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Order of business: Caliph first, Mahdi next up?

Friday, July 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- an old Jihadica post revisited ]
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In a 27th June 2008 post on Jihadica, Will McCants reported that one al-Fata al-Jurani had argued on the Eklaas fourm that “the Mahdi will not appear until a caliph once again rules Muslims. After the caliph dies, the black banners will be unfurled and the Mahdi will appear” — quoting two hadith in support:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Disagreement will occur at the death of a caliph and a man of the people of Medina will come flying forth to Mecca. Some of the people of Mecca will come to him, bring him out against his will and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam. An expeditionary force will then be sent against him from Syria but will be swallowed up in the desert between Mecca and Medina. When the people see that, the eminent saints of Syria and the best people of Iraq will come to him and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam. Then there will arise a man of Quraysh whose maternal uncles belong to Kalb and send against them an expeditionary force which will be overcome by them, and that is the expedition of Kalb. Disappointed will be the one who does not receive the booty of Kalb. He will divide the property, and will govern the people by the Sunnah of their Prophet (peace be upon him) and establish Islam on Earth. He will remain seven years… (Sunan Dawud)

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: 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 ani the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople. And as they would be busy in distributing the spoils of war (amongst themselves) after hanging their swords by the olive trees, the Satan would cry: The Dajjal has taken your place among your family… (Sahih Muslim)

McCants then asked:

So if the caliphate were to be declared and acknowledged, would hitherto non-messianic Jihadi groups like al-Qaeda become messianic?

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Note also that the second hadith is the one that mentions Dabiq — which is also the title of the first magazine published by the new Caliphate.

We live in interesting times.

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Dabiq magazine: an end-times reference from the IS “Caliphate”

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- the new caliphate has a new magazine hot off the presses, and it's bookended with apocalyptic hadith ]
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A new caliphate’s new magazine demands a new name — and on this occasion the name chosen carries a very specific end-times connotation:

As for the name of the magazine, then it is taken from the area named Dabiq in the northern countryside of Halab (Aleppo) in Sham. This place was mentioned in a hadith describing some of the events of the Malahim (what is sometimes referred to as Armageddon in English). One of the greatest battles between the Muslims and the crusaders will take place near Dabiq.

So there you have it in a nutshell — the IS caliphate announced their arrival with the first issue of a magazine named specifically for an impending battle associated with Armageddon.

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To give those they seek to recruit to the cause more detail, the extended hadith is then narrated:

Abu Hurayrah reported that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,

“The Hour will not be established until the Romans land at al-A’maq or Dabiq (two places near each other in the northern countryside of Halab). Then an army from al-Madinah of the best people on the earth at that time will leave for them.

When they line up in ranks, the Romans will say, ‘Leave us and those who were taken as prisoners from amongst us so we can fight them.’ The Muslims will say, ‘Nay, by Allah, we will not abandon our brothers to you.’ So they will fight them.

Then one third of them will flee; Allah will never forgive them. One third will be killed; they will be the best martyrs with Allah. And one third will conquer them; they will never be afflicted with fitnah. Then they will conquer Constantinople.

While they are dividing the war booty, having hung their swords on olive trees, Shaytan will shout, ‘The [false] Messiah has followed after your families [who were left behind.]’ So they will leave [for their families], but Shaytan’s claim is false.

When they arrive to Sham he comes out. Then while they are preparing for battle and filing their ranks, the prayer is called. So ‘Isa Ibn Maryam (‘alayhis-Salam) will descend and lead them.

When the enemy of Allah sees him, he will melt as salt melts in water. If he were to leave him, he would melt until he perished, but he kills him with his own hand, and then shows them his blood upon his spear” [Sahih Muslim].

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The magazine next cites Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi:

Shaykh Abu Mus’ab az-Zarqawi (rahimahullah) anticipated the expansion of the blessed jihad from Iraq into Sham and linked it to this hadith saying,

“The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify -– by Allah’s permission -– until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq” [Ayna Ahlul-Muru’at].

