Paging Mohammed Al-Mahdi
The mosque, the holiest of the holy for Shiites, remains closed, a heap of untouched rubble symbolic of the firestorm of sectarian violence unleashed by a botched U.S. occupation.Samarra has become a virtual ghost town without the millions of pilgrims who would journey to the mosque. Reconstruction has been delayed because of disagreements between the Sunnis who control the city and the Shiites who run the mosque about how to proceed.
The attack was a brilliant tactical move because the insurgents, who probably were affiliated with Al Qaeda, knew that it would put the U.S. in the middle of a war within a war. The result has been the emergence of sectarian militias and their ethnic cleansing squads, and the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans, with no end to the bloodshed in sight.
The edifice is officially known as the Askariya mosque and contains the tombs of the 10th and 11th imams -- Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868, and his son Hassan al-Askari, who died in 874. Both are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, and Shiites consider them to be among his successors.
The shrine also is near the place where the 12th imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, disappeared.
Al-Mahdi, known as the "hidden imam," was the son and grandson of the two imams buried in the Askariya shrine. Shiites believe he will return to Earth to vanquish opression and restore justice to humanity.
Well, Al-Mahdi, your time has come.