AMERICA, THE SECOND `AD:
PROPHECIES ABOUT THE DOWNFALL OF THE UNITED STATES
by David Cook,
the University of Chicago
Predictions and prophecies about the United States of America appear quite frequently in modern Muslim apocalyptic literature. This literature forms a developing synthesis of classical traditions, Biblical exegesis-- based largely on Protestant evangelical apocalyptic scenarios-- and a pervasive anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. These three elements have been fused together to form a very powerful and relevant (to the Muslim audience, of course) scenario which is capable of explaining events in the modern world to the satisfaction of the reader. While many elements of this vision are paranoid and violent, this fact should not cause scholars to avoid analyzing them simply because of this distastefulness.
The Muslim apocalyptists material previous to the modern period has stemmed (apparently) in its entirety from the Prophet Muhammad and those of his generation to whom apocalypses are ascribed. Throughout the 1400 years of Muslim history the accepted process has been to merely transmit this material from one generation to the next, without adding or deleting from it, or commenting on its significance to the generation in which the author is living. There is no interpretation of the relevance of a given tradition, nor any attempt to work the material into an apocalyptic "history" in the sense of finding the predicted events among contemporary occurrences. For example, the apocalyptic writer Muhammad b. `Ali al-Shawkani (d. 1834), who wrote a book on messianic expectations (although he included a wide selection of other apocalypses as well), does not mention any of the momentous events of his lifetime, which included the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt, his home. There is not a shred of original material in the whole book, which runs to over 400 pages, and the "author" himself never speaks-- it is wholly a compilation of earlier sources, and could just as easily have been compiled 1000 years previously. Similar compilations are indeed still being made in our own time, but they are no longer the dominant trend. For this reason writers of the traditional school are called compilators, because they really do not actually add anything new. This type of derivative religious writing has been prevalent in the Muslim world for at least seven centuries, and in some cases long before that. Apocalyptic writing is no exception to this.
Before examining modern Muslim apocalyptic writings it would be helpful to review the classical apocalyptic tradition. Muslim apocalyptic traditions are given a strict literary form, and are mostly ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad or to several close companions of his. This material is classified into historical, metahistorical, messianic and moral apocalypses. The historical apocalypses are primarily those concerned with the description of the conquests occurring during the first and second centuries of Islam. Some themes most commonly repeated in this sort of apocalypse are the capture of Constantinople (which was eventually captured in 1453), the defeat of the Byzantine Empire and the conquest of other lands bordering upon the Muslim empire. This sort of material attempts to portray the events preliminary to the messianic revelation using recognizable events and personages. Metahistorical apocalypses, on the other hand, are concerned with the signs of the end of time and the horrifying events scheduled to occur at that time. These traditions are filled with the terrifying appearance of the Dajjal (the Muslim Antichrist), and that of Yajuj and Majuj (Gog and Magog), along with several other minor figures. There are several different mutually incompatible versions of the Dajjal story available from the classical sources. One involves a demon-like being who appears from the east, conquering the whole Muslim world, putting many to the sword and all to the test. The other involves a figure imprisoned on an obscure island in the west, who says that he is about to appear and conquer the whole world for the duration of 40 days and 40 nights. Essentially this material is very close to the analogous traditions in Christianity and has borrowed heavily from it.
Beyond these two categories there are messianic traditions, which were frequently circulated by the Umayyad and `Abbasid dynasties to legitimate their rule by giving it a messianic tinge. Messianic traditions show the campaigns of the Mahdi (the Muslim messiah) as he conquers and purifies the Muslim world, and embarks on a series of conquests of the non-Muslim world designed to lead up to an ideal age where the entire world is a peaceful Muslim empire. The apocalyptist also circulated moral apocalypses through which he attempted to promote his vision of the ideal society in the negative. This material portrays universal actions (numerous sins, perversions and so forth) as being symptomatic of the end of the world, thereby enabling the apocalyptist to condemn the evil of his own time because of the tacit belief that such evil will be widespread at the end of the world.
There is every reason to believe that the early Muslim community realized that there was a substantial difference between these traditions, which described a political reality of their times, and the other Prophetic traditions, many of which are legal in nature. Therefore, in the earliest compositions we rarely find attempts to "apply" the predictions to the contemporary political situation, or to relate them to current events, if only for the simple reason that they were known to be current. The traditions, therefore, remained in their original form, transmitted from mouth to mouth, and from book to book. As the traditions gradually became absorbed into the canonical collections (to which most of the messianic traditions were never accepted) and other second and third tier collections, commentators began to treat them as material in need of interpretation, and began to look for explanation of them and their ultimate fulfillment. This interpretation first appeared in the genre of religious literature known as "the proofs of prophecy," composed by apologists and polemicists searching for proof of the truth of Muhammads prophethood. These initial attempts were confined for the most part to these groups, in addition to commentators on tradition. Only two classical Muslim apocalyptists, al-Qurtubi (d. 671/1272) and al-Barzanji (d. 1103/1691), are known to have taken the traditions and built (or attempted to build) an apocalyptic story out of them, trying to prove that they were being fulfilled during their own times.
In this paper we will examine the recent trends in modern apocalyptic writings which are attempting to build a contemporary apocalyptic scenario through which the needs of the Muslim audience can be met. One of the prime components of this scenario is to place the United States of America within the apocalyptic scenario, since it is obviously not present from classical times.
2. The Importance of America in Muslim apocalyptic
In this paper we shall examine a number of popular Muslim apocalyptic writers and show how they have dealt with the problem of the United States, what prophecies are at their disposal for this purpose, and how its power and domination in the world have to some extent caused a reinterpretation of verses in the Quran. An example of the later tendency can be found in the writings of Hisham Kamal `Abd al-Hamid, in his volume Halak wa-damar Amrika al-muntazar (The Expected Perishing and Ruin of America) says this:
"Why did God not mention America in the Quran, and the Prophet [Muhammad] not mention it in the prophetic hadith? This is a question which every Muslim has asked himself, and has been confused in finding the answer to it... God has pointed to America in the Quran when He has told us of the first `Ad [Quran 53:50], and the Prophet has pointed to it in the telling of tribulations and apocalyptic wars and the signs of the Hour, just as the Torah and the Gospels bring a separate mention of America, and its characteristics and actions, and the time of its appearance and its end on the tongues of the prophets of Banu Israil."
Negative feelings about the United States are not lacking in modern Muslim apocalyptic literature. Sa`id Ayyub writes "[The U.S.] is now the principal center for the Jews. History bears witness that the United States of America, which has been occupied in all areas by the beliefs of the Dajjal, is the chief enemy of Islam in every place." Other writers, such as Bashir Muhammad `Abdallah, state:
"As to the rule of the Jews or the Children of Israel over the land [of Israel], it is dependent upon their ruling America, and their dominating grip over it economically, politically, media-wise, culturally, militarily, and educationally as well. The American people have become a colony and are humiliated by the Jews, despite their minority position... The American people are the most sunk, debased and slavish to the Jewish devil; they labor and toil to fill the storehouses of the Jews with gold-- their life is for the sake of the Jews, and they make war and die to fulfill the Jews strategic interests throughout the world."
