The prophetic foundations of the Islamic State and the radicalization of Islam
Catalin Negru | Published: June 1, 2016 | 10:40
Extremism always manifests when societies are struck by chaos or when there is a rupture between leaders and subjects. And the Islamic State is no exception; it rose due to the prolonged war and instability in the Middle East, multiculturalism and the clash of cultures.
Despite its name and its attempts to become a state in the real sense of the word, the Islamic State is just a terrorist organization. The history of the Islamic State began in 2006, when the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq was declared, comprising Iraq’s six mostly Sunni Arab governorates.1 Abu Omar al-Baghdadi – the leader of the Mujahideen Shura Council – was announced as its emir.2 In April 2010 al-Baghdadi was killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid near the city of Tikrit.3 As a result, one month later Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.4 In April 2013, having expanded into Syria amid the civil war, the group changed its name to “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”5 Only one year later, on June 29, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant proclaimed itself to be a caliphate (a single Muslim one-world government).6 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – surnamed “Caliph Ibrahim” or “Amir al-Mu’minin” (“Commander of the Faithful”) – was named its caliph, and the group renamed itself the “Islamic State”7 (at the moment it is often referred to as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh).
As a caliphate, the Islamic State (through the voice of its caliph) has claimed religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.8 Based on a Jihadist-Salafism,9 it has promoted religious violence and regarded those who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates,10 it has demanded the banishment of the “crusaders” (the Christian-foreign invaders) from the Middle East, the restoration of the former glory of the Islamic culture, the return to a pure and original Sunni doctrine, the establishment of a Sunni theocracy (a state governed by the divine law of Sharia) and the rejection of all religious innovations and alterations, believed to corrupt Islam’s original spirit.11
Most of us have a hard time understanding how other people can abandon their families and businesses and travel thousands of miles in order to join the ranks of such a group. Most of the world’s states officially declared their hostility toward the Islamic State and condemned its actions and political agenda. The concept of it being a caliphate and the name “Islamic State” have been rejected by worldwide Islamic leaders as well;12 even the powerful terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, through the voice of its leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, denied the legitimacy of the Islamic State.13 And yet the latter has enjoyed a tremendous international fame and an inexplicable resilience. It is a paradoxical image, which gave birth to all kinds of speculations and conspiracy theories, especially given the fact that it has controlled areas rich in oil. But the real problem with the Islamic State is not who supports it from the shadows (if there is anyone), but why the Islamic State has risen in 2014 and why common Muslims (and even non-Muslims) from around the world choose to join its ranks and to commit horrible acts in its name.
The rise of the Islamic State is not entirely accidental.
At first sight the success of the Islamic State seems to be the random result of the political and economic chaos that engulfed Syria and Iraq; of the multitude of vagrant groups there had to be one that was going to absorb the others, to gain momentum and thus to become a regional force. Yes, randomness played a role in the formation of the Islamic State, but its ascension is not quite accidental. So, what makes this monstrous organization to be so appealing?
For the uneducated or mentally challenged people savagery and brute power can be fascinating. And the Islamic State emanates plenty of them. They exert a sort of sick attraction or they even arouse, being unconsciously mistaken by females with virility or by men with a sort of wild manly adventure. This is why teenage girls from European countries ran in the Islamic State to marry jihadists,14 and this is why people from around the world have become obsessed with its methods of execution (mainly decapitations).15
The apocalypse is a great recruiting pitch.
For the more devout Muslims the Islamic State is much more attractive in comparison to other terrorist organizations because it has stoked the apocalyptic fire. In the 1990s governments in the Middle East were more stable, sectarianism was more subdued and the apocalypse was not a great recruiting pitch. It was better to recruit by calling to arms against corruption and tyranny than against the Antichrist. But now the civil wars raging in the area have lent credibility to the prophecies and the apocalyptic propaganda makes more sense.16 In addition, apocalyptic beliefs are very effective instruments in manipulating people: they trigger a sense of urgency and exaltation, determining those affected to do things they would normally not. So, the Islamic State has presented itself to the world as a fulfillment of the final Islamic prophecies and it implicitly proclaimed its divine purpose.
