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Dabiq issue #5 — the back cover, the hadith, the child, the video

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — once again a Mahdist hadith — and a video link, I’m pretty sure ]
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dabiq 5 front back pgs

Dabiq issue #5 (front & back covers above) has now been out a day or three.

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This time, there’s an “end times” hadith that doesn’t mention the title Mahdi while referring to him on the back cover:

face

This particular hadith as quoted requires the Mahdi to have both the name of the Prophet and of his father — which will make it difficult, but not impossible, for the current caliph to receive that title. Mr Orange first suggested this problem to me, and I hope in a future post to discuss it in some detail.

I also hope to continue discussing Dabiq issue #5 as time allows..

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For now, let me close by saying I am pretty sure the child in the photo above is also “Abdullah” from Khazakstan interviewed in this video:

which I found in Australia’s 9News piece, Child demonstrates frightening firearms proficiency in ISIL video.

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Dabiq issue #5 – Ibrahim challenges Nimrod

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — tracing the same tale from Ibrahim challenging Nimrod as quoted in Dabiq back to Midrash Rabbah ]
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I ended my last post, An end times update & the Islamic State, with a DoubleQuote:

SPEC DQ sunrise west

Sources:

  • Foreign Policy, In a New Ukraine, the Sun Rises in the West
  • Discovering Islam, Rising of the Sun from the West
  • **

    But then, d’oh, a new issue of Dabiq comes out, and on p 4 there’s a reference to Qur’an 2.258:

    Have you not considered the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Ibrahim said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death.” Ibrahim said, “Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people [Al-Baqarah: 258].

    What’s that book title? The Sun Also Rises

    **

    That’s quite an intriguing exchange, you know, for Dabiq to be quoting — especially considering that Ibrahim is the caliphal name of al-Baghdadi, that Dabiq preaches the millah Ibrahim, and so forth.

    There’s more to the story, of course.

    The Qur’an 21.51-71 goes into more detail:

    We gave Abraham aforetime his rectitude — for We knew him — when he said to his father and his people, ‘What are these statues unto which you are cleaving?’ They said, ‘We found our fathers serving them.’ He said, ‘Then assuredly you and your fathers have been in manifest error.’ They said, ‘What, hast thou come to us with the truth, or art thou one of those that play?’ He said, ‘Nay, but your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth who originated them, and I am one of those that bear witness thereunto. And, by God, I shall assuredly outwit your idols, after you have gone away turning your backs.’ So he broke them into fragments, all but a great one they had, for haply they would return to it. They said, ‘Who has. done this with our gods? Surely he is one of the evildoers.’ They said, ‘We heard a young man making mention of them, and he was called Abraham.’ They said, ‘Bring him before the people’s eyes; haply they shall bear witness.’ They said, ‘So, art thou the man who did this unto our gods, Abraham?’ He said, ‘No; it was this great one of them that did it. Question them; if they are able to speak!’ So they returned one to another, and they said, ‘Surely it is you who are the evildoers.’ Then they were utterly put to confusion saying, ‘Very well indeed thou knowest these do not speak.’ He said, ‘What, and do you serve, apart from God, that which profits you nothing; neither hurts you? Fie upon you and that you serve apart from God! Do you not understand?’ They said, ‘Burn him, and help your gods, if you would do aught.’ We said, ‘O fire, be coolness and safety for Abraham!’ They desired to outwit him; so We made them the worse losers, and We delivered him, and Lot, unto the land that We had blessed for all beings.