And Muhammad `Isa Daud says:
"America is the great secret in the destruction of the Islamic world, and its division, weakness and humiliation after Great Britain and France. But as to America, its secret is greater, deeper and more dangerous-- for it was founded with the purpose of being the basis for the debasement of the Muslims, and the establishment of Greater Israel which rules the world from its heart, while it is part of the lands of Islam... No one is able to fight God, and no one is strong enough to wage war against him. God will wage war with tyrants in accordance with their arrogance."
These prominent apocalyptic writers show the importance by them attached to the United States and the concern Muslims have felt about the apparent lack of material about this country in the traditional hadith literature. Essentially, the Muslim traditions touch upon every area of the world known during classical times. Therefore, there are extensive traditions about Europeans which can be pressed into service whenever there is a conflict with that region of the world. Even 1300 years ago, Europe was still the Muslims greatest and most dangerous enemy. Other nations such as the Turks, Indians and various African peoples are also mentioned and placed within the apocalyptic world either as destructive agents or as objects of conquest. It goes without saying that in the same manner as in modern Christian evangelical apocalyptic scenarios, reinterpretation of names is common among Muslim apocalyptists. For example, since Gog and Magog play an important part in Muslim apocalyptic, but are no where to be found in the modern world, these names are reinterpreted to mean either Russia (because of its repeated attacks upon Muslims in Afghanistan and Chechnya) or perhaps China, which also has an apparently inexhaustible supply of people.
Naturally, the United States-- and by extension South America-- does not, on the contrary have an apparent place in the classical schemes. This would not ordinarily present a problem if it were not for the fact that the United States is so obviously affecting the Muslim world on a vast range of issues which cannot be satisfactorily explained without reference to it. For example, one of the most pressing issues for the Muslim apocalyptist is how to deal with the state of Israel, and to answer the question of how it will be overcome and defeated, close to the end of the world. This is not something which can be pushed to the back burner, since it is of major concern for vast numbers of Muslims, who look to the future to bring them some hope concerning this issue. While the whole question of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory and its effects upon Muslim apocalyptic will not be dealt with here, its power cannot be denied. In other papers I have shown that it is already changing Quranic exegesis, so powerful and relevant is it to the everyday concerns of the Muslim.
This issue cannot be attacked properly without reference to the United States. Without going into the question of the relationship between the two countries, I will simply expound the view most commonly expressed in the apocalyptic literature. This view holds that there is a world-wide conspiracy of Zionism which controls a large if not the whole of the western world, and through this the rest of the world as well.
"America before its independence (sic!) was a peaceful, neutral state, but after its independence Zionists dominated it, and since its independence it has become a completely Zionist state, especially after the Jews emigrated to it and the number of Jews in it became more than that in the state of Israel. The principal concern of America became the tending of the interests of the Zionists, and the state of Israel in Palestine became an American state. For this reason the end of the Jews is interconnected with the end of America, and the end of America is interconnected with the end of the Jews."
It is not unusual for Muslim apocalyptic writers to have bizarre ideas about the United States, and about its history because of the nature of this conspiracy theory. According to one popular Palestinian author, Faiq Muhammad Daud, for example, we find that support for Israel is already mandated in the U.S. Constitution (somewhat anachronistically!), and that it is legally impossible for a president to be elected without swearing to abide by Israels dictates.
This American-Zionist conspiracy is given meaning because it is generally known that the western world has overwhelming power over the destinies of both the larger Muslim world and the lesser Arab world within it. This conspiracy is also given meaning because of the malevolent and intrusive factors of western (and most especially American) cultural and economic domination. It is for these reasons that the Muslim cannot simply ignore the United States, and must somehow or other explain its position at the end of times. As they ask: "How could it be that God did not relate in His Quran or the Prophet in his hadith about the tribulation of the age, and the greatest power known to the history of humanity, at the same time as God says in the Quran We have not left anything out of the Book [Quran 6:38]?"
Although perhaps we shall not deal with this issue at too much length, perhaps the question of the timing sequence of modern Muslim apocalyptic, and why has it achieved so much prominence at this particular moment does arise. As will be indicated, and as I have shown in a number of papers on this subject, this literature has received a huge shot in the arm from evangelical Christian apocalyptic expectations. This has led to a wide acceptance within the genre of Biblical exegesis, and even given it to some degree precedence over the traditional hadith literature. Since evangelicals (and by extension and negative perception, Jews) attach importance to the year 2000, it has come to have a great deal of meaning, albeit negative meaning, for Muslims as well.
Moreover, in addition to this foreign-based material, there are several corresponding Muslim calculations as well. The year 1500/2076 is one universally said to be the end of the world, according to the interpretations given in al-Suyutis important treatise Kashf `an mujawazat hadhihi al-umma al-alf. This treatise, written about 100 years previous to the year 1000/1591 when Muslims were preparing for the expected end of the world at that time, was designed to put off speculation about the subject. In this attempt it has succeeded; unfortunately it put off the speculation until our own time. Therefore, since the events deemed to occur previous to the end of the world take up approximately 40-80 years, we should be seeing the beginnings of the end. In addition to this classical treatise, there are a number of modern calculations available. Virtually all of the apocalyptists cited in this paper have made predictions at one time or another. Muhammad `Isa Daud for example says:
"The sahib al-amr [a messianic title] will emerge at the festival of the hajj in 1419 [1998-99], and in Muharram 1420 [1999-2000] he will proclaim the return of the caliphate. If the issue is delayed, it will not be beyond 1425 [2004-05], as the exact people tend towards [i.e., those people calculating the end exactly], and a personage whose kunya is al-Sufyani will precede him, destroying the Gulf and striking at Israel... and in 2000 there will be the battle of the Mediterranean and in 2001 will be Armageddon, which will be preceded by or be close to a great nuclear battle between France and America in which Paris will be destroyed, and the sea will swallow up New York..."
Another writer says: "It would be a humiliation for both Christianity and Judaism if the Messiah [he means Jesus] came in the year 2000 and the Mosque of al-Aqsa was built on the site of the Temple on Mt. Moriah. Therefore there is necessity to build the Temple." For these reasons, there is an immediacy to the question of finding America in the apocalyptic material, and prophesying what its end is to be.
3. "..the second `Ad"
The people of `Ad are mentioned in the Quran 24 times. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these references do not convey much information about them to the reader who does not already know something about them beforehand. The Qurans style makes a number of demands upon the audience, one of which is to be privy to a pool of formerly common knowledge not shared by anyone presently. Even classical Quranic commentators did not know these facts. Some of the relevant verses dealing with `Ad are the following (Quran 46:21-26):
"(21) And remember the brother of `Ad, when he warned his people upon the sand-dunes, warners having gone before him and after him, saying Do not worship any one but Allah. I fear for you the punishment of a great day.
(22) They said: Did you come to divert us from our deities? Bring us then what you are promising us if you are truthful.
(23) He said: Knowledge is only with Allah and I am conveying to you the message I was charged with, but I see that you are an ignorant people.(24) Then, when they saw it as a cloud-burst coming towards their valley, they said: This is a cloud-burst raining upon us. No, it is what you sought to hasten, a wind wherein is a painful punishment,
(25) Destroying everything at the behest of its Lord. Then when they woke up, there was nothing to be seen except their dwellings. Thus do we reward the criminal people.
