Why Worry about Ahmadinejad’s Apopcalyptic Vision?

This post was written by Dr. Art Pitz on July 16, 2009
Posted Under: International Relations, Middle East

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We are in the “end times” or so goes the thinking of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  It’s important to understand this because this thinking influences his foreign policy, and this is what the U.S. is dealing with and why Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons is such a threat.

To understand him and the ideas of the ruling Shi’ite ulema (educated elite), we have to begin by comprehending that Iran has had Shi’ism as the state religion for several centuries.

Well, just what is that?  The Shi’ite faith split from the majority Sunni branch of Islam originally over who had the right to rule the Islamic world as Muhammad’s successor.  Sunnis believed that the Caliph (Islamic ruler) could be chosen by a select group of Sunni ulema from the best qualified candidates.  Shi’ites believed that that ruler had to be a linear descendant of Muhammad from within his family.

Like almost all splits, this one soon took on a dynamic of its own and the split widened due to new ideas that grew up.  Now, I should point out that there are several branches of the Shi’ite faith with each one disagreeing over just which one of those descendants is the right ruler. 

For our purposes, we will look at the main branch known as “twelvers”.  They believe that the 12th descendant of Muhammad was also named Muhammad and he disappeared from the earth.  In other words, he didn’t physically die.  He was translated into the hereafter and he rules in the name of Muhammad and the Qur’an.  He is called “the Hidden Imam”.

Well, of course, this raises a problem—how do we know what he is saying?  At any one time, there are a number of individuals who earn the right of interpretation because of the strength of their character and their scholarship.  These individuals earn the title of Ayatollah (Sign of God).

Ah, now does this begin to make sense?  You’ve heard of the term Ayatollah but maybe the term has never been explained to you.  In theory, anyone who governs any state should listen to their advice.

Since the U.S. is the most powerful nation that does not give credence to their directions, the U.S. is known as “the Great Satan”.  Since Israel is the most powerful nation in the Middle East that also doesn’t take to this kind of theology, they are the lesser Satan.

Such nations will be in for big trouble.  Why?  At some point, the Hidden Imam is going to return to this earth to rule.  He will judge all at that point.

Ahmadinejad believes we are in the last days before his arrival and it is his task along with the leadership of Iran to hasten his coming.  Well, of course, we have to wonder just what will he and this regime do to accomplish this?  And, how does this effect our ability to negotiate with Ahmadinejad and Iran’s theocratic state?  What do you think?

Dr. Art Pitz
The Professor’s House
Know the History–Understand the Choices

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Reader Comments

Dr. Pitz,

I think the concern over Ahmadinejad is well-founded. Muslims for a long time have feared the United States, and perhaps this is why our country is such a large focus for terrorist activity. I agree on the concept of the US being “Greater Satan” and that Israel as a country is an enemy of Iran (and Ahmadinejad), but I’m confused with regard to them being “Lesser Satan”. Especially since they are so near to Iran. Is this because the US is a much stronger and more formidable country than Israel? Something else? I’m curious to your thoughts.

At the same time, the riots give me hope that someday the Muslims will realize that not all of their own kind truly follow the beliefs they do and that the actions of those people pose a danger not only to foreigners but also to themselves. Not likely anything will change, but one can still hope…

Written By Tim Schoon on August 22nd, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your comments. Israel is an enemy of Iran for the very good reason that Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel off the map. You are correct in your guess about why Israel is considered the lesser Satan–the U.S. is much more powerful.

As for the protests in Iran, they were peaceful and non-violent. It was the security forces that used violence. It is hard to tell if these protests will lead to any positive change. The security forces so far have sided strongly with the regime so the chances for such change appear to be slim.

Art Pitz

Written By Dr. Art Pitz on August 25th, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

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