Although it is widely known in the Muslim world that the time of the end is known only by Allah and any attempt to find it is a blasphemy (Quran 33:63), the Quran and the hadiths (texts that complement the Quran) offer a lot of details about the signs preceding Judgment Day.17 Unlike the Bible, which contains only two prophetical books (Daniel and Revelation) of the total of 66 (different versions of the Bible have different number of books), about one-third of the Quran speaks about eschatological beliefs. Accordingly, compared to Christians or Jews, Muslims are much more sensitive when it comes to apocalyptic messages.
Read carefully the following lines: according to the Islamic eschatology, in the last days people will experience anarchy and chaos in order to be tested their love for Allah. Abu Hurairah, Muhammad’s companion, said that the end is close “when the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of higher buildings” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 1:47). The coming of al-Dajjal18 (the Antichrist19 in Islamic version) will be preceded by the widespread of unfaithfulness (which will ultimately be considered a virtue), the widespread of dishonesty, an apostasy for material goods, the legitimation of bribery and usury, the widespread of stupidity and the stupid will take the control of power in the detriment of the wise, the widespread of corruption especially among the leaders, wars and riots that will led to innocent bloodshed, the widespread of hypocrisy, adultery will become an uncontrollable phenomenon and it will ultimately be accepted, women will dress like men and vice versa, liars and cheaters will be respected, there will be an acute famine at the moment of the rise of al-Dajjal.20 The Mahdi – the Messiah and the savior of Islam – will reveal himself shortly before Judgment Day. He will free the world from error, injustice and tyranny together with Isa (Jesus, the son of Mary). The signs that announce the coming of the Mahdi are the following: the rise of a black flag, a surge in killings, a widespread apostasy, the complete ruination of large cities, war and epidemics, a huge gap in wealth between the rich and the poor, the outbreak of a large conflict in the land of Syria and Iraq until it will be destroyed, death and fear will affect the population of Iraq and a fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover the country.
The Islamic State and the events that surround it are not a fulfillment of the prophecies, but a grotesque manipulation.
I know exactly what are you thinking but I can assure you that reality is very different. The human mind works by making connections and by seeing patterns, even when there are none. The Islamic State and the events that surround it are not a fulfillment of the prophecies, but a grotesque manipulation. Due to the fact that the Islamic prophecies are so many and so blurry, it is easy to make connections between random political contexts and random Islamic prophetic texts. For example, it is easy to say that there will be a war in the land of Syria and Iraq because the Middle East has been a tormented region ever since the birth of Islam. Stupidity and stupid leaders, the gap between the rich and the poor, alongside all the other general prophetic signs – hypocrisy, dishonesty, apostasy, bribery or wars – have existed in all parts of the world and in all times. No one can tell who the shepherds of black camels are, although the first things that come in mind are the people of Saudi Arabia or Qatar. And last but not least, the famous black flag is far from being a novelty in the Islamic landscape. It only follows the symbolism of the legendary battle flag of the Prophet21 with the alleged Seal of Muhammad22 within a white circle, with the phrase above it “There is no God but Allah.”23 A first version of the black flag appeared during the Abbasid Revolution in the 8th century.24 The Ahmadiyya – a religious movement whose founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed at the beginning of the 20th century to be the awaited Mahdi – also employs black and white colors in its flag.25 A black flag was used by the Hotak dynasty in the early 18th century and later by the Emirate of Afghanistan under Abdur Rahman Khan. Mullá Husayn, the leader of the religious movement Bábí, raised the black flag in July 1848 in his westward march from the Iranian city of Mashhad in order to proclaim the Báb’s message.26 The Pashtun (an ethnic group with populations in Afghanistan and Pakistan) tradition of using a black flag with a white shahada (Islamic creed) inscription was adopted by the Taliban, and thence by Al-Qaeda in the 1990s. The black flag became the symbol of global jihadism in the early 2000s, and thus it turned into a banner of the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front.27