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Finally, the editorial concludes:

According to the hadith, the area will play a historical role in the battles leading up to the conquests of Constantinople, then Rome. Presently, Dabiq is under the control of crusaderbacked sahwat, close to the warfront between them and the Khilafah.

May Allah purify Dabiq from the treachery of the sahwah and raise the flag of the Khilafah over its land. Amin.

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You thought, perhaps, that those who put forth the magazine were kidding about Dabiq as the location of an end-times battle, sometime shortly after which Jesus [the son of Mary -- ‘Isa Ibn Maryam] will descend? On the 50th and final page of the magazine, the entire long hadith that graced page 4 is repeated — with, hey, different paragraph breaks to provide a little novelty:

Abu Hurayrah reported that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,

“The Hour will not be established until the Romans land at al-A’maq or Dabiq (two places near each other in the northern countryside of Halab).

Then an army from al-Madinah of the best people on the earth at that time will leave for them. When they line up in ranks, the Romans will say, ‘Leave us and those who were taken as prisoners from amongst us so we can fight them.’

The Muslims will say, ‘Nay, by Allah, we will not abandon our brothers to you.’ So they will fight them.

Then one third of them will flee; Allah will never forgive them. One third will be killed; they will be the best martyrs with Allah. And one third will conquer them; they will never be afflicted with fitnah.

Then they will conquer Constantinople. While they are dividing the war booty, having hung their swords on olive trees, Shaytan will shout, ‘The [false] Messiah has followed after your families [who were left behind.]’ So they will leave [for their families], but Shaytan’s claim is false. When they arrive to Sham he comes out.

Then while they are preparing for battle and filing their ranks, the prayer is called. So ‘Isa Ibn Maryam (‘alayhis-Salam) will descend and lead them.

When the enemy of Allah sees him, he will melt as salt melts in water. If he were to leave him, he would melt until he perished, but he kills him with his own hand, and then shows them his blood upon his spear.” [Sahih Muslim]

The IS Baghdadi caliphate is part and parcel of the end-times, apocalyptic, Armageddon-style war as understood in one strand [see David Cook's books, below] of Islamic eschatology…

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Recommended readings:

  • JP Filiu, Apocalypse in Islam
  • David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic
  • David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature
  • Timothy Furnish, Holiest Wars
  • Richard Landes, Heaven on Earth
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    Quote from Baghdadi: 'The Muslims today have a loud, thundering statement, and possess heavy boots.'

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    The end of the world in footnote 35, page 18

    Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- how the "end times" aspect of the new "caliphate" gets buried somewhere under all the books, papers, and old burrito wrappings on my desk ]
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    Richard Barrett‘s report for The Soufan Group in June 2014, Foreign Fighters in Syria, runs 33 pages, but you’d have to get to page 18 to read:

    Indeed, the Islamist narrative of Syria as a land of ‘jihad’ features prominently in the propaganda of extremist groups on both sides of the war, just as it does in the social media comments of their foreign recruits. [35] The opportunity and desire to witness and take part in a battle prophesized 1,400 years earlier is a strong motivator. And for some, so too is the opportunity to die as a ‘martyr’, with extremist sheikhs and other self-appointed religious pundits declaring that anyone who dies fighting the ‘infidel’ enemy, whoever that may be, will be particularly favored in the afterlife.

    Then, buried in footnote 35 — burial is the right metaphor, isn’t it? — you’ll find this understated gem:

    35 Several hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad and his companions) refer to Syria as the land of Jihad where an epic battle between Muslim armies will take place, leading to the end of times.