    And behind that telling o the story, there’s the Midrash Rabbah, in which we read [p. 311] that Abraham mocked customers of his father’s idol-manufacturing business, with the result that his father handed him over to the King, Nimrod — himself an idolater:

    Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod. ‘Let us worship the fire’ he [Nimrod] proposed. ‘Let us rather worship water’, which extinguishes the fire,’ replied he. ‘Then let us worship water!’ ‘Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.’ ‘Then let us worship the clouds!’ ‘Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds’ ‘Then let us worship the wind!’ ‘Let us ratherworship human beings, who withstand the wind.’ ‘You are just bandying words,’ he exclaimed; ‘We will worship naught but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.’ Now Haran was standing there undecided. If Abram is victorious, [thought he], I will say that I am of Abram’s belief, while if Nimrod is victorious I will say that I am on Nimrod’s side. When Abram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, he [Nimrod] asked him, ‘Of whose belief are you?’ ‘Of Abram’s,’ he replied. Thereupon he seized and cast him into the fire; his inwards were scorched and he died in his father’s presence. Hence it is writteN, AND hARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF (‘AL PENE) HIS FATHER TERAH

    **

    I shall have more to say about Dabiq 5 in further posts — the whole magazine is a bit much to digest at once.

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    An end times update, & the Islamic State

    Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — apocalyptic date-shifting, Baghdadi as the Sufyan, and somehow that ties in with the Fatima apparitions? ]
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    Here, in frozen real time, you can witness the updating of an end times prediction:

    announcement

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    If you look here, you will see:

    The book reveals that the first phase of the End Times will start in late 2013 with the emergence of the first evil person (Araj, Dajjal, etc.) which triggers the emergence of the Mahdi and will end in 2022 after the emergence of the last evil person (Dajjal, Anti-Christ, etc.) which triggers the descent of Prophet Jesus Christ (p) from Heaven.

    That’s “as of June 29, 2012″. Furthermore:

    The book includes in-depth analysis of specific dates (the day, month, and year) on which important End Times events will occur, such as : (1) Beginning of the End Times and emergence of the first Dajjal and the Mahdi , (2) Destruction of New York, London, Sydney, Vancouver, (3) Bringing of Tabut Al-Sakina (Ark of Covenant) and a copy of the original Torah, (4) Dajjal’s resurrection of people of some cities, (5) Destruction of the Aqsa Mosque, (6) Discovery of a copy of the original Gospel, (7) Tariq Star and switching of the Poles of the Earth, (8) End of the U.S. and Canada, (9) Liberation of Palestine, (10) Muslims’ Conquest of Britain, (11) Muslims’ Conquest of Russia, (12) Emergence/Return of the last Dajjal, (13) Descent of Prophet Jesus (p) from Heaven, (14) The last day on which repentance and becoming a Muslim can be accepted by God., (15) End of the first phase of the End Times when people will be classified as either Believers or Unbelievers.

    Without exaggeration, this book is one of the most significant Islamic books that have ever been written.

    **

    As you’ll have noticed above, however, revisions have been necessary, and are being made as we speak.

    The current website offers these predictions:

    The beginning of the End of Time, including the emergence of the Imam Mahdi (Mehdi), will most likely be either in 2015 or 2016, while Jesus Christ (p)’s return [or second (2nd ) coming] is in 2022, in-sha-Allah (if God is willing).

    **

    What I find even more interesting, though, than the updating of one of the most significant Islamic books that have ever been written, is the updating of the real-time news invoked to include ISIS / Daesh, and specifically to suggest al Baghdadi may be the Sufiyani:

    The quick victories of the Islamic State in Iraq & Syria (I.S.I.S.) in Central and Northern Iraq and its establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, headed by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi who seems to fit the characteristics of a man called the Sufyani mentioned in several Hadiths of Prophet Mohammad. However, please note that the Hadiths about the Sufyani are mostly considered weak. This means that it is possible that Prophet Mohammad did not mention these Hadiths and therefore, it is possible that there will be no Sufyani emerging.

    The Sufyani is supposed to :

    (a) seem to be a religious Muslim.
    (b) be a butcher who kills and slaughters innocent people.
    (c) be an enemy of the Mahdi.
    (d) emerge within a short period before the Mahdi.
    (e) defeat his rivals, rule Al-Sham (Greater Syria) and attack cities in Iraq.
    (f) send an army to attack the Mahdi, but his army will encounter a Khusf (land slide/collapse or a catastrophe).

