Nadine Elali

A self-fulfilling prophecy

Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria is grounded in religious scriptures

martyrs of moqawama

Hezbollah and Iran have been indoctrinating fighters to believe that they are fighting an End of Days war in Syria. Young Shiite men from both Lebanon and Iran believe that they are fighting inside Syria for the appearance of the Mahdi, a thousand year old ideology that the Iranian republic reinvented and promulgated through religious texts over the course of 30 years to advance its own interests in the region.


Early in the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah and Iran downplayed any involvement. Today, however, they are trumpeting their presence in Syria and offering sacrifices under the pretext of protecting Shiite interests. Near Damascus, Hezbollah members are fighting to defend the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab (revered by Shiite Muslims) from Sunni rebels. In the north, however, they are pushing more deeply into a very different fight.


During the assault on Qusayr, and as news emerges of more Hezbollah fighters in Aleppo, Facebook pages were flooded with pictures of young men who were pronounced martyrs. Their funerals received coverage previously reserved only for those fighting Israel. Photos of a certain Ali Hassan, who was proclaimed a martyr of Sayeda Zeinab and one of the strongest Mahdi army men, was shared among friends whose comments referenced paving the way for the appearance of Mahdi.


Islamic scholar Sheikh Abbas Yazbek, tells NOW that the party’s fighting units are waging a battle driven by strong religious ideology. “After protecting [the] Sayeda Zeinab shrine,” he explains, “Hezbollah fighters are speaking of the preparation for his occultation as they advance in their battles.”


In Islamic eschatology, the Mahdi (i.e. the guided one) is the prophetic redeemer of Islam who will rid the world of evil and rule before Judgment Day. In Shiite Islam particularly, the Mahdi is believed to be the twelfth descendent of Imam al-Hussein (a.k.a Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi), who mysteriously disappeared at the age of five. The Mahdi is expected to return at the “end of time.”


Yazbeck, a founding member of Hezbollah who resigned in 2000 over an ideological dispute, explains that Hezbollah has succeeded in controlling the majority of the Shiite community and their beliefs by holding the key to their way of life, their opportunities to make a living, and their education. “The community has been trained,” he stresses, “to believe what Hezbollah and Iran dictates to them, especially the notion of the hidden Imam, while they pursue their political interests.”


Nasser Ghobadzadeh, an Iranian professor at Sydney University, explains that for many centuries, the dominant interpretation of the notion of the hidden Imam included a passive approach toward politics, where sovereignty was believed to belong to the Mahdi solely and that Muslims ought to wait for his return. However, following the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini’s doctrine of Velayat-el Faqih signaled a landmark shift in Shiite political thought.


“Ayatollah Khomeini provided the conceptual framework by offering the notion of active waiting,” says Ghobadzadeh. “Prior to the articulation of his doctrine, the notion of the clergy's direct governance was never part of the mainstream Shiite school. Indeed, no serious conceptual or practical effort was invested in the quest for political engagement of the Shiites. In this articulation, believers are not only waiting for the return of the Hidden Imam but also they ought to prepare for his arrival,” said Ghobadzadeh.


The future approaching of the Savior is the most recurrently quoted topic in Lebanon among reverent Shiites. Dozens of books have been written about the end of time and the rising of the Mahdi. Although the date of the ultimate arrival of the Hidden Imam is unknown, these scriptures offer a look into the future that is foreshadowed by a number of signs - most notably, a war in Syria.


A Shiite woman, who preferred not to be named, told NOW that the majority of the Shiite community (her family among them) believes in these scriptures, even before the recent events. “As we were growing up, my mother would read us stories that signal the appearance of the Mahdi, some talked of a war in Syria that will extend to our Beqaa. The Mahdi will then appear to lead the fighting, but he will need an army to be prepared for him ahead of his arrival, and so for that reason many young men were encouraged to conscript in Hezbollah’s army,” she said.


Hajj Ahmad al Kharsa, head of sales at Dar al Hujah al Baydaa, a popular library in Dahiyeh (Beirut’s southern suburb), tells NOW that the demand for such books has increased dramatically over the course of the last two years. Most notably he refers to two books, al-Jafar and Aser al Zohour. Al Kharsa says the latter book appears to have a higher demand these days because it references events that coincide with modern history.


“I have been in this profession for over 30 years. There has been a wave of demands. We saw demand rising during the war on Iraq in the 1990s, then during the 2006 July war. But today, we are selling an average of 500 books per month and the demand continues to increase as the crisis in Syria worsens,” he said. “People buy the book to compare today’s events to those mentioned in the scriptures.”


Hossein Alizadeh, an ex-Iranian diplomat and opposition member, explains that these scriptures played a key role in the first decade of the Islamic Republic of Iran. During the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, he says, they were used to misguide the people to justify the war. It is within this context that the notion of the Hidden Imam has re-emerged in Shiite political lexicon.


