Waiting for Islam's Messiah

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QOM, Iran -- Iran's president believes Allah has chosen him to prepare the world for the coming of an Islamic 'savior' called the Mahdi.

But before the Mahdi's return, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believes there must be global chaos - even if he has to create it himself.

Whether it's his belief that Israel should be wiped off the map, denials of the Holocaust, obsession with going nuclear, or support for radical Islamic terrorist groups, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man on a divine mission.

To understand him, and that mission, you have travel to the small dusty village of Jamkaran tucked in a corner of Iran's holy city of Qom.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, CBN News made that journey heading south out of Iran's capital, Tehran. Some 95 miles, and a couple of wrong turns later, we arrived at the Jamkaran mosque on the outskirts of Qom.

Behind the Jamkaran mosque there is a well. According to many Shiite Muslims, out of this well will emerge one day their version of an Islamic 'savior.'

They call him the Mahdi or the 12th Imam.

Ron Cantrell has written a book about the Mahdi. He explained, "The Mahdi is a personage that is expected to come on the scene, by Islam, as a messiah figure. He is slotted to come in the end of time, according to their writings, very much like how we think of the return of Jesus."

Shiite Muslims believe the Mahdi, a descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, vanished in the middle of the 9th century.

Cantrell told us, "The 12th Imam disappeared, around the age of 9, with a promise that he would return and he would bring Islam to its total fruition as the world's last standing religion."

Enter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since becoming the president of Iran in August 2005, Ahmadinejad has emerged as the Mahdi's most influential follower.

Cantrell said, "[Ahmadinejad] has stated that his mandate is to pave the way for the coming of this Islamic 'messiah'."

In almost all his speeches, Ahmadinejad begs Allah to hasten the return of the Mahdi. At a recent military parade attended by CBN News in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said, "Oh, Allah, please facilitate Imam Mahdi's early return and make us one of his supporters."

He said something similar last September just before ending a speech at the United Nations in New York.

Ahmadinejad said, "Oh mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository [a reference to the Mahdi], the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace."

A few days later, back home in Iran, Ahmadinejad told a group of religious leaders that during his UN speech, he felt a 'bright light' around him.

His reactions were captured on video and later posted on a conservative Iranian website.

Ahmadinejad said, "I felt it myself. I felt that the atmosphere suddenly changed, and for those 27 or 28 minutes, all the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they didn't move an eyelid, I'm not exaggerating. They were looking as if a hand was holding them there, and had just opened their eyes to the message of the Islamic Republic."

Ahmadinejad is reportedly tied to a radical Islamic society in Iran that believes man can hasten the appearance of the Mahdi by creating chaos in the world.

Cantrell explained, "Ahmadinejad has stated that this chaos must take place before the Mahdi can come on the scene."

Some wonder if Ahmadinejad believes these are 'the end times,' and whether his calls for the destruction of Israel and nuclear pursuits are ways to accelerate the divine timetable.

Cantrell further explained, "With him it is a win-win situation. If we attack him, he wins because chaos happens. If we don't attack him, he gets to create the chaos which he has said he is willing to do and he will do."

In Shiite Muslim teaching, the Mahdi's second coming will be marked by apocalyptic times. Wars, famines and floods will ravage the earth and then comes judgment day and a battle between good and evil.

As the sun dips behind the mountains that surround Jamkaran, the faithful, many of whom voted for Ahmadinejad, arrive by the thousands from across Iran to pray for the Mahdi's return.

Ezatallah Alimoradi, a follower of the Mahdi, said, "I feel so refreshed in my spirit when I come here to Jamkaran."

Akram Alsadat Emmami, Follower of Mahdi, said, "This day belongs to the Mahdi and I've come to share my heart with him."

The night begins with a visit to the sacred well. CBN News is given a rare opportunity to visit with people praying there. The opening of the well is covered by a green-like metal box to prevent people from jumping in.

Most of the time here is spent praying and kissing the metal box. Others scribble prayer requests to the Mahdi on pieces of paper that are then dropped into the well.

A man asked the Mahdi to forgive his sins.

A man, Follower of Mahdi said, "If you ask in the right way, your prayers will be answered."

Another person seeks healing for family members.

Emmami explained, "I don't come here just to pray for myself. I also ask the Mahdi to take care of my family and their needs."

Many, like this young boy with a flashlight, believe the Mahdi is actually hiding at the bottom of the well reading those prayer requests.

Abbas Rezaie, Follower of Mahdi, told us, "I was looking into the well with my flashlight hoping to see the Mahdi. But not to tonight."

Shia tradition teaches that if you come to Jamkaran 40 weeks in a row, you will "see" the Mahdi.

A Woman who did not give her name said, "I have not had the privilege to see him yet, but I've had many dreams about him. In one of my dreams I saw a big bright light in the sky and this figure standing over me."

The next few hours are spent praying inside the Jamkaran mosque.

I stood at the entrance to the Jamkaran mosque; and I've been told that as a non-Muslim I am not allowed to go inside the mosque. The truth is every day, tens of thousands of men and women come through this mosque to say their prayers but also to pray that one day soon the Mahdi would return."

Nedal said, "And because we believe that he is going to come back soon we can believe in heaven and hell and we can believe in the life after death."

Ahmadinejad's government reportedly gave $20 million to help renovate the Jamkaran mosque. There are rumors that he's planning to build a railway line connecting Tehran and Jamkaran, to ferry the faithful.

And apparently Ahmadinejad has also drawn up the plans for the road the Mahdi will take when he returns.

Cantrell said, "...that will actually serve as the red carpet rolled out in Iran for the Mahdi to appear."

And if all this wasn't mystical enough, there's also the belief that when the Mahdi comes back, he will be accompanied by Jesus Christ.

Cantrell further explained, "The Mahdi will take Jesus to Mecca, they will circum-ambulate the Kabah together. The Mahdi will teach Jesus to pray; at which time Jesus will then replace the Gospel with the Koran, and then all of us Christians, wherever you are on the face of the earth, will convert to Islam because Islam will be deemed the one lasting pure religion."

As the West drifts closer to a potential showdown over Iran's nuclear program, followers of the Mahdi are getting ready for judgment day.

And many of them are convinced that President Ahmadinjead will fulfill his divine mission to prepare the world for the coming of the Islamic 'savior.'

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George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Reporter

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