Ahmad Isma’il is among contemporary deviant sectarian movements, there cruitment and extent of which has distinguished it from other currents; thus, it cannot be easily ignored.
Exclusively for Ijtihad Network: Ahmad Isma’il is a person claiming for Shi’a Mahdism. He has claimed to be the Promised and the representative of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and has made alterations and deviations to religious rules and Shi’a ideological principles. His invitation is not limited to laypeople, and has attracted some clergies too. This invitation has continued so much that it is now several years that his followers have set up a camp (Mowkib) in path of the great Arba’een march as well. Regarding Ahmad Isma’il’s invitation and the methods of encountering him, we interviewed Mr. Mohammad Shahbazian. He is a graduate of level 4 of the seminary and has written several books in Mahdism and the criticism of Ahmad Isma’il including Rah-e Afsaneh, Khab-e parishan, Rahnanama-ye kur, Wasiyyat dar Imamat and Me’yarha-ye shenasa’i-ye Mahdi-ye Mo‘ud va tamayoz-e an az modda’iyan-e dorughin. His great conversation with Ijtihad network is presented to you on the anniversary of the beginning of the Imamate of Imam al-Mahdi (a).
Shahbazian: Ahmad Isma’il is among contemporary deviant sectarian movements, there cruitment and extent of which has distinguished it from other currents; thus, it cannot be easily ignored. But, the point which should be noticed is that we should not magnify it and should not label and title it. Maybe using “phenomenon” would not be a good and appropriate title for this movement, because the word “phenomenon” has its own meaning and connotation; rather, perhaps “the deviant current” and “faction” would be better titles.
Like other sects made during the Shi’a history, we can see the footsteps of colonialism in this current. Supports of colonialism are in two forms:
- First: when colonialism directly engages and establishes a sect.
- Second: when colonialism finds about the emergence of a sect and that it can provide good recruitment for that sect.
Regarding Ahmad Isma’il, the second possibility is considered. Maybe colonialism has not turned to such a person, but when they found that this person has such potentials, they supported his fancies and illusions and helped him to actualize them. Therefore, establishment of this current cannot be attributed to colonialism with documents; however, there are proofs that their footsteps are seen at least in supporting them. In his book and PhD thesis, “Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama Bin Laden” and his website “mahdiwatch.org”, Timothy Furnish,whose enmity with Mahdism is not hidden to anyone, slanders Shi’a Mahdism and calls it a terrorist, rigid and dogmatic current. He had correspondences with Ahmad Isma’il and followed up his movement.
There is a letter from a Salafi current associated with Salafi and Wahhabi Jihadists who directly encouraged Ahmad Isma’il to fight Shi’a religious authorities under the title “li hadmzu’ama’ al-Rafida” [“to illuminate Rafida leaders”]. In 2007, this letter was sent and in 2008, Ahmad Isma’il established his movement and revolted in Basra, Nasiriya and Najaf. We know that the US was the founder of Salafism and al-Qaida which were made for fighting the USSR. There are other cases which show the support of colonialism and Wahhabi governments for Ahmad Isma’il. When Mr. Sa‘d Hamd Na‘im – the military representative of Ahmad Isam’il – was arrested in Basra, he said that they received 20 thousand dollars from the UAE to destroy the offices of religious authorities.
This is the same method westerners use who follow Salafi and Wahhabi movements,and their goal is direct confrontation with Twelver Shi’a. When the mother of Ahmad Isma’il entered the house of one of our friends in Basra, toward the end of her life, our friend told her that her son had made such a claim. She cursed him and renounced him. It is said that he had locked himself in his house for six months and in this period, different people visited him and brought him books and articles. This shows that some people recognized and studied him and that especial supports are made for him in the media.
During the event of Turbat Heidariyyeh, a city near Mashhad, Iran an example of their rebellions can be seen. After arrests and mutiny, a person called Abbas Fathi who apparently considered the US as the great Dajjal and said that we should not have any apparent connection with the US and having relations with the US is an act of polytheism. His voice files are available in which he spoke with Ali Javanmardi in VOA and Amad News and received strategies from them. This is the support.
Ahmad Isma’il introduced two issues as his goals:
First – abrogating and revoking Islamic rules. In his al-Mutashabihat, he clearly wrote, “I am the Upriser who has come to abrogate Islamic rules” and this is what Jews and Christians want; such as Bahaism in which Tahereh Qurrat al-‘Ayn emerged and removed hijab and said that the new Upriser has come and rules are abrogated.
