Among the many who decried the Obama Administration’s catastrophic capitulation to the nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, none spelled out its potential consequences as trenchantly as Israel’s Economy Minister Naftali Bennett: “We awoke this morning to a new reality,” he said Sunday. “A reality in which a bad deal was signed with Iran. A very bad deal. If a nuclear suitcase blows up five years from now in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning.”
If that happens, it will also be because of the Shi’ite belief in the return of the Twelfth Imam. According to Islamic tradition, the dispute between the majority Sunnis and the Shiat Ali (Party of Ali) began upon the death of Muhammad in 632. The Sunnis contended that the prophet of Islam had made no provision for a successor as political, military, and spiritual leader of the Muslim community, and that therefore the Muslims should choose the best man among them as their leader. The nascent Party of Ali, on the contrary, claimed that Muhammad had designated his son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor, and that the successor of Muhammad had to be a member of the prophet’s household.
What’s more, far from being a mere functionary, this successor would bear some of Muhammad’s prophetic spirit, as well as infallibility in deciding disputed questions. Ali was finally chosen as the fourth caliph in 656, but in 661 was assassinated. Hassan, his eldest son (and successor, as far as the Shi’ites are concerned), was murdered in 670 on the orders of the Sunni caliph Muawiya. Then the Sunni/Shi’ite split became definitive and permanent when Ali’s younger son, Husayn, was killed in the Battle of Karbala in 680.
The Shi’ites were, thus, founded in loss and defeat, and these became the ongoing distinguishing features of Shi’ite history and piety. After the beheading of Husayn, the Shi’ites continued a succession of Imams, members of Muhammad’s household and his prophetic heirs. Each one in turn, over two centuries, was poisoned on orders of the Sunni caliph. According to the traditions of Twelver Shi’ism, the official religion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the twelfth of these Imams, a boy of five years old, disappeared under mysterious and disputed circumstances in the year 874 – but remained alive. After his disappearance, he communicated to the world through four agents, the last of whom died in 941. At that point the Twelfth Imam went silent, entering the period of “Great Occultation.”
In his last communiqué to the world, via one of these messengers in 941, this mysterious figure consoled his followers with prophecies regarding his eventual reappearance. The circumstances of that reappearance could, in the hands of Iran’s mad mullahs, visit upon the world calamities of a scale never before seen. And Israel and America will bear the brunt.
“Hearts,” warned Mohammad al-Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam, in his last message, “will become inaccessible to compassion. The earth will be filled with tyranny and violence.” He was speaking of the time of his reappearance, explaining that he would only come back to the world when the evil that Muslims were suffering was at its absolute apex. In this he echoed a Shi’ite tradition of the words of the prophet of Islam himself, Muhammad, who prophesied that the Twelfth Imam would be “the Resurrector” and explained: “He will fill the world with peace and justice as today it is filled with violence and tyranny.”
That violence and tyranny is not incidental to the theology of the Twelfth Imam, which has revenge as its core and essence. The Shi’ites began to teach that the Twelfth Imam would return at a time when the Muslims were oppressed as never before, and suffering worse than ever. The Imam, in the company of Jesus (re-imagined, as in Sunni Islam, as a Muslim prophet), would finally end the horrific persecution of the true believers, taking up arms against their enemies and conquering and Islamizing the world.
This eschatological revenge fantasy would be of no concern to anyone but pious Shi’ites and religious anthropologists were it not for the element of Shi’ite tradition that requires that the earth be “filled with tyranny and violence” before the Twelfth Imam can return.
There is no requirement that non-Muslims must be responsible for that violence; Shi’ites filled with religious fervor, like the Ayatollah Khamenei and the mullahs behind him, could hasten the Twelfth Imam’s return and the consummation of all things by, say, launching a nuclear strike against Tel Aviv or some other Infidel outpost, knowing that by doing so they would almost certainly be provoking a retaliatory strike that would subject the Muslims in Iran to more defeat and repression than even the Shi’ites had previously suffered. That would be enough to bring the Twelfth Imam out of the well where he is said to be hiding.
But that is a matter of religious hope and speculation; the devastation that would supposedly lead to his reappearance, however, would be all too real. The two powers that the Iranian mullahs have long designated as the “Great Satan” and the “Little Satan” – America and Israel – would be the only targets of an Iranian attempt to hasten the Twelfth Imam’s coming.
A nuclear strike from Tehran into Israel could kill, estimates say, upwards of twenty million people, completely destroying the Jewish State.
Barack Obama, by acceding to the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions, has given a tremendous impetus to these revenge fantasies, probably not realizing or caring that Iran’s mullahs take the prophesies of the Twelfth Imam very seriously indeed – seriously enough for them to bet the entire world upon them. Obama has just made the odds appear to them to be considerably more favorable than they were just a week ago.
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