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Bin Laden’s death and a White House or Palace

[ by Charles Cameron ]
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Okay, you may groan and skip quickly to the next post or perhaps read with bemused interest every time I post here about Islamic eschatology — but in either case you might have hoped that the death of bin Laden would have no apocalyptic resonance whatsoever.

Sadly enough, Anjem Choudary — co-founder with Omar Bakri Muhammad of the UK’s Islamist group al-Muhajiroun – has a press release posted on his website today titled May Allah grant Sheikh Usama Martyrdom. It begins:

The announcement this morning of the death of Sheikh Usama Bin laden has been met with joy in the United States and by other enemies of Islam and Muslims. I would like remind everyone that someone much better and much more significant then Sheikh Usama Bin laden passed away in the past, namely the Messenger Muhammad (saw) and that this never stopped the Jihad nor the spread of Islam to the East and West. Indeed the Messenger Muhammad (saw) said that the day of judgement will not come until a group of Muslims conquer the White House.

The hadith in question comes from Sahih Muslim, Book 19, On Government (Kitab Al- Imara) 4483, and reads as follows:

Narrated Jabir ibn Samurah:
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It has been narrated on the authority of Amir ibn Sa’d ibn AbuWaqqas who said: I wrote (a letter) to Jabir ibn Samurah and sent it to him through my servant, Nafi’, asking him to inform me of something he had heard from the Messenger of Allah (peace_be_upon_him). He wrote to me (in reply): I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) say on Friday, the day on which al- Aslami was stoned to death (for committing adultery): The Islamic religion will continue until the Hour has been established, or you have been ruled by twelve Caliphs, all of them being from the Quraysh. I also heard him say: A small force of the Muslims will capture the white palace, the palace of the Persian Emperor or his descendants. I also heard him say: Before the Day of Judgment there will appear (a number of) imposters. You are to guard against them. I also heard him say: When God grants wealth to any one of you, he should first spend it on himself and his family (and then give it in charity to the poor). I heard him (also) say: I shall be your forerunner at the Cistern (expecting your arrival).

I suppose I should apologize, but “until the Hour has been established” and “Before the Day of Judgment” are both clear “end times” references.

A poster on SunniForum quotes this hadith from Muslim, one of the two hadith collections regarded as most reliable and given the epithet “sahih” (authentic), and follows it with another, citing Al-Tabarani, Al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer 2.198:

Jabir b. Samura said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say on Friday evening, the day on which Ma’ez al-Aslami was stoned to death (for committing adultery): A small force of the Muslims will capture the white house. I said: Kisra? he replied Kisra.

Be it noted that while “white palace” or “white house” would both be appropriate translations of the term used, Kisra clearly refers not to the house of the US President in Washington DC, but to the palace of Khosrau (Chosroes) I of Persia in Ctesiphon (now an impressive ruin in Iraq).

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I expect I found the Anjem Choudary press piece following a lead from Aaron Zelin, and if so I owe him double thanks – because he also pointed me to this quote from a member of the Ansar Forum:

al-Qaeda are the people of the Victorious Sect, which recognizes the last of the banner to the Mahdi

The victorious sect is the one sect of Islam out of very many that holds fast to the Prophet’s teaching, see the hadith collected here. As UCLA historian Jean Rosenfeld noted in a comment on the al-Sahwa blog:

Al-Qaida took the Salafi myth of the Saved Sect and the Victorious Group and applied it to themselves. This is in line with the need for converts to see themselves as heroes carrying out a transcendent purpose.The Saved Sect was turned into an eschatological myth by bin Ladin and his compatriots. It is a group of warriors who sacrifice themselves for the Din, the Land, and the people. The members of the Sect are a vanguard and they are few. Not only are they attacked by their opponents, but fellow Muslims may persecute them. Thus, if the group remains small and is regarded as practicing fitnah and is denounced, that only validates the group’s certitude that it is the Saved Sect. Only this sect — out of “72 sects” (note: this is probably a symbolic number meaning “many”) — will attain paradise at the end time.

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A couple more clear instances of end-times associations in the (Sunni) jihadist current…

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