TEL AVIV – An Iranian Grand Ayatollah recently said that the Mahdi – the Shi’ite version of the messiah – will arrive in a “super-modern vessel like a spaceship” and that until that time there will be no “peace, security, or decency” on earth.
Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi was answering questions about the arrival of the Mahdi, otherwise known as the Hidden Imam, who according to Islamic eschatology will conquer the world before the Day of Judgment, ridding it of evil. Shirazi’s explanations, translated and published Friday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), were based on Islamic teachings and hadiths, as well as quotes from preceding Imams.
Shirazi explained that when the Imam arrives there will no longer be sunlight in the world. Instead, the “land will be illuminated by divine light.”
However, he also said daily life will be “conducted according to the ongoing laws of nature, and not according to miracles – because miracles are extraordinary and are for [times of] need and exceptional circumstances.”
Accordingly, the Mahdi’s arrival will happen in a way that is conducive to the laws of nature and the technology of the time “by means of ordinary tools that are based on scientific and industrial advances.” The Mahdi’s presence in the world will usher in an era of “unprecedented expansion of industry and technology,” Shirazi explained.
The entire world will be visible to the Mahdi “like the palm of his hand,” but since miracles are inconceivable, he will be able to do so using “a powerful apparatus, that may be difficult for us to imagine today, for transmitting images,” Shirazi said.
According to Shirazi, until then “there can be no unified global regime and no peace, security, and decency.”
Arguably the most bizarre explanation provided by Shirazi was how to interpret the hadith that describes the arrival of the Mahdi on “a cloud that is loud as thunder and fast as lightning, upon which he rides … ascending to seven heavens and seven lands.”
Since clouds are clearly not vessels ridden in outer space, elucidates Shirazi, the hadith’s meaning is “an extraordinary and very swift vessel that looks like a dense cloud in the sky.”
When this vessel moves, it sounds like thunder and has the speed of lightening, the Ayatollah said, “slashing the heart of the sky with extraordinary force, and in this way it can advance to any point in the firmament.”
“Therefore, this is a super-modern vessel, and there is none like it today. It is like a spaceship and like other swift and amazing space vessels that are found [only] in stories today, but nobody knows how close [these vessels] come to truth and reality. Maybe it will be like [a spaceship], but in any case it is not a spaceship.”