(26) We had established them firmly in a manner We did not establish you, and We gave them hearing, eye-sight and hearts; but their hearing, eye-sight and hearts availed them nothing, as they repudiated the signs of Allah; and so they have been overwhelmed by that which they used to mock."
`Ad was apparently a nomadic people, according to the early commentary of Muqatil b. Sulayman (d. 150/762). They are said to have lived in Dakk al-Ramal in the Yemen near Hadramawt. While the commentaries are quite indistinct about the time-frame of their existence, it was apparently at some point in the immediate aftermath of the Flood, since both Noah and Idris [Enoch] are said to have been active among them (they are described as being Noahs in-laws). Their prophet, however, was Hud, who is a non-Biblical figure still revered in the area of Hadramawt. He ministered to the people of `Ad in a fashion reminiscent of Elijah, speaking to them about Gods judgment upon their sins, bringing natural disasters for a period of time, and finally a devastating flood of rain and a wind lasting seven days which completely destroyed the area.
Most of the early commentaries agree that the mysterious Iram dhat al-`Imad (Iram of the columns) associated with them was not the vast city it was to turn into in the later commentaries, but simply the name of a tribe. The "columns" or poles mentioned in the name were simply those which the tribe used as tracking devices in the shifting sands of the desert (something akin to the snow-poles common in areas known for deep snow). Gradually, from the time of al-Tabari (d. 310/922), onwards the mysterious Iram dhat al-`Imad became ever more prominent in the imagination of the commentators. Great cities such as Damascus and Alexandria vied for the name, although most serious commentators dismissed these claims. By the period of al-Khazin al-Baghdadi (d. 725/1324) the commentators are in possession of detailed "knowledge" about the city including details of expansive buildings in it.
Some commentators then began to wonder whether there was not some connection between these extensive building projects and the judgment inflicted upon the unfortunate city. The Shi`i commentator al-Fayd al-Kashani (d. 1090/1679) cites the following tradition to explain the punishment: "Every building being built is a curse (wibal) upon its owner (sahib) on the Day of Resurrection, other than that which is strictly necessary." This tradition belongs to an apocalyptic leveling strain which has its roots in early Muslim expectations of the imminence of the Day of Resurrection: ones actions should not be focused upon this world but upon the next. It is for this reason that we find traditions against building fancy mosques or other places of worship since the Hour is close, there is no point in investing ones time and energy in this effort. Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1372) cites a ma`wiza [hortatory sermon] in the commentary to the destruction of `Ad, put into the mouth of Abu al-Darda (an early Companion):
"...when he saw the new buildings that the Muslims had built in the Ghuta (the valley of Damascus) and the trees that they had planted, he rose in the mosque and said: O people of Damascus! Are you not ashamed, are you not ashamed that you are collecting wealth you cannot eat, building what you cannot dwell in, hoping for what you will never attain. Before you there were ages [of civilizations] which collected and contained [water and so forth], built and were certain [about the future], hoped and lengthened [their time on earth], and their hopes became illusions, their collection was destroyed, their dwellings graves. `Ad ruled what was between `Aden and `Uman with horses and riders, and who [today] would buy the inheritance of `Ad from me for two dirhems? "
Therefore, the apocalyptic sense of these verses is still quite strong, and even in classical times they were associated with the idea of judgment upon a (supposedly) advanced society which sought to go beyond the limits placed upon it by God. This idea is strikingly similar to that of the judgment of the people of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11), and other stories in the Quran in which Gods judgment of a civilization is featured. In this regard, the story of `Ad is one which is ripe for use by modern apocalyptic writers.
Apocalyptic interpretations are currently coming into vogue as a secondary sort of Quranic commentary. Bashir Muhammad `Abdallah, the writer who popularized the interpretation of `Ad = America is aware that this exegesis is new. "What is the certain foundation for our saying that the United States is the most deserved land for the punishment of God encapsulated in the earthquake of the Hour and the western swallowing up [in the earth]?" He begins with a review of the Quranic view of warning, and punishment by God after being warned by prophets (mostly Biblical, albeit as viewed through the Quranic interpretation). Moses mission to Pharaoh is a good example; Pharaoh was arrogant and refused to listen to Gods message to him, and so he was punished.
There can be no question but that these qualities are true of the United States, according to his analysis. `Abdallah says gives the following reasons for Gods judgment: [skipping the first point]
"2. Denial of messages and calling messengers liars... these atheistic beliefs have been spread, which were propagated by Jewish Zionists elements as part of the disgusting Jewish plan-- all of this is in the framework and shadow of what they call freedom of thought and belief in humanism and what is known as the positivist school in modern contemporary philosophy.
3. Physical harm to messengers and their followers from among the `ulama and the missionaries and the fighters in the path of God, and expulsion, torment and killing of them-- indeed an attempt to uproot them completely from the earth.
4. Finally, the last stage are the terrifying plans to uproot all believers and empty the earth completely of them, and this will be accomplished by forcing a decision between a) joining infidelity, atheism and life in accordance with lusts, and thinking ways of pleasurable life which infidels and atheists live; or b) being expelled, killed and annihilated."
Therefore, the choice for the apocalyptic Muslim believer is clear: to submit to the evil atheistic world order or be killed (he does not add the third choice, which is to resist).
`Abdallah feels that the annihilation is taking place this very minute under the guise of what they (his euphemism for the larger world conspiracy) call "ethnic cleansing" and the "war against terrorism." The underlying reasons for Gods inevitable judgment is the U.S.s supposed transgressions of excessive immorality, economical and fiscal crimes, and political tyranny. After saying that Clinton owes his election to the votes of perverts, he states:
"This is a proof of the highest importance to our subject, that the entire American people are either sexual perverts, or are normal but acquiesce in sexual perversion and do not condemn it. This in and of itself is a cause in their deserving a strike... because the majority of the American people, who brought the American president to the chair of the presidency, pursue this action and favor it, and the minority who condemn it, [condemn it] only for themselves and not for others."
The entire idea of freedom offends `Abdallah, and he says of it: "The proclaimed and practiced freedom in America especially and in the western world in general is not freedom from slavery of a man to a man... but it is freedom from the worship a human being owes the Lord of Worlds." For this reason, the American type of freedom cannot be accepted and must be fought against at all costs, because it is essentially against the nature of man as God created him (remembering that for Muslims man is not fallen by nature, but a Muslim by nature, and that it is his environment which changes him for the worse). In a later passage he expands on this idea by saying that the entire new world order is an attempt to nullify the sunna of God.
The United States alleged economic crimes are equally serious. Colonialism stole the wealth of the world and took it back to Europe and the United States. Jewish banks control the worlds finances and manipulate them in such a way as to ensure that no one but they themselves has any money, and place impossible demands upon those countries in need of loans from the supposedly Jewish International Monetary Fund. It goes without saying that this usurious banking system is against the principles of Islam to begin with. But
"probably the greatest theft, swindle and fraud in the history of humanity is what the Zionists have done secretly in the United States of America-- the swindling of the Arab Muslim oil wealth-- because they [the Zionists] determine the price and the amount of oil produced in such a way as to return the greatest profit and benefit to the Jews and the least little bit to the possessors of the oil."
