David Cook is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago and author of The Hour Shall Not Arrive until. . . Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic (Darwin Press, forthcoming).
Starting in 1979 (1400 in the Muslim calendar) and culminating in the year 2000, Muslims have found themselves in a highly charged apocalyptic period. In response, Islamist groups are developing a radically new discourse about the end of the world, one that relies to a surprising extent on Christian themes. The theological arguments may be arcane, but they are part of the everyday discourse of Muslim populaces and are widely used to interpret events. Its importance for understanding the mood in the Middle East can hardly be understated. Analysts and policy-makers need to understand the powerful hold of these beliefs, and how they are likely to affect the atmosphere in the Middle East and the Muslim world, especially in the years 1999 and 2000.
THE MUSLIM APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO
Jews and Christians have developed intricate theories about the end of the world. Their eschatological expectations are based on a series of signs that derive from events predicted in holy texts. Jews, who have endured a minority and despised status for millennia, predominantly envision a messianic figure who does nothing more than free them from domination by others; they believe in Arminolus, a semi-demonic figure who personifies evil, but has relatively minor importance. The Christian belief in an Antichrist—the antithesis of Jesus Christ and the enemy of all Christians, commonly believed to be a Jew—has had a far wider impact. Further, because Christians believe the messiah has already come, they usually emphasize that Christ's return will lead to the conversion of the Jews. The principal event at the end of time is known as the Hour (i.e., the Hour of Judgment or the Hour of Resurrection), by which they mean the moment when God's presence is physically manifest to humanity and the world's existence comes to an end.
Muslims define themselves in terms of both Jewish and Christian apocalyptic beliefs to which they are heir. The Muslim apocalyptic scenario is surprisingly close to the Christian one; in fact, they are identical in many elements. The Antichrist (known in Islam as the dajjal) will appear close to the end of the world to seduce Muslims away from Islam and corrupt them. Jesus is then usually said to come down from the heavens to fight and defeat the dajjal, then pave the way for the messiah (known as the mahdi) who will fill the earth with justice and righteousness. Shortly after, the hordes of Gog and Magog will descend upon the Muslim world and destroy everything in their path, after which God puts an end to them and then to the whole world. The hadith (sayings and actions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) emphasize the dajjal's powers in a manner that renders them mysterious and terrifying. Classical Islamic sources (probably borrowing from Christianity), portray him as a Jew and his followers as Jewish.
Classical Islam assigns Islam's holy cities of Mecca and Medina virtually no place in apocalyptic scenarios. To the contrary, very early traditions state that at the end of time the Ka‘ba (the shrine that houses the Black Stone in Mecca) will come to Jerusalem.1 Classical apocalyptic material virtually always has the mahdi make his headquarters in Jerusalem. Islam began in Mecca and will conclude in Jerusalem, observes Bassam Jirrar, a Hamas leader.2
This apocalyptic scenario has stayed remarkably stable through Islam's fourteen centuries. Writers made few attempts to make it relevant to the audiences of any specific time or place, preferring to transmit older traditions. Although classical Islam is not entirely free historically of conspiracy theories,3 the dismal situation of Muslims in the modern world makes such theories extraordinarily attractive to apocalyptic writers. An influx of Western-based antisemitic ideas at the beginning of the century caused them to evolve, but Western influence became prominent only after the Six Day War of 1967. By the late 1970s, a new, full-blown synthesis had been born of classical Muslim apocalyptic, antisemitic conspiracy theories, and a great deal of Biblical material.4
1987: SA‘ID AYYUB AND HIS CRITICS
Sa‘id Ayyub. The leading expositor of these ideas is an Egyptian writer, Sa‘id Ayyub, who has written at least six major books on apocalyptic themes since 1987. A number of scholars have tried to refute him, but Ayyub has hardly retreated.
His path-breaking book, The Antichrist,5 came out in 1987 and spurred a large literature. In it, Ayyub connects all the world's evils with Jews—political ideologies, modern technology, Orientalist scholarship. This alleged all-encompassing conspiracy leads Ayyub sometimes to identify the dajjal as the single personality behind Jewish actions; at other times he presents the dajjal as something much larger than a single person—alternately, the whole Western world, or political Zionism, Israel, the Jews, secularism, communism, materialism, the Catholic church, missionaries, and colonialism.
