zenpundit.com » Mahdist

Archive for the ‘Mahdist’ Category

Apocalyptic arrives, but not yet the Coming One

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- on the intersecting logics of IS, current and classical Islamic eschatology, and violent millennial movements in general ]
.

 Al Malhamah al Kubra, the great end times battle, image from Dabiq


Al Malhamah al Kubra, the great end times battle

**

Ella Lipin, research associate for Middle East studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, blogged on the apocalyptic side of the “caliphate” a few days back under the title Understanding ISIS’s Apocalyptic Appeal:

To the outside world, this period of atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, such as the beheading of two American journalists, may be another defining moment in shaping the Middle East. But for many people in the region, ISIS’s message resounds and its arrival marks the end of days and the fulfillment of divine prophecy. To understand ISIS’s appeal and ultimately how to defeat it, the United States must recognize how the organization situates itself within Islamic apocalyptic tradition.

That’s good, that’s fine.

**

To back up a bit, Martin Dempsey said of IS almost a month ago:

This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated.

I noted this with approval, and lamented the lack of earlier awareness of this point in my post The curious case of the unheard word “apocalyptic”.

**

And today, Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post quoted Ms Lipin in a piece about Dabiq magazine titled The apocalyptic magazine the Islamic State uses to recruit and radicalize foreigners:

This is not the beginning, the magazine says. It is the end. It is the culmination of a centuries-long war that has burned and simmered but never been extinguished — that will soon grow to consume everything. It is the apocalypse. And it is coming.

This is the chilling vision set out in the Islamic State magazine called “Dabiq,” published in several European languages including English.

Again, that’s good to see.

**

But what exactly are the implications?

I’ve posted my own detailed analysis of a mere 10 pages of Dabiq, focusing explicitly on implications regarding the Saved Sect and the Victorious Group, and the entire logical edifice IS has constructed to take us from the Dabiq hadith via the notion of hirah to the recruitment of a global force of jihadists, in Dabiq issue 3 part 1- Hijrah. Tim Furnish has blogged about this, as has J-P Filiu. Their work is of crucial importance, along with that of David Cook. And the posts I’ve linked here are far from all these scholars have written — each has been covering specifically Islamic apocalyptic for years.

**

But that’s the IS logic, and there are other logics that need to be understood.

One is the Islamic logic that views IS as Kharijites, “breakaways” and heretics who in an excess of religious fervor have broken away from the very religion they profess to follow. That’s a topic that should be addressed from within Islam, IMO. For now, here’s a link to a short video from a Manchester (UK) Salafist sheikh, who views both IS and JN as Kharijite. I’ll report here if I see this line of argument particularly well presented.

In strictly poetic terms, there’s Shadab Zeest Hashmi‘s Shade, posted in 3QuarksDaily — if you still have a heart for beauty in these grim times:

Allahu Akbar or God is Great, the anthem stolen by the wicked terrorist, whose attack is aimed at life, what holds life together for me— the zikr: Allahu Akbar, God is Greater, greater than prayer, greater than the spectacularly leaping science, the elegance of logic, the morality police, the lust of the spirit or the intellect, greater than the molten heart of a mother, a day laborer’s fatigue, greater than the beauty of discipline, the disciple of beauty, the ecstasy of disarray, greater than terra firma or the firmament, greater than sorrow.

If you still have a mind for poetry.

**

But there’s at least one other logic that needs to be understood — because it shows what the modifier “apocalyptic” can do to an already violent movement. It’s the logic explored by scholars like Jeffrey Kaplan, Michael Barkun, Catherine Wessinger, Michael Barkun, Richard Landes, Jean Rosenfeld, and John R Hall.

That’ll require a whole new post. But it’s the horse that pulls the cart of millennial and messianic / mahdist movements — and maybe we should understand the horse before the cart?

Share

Filiu on ISIS: “excitement at the approach of the end of time”

Monday, September 1st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- J-P Filiu, who wrote the book Apocalypse in Islam, returns reluctantly to the same topic ]
.

Filiu

**

Jean-Pierre Filiu, blogging on L’Etat islamique ou les chevaliers de l’apocalypse djihadiste — The Islamic State, or Knights of the Jihadist Apocalypse — writes:

La violence extrême du monstre djihadiste tient largement aux convictions apocalyptiques de nombre de ses recrues. Ce monstre a réussi à imposer au monde entier l’appellation qu’il s’est choisie d’Etat islamique (EI), alors qu’il n’est pas un Etat, mais une machine de guerre, et que sa doctrine totalitaire menace avant tout les musulmans.

Roughly and rustily translated – for Filiu is the man who showed me that the French I thought I had was entirely insufficient for scholarly purposes –he’s saying:

The extreme violence of the jihadist monster is due in large part to the apocalyptic beliefs of many of its recruits.

