Thursday, June 22, 2017

Culture - End time prophecies, the apocalyptic hadith

From:  Wood, Graeme. The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State 

The definitive account of the strategy, psychology, and fundamentalism driving the Islamic State

"Looking for a guide through this portion of the prophecy, I turned to my old friend Musa Cerantonio. After my last visit to Australia and before his arrest, Musa wrote and published a pamphlet speculating about the identity of “Rome” in the apocalyptic hadith. He agrees with the dominant interpretation that at the time of the Prophet, “Rome” meant the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire.

The Byzantines had their capital in Constantinople until it fell to the Ottomans in 1453. There are no more Byzantines, so the present-day meaning of “Rome” is obscure. Some Islamic State interpreters have implied that “Rome” now means any Christian army. Others specify Italy, NATO, Russia, or the United States. Musa says it refers not to any of these but to modern Turkey. The Ottomans were replaced by the Republic of Turkey— the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, ninety years ago. “Rome,” under this interpretation, has gone through two costume changes, first into the Ottomans and now into the Turks. Here the eighty flags come into play: a coalition of nations will rally against the Muslims at Dabiq and will— according to most interpretations— be defeated.

Dabiq will also ruin the Roman army, throwing geopolitics out of balance and ushering in a new world disorder. Musa was more circumspect. The source “just says there will be a great battle,” he said. “It doesn’t say it will be a victory.” In the course of the battle, a third of the Muslims will flee, a third will die as martyrs, and a third will survive to lead an assault on “Rome.” Musa reads a hadith (“ They would fight a fight the likes of which had never been seen, so much so that even if a bird were to pass by their flanks, it would fall down dead before reaching the end of them”) as prophesying heavy aerial bombing.  Around this time, the world will begin facing unfathomable natural disasters and other weird phenomena. The Euphrates will divert itself and reveal mountains of gold.

Believers should not touch the gold or should take “only a small amount.” The twelfth issue of Dabiq quoted these prophecies on its back cover, adding that in squabbles over the gold, “Ninety-nine out of each one hundred will be killed, but every man amongst them will say, ‘Perhaps I myself will survive.’  ”  The earth will open up and swallow people, and smoke will appear. After the battle in Dabiq, the caliphate will sack “Rome.” In some interpretations, the city falls back to the Crusaders. A battle resembling World War III will take place— al malhama al kubra [the Great Slaughter], which pits the remaining Muslims against everyone else.

Some believe Mecca and Medina will fall to the caliphate’s forces— possibly before the Dabiq battle — and a Bolshevik-style coup will extinguish the royal line of the House of Saud. Some believe the caliphate will then cover the entire earth, but Musa suggests its tide may never reach beyond the Bosphorus. At that point, once the war has turned in the Muslims’ favor (or perhaps even been won by them), the first of the Greater Signs will appear: the Anti-Christ.

Who is the Anti-Christ? “We believe that he is alive and currently chained up on an island in the Red Sea,” Musa says. During the time of the Prophet, a group of Muslim seafarers, led by a Christian convert, Tamim al Dari, lost their way and went ashore on an island. “They saw someone who looked strange: hairy, and so ugly that you couldn’t tell his rear end from his face.” That man directed them to a monastery, and inside they found a gigantic man in chains— the Anti-Christ. He asked them whether the Prophet had conquered Mecca yet. They replied that he had, and the Anti-Christ said, “Good. My time is almost here.”

The Anti-Christ is known in Arabic as al masih al dajjal [the False Messiah], or just Dajjal. “His skin is sometimes described as reddish,” Musa says. “One of his eyes is defective, and the skin partially covers it. He’s blind in that eye. It protrudes and looks like a grape, as if to say there’s no color.” Written across his forehead is رفك, the root letters (K-F-R) of the word kafir, or infidel. Every Muslim, even children and the illiterate, will be able to read and understand these letters. Several omens will precede Dajjal’s arrival. One-third of the earth will go without rainfall for a year, and the next year two-thirds will go without. (Climate change, understandably, is a topic of speculation for Islamic State supporters.)

And then the Anti-Christ will appear, mysteriously, and present himself as the savior of the world’s starving masses. Millions or billions will fall at his feet in gratitude. God will grant him miracles. “Crops will fail, meat will be rare, and he will come with mountains of meat and food and whatnot,” Musa says. He will summon rain at will, and he will appear to raise the dead. “If your parents pass away— and I hope they don’t— they will appear to come back, and they will say, ‘Oh dear son, this is Allah. He has given us life. Follow him.’  ” Not everyone will be impressed. “A young boy will appear before him, and [the Anti-Christ] will ask: ‘Do you not believe that I am Allah?’ He will then chop the boy in two and walk between the two parts, then put him back together, and yet the boy will remain alive.” But the boy will say, “Now I’m more sure than ever that you’re al masih al dajjal!” The Anti-Christ will try to strangle him. God will protect his neck with a lead collar, so the Anti-Christ— now frustrated— will pick him up by the arms and legs and fling him into what looks like Hell. The vision of Hell will be an illusion, though, and the obstinate kid will be in Paradise.

