Two recent items highlight the role Ahmadinejad's beliefs plays in his understanding of current events. First, a December 7 report from Al Arabiya quotes Ahmadinejad stating that America is doing everything possible to prevent the coming of the Mahdi. "We have documented proof that they [the U.S.] believe that a descendant of the prophet of Islam will raise in these parts and he will dry the roots of all injustice in the world....They have devised all these plans to prevent the coming of the Hidden Imam because they know that the Iranian nation is the one that will prepare the grounds for his coming and will be the supporters of his rule."
Second, Debkafile reported today on a similar reference in a speech Amhadinejad delivered Sunday when he announced crippling new economic measures, including massive increases in the price of bread, cooking oil, and gasoline. "In addressing the nation Sunday, Ahmadinejad declared that...Iran's oil and gas resources belong to the Invisible Imam (Messiah), whose coming is imminent, and must not be squandered."
The key question now is: So what? Are his words nothing more than those of a skilled politician appealing to the religious beliefs of the masses to advance his political agenda? Or do his constant references to the Mahdi give us insight into the beliefs that drive Ahmadinejad himself? I believe the latter is true. (See my earlier post from September 23--"Ahmadinejad's UN Speech" in which I followed this theme through his past six speeches at the UN.) Ahmadinejad's obsession with the coming of the Mahdi--and the role he and Iran might play in that end-time event, has remained remarkably consistent over the years, though most secular media seem to be tone deaf to what he is saying. Here's how I ended that previous post.
The key unknown variable is Ahmadinejad’s personal beliefs on this issue. From his speeches it is clear he believes in the return of the Mahdi. It is also clear that he expects it to be “realized in the near future.” More troubling is his call to the nations to “play a part in the fulfillment” of this event. While that could be nothing more than a call to embrace Islam—and in that way hasten the approach of the end—he keeps making the statement in the context of his hope for the soon coming of the Mahdi. Is it possible he sees himself as being placed by God in his current position for this very reason?
Most secular reporters downplay this possibility. They can’t imagine someone longing to start a worldwide conflagration—possibly one involving nuclear weapons. But they don’t understand the internal logic of such a decision. An Islamic suicide bomber can willingly take his or her own life because of the firm belief that such an action results in immediate entry to Paradise. If Ahmadinejad believes such a conflagration is part of God’s end-time program—and if he believes God has raised him up “for such a time as this”—he could very well be willing to bring about his own destruction if that is what it takes for the Mahdi to return. Perhaps this is what he had in mind in his 2006 address when he asked Allah to “Include us among his followers and martyrs.”
If the West underestimates Ahmadinejad’s devotion—or his determination—it could be to our harm.
If anything, Ahmadinejad's most recent statements reinforce what I suspected before. He does see himself having been raised up by God to play a pivotal role in end-time events. And it's just possible he might be right. But if he is, he will definitely be surprised by how everything will end!