A subscriber to my blog recommended the informative article by Graeme Wood and published in The Atlantic on ISIS. The article entitled “What is the Islamic State?” is lengthy but well worth the read. The article includes many key points concerning the significance of “caliphate” to both past and future actions of the Islamic State, a Sunni Salafi Jihadist group.1 It also stands as an informed and thought-provoking response to the question of whether the Islamic State is Muslim. An important guidance of the article is that to ignore the religious, apocalyptic, goals of ISIS would be a tragic mistake for U.S. policy makers. In fact, the article responds to President Obama’s recent claims that to associate ISIS with Islam is a lie because religions do not kill, maim, and enslave people. Read more. Of interest to me, however, were several of Wood’s criteria about the Islamic State that are also found in Bible prophecy. The key passage is Daniel 11:36 – 45 which has Islamic “identifers” within the verses. However, only the Islamic State criteria mentioned by Wood and also found in Daniel 11:36-45 will be discussed. In my view, they tell us what the future holds for the Islamic State.
The Graeme Wood article is based on interviews with supporters and officials of ISIS, including Anjem Choudary, a frequent antagonist on cable TV networks. Choudary, a lawyer and British extremist, has publicly voiced support of ISIS and has even made public his desire to join the Islamic State, but for the confiscation of his passport by U.K. authorities.
A key point in Wood’s article is that when the Islamic State declared itself to be a “caliphate” last June an entire set of Islamic hadith came into effect. These laws determined the actions of Caliph Abu Bakr Baghdadi, and failure to lead the Islamic State in the “Prophetic methodology,” i.e., the specific model of Muhammad, and failure to wage war to expand the caliphate (“offensive jihad”) would have resulted in the death of the caliph at the hands of his own mujahideen. In fact, the Islamic State, “requires territory to remain legitimate, …” Wood quotes Anjem Choudary as follows:
Hitherto, we were just defending ourselves,” Choudary said. Without a caliphate, offensive jihad is an inapplicable concept. But the waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph. Choudary took pains to present the laws of war under which the Islamic State operates as policies of mercy rather than of brutality. He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies— a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict. (colored and emphasized text is mine)
Once “calipha” is declared, Sharia law is redefined for those in the caliphate. According to Choudary, a “complete version” of Sharia law is instituted which includes free medical care, food, and daily subsistence for all true Muslims. Choudary is quoted as follows:
Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate—“and now we have one.” … Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. … “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so. …
Wood specifically responds to accusations that the Islamic State is not based upon the Qur’an and hadith (and therefore un-Islamic). He refutes the idea that Islam is a religion of peace as well:
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam. Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. …
In conversation, they [Islamic State officials] insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam. Read more.
Wood’s article also responds to the accusations of Muslim’s that ISIS is un-Islamic. (Daniel 11:37). Quoting leading expert on ISIS theology, Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the article states:
But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” … He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. … (For a further review of Bernard Haykel’s comments in Wood’s article see here.)
“Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.” … The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves. … Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy.
Wood quotes Choudary and His colleague Abu Baraa to explain other components of caliphate — the absence of long-term binding peace treaties. Choudary’s colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. In April 2013, the official spokesman of ISIS, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, declared the movement of the Islamic State as “ready to redraw the world upon the Prophetic methodology of the caliphate.”(Daniel 11:41-43). In August 2013, he said, “Our goal is to establish an Islamic state that doesn’t recognize borders, on the Prophetic methodology.” According to Wood’s experts, it is critical to legitimacy that the Islamic State not lose control of its territory. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements (such as al-Qaeda which has no claim on territory) because territorial authority is a requirement. Take away its control and command of territory, and the Islamic State would lose the allegiance by its mujahideen. In fact, without territory there is no Islamic State.
The Islamic State’s monthly online magazine, “Dabiq” (Read more) is titled after a prophetic statement made by Muhammad of an end-times battle between the armies of “Rome” and the armies of Sunni Islam. The battle takes place at Dabiq, a small farming village in Northern Syria: “It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo. … An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal (the Muslim anti-christ), will come from the Khorassan region of eastern Iran (Iran is a Shia Muslim nation) and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. (Daniel 11:45). Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory. Lastly, Wood gives emphasis to the Qur’an and hadith upon which the Islamic State is governed. These include the Sunni belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth.
World News Daily sought independent perspectives on Graeme Wood’s article from Dr. Timothy R. Furnish and Joel Richardson, author of the Islamic Antichrist. Furnish offers a critical review of Wood’s perspective on his website as well. Furnish has long warned in his blog, mahdiwatch.org, that “ISIS is not merely a criminal gang toying with Quranic verse. They are led by well-educated men who have a keenly thought-out view of how the world will wind down based on close study of the Islamic scriptures, the hadiths and the scholarly works of Islamic thinkers throughout history.” Joel Richardson’s Biblical perspective on ISIS’ actions are also summarized in the WND article. Richardson states, “Bible-believing Christians should be aware of what the Quran says about the end times. “It verifies what the Bible teaches only is a reverse copy.”
