12 September 2001

"In the past, the US spearheaded the allied counter attack in World
War II, and after Pearl Harbor, applied all of its considerable
resources for four years until the defeat of the Nazis and Japan in
World War II. The same type of effort will be required now. No shelter for
terrorism must be allowed to remain no quarter can be given, or the plague
will resume with even greater fury. Only such a total global effort will
keep the modern barbarians away from the gates of civilization, and
prevent another global eclipse of civilization."
--Gerald M. Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, 12 September 2001

"There is power in apocalypse. Fundamentally, the belief in the
imminent end of the world changes people, and gives them the strength
of absolute conviction that God is on the side of the believer, a very
definite goal, and the impetus to excel above and beyond one's ordinary
abilities. [...] The study of Muslim apocalyptic is absolutely essential to
the understanding of modern Islam. Anyone who wishes to understand the
huge influence which these groups have on the direction of Muslims will
not be able to ignore them. Although the groups are frequently
anonymous and unknown until they burst onto the world stage with some
action, they cannot be accused of being secretive about their motives or
beliefs. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books are available at every
bookstand, and are frequently handed out in mosques. Much research
remains to be done to ascertain what is the exact connection between the
literature and the action, especially suicide attacks which require a strong
ideological imperative."
--David Cook, University of Chicago

    Jerusalem Post, 12 September 2001

    David Cook, University of Chicago

    Journal for Millennial Studies, Winter 2001


>From The Jerusalem Post, 12 September 2001

By Gerald M. Steinberg

(September 12) - In thousands of years of history, the human race has passed
through a number of long and difficult "dark ages," after the most advanced
civilizations were suddenly eclipsed at the height at their power.
Historians blame different factors, including internal corruption, external
enemies and general overconfidence and arrogance.

The world interconnected as never before in a single economic civilization,
sits on precipice of another devastating period of darkness. Many of the
things that we now take for granted, material wealth on an unprecedented
scale, instant Internet communications, satellite television, world wide
travel are all endangered. The lives of thousands and even millions of
people are on the line, and the horror of the attacks against New York and
Washington is only a minor taste of the type of devastation that would occur
with the use of weapons of mass destruction against the major cities of the

Today's barbarians, armed with most modern technologies, are the
international terrorist organizations, in all of their guises and forms.
These groups are motivated by deep hatreds and jealousies, magnified by a
distorted religious fanaticism that justifies the taking of innocent lives
at random.

For many years, members of these groups have waged total war, in different
forms and on diverse levels, against the world's democracies and leading
powers. They have gathered weapons, raised funds and recruited suicide
bombers, ready to die and kill many others in the name of various
ideologies. Many receive direct assistance and protection from governments
around the world notably, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and the
Palestinian Authority. The Osama Bin-Laden group, which is considered the
most likely perpetrator of the atrocities in New York and Washington, is
aided and abetted by a number of different partners.

For many years, the various terrorist groups were allowed to develop and
multiply, often exploiting the free speech, open borders, humanitarian
immigration policies, and other liberal democratic rights that they
condemned and are trying to destroy. In contrast, the efforts to combat this
modern plague were largely defensive and poorly coordinated. Narrow
interests and competition for status and power between the democracies and
weakened this effort, rendering it largely ineffective.

In many cases, excuses for terrorism were offered and accepted, and a policy
of appeasement was adopted. Ten years after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait,
and his programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction were uncovered, the
minimum remaining sanctions have disintegrated. Similarly, Palestinian
terror attacks were often rewarded with political recognition, and the
minimal Israeli efforts to strike back were denounced as "excessive use of
force," even at times - by the US government.

In America and the other democracies around the world, as well as in Russia
and China, the inhuman attacks in New York and Washington should leave no
questions regarding the need for powerful and consistent action to uproot
terrorism from its foundations. As the leader of the modern world
civilization, and as a result, the primary terrorist target, the US is the
only force that can lead the campaign to rid the world of this threat.

In the past, the US spearheaded the allied counterattack in World War II,
and after Pearl Harbor, applied all of its considerable resources for four
years until the defeat the Nazis and Japan in World War II. The same type of
effort will be required now. No shelter for terrorism must be allowed to
remain no quarter can be given, or the plague will resume with even greater

Only such a total global effort will keep the modern barbarians away from
the gates of civilization, and prevent another global eclipse of

Copyright 2001, Jerusalem Post


>From Centre for Millennial Studies

By David Cook, University of Chicago

There is power in apocalypse. Fundamentally, the belief in the imminent end
of the world changes people, and gives them the strength of absolute
conviction that God is on the side of the believer, a very definite goal,
and the impetus to excel above and beyond one's ordinary abilities. All
three of these components are present in a truly apocalyptic group, and
serve to mold it together into a possibly (though not necessarily)
destructive organism, to which the outside world is an enemy to be conquered
and dominated. While all of the above is well known and obvious after
studying any apocalyptic groups, the question before us is: Is Islam an
apocalyptic faith, and if it is, then what are the ramifications for the
outside world?

