The golden-domed shrine housed the tombs of two revered leaders of Shiite Islam and symbolized the place where the Imam Mahdi, a mythical, messianic figure, disappeared from this earth. Believers in the imam say he will return when the apocalypse is near, to cleanse the world of its evils.
Juan Cole points out that the Observance of 10 Muharram, demonstrations concerning the Danish cartoons, and previous bomb attacks have heated the Shi‘ite community to feverish levels. As a result, Cole notes, some
Shiites think his second coming is imminent. Muqtada all-Sadr and his followers are among them. They are livid about this attack on the shrine of the Mahdi's father.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also a firm believer in the imminent coming of the Mahdi. I worry that Iranian anger will boil over as a result of this bombing of a Shiite millenarian symbol.
Iraq the Model points out the numerous efforts, including by Muqtada Al-Sadr and Ayatollah Sistani, to dampen the volatile Shia reaction to desecration of the Mosque of the Golden Dome. Sunni clerics are joining the Shi’ite leaders’ exhortations to avoid violence and are also pledging money to rebuild the dome.
The Hidden Imam remains a touchstone of Shi’ite belief in a messianic return by the Mahdi to cleanse the world of evil and right historical wrongs.
Both the US and Sunnis are high on the Shi'ite list of evils and historical wrongs to be put right.