American political crimes are literally innumerable. In this `Abdallah compares the democratic world order to that of Thamud mentioned in the Quran (7:73-79, 11:61-68), preparatory to his exposition of America as the second `Ad. Thamud was a group (called by `Abdallah democratic, anachronistically) warned by God, in contrast to the warning given to Pharaoh (28:4-6) alone as a single dictator. Egyptians as a whole are not said to be responsible for Pharaohs evil, whereas in the case of both `Ad and Thamud the entire group participated in the rejection of Gods message. Thus, when Pharaoh was judged, he alone received the punishment. `Abdallah sees the behavior of western democracies as more culpable than that of Third World countries, since the former have the capacity to change and repent, whereas the latter do not and are the responsibility of one man (or a small group) alone. What are the factors which enable a nation to be judged by being totally uprooted?
1) freedom of choice (such as in a democracy); God does not judge dictatorships like this;
2) lack of Muslims inside the society, except those few who can leave in the event of the judgment; and
3) arrival at such a level of error that it is causing other nations and peoples to go astray.
If there is a possibility that part of the society will eventually believe in Islam, as `Abdallah says there is as far as Christians go, then God will not judge them with a complete uprooting, but with a partial uprooting. "Therefore we can say that the sunna of God as regards a complete uprooting is not absolutely necessary upon the community of Christians, who the Zionists have worn [like a shoe], and have realized evil and corruption in the land because of them." He forecasts a partial uprooting that will also hit Europe and Russia in judgment for these crimes, and at the same time there will be another partial uprooting, but more severe, which will focus on the principal guilty parties: Israel and the United States.
`Abdallah then begins to compare the U.S. to `Ad. According to his description, `Ad was an advanced society with amenities. They could predict weather (Quran 46:24) and possessed other advanced technology. They had advanced weaponry and organized sports and cultural events (26:127). These, however, were merely for pleasure, not for the purpose of glorifying God. Their advanced weaponry included nuclear weapons (26:129), similar to those of the United States. And they had a secular humanistic culture together with public approval of sexual perversions. Their buildings were skyscrapers (speaking of their capital, Iram dhat al-`Imad) just as in New York (89:7-8). Its arrogance was also the equal of that of the United States:
"America has proclaimed a new world order after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and announced the imposition of submission and the necessity of obedience upon all of the peoples and nations of the world to the Security Council and the General Assembly of the U.N., which it rules openly and the Jews in secret and in reality. She [America] does not conceal her rule over the Security Council... America says openly Who is superior to us in strength? [Quran 41:14]. The President of America, Bush, openly proclaimed this after the end of the Kuwait War, saying The 21st century is the century of the United States of America."
America is to be judged therefore not for the power it has amassed, but for the attitude which that power has engendered in its rulers:
"This is Americas unlawful arrogance in the world. If it had proclaimed that it is the most powerful country ruling countries and nations, and done justly and ruled with righteousness, and taken what was deserved from the powerful [and given] to the weak, and preserved peace righteously between peoples it would not have been like the first `Ad."
But since it attacked Iraq on the pretext of the invasion of Kuwait, ganging up on it with 30 other countries, and ignores the alleged evil of Israel and the actions of the Serbs in Bosnia it has not done justly and must be punished for its arrogance.
"Therefore, America deserves now, according to the sunna of God regarding the punishment of nations, a partial strike [like that] which caught `Ad, and it is only because of the spread of Islam among millions of people in America, and Gods knowledge that from the loins of the Christians of America there are those who will believe in God and His prophet, and His final book at the hand of the messiah Jesus the son of Mary, that this partial strike coming upon the second `Ad is not a total uprooting."
`Abdallahs analysis of the Quran is a new one; indeed, the Quran has, generally speaking, been subjected to many of this sort (Sayyid Qutbs was another). `Abdallahs interpretation has internal coherence and power, and there is no obvious inconsistency, at least according to the Muslim understanding of what is right and wrong in the world and how the world should be judged. For the most part it is too soon to say whether or not this analysis will pass into the mainstream of Muslim apocalyptic literature, but those writers who follow `Abdallah chronologically speak of him with respect, and often parrot his views. From the aesthetic point of view he is far more pleasurable to read than most Muslim apocalyptic writers since he eschews the bombastic and blood-thirsty style they favor. His book tends to be more analytical and cooler-headed, although he is clearly a paranoid anti-Semite as well.
4. Predictions for the future: the Dajjal and the earthquake of the end
Predictions for the United States can be divided into several different groups. First of all there are those apocalyptists who believe that the country is being functionally ruled by the Dajjal, through the "world Zionist conspiracy." Opinions frequently differ regarding the unholy alliance between the United States and Israel with respect to the question of whether Israel is in control of the United States or vice versa. This question is not merely academic, since the correct answer will also answer the question of where the Dajjal currently resides. The Dajjals personality is a nebulous one, and it is frequently difficult to get a firm picture from Muslim apocalyptic sources as to whether he is a person (that is, an identifiable living person), a demonization of a group of people (the Jews), a country (usually either Israel or the United States), a tendency (such as westernization) or the collective mind of the world Zionist conspiracy. In this article we will be focusing on those who tend to either see the United States as the Dajjal or to interpret him as a personage residing inside it.
Identifiable figures for this slot are not lacking. However, here also it is difficult to find writers who will accurately gauge the level of the malevolence of the figures described. Many times they are reluctant to name names and prefer to hide behind the anonymity of the name "Dajjal." Most recent U.S. presidents have qualified for the title Dajjal (with the noted exception of Jimmy Carter) at one time or another, or at least for being an agent of the Dajjal (like Ronald Reagan or George Bush). The sources are divided about Bill Clinton: is he the Dajjal or an agent? Clearly the above citations from `Abdallah indicate that he is the personification of the evil in the United States; however what exactly his relationship is to the evil being of the Dajjal is left unclear. Biblical verses are cited for his punishment, however. His given name is connected to Jer. 50:2, where the figure of "Bel" (a Babylonian god) is mentioned (also to Jer. 51:44 reading, "I will punish Bel [Bill Clinton] in Babylon..."). This dovetails perfectly with `Abdallahs scheme of things, since he has decided that America is the modern Babylon (i.e., in Rev. 17:3-4). Many other distinguished figures have also qualified for Dajjal status, including Henry Kissinger, and a number of actors or cultural personalities (Clint Eastwood and Burt Lancaster for example, as well as the magician David Copperfield, with whom Muhammad `Isa Daud is obsessed and whom he is convinced is demon-possessed).
`Abdallah is clear on the issue of what the function of the United States is in the world: "America is the Dajjals strong arm." What is the Dajjals plan for the U.S.?
