But, was the Mahdi consulted?

414472593_24dd8a5572 "On Friday, Iraqi and U.S. officials viewed the extension of the cease-fire as emblematic of Sadr’s political evolution. With the passage of a law last week that calls for provincial elections, they said, Sadr believes his movement could win against Iraq’s current Shiite rulers, widely viewed by Iraqis as corrupt and inefficient. Last year, Sadr’s loyalists withdrew from the government to distance themselves from it.

"They can compete either through the ballot box or through militias," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Sadrists think they could make significant advances at the ballot box as part of a backlash at the perceived failures of the government. . . . They think they made a mistake in boycotting elections in 2005."

Even some Sunni politicians, who were suspicious of Sadr’s motives, appear to be embracing his efforts to steer his movement away from violence. Alaa Maaki, a Sunni legislator with the Iraqi Islamic Party, said the Sadrists are engaging more politically and now meet regularly with representatives of his party."  Washpost


Interesting fellow Sadr.  He is widely thought to be devoid of the kind of scholarly talent that would allow him to become a real Shia Alim, but his "street smarts" are hard to dispute.  He is a kind of Juan Peron or Emiliano Zapata figure to the Shia poor of Iraq.  They think of themselves as an oppressed underclass, the descamisados in the conceit I just made of Latin Robinhoodery.  He fits that nicely for them.  His father was a well thought of Ayatollah, and Muqtada is riding that reputation.  His father got on well with Sunnis.  He gave Sunni (and Shia) tribal sheikhs a lot of credit for wisdom in their administration of tribal law (‘urf, ‘aada and taqlid).  They remember.

Muqtada has some interesting quirks.  He consults often with the Mahdi himself.  No.  I am not joking.  That would be disrespectful.  His "army" (movement) is the Mahdi’s Army.  The Shia Mahdi waits in the wings for an appropriate time to come forth and accept the command of that army.  The Shia Mahdi is the 12th Shia Imam who has been "hidden" (by his own choice) for a long, long time.  At some point he is going (according to 12er belief) to appear with Jesus to lead the struggle against vice, sin and unbelief.  When that fight is won, then the last days will be upon us and Judgment Day will arrive for all including those who have been suffering the torments of the grave. 

There is a body of correspondence between and among units of the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr’s office concerning Muqtada’s consultations with the Mahdi on matters of policy.  There are frequent references to decisions taken by Muqtada on the basis of guidance given him by "the boss."  One might think that what is meant is "inspiration" by the spirit of the Mahdi, but that does not seem to be the case.  the language implies real meetings in the flesh at some secret location.

A good example involved Hashish.  Some Mahdist commanders asked if it were permissible for their men to use Hashish when fatigued, depressed, etc, from the strains of duty.  Muqtada’s office replied that after consultation with the Mahdi… 

Interesting fellow,  pl


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25 Responses to But, was the Mahdi consulted?

  1. JohnH says:

    The Shia poor “think of themselves as an oppressed underclass,” which fits in perfectly with Shia religion. Khomeini reinterpreted oppression in terms of daily life under the Shah, moving it away from its traditional historical and spiritual frame. The combination of religion with a sense of oppression is a powerful, combustible mix, which is why Washington and its tyrants must fear Shia awakening–they might demand spoils from the oil wealth for the poor.
    Which brings the next question: did Sadr get something BIG in return for standing down for another six months?

  2. Charles I says:

    Folks, totally off topic but for what its worth, today the Institute For Science and International Security (ISIS) has posted a handy collation of the candidates’ writings, statements and debate answers on U.S-Iran relations over time, found here, I’ve yet to master the hotlink thingy in my posts:

  3. Kevin says:

    Hence the word “Assassin” (hashishins)

  4. Charles I says:

    As alluded to in the article and commented on at Juan Cole today, Muqtada benefits from having various Sunni/Al Qaeda/insurgent elements opposing him or competing for local power suppressed by the USM. As well he is said to consolidate his control over his forces by delineation between his obedient followers and a plethora of less discilplined or outright criminal “Mahdis”, with the latter left to be reduced or eliminated, with a degree of legitimacy accruing to Muqtada ahead of any return to Parliament.
    Given the daily body count recited at Juan cole every day, and the mortar count in the Green Zone, I think its a stretch for the Post to say that Muqtada’s actions are a reflection of decreasing violence attributable to the surge rather than tactical maneuvers of self-interested parties waiting out the clock on the presidential election. Particularly if Muqtada is literally or figuratively taking direction from the “Mahdi”, who’s return, after all, presages more violence, not less.