— and he continues, strikingly, that IS:

now has dozens of testimonials from foreign IS “volunteers” in which they reveal their fears, but also their excitement at the approach of the end of time. The “land of Sham”, known to geographers as Greater Syria, is indeed, like Iraq, a land privileged for the fulfillment of such prophecies.

**

Filiu is both a distinguished professor at SciencesPo, and a one time career French diplomat whose postings included a stint between 1996–99 as Deputy Chief of Mission in Syria. He is also the author of the major work, Apocalypse in Islam [see also my review on Jihadology], which draws on his extensive readings in both the history and current market for apocalyptic ideas in Islam. He knows the terrain.

Writing of the “Ultimate Battle” — which he characterizes as “a terrible bloodbath in which the Faithful are victorious” — Filiu says that “just this kind of terror apocalypse is portrayed as imminent on social networks” and notes that this argument is “hammered home to encourage immediate recruitment” to Baghdadi’s forces, since “fighting in this battle will be worth more than fighting in a thousand battles with less of an eschatological aura” (“car la participation à cette Bataille vaudra mille combats moins auréolés de gloire eschatologique.”)

**

A good portion of Filiu’s post is taken up with the IS magazine Dabiq and the role of the town of that name both in the current conflict and in apocalyptic hadith.

Filiu’s conclusion? He fears he will soon be obliged to return once more to the apocalyptic meanderings of the jihad.

Share

Book Recommendation: Ancient Religions, Modern Politics

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

[by J. Scott Shipman]

ancient religion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Religions, Modern Politics, The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective, by Michael Cook

Charles Cameron recently had a post here at Zenpundit, Which is mightier, the pen or the sword?  Frequent commenter T. Greer recommended this volume in the comment section and I ordered immediately. My copy arrived this morning and I had some quiet time and a bit of commuting time to devote to Cook’s introduction and the first few chapters. This is a very good treatment of roots of Islam and how those roots affect today’s political climate. Cook divides the book into three large parts: Identity, Values, and Fundamentalism. The comparative element is his use of Hinduism and Latin American Catholicism when compared in scope and influence to Islam.

Here are a couple of good pull quotes from the Preface:

I should add some cautions about what the book does not do. First though it has a lot to say about the pre-modern world, it does not provide an account of that world for its own sake, and anyone who read the book as if it did would be likely to come away with a seriously distorted picture. This is perhaps particularly so in the Islamic case—and for two reasons. One is that, to put it bluntly, Islamic civilization died quite some time ago, unlike Islam which is very much alive; we will thus be concerned with the wider civilization only when it is relevant to features of the enduring religious heritage. (emphasis added)

Cook’s emphasis on shared identity is one of the best and most cogent descriptions I’ve found:

“…collective identity, particularly those that really matter to people—so much so that they may be willing to die for them. Identities of this kind, like values, can and do change, but they are not, as academic rhetoric would sometimes have it, in constant flux. The reason is simple; like shared currencies, shared identities are the basis of claims that people can make on each other, and without a degree of stability such an identity would be as useless as a hyperinflated currency. So it is not surprising that in the real world collective identities, though not immutable, often prove robust and recalcitrant, at times disconcertingly so.”

In the same comment thread where T. Greer recommended this Ancient Religions, Charles called Cook’s work his opus. Based on the few hours I’ve spent with the volume and the marginalia, Charles was characteristically “spot-on.”

Published in March of this year, this is a new and important title. With any luck, I’ll complete the book and do a more proper review sometime soon.

Share

Furnish on “ISIS: Apocalypse .. How?”

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- an important post with notes for Hagel & Dempsey, also my own thoughts on overlapping eschatologies ]
.

Moire effect from Marvic Textiles bois-de-rose

Moiré effect from Marvic Textiles bois-de-rose

**

Tim Furnish has a significant piece out today on his MahdiWatch blog, ISIS: Apocalypse…How?

What most interests me here, since I’m an eschatology watcher and it deals with what I think of as “eschatology squared” — the turmoil that results when opposing eschatologies run up against one another, creating some pretty strange intellectual moiré effects — is Furnish’s much needed comment to some of his fellow Christians:

[T]he last thing the US military or intelligence community needs is to have the genuine war against apocalypse-fired Islamic militants conflated with a narrowly Evangelical Christian view of matters. The US government is a secular, not a religious, one — and although I have repeatedly criticized the refusal of the leader of the world’s largest Christian-populated nation to do anything about global persecution of Christians, I do NOT want our forces engaged in an Evangelical Protestant “Crusade.” Furthermore, and just as (if not more) importantly, opposing and defeating the Islamic “apocalyptic strategic vision” — which is shared by groups besides IS[IS] — can only be done by analyzing said vision on its own Muslim terms, using Muslim (Arabic, Turkish and Persian) sources. Frankly, in this fight, I don’t give a damn in this context what Revelation or Ezekiel or Daniel say — it matters more what’s in the Qur’an, the Hadiths, and Islamic commentators thereupon. I say this to my Evangelical brethren: it’s not always about you and your interpretation of Christian Scripture. The rest of us (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutherans, etc.) in the fold might have something worthwhile to say on the topic, too — but this fight against IS[IS] is neither the time nor the place.

