Verily a week goes by that we do not witness the destruction by ISIS of a church, monastery, temple, or ancient artifact. Read more. One of the most disturbing such events happened in Palmyra, Syria, recently. ISIS beheaded Khaled Asaad who had served as head of antiquities at Palmyra for over forty-years. Palmyra is the site of a plethora of Roman-era ruins, and its archaeological finds date back to the early second millennium BC. Khaled Asaad was 82 years old, and according to reports, was tortured to death rather than reveal the location of ancient artifacts that had been hidden before ISIS overran Palmyra. Khaled had been a captive for over a month before he was beheaded. As a final testament of its ideologue, ISIS hung his headless body on a column of a building near the town square which Assad had laboriously worked to restore. Khaled was the father of eleven children. When he retired in 2003, his son Walid took over his work at Palmyra. They both were reportedly detained by ISIS in August 2015. The fate of his son is not yet known, but if the fate of the father was torture untill death, the son is likely to experience the same– his youth has likely worked to his detriment. Death was a mercy to the father; may it come sooner than later for the son. The Economist reports that Khaled was a supporter of Bashar al-Asaad’s government. Bashar al-Assad is Alawite Shia. ISIS is Sunni Salafi– they consider Shias as unbelievers, infidels.
ISIS’ specific charges against Khaled Assad are as follows:
A board in front of the body set out the charges against him, which accused him of loyalty to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, maintaining contact with senior regime intelligence and security officials and managing Palmyra’s collection of “idols.” Read more.
It is incredulous that a human being is beheaded because he restores, protects, and preserves ancient art. This thought is echoed by historian Tom Holland, who recently stated:
Historian Tom Holland said the news was distressing. “For anyone interested in the study of the ancient world, it comes as – to put it mildly – a shock to realise that ideologues exist who regard the curating of antiquities and the attendance of international conferences on archaeology as capital offences.” Read more.
An hadith of Sahih Bukhari has this to say about pictures or images and what the great Muhammad has to say about them:
Um Habiba and Um Salama mentioned a church they had seen in Ethiopia and in the church there were pictures. When they told the Prophet (ﷺ) of this, he said, “Those people are such that if a pious man amongst them died, they build a place of worship over his grave and paint these pictures in it. Those people will be Allah’s worst creatures on the Day of Resurrection.”1 (Emphasis supplied)
We must remember the historical context when Muhammad received his revelation and first began to preach and teach in Mecca, the city of his ancestors. Meccans were polytheists, i.e., they worshiped multiple pagan deities in the pre-Islamic society. Hubal was the chief god among many of the pagan deities of Arabia, and thought to be the “moon god,” one of 360-plus deities of the Arabian tribes in the seventh century a.d. The most common symbol of Hubal was the crescent moon. It is out of this polytheistic culture that Muhammad had his vision from Allah via the angel gabriel.2 Muhammad’s revelation went “against the grain” of his day– Islam is a monotheistic religion, i.e., based upon a one-god belief system. When a monotheistic, one-god religion, encounters a polytheistic many-gods religion, the stronger of the two will prevail. Muhammad’s forces prevailed against the polytheists of Mecca in A.D. 630. Here is the account of what Muhammad did to Hubal, the moon-god, along with 360 other idols:
At the Kaaba the idol of Hubal was made of red agate, and shaped like a human, but with the right hand broken off and replaced with a golden hand. When the idol was moved inside the Kaaba, it had seven arrows in front of it, which were used for divination. According to Karen Armstrong, in her book Islam: A Short History, the Kaaba was dedicated to Hubal, and contained 360 idols which probably represented the days of the year, and Hubal’s was said to be the grandest of the idols. As an infant, Muhammad was brought before Hubal by his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, at-Tabari records in “The History of the Prophets and Kings” 1:157. When Muhammad conquered Mecca in a.d. 630, he ended the Quraysh’s tradition of idol-worship by smashing the statue of Hubal along with the other 360 idols at the Kaaba, and re-dedicated the structure to Allah, the one God.
What might drive a Salafi Islamist to smash the ancient art of Palmyra, including the removal of all Christian symbols from churches? Why behead an 82 year-old defenseless man, whose life was dedicated to recovering, preserving, and recording these same artifacts for human history?
Because Muhammad did in his day. And Muhammad is the perfect, supreme messenger of Islam who must be emulated by all Muslims. What Muhammad did in the 7th century, ISIS is doing in the 21st century. It is the root of Islam and it goes very deep.