Ayyub basically adds the dajjal notion to Western antisemitic materials. Like some earlier writers,6 he identifies the messiah expected by Jews with the dajjal, a tactic that cleverly demonizes an entire people. For Ayyub, the Jews
became confused about the matter [of truth]. . . they took a messiah in keeping with their deeds and in accordance with their desires. The false messiah at the end of time is a tribulation, leading armies, spilling blood and conquering the world. They are in need of an army and land to spill more blood.7
True to his European conspiratorial sources, Ayyub devotes much attention to Christian history, seeing all of it as a Jewish plot engineered by the dajjal—including the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the Crusades, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, and the world wars. Jews and the dajjal control a number of religions and organizations in addition to Christianity, including the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Freemasons.8 Seeing the Crusades (1097-1291) as a prelude to the final apocalyptic wars, he studies this topic quite carefully. He finds that all the popes were Jews, as was Martin Luther; in Ayyub's account, Luther (who was, in fact, a leading antisemite) turns into a fanatical pro-Jewish figure who sent Jews to colonize the United States. Napoleon Bonaparte was a Jewish agent. The United States is "the principal center for the Jews" and "the chief enemy of Islam in every place."9
Ayyub's principal originality lies in his biblical references, which no previous Muslim writer had ever gone near. He fluently cites the books of Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, reading them all from an Islamic viewpoint. In particular, he sees the Battle of Armageddon fought between Israel and the Western Christian nations on one side, led by the dajjal, and a group of Muslims on the other. The Muslims, he asserts, will defeat the dajjal and go on to conquer Western Europe. But the dajjal will survive and then reappear in the Muslim lands with a mammoth army of Jews, Christians, and others. He will advance from eastern Iran to the Persian Gulf and occupy Mecca and Medina. Israel will reemerge after a short period of rule by the Muslims and join him. The Muslims will flee to northern Syria, where the dajjal and his followers will besiege them. Jesus Christ will return to earth as a Muslim and will slaughter the Jews.
Ayyub then appropriates the Christian symbolism of New Jerusalem and proclaims it to be Mecca. Through a monumental effort, wringing each reference for maximum use possible, he finds support for this scenario in Islamic sources. He identifies the square New Jerusalem (Revelation 21) as the Ka‘ba. He interprets the stones of the foundation (Rev. 21:19-20) as the Black Stone. The River of Life (Rev. 22:1) is the Well of Zamzam. Therefore, he concludes, the New Jerusalem is Mecca. Even more remarkably, he turns the figure of Christ returning (Rev. 19:11) into Muhammad. This appropriation of Christ's return for Islam as Muhammad's return has no precedent nor a basis in Muslim sources.
Ayyub's critics. Most Muslim apocalyptic writers find Ayyub's novel scenario very problematic, especially his giving Christian, and also Western secular material, the same authority as the Qur'an and the hadith. The Islamic establishment (mostly connected with the highly respected Al-Azhar University in Cairo) has replied to Ayyub's powerful, coherent, and relevant challenge. Two of its efforts stand out.
Majdi Muhammad ash-Shahawi, a popular Egyptian pamphleteer, attacked Ayyub for his waffling on the question of Jesus's literal return.10 Muslim prophetic tradition supports this idea and scholars unfamiliar with Christian polemical material find questioning it to be heresy. But modern Muslims scholars well-read in Christian literature, like Ayyub, shy away from this point for they realize that missionaries can exploit this point of agreement by pointing out that since Jesus is coming back at the end of time in Islam, the hadith support the Christian interpretation of his role.
Muhammad al-Bayyumi, an Azhar scholar, attacked Ayyub's interpretations by focusing on the signs of the Hour, the dajjal and the mahdi.11 To make apocalyptic material relevant to a modern audience without going to the extremes of Ayyub, he focuses on moral apocalyptic material which attacks the social evils of society. Unlike Ayyub, he dwells on the evils of Western culture, Muslim heretics, and heretical regimes (like the ‘Alawi one in Syria), thereby diminishing the demonic role of Jews and the United States; although he does accept Ayyub's idea of the dajjal as the Jewish messiah.
