In the Arab world, some Muslim clerics believe that the Day of Judgement is approaching...
Hesham Shehab: Coronavirus, the End Times, and the Advent of the Shiite Messiah
The world’s governments are taking measures to contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, and fears are increasing about it, and the world is moving towards more isolation, by closing borders and restricting transportation between countries, and even between cities within each country. As a result, people around the world are making backup plans in order to protect themselves against the virus infection, and take responsibility for not transmitting it to others, such as storing enough food for several days, but weeks.
However, many people in the Middle East resort to their religious interpretations, either seeking prevention, through amulets and scripture readings, or to gain more patience in times of social isolation, in a region where social life is more active than any other place on the planet.
In the Arab world, some Muslim clerics believe that the Day of Judgement is approaching, and that the Coronavirus is one of the signs of the End Times.
While some Sunni Muslim clerics see the pandemic just as a sign for the approach of the End Times, some Shiite clerics are more specific, and they believe that it precedes the coming of the Shiite messiah, the Mahdi; the absent imam. Shiites believe that the Mahdi, a descendant of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, disappeared in the 9th century and is coming back from the occult in order to lead the Shiites to victory all over the world, and spread peace and justice among all people.
The imam and preacher of the Quba Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, Saleh al-Maghamisi said, “This Coronavirus does not discriminate among races or ethnicities, or among religions and countries. Rather, it shows the power of Allah, the One, the Compelling.”
The imam continued, “There are hadiths [statements made by Muhammad, the prophet of Islam] that we used to read and believe in, but we did not know their interpretation, until [now] the Coronavirus brought more understanding of those hadiths.”
Al-Maghamisi explained in an interview with the program on MBC television, that “it is narrated in some hadiths, that among the Signs of the End Times; that a cold wind emerges from Yemen and takes the lives of the believers. We used to wonder how it would be possible that a wind takes the lives of the believers? [now we understand]”
The Saudi cleric continued: “Now this virus has gone around the earth and spread without anyone being able to prevent it, so that people know their weakness and powerlessness and that there is no refuge from Allah except to him. This virus created many problems and differs, in its contagiousness, from country to country, where in some countries the death toll is terrifying.”
On the other hand, the Iranian Shiite cleric, Ali Reza Banahyan, considered that the spread of the Coronavirus is “a prelude to the emergence of the imam of the End Times”, in reference to the “awaited Mahdi.”
Banahyan added, “according to traditions, before the emergence of the last imam of the End of Times (the expected Mahdi), the world will suffer from widespread fears and many economic problems and deaths that would increase… some will be left unharmed, awaiting the emergence of the imam of the End Times.”
The cleric, who is close to the Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, emphasized, “According to the accounts, the spread of diseases, death and economic problems in the world is a prelude to the emergence of the absent Imam Mahdi.”
In Egypt, Dr. Ali Fakhr, one of the clerics of the Egyptian Dar al-Iftaa, the highest Sunni religious authority in the country, said, “The End Times is approaching, so a person must prepare to meet Allah and not be distracted with the pleasures of this world.”
Although the two clerics from both Sunni and Shiite sects agreed that the Coronavirus outbreak was one of the signs of the End Times, the difference between them also became apparent.
The Saudi journalist, Salah Makharsh, tweeted, “If the expected Imam Mahdi appears, 99% of the Iranians will have left this world, because of the [crowded religious] meeting they [Iranians] hold in [their Shiite shrines, thus spreading the infectious virus], while they promote their myths and legends!”
Ironically, the Iraqi Kurdish writer, Shaho Al-Qura Daghi, said on Twitter, responding to Banahyan: “He says that the emergence and spread of the new Coronavirus is a prelude to the emergence of the expected Imam Mahdi … Is this not a clear and direct incitement to spread the virus everywhere to achieve Their dreams?! [of hastening the coming of the Mahdi]”.
-This report is gleaned and translated from different Middle Eastern sources.
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