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Politics

Mohammad Mehdi Mirbagheri: Jalili Supporter or Future Supreme Leader?

May 28, 2024
Ata Mahamad
6 min read
In recent days, following the death of Ebrahim Raisi, Seyed Mohammad Mehdi Mirbagheri, a Shia cleric and head of the Qom Academy of Islamic Sciences, who is also a member of the Assembly of Experts, has garnered significant attention
In recent days, following the death of Ebrahim Raisi, Seyed Mohammad Mehdi Mirbagheri, a Shia cleric and head of the Qom Academy of Islamic Sciences, who is also a member of the Assembly of Experts, has garnered significant attention
Some advocate for him as a presidential candidate, while others view him as a potential future leader
Some advocate for him as a presidential candidate, while others view him as a potential future leader
The Front of Islamic Revolution Stability now competes with Saeed Jalili, with Mirbagheri being one of Jalili's supporters
The Front of Islamic Revolution Stability now competes with Saeed Jalili, with Mirbagheri being one of Jalili's supporters

In recent days, following the death of Ebrahim Raisi, Seyed Mohammad Mehdi Mirbagheri, a Shia cleric and head of the Qom Academy of Islamic Sciences, who is also a member of the Assembly of Experts, has garnered significant attention. 

Some advocate for him as a presidential candidate, while others view him as a potential future leader. 

The "super-revolutionary" groups, echoing the Islamic Republic's leader, argue, "You should pull Seyed Mohammad Mehdi Mirbagheri out of the house and use him." 

They believe he is the right candidate and the most worthy option for future leadership.

Supporters often criticize Ebrahim Raisi's government as "neoliberal," highlighting Mirbagheri's ideological and theoretical views despite his lack of executive experience. 

They see him as a pivotal figure for the hardline Front of Islamic Revolution Stability and as a solution to existing problems, proclaiming, "The leader of the Islamic Republic knows" he is the answer. 

However, critics describe him as a "radical, millenarian, and uncompromising cleric."

Mirbagheri is recognized for his emphasis on resistance and civilization and is considered the leader of the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability. 

Nevertheless, he has declined their invitation to run, citing his commitment to his seminary work. The Front of Islamic Revolution Stability now competes with Saeed Jalili, with Mirbagheri being one of Jalili's supporters.

Mirbagheri emerged as a prominent political figure in 2013 by supporting Saeed Jalili. In 2015, he entered the Assembly of Experts, and his name gained further recognition in 2017 through his efforts to unify fundamentalists. 

His meeting with Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi made headlines, and after Mesbah's death, some considered Mirbagheri a potential successor to the leadership.

His name surfaced again after a series of poisonings in girls' schools in 2022 and 2023. 

Mohammad Javad Akbarin, a scholar and journalist, labeled him "the leader of the fundamentalist movement and opposed to girls' education," and implicated him and his associates in the poisonings. 

Akbarin wrote, "He is a representative of the Assembly of Experts and the leader of a Basiji delegation gang in different cities of the country." 

Akbarin highlighted Mirbagheri's warnings in 2011 against the Western plan to educate women in the Middle East and his subsequent efforts to curb girls' education in line with Islamic principles.

Mirbagheri, a student of Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, is seen by some of Mesbah's followers as a candidate for future leadership. 

His influence is apparent behind the scenes of various repressions, and he has addressed gatherings on the nights before significant street crackdowns. He is also a frequent speaker during Muharram nights at the house of the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader.

In an interview, Mohammed Taghi Fazel Meybodi, a university professor, said that the school poisonings were not accidental and pointed to a "Taliban-like" movement in Qom and Isfahan. 

He referred to these perpetrators as "Millennialists."

Mirbagheri's views on women are controversial. In one speech, he remarked, "One of the basic issues that existed in the failed Great Middle East plan of the West was the planning of change in the women's class. 

One of these programs was the plan to educate Middle Eastern women under a specific definition. Education in the Western sense, which is accompanied by unrestrainedness, is not an example of acquiring science and knowledge which is intended by Islam."

He is also one of the supporters of compulsory hijab, believing that the hijab in the Islamic Republic has strengthened "its position against the Western front." 