Dr. Timothy Furnish states, in part, quoting Historian Marshall G. S. Hodgson:
Thus, “Shar’iah-minded Islam” eventually “banned all figural imagery … on the ground that it might tempt the weak to idolatry. … it is from this particular Islamic interpretive ideology that most of the world’s terrorists now come—including the al-Qa`idah-linked killers in Paris, and the ISIS destroyers of any and all art which they can get their bloody jihadist hands on.
And since Khaled Asaad restored such “idols,” he was cut-off from his work, literally, and the hanging of his headless body on a column in the city square was to have the same effect upon the witness as the visible ruins of a bulldozed church. Islam is supreme; and there is none like Allah and his Muhammad. Khaled’s death is a statement, a testament to Islam’s need to protect Allah, as defined by the model prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and emulated by his followers.
In Islam, if someone goes apostate, he is liable to death. Why does Allah protect his numbers by directing his followers to kill the apostate? How is it that there is no “compulsion” in Islam when the death penalty greets the apostate (Qur’an 2:256)? If one insults the messenger of Islam, or Allah, or the Qur’an, why is death the penalty? On what basis does the threat to Allah, Muhammad, or the Qur’an warrant the death penalty? Witness the burning of the Qur’an several years ago by American soldiers who did so without intent to slander or impugn the Qur’an. Witness the Pam Geller event wherein people were invited to “draw Muhammad.” Why is a Muslim moved to kill because someone drew a cartoon of Muhammad? Can Allah not deal with the insult to his messenger by an infidel? Why must Allah instruct a suicide bomber to don an explosive to kill the blasphemer only to offer him sex with 72 virgins as a reward? Is Allah telling us that we will have physical bodies in heaven? How does that work since Allah is not flesh and blood nor any of us will be either in heaven (or hell)? At least that is what the Scriptures teach about the after-life. Why must Allah deny an old man his last years with his grandchildren because he restored art? To me, the insult is to Allah. He cannot take care of his own image so he causes his followers to commit the gratuitous violence in his name. I wonder how many “Allahu Akbar’s” were declared on the day that Khaled al-Asaad was hung headless on a column? It is as if death in Islam is the solution to every threat to Allah; and, in death, not life, Allah is glorified. That is satanic. There are no rights in Islam but those of Allah; free speech, free will, is non-existent. There is only submission– and death.
This is one of the many differences between Islam and Christianity. In Christianity, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life … (John 14:6). In Jesus, there is life, and that life is the light that draws us out of darkness (John 1:3-4). Jesus is the life-giving Spirit, the last Adam, who redeems Adam’s sin passed down through the ages through the actions of the first Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus is truth and there is no lie in Him. Muhammad is death; and the truth that is in him is only a half-truth (which explains the schizophrenia we find so prevalent in Islam). It is this half-truth that accepts Jesus as a prophet but denies Him as Son of God (1 John 2:22). It is this half-truth that denies the God-proving resurrection (Acts 17:31 NASB) by eliminating the cross altogether– for in Islam, Jesus was never crucified, only one who looked like him (Qur’an 4:257). In the process of proclaiming and teaching these half-truths, Islam guts the gospel of everything in it that gives it meaning, Islam commits the unpardonable: it makes God a liar since He has declared these things to be so (1 John 5:10). If we had to point to a Scripture that might properly describe the role of Islam in hardening the hearts of Muslims it would be this passage:
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. –John. 8:44 (NASB)
ISIS is the modern-day expression of Muhammadanism. As a Salafi Islamist sect it seeks to emulate every action of Muhammad (and his Companions). Its actions also are an emulation of the prince of darkness, satan. Compare the actions of the two and they will fit hand-in-glove. Muhammad lives through the beliefs and actions of ISIS. Revelation 13:15.
There are many of us writing about the Islamic paradigm these days. We may differ on who the Antichrist will be, or which nation/group he will rise from. Our differences may be even greater– whether Rome or Islam will be the revived beast and empire through which satan will rise. We may differ on specific and narrow interpretations of Daniel 2, 7, 9, 11, 12 or Revelation 12, 13, 17 & 18– but what we do not differ on is that Islam is rooted in darkness and in lies. In that root, this writer interprets that satan will wage his end-of-days war against the world.
Jesus come quickly.
Blessings. (If you would like a free copy of my book for the cost of the postage, let me know by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see www.whenthepiecesfit.org, the website for my book, published in 2011.)
- Sunnah 63.99, Sahih Bukhari, Narrated by Aisha. http://sunnah.com/bukhari/63/99 [↩]
- Islam the Cloak of Antichrist, p 29, quoting Ira M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, 15. [↩]