As a matter of fact, the Islamic prophetic texts speak about many other signs which actually contradict the divine legitimacy of the Islamic State. They say that the army of Muslims will be lead by the Mahdi, who will lead them near the city of Dabiq in a final battle against non-Muslims (the Christian Armageddon). The infidels will be led by al-Dajjal, who will appear somewhere between Syria and Iraq. The same hadiths say that Mahdi will be the last caliph, he will be a direct descendant of Muhammad on the genealogical line of Fatimah (the Prophet’s daughter), his name will be “Muhammad” as the great Prophet,28 he will come in a year divisible by 2 and his father will be named “Abdullah” (which means “God’s servant”) (Sunan Abi Dawud 4279-4290 – Kitab al-Mahdi). He will be a simple and handsome man, he will restore the original faith, he will fight for the cause of Islam in the world and he will win, he will protect Muslims from destruction, he will fill the world with justice when there will be oppression and corruption, and he will lead for 7, 9 or 19 years. Many will falsely pretend that they are the Mahdi, but the real Mahdi will reveal himself between Kabba and Mecca and all Muslims will recognize him and follow him. Towards the end the Arabs will regain their independence by banishing the foreigners, the false triad of al-Dajjal, Sufyani and Yamani will rise, closely followed by the return of Isa (Jesus, the son of Mary) on the clouds of heaven and the revealing of the Mahdi. Ten major signs will take place before Judgment Day: smoke for 40 days, the rise of al-Dajjal, the Beast (which will rise from earth and it will be enormous), the Sun will rise from the west, the descent of Jesus, Gog and Magog, and three large landslides: one in the east, one in the west, one in Arabia, at the end of which a fire will come up from Yemen and will banish the remaining population towards the final settlement (Sahih Muslim 6931).
The Islamic State does not exist because this thing was meant to happen, but because it wants to gain power by making Muslims believe that.
The entire symbolism used by the Islamic State points toward the fulfillment of prophecies. But the organization is in accordance with only a small fraction of all the Islamic prophecies and contrary to many others. Religion, however, has the gift of eclipsing reason, making people ignore failures and see only the successes and the alleged wonders. While the rise of the Islamic State was not entirely an accident, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s coming to power was due to pure chance. The problem is that in a fundamental religious society nothing takes place by accident; everything happens according to God’s will. Baghdadi knows this and he took advantage of it. It is not clear if he proclaimed himself the Mahdi or a forerunner of the Mahdi,29 but in June 2014 the Islamic State published a document in which it “traced” the lineage of its leader back to Muhammad – a condition sine qua non for any caliph. The official magazine of the terrorist group is entitled Dabiq30 and the jihadists clearly stated that they have expected the gathering of “the army of Rome” near the town of Dabiq for the final battle.31 But they are in for a big surprise.
Causes always take place in front of effects, never the other way around. It is the same with prophecies. The Islamic State is probably one of the best modern examples of self-fulfilled prophecies and manipulation of the masses through religion. It is easy to “fulfill” prophecies when this thing involves the actions of a single party (anyone can make a black flag and proclaim himself the descendant of Muhammad). But it is much harder when there are many other parties involved (such as the final battle near Dabiq), parties that act independently of your will. All these aspects lead towards the natural conclusion that the Islamic State did not rise because this thing had to happen, but because the messages of a 7th-century warlord are still valued as divine revelations.32
Unfortunately, the Islamic State, with its entire eschatological symbolism, would not be what it is without the presence of a broader problem: the barbaric state of Islam itself. We must not forget that the name of the entity in question is not the “New Palestine,” the “New Levant,” the “New Arabia,” the “Christian State,” the “Hindu State” or the “Jewish State”; it is the “Islamic State” – a direct reference to its Islamic foundations and the political dimensions of Islam. Islam is in the same spot where, for example, Christianity was 1.000 years ago. When a religion is the defining element of the culture of a place, then that religion encompasses and directs all the aspects of that place, including the politics.