The Anti-Christ will raise an army, and people will be drawn to it, especially women and Iranian Jews. The army will wander the planet, killing and conquering and sending Muslims into hiding. “What would you do if you saw him coming?” I asked Musa. “Leave immediately,” he said. “The Prophet says you should not fight him, because you will lose.” But he will find and kill many, many people, including Muslims who have tried to run away. Then, at long last, five thousand Muslim fighters will be cornered by the armies of the Anti-Christ in Jerusalem. They will take refuge within the gates of the city. At that point, their leader will be the last of the caliphs, Muhammad ibn ʿAbdullah al Qahtani, known as the Mahdi or “guided one.”

Their destruction will appear assured. But salvation will come from the heavens, in the form of Jesus. Muslims deny Jesus’s divinity, but they believe he did not die on the cross and instead ascended bodily to heaven. In this dark hour, they expect him to return. Wearing saffron robes, he will be borne down by two angels onto the white minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. On arrival, he will make haste to Jerusalem and appear in the ranks of the Muslims at dawn prayers. Traditions say his hair will appear wet and will be long and curly. The merest whiff of his breath will kill infidels.

The precise choreography of what happens next is of particular interest to the Islamic State and is mentioned several times in its propaganda. The Muslims will identify Jesus as a stranger, and in hushed voices they will work out that he is Jesus himself. Then the Mahdi, about to lead prayers, will offer to let Jesus lead them instead. (In the story, the Mahdi sounds a bit like a young singer-songwriter who sees Bob Dylan in his audience and tries to persuade him to come onstage, borrow his guitar, and sing a song.) Jesus will refuse and will then take a place behind the Mahdi to pray, like any other Muslim. This brief pas de deux serves as evidence that Jesus will return not as a prophet (Muhammad was the last of these) but as a man. “Jesus and the Mahdi will be like Batman and Robin,” one Muslim told me.

Jesus will then call for the gates of the city to open, exposing the Muslims to the forces of the Anti-Christ. Before the fighters rush in to finish the Muslims off, Jesus— armed with lethal halitosis and a spear— will run at the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ will flee and, in his ignominious scramble, will melt away, like salt in water. But before he disappears, Jesus will catch him and pierce him fatally with his spear. Jesus will then raise the bloody spear above his head, and the Anti-Christ’s forces will surrender and submit to the Mahdi’s rule. The return of Jesus as a Muslim will spell the end of Christianity, and— since Christ himself will rebuke the Christians and direct them to follow Islam— also the end of the option of living as a jizya-paying Christian or Jew under Muslim rule.

Those who persist in disbelief will be annihilated, and the Jews in particular will face harsh comeuppance, with the stones and trees themselves crying out to Muslim warriors to reveal any Jews cowering behind them, vainly wishing to escape death. What happens next, as Musa admits, is foggy. The Islamic State will already have been reduced to a few thousand fighters. But then, under the Jesus-Mahdi partnership, the rule of Muslims will be glorious. For forty years they will reign— and then everything will get worse.

According to scripture, two fearsome peoples known as Gog and Magog [ya’juj wa ma’juj] are currently confined by an iron wall inside a mountain in Central Asia, as they have been for thousands of years. The people who make up these groups are depicted sometimes as large and sometimes as small, but they are always numerous and subhuman. They will break free during the second tour of Jesus on earth and will kill many people, ravaging the world and depleting its resources. They will invade Iraq and Palestine like a pestilence. Their thirst will drain rivers and the Sea of Galilee, and their hunger will consume crops. Many, many people will die, before God will command an insect or worm to burrow into the necks of Gog and Magog and kill them. Various other tribulations will take place. The corpses of Gog and Magog will rot, and the fumes will engulf the planet before God washes the mess away with heavy rains. Even believers find this sequence dreadful to imagine. A Twitter follower asked Musa whether he’d follow up his pamphlet on the identity of “Rome” with another on Gog and Magog. Musa replied that any such pamphlet would be “very short and consist mostly of the words Allahu ʿalim [God knows— i.e., ‘beats me’].” By the end of all this chaos and misery— wars among men, demons, and subhumans— few Arabs will survive, and most of the survivors will be “Romans” (in Musa’s telling, Turks). The course of events that will lead to this moment will be unimaginably awful. “I pray that [I] never learn how this comes to be,” Musa writes.

One creepy hadith says that during the apocalyptic decades, “whoever passes by a tomb [will] say: I wish to God that I were in the place of the one buried there.”  The remaining unbelievers— who will somehow not have figured out that Islam is the winning team— will still have a chance to submit to God. Humanity will be surrounded by fire. At the end of time, even the Muslims will die, their lives taken by a horrendous wind. On the last day, the sun will rise in the west, and God will stop accepting repentance.

The world will end. And that will be the story of us all."

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