A grasp of history is crucial to the understanding of the modern apocalyptic
Muslim, because of the living nature of this past for him. Therefore, our
discussion must start at the dawn of Muslim history. Many theories have been
proposed in order to explain the phenomenal Muslim conquest of the entire
ancient world, from Tours in France to the borders of China in Central Asia,
during the period of a century. Some scholars dismiss the idea that
religious belief was a primary or even a secondary contributing factor in
these conquests. Yet this prejudice is very damaging to our present-day
understanding, if only because contemporary Muslims themselves believe that
their absolute faith in Allah and the unifying nature of Islam were the most
important reasons for their successes. Here, one must read between the lines
and understand, that absolute faith and unity were not enough to embark on
the jihad. There had to be a third component to this equation: the
imperative to conquer the world before the expected Hour of Judgment. This
is the component which will interest us here.

It is not so important for us to know what historically impelled this
conquest as to understand how the modem Muslim feels about his history. This
conquest, called the jihad, is closely connected in the sources to
apocalyptic beliefs. In this regard a tradition should be quoted:

"Behold! God sent me [the Prophet Muhammad] with a sword, just
before the Hour [of Judgment], and placed my daily sustenance beneath
the shadow of my spear, and humiliation and contempt upon those who
oppose me."

Muslims, according to this understanding, did not try to conquer the world
for the sake of domination, but because God commanded them to, before the
imminent end of the world. In Islam we have the first example of what an
apocalyptic group can achieve when given a limited time limit to accomplish
an impossible task: world conquest. They almost made it. Since the most
revolutionary idea present in fundamentalist Islam is that modern Muslims
are reenacting the situation of the Prophet Muhammad, during the seventh
century, and that all of the rest of the world, including the so called
Muslim countries, are infidel. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that
the feeling that an apocalyptic-jihad is necessary to correct things is very

For the contemporary Muslim the present world is a world turned up-side
down. Everywhere his faith has lost ground as a result of colonial conquests
and Christian missionaries, as well as representatives of cultural
imperialism, such as the media (they are frequently all grouped together).
God has promised to Muslims that they are not only the recipients of the
final abrogating revelation to the Prophet Muhammad, but that they will be
crowned with worldly success and dominion as well. For over a thousand years
(from the perspective of the Muslim) this was true. It was the Arabs and the
Turks who dominated the world scene, in accordance with God's promise, from
630 to 1688. However, not even the most hardened traditionalist can deny the
second or even third-class status of the Muslim world today. Obviously God
cannot be at fault for this situation- the Muslims themselves must be. The
perception is that God is testing the chosen few just before the end of the
world. They must prove their faith to God through worldly domination and the
reestablishment of the God-ordained Muslim superiority.

It is irrelevant to say, as some do, that the apocalyptic nature of Islam
has been dormant for hundreds of years. This position is only useful as a
defense mechanism. If apocalyptic tendencies are latent in a group or faith,
and the tendencies begin to appear, then they are gradually going to
influence everyone, whether consciously or not. Already much of the
apocalyptic discourse has passed to other groups, even to those religious
establishments for whom the apocalyptic groups have only contempt.


A brief survey of the apocalyptic beliefs available to the modern Muslim,
therefore, is in order. Most scenarios start with the Arab-Israel conflict,
as the basis for the end-time events, though some start with the Gulf War
(1990-91). At some time in the near future a demonic being, called the Dajal
(the Muslim Antichrist), will gain control over most of the world, with the
exception of certain Muslim countries (the lists of these vary, but are
usually the most anti-western ones). This being will be a Jew and will
control by means of a world-embracing conspiracy, after the fashion of The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In general, apocalyptic believers state
that this being, if not physically present in the world today, malevolently
influences the course of events preparatory to his eventual revelation. An
apocalyptic war is postulated between the Dajal, who will lead the west and
Israel, against the Muslims.