Ayyub's retort. Ayyub seems to have been only mildly chastised by this criticism. In an edition of The Antichrist issued in 1991,12 he added traditional Muslim material without reducing the Christian citations. He did, however, take out the allegation that Jesus does not return and Muhammad takes his place. The first edition, where he seems to accuse the Jews of everything and excuse the Christians for any of their misdeeds, is changed by the addition of new passages that show his contempt for Christians, calling them by pejorative names and warning them:
Let the Christian know that he who lives by throwing bombs and with the policy of guns will meet tomorrow a Muslim whose patience has limits when his rights are taken. With blood! And with guns!. . . The land will be flowing with rainwater, but it will be red rainwater, sorry to say.13
Ayyub even insinuates that the dajjal is Christian, something not consistent with classical Islamic thinking. His paranoia about American intentions has not lessened with the passing of time; if anything it has grown greater.
1991: THE KUWAIT WAR
The Kuwait crisis, initiated by the Iraqi invasion in August 1990 and culminating in Desert Storm during January-February 1991, did much to spur apocalyptic speculation. All Muslim participants saw themselves in apocalyptic terms and sought to justify their positions using apocalyptic traditions or interpretations. Even today, the whole Middle East is awash with the litter of these prophecies.
Several can probably be attributed to Saddam Husayn's propaganda machine, the most prominent of which was a hadith appearing in a Palestinian newspaper:
The Messenger of God [i.e., Muhammad] said: "The whites, Christians, and Westerners14 will gather together in the wasteland with Egypt against a man
named Sadim15 [i.e., Saddam]—none of them will return!"
They said: "When, O Messenger of God?"
He said: "Between the months of Jumada and Rajab,16 and you will see an amazing thing come of it."17
The other side also had apocalyptic expectations. An Egyptian author, Muhammad ‘Izzat ‘Arif, published The End of Saddam, a tract outlining the Iraqi ruler's overthrow. Unable to understand how Saddam could have invaded a fellow Muslim country, ‘Arif resorts to labeling him a Jew and blaming the whole matter on a Jewish plot.18 About this same time, ‘Arif also published a tract entitled The End of the Jews.19 Other Egyptian apocalyptists hint at Saddam being the dajjal; they foresee the overthrow of all Arab dictators and the establishment of a single Muslim state that will confront and defeat Israel.
‘Arif's close friend Muhammad ‘Isa Da'ud then came out with a book, Warning: The False Messiah Is Invading the World from the Bermuda Triangle. Like Ayyub, Da'ud is so heavily influenced by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, quoting from them at length, that it is impossible to understand his scenario without them. Ayyub spoke in general terms; Da'ud details everything. Da'ud finds the imminence of the dajjal in various signs of the time—Halley's Comet in 1985, the drought in the Levant in 1986-88, the intifada in December 1987, the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the massive immigration of Russian Jews to Israel from 1990 on. He emphasizes the need to deal with the Jewish peril and the dajjal's worldwide conspiracy, based in the Bermuda Triangle and carried out by followers who travel in flying saucers.20
Da'ud finds the source of the dajjal's power in the United States of America. The dajjal will appear as the ruler there and is presently living there, probably in Florida (close to the Bermuda Triangle). The dajjal's agents are everywhere, and he is literally responsible for all the perversions of modern culture. The conspiracy permeates Hollywood, where Burt Lancaster and Clint Eastwood, along with Ronald Reagan, are the dajjal's principal representatives.21
The focus of his power is the city of Jerusalem, most especially the location known as the Temple Mount or the Haram ash-Sharif, where the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, and Al-Aqsa Mosque are located. The Jews have chosen Al-Aqsa Mosque as a place to collect and kidnap Muslim children and brainwash them against Islam. Following the dajjal's orders, they burrow under the mosque (a reference to the nearby archaeological excavations).22 This allegation appears to have helped spur the riots of September 1996, when the Israeli government opened up a tunnel in the Temple Mount area. Not coincidentally, bookstores in the streets above the controversial tunnel sold Da'ud's book at that time (though lacking the Egyptian cover shown at right). Thus can even the most bizarre apocalyptic beliefs have an impact.
1993: THE OSLO ACCORDS
The Oslo accords of September 1993—in which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization agreed on a set of terms—marked a turning point for apocalyptic writers, leaving them temporarily speechless. But quickly they ascribed the whole process to a plot by the dajjal. In Jericho: the Cursed City, Muhammad ‘Izzat ‘Arif wrote that the Jews had given Jericho (which together with Gaza was the first piece of land Israel withdrew from) to the Palestinians because of a curse in Joshua 6:26 against anyone "who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho.'"23
After Oslo, the apocalyptic literature moved away from the destruction-of-Israel motif to a temporary acceptance of its continued existence with a place in the end-times.