Exactly like the fanatics who enroll in deadly cults or extreme sects,33 most followers of the Islamic State are people unadapted to the modern society; they are called to separate themselves from the decayed society and to fight against it. While it is true that modern society has a lot of problems in terms of morality, it is one thing to want to change it through education and an entirely different thing to change it by burning it to the ground and killing anyone who opposes you. The Islamists want to bring the world to their primitive level of understanding. Many people get confused and feel lost in a multicultural world because they can no longer identify themselves with a certain religion, ethnicity, race or nation. Thus, religion, in this case Islam, turns into an anchor of identity and a solid and stable refuge in an ever-changing social and cultural environment. The Islamic State simplifies the world by dividing it into two well-defined sides, with two well-defined social, religious and territorial borders: us and them, the good side here and the bad side there, the true believers and the rest of the world (composed of infidels and apostates).
Islam is dying. Idealizing the past is the best sign that the present and the future are in trouble.
Islam is being choked to death (or at least it suffers a deep and painful transformation). This might come as a surprise statement to many readers. But this is why it is becoming increasingly radical: it is suffocated by the scientific progress and it fights for its survival. Idealizing the past, as the Islamic State does, is a clear sign that the present and the future are in trouble. It is no coincidence that the number of radical Islamic groups has grown enormously in the recent decades34 and at the moment most terrorists are Muslims. While these aspects might also be linked to the involvement of the United States in the Middle East in the last 50 years, the primary cause of radicalization is the attrition of the Islamic culture and the low level of education of the Muslims worldwide. The Islamic State is only the tip of a much larger phenomenon. Suicidal terrorist attacks, honor killings, random killings of non-Muslims by Muslims on religious grounds and organization such as the Islamic State are not possible without a systematic spread of stupidity. Stupidity is the lifeblood of these manifestations. And only Islam itself is to blame for this matter.
You can serve any god and keep any kind of tradition, no matter how absurd, as long as you have money (and implicitly time). If there is no money, Islamic fundamentalism brings only misery by stopping the people from adapting to the realities of the 21st century and from adding value to their being. Saying that the Islamic 1300-year-old precepts are obsolete would be an understatement. For example, you can no longer wear burqa because you cannot catch thieves, you can no longer pray five times a day because you have to work, you can no longer read the Quran, go to the mosque or keep the Islamic rituals because you have to study for your education and your job. In this context, two main questions have arisen in the Muslim world: what does it mean to be a good Muslim? And should Islam be reformed and adapted to the world or the other way around?
Any belief that promotes fear and denies the access to information is false. Islam, like Christianity or Judaism, is basically a structure of power: it brings benefits to the elites at the top and misery to the rabble at the bottom. The more stupid the subjects are the easier it is to manipulate them. But the non-Islamic world offers access to information, which contradicts the fundamental Islamic beliefs and causes religious conflicts, debates and schisms. Some Muslims are too afraid to escape the intellectual darkness and to abandon their silly traditions; they perceive the scientific progress and the denial of the supernatural as a treacherous siege against the word of Allah and themselves carried by an invisible evil enemy. Accordingly, as science progresses and information invades more and more their cocoon of ignorance, they radicalize themselves up to the point when they prefer to blow themselves up in this life rather than to be punished by Allah to the eternal fire of hell in the afterlife. For other Muslims the access to information is a gift that helps them think with their own mind and stops them from living in fear. By asking questions, challenging the authorities, demanding the reformation of Islam or ultimately abandoning their faith, this category of Muslims crumbles the Islamic structure of power. And fewer or smarter Muslims means less respect, less power and less money for the elites.
Islam is not a religion of peace; it is just a religion. Same as the Bible, the Quran and the hadiths contain messages of peace and war35 that can be activated and applied depending on the intelligence or the intentions of the reader. The worldwide rhetoric of the Islamic elites changed toward jihadism and violence in order to stop the religious bleeding. No Muslim leader blew himself up. Yet, they demonize non-Muslims and practice hate speech in order to prevent their subjects from escaping the the intellectual slavery. They channel hate towards outside by blaming the non-Islamic world for the squalor of Muslims, while Islam is absolved of any guilt. In this way any unadapted Muslim to the current state of things may find refuge in religion, and the distance from frustration to extremism is extremely small.
Jihadism will not disappear after the Islamic State is eliminated because the Islamic State is not only a terrorist organization, it is first and foremost an idea.