"Then part of his plans to rule the world is the proclamation of himself as the king over it and to realize what they call peace by means of the International Law through the Security Council of the U.N., and the International Monetary Fund. All of this will not happen despite the Jews, the Dajjal, their helpers and their slaves from the infidel Masonic collaborationist governments, and their ignorant masses. For this reason after the earthquake of the Hour and the third swallowing up by the earth in which the U.S. will be slaughtered-- which will break the Dajjals strong arm, and necessitate his disappearance for a time... Then he will go to Europe and lead Russia in its war against the united Islamic state led by the true caliph, the Mahdi [the Muslim messiah]. But the true conflict is between the Jewish Zionists (the dragon [of Rev. 12] )-- who ride a horse called the Crusaders-- this conflict will be between the Islamic community and their enemies the Jews and the Christians, who are one. This will not be like it is this year (1993)-- a conflict between the whole united world under the leadership of the Jews and the Dajjal against various Muslim groups. These are called unjustly and slanderously terrorists and extremists sometimes, and fundamentalists other times...
"From this will develop the great apocalyptic war, the War of Armageddon among the Jews and Christians. The Dajjal will appear [in person] after it, after the Muslim conquest of Rome and all of Europe and America as well, since it will be his [the Dajjals] plan that both the Crusader and the Islamic armies perish during the course of this battle. Then he will appear with his secret army of hypocrites- those are most of his followers-- the Masons and the other Jewish secret organizations, and a special army of the children of fornication which are numerous today in the immoral prostrate West."
According to `Abdallahs scenario, the first war of the end times was the Kuwait War (1991, which he refers to as World War III ), which was provoked by the U.S., since it forced Iraq to invade Kuwait. In order to obtain classical apocalyptic proof for the significance of this event, he reinterprets a tradition "the world will not end until there is a confederation of Muslims at a place called Bulan [identified with the desert south of Iraq]...", which he identifies with the gathering of the Allied forces south of Kuwait (Bulan was actually in the Byzantine Empire). He is very supportive of Iraqs war effort during the Gulf War, and lauds the Iraqis for resisting the Dajjals forces led by the U.S. In order to bolster his interpretation, he uses a Biblical citation from Isaiah 21:13-15, which reads: "An oracle concerning Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives. They flee from the sword, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow and from the heat of battle." `Abdallahs interpretation is that those who flee in verse 15 are to be identified with the Iraqis fleeing from the Americans. Indeed, part of the Iraqi propaganda effort is represented in the following tradition appearing in the Palestinian daily newspaper al-Nahar for Dec. 15, 1990:
"Believing tongues these days are passing around an unknown tradition, whether it proceeded from the great Messenger [Muhammad] or not. An examination of [whether] the source is trustworthy and the transmitters reliable has occurred, and until now a large number of religious authorities have refused to confirm or deny the reliability of this tradition, [that it] came from the Messenger [of God] Muhammad. The tradition says: The Messenger of God said: "The Banu al-Asfar [white people], the Byzantines and the Franks [Christian groups] will gather together in the wasteland with Egypt[ians] against a man whose name is Sadim [i.e., Saddam]-- none of them will return. They said: When, O Messenger of God? He said: Between the months of Jumada and Rajab [mid-November to mid- February], and you see an amazing thing come of it". "
It is clear that the format for these traditions is widely known, and therefore they can be molded to fit circumstances as needed.
Others follow `Abdallah in these interpretations, even though they are less sympathetic to the Iraqis. After describing the tradition which says " The people of Iraq are about to be denied the levy of the qafiz (a dry measurement) and the dirhem. We said: Why is that? He [Muhammad] said: Because the Persians are preventing it from them." Amin Jamal al-Din says this:
"This portent and the one following it [which has to do with the Palestinians according to his interpretation] is one of the most amazing that the beloved spoke of to us, and it increases us in faith and belief in him... for that stupid Saddam of `Iraq attacked the luxury-loving people of Kuwait, and the Rum (America) seized the opportunity and came to our lands, stamping down their feet on our earth, and took their military positions... and hit Iraq in its strategic depth, and broke-- oh! what grief and loss!-- the wing of the Islamic community."
In the end concurrent with the appearance of the Mahdi (about whom below), who will liberate the Islamic state from this American occupation, there will be an enormous earthquake which will totally uproot (remembering his discussion of this phrase earlier) the sinful American nation in revenge:
"And the results of the general earthquake are a total uprooting for some of the infidels who have penetrated deeply into evil and tyranny, being arrogant in the land. God said: O people, fear your Lord. Surely the clamor of the Hour is a terrible thing [Quran 22:1]."
However, this earthquake will be unusual by virtue of the fact that it will strike down all the enemies of Islam, which `Abdallah lists off. In addition to Christians, there are Buddhists, Hindus, Chinese (!), and "sun-and emperor-worshipers in Japan." Previous to this event there will be a series of khasfs (swallowing up by the earth). There will be one in the Arabian Peninsula, where `Abdallah feels that the rich Arabs will be swallowed up and judged for their arrogance and waste of their resources. There will also be one in the East. Probably the focus will be in either Russia or Japan, which are the two most evil countries in the area during modern times. But he does not preclude the possibility of the Hindus being the recipients of such a judgment: no final conclusion is reached on this matter.
In the matter of the western khasf there is some certainty. In general America will be targeted, and most specifically New York City (which is called the great Babylon of Rev. 18):
"Gods punishment falls on the evil of His creation, and the more evil, the more intense the punishment. Since America is now the chief and first Zionist power (the dragon [of Rev. 12] ), and the strong arm of the Antichrist (the false prophet), and the first head of the beast which leads the other six heads, so the punishment will be more intense upon it than upon others. Since in New York especially there are more Jews than in other places, and in it is their wealth, their banks, their political foundations which control the entire world (the U.N., the Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the principal media networks), so there is no evil greater than in New York in any other place on the inhabited earth, and for this reason their portion of the punishment will be greater in measure and it will be a total uprooting."
One can easily see how indebted `Abdallah is to Revelation and to Christian writers in general in this portrayal of the judgment of the United States. He has taken the prophecies of Revelation, attached to them anti-Semitic hatred of both New York and the world institutions located there, and placed the judgment of them within an Islamic context. There will also be an earthquake in Syria, among many other places, which will finish off the infidel Nusayri regime currently ruling there. Like many of the other apocalyptists surveyed in this paper, he does not hesitate to date the approaching great event: the earthquake will take place during 10 Dhu al-Hijja [April 19], 1997-- 50 years, according to him, after the foundation of the state of Israel -- probably at dawn.
At the end, there will be two great battles. The Dajjals Jewish and Christian supporters (`Abdallah believes that the ten crowns of the Beast in Rev. 13:2 are the European Community) will fight the Muslims in Jerusalem, where the former will all be slaughtered. After this, the victorious Muslims will conquer Europe and destroy the "idolatrous church in the Vatican." This will lead to the brief reign of the Mahdi, which will in turn be ended by the physical appearance of the Dajjal himself (ruling for only 429 days), who will gather another huge army to fight the Battle of Armageddon. This scenario we shall return to shortly.