Second–He explicitly said that, “I am the Upriser and should kill for eight months and after my massacre, Imam al-Mahdi (a) shall come.” According to his rule, the first to be killed are fiqh scholars, religious scholars and Shi’a religious authorities including Ayatollah Sistani – whose fatwa saved Iraq – or according to what he has mentioned in Nasihatilatalabathawzat al-‘ilmiyya, Ayatollah Khamenei is among them. So, with the support of colonialism and toward their thought, Ahmad Isma’il has focused on the leaders of Twelver Shi’a and their honors who have gifted freedom to Shi’a, and the enemy uses his puppet against religion. So, we do not have any doubts about the footsteps of colonialism in supporting him. Certainly, if we can investigate other documents, their involvement can undoubtedly be seen in them too.
Another point is that we should not ignore that the current grounds of some movements in Mahdism helped the growth and emergence of Ahmad Isma’il. With regards to some movements, there are some elements which have always existed during the history. We can somehow liken our time to the time of Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the end of Safavids. Social emotions, tensions, economic problems, cultural issues and even tendencies toward different issues of Mahdism grew the same way today we see. These elements were sometimes financial or political elements, when psychological stresses on people rise, seeking justice and believing in the Promised and the Savior grow more.
People look for a savior. This is natural and has its own cause and effect from social and political aspects. In the political events of Iraq, especially toward the end of Saddam’s government and after the war between Iraq and Kuwait, pressures of Saddam on Shi’a somehow led them more toward saviorism. Meanwhile and at the same time with the attack of the US, a kind of social division was made and Saddam was gradually weakened and his rule faded away. We see that there is a person called Shahid Sayyid Muhammad Sadr – the father of Muqtada Sadr – who is popular among people. He compiles especial discussions regarding Mahdism called Mawsu‘a Mahdawiyya which is famous and there he discusses the time after the Coming of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and the history of the Minor Occultation and similar issues.All of these made a ground for some persons to come and introduce themselves as the Promised and savior of people. They either introduced themselves in political grounds as a competent manager and director or in religious ground and used religious feelings of people and made false religious authorities and also made the signs of coming Imam (a) as well.
We see that at this time, a person such as Gar‘awi claimed that he was Imam al-Mahdi (a) himself and other movements such as Sarkhi, Sulukiyya, Mawlawiyya, the movement of Sayyid ‘Abd al-HusaynFadil al-Marsumi and Haydar Mushaddad all invited people to themselves in Iraq at the same period. Some of these movements also said that Sayyid Muqtada Sadr was Imam al-Mahdi (a) and that the spirit of Imam Khomeini reincarnated in him. Ahmad Isma’il too used this atmosphere and introduced himself.
This person used four sects and began his movement. They were sects which firstly managed to introduce themselves well among people, secondly managed to continue and retain their movement. Many fake sects did not last long and were soon gone. These four sects were:
- Akhbaris: which was the rigid and dogmatic Akhbari movement of Mirza Muhammad Ikhbari or Amin Astarabadi, the author of al-Fawa’id al-madaniyya. There are other people who pursue neo-Akhbarism and its revival. Ayatollah Mutahhari said, “I think that he adopted some ideas from positivism and skepticism in the West and then emerged”. Sheikh Yusuf Bahrani himself – the author of Hada’iq al-nazira – rejected the ideas of Astarabadi. For example, Akhbaris said that we cannot even understand the first verse of suraal-Tawhid.
- Sheikhiyya movement:was led by Sheikh Ahmad Ihsa’i and Sayyid Kazim Rashti and is still living. They have a seminary in Najaf and try to promote Sheikhiyya and it is interesting that Ahmad Isma’il is from Basra and one of the major centers of Sheikhiyya is Basra too. They themselves have different branches such as Kirmaniyya, Agakhaniyya, etc.
Their general beliefs are that they believe in the fourth element and say that there is a special person as a medium between Imam al-Mahdi (a) and religious authorities and consider him the special deputy of Imam (a). Some even implicitly mention his infallibility and say that the first of his lineage was Sheikh Ahmad Ansari, then there was Sayyid Kazim Rashti and then Agakhan, and others until now. They consider a special world for Imam al-Mahdi (a) and say that Imam al-Mahdi (a) does not have a place in this world; rather, he (a) is in the world of Hurqlia and lives there. They also say that Raj‘a is in the heavens, not in this world and have other beliefs which contradict our beliefs. They do not believe in bodily resurrection and reject it. Sheikhiyya movement has similarities with Baha’ism and the movement of Ahmad Isma’il. Sheikh Ahmad Ihsa’i has a 60-pagetreatise titled Risalat al-ism wa al-raj‘. Sheikh Ahmad Isma’il too has a 60-page treatise titled al-Raj’ al-thalithayyamullah al-kubra which is written very similarly to that of Sheikh Ahmad Ihsa’i. These are the movements which have grown among religious people and religious students and are still progressive.