No, jihadism will not disappear after the Islamic State is eliminated. Because the Islamic State is not only a terrorist organization, it is first and foremost an idea. And this idea has rooted in the mind of many Muslims worldwide. What we are seeing today on the world’s stage is not a hunt of jihadists or a battle between nations, but the signs of cultural clashes. At the moment Islam is clashing with every single culture it comes into contact: it is clashing with the Chinese culture in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, it is clashing with the Hindu culture in India, it is clashing with Buddhism in South-East Asia, it is clashing with the traditional African beliefs in Africa, and it is especially clashing with the Western culture (mainly) in Europe. Cultural clashes are extremely long processes, which can last hundreds or even thousands of years. And today cultural clashes are infinitely more complicated than they were in the past. Back then things were simpler because the people from various cultures were grouped together, they were separated by borders and the clash between cultures was largely the same with the clash between nations. But now multiculturalism made cultural clashes to take place within nations, with enemies that are invisible and unpredictable.
In conclusion, the prospects are grim. Technological development will solve many of our problems, but it is unlikely that in the next 20 years it will solve the lack of human value by making us all equally smart. If you think that now, in 2016, the Middle East is a horrible mess, then prepare yourself for what is about to come. First, chaotic multiculturalism36 will continue to feed the clash between cultures and Muslims worldwide will become increasingly radical. Many other Islamic states are lurking in Muslim communities across the globe, waiting to rise and to establish caliphates (a good current example is the Al-Nusra Front – Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria).37 And second, and most importantly, the world is switching to green energy. Climate change forces us to do that and we all know that fossil fuels have no future. That is for sure. But we also know that the rich countries of the Middle East are not built on the value of the people (their education in science), but on the value of their possessions (the fruits of the land). These countries are rich not because their people know how to manipulate their environment (excepting Israel), how to research, to discover new things or to produce things, but only because the land beneath them happened to be rich in oil. This is why there is a stark contrast, for example, between Qatar and Egypt. So, what do you think will happen when oil will be worthless and money will stop pouring into the Arab coffers? Who or what do you think will they blame when they will no longer afford their current lifestyle? Islam? Themselves? And where do you think will they migrate to?
1. Stephen Negus, “Call for Sunni state in Iraq,” Financial Times, accessed April 20, 2016, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e239159e-5c6a-11db-9e7e-0000779e2340.html#axzz49mWrRl4l.
2. Hassan Abu Haniyeh, “Daesh’s Organisational Structure,” Al Jazeera (Center for Studies), accessed May 10, 2016, http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/dossiers/decipheringdaeshoriginsimpactandfuture/2014/12/201412395930929444.html.
3. Tim Arango, “Top Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Reported Killed in Raid,” The New York Times, accessed May 5, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/20/world/middleeast/20baghdad.html.
4. Aron Y Zelin, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Islamic State’s driving force,” BBC World News, accessed April 5, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28560449.
5. Ishaan Tharoor, “ISIS or ISIL? The debate over what to call Iraq's terror group,” The Washington Post, accessed April 7, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/06/18/isis-or-isil-the-debate-over-what-to-call-iraqs-terror-group/.
6. Jessica Lawrence, “Iraq crisis: Could an ISIS caliphate ever govern the entire Muslim world?,” ABC News (Australia), accessed March 21, 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-02/could-an-isis-caliphate-ever-govern-the-muslim-world/5559806.
7. Adam Withnall, “Iraq crisis: Isis changes name and declares its territories a new Islamic state with ‘restoration of caliphate’ in Middle East,” The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-declares-new-islamic-state-in-middle-east-with-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-as-emir-removing-iraq-and-9571374.html.
8. Radwan Mortada, “What does ISIS’ declaration of a caliphate mean?,” Al Akhbar, accessed March 22, 2016, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/20378; Gerhard Böwering and Patricia Krone, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), 81.
9. For details, see Erin Marie Saltman and Charlie Winter, Islamic State: The Changing Face of Modern Jihadism (London: Quilliam Foundation, 2014), accessed April 20, 2016, https://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/publications/free/islamic-state-the-changing-face-of-modern-jihadism.pdf; Alastair Crooke, “You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia,” The Huffington Post, accessed April 19, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alastair-crooke/isis-wahhabism-saudi-arabia_b_5717157.html.
