Sectarian violence in Islam, again, but this time Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al-Qaeda, finds himself in the news (Daniel 2:43 NASB). It seems one of Zawahiri’s “children” has gone their own way.
The rebellious prodigal is the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (also known as “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”). “ISIS” has launched its own jihad against the people of Iraq. Over 500,000 are reported to be fleeing Mosul, the second largest city of Iraq (Mosul is immediately across the Tigris from the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh), including over 1,000 Christian families. Baghdad is reported to be its next offensive as concern rises among Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his majority-led Shia government that its military will not be able to hold their lines. Reports are that ISIS brutally tortured, beheaded, and killed over 1000 civilians, police, and government troops in their onslaught against Mosul.
Baghdad is the second largest Arab city in the world with a population of 7.2 million, of which, 64% are Shia and 32% Sunni. The rebellious branch of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, has declared itself an Islamic State; its aspirations are to fulfill Muhammad’s ancient prophecy — that one day Islam’s dominion will extend over the entire world, under the leadership of a single caliph and a united caliphate.
In February, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a Sunni Salafi-jihadist group headquartered in Iraq and Syria, was rebuked by al-Qaeda’s core leader, Ayman al Zawahiri (located in Pakistan), resulting in the severing of loyalist ties between ISIS and al-Qaeda core leadership in Pakistan. The severing of relationships was the result of feuding between two al-Qaeda groups, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusrah (al-Nusrah), also a Sunni Salafi-jihadist group and located in Syria, and formerly under the umbrella of ISIS. Through ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusrah ultimately came under the umbrella of al Qaeda core leadership in Pakistan since, up until that time, ISIS was under the umbrella of al-Qaeda. However, in 2013, al-Nusrah sought to be relieved of the control of ISIS and come under the direct leadership of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Zawahiri ruled in favor of al-Nusrah announcing in a letter to the leaders of the two groups, “al-Nusrah [is] an independent entity of [al-Qaeda] under the general command [of al-Qaeda].1 ISIS leadership rejected the change in command for al-Nusrah. The feud between ISIS and al-Nusra resulted in ISIS breaking ties with al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan and ISIS declaring itself to no longer be a loyalist group reporting to al-Qaeda. ISIS was thereafter separate and distinct from al-Qaeda.2 To put it bluntly, the child (ISIS) had rebelled against its parent (al-Qaeda) and gone the way of the prodigal.
All three Sunni groups, i.e., ISIS, al-Nusrah, and al-Qaeda, are Salafi-jihadist Muslims. That is, they hold to a puritan form of Islamism based upon the traditions of the “Salaf,” the “pious ancestors,”and also hold to violent jihad as a personal religious duty of all Muslims.3 In addition, as Sunni Salafi-jihadi groups, they reject the Shia sect of Islam, whose adherents “combine” under the blood lines of Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin.4
According to Internet reports, ISIS has implemented Sharia law in Mosul (“Nineveh” in the Internet video). Translations of the posted Internet video include the following:
“We are soldiers of Islam and we’ve taken on our responsibility to bring back the glory of the Islamic Caliphate.”
“Any one of its members who breach this promise will have their hands cut off.
“No drugs, no alcohol and no cigarettes allowed.”
In a warning to the police, soldiers and other “kaffr” bodies the choice is to repent or face the ultimate punishment. The group said it will open “special places” for repentance.
Outlining its sectarian bias it declared “all shrines, graveyards and monuments will be destroyed.”
“All women must dress in concealing clothing that preserve decency. Females should only go outside if necessary.”
“Now is time for an Islamic state.”