1) anti-western attitudes

For the modern Muslim, the words "the west" and Christianity are identical
(though that is not the perception of most in the west). Therefore, the
opposition to "the west" is a religious imperative, because to accept
western influence would to be accept the superiority of Christianity. Even
for those who are perceptive enough to see the difference between a cultural
and economic system (the west) and a religious system (Christianity), to
acknowledge any system other than Islam as the superior one would be
unthinkable. Anti-western attitudes are generally expressed in the part of
the apocalypse dealing with the moral symptoms of the end-times. These
include a broad range of distasteful activities (violence, immorality,
etc.), all of which are (and have been) present in all societies at all
times, but which, for the apocalyptic believer, is convenient to ascribe to
western influence. Economic influence is also decried, since the western
economy is based on the taking of interest in loans, which is strictly
prohibited by Islam. Therefore, a wide range of traditions are cited in
order to "prove" that these are symptomatic of the finale, and to be
attacked and resisted as much as possible.

2) anti-U. S. attitudes

It goes without saying that the U.S. figures prominently in most apocalyptic
scenarios, never in a positive way. In general, the U.S. is portrayed as the
Great Babylon (cf Rev. 17:3-4) or the Antichrist himself. Most recent
American Presidents (notably Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton) are said in
one place or another to be agents of the Antichrist, and frequently
threatened with punishment for their activities. The Antichrist is said to
manipulate all of the countries in the west, but his headquarters is
invariably in the U.S. American economic and cultural activities are said to
reflect the agenda of this demonic being, for which God will punish the
country by various methods (earthquakes, nuclear attacks, etc.). In a number
of scenarios, the Muslims, after their conquest of Israel, go on to conquer
Western Europe and the U.S. It goes without saying that American foreign
policy is seen as the principal method of the Antichrist's control of the
world. Especially incomprehensible to Muslims is the continual American
support of Israel; generally this can only be explained by a Jewish
conspiracy theory (I have heard Egyptians and Palestinians who have insisted
that all of the recent Presidents and members of Congress were Jewish,
despite the evidence to the contrary). In the foreign policy realm the U, S.
is accused of forcing Iraq to attack Kuwait (though not all apocalypticists
are pro-Iraq- especially the ones in Egypt tend to see Saddam as an
antichrist himself, frequently under the control of Israel). In the past
there were frequently attempts to identify the U. S. and the U.S.S.R.
together, since they were both perceived as under Jewish rule. For example,
Sa'id Ayyub's influential book, The False Messiah, shows a demonic being
wearing a U.S. flag and the hammer and sickle, along with a Star of David
around his neck.

3) anti-Israel

Israel receives the strongest attacks in modem Muslim apocalyptic- it is
rare to find a book or tract in which the Jewish state does not figure
prominently. This is in contradistinction to classical Muslim apocalyptic,
in which Jews are mentioned rarely. However, one classical tradition
mentions Jews and is widely quoted: "The Hour [of Judgment] will not arrive
until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them until the
Jew will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rock and the tree will say: 0
Muslim, 0 servant of God, there is a Jew behind me- come and kill him!" This
tradition is useful in the creation of scenarios in which the Muslims fight
and defeat Israel. Generally, it is assumed that the Dajjal rules the Jewish
state directly and that it accomplishes his goals in this world. This
scenario is useful in explaining a wide range of uncomfortable events, since
through it the Muslims find themselves arrayed not against a tiny, despised,
semideveloped country, but against a demonic figure who commands the
allegiance of millions of people throughout the world, and is the master of
unknown Satanic powers.

4) anti-Arab and anti-Muslim religious establishment

Since most fundamentalists believe that the modern world is a recreation of
the situation during the time of the Prophet, when the Muslims were a tiny
believing band pitted against the whole infidel world, it is a given that
other Muslims not part of "the group" are corrupt. In fact, they are
generally declared to be infidels and collaborators with the west (or
Israel), and must be fought just like everyone else. For this reason so many
Muslim terrorist groups target their own government, even governments not
perceived as friendly to western eyes, and most especially the religious
establishment. This latter is generally connected to the government
economically, and are seen as traitors. They frequently receive the scorn
and the bullets of the fundamentalists. These attitudes, unlike the material
on the U.S. and Israel, have some history in Muslim apocalyptic, and the
modem apocalyptist has no need to adjust the classical material to meet the
needs of the modem world.


One would obviously wish to know what exactly is the relationship between
apocalyptic literature and apocalyptic-messianic groups. In other words,
when there is a plethora of literature in the market on the end times or on
the Antichrist or the Mahdi, can we expect for a figure or group to appear
and put the material to use? Does a Hamas terrorist really read an
apocalyptic pamphlet before picking up a bomb to commit suicide? Is he
thinking that the end of the world is so close that there is no point in
living, or that perhaps he is bringing the apocalypse closer to reality as
he pulls the trigger? Unfortunately, there has been no real research in this
area, and we really do not know what the answer to this question is. In my
judgment, the closest analogy of the relationship of apocalyptic material to
terrorist activities is that of pornographic material to sexual assault.
While one cannot say that all obscene material leads directly to violent
sexual practices, one can say that the vast majority of those who commit
these actions have more than a passing acquaintance with pornography.
Likewise, people of good will can come to opposite conclusions as far as the
significance of the inciting material to the action.