In summation, `Abdallah presents a powerful and coherent vision of the future. Although it is paranoid and anti-Semitic, and based upon sources many westerners feel uncomfortable with (even though in the last analysis, the vast majority of them originated in the west), there is a certain resonance to it even though it has clearly been disconfirmed and was based largely on assumptions and circular reasoning. Most likely this is simply because `Abdallah is so much at home with Biblical material, and so much of his scenario is related to the west. It is a reactive scenario, a judgment upon the evil of the west, which ultimately is based on western critiques of its own culture and society. These are adopted and then amplified by the Muslim apocalyptist, and made only the more powerful by their obvious origins. While some Muslim material is used, it clearly plays a mere supporting role, and is simply present to deflect critics who would rightly say that this is an Islamized Christian apocalypse with the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory thrown in in order to pin it together and to give it the necessary connection to the state of Israel. `Abdallah, however, insofar as the United States is concerned, does not have a very positive outlook. Unlike other Muslim apocalyptists who foresee the future conversion of the U.S. to Islam (to which he alludes, but does not expand upon), he chooses to concentrate on Gods judgment of the sinful nation, and its ultimate removal from the world scene. Others, however, have taken a different path in their apocalyptic predictions.
5. The Downfall of the "Second `Ad" at the hands of the Mahdi
The scenarios involving the Mahdi are slightly different from those involving the Dajjal and do not necessarily overlap. Whereas in the previous account the United States is trying to gain control over the world (or has already gained it and God is judging it for that illegitimate control), in this group of interpretations, it is trying to resist the world-wide conquests of the Mahdi who will come to bring a vast Muslim empire into being and ultimately to convert the world to Islam. In this vision the downfall of the United States will come in a number of successive stages:
a) the initial attack on the Mahdi (the khasf traditions)
b) the incompetent attempts of the U.S. to defend its allies from the Mahdi (Kuwait, Lebanon, Israel, the Europeans); and finally
c) its inability to overcome the Mahdi and Jesus at the very end of time.
According to the scenario of Muhammad `Isa Daud, the Mahdi will proclaim himself in Mecca (according to the classical traditions), and will seek to obtain the oath of allegiance from all of the Muslim nations of the world. His first difficulty will be with the United States forces located in the area of the Arabian peninsula and the Sinai peninsula (where they serve as peace-keepers between Egypt and Israel). Since the first country to swear allegiance to the Mahdi will be Egypt, the following will ensue:
"The king of Egypt during that time will be the man who devastated the Jews in the Sinai and exiled their remnants from it, and let in the forces of the [foreign] agent U.N. which removed weaponry from most of the Sinai and stayed to guard the illusions of peace or the deluded peace... so the king of Egypt will proclaim the union of Egypt with the caliphal state and that the Egyptian armies in expectation of the Mahdi will combine together to aid the religion of God..."
This generous offer on the part of the Egyptian ruler, however, comes into conflict with American interests in the area, and there is a brief first battle in which the American troops located in the Sinai desert are defeated. This is not a good omen for future conflicts. Initially, the Mahdi merely gains the allegiance of the countries around him. Many of the Muslim countries fall into line fairly quickly; however, several do not. Kuwait, for example, apparently cognizant of its dependence upon American arms during years previous (the Gulf War), chooses to resist and rely on its powerful ally. "Quickly the Islamic armies belonging to the caliph of the Muslims surround the land of Kuwait, and [have] the keys of entering and departing. The foreign presence is obvious, clear to the eye and cowardly!" The Americans unsurprisingly lose the battle in Kuwait this time around.
Other Muslim states oppose the Mahdis armies, including Turkey, which requests help from its NATO allies (who are defeated), and the North African states, which according to Daud are functionally ruled by Jews in any case. Oddly enough, Libya is also said to be hesitant, even though Daud sees Qadhdhafi as an ally in general terms. His opposition stems from the fact that he is an alternative messianic figure, who is known to the classical texts as al-Barqi (from the town of Barqa). By this time, the United States together with the other "Jewish controlled" western countries will have declared the Mahdi to be world dictator and a tyrant in the land.
However, the power of the United States will shortly be curtailed by its own difficulties. As the Mahdi moves against Jordan, that countrys Jewish ruler will ask for the help of the U.N. and the U.S. (which, of course, are both ruled by the "Jewish world conspiracy" anyway).
"... then America will live through the worst disaster in its history. This disaster will be the destruction of New York by a terrible flood after a terrifying series of explosions nearby makes the surrounding waters swallow it up as if it is an ant inside of a terrifying star of heat and water. Not a single one of its inhabitants will be saved. Some will say: the disaster will be as a result of the American bombing of Paris, and the French will respond paying them back with nuclear missiles... or some will say: this is a new flying saucer, which missed its calculations and estimates and blew up."
Florida also suffers nuclear explosions of unknown origins and this triggers even more explosions as the American nuclear arsenal in the area detonates. Since the American Antichrist has at his disposal flying saucers, he then decides to use this weapon against the Mahdi and attack Mecca, but God will cause the flying saucers to miss, and hit the United States once again with its own nuclear weapons. God will then continue to cause natural disasters to hit the already shell-shocked people. But when the Mahdi attacks Lebanon, then "America will forget its sufferings and announce that it will not remain quiet if the armies of the Mahdi enter Lebanon..." (this is said by the President, said to be a "rabbi who hides in Christian Torah garb" ).
America, together with the Europeans (who seem to have temporarily both forgotten that they have just had a nuclear exchange in which a vast number of both sides perished), gathers an army to protect Lebanon and Israel from the Mahdi. Daud is puzzled as to why anyone would be afraid of the Mahdi anyway,
"Why is there this fear of Islam? The Mahdi will not force anyone to convert to Islam, because God has set down the law there is no compulsion in religion [Quran 2:256], and his armies will not touch anybody hurtfully unless they lift up arms against them. The return of the Islamic caliphate is a return of the truth to its people, and a calling of things by their [proper] names. But blind hatred has no logic to it, and oppression and tyranny has no intelligence."
He attributes the negative American attitude towards Muslim unity under the Mahdi to the desire to be the only power on earth. The government of the United States apparently has some difficulty deciding how much force it wants to use against the Muslims. Since the U.S. already lost a flying saucer in the failed previous nuclear attack, perhaps it would be wise not to use them again? However, the policy of fighting the Muslims is really that of the Dajjal, who controls the American government entirely, and his policy is not beneficial to the Americans themselves.
"Didnt I say to you: he is a Jew, and his morals are those of Jews. But he is a Jew of a special type: he is a Samaritan Jew-- those who only recognize of the Torah the five books of Moses, and whatever other than that is idle talk. These are Jews who despise the Jews. The race of Samaritan Jews is a superior race in his opinion, and so most of his close associates are Jews, but they will never be lords of the world, like they have fancied for so long. Destruction is waiting in ambush for them."
Eventually the American fleet comes to Lebanon, and it is totally defeated (for this Daud actually has a source: a supposedly previously unknown manuscript, which he does not identify). Thousands of prisoners will be taken and the rest will flee in every direction because of the terror struck in their hearts by the Muslim army. This will be the beginning of the Battle of Armageddon, according to Dauds rendition, the last part of which will, of course, be fought in Israel proper. Magnanimously, the Mahdi allows the prisoners to return to their own lands on the condition that they abandon their weapons, but the Christians raise their crosses in protest and challenge, and the Mahdi will be forced to destroy the entire army and kill them all. Before he does this (apparently; the chronology is somewhat confused) the Christians will once again betray the Muslim forces, and treacherously try to bomb them. But technical problems will once again beset them (he adds maliciously, "just as when Carter tried to save the hostages in Iran"), and they will miss their targets and bomb their own forces instead.
