The Problem With the Islamic Apocalypse

An Islamic State mural in Shirqat, Iraq, October 2016. Credit Reuters

An Islamic State mural in Shirqat, Iraq, October 2016. Credit Reuters

Source: New York Times


ISTANBUL — The cover of the most recent issue of Dabiq, the slick magazine that the Islamic State distributes online, shows an image of a jihadist fighter with the group’s notorious black flag behind him. He appears to be on the roof of a church, knocking over a cross. Below him, a headline reads, “Break the Cross.”

It might seem at first that the Islamic State was just celebrating its brutal campaign to uproot the Christians of Iraq and Syria. But “break the cross” is not an arbitrary phrase. It refers to a prophecy that will supposedly be realized in the final era before the apocalypse.

This prophecy comes from hadiths, or sayings, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, a literature that is regarded as less definitive than the Quran, but is still influential in shaping Islamic doctrine. According to certain hadiths, the apocalypse will come in stages. In the first, the world will be filled with injustice, and Muslims will be oppressed. Then two saviors will arise: “the awaited one,” or Mahdi, a divinely guided caliph who will unite and empower Muslims, followed by a bygone prophet who will come back to earth to support the Mahdi and defeat evil. This prophet will not be Muhammad, as one could have expected, but Jesus, praised in the Quran as the Messiah and the “Word of God.”

Many Christians also await the Second Coming of Jesus, so this might sound to them like good news. But Islamic literature seems to suggest that Jesus will return to abolish Christianity and confirm the truth of Islam. A much-quoted hadith, to which the Dabiq headline was alluding, says, “The Son of Mary will soon descend among you as a just ruler; he will break the cross and kill the swine.” The usual interpretation of this prophecy is that when Jesus comes back, he will put an end to his own worship, symbolized by the cross, and re-establish the dietary laws that Christianity abandoned but Jews and Muslims still observe.

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Categories: The Muslim Times

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