    The Islamic State in Iraq (I.S.I.) was established on October 13, 2006 which is the anniversary of the last apparition (vision) of the 3 children, regarding the End Times, in Fatima, Portugal which happened on October 13, 1917.

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    Fatima?

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    And you know how I stumbled across all this? I was amused by a headline in FP that read In a New Ukraine, the Sun Rises in the West & recalled that the sun rising in the west was one of the signs of the soon coming of the Mahdi– and when I went to find an appropriate citation to back that up, I ran across this page, Rising of the Sun from the West — which had a sidebar note:

    The End Times:
    Based on Numerical Analysis of the Quran, Hadith, Arabic Words, and Historical Events.
    Imam Mahdi in 2014
    Jesus Christ (p) in 2022
    www.EndTimes2014.com

    Hey — an apocalyptic DoubleQuote: totally irresistible!

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    Pole position

    Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

    [exhumed by Lynn C. Rees]

    Pilsudski

    If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble but neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power.

    -  Theodore Roosevelt

    One of the great strategic failures of the twentieth century was the failure to strangle Bolshevism in its cradle. For France and Britain, the failure arose from a desire to reconstitute the Russian Empire as it was before World War I with White armies, general war weariness by their populations after four years of bloody war, and a belief that no one as crazy as the Bolsheviks could endure in power. Winston Churchill warned of danger ahead but, as he was through most of his career, he was a prophet without honor in his own country on a good day and a stereotypical aristocratic English crank on a bad day. France and Britain would suffer a century of war, loss of their preeminence, and the fundamental corruption of their liberal institutions as a result.

    The motives of the United States, new to this world power thing, were weakly held at worst and ambivalently held at best. They intervened in Russia primarily for reasons of Allied/“Associated Power” solidarity, to rescue a large army raised from former Austro-Hungarian Czech POWs that needed to be shipped to the Western Front, to seize Allied arms provided to the Imperial Russian government before the February Revolution, and to protect American property. Much to the chagrin of Allied commanders, American soldiers largely focused on that mission and not on the cause of supporting Russians fighting the Bolsheviks. Stopping a Red Menace in Russia that would threaten the U.S. after 1945 was not on the American agenda. Coming home was.

    Poland did not have such a luxury. For Poland, Russia was all to close. Much as they would have wished the Atlantic to shift eastwards and separate Poland from Russia, Jozef Pilsudski, the father of Polish independence, had to have a strategy to counter a Russian empire that was right next door. The curious thing: he developed and started executing his strategy before Poland was even a state.

    Pilsudski was born in Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire. His family was minor nobility who’d risen and fought against Russia during Poland’s habitual escape attempts from the Prison of Nations. In school, Pilsudski was subjected to Russification but only learned to hate Russia, the Czar, Russian Orthodoxy, the Russian language, and Russian culture. He went to medical school but soon involved himself in pro-Polish independence movements. As with many, this led to arrest and a Siberian vacation. He was later released, returned to Poland, took up agitation again, and was imprisoned again. Pilsudski escaped (escape from Russian prisons was surprisingly common for revolutionaries like Pilsudski, Dzerzhinsky, and Stalin) and went into exile.

    It was here that Pilsudski proposed the first version of his Promethean strategy to the Japanese after their war with Russia War broke out:

    Poland’s strength and importance among the constituent parts of the Russian state embolden us to set ourselves the political goal of breaking up the Russian state into its main constituents and emancipating the countries that have been forcibly incorporated into that empire. We regard this not only as the fulfillment of our country’s cultural strivings for independent existence, but also as a guarantee of that existence, since a Russia divested of her conquests will be sufficiently weakened that she will cease to be a formidable and dangerous neighbor.

