The Next Front: Iran
An informative article on the disturbing beliefs of Iran’s president.
The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad’s piety is his devotion to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president’s belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.
One of the first acts of Mr Ahmadinejad’s government was to donate about 10 million to the Jamkaran mosque, a popular pilgrimage site where the pious come to drop messages to the Hidden Imam into a holy well.
All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days. A common rumour – denied by the government but widely believed – is that Mr Ahmadinejad and his cabinet have signed a "contract" pledging themselves to work for the return of the Mahdi and sent it to Jamkaran.
Iran’s dominant "Twelver" sect believes this will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.
He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.