“The regime in Iran is keen to emphasize that what is happening in Syria is not an extension of the Arab Spring, but [rather] a war against the Shiites and therefore the need to interfere. And given Iran’s vital role on the Shiite discourse in the region - particularly in Lebanon - the use of the notion of the Hidden Imam is also being used by Hezbollah,” he says.

An image of martyrs ready for burial from the Martyrs of Moqawama Facebook page. (Image via Facebook)

"'The community has been trained,' he stresses, 'to believe what Hezbollah and Iran dictates to them, especially the notion of the hidden Imam, while they pursue their political interests.'”

  • alhind1980

    In past sunni sect of islam was defender of islam since 200 years this sect basic practises had destroyed by dajjali collaberaters or zionist bastards so now we dnt have any powerful group of sunni islamist who can come ahead and explain what is goingon anyhow the time has come every muslims whether shia or sunni need to come and take stand on his or her own to defend faith and what we r seeing it is completly different campared to what is happening with islamic world these dajjalis call it illusion theory and they complete setup of this movement practly as their grand leader is british and rest are thier slaves .according to islamic knowledge given to muslims by our great beloved profit mohammed saw and researhed by a great scholar shiekh immran husien it is proved that britian is the place from where dajjal will operate and accounding to islamic escatology dajjal s' war against islam and human kind had already started since 200 years or more there r certain indications given to muslim by our beloved profit mohammed saw when these indications we take it and start inquiring about it our great scholar proved that it is fact and it is proved that the island where dajjal was imprisoned by allmighty is britain all the secret socities r run by britain they are worst human cannibles on this earth now i will conclude with this.my dear brothers of islam and human biengs beaware and take real precautions control urself against any new incident happing around before making any comments try to make sure u have the knowledge of islamic escatology if not than remain quiet and work things out to control the situation positively it is only islamic escatology which can help anyone to know what is going on ,as i mention above illusion is part of Holographic weapon which is controlled by britain and zionist with this weapon they are in position to control the brain of humanbiengs wwhatever they will dictate to this world masses will follow them

    November 17, 2013

  • alhind1980

    asalamualiakum my name is mustafa and i belong to sunni sect of islam when i went through the comments of my brothers i began to feel as we mulim dnt need enemy as we r enough to destroy ourself if u people cannot see what is going on than go home and makelove with ur wifes and tell them fake stories of ur glorious past i swear to god if these shia muslim brought were not intelligent enough to know the exact situation situation and their reaction against dajjalis terrorist or zionist bastards than upto this time when u r writing these comments u would have been a slave and these bstards would have raping ur wives ,ur sisters and ur mothers go to hell with ur comments if u people dnt have wisdom to understand than u r in hell in this world and according to islamic belief when u will open ur eyes in other valley u will find urself standing with mushrikeena munafiqeens .my dear brothers try to avoid these kind of rude words against our shia brothers they are better than these american bastards and zionists why u people cannot reason like this without having the real knowledge of the facts on ground in syria why fueling the secatarian differences between muslims go and see what ur dajjali mujahideens are doing they will wiping all muslim symbols killing muslimeens they are not leaving even small babies slitting their throughts may allah punish them befor thier death they shd see fir of jahanam in this world before going to jahanam may god bless our shia brothers ,may god bless president assad and all those who are aginst the dajjal's terrorist and curse to them who are supporting them

    November 17, 2013

  • babaganouj

    it is evident from day one of the Syrian terror and atrocity on the Syrian people that it is a sectarian religious war against the sunniest with the full support of Iran ( Persian empire) to keep their control and dominance over the region. this explains well the Iranian involvement of Iranian national guards fighting with Assad and Hezbollah from the beginning of the revolution - extension of the Arab Spring. now , under another sectarian reason and to side with the Assad government, they are using the protection of religious sites, which the Assad troops are violating everyday. Iranian shia scholars have also announced it a jihad against sunniest, now sunniest have done the same, eventually while they are both killing other, Israel is watching happily since Hezbollah has no true interest in liberating Israel,just a tool for expending the regional dominance of the Persian empire under false religious pretext.

    June 19, 2013

  • jouseph one

    Very good insight into the situation. Shiite religious slogan have spread in forces fighting for Assad. Many of them are now from Lebanon and Iraq, and working under direct orders of Iranian officers.

    June 16, 2013

  • dateam

    If this is your claim then what is your claim of the other side? Sunni sheikhs all over the world from day one have called for open jihad in syria...find me one that called for a fight for democracy?

    June 15, 2013

  • Vlad Tepes

    Do you really believe anyone will take this ... you are writing seriously? Please! The fight is somewhat of an alpha male dominance and influence thing, not over Mahdi. Get real lady! You're making a fool of yourself. Even your fellow writers are probably laughing at you.

    June 15, 2013

  • Alex70

    This article is full of misleading and false information. Either on purpose or out of ignorance. Both cases are inexcusable. To name one fallacy: neither Iran nor Hezbollah have used the sectarian reason to side with the Syrian government. And by the way, who said that Iran is involved in thy fighting. Please check your facts.

    June 14, 2013