Sa‘id Hawwa, a Jordanian Islamist writer concludes that this is indeed a fulfillment of prophecy, and that it is very likely that the group to fulfill God's promise about destroying the Jews will be the Iraqis, for the previous group to fulfill this promise, the Babylonians, came from Iraq.24 Hawwa's works are quite popular among Palestinians, and his books are available at nearly any religious bookstore in the West Bank. During the Kuwait war when Saddam attacked Israel using Scud missiles, Palestinian groups used Hawwa's explication of the Qur'an to prove that Iraq was the promised liberator described in the Qur'an. Hawwa argues that these verses must be fulfilled before the end, because in the dajjal stories the Muslims are said to be controlling Jerusalem.
It is now believed that if the Qur'an predicted Israel's actions, its establishment was in accord with God's plan and only He has the right and the power to undo it; Muslims cannot destroy Israel. Bashir Muhammad ‘Abdallah is certain that the Qur'anic prophecy of the rebuilding of Israel is now being fulfilled. He describes in great detail the arrogance of the Jews (and usually the Americans); therefore their punishment is imminent. However, it is useless to try and deliver that punishment by human means, as God himself will arrange it, using the means He will chose, when "the time of the second punishment comes."
This interesting and somewhat unexpected deviation from the usual scenario has caught on. Writing in 1987, Muhammad al-Bar similarly used hadith to prove that the existence of Israel was predicted by the Prophet Muhammad.25 The Hamas leader Bassam Jirrar takes it one step further in a very popular book, Israel's Destruction in 2022. Writing primarily while exiled by Israel in south Lebanon during 1992-94, he explores the Qur'an numerologically using the verses that mention Israel and a number of others. He finds a numerological pattern of nineteen and predicts that Israel will be destroyed in the year 2022. If God has really decreed the destruction of Israel in that year, it is sacrilegious to attempt to destroy it beforehand. Hence Hamas' willingness to speak about a truce with Israel.26
2000: COUNTDOWN TO THE MILLENNIUM
The year 2000 is a Christian date that should have no apocalyptic significance for Muslims, and especially not Islamists; it corresponds to the years 1422-23 in the Muslim calendar. Nonetheless, many Muslims believe it is a significant date for Jews (for whom in actuality it is meaningless), and have therefore ascribed to it a demonic significance as the date when Jews intend to rebuild the Temple—which they assume means pulling down the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
How have Muslims come to attach the year 2000 to such momentous events? Da'ud points to a speech by Dan Shomron, a former Israeli chief of the general staff, who told the graduates of an Israeli war college that "in the year 2000 we will see the growth of a new leadership."27 Da'ud assumes this to be a reference to the dajjal, "since he is their messiah and their king, whom they are expecting in the year 2000 to build them the Temple."28
Bashir Muhammad ‘Abdallah, author of The Great Earthquake,29 sets out an indictment of Western and pseudo-Muslim civilizations. ‘Abdallah, unlike other apocalyptic writers, does not hesitate to attack Arab and Muslim leaders directly by name and call them non-Muslims. Very pro-Iraqi, he repeatedly lauds the Muslims of Iraq (though not Saddam) for fighting the dajjal (the United States). The United States, a colony run by Jews, he finds is populated by a people who are "the most sunk, debased and slavish to the Jewish devil; they labor and toil to fill the storehouses of the Jews with gold."
For ‘Abdallah the signs of the times are longer term than for other writers; he mentions the fall of the Ottoman caliphate (a major issue for Islamist groups, who frequently call for the restoration of a caliph to real power) in 1924, the foundation of the state of Israel, the intifada, and the Kuwait war. ‘Abdallah follows Ayyub in making use of innumerable Biblical references, even managing to find references for the Palestinian resistance and intifada (Isaiah 8:18, 9:1-2) and the Iraqis fleeing from the Americans (Is. 21:13-17). Using the Biblical verse Jeremiah 50:2, he attacks Bill Clinton personally, equating him with Bel, a Babylonian god: "I will punish Bel in Babylon." Babylon is the United States (or the West in general).