Suffice it to say that the apocalyptic causes of important events in the
Muslim world cannot be denied. The Islamic Revolution occurred during the
last year of the 14th century (hijri), as did the apocalyptic revolt in the
Masjid al-Haram in Mecca in Nov. 1979. Both movements used apocalyptic
material to communicate the urgency of their reforming message. Hamas in the
West Bank and Gaza is clearly an apocalyptic group, as is easily ascertained
by the pamphlets and other literature it puts out, and its ideologists
regularly use apocalyptic motifs in the propaganda war against the PLO and
Israel. The beginning of the Intifada in 1987 coincides with a prediction of
the end of the world (dating from 80 years ago). Both the Egyptian and
Algerian fundamentalist movements use apocalyptic material regularly. The
paucity of the research in this field impedes mentioning other movements,
but one can say confidently that apocalyptic elements will be found in most,
if not all, fundamentalist groups operative today.


The study of Muslim apocalyptic is absolutely essential to the understanding
of modern Islam. Anyone who wishes to understand the huge influence which
these groups have on the direction of Muslims will not be able to ignore
them. Although the groups are frequently anonymous and unknown until they
burst onto the world stage with some action, they cannot be accused of being
secretive about their motives orbeliefs. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books are
available at every bookstand, and are frequently handed out in mosques. Much
research remains to be done to ascertain what is the exact connection
between the literature and the action, especially suicide attacks which
require a strong ideological imperative.

Copyright 2001, Center for Millennial Studies


>From Journal for Millennial Studies, Winter 2001

By David Cook, University of Chicago

1. The Early Ecumenical State of Islam

The importance of the development of Islam in the land of Syria during the
seventh and eighth centuries has frequently been under-appreciated by
scholars seeking to divine what the nature of the new faith was during this
crucial period. According to the traditional Muslim historical
interpretation, Arab tribesmen swept out of the Arabian Peninsula shortly
after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. Within the short time span
of 10-15 years they conquered the lands of Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Persia,
halving the territory of the ancient Byzantine empire based in
Constantinople, and bringing the Sasanian Persian empire to a close. These
tribesmen were inspired by the faith of Islam, and according to the Muslim
interpretation of events given divine aid to judge these two evil empires
which had engaged in a pointless war previous to the Muslim invasion lasting
some 25 years and destroying nearly the entire region.

This interpretation, relying as it does upon divine intervention in human
affairs, has not been well received by western scholars, who have offered
more mundane interpretations, ranging from the climatic changes resulting in
the desiccation of the Arabian peninsula, to economic factors necessitating
the Arab victory, to the superior military tactics of the Bedouin against
the trained armies of the Byzantines and Sasanians. While reviewing these
western theories, one must honestly say that the theory of divine
intervention still sounds more plausible. However, the above interpretations
do not exhaust the possibilities as far as explaining how early Islam
developed and why it conquered much of the classical world and the Iranian
plateau. In order to work towards a theory, one must examine first the
religious foundations of early Islam were, and what the nature of the energy
feeding it was.

Reading the Qur'an, it is difficult to believe that the Prophet Muhammad
truly thought in terms of founding a new faith. The text speaks more of
reminding its audience of essential truths rather than bringing an entirely
new ideology to the fore. Therefore, in a quest for the ideological
birth-point of Islam, we must seek out those more ecumenical attitudes in
the earliest Muslim religious literature and seek to bridge the gap between
the pan-monotheistic message of the Qur'an and the aggressive spirit of the
jihad as revealed in this literature. For example, in the Qur'an,

"Say: 'People of the Book [Jews and Christians], come to an
equitable word between you and us, that we worship none but Allah, do not
associate anything with Him and do not set up each other as lords besides
Allah.'"(Qur'an 3:64)

This seems to be a most strait forward vision of the monotheism proclaimed
in the Qur'an; the desire to build bridges, at least with the majority
Christian population of the region is stated even more categorically in
Qur'an 5:82:

"You will find the most hostile people to the believers to be the
Jews and the polytheists; and you shall find the closest in affection
to the believers those who say: 'We are Christians.' For among them
are priests and monks, and they are not arrogant."