  5. Mark K Logan says:

    I wonder if the Mahdi thinks
    the next six months will be critical…
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  6. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    If I understood Dr. Helms’ thesis, the power of an authentic “collective memory” runs much deeper into the psyche and is far stronger than that of hashish (as well as the memory that guides Woodstock nation?).
    Current events around the world appear to have had the effect of constellating the “collective memory” of more and more people. In fact, the power of the “collective memory” increasingly appears to act as a proximate causation for changes taking place within the global village.
    Not sure what it portends but I cannot help but believe that it suggests major changes on the way. Here’s one way to look at it: a group’s collective memory, I would speculate, is the best way to survive an unprecedented societal crisis. Has something clicked on the survival mechanism/instinct and it, in turn, is now triggering the “collective memory” of different groups of people around the world? I don’t know. But to put in street language: when things get tough, you better have your act together. An oncoming seismic shift forces one to look within.
    In any event, I also cannot help but wonder if the actions of Muqtada al-Sadr are answering some of the questions raised in Dr. Helms’ paper.

  7. Homer says:

    [Moqtada al-Sadr’s] father was a well thought of Ayatollah, and Muqtada is riding that reputation. His father got on well with Sunnis. He gave Sunni (and Shia) tribal sheikhs a lot of credit for wisdom in their administration of tribal law (‘urf, ‘aada and taqlid). They remember.
    Moqtada al-Sadr, Hakim’s main rival, comes from Iraq’s other prominent Shiite religious family.
    Saddam’s Baath regime murdered his father and two brothers in 1999.
    Earlier, in April 1980, the regime had arrested Moqtada’s father-in-law and the father-in-law’s sister—the Grand Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr and Bint al-Huda.
    While the ayatollah watched, the Baath security men raped and killed his sister.
    They then set fire to the ayatollah’s beard before driving nails into his head.
    De-Baathification is an intensely personal issue for Iraq’s two most powerful Shiite political leaders, as it is to hundreds of thousands of their followers who suffered similar atrocities.
    (From: Galbraith, Peter W. 2007. “Iraq: The Way to Go”. NYRB 54:13)

  8. At some point he is going (according to 12er belief) to appear with Jesus to lead the struggle against vice, sin and unbelief.
    I find this fascinating. Do our Fundies understand this when they are calling Islam an evil religion?

  9. Charles Cameron says:

    Joel Richardson of the Joel’s Trumpet blog, and author of *Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah* certainly does:

  10. Charles Cameron says:

    Col. Lang:
    >> He consults often with the Mahdi himself. << I'd been under the impression that all such contacts prior to the Mahdi's emergence from occultation would take place in a visionary realm, termed by Corbin the "'alam al-Mithal" -- which he describes thus: QUOTE: The first point is that the Imam lives in a mysterious place that is by no means among those that empirical geography can verify; it cannot be situated on our maps. :UNQUOTE I guess the implication of physical contacts would be that he is no longer in occultation, though perhaps still in hiding? Corbin also notes, interestingly enough: QUOTE: The third point is that in his last letter to his last visible representative, the Imam warned against the imposture of people who would pretend to quote him, to have seen him, in order to lay claim to a public or political role in his name. UNQUOTE FWIW, Jamestown sent out a piece documenting increasing Mahdist activity in Iraq only a day or two ago, but portrayed al-Sadr as not expecting the imminent coming of the Twelfth Imam. In any case, I would very much appreciate any further details you can supply about these communications between the Imam Mahdi and Moqtada, since their nature bears directly on the sense of timing (urgent or patient) informing his decision making and his followers' sentiments -- besides being a fascinating topic in its own right.

  11. judasnoose says:

    The U.S. has already seen some of its native-born citizens, such as Johnny Walker Lindh, join Muslim fighters against the U.S.
    Imagine how many Americans would be eager to fight their government if they were paid in hashish and ammunition.
    Ironically, the U.S. imprisons a huge fraction of its population for drug abuse.

