Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Mesbah Yazdi: Mahdaviat: IRI’s Hope or Despair 

Sam Ghandchi

مهدویت-امید یا ناامیدی جمهوری اسلامی

P.S. January 2, 2021: New postscript added to the Persian version. SG




How can one have millenarianists in power and still work for millenarianism, this is the dilemma that Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi has solved in Iran.  In the recent convention on Mahdaviat Doctrine, he said the return of Mahdi does not mean that everything should become evil, rather one should work to make the society more and more Islamic to reach Mehdi’s rule [See the news report attached to the Persian text of this article].


All this may sound contradictory to the beliefs of many millenarianist groups including the Shi’a ones, when they are not in power, and call for the Golden Age upon the destruction of the existing state.  Of course perhaps Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi like some of his counterparts among Christian millenarianist can say between Mehdi’s reign and the final end of the world, there will be a brief period to allow a final battle with  evil to be followed by the last judgment.


I am sure we will hear more about such theological dilemmas I noted as well, and Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi’s preliminary solution of reconciling the presence in the highest ranks of power in Iran and at the same time calling for millenarianism will not be the last theological issue he will need to solve.  But that is not the topic of my article here. 


Mr. Mesbah has noted in the same convention that there are millenarianists believing in Mehdi among the Sunnis too and this is not as far as he has opened the circle to include all Muslims, rather he even called on millenarianists of other religions by de-emphasizing Islam and emphasizing Mahdaviat. He says "if we eliminate some of the characteristic that we believe in, the concept of Mahdaviat will expand and will no longer be limited to the 12 Imami Shiism but can be expanded and can promote its meaning in all religions."


What is very interesting in Mr. Mesbah’s address to the Mahdaviat convention is his note about *globalization* and how this relates to Mahdaviat.   This definitely separates Mesbah from what has been the Medieval focus of many Ayatollahs in the high echelons of IRI including Jannati, etc. 


Some wonder if Mesbah’s focus on Mahdaviat at the expense of de-emphasizing the *Islamic* element is similar to Babi movement at the end of Qajar dynasty in Iran, which gave rise to the Baha’i Religion.  The reality is that this movement is *not* much of an opposition movement the way it was with Babi’s or even the Forghan in the first years of the 1979 Revolution. This is a millenarianism of those who are already partially ruling Iran, the same way the Stalin and Hitler’s millenarianism subdued their rivals in Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.  So its internationalism and de-emphasizing its national or Islamic elements is to make it acceptable the way Comintern tried to be accepted internationally.  So this is why it tries to appeal to globalization supporters in its own twisted way, pseudo-Modern way. 


But, what separates Utopia of all millenarianists from real scientific analysis of the future is that they are looking to find the past in the future, whether they call it by religious or non-religious expressions.   The story of millenarianism and despotic systems based on it is as old as the human civilization and neither started with Islam  and Shi’a nor will it end with it. 


What is interesting about the new rise of millenarianism in Islamic Republic is that this regime did not take this route, which could be a possible route at the beginning, and resorted to some pragmatist approach very soon after the success of Revolution, because of the war with Iraq, and continued on the pragmatic path long after the war because of  fear of the external threat. 


Khatami’s reducing the external threat for IRI by talking reform, actually helped the millenarianists to take heart to take reign though *belatedly* in the last presidential election, and he is still effective in reducing the foreign threat for the regime.  This belatedness is best expressed by Mesbah when he calls the 16 years of the past pragmatist approach that needs to be undone in 16 more years into the future, and of course if he did not want to avoid offending Ayatollah Khamenei, I am sure he would use a different figure than 16 to reach the start of Iran-Iraq War.  So IRI is doing what other similar millenarianists regimes like the Soviet Union, did at the beginning, and not at the end!  


But doing it at the end shows the hypocrisy of such Messiah's so quickly that it will be very short-lived.  So even if the terms like IslamoFascism or IslamoCommunism can be applied to the IRI regime in its final years, this should be done with an understanding that such a millenarianists regime cannot last long in the period of fall of the regime, regardless of how much its advocates want to show themselves like the powerful generals of a new revolutionary regime backed by popular support, which they no longer command.


Although the Iran’s millenarianists started their new offensive in Iran with a bang when pushing Ahmadinejad to the forefront as president, they are now working very *quietly* to take over various institutions of power in Iran including the Assembly of Experts and not having enough cadres, they are recruiting from the rank and file of 2nd Khordad Islamist Reformists, while the remaining leaders of the same 2nd Khordad are more going to bed with the *pragmatist* Rafsanjani.


The end of Islamic Republic of Iran has started for some time [].  Resorting to millenarianism in the final episode is not a sign of hope, rather it is a sign of despair for the leaders of Islamic Republic in the pendulum of pragmatism and fundamentalism.  The solution for Iran’s future is not in any version of Islamism, rather it is in ending its rule in Iran and starting a futuristic secular democracy which can help Iran to blossom in this age of globalization. 


Mahdaviat is not a solution on par with globalization, rather it is the a retrogression to the past for those who cannot see that pseudo-promises of social justice with phraseology of  1400 years ago cannot solve the problems of humanity in this age.  Even the return to the 19th Centruy nationalist and leftist solutions of the last two centuries are calls to repeat the same solutions that were not even suitable for the 20th Century and have long been outmoded.  The answer for the yearning for social justice in the 21st Century cannot be found in the old paradigms of the past [] and can only be found thru search for new solutions commensurable with the new global economy [].


It is understandable that one wishes to take solace in easily available solutions of the past as the panacea of the pains of today but unfortunately the comfort will be short-lived and the consolation will not make a difference in the real life which will experience defeat of such solutions, as I wrote about reality of Ahmadinejad’s  promises in the first days of his government [].


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

November 10, 2006

















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