The last round of the battles will be that of Armageddon proper. Typically, the western military leaders are quoted making crude statements about the Muslims and how they will be treated when they are defeated. All throughout the discourse, as a matter of fact, the statements made by the western leaders are very bombastic, and uncharacteristic of western war-time leaders. It is obvious that Daud envies the more non-communicative attitudes of the American forces during the Gulf War; his Mahdi is very Schwartzkopff-like, while the westerners talk like Saddam Husayn. The Mahdi responds with a message which could be considered to be his statement of purpose:
"Jerusalem is truly the city of peace, and God is peace, and Islam is peace. The mobilization of America and the west here is a war against the Lord of peace, and they are the aggressors under the flag of the Jews, just as the Jews were the aggressors under their flags previously. Jerusalem is Arab Muslim, and Palestine-- all of it, from the river to the sea-- is Arab Muslim, and there is no place in it for any who depart from peace or from Islam other than those who submit to those standing under the rule of Islam. They will have to pay the jizya if they wish peace or life under the shadow of Islam, keeping their own religions, or convert to Islam (lit. submit to God) loving what was before it [i.e., the previous faiths], or fighting will decide between us, and God will judge in our dispute-- God is the best of judges and we are marching on Palestine."
Most of the armies of the world will be concentrated in the area, with the exception of those from northern Europe (Daud has a clear pro-Scandinavian bias which reveals itself more and more throughout the book), which are not controlled by the Jews. Australia and New Zealand also will not participate in this adventure, along with Austria, which will be ruled by a man who is openly Muslim. The end result will be a massive victory for the Muslims, who will be aided by the sea rising against the enemy western fleet, overturning it drowning the vast majority of the Christians in it. Still, the Mahdi is conciliatory. "The Mahdi does not wish to destroy anyone; he was forced to fight and to defend against aggression. He is a conqueror (fatih) and not an occupier."
At this point, with the western armies totally defeated and wiped out, and the Mahdi on the verge of entering Jerusalem in triumph, the western leaders decide to use nuclear and chemical weapons once again. There is sabotage at work, however, and a Palestinian is able to plant a mine in one of the first planes to take off from the airfield. It blows up, and falls back down in a nuclear explosion into the midst of the other planes waiting to take off, causing the whole air-fleet to be finished off in an apocalyptic finale. Similarly, the missiles being launched against the Muslims are sabotaged by the Mahdis men. Part of this conflagration will happen close to Jerusalem and much of the city will be burned together with its Jewish people (the Muslim Arabs will be saved however). For the most part the winds direct the nuclear fall-out away from the Muslims because that is what God wishes.
In light of this situation, the Mahdi decides to make an announcement to the people of the world that he is entering Jerusalem, and that Palestine will be Muslim once more (because all of the Jews are now dead). Daud says: "We would not exaggerate if we say that despite their fear and apprehensiveness most of the Europeans and Americans, even most of the people of the world, will be overwhelmed with joy and happiness thanks to the removal of this thing, the claimed state of Israel."
After the end of the Jews (or at least those in Israel) there is a fundamental reappraisal of the world situation by many westerners. Many Europeans will convert to Islam. American and western ambassadors will sue for peace and try to make treaties with the Mahdi, who will be busy rebuilding the ruined city of Jerusalem preparatory to its becoming his capital. Only those Jews left scattered around the world, primarily in the U.S., will have any real desire to fight after this long series of disasters which has left the western countries militarily indefensible. Certain European states, such as Sweden will openly ally themselves with the Mahdi and convert to Islam in their entirety, and an army of Muslim thinkers and ulama will descend upon them to lead them in their new faith. "But as for Europe and America there will be varied reactions, and the idea of a Satanic vengeance will begin to dominate them, with the Antichrist stoking the flames, but still the fear of the great power of the Mahdi will rule the hearts of these countries."
There will be tentative peace overtures, since many of the countries-- at least on the outside-- want to make peace with the Mahdi and join in with the new world order (Daud delights in using that particular phrase for the Mahdis state), so that the Mahdi will not try to conquer them. Many American and European youth will come to Jerusalem to see the Mahdi and breathe in his superior spirituality. It will be an age of technological wonders (since one of the planks of the peace negotiations with the defeated west is a massive technology transfer from Europe and the U.S. to the Mahdis empire), and "the United States of America will never again be able to do anything against him" (which is not strictly speaking true in light of following events). None of the delegations which visit him will leave without declaring their Islam.
This ideal state of affairs is wrecked by the Vatican, since groups of saboteurs under Roman Catholic control are caught, and brought before the Mahdi. They confess who sent them to him personally and to representatives of the foreign countries. Then the Mahdi proclaims that his armies are moving to the Vatican and going to attack Rome. Since the western powers by this time are almost totally stripped of their weapons, they are left, as Daud says "crying in the wilderness" and unable to stop him. Now it is they who suffer from famine and all sorts of natural disasters which they cannot do anything about (just as they allowed the Muslims to suffer during the period previous to the Mahdis appearance). As the Mahdi moves into Europe, already most of the Scandinavian countries are on his side, and have proclaimed their Islam. The Mahdi makes a speech to the world in which he says:
" Islam is the final word of God, and the final word of God to His obligated creatures is the Quran, and it is necessary that His word be generally [accepted] throughout the world. War is the final solution, but he will send ambassadors to those non-Muslim states in Europe to teach them Islam and the oath of allegiance."
In general (at least at first), the Europeans refuse this kindly offer. Jews still control many of the European governments, and they dictate to the people not to obey the Mahdi. Once again, however, natural forces come to the Mahdis aid. Europe is hit by a massive tidal wave which drowns the peoples desire to oppose him. Sweeping in from the north, together with his allies from Scandinavia who join him, he enters first Germany, where he receives intelligence that many of its people have an intense desire to accept Islam, and then also Austria on his way to the Balkans. No wars need to be fought to gain these peoples allegiance. Only the Serbs and the Greeks in eastern Europe seriously fight the Mahdi. For both of them he has a terrible vengeance. Poles, Bulgars and Rumanians accept him without a fight. However, both Great Britain and France are made of sterner stuff, and both refuse the oath of allegiance and prepare to fight with the support of America.
The Mahdi gives them an ultimatum, saying that they have oppressed the world long enough; if they do not unconditionally surrender and swear allegiance within 24 hours, they will be responsible for what follows. When this period is up, the three capitals of the recalcitrant countries are reduced to ruins. "Washington, the city of the American White House, where the policies of Satan [are made], and the cursed Congress, whose decisions are led by the devil, and approved by the Antichrist-- fires swallow them up and they become past tense." The Mahdi then physically attacks the two European countries, warning the United States not to aid them, but even so secret aid is given by the Americans. As a punishment the Mahdis missiles completely destroy five American states (he does not say which ones), and virtually all of their inhabitants are killed. Finally, both Great Britain and France accept the oath of allegiance and their peoples become Muslim for the first time in history. All of the southern European states (Spain, Portugal, and Malta) accept the oath, and many of their people convert willingly. Finally, Italy and most especially Rome (and the Vatican within it) is conquered, and Europe becomes completely Muslim-controlled. Rome is utterly destroyed, as is predicted in the classical Muslim sources, and whatever people are left in it convert to Islam. For a brief, fleeting moment the messianic age is a reality, as the Mahdi establishes a completely new order. However, the Dajjal is yet enthroned in the United States, and he manages to gather together a new coalition of enemies of Islam from east Asia, India and South America. He will lead the American and Chinese soldiers from the east, through Khurasan in eastern Persia, where they will advance all the way to Syria and besiege the Muslims there. Just at the point where all hope is lost, Jesus will return to the world, kill the Dajjal, and destroy his Jewish and American followers.