    Pilsudski was proposing a grand strategy that echoed French strategy from Richelieu down to the bumbling Luigi Nabulione Buonaparte: keep a large neighboring proto-nation, in France’s case Germany, from being united under a state whose combined strength would constitute a mortal threat. Britain followed a similar strategy by keeping Europe divided by supporting whoever ganged up against the latest aspiring continental hegemon. In Pilsudski’s scheming, Russia, the Prison of Nations, was to be permanently checked by opening the prison’s locks and letting the prisoners out.

    Japan, aiming to disrupt rather than destroy, provided Pilsudski with just enough resources to create distractions for Russia during the 1905 Russian Revolution but not enough to gain independence. Stymied, Pilsudski removed to Austrian Poland and sat down to an intricate game. Foreseeing a general European War, Pilsudski, with Austrian connivance, started building up a Polish Legion. Officers and NCOs were trained, agents were sent into Poland to assassinate Russian officials and steal money, and troops were trained under the fiction of setting up sporting clubs and a Rifleman’s Association. When World War I broke out, Pilsudski led 12,000 paramilitaries. At a meeting in Paris in 1914:

    Pisudski presciently declared that in the impending war, for Poland to regain independence, Russia must be beaten by the Central Powers (the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires), and the latter powers must in their turn be beaten by France, Britain and the United States.

    Pilsudski formed an official Polish Legion to fight for Austria-Hungary against Russia while secretly  informing the British that his forces would only fight Russia, not Britain and France. Pilsudski gained military experience by leading his forces in several battles with the Russians on the Eastern Front. After one encounter in which the Polish Legion suffered heavy casualties in successfully defending against a Russian attack, Pilsudski was able to coax the Germans and Austrians into declaring Poland independent. Under the new Polish government established by the Central Powers, Pilsudski served as minister of war  but increasingly took an independent position as the war drew to an end. After refusing to permit the Polish Legion to swear allegiance to Germany and Austria, Pilsudski was imprisoned by the Germans, the Polish Legion disbanded, and its men incorporated into the Austrian army. But, as Germany approached Armistice Day, they decided to create mischief. They released Pilsudski from prison and sent him back to Poland in a sealed train (like Lenin).

    On Armistice Day 1918, Poland declared her independence. Pilsudski eased German troops from Poland (usefully leaving their weapons behind) and, as head of state, began organizing Poland as an independent state with its own government and army. The other leg of his strategy was revealed at this timeIntermarum. Pilsudski sought to create:

    [A] federation, under Poland‘s aegis, of Central and Eastern European countries. Invited to join the proposed federation were the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

    Intermarum

    This federation would be an explicit counter to Germany and a rump Russia and an implicit counter to Britain and France. Curiously, in reference to the future, it would have been a kind of positive Warsaw Pact. Unfortunately for Pilsudski’s scheme, Britain and France opposed such a creature and Poland’s neighbors were too distrustful of Poland and too antagonistic towards each other to make such a pact.

    Facing the immediate impracticability of Intermarum, Pilsudski shifted to Prometheism. Observing that “All that we can gain in the west depends on the Entente—on the extent to which it may wish to squeeze Germany”, while in the east “there are doors that open and close, and it depends on who forces them open and how far.” So Pilsudski focused on extending Poland’s eastern frontier.

    This is where two of Pilsudski’s actions had a massive effect on the future of the world. When examining the situation in Russia, Pilsudski had a problem:

    Pilsudski was aware that the Bolsheviks were no friends of independent Poland, and that war with them was inevitable. He viewed their advance west as a major problem, but also considered the Bolsheviks less dangerous for Poland than their Russian Civil War opponents. These “White Russians”—representative of the old Russian Empire—were willing to accept only limited independence for Poland, probably within borders similar to those of the former Congress Poland, and clearly objected to Polish control of Ukraine, which was crucial for Pilsudski’s Intermarum project.

