Radical Shia Eschatology, Iran’s View of the End Times

Both Christianity and Islam have prophecies about the End Times (the apocalypse). In one Muslim prophecy, Islam conquers Europe. In another Muslim prophecy, Islam conquers the whole world: all Christians and Jews either convert or die. In the radical Shia version of Islamic eschatology, the end times is seen as a time of war, in which Islam succeeds in conquering Christians and Jews. This war is viewed as the path to an eventually domination of the whole world by Islam.

Now you might object to this information about Muslim eschatology, saying that no nation is influenced or led by this type of apocalyptic theology. Not so. There have been repeated reports in the news media that the President of Iran, and some of the Ayatollahs who installed him in that position, are believers in a particular and very radical version of Muslim eschatology.

Jewish author Joel C. Rosenberg writes the following:

“Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are convinced that the End of Days has come. They believe the Shia messiah known as the ‘Twelfth Imam’ or the ‘Mahdi’ will appear soon to establish a global Islamic kingdom known as the caliphate. What’s more, they believe the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to annihilate Israel (which they call the ‘Little Satan’), and the United States (which they call the ‘Great Satan’).” [Joel C. Rosenberg, ‘Why Iran’s Top Leaders Believe That the End of Days Has Come‘, 7 Nov. 2011]

Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini wrote a book citing a Muslim tradition of eschatology in which the Muslims kill all who refuse to convert to Islam:

“On seeing the fulfillment of many of the signs promised in the traditions, a large number of unbelievers will turn towards Islam. Those who persist in their disbelief and wickedness shall be killed by the soldiers of the Mahdi. The only victorious government in the entire world will be that of Islam and people will devotedly endeavor to protect it. Islam will be the religion of everyone, and will enter all the nations of the world.”
“The Mahdi will offer the religion of Islam to the Jews and the Christians; if they accept it they will be spared, otherwise they will be killed.” [Ibrahim Amini, Al-Imam al-Mahdi, chapter 14]

In this particular Muslim view of eschatology, Christians and Jews and other ‘infidels’ must convert to Islam during the end times. Otherwise, it is an Islamic religious obligation to destroy them. In the fundamentalist version of Islam, infidels (non-believers) can be put to death. An infidel is any non-Muslim, including Christians and Jews. But apostates, those who depart from the Muslim religion, are also subject to the death penalty. In the view of some extremists, the moderate believing and practicing Muslims are also apostates, because they criticize the fundamentalist version of Islam.

“Non-believers – atheists under Islam do not have ‘the right to life’. They are to be killed. According to Islamic culture, sins are divided into great sins and little sins. Among the seventeen great sins, unbelief is the greatest, more heinous than murder, theft, adultery and so on…. Those Muslims who disown or even criticize their faith publicly are likely to be accused of apostasy, a crime punishable by death under Islamic law — a penalty enforced by a number of Islamic states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.” [Azam Kamguian, ‘The Fate of Infidels and Apostates under Islam‘, 21 June 2005, International Humanist and Ethical Union]

But would an Islamic nation, such as Iran, be willing to kill millions of non-Muslims merely for refusing to convert to Islam? According to author Joel Rosenberg:

“But one thing that is fairly well agreed upon among devout ‘Twelvers’ is that the Mahdi will end apostasy and purify corruption within Islam. He is expected to conquer the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Syria, ‘Palestine,’ Egypt and North Africa, and eventually the entire world. During this time, he and Jesus will kill between 60 and 80 percent of the world’s population, specifically those who refuse to convert to Islam.” [Rosenberg, ‘Why Iran’s Top Leaders Believe That the End of Days Has Come’, 7 Nov. 2011]

One of the more alarming ideas within this type of radical Islamic eschatology is that a large percentage of the world’s population, even as much as 60 to 80%, will be directly killed in a holy war. With a world population of about 7 billion, this percentage works out to roughly 4.2 to 5.6 billion persons killed. A nuclear bomb or missile attack on a major city would only kill hundreds of thousands, or at most a few million, of the infidels. These radical fundamentalists are actually willing to kill billions of human persons, to kill all who refuse to convert.

Author Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym) was born and raised in Iran. He is a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who spied for the CIA. He is a convert from Islam to Christianity. Reza Kahlili received a copy of this propaganda video from his contacts in Iran. The video is called ‘The Coming is Upon Us.’ The Coming is a term referring to the end times, which in Shia eschatology includes the coming of the 12th Imam (who is said to have been hidden since the 9th century A.D.).

“Several months ago I was informed by my contacts in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that the Basij had started a project that had the approval of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The purpose of the project was to inform Muslims across the globe of the immediate coming of the last Islamic messiah. The Iranian leaders, now more than ever, feel that all the stars are aligned for such event.”
“According to the Hadith in the age of The Coming, a revolution takes place in Iran. This is a key sign indicating that the reappearance is near and serves as the initial preparation in the worldwide movement for The Coming of the last messiah. Based on this belief, the leaders of Iran see it as their duty to prepare the ground for The Coming. One of the most important events to securing the reappearance of the last Messiah, as called for in the Hadith, is the annihilation of Israel and conquering Beitol Moghadas (Jerusalem). They state with conviction that Islam will soon conquer the world and all infidels will be destroyed.

“The pursuit of nuclear bombs by the radicals ruling Iran is directly connected to this belief, as war, chaos, and lawlessness must engulf the world to pave the way for Imam Mahdi’s reappearance.”
“Currently this movie is being distributed throughout the Basij and Revolutionary Guards’ bases. The producers are in the middle of translating it into Arabic with the purpose of mass distribution throughout the Middle East. Their intention is to incite further uprisings with the hopes of motivating Arabs to overthrow U.S. backed governments with the final goal of the annihilation of Israel and Allah’s governance of the world!” [Reza Kahlili, “Iran Leaders: The Coming is Upon Us“, 28 March 2011]

The above political claims, in the above video being distributed by Iran, are couched in apocalyptic terms. The video is making the point that, in order for this Islamic messianic figure to arrive and to establish a worldwide Islamic regime, Iran must take control of the Middle East, undertake a set of intense wars, conquer Israel, defeat the United States, conquer Europe, and so usher in the Muslim Apocalypse.

I conclude that the leaders of Iran have an intense desire, motivated by both fundamentalist Islamic views and a radical version of Shia eschatology, to destroy Israel, attack the United States, and even conquer Europe. They are willing to kill millions of non-Muslims to accomplish this goal. But they cannot defeat Israel as long as the U.S. is willing to support and defend Israel.

How could they defeat the United States, a much larger, wealthier, and more populous nation, which has a much more powerful military? And why is Iran speaking openly, and with such confidence, against Israel and the United States and Europe?

The answer is that the leaders of Iran anticipate that they will soon possess nuclear weapons.

More on this topic in my book:
On World War 3 and 4

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator

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