I now have a proposal making the rounds for a book exploring the nature of religious and specifically apocalyptic violence — across continents and centuries, in great religions and small sects — drawing on comparative religious, anthropological and depth psychological angles to provide context for a richer understanding of contemporary jihadism and the passion that drives it.
[ by Charles Cameron — being the revised version of the second part of my previous post ]
In an earlier post, rightly critiqued by evangelical pastor-writer-filmmaker Joel Richardson, I conflated Christian and Islamic “divine law movements” with Christian and Islamic “apocalyptic movements”. They are, as Joel pointed out, not the same, though perhaps somewhat related. I have left the first part of that post, dealing with “divine law”, standing, under the original title Juxtaposition: Qutb & Bahnsen.
Here is my revision of the second part of that post, in light of Joel’s comment. It concerns the similarities and differences between Christian and Islamic “apocalyptic movements”, with special attention to the question of violence or nonviolence on the part of their followers.
Firts, let’s be clear that Sunni hadith — of which there are very many, and of which some are considered sahih (authentic) and some daif (dubious), &c — can be found to support the idea that the Mahdi’s coming will be violent. The particular hadith favored by the Islamic State is an obscure one, but it supports that point and is used by IS to suggest divine sanction for their own violent actions:
The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them). When they will arrange themselves in ranks, the Romans would say: Do not stand between us and those (Muslims) who took prisoners from amongst us. Let us fight with them; and the Muslims would say: Nay, by Allah, we would never get aside from you and from our brethren that you may fight them. They will then fight and a third (part) of the army would run away, whom Allah will never forgive. A third (part of the army). which would be constituted of excellent martyrs in Allah’s eye, would be killed and the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople.
The various black banners from Khorasan hadith, often used in Al-Qaida recruiting, similarly describes the Mahdi as a warrior-messiah:
Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim recorded that the Prophet said, “If you see the black flag coming from Khurasan, go to them immediately, even if you have to crawl over the snow, because indeed amongst them is the Caliph al-Mahdi .. and no one can stop the army until they get to Jerusalem.”
FWIW, Harun Yahya is the only Sunni source I’ve run across for the doctrine that the Mahdi’s activities will be non-violent:
Hazrat Mahdi (as) is a man of peace who evades war. Hazrat Mahdi (as) will make the morality of the Qur’an dominate the Earth not by war but by love and the remembrance of Allah. That Hazrat Mahdi (as) will dominate the world by means of peace and love, which is one of his attributes, is related in the hadith as follows:
People will seek refuge in the Hazrat Mahdi (as) as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world that was once full of cruelty with justice. His justice will be as such that HE WILL NOT WAKE A SLEEPING PERSON OR EVEN SHED ONE DROP OF BLOOD. The Earth will return to the age of happiness.
Almost all Sunnis who believe in the coming of the Mahdi believe also that he will come to establish peace by means of warfare.
Since the objective behind the uprising of Hadrat al-Mahdi is the establishment of divine government throughout the world and the elimination of tyranny and tyrants, it is natural that the Imam will face many difficulties and obstacles in realizing this objective.
By conducting military operations, he has to remove those hurdles along the way and overrun one country after another so as to prevail in the east and west of the world and establish the government of divine justice on earth.
The Mahdi, in this view, will again be a warrior-messiah. The question remains open as to whether his would-be followers can themselves hasten his coming by violence, or whether they must await hiom peaceably. Tim Furnish has addressed this question with specific reference to the use of nuclear weapons.
Since there is presently considerable concern about the potential violence of an Islamic Mahdist movememnt — Tim Furnish, for instance, has written, “Muslim messianic movements are to fundamentalist uprisings what nuclear weapons are to conventional ones” — Joel Richardson has made the difference between Muslim expectation of the Mahdi and Christian expectation of the Second Coming of Christ explicit, writing:
I explained to my host that unless a supernatural man bursts forth from the sky in glory, there is absolutely nothing that the world needs to worry about with regard to Christian end-time beliefs. Christians are called to passively await their defender. They are not attempting to usher in His return. Muslims, on the other hand, are actively pursuing the day when their militaristic leader comes to lead them on into victory. Many believe that they can usher in his coming.
Perhaps it is worth noting that Joel Richardson’s quote, above, suggests that in his view at least, Christians will not take up the sword until the Second Coming of Christ, and that from Harun Yahya’ statement it is unclear whether there will be bloodshed along the way to the Mahdi’s reign of justice and peace.