    This was in contrast to the Bolsheviks, who proclaimed the partitions of Poland null and void.Pilsudski thus speculated that Poland would be better off with the Bolsheviks, alienated from the Western powers, than with a restored Russian Empire [allied with Britain and France].

    The sheer craziness of the Bolsheviks, as evidenced by such actions as unilaterally declaring peace with German without German agreement, led people to underestimate them. No one that nuts, especially a movement led by coffee-house intellectuals and hippies, could possibly last long against battle hardened White Armies, backed, as they were, by the Allied Powers. So Pilsudski decided not to move against the Bolsheviks in mid-1919. If he’d attacked the Bolsheviks at that time, Polish arms would have destroyed the Bolshevik regime.

    Later, the Bolsheviks were drawn west as German forces finally withdrew from Russian territory. Their advancing forces clashed with Polish forces moving eastward. In response, following his Promethean philosophy of encouraging independence among the nationalities of the former Russian Empire, Pilsudski signed an alliance with the Ukraine. Together they attacked the Bolsheviks. After some success, the Russians, raising the specter of the ancient Polish enemy, rallied the Great Russian people and counter-attacked, driving the Poles back into Poland.

    This is where a second action of Pilsudski led to historic changes. Here I will channel Niall Ferguson from The Pity of War and conjecture that a collapse of Poland in 1920 would have allowed Bolshevik forces, as they openly proclaimed, to invade Germany and Austria. As Ferguson argued that British intervention on the continent in 1914 saved France from Germany and thus led to all the horrors of World War I and its demon spawn, Polish collapse in 1920 might have triggered an intervention that led to the Bolsheviks being destroyed. While the Reds may not of been successful in occupying Berlin or large parts of central Europe, the Weimar Republic was weak and may have crumbled under even a weak Russian attack. The prospect of Communism advancing into central Europe and threatening western Europe might have triggered a renewed and more vigorous intervention in Russia by the Western Powers, possibly with broad public support. That might have led to the suppression of the Bolshevik regime.

    This speculation is, of course, speculation. But opinion of the time, in the words of Norman Davis:

    Pilsudski had nothing of his later prestige. As a pre-war revolutionary he led his party to splits and quarrels; as a general in the WWI he led his legions to internment and disbanding; as a marshal of the Polish Army he led it to Kyiv and Vilnius, both now lost to Poles. He left the Polish Socialist Party and his Austro-German allies; refused to ally himself with Entente. In France and England he was considered a treasonous ally who leads Poland into destruction; in Russia he was seen as a false servant of the allies, who would lead imperialism to ruin. All – from Lenin to Lloyd George, from Pravda to Morning Star – considered him a military and political failure. In August 1920 all were in agreement that his catastrophic career will be crowned with the fall of Warsaw.

    As it was, Poland fought off the Russian attack under Pilsudski’s military leadership. The Poles had Russian codes and were able to listen in on their communications traffic. The result was Polish victory in the Battle of Warsaw, which featured the last decisive cavalry charges in military history. Russian forces completely collapsed and the Poles completely drove them from Poland. The Bolsheviks sued for peace and Poland’s civilian government, abandoning its Ukrainian allies over Pilsudski’s objections, made peace, and even passed on large territorial gains offered by the Russians in favor of a more compact Poland. Pilsudski’s political opponents, who controlled the government, focused on forming a Poland for the Poles, only accepting territory that contained Polish majorities or populations that could be “polonized”. Belarus and Ukraine, ironically, were partitioned between Poland and Russia. Pilsudski’s two grand strategic schemes were stymied. Poland would pursue neither a federation with an independent Ukraine nor a comprehensive policy of breaking up Russia into smaller and more manageable pieces.

