest mosque,” usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

The entire piece is dedicated to how Mr. Ahmadinejad’s religious fanaticism all but guarantees that the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction will not apply to a nuclear capable Iran.

This of course caused blogs to chime in. An example here and here.

The DEBKAFile (h/t Brendan Loy), an Israeli military “newsletter” (working its way up to NYT circulation numbers…one viewer at a time), goes even further. They claim to have seen intelligence reports that,

information rated “highly credible” has reached US undercover agencies of a secret report presented to Iran’s supreme ruler Ali Khamenei by Abdollah Shabhazi, one of the heads of the Supreme National Security Council. He claims to expose a mega-terror plot against Jerusalem scheduled for August 22, which aims at killing large numbers of Jews, Arabs and Christians.

This atrocity will reportedly arm the United States and Israel with the pretext for hitting Iran’s nuclear installations, as well its capital, Tehran, and other big cities.

Shabhazi says the US and Israel need to launch a military campaign to restore the deterrent strength they lost in the Lebanon war.

The massive attack will reportedly focus on the Old City of Jerusalem and its eastern suburbs. The Iranian report claims that the plotters, who are not identified, are eager to recreate the divine white light whish spread over Jerusalem in the year 632. It does not rule out the use of a non-conventional weapon.

Of course Mr. Lewis was immediately chastised by many (of course not Glenn Beck).

So why, exactly, did the Iranians choose August 22 as the date for giving their answer to the US about nuclear development? Probably for bureaucratic convenience. When they promised a reply “by the end of August”, they didn’t actually use the word “August”, but the Iranian equivalent. If you look up the Persian calendar, you’ll see that August 22 just happens to be the end of the month known as Mordad.

(To clear up confusion Rajab is a month of the Islamic calender which corresponds with Mordad which is a month in the secular Persian calendar that Iran uses; in contrast to the Gregorian calendar)

It is true that Iran has undertaken a large military excercise. Conspiracy theorists see it as a way to mobilize their troops for the inevitable retaliation once they strike Israel on August 22nd.

Personally, I’m more with Stephen on this one. You can’t take this stuff too seriously.

I hope that wasn’t too sacriligious, because I’m pretty religious, but anyone who thinks they can predict the end times…well that is an ego.

In any case despite my personal beliefs that these people are all nutcases, if in 24 hours something major does happen, at least I provided a neat and tidy summary of it before it occured.

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