Babylon will suffer an enormous earthquake with its epicenter in New York, which will totally uproot the evil nation and strike down all of the enemies of Islam, especially the United States. ‘Abdallah dates this earthquake precisely to Dhu al-Hijja 10 of the year 1997, the equivalent of April 19, 1997, which he counts as fifty years after the founding of the state of Israel.30 The earthquake would unleash the enemies of Islam and focus their hatred on Muslims. An auxiliary earthquake will occur in either Russia or Japan. Just three nations (Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan, with the possible addition of Somalia) resist the dajjal, by which he means the United States.31
The United Nations, a front for the dajjal, is trying to impose a "New World Order" upon the remaining Muslim states and will attack them in force after the great earthquake. The European Union and Israel, a manifestation of the dajjal itself, will join with the Americans, who are functionally ruled by the dajjal already (Revelation 13:2). All differences between non-Muslim groups are simply an illusion: they are all united in their hatred of Islam and are under the control of the Jews and the dajjal.
The dajjal not only seeks to destroy the Muslims, but also the Christians (a notion probably designed to show that Jews hate everyone and will betray even their followers). This coalition will be defeated by the Muslims at the city of Jerusalem, then the Muslims will conquer Europe and destroy the "idolatrous church in the Vatican."32 A very short messianic period then occurs before the dajjal himself appears and leads a massive attack culminating in the Battle of Armageddon. He will be defeated there by Jesus Christ, who will come down from heaven and fight on the Muslim side, defeat the dajjal, and usher in a longer period of messianic rule, during which "the rule and the government will be in the hands of the Muslims in general and the Arabs specifically."33 In other words, this period will see the Muslims returned to their accustomed position as rulers of the world, which they lost to the Europeans several hundred years ago.
Bassam Jirrar, like ‘Abdallah, focuses much of his book on Qur'anic verses dealing with the Jewish Temple (17:4-7), and finds in them a prediction of Israel's God-determined place causing disorder. He is not perturbed by the fact that this is in direct contradiction to all previous commentary, since he notes "reality is the true commentary to real prophecy."34 As a Palestinian, this issue is far more important for him than for ‘Abdallah, a Sudanese. Although the prophecy says God will do the sending of "Our creatures," Jirrar questions whether Muslims are commanded to wait passively for God to act. After all, he says, the Prophet Muhammad prophesied the fall of the Persian Empire, but the Muslims did not wait around for it to just fall into their hands like a plum. They went out and acted in accordance with the alleged prophecy (which in reality was after the fact). Jirrar specifically denies that the destruction of the State of Israel is necessarily an event close to the Hour or even one of its signs. After Israel is destroyed, he notes, Jews will continue to exist and will be followers of the dajjal.35 Jirrar disagrees with the other apocalyptic writers cited here insofar as he does not foresee the complete annihilation of the Jews and avoids triumphalist and antisemitic motifs.
Jirrar's numerological calculations lead him to predict that Israel will rule for seventy-six Islamic (i.e., lunar) years, which equal seventy-four Christian (i.e., solar) years. He then divides this period into four quarters of nineteen each: the first half, with a break at the Six-Day War (nineteen years after the foundation of the state) saw the ascendancy of Israel, which he feels was broken in 1986, which began the Muslim ascendancy that will culminate in Israel's destruction in 2022. History will end not with Ayyub's scenario of conquests and blood, but with the peaceful conversion of the Jews and Christians to Islam.
FAMILIARITY WITH THE WEST
These writings inspire several observations:
Familiarity with modern science. ‘Abdallah is fluent in computer technology and took the time to learn about earthquakes and plate tectonics. Da'ud, an accomplished engineer, cites a great many journals and studies to provide highly technical information on the dajjal's supposed building of his spacecraft. Jirrar uses calculations of the earth's orbit and relative position to the sun to determine the end of the State of Israel.
Fascination with the year 2000. Despite their being Islamists, most authors use the Western, Christian-based dating system. When predicting the end of Israel, Jirrar chooses not to write the Muslim year (1443), but the year 2022 in his title and on his cover. ‘Abdallah even mixes the Christian and Islamic systems, dating his earthquake with a Muslim month (Dhu al-Hijja) and a Christian year (1997)—a completely unheard of blend.
Familiarity with modern Western cultural materials. Nearly all the apocalyptic writers in this survey know both fringe materials (the Protocols, William Guy Carr's Pieces on a Chessboard, various UFO enthusiasts) as well the greats of Western civilization—Plato, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, and Will Durant—and many left-wing and communist thinkers. Ayyub even cites Yitzhak Rabin and Abba Eban.