Richardson’s book was the first book I found in 2008 when writing my own book, Islam the Cloak of Antichrist. Furnish’s book, “Holiest Wars,” was foundational in my understanding of the Islamic perspective of Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah of-sorts that forms the foundation of much eschatological thought in Islam. (Furnish wrote the Foreword for my book and Richardson wrote a back-flap endorsement).2
I want to point out some interesting parallels between Daniel 11 and points included in Wood’s article. In Wood’s article there were key statements that are possibly included in Daniel 11, and if these parallels are correct, Daniel 11:45 prophesies the ultimate fate of the Islamic State.
- The caliphate has an “obligation to terrorize its enemies … with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children.” Islam has met this criteria throughout its history. Several prophecy passages mention an extraordinary brutality to be present in the 4th and final kingdom, Daniel 7:19, Daniel 7:23. We find the same brutality present in Daniel 11:36-44.
- When the Islamic State declared itself the caliphate, it demanded the world’s Sunni Muslims to acknowledge them as such and profess loyalty. Many did, but others did not. Some declared the Islamic State un-Islamic. Captured territory was a key to the acknowledgement of the Islamic State among the world’s Islamist Muslims. The reason is because captured territory communicates the will and favor of Allah among Muslims, in the same way it did in Muhammad’s days. Muhammad was so successful in Arabia that he united the desert bedouin tribes and clans of the Peninsula, something that had never occurred before.3 Likewise, it was not until the acquisition of territory in Iraq and Syria that the declaration of caliphate was made by ISIS. ISIS spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani stated, “It is incumbent upon all Muslims to pledge allegiance to (him) and support him…The legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of the khalifah’s authority and arrival of its troops to their areas,” the statement said. Al-Adnani also stated, “It is the caliphate. It is the caliphate — the abandoned obligation of the era…We clarify to the Muslims that with this declaration of the caliphate, it is incumbent upon all Muslims to pledge allegiance to the caliph [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi].” Acknowledgment is not limited to professing agreement on legitimacy but also allegiance, loyalty (Arabic word, bay‘ah). It is important to note the wording of Daniel 11:39: “…he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him and will cause them to rule over the many and will parcel out land for a price.” Two important points in this prophecy — acknowledgment and rewarding of land, i.e., territory, both of which are key to the success and expansion of the Islamic State.
- A caliphate cannot cease to make war nor can it cease to hold territory. Daniel 11:40-45 includes several references to the antichrist-type leader who gains territory by numerous conquests: verse 40, “… he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through.” Verse 41, “He will enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued … Edom, Moab, and … Ammon” (modern-day Jordan). Verse 42, “Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape.” The point is that it is not one country that is overthrown but numerous, one after the other, and the most significant are mentioned.
- According to Wood’s experts, Muslim prophecy envisions “Dijjal” as coming from the East to attempt destruction of the caliphate that is now “cornered in Jerusalem.” Applying Daniel 11:44-45 to this prophecy could interpret the prophecy as follows: Iran (Shia Islam, not Sunni) is from the East, and Dijjal comes from the Khorassan region of Iran. Although not mentioned in the Muslim prophecy, Jabhat al-Nusrah, an al-Qaeda branch, is another enemy of the Islamic State, and it is primarily located in Syria, and to the north. Daniel 11:44 describes the enemies of the antichrist-type as from the East and from the North. These two enemies are not destroyed. They only serve to enrage the antichrist-type king and his kingdom so that other peoples are annihilated. Daniel 11:44.
ISIS “makes war with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many” and is prophesied to “pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain;” (Daniel 11:45). That is, this Bible prophecy envisions the antichrist-type king of Daniel 11 to make his headquarters in Jerusalem. Yet “he will come to his end,” and “no one will help him.” This would seem to prophesy that the success of ISIS will include Jerusalem as his capital but will not result in ultimate success for ISIS. ISIS will fall short. Perhaps ISIS’ calls for Muslims to join the Islamic State will eventually fall on deaf ears, by virtue of the inability to defeat those from the East and the North. Hence, the prophecy states, “no one will help him” (Daniel 11:45). If so, this passage could predict the eventual downfall of ISIS albeit after considerable success.
I have learned over the years that one can never be dogmatic in interpreting Bible prophecy. Such is the case at present. Nevertheless, there are some key identifiers that are present that cannot be ignored. The Islamic State seems to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel 11:36 – 45. The Islamic State is a Sunni Salifi Jihadist group that will ultimately fail in its jihad. It is my view that Iran, a Shia Islamist group, will ultimately fulfill Revelation 17 and 18, and that Saudi Arabia will be the harlot destroyed by the scarlet beast and her 10 allies; but that takes a whole book to describe.
Jesus come quickly.
Footnotes to post:
- Which considers violence as the only means of advancing Islam in the world. [↩]
- The parallels between my book and that of Richardson’s are very close but very different in key points. Richardson sees the Islamic Antichrist rising from the revival of the Ottoman Empire, that is, Turkey, and Sunni Islam. My book sees the Islamic Antichrist rising from Iran, and Shia Islam. [↩]
- See Islam the Cloak of Antichrist, page 38f [↩]