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    I am being more than a little unfair here, so let me offer a corrective of sorts. I may be keenly aware that Muslim eschatology is a powerful and often forgotten driver in contemporary jihadist recruitment, morale, and perhas strategy, but that doesn’t make it the necessary topic of any and every article on AQ, its various affiliates, or the new IS “caliphate”. And I’m pretty sure Barrett knows this too, since he is writing as a Senior Vice President in Ali Soufan‘s group, ancd Soufan was the man who named his book The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al-Qaeda — Soufan is very clear on the “end times” connection. So I am half nitpicking here, focusing in on just one footnote — and half in deadly earnest.

    Look, Syria — or more precisely “greater Sham” — is at the heart of Abu Musab al-Suri‘s treatise on the apocalypse. Jean-Paul Filiu notes in Apocalypse in Islam that “the wandering jihadist is preoccupied above all by the central role reserved for his homeland at the end of the world”:

    It is self-evident to him that the “country of Sham” — Greater Syria, including Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan – looms as the apocalyptic theater par excellence, and that al-Qaida’s strategic conception of global jihad must be reoriented to take into account this final clash.

    Filiu also comments, as I have said before:

    There is nothing in the least theoretical about this exercise in apocalyptic exegesis. It is meant instead as a guide for action.

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    I want to give you some background on all this — on our tendency to politely overlook apocalyptic signs, as if only Rorschach [in the Watchmen illustrations with which I bookend this post] and a few sandalled and long-haired crazies with “the end is nigh” signs on the pavement outside upscale stores or in cartoons ever really think about that stuff — and perhap the easiest way is to offer you the text of the relevant passage of an essay I wrote for the 2007 National Security Strategy Essay Contest sponsored by the Army-G3 and the Combating Terrorism Center, and wnich I kept on adding to but never quite finished…

    My essay was titled How can the U.S. credibly and ethically deter adherents of extremist religious ideologies from engaging in terrorist activity? I’ll spare you the footnotes…

    One of the greatest current risks we face in the Islamic world is that we will be blindsided by apocalyptic fervor, either in the form of a Mahdist movement, or in reaction to extremist Christian or Jewish messianic attacks on Temple Mount / the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem. In view of this, the disdain in which “apocalyptic” is held is so great — and so significant from an analytic perspective — that I shall quote several authorities on the subject.

    David Cook is our foremost scholar on apocalyptic movements within the Islamic world, quoted at length and with respect by Benjamin and Simon (senior director and director, respectively, in the Clinton NSC) in The Age of Sacred Terror. He writes:

    Many monotheistic faiths encompass strains of belief that the end of the world is approaching, but such strains are not usually deemed “respectable.” The more specific these beliefs, the less respect they receive… The general disdain for such beliefs is so great that a scholar publishing on this subject is a source of acute embarrassment to any established religious institution of higher learning with which he — or very rarely she — is associated.

    Cook is writing particularly about the treatment of scholarly works in (e.g.) Islamic countries, and mentions al-Azhar University, the leading Sunni seat of learning, in this context, and in fact al-Azhar banned his earlier work, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic, on the grounds that it “violated Islamic principles and harmed Islam’s image.” The same type of academic disdain, however, was prevalent enough in European circles that the psychologist Carl Jung wrote, “I will not discuss the transparent prophecies of the Book of Revelation, because no one believes in them and the whole subject is felt to be an embarassing one.”

    Disdain for the topic is easily conveyed by senior to junior scholars. Stephen O’Leary, now the author of the Oxford University Press classic, Arguing the Millennium, notes that “apocalyptic studies are or have been not reputable within the academy.” He says the most explicit attempt to dissuade him from such studies came from a faculty member a major university department where he was interviewing for a position: “The implication, if not the exact wording, was that a fascination with apocalyptic beliefs and movements was a waste of time, since these phenomena were marginal and unworthy of serious study.”

    And that disdain only to easily leads to an underestimate of the strength of the feeling involved. As O’Leary notes in his book,

    Apocalyptic arguments made by people of good and sincere faith have apparently succeeded in persuading millions; it is unfair and dangerous to dismiss these arguments as irrational and the audiences persuaded by them as ignorant fools. In a world where bright utopic visions compete with increasingly plausible scenarios of global catastrophe, it seems imperative to understand how our anticipations of the future may be both inspired and limited by the ancient logic of apocalypticism.

