164 years ago, Sayyid ‘Ali-Muhammad Shirazi claimed to be the latest Bab, then claimed to be the Mahdi as well. His embattled crusade eventually evolved into the religion that I was raised in, whose adherents, along with homosexuals, are chief targets of persecution in Modern Iran.
Ahmadinejad has been on the record, saying to various people that he believes that by the end of his term in office the Mahdi will return, and he has to hand over power to the Mahdi.
This should sound familiar to Baha’is. Naji continues:
And only a few days ago, he said in a speech in northeast Iran that, in his belief, the Mahdi is managing the affairs of the State, and he is only doing the legwork—if you like—that he is representing the Mahdi, the Mahdi is in charge; Mahdi is managing the affairs.
It sounds as though Ahmadinejad may see himself as a kind of “Bab” to the Hidden Imam.
According to Naji, Shi’ites in general do not expect the Mahdi to literally return:
Many people in Iran, many Muslims, many Shi’ites around the world take that as an abstract idea, that justice will prevail in this world; so there’s no literal belief that somebody is going to come tomorrow …
But there are those, such as Ahmadinejad, that take the Mahdi prophecy quite literally. That doesn’t mean that everyone that shares that belief are allies. To the contrary, it puts them in direct opposition if they should happen to disagree on the specific details of the Mahdi prophecy. It seems to follow that those in opposition to the dominant representative of the Mahdi—those Shi’ites who claim to have their own Bab, may be in mortal danger. Hopefully, the Baha’is of Iran will be spared the full wrath of Ahmadinejad’s millenarian zeal. They are already suffering through yet another surge of persecution.
How far will it go? It’s hard to know just how sincere Ahmadinejad is in his fanaticism. Sincerity, in this case, could be a very dangerous thing.