Iraq is now home to several messianic Shia cults, all awaiting the return of the twelfth Shia imam, or Mahdi. In his name they carry out endless reprisal killings, many using their latest weapon of choice—the electric drillby Nibras Kazimi / March 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
A barber from Moseley
Why would a handsome, fun-loving man from Birmingham, newly possessed of British citizenship, sell his profitable business and return to his native Iraq to die in a hail of bullets? Muhammad Hussein, never known as particularly religious, recently sold his barber shop in Moseley and took his wife and two-year-old son to a settlement near Najaf, where he was probably killed when Iraqi and US forces stormed the compound of the Soldiers of Heaven cult in late January. Muhammad’s charred British passport was found among the wreckage. In the final tally, 263 cult members were killed.
Before leaving, Muhammad told a Rivers of Babylon source over a couple of beers in a Birmingham nightclub: “I am going off to do humanitarian work in Iraq,” where “the Mahdi is about to emerge.” Many of the dead in the Soldiers of Heaven compound were found chained to each other, and it is possible that Muhammad did not know he was being recruited for battle.
Shia Islam is beholden to the notion of messianic expectation, and its history is rife with false claimants to the role of the Mahdi—the twelfth Shia imam, whose return to earth will bring the age of justice. This latest fit seems to be connected to a prophecy; it is said that just before the advent of the Mahdi, an army will sweep over Jebel Sinam, on the Kuwait-Iraq border, and the people will witness “mountains of fire and a mountain of food.” The US ground invasion was launched from Kuwait, and the two mountains have been explained as America’s military might and its economy.
When the Soldiers of Heaven were attacked there was confusion over their identity, for several Shia messianic movements now operate in Iraq. One, the Musta’ajiloon (or “Hasteners”) advocates theft and abduction to hasten the advent of the Mahdi. The Soldiers of Heaven were allegedly plotting to take over the city of Najaf—the Shia Vatican—and execute top clerics, beginning with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, thus fulfilling another prophecy, whereby the Mahdi massacres 70 Shia clerics who rejected him.
In mainstream Shiism, the Mahdi came into this world by natural birth just like the other Shia imams. With so much evil in the world, he went into periods of hiding, or occultation, the last of which has lasted 11 centuries. The Mahdi was last seen in 939AD going down a well…