10. “Islamic State,” Australian National Security, accessed April 12, 2016, https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/IslamicState.aspx.
11. “Jihad Groups in Iraq Take an Oath of Allegiance,” MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute), accessed April 13, 2016, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1910.htm; Fouad al-Ibrahim, “Why ISIS is a threat to Saudi Arabia: Wahhabism’s deferred promise,” Al Akhbar, accessed May 2, 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20140824121659/http:/english.al-akhbar.com/node/21234.
12. Shafik Mandhai, “Muslim leaders reject Baghdadi’s caliphate,” Al Jazeera, accessed April 21, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/muslim-leaders-reject-baghdadi-caliphate-20147744058773906.html; United Nations Security Council, “United Nations Official Document,” United Nations (UN), accessed April 12, 2016, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2178%20(2014).
13. James Gordon Meek, “Al Qaeda Leader Al-Zawahiri Declares War on ISIS ‘Caliph’ Al-Baghdadi,” ABC News, accessed March 23, 2016, http://abcnews.go.com/International/al-qaeda-leader-al-zawahiri-declares-war-isis/story?id=33656684.
14. Katrin Bennhold, “Jihad and Girl Power: How ISIS Lured 3 London Girls,” The New York Times, accessed March 23, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/18/world/europe/jihad-and-girl-power-how-isis-lured-3-london-teenagers.html; Melanie Smith, “What life is like for teenagers who try to join Islamic State,” BBC (UK), March 14, 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/31720898/what-life-is-like-for-teenagers-who-try-to-join-islamic-state.
15. Alexandra Sims, “Teenage girl Lisa Borch jailed for murdering her mother after watching Isis beheading videos online,” Independent, accessed March 24, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/teenage-girl-jailed-for-murdering-mother-after-watching-isis-beheading-videos-online-10502266.html; “Extremist who idolised Jihadi John jailed for planning terrorist attack,” The Telegraph, accessed March 30, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/13/extremist-who-idolised-jihadi-john--jailed-for-planning-terroris/.
16. William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015), 147.
17. Unlike Christianity, which emphasizes the eschatological importance of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Islam focuses on Judgment Day (Catalin Negru, History of the Apocalypse (Lulu Press, 2015), Part I, Chapter II, 4.2. “The central point of Islamic eschatology: Judgment Day,” accessed May 20, 2016, http://reasonandreligion.org/index.php/judgment-day/.
18. Catalin Negru, History of the Apocalypse (Lulu Press, 2015), Part I, Chapter II, 4.3.1. “Al-Dajjal (the Antichrist),” accessed May 20, 2016, http://reasonandreligion.org/index.php/dajjal/.
19. Catalin Negru, History of the Apocalypse (Lulu Press, 2015), Part I, Chapter II, 3.3.1. “The Antichrist,” accessed May 20, 2016, http://reasonandreligion.org/index.php/antichrist/.
20. Allama Mohammed Baqir Majlisi, Essence of Life: A Translation of Ain al-Hayat, trans. Sayed Tahir Bilgrami (Qum: Ansarian Publications, 2005), 103-5.
21. The Black Banner or the Black Standard (also known as the “banner of the eagle” or simply as “the banner”) is one of the flags flown by Muhammad in Islamic tradition. It was historically used by Abu Muslim in his uprising leading to the pro-Shia Abbasid Revolution in 747 and is therefore associated with the Abbasid Caliphate in particular. It is also a symbol in Islamic eschatology (heralding the advent of the Mahdi) (David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic (Princeton: The Darwin Press, 2002), 197); David Wroe and James Massola, “Flag being held by Lindt Chocolat Cafe hostages is not an Islamic State flag,” The Sydney Morning Herald, accessed April 15, 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/national/flag-being-held-by-lindt-chocolat-cafe-hostages-is-not-an-islamic-state-flag-20141215-1279s0.html.