    One of our finest recent scholars of religious violence, Jessica Stern, was initially taken aback by the apocalyptic intensity of the terrorists she studied:

    I have come to see that apocalyptic violence intended to “cleanse” the world of “impurities” can create a transcendent state. All the terrorist groups examined in this book believe — or at least started out believing — that they are creating a more perfect world. From their perspective, they are purifying the world of injustice, cruelty, and all that is antihuman. When I began this project, I could not understand why the killers I met seemed spiritually intoxicated. Now, I think I understand. They seem that way because they are.

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    Now let’s put those quotes in the context of recent remarks by Tim Furnish:

    As if ISIS is not bad enough with its jihadism, there are disturbing hints of eschatological thinking and Mahdism among that group and its allies. [ .. ]

    No one has yet proclaimed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the Mahdi — but if Islamic history is any guide, it’s just a matter of time. Once the caliphate is firmly established, then the likelihood of a Mahdiyah being proclaimed increases. And as I noted in my book Holiest Wars, “Muslim messianic movements are to fundamentalist uprisings what nuclear weapons are to conventional ones: triggered by the same detonating agents, but far more powerful in scope and effect.

    Nobody may yet have proclaimed al-Baghdadi as the Mahdi, but he’s claimed the caliphate for himself since Tim wrote this. And even if you think “nuclear weapons” compared to “conventional ones” is a bit of a stretch, consider Khartoum — and then multiply by the increase in the destructive power of weaponry between the 1880s and today…

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    Dialectic, or a waltz within revelation

    Monday, June 23rd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on three-fold movements in time in Islam, Christianity and Judaism ]
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    The three ages of Joachim of Fiore, in the latter's Venn-like diagram

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    The question of how Islam in its many varieties views other religions is a compelling one, and perhaps never more so than in our own times. Today I was informed that many of William Chittick‘s papers were available for download on Academia.edu, and the first couple I wanted to read were these:

  • The Theological roots of peace and war according to Islam
  • A Sufi Approach to Religious Diversity — Ibn al-Arabi on the Metaphysics of Revelation
  • While scrounging around the net for an easily quotable form of the second paper, I ran across Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir — and like a dutiful netizen, I stopped off to read a little, and ran across the gem I’d like to bring you this morning>

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    Shaykh Faraz Rabbani offers a fascinating example of the dialectic three-step in the prophetic books of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (Tawrah, Injil and Qur’an), writing:

    A familiar example cited by ulama is the law of talion, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, which was obligatory in the religious law of Moses (upon whom be peace), subsequently forbidden by the religious law of Jesus (upon whom be peace) in which “turning the other cheek” was obligatory; and finally both were superseded by the law of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), which permits victims to take retaliation (qisas) for purely intentional physical injuries, but in which it is religiously superior not to retaliate but forgive.

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    In general, Christianity — having the Tanakh and New Testament for its scriptures — offers a binary or two-step process in place of this movement of the dialectic: the lex talionis is commanded in the Old Testament and rescinded in the New. Only in the work of Abbot Joachim of Fiore do we find a three-fold dispensation, in which the first term or “age of the Father” follows the many laws (mitzvot) of the Old Testament, the second follows Christ’s abridgement to include simply the two commandments of Matthew 22. 37-40:

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    And the third?