  12. David W says:

    It is interesting to remember Musa al-Sadr, the Lebanese Shia Imam. From Wikipedia:
    He was widely seen as a moderate, demanding that the Maronite Christians relinquish some of their power, but as pursuing ecumenism and peaceful relations between the groups. He was a vocal opponent of Israel, but also attacked the PLO for endangering Lebanese civilians with their attacks. In 1969 he was appointed as the first head of the Supreme Islamic Shi’ite Council (SISC), an entity meant to give the Shi’ites more say in government. In 1974 he founded the Movement of the Disinherited to press for better economic and social conditions for the Shi’ites. He established a number of schools and medical clinics throughout southern Lebanon, many of which are still in operation today.
    [edit]Civil War
    Al-Sadr attempted to prevent the descent into violence that eventually led to the Lebanese Civil War, but was ineffective. In the war he at first aligned himself with the Lebanese National Movement, and the Movement of the Disinherited developed an armed wing known as Afwaj al-Mouqawma Al-Lubnaniyya, better known as Amal. However, in 1976 he withdrew his support after the Syrian invasion on the side of Maronites.
    Interestingly, it is widely claimed that he was killed by Qadafi and the Libyans in 1978, yet the motive remains unknown, and the Libyans claim he left their country and was bound for Italy. Perhaps he was ‘disappeared’ by some spooks?
    If so, then it wouldn’t be the first time that this type of move has backfired, given that Nasrallah is much more combative!

  13. jamzo says:

    sadr consistently demonstrates that he is a significant force on the political field in iraq
    earlier articles about sadr seemed to resent his power
    increasingly articles seem to acknolwdge him as a force to be considered
    i suspect this reflects the prevailing public viewpoint of the us military command
    i wonder about the idea that sadr has called “cease-fire”
    does that mean his forces were the problem in baghdad and his decision to cease fighting created a vacuum that the US surge filled?
    did he call a cease-fire because he was not acheiving his goals or were his goals largely accomplished?
    what does he gain from the presence of the surge force in baghdad?
    how long can he be content with the surge force in baghdad?
    what happens when his goals are incompatible with the presence of the surge force?

  14. Charles I says:

    I found a bit of on-the-ground in Basra context over at Juan Cole today:
    “The instability in Basra is so bad that a planned drawdown of British troops from 4700 to 2500 by March seems likely to be “postponed. The Guardian Observer writes,
    ‘In an unusually frank analysis, Colonel Richard Iron, military mentor to the Iraqi commander General Mohan al-Furayji, said ‘There’s an uneasy peace between the Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] on the one hand and the militias on the other. There is a sense in the ISF that confrontation is inevitable. They are training and preparing for the battle ahead. General Mohan says that the US won the battle for Baghdad, the US is going win the battle for Mosul, but Iraqis will have to win the battle for Basra.’ ‘
    Gen. Mohan wants to have the back-up of British helicopter gunships and armor when the big anti-militia campaign is launched.
    The article also says that “there is no one in charge” in Basra and that the militias actually exclude the army from some parts of the city!
    ‘ Asked who runs the city now, Iron, who has been in Basra since December, said: ‘There’s no one in charge. The unwritten rules of the game are there are areas where the army can and can’t go and areas where JAM [Jaysh al-Mahdi or the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr] can and can’t take weapons.’ ‘
    The problem for Iraq is that whereas Baghdad or even Mosul can be subjected to a vigorous military campaign without that causing the country to collapse, I am not sanguine that Basra can survive a frontal assault and still remain Iraq’s import-export entrepot. And, if Basra is depopulated or sent into a spiral of violence similar to the Sunni Arab areas of the north, it will not hold Iraq harmless”.
    So, I reformulate my earlier comment. The “quieter” things appear to become to the occupying occidentals(Col. Iron excepted)and our press, the noisier they are likely to be when the Shiite(s) hit the fan.
    Yet more stolen analysis of the success in Baghdad, here’s Nir Rosen’s “The Myth of the Surge” introduced at Helena Cobban’s Just World News :

    So, the during the surge, the shit remains, there being no hills to run down, and a “quasi-feudal devolution of authority to armed enclaves” occurs. The surge is really just the shakeout before the ultimate “devolution” of authority. I guess what I’m interested in watching for now is whether these bubbles burst before the election, with or without other wild cards a la Nader for POTUS yet again.
    Ralph Nader is 73 years old.

