Return of the Vanished Imam?

This is the second of two posts dealing with less widely-known figures in the Middle East who may yet have significant impact, at a time when most media focus is on nations and rulers rather than on religious figures who have been locked away in prison for years…

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]


Fouad Ajami’s The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon was among the first books I read about matters Islamic, and the close parallel between the vanishing of Musa al-Sadr and the vanishing — or, more properly speaking, Ghayba or occultation — of the Twelfth Imam or Mahdi struck me forcibly at the time.

I don’t have my copy to hand, so I can’t tell how strongly Ajami himself made the comparison — but I was certainly not alone. Daniel Pipes, in his review of Ajami’s book writes:

What made the Imam’s vanishing so significant is that it exactly fit the millennial expectations of Shiism, a faith premised on the disappearance of righteous leaders and their reappearance at the end of time.

And now it may be — the report has yet to be confirmed — that Imam Musa is back among us.

@rallaf is an Associate Fellow at London’s Chatham House.


The mind sees one thing, which reminds it of something else. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and it depends on the recognition of pattern, or you might say, parallelism.

The return of Imam Musa would be significant not merely for his admirers, not only for what he might have to say or what role — now aged 82, after 30 years in prison — he might yet play, but also, I suspect, for the vivid premonition of the Mahdi his return might stir…