The implementation of Sharia law is characteristic of Salafi-jihadist organizations.5 Seth G. Jones in his RAND Corporation report entitled, “A Perpetual Threat – the Evolution of Al-Qaeda and other Salafi jihadists” states:
Ayman al-Zawahiri argued in 2013 that there “is no honor for us except through Jihad,” emphasizing that jihad is “obligatory.” In 2013, Zawahiri argued that the most important mistake by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was its attempt to take power through democracy. “What happened is the biggest proof for the failure of taking the way of democracy,” Zawahiri chided Muslim Brotherhood leaders. “In the beginning, we have to recognize that legitimacy isn’t in elections and democracy, but legitimacy is the shar’ia, since who is outside the shar’ia is out of the legitimacy, …
What can we conclude about the actions of ISIS in Iraq? ISIS has declared itself an Islamic state. That means its boundaries are not determined by lines on a map, or by geography; rather, its boundaries are defined by the dominion of Islam and Sharia law and whether or not one comes under it. It really is not a matter of belief, but dominion, subjection. The people of Mosul, most of whom were Sunni Muslim, have been subjected to dominion. As ISIS makes its way through Iraq, the question becomes, “Will Muslims join the Islamic State of Iraq? Will they join the caliphate of Islam as defined by Sunni Islam? Latest reports are that ISIS is no longer an insurgency, but an army.
The next question becomes who will stop the Sunni army of ISIS? I doubt that Malaki (Shia) has the military strength to do that even with the support of Shia militia. I recently read that Malaki did not support the world’s demand for Syria’s President Assad to step down. Assad and Malaki are both Shia. In fact, reports are that Iran has made shipments of arms supplies to Assad in Syria through Iraq. Think about it. If you were Salafi-jihadi fighters in Syria, i.e., al-Nusra, how would you defeat Assad? You would cut off his supply lines. Assad’s supply lines are through Iraq and through Malaki. ISIS has successfully attacked Mosul and is now headed to Baghdad. Why? Perhaps to remove Malaki and to cut off Assad’s supply lines from Iran. If that is the case, and it is purely conjecture on my part, what do you think Iran will do if ISIS continues its successful assault against Baghdad? It will supply troops and whatever else is necessary to stop ISIS in Iraq and keep Assad’s supply lines open. Otherwise, Assad will be removed from Syria by Salafi-jihadis (al-Nusra or ISIS).
To make the stakes higher, Russia is currently aligned with Iran as well as Assad in Syria. America has not aligned itself with anyone in Syria since it cannot align with Assad (who used chemical weapons against his citizenry) nor can it align itself with Salafi-jihadi fighters in Syria (al-Nusra) who have massacred civilians both in Syria and in Iraq (through ISIS); but America cannot align itself with Russia or Iran either. So who does America align with? No one, for the moment. America does what it is known best for (at least under Obama). America talks about things, i.e., uses diplomacy, to solve an international crisis (Ezekiel 38:13). Read more here. Figure out the sides yourself. America will stand against Russia and Iran although its stance will purely be about talking points, diplomacy. Ezekiel 38 takes over after that. What we should expect is that while America is talking about things, Russia will be working behind the scenes with Iran (and others) to bring the ultimate battle against Jerusalem. Remember, the “red apple” is not Baghdad but Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 28:15-16 (NASB) You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north [Russia], you and many peoples with you [Iran and other countries, see Ezekiel 38:5-6], all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; 16 and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog.”
I cannot tell you close this is to the Islamic Paradigm in Bible prophecy. If you want to see the details, read my book. It is so close it is scary.
Daniel 7:23 (NASB) 23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.
Jesus come quickly.
- Letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, May 2013, as cited by Rand Corporation Research Report by Seth G. Jones, “A Persistent Threat, The Evolution of al Qa’ida and Other Salafi Jihadists, footnote 5, chapter 2. [↩]
- http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR637.html, p 7 – 8. [↩]
- http://www.rand.org/news/press/2014/06/04.html [↩]
- The division between Sunni and Shia can be traced all the way back to the death of Muhammad in 632 AD when agreement could not be reached on the rightful successor to Muhammad. The first four successor leaders to Muhammad were elected based upon group consensus and are known as the “Rashidun,” or “rightly guided” caliphs. The Shias reject the first three successors because they were not related to Muhammad by blood; only Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin, and the fourth of the rightly guided caliphs, was considered a rightful successor by Shias because only Ali was related to Muhammad by blood. Daniel 7:8 NASB. The resulting divide in Islam has continued to the modern day. Shias (“Twelvers” are the primary sect) are primarily located in Iran (90%), Bahrain (70%), Iraq (65%), and Lebanon (65%). Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad is Shia, but of the Alawite branch of Shiism. [↩]
- http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR637.html, p 12-13 [↩]