It is clear that the basis is a belief in one God, which although seemingly
denied in the Qur'anic attacks upon the doctrine of the Trinity, still
allows the very real possibility that Christians and, as we will see, Jews
as well, have a place in the pan-monotheistic creed being created. In the
text of the Qur'an, clearly the word used to describe the new community of
faith is the word mu'min (believer), which is used hundreds of times. The
community was one of believers in the one God, whose belief was to be
purified by the revelation of the Qur'an. By contrast, the words muslim or
islam are only used adjectivally; that is to describe the condition of a
person who is submissive to God.

As the revelation of the Qur'an ceases with the death of the Prophet in 632,
we must look for those notices in the historical and religious literature
which continue the pattern set by the Qur'an-- speaking of a general
monotheistic faith, open to all. One early common tradition tells us of this

"I [Muhammad] was commanded to fight people until they say 'there is
no god but God', and when they have said it, their lives and their
property are protected from me, solely because of it (illa bi-haqqihi), and
judgment upon them is in the hands of God."

Those who are familiar with the tenets of Islam as they were to develop
during the following three centuries will recognize the statement "there is
no god but God"-- it is the first half of what would become the Muslim
confession of faith "There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger."
However, in this early version of that statement, the only element required
is the basic profession of monotheism which can be stated by both Jews and
Christians as well as Muslims. Apparently the primacy of Muhammad's
revelation was not important. Indeed, we have documented evidence of
Christians who are identified as Christians speaking the above confession of
faith in a formal setting, using precisely this formula and being accepted
as Christians. Although there no such parallel evidence for Jews, the
probability is that they would have had a far less difficult time stating a
confession which is very similar to the shema`.

The early Muslims went much further than this in their ecumenical outlook
towards Christianity. Scholars of comparative religions have long noted that
there is no evidence of any Christian polemics against Islam during the
seventh and early eighth centuries-- a most uncharacteristic silence from a
community which had long specialized in polemic, apologetic and
heresiography. When the first polemics do appear-- from the pen of St. John
of Damascus, who was apparently a highly placed government servant of the
Umayyad dynasty-- they insist upon declaring Islam (or the religion of the
Saracens) a Christian heresy. Although this characterization can be
interpreted in reductionist terms or as a simple misunderstanding, given the
fact of the early Muslim literature, it may well have been responsive to the
public perception of the early Muslims. Their attempts to find common ground
with Christians include an inordinate focus upon the person and the mission
of Jesus, even above and beyond his place in the Qur'an. (One should,
however, note that this exaltation of Jesus never touched upon the absolute
Muslim rejection of his divinity.) From early Syrian collections of
religious material, we actually find confessions of faith in which Jesus is
given more space than Muhammad:

"Whoever bears witness that there is no god but God-- alone without
any associate-- and that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger, and
that Jesus is the servant of God and the son of His handmaiden (ama), and
His Word which He cast upon Mary and a Spirit from Him, that paradise
is true and hell, it is obligatory for God to let him enter whichever of
the eight gates of paradise he wishes."

It is very likely that the element of Muhammad's role is a later insertion
by writers concerned with the position of Jesus in this confession of
faith-- as we have epigraphic evidence in which Jesus is mentioned alone--
but even with it present, the position of Jesus is striking.

Thus, the idea of "belief" is separated from the idea of "Islam." The
Believers, as they called themselves at this early period, were an
ecumenical group which sought to bring into its fold all who believed in God
and the Last Day (a very frequent formula appearing in the Qur'an and the
earliest Muslim religious literature). Their society is characterized by the
following tradition, which is reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.

"'You will never enter paradise until you believe, and you will
never believe until you love one another (tahabbu) and make peace
widespread between yourselves, loving one another, and not one of you
will ever believe until his neighbor is secure from his injustices.'
They said: 'O Messenger of God, what is islam?' He said: 'It is when the
muslimun are at peace from his tongue and hand.' They said: 'What is
belief?' He said: 'Those whom ahl al-islam have given surety over
their blood and their possession.'"