- Qadiyaniyya movement which was made by a person called Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani who claimed Mahdism in India. Ahmad Isma’il adopted some of his arguments, including the forged hadith “there is no Mahdi but ‘Isa b. Maryam” which Sunnis have transmitted and they themselves believe that it is forged and Ibn Hajar rejected its similar hadiths in Sawa‘iq, and Muttaqi Hindi did the same in al-Burhan. We have discussed it thoroughly in an article. The first forger of this hadith was Mu‘awiya who forged this hadith to reject the merits of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) suggesting that there is no hadith saying “Mahdi is from us the Ahl al-Bayt (a)” and it is Jesus (a); and Ghulam Ahmad too referred to that hadith.
- Baha’i movement: if you read Abu al-Fadl Golpayegani’s Fara’id and Nabil Zarandi’s Tarikh, you will find that the approach and the type of arguments of Ahmad Isma’il are similar to those of Baha’ism.
He has mixed these four approaches and has presented a new version and has added to them strange claims as well; which even his promoters do not dare to mention them in their preaching. One of such claims is that he says, “I have been created in light form together with Imam Ali (a). I was the one who saved Abraham (a) and Idris (a). When Jesus (a) was about to be crucified, God created me to save Jesus (a). I descended to the earth and became like Jesus (a) and sacrificed my life and was crucified, so that Jesus (a) would be saved. After I was crucified, I ascended to the skies, and now I have come back in the form of Ahmad Isma’il.” This exactly refers to reincarnation which Imam al-Rida (a) considered as heresy. Ahmad Isma’il has rejected functions of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and says that Imam al-Mahdi (a) sits on the throne like a king and says, “I am the Upriser who fills the earth with justice and equity the way it has been filled with oppression and injustice. I am the one with whom people give allegiance from Rukn and Maqam. The Prophet (a) said, “Muslims, good for you. A time will come when the son of Mary (a) will be among you and the chief leader will be from you Muslims and ‘Isab. Maryam (a) will follow Mahdi (a) in prayer. How will you be when the son of Mary (a) will be among you and your leader is from among you?” Ahmad says that it is me and beside these, he says that “‘I am Yamani’. We have 24 Imams and I am the 13th Imam.” With these non senses, he questions all Shi’a beliefs. He has begun deviation and alteration in rules of religion and says, “I am the Upriser who has come to change the rules of Islam.”
Now, the reason why some religious people have also been trapped by him is that the criteria of recruitment and attraction in sectarian discussions are different. Political, financial and psychological criteria are very influential. Sometimes, a person has personality and inferiority complexes and he is religious too, but he is not psychologically healthy and had not been in a situation where he could express these shortcomings; thus, he would need a spark to express them. There are people who have grandiose delusion and their motto is, “I understand and no one else understands.” Such a person has personality complex. People like Ayatollah Jokar, whose weak level of knowledge and penis not accepted by great personalities in knowledge and religion and becomes attracted to a person such as Ahmad Isma’il, because in such sects, there is no great men and thus they accept anyone to support their deviant movement.
Some others too are deluded and by reading only few books about the conduct of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and few times performing night prayer, they wipe their beards with arrogance and fantasize that they are important people. These are all Satanic delusions.
However,cultural elements have the most influences. Therefore, the Prophet (a) said, “I take refuge in God from being among the ignorant.” Imam al-Mahdi (a) too said, “Surly,bother me the ignorant among Shi’a and their fool ones.” So, ignorance is the most important cultural element.
Ijtihad: What is the appropriate way of encountering him? In other words, what weak points in his invitations should be focused more?
Shahbazian: The method of fighting sectarian movements is through strategic and comprehensive discussions. Briefly saying, firstly,in encountering anyone, we should always check people’s backgrounds. In noble verses, it is mentioned that in their invitations, Divine prophets too said, “have you seen any bad action from us? Have not we lived among you?” If a person is not checked regarding his background, no one can then criticize or accuse them.
Second point is regarding contradictions and paradoxes. If we analyze sectarian movements, we find that they have a special course of claims which is called “development”. Their contradictions can exactly be seen in this course of claims; such as Hossein Ali Nouri whose claims began from when he was a simple follower and gradually developed and claimed divinity. Ahmad Isma’il first said, “O people, follow me only in beliefs; and in fiqh, only follow Shahid Muhammad Baqir Sadr, Imam Khomeini and Sayyid Muhammad Sadr.” Now he says, “following in religion is absolutely forbidden but from me.” He first claimed that, “anyone who has least of liking for the governments of Iraq or the US is a polytheist and a disbeliever and that election is forbidden regarding religious law.” Later, he issued fatwa that, “participate in the election and vote for the representative of Rajab school.”
The third point is the analysis of the principles. We have criteria and attributes for Imam (a), one of the most important one of which is his knowledge. About these people [like Ahmad Isma’il], however we see that their books are full of lies they have adopted from forged hadiths and have referred to them. They adopt a part of a hadith and have abandoned the rest.
Therefore, informing people and providing them with true knowledge, knowledge about sources, keeping away from marginal, useless,repeated,lay issues can be among the most important methods in fighting these deviant movements.