    Poland lapsed into a period of internal disorder that only ended when Pilsudski led a coup that overthrew the elected Polish government. Pilsudski became dictator and bloodily restored order to Poland. Authoritarian rule allowed Pilsudski to pursue his two strategic threads. While the Polish government under Pilsudski gave support to exile organizations representing reconquered Russian nationalities, little came of it. Pursuit of Prometheism and Intermarum lapsed after Pilsudski’s death in 1935. The pursuit was utterly extinguished after the outcome the two interwoven strategic threads were meant to prevent, a two front war followed by a fourth partition, took place.

    Like many ideas, Prometheism and Intermarum experienced an unexpected reappearance in the last years of the Cold War. In the usual pattern of Special Providence, the United States achieved by accident what Pilsudski sought through design. The Soviet Union was torn down to its constituent nationalities. Even the core Russian Federation was threatened with disunion, fulfilling the ends of Prometheism. Central Europe and the Baltic states were federated under the auspices of the EU and NATO. Even though the first Bush administration sought to preserve the Soviet Union in an ironic echo of Britain and France failed policy in 1918-1919, the people of the Soviet Union took matters into their own hands and frustrated the design of sophisticated American analysts, pundits, and diplomats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Current American policy favors Russia’s reassertion of control over its former territories. While Americans remain oblivious and forget about Russia’s historical ambitions, Russia’s former subjects and its neighbors are well aware of Russia’s tender mercies. If Poland is not pursuing an explicit policy of Prometheism and Intermarum, it may end up pursuing such a policy by default, irrespective of American fickleness and incompetence. It can be argued that the level of Russia’s formal or informal control over its “near abroad” means little to America’s national interests. Indeed, if the Promethean stirrings of 2005-2008 are any evidence, direct American pursuit of such a strategy may prove counter-productive.

    American strategy works best when the U.S. can stumble around and, through luck, sheer size, and incoherent friendliness, comically trip and fall on the offending party, crushing them under its bulk. A proverb shared by both America’s friends and enemies is: America: No Better Enemy, No Worse Friend. Skill and finesse are not American strengths, only occurring sporadically and accidentally.

    Poland and its neighbors should pray for their own special providence.

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    My lunch with a jihadi 2: enter the Mahdi

    Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — more food for thought — same article, different topic ]
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    Here’s the part of the conversation where we hear about the Mahdi. IMO, it’s well worth your time to read it… the first part is more serious, the second part more light hearted.

    Now it was Abu Hassar who laughed right in my face. “For your government, it’s no worse a position than the one they’re in now. We used to be friends, remember, in Afghanistan, in the ‘80s. If we went from being allies to enemies that means we can go from being enemies to allies.”

    “Okay, so how does that end?” I asked. “My government arms the Islamists. Tell me how that ends?”

    “You really want to know?”

    I nodded.

    “The Prophet predicted all this,” began Abu Hassar, speaking as if from some place of deep personal knowledge. “He said it begins with the boys, writing and speaking messages of a new future in the streets.” Abu Hassar stopped and looked at Abed for a moment. In that look, it seemed Abed and the democratic activists of 2011 were the boys Abu Hassar was speaking about. “The messages spread, breeding outrage and a war fought by the men. This is what we see now. In that war, an Islamist Army rises, uniting to destroy all others. Then a tyrant is killed. This is Assad. His army will fall. Afterwards, among the Islamists, there will be many pretenders. The fighting among them will go on.”

    Abu Hassar looked down at my notepad. I hadn’t been writing anything down. This seemed to bother him. “You know all this?” he asked.

    “It’s all happening right now,” I said. “The infighting, the rise of the Islamists, how does that end?”

    “The Syrian people thirst for an Islamic State,” said Abu Hassar. “After so much war, they want justice. After Assad falls and when there is fighting among the pretenders, a man will come. He is a common man, but he will have a vision. In that vision, God will tell him how to destroy His enemies and bring peace to all peoples. That man is the Mahdi.”

    I wrote down the word: Mahdi, a heavy and dissatisfied dot above the ‘i’.

    “You don’t believe me?” said Abu Hassar.

    I stared back at him, saying nothing.