The foundation point for the more exclusive side of the early Muslims is
"Islam" which the texts define being at a state of peace with each other.
Tradition after tradition reveals that these two facets of the early Muslims
existed side by side. Believers took as their foundation the statement that
"there is no god but God" while those who would eventually be called Muslims
emphasized their absolute commitment to internal peace within the community.
They were at peace with God and with fellow human beings (Qur'an 48:16).
Belief is more of a personal quality, while islam belongs to the field of
action. With this understanding of the ideology of the earliest Muslims, and
their ecumenical attitude toward Christians focused upon the figure of
Jesus, let us now discuss the messianic kingdom which they sought to

2. The reality of the apocalyptic kingdom of the Umayyads

Jesus is not only a bridge between the early Muslims and the Christians in
the confessional sense, but one of the most prominent figures in the
apocalyptic future-- he was the first Mahdi, the Muslim messiah. Although in
the following centuries as the polemical relationship between Islam and
Christianity became ever more acrimonious, this position was diminished, it
is clear that at this early time, Jesus is one who was to usher in the
messianic kingdom and the ultimate unity between the monotheistic faiths as
described in the previous section:

"The Mahdi, Jesus, will send to fight the Byzantines... and he will
remove the tabut al- sakina (probably the Ark of the Covenant) from a
cave in Antioch. In it is the Torah which was revealed by God to
Moses, and the Gospel which God revealed to Jesus. He will judge
between the people of the Torah according to their Torah and between the
people of the Gospel by their Gospel."

Jesus' role is first of all a martial one: he is to defeat the Byzantines,
slay the Antichrist and bring the conquests to a close. But secondly, he is
to be an ecumenical messiah; each community of monotheists will continue to
adhere to their own revelation and not be converted to Islam. This early
sense of ecumenism is graphically described by the Muslim version of the
Parable of the Workers (Matt. 20:1-16)

"Your [length of] staying comparative to the communities previous to
you is like that of between the afternoon prayers and the setting of the
sun. The people of the Torah were given the Torah and worked with it
until the middle of the day, then they could not [anymore], and were
given qirats [as their wage]. The people of the Gospel were given the
Gospel and worked with it until the mid-day prayer, and then they could not
[anymore], and were given qirats [as their wage]. Then you were given the
Qur'an, and you worked with it until the sun went down and were given
double the qirats. The people of the Torah and of the Gospel said:
'Lord, these have less work and more wage!' He said: 'Have I cheated you
in your payments in any way?' They said: 'No.' He said: 'This is My bounty,
given to whomever I wish'"

Although this is basically a fair translation of the New Testament parable,
there are subtle differences. For one, the version in Matthew lists off a
total of five groups hired throughout the day, and not three only, nor, of
course, are they given the blatant identifications as in this tradition.
Secondly, the New Testament version is clearly designed to show the bounty
of God towards his servants, to change their feelings from having been
cheated by a hard task-master to generosity towards their fellow-workers.
Although the original is eschatological-- many of Jesus' parables have this
characteristic-- lacking the identifications given in the Muslim version, it
does not have any immediacy. The early Muslims clearly saw themselves as
working just before the end of the world and the rightful recipients of
God's bounty, worthy to stand with the other previous faiths on an equal
footing. But, crucially, this story does not deny God's reward to the Jews
and the Christians, that this reward is deserved and will be given at the
end of the world, as later Islamic doctrine would do-- nor is this
predicated in any way upon their reception of the message of Muhammad.
Indeed, if there is an element of unworthiness among the three groups, it is
on the part of the Muslims themselves. Their sole reason for receiving the
same wage as the earlier groups did is the arbitrary and irrational decision
of God, not as the result of their own actions.

Nor is the judgment of the end to be long delayed. There are a large number
of dateable apocalyptic predictions still extant in the early Muslim
religious literature indicating that the first Muslims expected the world to
come to an end at the year 100/717. The fact that these predictions are
still available in such quantities long after the obvious disconfirmation of
the original prediction demonstrates the authentic nature of the belief in
this date and its power within the community.

"A man came to the Messenger of God [Muhammad] and asked: 'O
Messenger of God, what is the length of prosperity (rakha') for your
community?' He did not answer anything and the man asked three more
times without receiving an answer, so the man turned away and then the
Messenger of God said: 'Where is the questioner?' and he turned back. He
said: 'You have asked me about something that no one in my community
has ever asked about-- the length of the prosperity of my community is
100 years' and he said it two or three times, and then the man said: 'O
Messenger of God, is there a principality or a portent or a sign?' He
said: 'Yes, swallowing up by the earth, earthquakes, and release of the
bound demons upon the people'"

Thus the end was not be delayed until long after the Prophet's passing; the
Muslims were allotted a bare 100 years in order to accomplish the goals of
conquering the world, reforming and unifying the belief in God and passing
this messianic kingdom to Jesus who would rule it until the Last Judgment.

