Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lessons from the Philosophy of Awaitance

The issue of the Awaited Imam, Mahdi or the Messiah has been a source of inspiration and motivation for centuries among the followers of Divine religions. For Muslims and Shias, the philosophy of 'awaiting' for the appearance of the Savior is an integral aspect of belief.  To await for the Imam prayers are recommended but in addition, this philosophy is based on behavior and actions as well. Awaiting for the Imam is a form of protest against the existing circumstances in every era. In fact it implies an effort to overcome the challenges and obstacles in the way of justice and peace. These challenges begin with the self and the ego and lead to the society. The awaiting believer strives to, learn from mistakes and wrong doings and improve circumstances; being a reformist by heart. The person who awaits the Hidden Imam, is not satisfied with the status quo and looks forward to the coming of the Imam who will bring about the major transformations in our world.
This motivating philosophy which is followed by believers in many religions has the potential to bring social mobilization and change in society. This has created a pretext for many who have exploited this matter for their personal or political gain and have used the concept to deceive ordinary people. This matter is documented in Islamic history and for this reason in religious scripture anyone who claims to have seen or met the Imam or those who have determined a time for the appearance are refuted as fraud.
One of the issues that the conservative or Principalist political groups in Iran confiscated during election campaigns and used to attract public opinion was the concept of awaiting for the Hidden Imam. During the ninth presidential elections in 2005, Ahmadinejad's team propagated the idea that the appearance of the Imam is near and that his election will enhance the matter. His team also had employed the matter before during his short term as the Mayor of Tehran. During the ninth Presidency Ahmadinejad repeatedly implicitly indicated that his government was in contact with supernatural powers and the 12th Imam. He evenly openly mentioned that his government has the important task of "global governance" and that the 12 th Imam is governing and running the affairs. He made these comments specifically when serious problems with the Parliament arouse and he was accused of taking illegal measures and neglecting the legislative processes. Reformists spoke out strongly against this campaign of deceit and abuse of a progressive religious philosophy. They clearly indicated that this form of religious propaganda is contrary to all religious and revolutionary principles. Reformists faced serious retaliation and their voices were suppressed particularly after the disputed elections of 2009. They were accused of many matters including , insulting the President.
Now after the internal rifts among the Principalists in power surfaced and after Ahmadinejad openly confronted the verdicts of the Supreme leader, the matter of abusing the concept of Awaitance for political purposes has come into light and Conservative critics of Ahmadinejad are putting forward the same argument that reformists had presented months before.
The novel experience of dealing with a Religious Democracy and an Islamic Republic in modern times is a challenge that needs to analysed and understood with care. There are many lessons from which both Islamic societies and other democracies can learn.