I've Got Religion (was RE: The Apocalypse from an Islamic Perspective)
Sat, 1 Mar 2003 19:02:25 -0800
<This year’s seminar–"Sexuality and Millennialism"–will explore the
emergence and development of an enduring radical antinomian tradition that
was based on, in Norman Cohn’s phrase, an "anarchic eroticism." From the
Brethren of the Free Spirit in the 12th century to the various
counter-cultures that emerged in the last half of the 20th, a variety of
socialists, anarchists, and secular and religious communitarians in Europe
and the United States have supported the idea that the liberation of the
body and its desires would lead to spiritual redemption and the regeneration
of society. >
thanks for the link,
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On Behalf Of Bill
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 3:11 PM
Subject: The Apocalypse from an Islamic Perspective
I thought this article was interesting in the context of recent
discussions on FoRK about the Christian right.
February 28, 2003 9:00 a.m.
Understanding Islamic End-Times beliefs.
Many Evangelical Christians in America are watching events unfold in the
Middle East with great interest, seeing in the preparations for war the
possible unfolding of the End-Times scenario predicted in the Bible. A
small segment of ultraorthodox Judaism shares an apocalyptic vision,
centering around rebuilding the Temple on Mount Zion (where the Islamic
Dome of the Rock Shrine and al-Aqsa mosque, now sit). What many
Americans don't realize, though, is that Islam also has an
eschatological endgame, and that like any Left Behind-reading American,
many Muslims see current events as a run-up to their own version of
Islam derives its Last-Days scenario from the Koran, which appeared
centuries after the Christian Bible — a fact that for non-Muslims could
account for elements of Christian and Jewish prophecy appearing in the
Koranic text. Particularly since the mid-1980s, modern interpreters
within Islam cast the Arab-Israeli conflict, and more broadly, the
conflict between Islam and the West, as part of the cosmic conflict that
will mean the end of history and the ultimate triumph of Islam. David
Cook, a Rice University scholar of Muslim apocalypticism, sketches below
the main themes of Islamic End-Times prophecy, and its ramifications:
Rod Dreher: What are the main beliefs of Islamic eschatology?
David Cook: Referring to Sunni Islam, the principal beliefs are:
1)There are a series of signs or portents previous to the end: moral and
social decay, natural and cosmic disasters, and political events that
will demonstrate in an incontrovertible manner that the end is about to
2) A tempter, or Antichrist, called the Dajjal will appear and lead the
world (with the exception of true Muslims) astray. Almost everyone will
be subject to his tribulations, but just before he succeeds in
annihilating the Muslims, Jesus will come down from the heavens and kill
3) There will be a messianic age, led by either Jesus or another
messianic figure called the Mahdi. This latter figure will conquer the
entire world and convert everyone to Islam.
4) After the time of the Mahdi, then Gog and Magog [cf. Ezekiel 38, 39;
the Islamic version goes by the name Yajuj and Majuj] will invade the
world and destroy it.
5) God will bring the world to an end.
Dreher: What sort of Muslim tends to make Islamic End-Times prophecy
central to his piety?
Cook: Usually one without much hope in the likelihood that there will be
positive changes that will benefit Islam in the immediate future. Such
people can oftentimes be attracted by an apocalyptic, destroy-it-all
framework or long for the messianic age.
Dreher: How popular is apocalypticism at the present moment among Middle
Cook: In certain areas, quite popular. Radical Muslims (followers of or
sympathizers with al Qaeda) have responded to their setbacks during the
recent past by publishing large numbers of apocalypses, and mahdi
scenarios. Among Palestinians, apocalyptic speculations are also quite
prominent. I think that apocalypse as a genre has become less popular in
Egypt than it was 3-4 years ago, however, and Algerian radicals no
longer use apocalyptic motifs either.
Dreher: If one is reading current events through the lens of
contemporary Islamic prophecy, what will one see?
Cook: Many of the apocalyptic wars before the appearance of the Dajjal
speak of Christian powers invading Muslim lands. This is the
interpretation of the [seemingly imminent] Iraq war. The Dajjal is said
to be a Jew, and will blaspheme the area of Jerusalem. Ariel Sharon is
usually made to fit that bill. Among radical Muslims, the Mahdi is
oftentimes said to be either Mullah Omar or in some cases Osama bin
Laden. One of the traditions says: "The Prophet of Allah promised us a
raid on India" which is widely cited by Pakistani radicals.
Dreher: Given the central role the Temple Mount plays in the End-Times
beliefs of certain fervent Jews, Christians, and Muslims, what kind of
trouble might we see there in the event of Middle Eastern war?
Cook: Right now the Temple Mount is effectively closed. It will probably
always be the center of scary predictions and fears for Muslims as long
as Israel has any power or influence in the region, but I don't foresee
any necessary reason why the Temple Mount should be a focus. Most of the
material published now speaks of wars and apocalypses on a grand scale;
the materials on the Temple Mount were all because of the fear that
Israel would rebuild the Temple in the year 2000 (perhaps contributing
to the explosion of the second Intifada during Sept. 2000).
Dreher: In the secular West, we tend to discount the role religious
visions play in driving or at least shaping world affairs. If you were
advising the president on what he could do to avoid provoking
unnecessarily Muslims who believe strongly in Islamic prophecy, what
would you tell him?
Cook: I would tell him to convert to Islam if I were trying to get him
to avoid provoking Muslims who believe strongly in Islamic prophecy.
There is probably no other way to avoid provoking them. For them, Bush
is easily cast into the role of Pharaoh, the Dajjal (for those who
aren't satisfied with Sharon as the one). He is usually referred to as
the Hubal (the name of a pre-Islamic idol) of this age, which signifies
that there is no chance to mollify this type of people.
Dreher: It doesn't matter whether or not a particular prophetic vision
is true; what matters is how it affects the actions of those who do
believe it's true. With that in mind, what kind of problems could
Islamic apocalypticism pose for the United States as it attempts to
foment governmental and society change on Middle Eastern populations
Cook: The basic problem is that our actions could, in the perception of
large numbers of the population, coincide with apocalyptic
interpretations. If this is the case then it will serve to radicalize
people, and raise the stakes that much higher for the apocalyptic
groups. If they view the situation (or perhaps I should say if enough of
them, or enough of those placed in the right place) as an apocalyptic
one, then they will respond accordingly.
Dreher: I guess what I'm getting at with this last question is this: How
cooperative will Islamic populations be with the forces of a man, George
W. Bush, whom they may see as their version of the Antichrist?
Cook: It depends upon the issue of perceived victory, I think. No one
challenges the victory of the U.S. in Afghanistan because it was
complete (more or less) and legitimate (or perhaps legitimized by the
new Afghan government). If that is perceived to be the case in Iraq,
then the result could be exactly the opposite. What should not happen is
for something to drag out; in hindsight that was the problem with both
the Oslo negotiations and the blockade of Iraq. They were lengthy and
people forgot the original reasons why they were the way they were, and
then allowed themselves to be swayed by radical and apocalyptic
interpretations of events.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For a more detailed description of Islamic eschatalogy,
see this article by Cook, who is affiliated with Boston University's
Center for Millenial Studies.