22. The Seal of Muhammad is one of the relics of Muhammad kept in the Topkapi Palace by the Ottoman Sultans as part of the Sacred Relics collection. It is allegedly the replica of a seal used by Muhammad on several letters sent to foreign dignitaries (Hilmi Aydin, The Sacred Trusts: Pavilion of the Sacred Relics, Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul (Somerset: Tughra Books, 2010), 101).
23. Ilene Prusher, “What the ISIS Flag Says About the Militant Group,” Time, accessed March 25, 2016, http://time.com/3311665/isis-flag-iraq-syria/.
24. Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic, 125, 153, 206.
25. “A Brief History of Ahmadiyya Movement In Islam,” Al Islam, accessed March 26, 2016, https://www.alislam.org/library/history/ahmadiyya/68.html.
26. Peter Smith, A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá’í Faith (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2000), 185.
27. Usama Hasan, “The Black Flags of Khurasan,” Unity (blog), accessed May 10, 2016, https://unity1.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/the-black-flags-of-khurasan/.
28. This reminds of the medieval conception of temporal circularity. For example, in Catholic Christianity there is a prophecy of the popes which says that the end of the world will come when the last pope will be “Petrus Romanus” (Peter of Rome). There is no doubt that the name refers to a second Peter. This idea is a fruit of the medieval views about the circular and proportional Universe, which begins and ends with the same element or the same event. Peter is an element analogous to Jesus Christ. The Church began with the arrival of Christ and it will end through the arrival of Christ. Likewise, Jesus Christ handed the keys of the Church to Peter at the First Coming (Matthew 16:19) and he will take them back (from Peter) at the Second Coming (Catalin Negru, History of the Apocalypse (Lulu Press, 2015), Part II, Chapter I, “4.2.5. The Great Western Schism and the prophecies of the popes.”
29. The “hadith of the twelve successors,” or twelve caliphs, is an Islamic prophecy, attributed to Muhammad. It is perhaps most popular among Twelver Shiites, as they affirm the prophecy was fulfilled by the Twelve Imams. According to the prophecy, there will reign twelve caliphs - presumably the first being coronated upon the Prophet’s death - and after which the Caliphate would either cease to exist or lose significant political influence. It is stated that all twelve caliphs will be from the tribe of Quraysh (Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, accessed May 2, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/).
30. “The Islamic State’s (ISIS, ISIL) Magazine,” The Clarion Project, accessed May 25, 2016, http://www.clarionproject.org/news/islamic-state-isis-isil-propaganda-magazine-dabiq.
31. Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants.”
32. Anne Speckhard, “End Times Brewing: An Apocalyptic View on al-Baghdadi’s Declaration of a Caliphate in Iraq and the Flow of Foreign Fighters Coming from the West,” Huffington Post (UK), accessed February 2, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/anne-speckhard/isis-iraq_b_5541693.html.
33. Baghdadi’s Islamic State can be compared with Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple, David Koresh’s Branch Davidians or Shoko Asahara’s Aum Shinrikyo.
34. Seth G. Jones, A Persistent Threat. The Evolution of al Qa’ida and Other Salafi Jihadists, Rand Corporation, National Defense Research Institute (2014), 27, accessed March 27, 2016, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR600/RR637/RAND_RR637.pdf.
35. Here are some texts from the Quran that promote war: “Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them.” (2:191); “Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood.” (9:123); “When the opportunity arises: kill the infidels wherever you catch them.” (9:5); “Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.” (3:85); “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.” (9:30); “Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam.” (5:33) “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire; hooked iron rods; boiling water; melt their skin and bellies.” (22:19); “Do not hanker for peace with the infidels; behead them when you catch them.” (47:4); “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.” (8:65); “Muslims must not take the infidels as friends.” (3:28); “Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Quran.” (8:12).
36. See “The failure of multiculturalism and the Muslim issue” in order to understand why the current form of multiculturalism is chaotic.
37. Charles Lister, “Al Qaeda Is About to Establish an Emirate in Northern Syria,” Foreign Policy, accessed March 20, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/04/al-qaeda-is-about-to-establish-an-emirate-in-northern-syria/.
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