Western antisemitic conspiracy writers are the key sources. The utility of antisemitic themes appears to be the spur for these essentially conservative religious writers to adopt so much foreign material. These materials have an authority no less than the writings of Bertrand Russell. The European paranoia about Jews has been passed on and usually causes these Muslim writers to excuse Christians for misdeeds throughout the ages, since they were duped into them by the Jews. Thus, the Crusades are blamed on the Jews (who in reality, were as much a victim of them as were Muslims), as are the acts of the United States—though apocalyptic writers can never quite decide whether Americans are a passive sufferer of the dajjal's tyranny or an active participant.36
Familiarity with Western antisemitism. These writers' hatred and fear of Jews seem to be unlimited. ‘Abdallah deems Jews "the fiercer in enmity even than the Christians. The Jews are the leaders of evil and the planners of destruction, enmity and corruption."37 Ayyub's antisemitism shines right through everything that he writes. He delights sadistically in their defeat:
Then the last battle will occur, when the results of age-long deceit will fall into oblivion. I mean by this the problem of the heritage of Israel. . . this problem from which the belief in the godhood of the messiah of Israel stems, and all of the economic and political ideologies which cause the world to be always at war.38
As Jesus and the victorious Muslims advance upon Jerusalem, he cries out "Rejoice, O daughter of Jerusalem!39 The Jew in the courtyard will be like a broken man, prepared for death in any form."40
Familiarity with Christian apocalyptism. The scenario that evangelical Christians have popularized in the English-speaking world has had a huge impact on Muslims. The incorporation of non-Muslim material enables Ayyub and his followers to present a far more coherent and relevant scenario than they would be able to if they only relied upon Muslim sources. They have taken the negative, the other side of Christian apocalyptic beliefs, adopted these for themselves and claimed that Christians do not truly understand the meaning of the texts. They were able to do this solely thanks to the initial absorption of antisemitic material that demonized the Jewish messiah as the dajjal, and the additional unrecognized fact that much of classical Muslim apocalyptic tradition is taken from Christianity anyway. So really what we have here is the marriage of two groups of material separated by about 1400 years, facilitated by the black sheep of Western civilization, the antisemitic conspiracy theory.
Reliance on Western materials creates a tension for Ayyub and his followers, who continually cite Christian texts usually considered by Muslims to have been corrupted, and are in any case abrogated by the revelation of the Qur'an in the Muslim view. This is, of course, a sticking point for Ayyub, and in a number of instances he, Da'ud and ‘Arif actually apologize to their readers for what they are citing. In other cases it leads to amusing inconsistencies as these Muslim writers unknowingly incorporate ideas at odds with the classical development of Muslim apocalyptic. It is also a sticking point for conservative Muslim scholars, a number of whom have written refutations of Ayyub's works, realizing that for his essential ideas he is relying on non-Muslim material.
History goes in cycles. Nothing changes for these authors. ‘Abdallah claims the ancient people of ‘Ad (who flourished in about the third century) had exactly the same sort of civilization as the United States, down to television and Microsoft software for computers, regular weather reports, and skyscrapers like those in New York.41
History is predetermined. All is planned out, controlled by the dajjal and his Jewish followers.
Highly critical of actual Muslim life. The authors find the culture and political systems of the Islamic world unacceptable. ‘Abdallah alone actually names the rulers he considers non-Muslims—a virtually suicidal act in many countries—but many make their contempt evident.
The laws of evidence have little importance. These writers work in an environment in which conspiracy theories are assumed true. An extremist political agenda and the veneer of learning pass in the audience's eyes as truth. Nothing is as it appears and historical inconsistencies are not a problem. The authors know their audience does not demand the same standards of proof an educated Western audience would require.