Intriguingly enough, Richardson and Yahya have met:
As I said in the earlier version of this post, I’d welcome comments from Joel Richardson, who has commented here on ZP before, Adnan Oktar, and / or Ceylan Ozbudak — especially in clarification of any points I have left obscure or gotten wrong. Thanks.
[ by Charles Cameron — slowed down by health issues, but getting there ]
A quick announcement from Tim Furnish:
The second of my complementary volumes on Islam and Islamic world issues is finally up on Amazon, albeit at this point only in Kindle format. Sects, Lies, and the Caliphate: 10 Years of Observations on Islam is the follow-on to Ten Years’ Captivation with the Mahdi’s Camps, which came out in November 2015. The latter focused entirely on Islamic eschatology and apocalyptic movements (especially ISIS and Iran); the new one, on the other hand, deals with more mundane, but no less important, issues–such as the Islamic roots of ISIS and Muslim terrorism, how Christianity is indeed more peaceful and less problematic than Islam (not to mention being true), and, in the longest section (some 86 pages), on mostly failed US policies toward Islam and the Islamic world over the last decade.
I shall be reviewing both books when time permits, but wanted to let you know both are now available.
In a sworn affidavit as part of her divorce case, Ms. Micheau described Mr. Dear as a serial philanderer and a problem gambler, a man who kicked her, beat her head against the floor and fathered two children with other women while they were together. He found excuses for his transgressions, she said, in his idiosyncratic views on Christian eschatology and the nature of salvation.
“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions,” Ms. Micheau said in the court document. “He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.”
I recall a conference twenty-five years ago at which the great scholar David Erdman was lecturing brilliantly on Blake’s poetry; in the audience his wife, Virginia, a distinguished clinical psychologist, leaned across to the person sitting next to her and observed, ‘I’ve never been able to convince David that Blake was completely mad.’
Before Blake could leave Felpham and return to London, an incident occurred that was very disturbing to him and possibly even dangerous. Without Blake’s knowledge, his gardener had invited a soldier by the name of John Scofield into his garden to help with the work. Blake seeing the soldier and thinking he had no business being there promptly tossed him out. In a letter to Butts, Blake recalled the incident in detail:
I desired him, as politely as possible, to go out of the Garden; he made me an impertinent answer. I insisted on his leaving the Garden; he refused. I still persisted in desiring his departure; he then threaten’d to knock out my Eyes, with many abominable imprecations & with some contempt for my Person; it affronted my foolish Pride. I therefore took him by the Elbows & pushed him before me till I had got him out; there I intended to leave him, but he, turning about, put himself into a Posture of Defiance, threatening & swearing at me. I, perhaps foolishly & perhaps not, stepped out at the Gate, & putting aside his blows, took him again by the Elbows, &, keeping his back to me, pushed him forwards down the road about fifty yards–he all the while endeavouring to turn round & strike me, & raging & cursing, which drew out several neighbours….
What made this almost comic incident so serious was that the soldier swore before a magistrate that Blake had said “Damn the King” and had uttered seditious words. Blake denied the charge, but he was forced to post bail and appear in court.
Theologian Thomas Altizer writes of Blake that “From the beginning, he rebelled against God, or against the God then present in Christendom” — perhaps thinking of Blake’s own words in The Everlasting Gospel:
THe vision of Christ that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy.
Thine has a great hook nose like thine;
Mine has a snub nose like to mine.
Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;
Mine speaks in parables to the blind.
Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.
Socrates taught what Meletus
Loath’d as a nation’s bitterest curse,
And Caiaphas was in his own mind
A benefactor to mankind.
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white.
— and then calls him “the most radical of all modern Christian visionaries”, explaining that “no poet or seer before him had so profoundly sensed the cataclysmic collapse of the cosmos created by Western man” —
There are four sentences that fall in series in Will McCants’s Conclusion — three of a kind followed by one with a different quality to it. Each one ends a section, and the last ends the Conclusion as a whole:
This is not Bin Laden’s apocalypse.
This is not Bin Laden’s insurgency.
This is not Bin Laden’s caliphate.
This may not be Bin Laden’s jihad, but it’s a formula future jihadists will find hard to resist.
The relevant pages respectively are pp. 147, 151, 153, and 159.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.