Part and parcel of this messianic kingdom was the construction of the Dome
of the Rock in Jerusalem on the site of the Second Temple, which was
destroyed in 70 C.E. This structure, which is the earliest Muslim monument
still standing today, possesses some of the earliest inscriptions in Arabic
which are identifiably Muslim. These inscriptions are largely citations from
the Qur'an and consist in their entirety of statements about Jesus,
frequently to deny the doctrine of the Trinity and to accord Jesus the
position of a prophet. Once again, this focus upon Jesus is striking. Though
Trinitarian Christians in the final analysis see these inscriptions as an
attack upon Christianity, it may very well be that the original intent was
instead to focus upon purification of Christianity from the principal
offensive element in the eyes of the early Muslims-- the divinity of Jesus--
and at the same time turning the focus upon Jesus the man who would
establish the messianic kingdom for both Christians and Muslims in the
immediate future.

Nor were Jewish expectations ignored in this building. It is clear that Jews
served in the Dome of the Rock for some 50 years after its construction as
part of those venerating the site. From a very early tradition, the Umayyad
builder of the Dome, `Abd al-Malik, is actually compared to King David: "

Ka`b found written in one of the books: "Jerusalem-- which is Bayt
al-maqdis-- and the Rock is called the Temple: I will send to you My servant
`Abd al-Malik who will build you and decorate you. I will return to Bayt
al-maqdis its earlier dominion, and I will crown you with gold, silver and
coral, and I will send My people to you, and I will place My Throne upon the
Rock. I am the Lord God, and David is the king of the Banu Isra'il"

It is clear that in this early Muslim tradition, the position of `Abd
al-Malik is that of a renewer. What is he renewing? Most probably a type of
the Third Temple, remembering that the Jews during the Byzantine-Sasanian
war of 602-28 had made an effort to rebuild this structure after Jerusalem
fell to the Sasanians in 614. The Muslim apocalyptic literature speaks
extensively of the Temple elements-- such as the Table of shew-bread, the
altar, Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Ten Commandments-- and
indicates that the early Muslims felt that it was their purpose in the
conquests to find these elements either in Rome or in Constantinople and
return them to Jerusalem where the Mahdi could use them in the worship of
God. In fact, much of the fighting of the first century of Islam is
interpreted in terms of vengeance for the destruction of the Temple. About
the future taking of Constantinople, we find

"[Ka`b al-Ahbar] have heard that [the destruction of] Constantinople is in
return for the destruction of Jerusalem, since she [Constantinople] became
proud and tyrannical, and so is called 'the haughty.' She [the city] said:
'The throne of my Lord is built upon the waters, and I [the city] am built
upon the waters.' God promised punishment [for it] on the Day of
Resurrection, and said: 'I will tear away your decoration, and your silk,
and your veil, and I will leave you when there is [not even] a rooster
crowing in you, and I will make you uninhabited except for foxes, and
unplanted except for mallows, and the thorny carob, and I will cause to rain
down upon you three [types] of fire: fire of pitch, fire of sulfur, and fire
of naphtha, and I will leave you bald and bare, with nothing between you and
the heavens. Your voice and your smoke will reach Me in the heavens, because
you have for such a long time associated [other deities] with God, and
worshipped other than Him.' Girls who will have never seen the sun because
of their beauty will be deflowered, and none of you who arrive will be able
to walk to the palace (balat) of their king [because of the amount of
loot]-- you will find in it the treasure of twelve kings of theirs, each of
them more and none less than it [the one before], in the form of statues of
cows or horses of bronze, with water flowing on their heads-- dividing up
their treasures, weighing them in shields and cutting them with axes. This
will be because of the fire promised by God which makes you hurry, and you
will carry what of their treasures you can so you can divide them up in
al-Qarqaduna [Chalcedon]."

This tradition brings us to the last part of the early Muslim ideology: the
redemptive nature of the fighting.

3. The centrality of jihad as a spiritual exercise

Clearly jihad was a major part of the early Muslim belief. Fighting was what
enabled the Muslims to conquer unimaginable tracts of territory, and forced
the peoples around the Mediterranean basin and the Iranian plateau to take
the despised Arabs seriously. This fighting is closely connected to the
apocalyptic aspirations of the early Muslims as shown above:

"Behold! God sent me [Muhammad] with a sword, just before the Hour
[of Judgment], and placed my daily sustenance beneath the shadow of my
spear, and humiliation and contempt on those who oppose me, and whoever
imitates a group is [numbered] among them."

This concise theological statement is one of the most important early
traditions gathering together under one heading the elements which the
Muslims found to be important. The Prophet is pictured being sent by God
with a sword and a spear, just before the Day of Judgment. This is a blunt
statement which clearly indicates the method through which proclamation of
the new revelation to the world was to be made. God's personal intervention
on the side of the early Muslims is clear throughout the literature-- here
the believer is promised victory, because God has already decreed
humiliation and contempt for the opponents of Islam. In early Islam, it is
clear, the fighting was not only the method of proclamation, but also the
means by which the individual believer was redeemed.