You’ll want to read the whole piece, but other things Tim covers include the actual extent of ” what al-Sham constituted in Middle Eastern history” and more generally some observations about, and comments addressed to, SecDef Hagel and General Dempsey.

**

Synchronously, Richard Landes today tweeted:


I hope to hear more from him about the similarities & differences — stay tuned.

**

Wikipedia describes moiré effects thus:

In mathematics, physics, and art, a moiré pattern is a secondary and visually evident superimposed pattern created, for example, when two identical (usually transparent) patterns on a flat or curved surface (such as closely spaced straight lines drawn radiating from a point or taking the form of a grid) are overlaid while displaced or rotated a small amount from one another.

Linens and silks can offer us beautiful examples of such superimposed patterns. The image at the top of this post is from Marvic Textiles and their lovely bois-de-rose fabric.

I am suggesting that when Islamic eschatologist discuss Christian eschatology, as was the case with Safar al-Hawali‘s treatment of Hal Lindsey in his Day of Wrath — or Christian eschatologists discuss Islamic eschatology, as in the case of Joel Richardson‘s book, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist — the effect of one eschatology superimposing itself on another produces further “superimposed” patterns worth contemplating as such.

Share

The curious case of the unheard word “apocalyptic”

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- so now at least the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs hears it and speaks it ]
.

Get loud. It''s the only way..


Get loud. It’s the only way..

**

I’m reminded of “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” to which Sherlock Holmes refers in Silver Blazea, a story in Conan Doyle‘s collection, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes’ Scotland Yard interlocutor, Gregory, replies, “The dog did nothing in the night-time” — to which Holmes responds, “That was the curious incident.”

In Three Ways the Islamic State Is Turning Things Upside Down, Peter Feaver writes at FP today:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear that the more demanding task of “defeat” would require attacking IS’s Syria sanctuaries. That objective would certainly be proportional to the threat the administration says IS poses, but that is a far more demanding military task than Obama has been willing to embrace until now and so far there is little indication the president himself is willing right now to commit the country to that task. But if President Obama is indeed committed to more modest steps, why does the administration keep describing the threat in apocalyptic terms, and why does it keep describing more ambitious objectives?

And that’s what reminds me of Holmes’ silent dog — does “the administration keep describing the threat in apocalyptic terms”? Really?

**

I ask, because Tim Furnish has the feeling that what he’s been saying and writing, nay preaching for some years now, both on his own MahdiWatch blog and here on Zenpundit, may finally have been heard by senior levels in the administration. And his proof text comes from today’s Guardian, in which Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is quoted as saying of ISIS:

This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated.

That’s in a piece titled ‘Apocalyptic’ Isis beyond anything we’ve seen, say US defence chiefs.

**

DNI James Clapper has called the Syrian situation an “apocalyptic disaster“, but that’s using “apocalyptic” as a synonym for “nightmareish” in much the same way that “of biblical proportions” is often used to rean “enormous” — it’s a loosening of the word.

The White House site also hosts a piece by Torya Blanchard, a Champion of Change, “Winning the Future” award, in which she describes the recession in Michigan, and Detroit in particular:

We almost lost our auto industry, our housing market was decimated, a scary apocalyptic media coverage..

That too is a non-eschatological use of the term.

The NSC’s 2009 National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats uses the word in its specifically theological meaning when it refers to “the apocalyptic Aum Shinrikyo cult” which “sprayed a liquid containing Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) spores from the roof of their headquarters near Tokyo, Japan”..

Aum Shinriko was indeed an apocalyptic movement, seeking the end of this world and a rebirth of its own civilization somewhere, sometime in space — under the inspiration of Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series.

And now comes Gen. Dempsey with the explicit phrase “apocalyptic, end-of-days”:

This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision

**

Get loud. It’s the only way we will ever make the world listen to us. — Watchmen

Tim Furnish has been warning us about the perils of Mahdist movements at least since 2008 — when I apparently pointed Zen to a post on his own MahdiWatch blog. I’ve been concerned about contemporary Islamic apocalyptic since 1998, and writing about it here on Zenpundit since 2009. David Cook published his book, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature in 2005, as did Furnish his Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden, and J-P Filiu published his Apocalypse in Islam, in French in 2008 and English, 2011.

**

So.

Does it matter that the Islamic State has an “apocalyptic end-of-days” strategic vision?

Share

Switch to our mobile site