  15. JT Davis says:

    Ralph Nader is 73 years old.
    74 on the 2/27/08. But he looks healthy enouch and. much more spry than McCain.

  16. My view and Charles I are similar.
    Sadr has not changed his heart and embraced democratic principles. He got his ass kicked by us in Najaf a few years back and realized that he cannot get what he wants as long as we are there. It is purely the rational thing to do: hang on to what’s left of your forces until we Americans leave. The balancing act for him, though, is that his potential enemies are being trained and equipped while he waits. So he must play the democracy game to make sure he accumulates some power before the shite hits the fan when we skidaddle.
    It doesn’t matter whether or not the Mahdi is “telling” Sadr to act this way. Maybe Sadr’s a mild schizophrenic. Substance abuse is often part of schizophrenia.

  17. fnord says:

    Hmm, I am remembering another leader in this conflict who often talks to God in order to confirm his policy discussions…whatshisname…George?
    The ishmaili “assassins” are an interesting tale, certain echos of Al Quaeda for sure. Two bases, one in the north of Iran and one in Syria, same organizational model with cells of locals and wandering da`is conveying orders, inner and outer mystical doctrines, suicide-actions and both of them fighting the Califate and the crusaders at the same time.

  18. Religions evolve despite attempts of their adherents to prevent that from occurring. A good argument can be made for the principal that ISLAM is not and almost never has been a “Unified” religion. What do we know of the evolution of the theology of varous sects of Islam in the last century and which of these is most likely to predominate over the next century and why? Is it all just about perks and power at this point? Just my guess but piety and acetism has always attracted adherents quite effectively. This seems to leave out the leadership of the petro-states religious leaders. Could modern Islam or any of its sects be “Seized” by a leader from out of the beyond?

  19. Kevin says:

    –“The ishmaili “assassins” are an interesting tale, certain echos of Al Quaeda for sure.”
    …look up the Rosheniah of Afghanistan 😉

  20. Kevin says:

    –“Hmm, I am remembering another leader in this conflict who often talks to God in order to confirm his policy discussions…whatshisname…George?”
    Are they both in discussion with a god of flesh and blood, an “emperor” resembling a fish and living inside a dome with an obelisk not too far away?

  21. srv says:

    “He consults often with the Mahdi himself.”
    If Dick can convince GW he’s God by playing with the speaker phone, I wonder what the national technical means could do with a simulation of the 12 Imam.

  22. fnord says:

    Seriously, a study of the Ishmaili movement until they were wiped out by the mongols is not a bad analogue to what is happening these days. Very many contact points. In this earned company, i guess many of you are familiar with Amin Maalouf “The Crusades through Arab eyes”. There is also a Syrian study, wich I had many years ago, but it got lost.
    (Taken by the police, actually, during a houseoccupation. We do these things over here in Norway, without violence. That actually makes us terrorists in the widest sense of the legal definition, because we “cause fear of change in the ruling democratic order”, or something like that. Vegan animal activists are terrorists now, according to the law. )

  23. fnord says:

    LOL, the Roshenians. You know the legend of Agartha? Hitler was a fan of that one. (Whats the other one, Djamballah?) But the Ish`maili assassin-squads were quite effective, and a force to be seriously reckoned with for a long time, in real life, not legend. They had chains of castles through North Syria, and downwards, and protected Aleppo and Damaskus. On and off, they even dealt with the crusaders, of course. Saladin made peace with Sinan, and together they kicked the shit out of the drunk stupid european nobles.

  24. fnord says:

    If you allow a small continuation of that, sir: In the Oslo (Norway) 1. may march, both Hezbollah, PLO, Hamas and PKK are represented. I have greeted people from those wings for 15 years. The PKK people have all these cool ring-dances, and the Hezbollah people are a little bit crazy, until you calm them down and have children around. (some nasty anti-semitism among some of them, without being nazi. wich must be discussed, from a socialist pov.) But terrorists? WTF?
    The definition of the term terrorist has become almost meaningless because of the current administrations misuse of it. An insurgent is not automatically a terrorist. (sorry for preaching outwards, but I think its a point worth printing, sir)

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