Ahmad bin Ismail bin Saleh bin Hussain bin Salman (Arabic: احمد اسماعيل صالح الحسين سلمان, born in Basra, Iraq) is the leader of the Shia Iraqi movement Ansar Imam Mahdi who claims to be the savior of mankind. He started claiming to be the messenger of the messianic figure the Imam Mahdi, after he had a vision in which Imam Mahdi told him to enroll in the religious institute Hawza Ilmiya in Najaf, Iraq. Ahmad al-Hassan isolated himself at home to learn the sciences of the Hawza with an attempt of reforming it as he claims it to be disordered. He later formed a group called the Ansar. His followers believe him to be al-Yamani, the eschatological Yamani leader who will precede the return of the Imam due to his claim of being al-Yamani.
According to Iraqi Basra police, investigations conducted revealed that his ancestry does not go back to the prophet. He uses the Star of David as his logo.
Ahmad al-Hassan makes a number of claims, which include that he is the son, messenger, viceregent, and executor of the affairs of Imam Mahdi, al-Yamani, an infallible Imam, the first of 12 Mahdi, a messenger of the prophets Isa and Elijah, and the mystical figure al-Khidr.
Ahmad al-Hassan started his religious call privately, only first announcing it publicly in 2002, during the last months of Saddam’s rule, after his attempted Hawza reformations.
Regarding the purposes of his movement, he claimed:
His followers have described his call as being universal, because his preaching addresses Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all of mankind.
The adherents of Ahmad Al-Hassan collectively identify themselves as Ansar Imam Al-Mahdi ("Supporters of the Imam Mahdi"), or Ansars. While many of his supporters are in Iraq, he has followers outside of Iraq as well, largely due to dissemination of his teachings through English websites.
Middle East Research and Information Project has reported that "the majority of his public affrays—they often take the form of theological duels known as munazarat—have been with Sadrist followers." He was claimed to have been involved in the Najaf clashes, though he denied any such involvement.
He has written some books, as well as having a section on his website dedicated to answering questions sent to him.
He claims that Shia Muslims are being deceived by the Marja'. He claims that imitating a scholar is not obligatory for Muslims, and it is considered Shirk to blindly follow a scholar.
The Yamani is one of the major signs that is awaited by Shi'a Muslims before the appearance of the 12th Imam Mahdi. The Shia clerics that are informed about Ahmad al-Hassan's call have largely condemned him, and issued corresponding fatwas classifying Ahmad al-Hassan as an impostor, a fabricator, a deceiver, an innovator, and a liar. Shi'a Muslim scholars such as Sheikh Ali al-Korani and Jalal al-Din Ali al-Saghir have expressed their negative views of al-Hassan's claims in numerous TV broadcasts.
Battle of Najaf
Shortly after the January 2007 Battle of Najaf, conflicting reports and news coverage emerged as to who exactly was involved in the clashes. The Los Angeles Times and RFERL identified the leader of the Soldiers of Heaven group as Dhiyaa' Abdul Zahra, who was killed in the clashes. However, the New York Times reported that Iraqi officials at a press conference had named the group that was involved in the clashes as Soldiers of Heaven (Jund al-Samaa’), but offered several names for the group's leader, including Ahmad Ismail and Diyah Abdul Zahraa Khadom. The Times article also reported that Diyah Abdul Zahraa Khadom was the same person as Ahmad Hassan al-Yamani, and whose alleged role was deputy of the group, not the leader.
Ahmad al-Hassan himself and representatives of his group Ansar Imam Mahdi have denied any involvement in these clashes, and claim they have no links to the group Soldiers of Heaven.
Regarding the difference in official reports, Timothy Furnish of mahdiwatch.org wrote, "Security officials say that Ansar Ahmad [al-Hassan] al-Yamani and the Jund al-Samaa [Soldiers of Heaven] are one and the same, while National Security Minister Shirwan al-Waili denies any relation between the two [groups]."
Sayyed Hasan bin Muhammad Ali al-Hamami (son of the late Marja Sayed Muhammad Ali Musawi al-Hamami) states that Soldiers of Heaven was led by Dhiyaa' [Abdul-Zahra] Al-Qara'wi, who had rejected the 12 Imams of Shia Islam, had claimed to be the 12th Imam Mahdi himself, and had later died in the battle.