The books analyzed here are not obscure studies but popular and visible tracts, every one of which has gone through multiple editions. During times of apocalyptic expectancy (like the Kuwait war) it was difficult to keep them on the shelf. In many cases (Ayyub and Bayyumi especially), stacks of these books are available at bookstores near the entrances of mosques, where they sell for a minimal price. I have seen all but one of them (‘Abdallah's) in Jerusalem, Cairo, and ‘Amman. Ayyub is continually sold out in Jerusalem; Jirrar is one of the best-sellers in the West Bank, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Messianic and apocalyptic beliefs are a powerful source of inspiration for popular movements. Numerous important events (such as the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the uprising of Juhayman al-‘Utaybi in Mecca on November 21, 1979, the first day of the hijri year 1400)42 were influenced by a perception that a messianic age is about to dawn or that a demonic, devilish plot is in the offing. It is highly unlikely that apocalyptic speculation will cease after the year 2000. Prophecies are already available for the year 2022 and a number of years close to the Muslim year 1500 (2076). Whatever happens during the year 2000—and it is very likely that a violent outbreak will occur for so many groups want something to happen—apocalyptic fears will continue. It is difficult, however, to predict whether Muslim apocalyptists will continue to rely on Christian material, though this prospect does seem likely.
Outsiders engaged in diplomacy, business, or other activities in the Muslim world need to be aware that a paranoid atmosphere now prevails there. Issues of non-Muslim control (cultural, military, economic, etc.) are incredibly sensitive, with a large percentage of any Muslim audience perceiving this relationship in terms of the dajjal seeking to impose control over the Islamic world. A deep suspicion of the New World order also connects to the dajjal. These seemingly remote concerns have practical policy implications for those dealing with the Middle East.
First, apocalyptic materials amount not to mere talk but a necessary prelude to action. Before acting, Islamist groups engage in an intense period of ideological preparation during which thinkers formulate often radically new positions. Thus did Hamas and Islamic Jihad hold a protracted internal debate during the early 1990s about the legitimacy of suicide attacks. Although virtually all Sunni Muslim scholars had strictly forbidden such tactics, these groups managed to formulate a stand that permits it. Had the significance of this debate been recognized at the time, preparations could have been made for this unexpected change in strategy.
Second, while it is not possible to predict when exactly it will occur, writers surveyed here concur on the coming global violence. Very likely, there will be an upsurge in incendiary writings preparatory to the year 2000. Other possible focuses include 2022, the year in which Bassam Jirrar's vision of the destruction of Israel will come to fruition, and 2076, the year 1500 according to the Hijri calendar. Predictions exist for both of these years.
Third, Jerusalem stands out as the primary focus of apocalyptic groups, making that city the very likely place where any possible violence would occur. Should it occur elsewhere, that would probably be either triggered by an event in Jerusalem or with an intent to influence the course of events in Jerusalem. It is virtually certain that anything anybody says or does in connection with Jerusalem's fate will be read in terms of the dajjal.
Fourth, these considerations bode ill for the final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority due to take place before long on the question of Jerusalem. Negotiations will be perceived by apocalyptic groups in terms of an alleged Jewish-Dajjal conspiracy (along with the United States and the European Union) and the attempt to control the Muslim world and rebuild the Temple. Anything touching the Temple Mount is viewed with acute suspicion—making it particularly unfortunate that negotiations about this site might take place precisely as a heightened suspicion is in the air. Anything said or done by Israelis, Americans, and Europeans that can possibly be twisted to fit this conspiracy will provide fuel for a conflagration. As much as possible, politicians and diplomats need not to make matters worse by uttering inflammatory statements.
Finally, Arab-Israeli negotiations on Jerusalem are unlikely to make progress under these circumstances. Differences between the Israeli and Palestinian Authority positions on Jerusalem do not entirely contradict each other, but the high level of Muslim suspicion renders real advances unlikely. Perhaps, with the year 2000 behind us, it will then be possible to move the negotiations forward.
1 Al-Musharraf b. al-Murajja', Fada'il Bayt al-Maqdis wa'l-Khalil wa'sh-Sham (Shfar‘am, Israel: Dar ash-Shuruq, 1995), pp. 210-11 (nos. 310-15).
2 Bassam Jirrar, Zawal Isra'il 2022 (Beirut: Maktabat al-Biqa‘, 1995), pp. 49-50.
3 For example, Muslim heresiographers have a distinct tendency to ascribe heresies or deviations from orthodoxy to a plot by Jews. The Apostle Paul and ‘Abdallah ibn Saba' were in classical times said to have been "Jewish agents" who infiltrated Christianity and Islam to destroy them from within.
4 On this transfer, see Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites (New York: Norton, 1986), pp. 81-139, 192- 235; Jonathan Frankel, The Damascus Affair (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 416-24; and Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996), pp. 309-12.
