The Hidden Imam

In his speech before the United Nations last fall, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prayed that Allah (God) might usher in the era of the “Hidden Imam.” It was a curious remark that at the time I filed away and resolved to research later. Well, it’s later. The “end times” to be precise, for the Hidden Imam is an eschatological figure in Islam that will bring about a new world order:

“The Hidden Imam … will eventually leave his Greater Occultation and appear (zuhur) to the world of humanity. This return is the most significant event in the future for the Shi’ite faithful and has thunderous eschatological consequences. This return will occur shortly before the Final Judgement [sic] and the end of history. Imam Mahdi will return at the head of the forces of righteousness and do battle with the forces of evil in one, final, apocalyptic battle.” (There’s more where that came from….)

Sound familiar? It helps to explain why President Ahmadinejad sounds about as nutty as Christian haters like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Why not build nukes, flaunt your anti-Semitism, and call the Bush Administration’s bluff if you’re expecting the end of the world? The scary part is that U.S. President Bush shares this apocalyptic nightmare himself. Those close to him have reported that he sees himself as a war president acting with the explicit approval of God. In his book Bush at War Bob Woodward quotes Bush as saying, “We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great nation.” Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas reported that Bush told him this:

“God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam Hussein, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”

I think what the world needs right about now are wise leaders who rely on reason and the principles of humanism. We can do without such make-believe consultations with an imaginary God that promises wars and final judgments on those of different or no faith.