"Yazid b. Shajara said: 'Swords are the keys to paradise; when a man
advances upon the enemy, the angels say: 'O God, help him!' and when
he retreats, they say: 'O God, forgive him!' The first drop of blood
dripping from the sword brings forgiveness with it for every sin...'"

In other words, the practice of jihad was roughly equivalent in its
redemptive and salvific qualities for the early Muslim as the doctrine of
the cross was for the Christian. Indeed, we find interspersed throughout the
literature statements such as "only the sword wipes away sins"-- almost
certainly a response to the equivalent Christian statement "only the cross
wipes away sins." Even the Arabic words sound very similar. The fighting was
in and of itself a spiritual exercise which bound disparate groups together.

"Abu Misbah al-Himsi said: While we were traveling in the land of
the Byzantines, during a summer raid led by Malik b. `Abdallah
al-Khatha`mi, the latter passed by Jabir b. `Abdallah who was walking and
leading his mule. Malik said to him: 'O Abu `Abdallah, ride, for God has
granted you a mount.' Jabir said: 'My mount is fine; I am not in need of it.
I heard the Messenger of God say: 'Whoever dusts their feet in the
path of God [jihad], God will protect him from hell.' Men leaped from
their mounts-- never was a day seen with more [soldiers] walking [than
that one]."

There is every reason to believe, from the Syrian religious literature, that
much of what would later come to be known as "Islam" was actually developed
in the atmosphere of the army camps and on the way to the battle field. The
literature is replete with situations occurring in these contexts, with
questions being asked, problems being solved and models of conduct being
developed literally on the war-path. Although it is impossible to know
exactly how many of the fighters entered the army sincere Muslims-- since it
is apparent that Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and other religious groups
fought alongside the early Muslims-- one must hazard the guess that on the
basis of this literature, the religious indoctrination was intense and it is
very likely that those who did not believe at the beginning of a campaign
did so by the end.

4. Conclusions

The elements of the successful early Muslim coalition with Jews and
Christians are clear. They include a willingness to acknowledge them both as
monotheists as long as their belief was pure (and the Christians did not
overemphasize the divine nature of Jesus), a fulfillment of both of the
Jews' and the Christians' messianic aspirations and the joint warfare to
bring in the messianic age. If one might have thought that the Christians
would have hesitated to collaborate with non-Christians against the
Christian Byzantine empire, the early Muslims seem to have effectively
neutralized that threat. Christians fought alongside the Muslims, prominent
Orthodox Christian families such as that of St. John of Damascus served in
lofty governmental capacities willingly and ably to the ultimate detriment
of their co-religionists in Byzantium, and there is little evidence that the
Christian population ever served as a fifth-column for the Byzantines. For

"We [the Muslim troops] came from the land of the Byzantines
returning [from battle]; when we had left Hims going towards Damascus we
passed by a cultivated place which is near Hims-- about four miles-- at
the end of the night. When the monk who was in the cell heard our speech,
he came up to us and said: 'Who are you all?' We said: 'People from
Damascus, coming from the land of the Byzantines.' He said: 'Do you
know Abu Muslim al-Khawlani?' We said: 'Yes.' He said: 'When you come
to him, greet him with the peace, and inform him that we find him in the
Holy Books as a companion of Jesus son of Mary'."

The monk sees a spiritual kinship with the "Muslim" Abu Muslim al-Khawlani,
who was a very prominent religious figure close to the caliph, and even
outright says that in the messianic future when Jesus returns that there
will be a unity. So, too, we find Jews and Muslims establishing common
ground while speaking about the end of the world and the judgment which is
about to occur.

More and more students of Islam are coming to realize that the energy and
power required by the conquests was actually supplied by a belief in the
imminent end of the world. This belief was common throughout the region of
the Mediterranean basin and Iraq where both Christians and Jews composed
apocalypses at this time. Christians noted that seven centuries had elapsed
between the death and resurrection of Jesus-- a number with a great many
symbolic connections-- and that apparently God had judged the Christian
Byzantine empire for its numerous failings. Jews were caught up in the
liberation of Jerusalem from Christian rule, and the possible rebuilding of
the Temple. There is good evidence that these expectations were utilized by
the early Muslims both to mobilize support and to win converts. The
apocalyptic foundation of Islam is clear from the Qur'an, from the numerous
predictions and prophecies in the early literature, from the doctrine of
jihad, from the ecumenical spirit of the Believers, and from the rule of
peace they sought to extend throughout the known world during the first
century of their existence.

Copyright 2001, Center for Millennial Studies

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