Although he does not explicitly discuss compulsory hijab, he frames it under the concept of "the model of Islamic progress," which he contrasts with the "model of development."

In the Jahan Ara TV program, alongside Amir Hossein Sabeti, he argued that Western systems exploit women's emotions and attractiveness to fuel capitalism. 

He added, "In the model of progress, we should take significant measures to ensure women observe the hijab, not just rely on persuasion."

During his studies, he was a student of notable figures such as Javad Tabrizi, Vahid Khorasani, Mousa Shabiri Zanjani, Mohammad Taghi Behjat, Hasan Hassanzadeh Amoli, Abdullah Javadi Amoli, and Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi.

Outside this circle, Seyed Moniruddin Hosseini Hashemi significantly influenced Mirbagheri's thoughts. 

At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, along with others, Hosseini drafted several new proposals regarding "Constitutional Law" and participated in the Assembly of Constitutional Law Experts to advance these ideas. 

Hosseini believed that religious sciences should address contemporary societal needs. To this end, he aimed to integrate religious concepts and foundations with the requirements of the times.

Mesbah Yazdi and Hosseini have significantly impacted Mirbagheri's thoughts with their different approaches. 

Mirbagheri has expanded upon Mesbah Yazdi's ideas concerning the relationship between religion and the establishment of an Islamic system. 

While Mesbah Yazdi emphasized the crucial role of religious authority in guiding society, Mirbagheri focused more on preparing society for the emergence and comprehensive influence of religious expectations on social and political life.

Another difference between Mesbah Yazdi and Mirbagheri concerns mysticism. 

Mirbagheri prefers Sharia over mysticism, or more precisely, he supports mysticism that aligns with Sharia. 

According to Mirbagheri, the movement of the world is towards the "emergence of Mahdi, and we are currently in the period of "Akhr al-Zaman" (the End Times)." 

He describes this period as one marked by "seditions" and "severe tests" for believers, where the fight against tyranny and materialism, both ancient and modern, is essential for the emergence of divine justice.

Mirbagheri emphasizes that Shia Islam has resisted these seditions with a "wait-and-see" approach. 

He regards the Islamic Revolution as the "greatest and most legitimate" social event during the occultation of Imam Zaman, formed based on jurisprudence and progressing towards his emergence.

 He asserts the importance of understanding the necessity and requirements of occultation, believing its purpose is to prepare believers and the world to accept divine justice.

He explains, "The first pillar of waiting is companionship in the Great Jihad," where Imam Zaman ensures that believers' organization is not dissolved into that of the infidels."

In March 2023, in a television program related to the candidacy for the Assembly of Experts, Mirbagheri cited traditions and evidence from the "innocents" (the Twelve Imams) to assert a special role for Iranians in realizing the "world plan of Islam" and participating in jihad. 

He believes that Iranians must advance the ideals of Islam and "will be foundational for the emergence of Imam Zaman."

Mirbagheri views the current global conditions as dangerous and changing, influenced strongly by the Islamic Revolution. 

He predicts a future world not based on nation-states but on "sustainable cities" and "virtual spaces." 

He emphasizes that the Islamic Republic must play a role in this new order, stating, "We must change the global balance in our favor, otherwise Iran will not remain united and the new Middle East plan will be implemented."

He compares the Islamic Revolution to the Renaissance, suggesting it has started a new era aiming to unite religion and the world. However, unlike modernity, Mirbagheri believes efforts should be made to counter modernity by taking five steps: Islamic revolution, state-building, society-building, civilization-building, and the emergence of Mahdi.

Mirbagheri was recently elected by the people of Semnan Province in the sixth term of the Assembly of Experts.

Mirbagheri regards the Islamic system as one based on people's allegiance. He makes a distinction between allegiance and voting, as well as between jurisprudential legitimacy and politics. He explains:

"Allegiance means a declaration of loyalty based on religious obligation, while voting is based on personal will and whim. Allegiance is based on the righteousness of God Almighty and the duty of servitude. That is, people swear allegiance to the guardian so that he develops worship. While the vote is formed based on social contracts and people's desire."

 

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