This fantastic interpretation of Muslim, Christian, Gnostic and pseudo-scientific materials, larded with an immense hatred of the west and an envy of its power, is a complete apocalypse in the sense of future history. While it can obviously be criticized on many grounds, not the least of which is plausibility-- but one should not forget its weak connection to the original Muslim sources as well-- it still has the power to give hope to an otherwise hopeless (meaning without hope) group of people. Muslims do not see much hope in the modern world: their culture and values are irrelevant, their opinions and positions ignored or ridiculed, and many of their best and most promising people either emigrate to the west or take on its culture wholesale. This fantasy provides a hopeful future in which the world will finally be righted. Islam will be generally accepted, rule will once again be in the hands of the rightful caliph and the technology which should have been Muslim will be returned to this reconstituted Muslim empire. The lands of Islam will be peaceful, and people will constantly be converting to the true faith. The hated power-houses of the west, led by the U.S., will be humiliated and recognized to be false and anti-God, and the Jews, who are the most malevolent of all the enemies of Islam, will be wiped out entirely or converted to Islam.
There can be no doubt of the profound hostility entertained by Muslim apocalyptic writers towards the United States, and their intense desire to humiliate it and see it destroyed forever. While this is not the full fantasy of every one of the apocalyptic writers surveyed, it is definitely the dominant discourse, and fits in well with the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. Muslims have not been able to understand the reasons why the United States would want to support Israel, and have therefore been misled into conspiracy theories about the United States being ruled by the Dajjal and the "world Zionist government." This fallacious interpretation is so widespread that one frequently hears it in casual conversation with Arabs who have no obvious hatred of the U.S. It is often simply stated as an obvious fact, and those who contest it are looked upon as profoundly naive and ignorant. There is a pernicious effect to this propaganda which is causing the larger Muslim audience to perceive conspiracies where there are none, and to lead them astray in the correct analysis of events.
Quranic commentary has proved to be a fertile field for Muslim apocalyptists and it is clear that they are making every effort to maximize the possibilities of the text. This is in sharp contra-distinction to classical trends in which the Quran was rarely quoted and never used as a source for apocalypses. The interpretation of `Ad = the U.S. is one example of the contemporary trend of trying to anchor important apocalyptic beliefs about present-day peoples in the Quran. This is most likely a reaction to the heavy use of Biblical passages which is more common in Muslim apocalyptic writings. Many conservative opponents of apocalyptists condemn them for using the Biblical passages; by the use of the `Ad interpretation writers such as `Abdallah and `Abd al-Hamid are showing that they are knowledgeable about the Quran as well, and capable of producing an entirely new line of commentary on it.
This level of fantasy (especially that of Muhammad `Isa Daud) shows in a strange manner the perception of the outer world. For example, the appearance of the Mahdi gives us insight into the perception of how the world would be conquered for Islam. However, it shows no realistic approach; indeed the principal battles are not won because of preparation, intelligence or strategy. They are won because of Gods active support of the Muslim armies. The attack on the U.S. is facilitated by the incredible strategic blunders made by the American forces (which are not out of the question of course, but recent wars should give Daud no cause for optimism on this account). It is also remarkable how Daud has such a blatant desire for power and domination for the Muslims over the world, and at the same time he is unable to comprehend how like the hated westerners he himself is in his pronouncements. There is absolutely nothing in what the Mahdi says, either in rationalization or in justification of his actions, which has not been used by western leaders many times over. He sounds exactly like many who have been prominent on the world scene, claiming to bring peace and being aggrieved when their "peaceful" overtures are rejected (most notably Hitler, but he has a strong strain of the "White Mans burden" as well).
There is an unbelievable level of arrogance in the Muslim apocalyptic writers rendition of the end-times, and their hypocrisy in saying that the U.S. alone is guilty of it, is quite startling and one finds new examples all the time (one hardly has to read very far in Muslim historical writings before one realizes that the Muslims were just as arrogant when they were dominating the world). Therefore, the self-criticism necessary to judge others is not present in these visions.
The most amazing element of this new Muslim discourse is the fact that they have simply allowed their western opponents to dominate the discourse. Both `Abdallah and Daud are especially guilty of this-- they clearly want to be a westerners, but without the elements of western civilization which made the technological leap possible in the first place. All Muslim apocalyptists, of course, wish for the west to be Muslim, and many predict it occurring in the near future. However, some of these apocalyptic writers seem to want to transfer the west in its entirety to the Muslim countries. One must ask in the final analysis: is Dauds portrayal of the Mahdi a Muslim one? Or is `Abdallahs presentation of the divine judgment upon the United States one really mandated by the Quran? In the Quran, while, for example, judgments are inflicted upon nations (or alleged nations, such as `Ad), there is always the warning of a prophet and frequently divine signs previous to the absolute judgment. Where have these occurred vis-a-vis the United States? `Abdallah never answers this question.
As far as style goes, there is frequently recourse to a very bombastic tone and vituperative hateful comments which are not warranted by the classical sources. In the latter there is usually an attempt to divide between the evil-doers and the good leaven of an opposing society. In these visions there is no evidence of this attempt. `Abdallah is a very logical writer and his material is not only better organized than Dauds and others are, but it is not presented in such a bombastic tone. Although his subscription to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory is total, and he has no love for the United States, his writing style is much more western than any of the other writers and not given so much to foul language (something that Daud especially is guilty of).
One must also honestly ask the question of whether this type of apocalyptic discourse actually provides the Muslims with the hope they need to overcome the negative present-day circumstances. Hope is provided here by the humiliation of ones opponents and their forced acceptance of Islam. Daud makes every effort to say that there "is no compulsion in religion" (Quran 2:256), but where is the freedom to chose when nations are forced to take the oath of allegiance? It is clear that he wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Consequently, his Mahdi is both an under-dog and triumphant, wronged and a vengeful-- an irritatingly self-righteous combination. He is wronged and betrayed constantly, and yet manages to maintain his self-control and achieve victory. Some apocalyptists seek to emphasize a more positive aspect of the hope in the brighter Islamic future in a different manner:
"The community of Muhammad is like the rain which grows good [things] in the earth and causes the earth to live after its death, and so too people live in Islam after they were dead in infidelity. The [Prophet] said: My community is like the rain, it is not known whether the first part is best or the last part. This has been difficult for some people, what he says ... it is not known whether the first part is best or the last part.... this tradition shows that the generation of the end times will be close [in merit] to that of the Companions."
At least one can say for Dauds Mahdi that he does make a concerted attempt to rebuild the world after the destruction he has provoked and thus despite its negative overall tone, it ends off on a constructive note (at least from the Muslim point of view).
return to what's new page