    “You think as poorly armed as we are, we can’t defeat Assad and his backers?”

    “It’s not that,” I said.

    Abu Hassar continued: “Our weapons don’t matter as much as you think. Even Albert Einstein predicted what’s happening now. He said that the Third War would be a nuclear war, but that the Fourth War would be fought with sticks and stones. That’s how we beat you in Iraq, with sticks and stones. Whether we are helped or not, this is how we will create our Islamic State even with the super powers of the world against us.”

    “So the plan is to wait for the Mahdi?”

    “He walks among us now, a simple man of the people, the true redeemer.”

    I shut my notebook. Our waiter was lurking across the room. I caught his eye and made a motion with my hand, as if I were scribbling out the bill for our lunch. He disappeared into the back of the restaurant.

    “What will you do if this is true?” Abu Hassar asked me.

    “If the Mahdi comes?”

    He nodded.

    “That means there will be a peaceful and just Islamic State?”

    Again, he nodded.

    “Then I’ll come visit you with my family.”

    “And you will be welcome,” said Abu Hassar, grinning his wide ear-to-ear grin and resting his heavy hand on my shoulder.

    We’d been sitting for hours, and it was early afternoon. Abu Hassar excused himself to take the day’s fourth prayer in a quite corner of the restaurant. Abed, seemingly exhausted from translating, stood stiffly and went to use the bathroom. I sat by myself, the empty plates of our lunch spread in front of me.

    “Syrie?” he asked, pointing to where Abu Hassar and Abed had been sitting.

    I nodded.

    Our waiter pointed to where Abu Hassar had been sitting. He stroked his face as if he had a thick and imaginary beard, one like Abu Hassar’s. “Jabhat al-Nusra,” he said.

    I shrugged.

    “Amerikee?” he asked, pointing at me, seemingly confused as to why an American would spend so much time sitting with two Syrians, especially one Islamist.

    “New York,” I said.

    He shook his head knowingly, as if to intone the word ‘New York,’ were to intone a universal spirit of ‘anything goes’.

    I handed over the money for lunch. Abed and Abu Hassar returned and we left the restaurant. Outside the gray morning rain was now gray afternoon rain. The cafés were still full of people sitting on green Astroturf lawns, sipping tea that steamed at their lips. Nothing had changed.

    We piled into the black Peugeot and returned to the road. For a while, we didn’t speak. We were tired of our own voices. There was just the noise of the broken wiper in front of me, stuttering across the windshield. Above us, the overcast sky lost its light. Below, Akçakale camp spread in all directions, as gray as a second sky. Something heavy and sad came over Abu Hassar and the heaviness of that thing came over me. He and I had spent the day somewhere else, in a different time. Now he’d go back to the camp and I’d go back to the road.

    But we weren’t there yet. With about a mile left to go, Abu Hassar put his hand on my shoulder. “So you will come visit when the war is over?” he asked.

    “Of course,” I said. “If it’s safe for someone like me.”

    “It would have to be. You would never pass for a Muslim,” said Abu Hassar. He pointed at me and spoke to Abed: “He is such a Christian, he even looks like Jesus!”

    I took a look at myself in the rearview mirror. I hadn’t shaved in a couple weeks. My face was a bit gaunt, my kinked hair a bit unkempt. “Maybe I look like Einstein?” I answered.

    As we pulled over by his brother’s shop, Abu Hassar and I were still laughing.

    “If I look like Jesus,” I said, “you look like the Prophet Muhammad.”

    Abu Hassar shook his head. “No, I don’t look like the Prophet, peace be upon him.” He opened his door and a cold breeze filled our car. I could feel the rain outside hitting my neck. Abu Hassar grabbed my shoulder with his thick and powerful hands. He pushed his face close to mine. Again he was grinning.

    “I look like the Mahdi.”

    That comment, “He and I had spent the day somewhere else, in a different time” is particularly interesting from psychological, anthropological and theological angles.

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