January 16, 2018


Confrontation between Rouhani, hard-line clerics heats up (Al-Monitor, January 16, 2018)

[R]ouhani has come under attack for his remarks that no one is above criticism, not even the 12th Shiite imam, the Mahdi.

Twelver Shiite Islam holds that the Mahdi is in a state referred to as the "greater occultation" and is waiting to reappear to rule the world. 

In a speech believed to have been influenced by the protests across Iran, Rouhani sought not to dismiss the protesters, saying Jan. 8, "Everyone should be criticized and there is no exception [to this principle]. All the officials in the country can be criticized. No one in the country is infallible. If one day the Hidden Imam [Mahdi] reappears, then we can criticize [him] too. ... The Prophet [Muhammad] allowed [others] to criticize him. We don't have anyone above the prophet in history."

Following these remarks, hard-line clerics said that criticizing Shiite imams, who are deemed infallible, would in effect mean that they are not in fact infallible. Rouhani's defenders, however, said the president was trying to say that people can question imams in order to get an answer, just as the president and other officials in Iran can be questioned. Moderate Ayatollah Mohsen Gharavian said Jan. 15, "The goal of Mr. Rouhani in his recent remarks involving the critique of the infallible imams wasn't equivalent to rejecting them, but rather meant the possibility of questioning them."

In marked contrast, the influential Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom, headed by powerful cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, issued a statement Jan. 14 saying the rejection of Muhammad and the imams' infallibility "is in explicit opposition to Islam and the Shiite faith. ... We strongly recommend that some officials refrain from entering issues related to [people's] beliefs in their speeches."

Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, considered to be the spiritual father of the hard-liners -- including conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who lost to Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election -- tweeted Jan. 15, "They are saying that people can criticize the infallible imams. ... They said this not in [a distant country] but in the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Now, with the presence of such [figures on the public stage], how much more should the Hidden Imam [Mahdi] suffer?"

Posted by at January 16, 2018 7:46 PM


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