    Mirabile dictu, it is the age in which the presence of the Holy Spirit liberates us from all necessity of law. Gianni Vattimo, writing in After Christianity, expresses Joachim’s vision thus:

    Three are the stages of the world indicated by the sacred texts. The first is the stage in which we have lived under the law; the second is that in which we live under grace; the third is one in which we shall live in a more perfect state of grace. . . . The first passed in slavery; the second is characterized by filial slavery; the third wiII unfold in the name of freedom. The first is marked by awe, the second by faith, the third by charity. The first period regards the slaves; the second regards the sons; the third regards the friends. … The first stage is ascribed to the Father, who is the author of all things; the second to the Son, who has been esteemed worthy to share our mud; the third to the Holy Spirit, of which the apostle says “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

    The Archdruid’s Report discussed Augustinian and Joachimite views of the nature of time a while back, and while his entire post is worth your attention, here I would like to pick out this one paragraph:

    What made Joachim’s vision different from any of the visionary histories that came before it—and there were plenty of those in the Middle Ages — was that it was a story of progress. The Age of Love, as Joachim envisioned it, was a great improvement on the Age of Law, and the approaching Age of Liberty would be an improvement on the Age of Love; in the third age, he taught, the Church would wither away, and people would live together in perfect peace and harmony, with no need for political or religious institutions. To the church authorities of Joachim’s time, steeped in the Augustinian vision, all this was heresy; to the radicals of the age, it was manna from heaven, and nearly every revolutionary ideology in Europe from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries drew heavily on Joachimist ideas.

    Indeed, Norman Cohn in his classic Pursuit of the Millennium sees Joachim’s Third age in the Drittes or Tausendjähriges Reich (the Third or Thousand Year = Millennial Kingdom) of Nazism, and in Friedrich Engels’ notion of the “withering away of the State” — both great tolitarian systems of the last century thus being under the spell of Joachim’s apocalyptic notion of utopia.

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    And Judaism?

    Judaism has its own developmental scheme, in which sacrificial Temple worship gives way to the synagogues, talmudic scholarship and the diaspora — yet always with the Pesach refrain:

    Next year in Jerusalem.

    Here too, it may be surmised, time moves to the music of the dialectic.

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    Theology matters: sun god moon god

    Saturday, June 21st, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on soundbite mischaracterizations in a volatile and complex world ]
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    Isn’t it time we stopped maligning each others’ religions with third-rate “theological” speculations?

    The upper panel here is taken from a WND piece by Joel Richardson in which he describes the conspiracy-laden “Muslim” video-tube series “The Arrival” depicting the Christian savior as a sun god, while the lower one is taken from one of the “Christian” Chick tracts describing Islam as worshipping a moon god.

    The idea in each case is to score points preaching to one’s own “choir” — but any Muslim will tell you that the God they worship is in fact the One without a second, and any Christian will tell you that neither the Savior nor his Heavenly Father is the sun god Ra.

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    Speculating about the origins of religions is an interesting business, and David Fideler does just that in his book, Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism. He’s not, however, the only person investigating the rich brew of religious ideas from which Christianity emerged — the Nag Hmmadi and Qumran documents between them have made this a fertile field of study and speculation, and the theories range as far afield as the distinguished linguist John Allegro‘s claim that Christ was a mushroom.

    Islamic texts have not until very recently been subject to the same kind of scrutiny that Textual Criticism has brought to bear on Biblical studies since the time of Julius Wellhausen, but if time allowed me a second life in parallel with this one (and with less of an attention deficit?) I’d be very interested to read and compare Keith Small‘s Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manuscripts with Ahmad Ali Al-Imam‘s Variant Readings Of The Quran: A Critical Study Of Their Historical And Linguistic Origins.

    For those of us who lack the linguistic and scholarly chops for post-doc level research, however, and particularly those of us inclined to polemic, it may be wise to avoid citing any particular version of Islamic or Christian origins as definitive, and concentrate on the actual theologies, extreme as well as mainstream, of our contemporaries, and of major historical thinkers on the order of St Augustine and Martin Luther, Ibn Arabi and Ibn Taymiyyah.

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    Telling Muslims they worship a moon god is as unlikely to dent their faith as telling Christians they worship the sun — it is more likely simply to hurt or anger them. It is falsehood — and as the saying goes:

    the truth shall make you free.

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