5 Sa‘id Ayyub, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal (Cairo: al-Fath li-l'I‘lam al-‘Arabi, 1987), re-issued and expanded immensely as ‘Aqidat al-Masih ad-Dajjal fi al-Adyan (Cairo: n.p., 1991).
6 This connection was made before Ayyub, probably in the 1970s. See Muhammad al-Bar, Al-Masih al-Muntazar wa-Ta‘alim at-Talmud (Jidda: Dar as-Sa‘udiya, 1987), pp. 106, 120-24.
7 Ayyub, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, pp. 32-33.
8 Ayyub, Ibtila'at al-Umam (Cairo: Dar al-‘Itisam, 1995), pp. 351-78.
9 Ayyub, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, p. 64.
10 Majdi Muhammad ash-Shahawi, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal wa-Yajuj wa-Majuj (Cairo: Maktabat al-Iman, 1992), p. 48.
11 Muhammad al-Bayyumi, ‘Alamat Yawm al-Qiyama al-Kubra (Cairo: Maktabat al-Iman, 1992), pp. 39-41; Ibid., ‘Alamat Yawm al-Qiyama as-Sughra (Cairo: Maktabat al-Iman, 1994), pp. 18, 57, 66; Ibid., al-Mahdi al-Muntazar (Cairo: Maktabat al-Iman, 1995), pp. 28, 42-45.
12 See footnote 5. Ayyub, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal
13 Ayyub, ‘Aqidat al-masih ad-Dajjal, p. 195, also p. 161.
14 The text uses pointedly archaic names: the "Banu al-Asfar [blonds, usually meaning white people], the Rum [Byzantine Christians], and the Ifranj [Franks]."
15 Sadim does not appear in the dictionary but Arabic words usually are based on a three-letter root, and this word shares the same root as Saddam. This form was presumably chosen not to be too blatant.
16 In the years 1990-91, this translates to mid-Nov. to mid-Feb.
17 An-Nahar, Dec. 15, 1990.
18 Muhammad ‘Izzat ‘Arif, Nihayat Saddam (Cairo: Dar al-‘Itisam, 1990), pp. 27-29.
19 Nihayat al-Yahud, (Cairo: Dar al-‘Itisam, [1992-93?]).
20 Muhammad ‘Isa Da'ud, Ihdharu: Al-Masih ad-Dajjal Yaghzu al-‘Alam min Muthallith Bermuda (Cairo: Al-Mukhtar al-Islami, 1991), p. 42.
21 Da'ud, Ihdharu, pp. 117, 131-35.
22 Ibid., pp. 126-27.
23 Muhammad ‘Izzat ‘Arif, Ariha: Al-Madina al-Mal‘una (Cairo: Dar al-‘Itisam, 1994), pp. 35-40, 55-58.
24 Sa‘id Hawwa, Al-Asas fi't-Tafsir (Cairo: n.p., 1985), vol. 6, pp. 3039-40.
25 al-Bar, Al-Masih al-Muntazar, p. 124.
26 An interview with Bassam Jirrar in Qol ha-‘Ir, Nov. 2, 1996, provides evidence for this way of thinking.
27 Da'ud cites ‘Abd an-Nasir Madbuli al-Khadri, Al-Harb al-‘Alamiya ath-Thalitha, p. 39.
28 Da'ud, Ihdharu, pp. 141-42.
29 Bashir Muhammad ‘Abdallah, Zilzal al-Ard al-Azim (n.p., 1994).
30 Nothing of note took place fifty years earlier, but Apr. 19 is the date now notorious on the American political Right because of the Waco assault and the Oklahoma City bombing.
31 ‘Abdallah, Zilzal al-Ard, p. 164.
32 Ibid., p. 131.
33 Ibid., p. 168.
34 Bassam Jirrar, Zawal Isra'il, p. 21.
35 Ibid., pp. 48-49.
36 Pipes, Hidden Hand, p. 141-55.
37 ‘Abdallah, Zilzal al-ard, p. 94.
38 Ayyub, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, p. 284.
39 A parody of Zech., 2:10, 9:9.
40 Ayyub, Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, p. 286.
41 ‘Abdallah, Zilzal al-Ard, pp. 216, 214-17, 220.
42 J. Ketchichan, "Islamic Revivalism in Saudi Arabia," Muslim World 80 (1990): 1-16.
Related Topics: Islam | David Cook | June 1998 MEQ
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