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ISIS’ Millenarian Theory and its Refutation: ISIS has misinterpreted the Mahdaviat Doctrine to serve its ulterior motives and further its nefarious political ends – Part 3

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

31 May 2016

Note: A large part of the attraction of ISIS for Muslim youth is its millenarian thesis. It has convinced many that end of times is at hand, that they are engaged in the end-times battle, the Malhama. This has made the war they are engaged in imperative and urgent. Millenarianism or Islamic Eschatology, Ilm-e-Aakhiruzzaman, was an inspiration behind some ideologues of al-Qaeda as well. But Osama bin Laden himself and most of his ideologues did not emphasize it much. As for ISIS, even in its previous avatar as Jamāʻat al-Tawīdwa-al-Jihād (The Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad) founded in 1999 by Jordanian radical Abu Musab al-Zarqawi which later pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda, several ideologues strongly believed in the apocalyptic worldview, the theory of this war being the final great war, al-Malhama al-Kubra, in which Islam will conquer the world.

World domination has been a Muslim dream for ever. Books like Qeyamat ki Peshingoyian, or prophesies of the Prophet about the last days on earth have always been a bestseller in Muslim religious bookshops in every part of the world. No matter how irrational, Muslims of all denominations have for ever been waiting for a Mahdi or an Imam who will appear in the final days and set everything right. Indeed, this belief cuts across religious barriers. Believers in a number of religions are looking forward to the sudden appearance of a deliverer. This has made the task of ISIS easier. To help us understand this phenomenon better, New Age Islam is presenting a study by our regular columnist Mr. Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, a classical Islamic scholar who specialises in comparative religion. --- Editor


Refutation of ISIS or Daesh’s Misinterpretations of the Mahdaviat Doctrine

In the earlier two parts, the comparative analysis of the Mahdaviat Doctrine in world religions has established that every major religion of the world prophesies a respective messiah figure to appear at the end-time. They have clear signs and exhortations that urge people to identify the real awaited Messiah or imam Mahdi with his magnanimous character, peaceful nature and noble personality traits as a savior of mankind from the clutches of evils.

But on the contrary, the self-imposed caliphate, which falsely claims to be the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ (also known as Daesh in Arabic), has misinterpreted the Mahdaviat Doctrine to serve its ulterior motives and further its nefarious political ends.

The ‘ISIS’ or Daesh claims that the ongoing battle in the Middle East would lead to “Al-Malhama Al-Kubra” (the Great Battle). According to the online English Magazine “Dabiq” which is its mouthpiece, it believes itself to be one of the earliest armies of Imam Mahdi which is engaged in fighting the end-time wars. Thus, it loudly claims to be the only truth-bearing or saved sect that can lead the global Muslims to the righteous path to salvation in this ‘end time war’. Therefore, it calls upon the Muslims of the world to render their allegiance and support to its self-imposed caliphate which actually goes against the tenets of Islam.

Given this, an intellectual rebuttal of Daesh’s misinterpretation of the Mahdaviat Doctrine, its theology of millenarianism and end-time war is imperative for the moderate Islamic scholars. An objective and critical study of the ISIS’s misinterpretations of the Mahdaviat Doctrine results in a clear and candid exposition of all its false and untenable claims.  It reveals that the Self-imposed Islamic caliphate’s claim to fight the end-time war is inconsistent with the actual Islamic narrative. Hence, its false claim to be an early army of Imam Mahdi does not stand up to scrutiny by any stretch of imagination.

Refutation of Daesh’s Misinterpretations of the Mahdaviat Doctrine

Daesh’s claim is replete with falsifications. The Islamic Sharia has expounded a consolidated ruling, according to which, one who makes a claim must support it with reliable evidence, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

 “The responsibility of bringing proof is upon the claimant”. (It is a Hadith Hasan and has been related by an authoritative Hadith scholar or Muhaddith, Imam Al-Bayhaqee).

This Hadith clearly expounds that Islamic ruling does not rely on a mere claim until it is supported by substantial evidence. Evidently enough, the claim of the ‘ISIS’ leaders has no evidence from any of the above mentioned scriptural grounds of any world religion.

Counter-Arguments and Their Basic Premises:

My arguments countering the ISIS claims rely on the basic premise that the advent of Imam Mahdi is proved by Mutawatir Hadith traditions, as mentioned above in detail. His appearance is believed to be the first and foremost of the Major Signs of the end-time or Yaum al-Qayamah. However, the fixed date of Imam Mahdi’s advent is only known to Allah the Almighty and his beloved prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In this context, one of the canonical maxims of Islamic Jurisprudence, as mentioned in the Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), is:  “Certainty is not overruled by doubt”. Imam Al-Qarafiy says, “The suspected matters are supposed to be a nonentity” (Al-Qarafiy, Anwar Al-Boruq, and Vol. 1, p.111).  

Clearly, the ISIS claim is false and misleading and hence should be conceived as a manipulation for brainwashing and indoctrinating the naïve and gullible Muslim youth into their twisted and concocted interpretation of the Mahdaviat Doctrine.

Furthermore, the counter-arguments against the ISIS’ misinterpretation of the Mahdaviat Doctrine or the Islamic eschatology are based on the solid theological grounds of the Hadith traditions. An objective and in-depth study of the prophecies mentioned in Ahadith about the Mahdaviat Doctrine gives us a perspective completely antithetical to what the so-called ‘Islamic State’ is claiming.

Numerous prophetic traditions clearly warn Muslims about the series of violent wars and conflicts before the End-Time. These Hadiths prohibit Muslims from taking any side. They are exhorted to stay away from all such wars and clashes so as not to be affected by the harms caused by them. It is not difficult to see how strongly these Hadiths prohibit Muslims from indulging in the wanton killings and mindless violence perpetrated in such wars before the end-time. I am reproducing below some of those Hadiths:

 Ø The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Woe to Arabs because of evil which has drawn near! Only those will escape, who restrain their hands.” (Abu Dawud, Hadith no. 4249).

Ø  The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "There will be afflictions (in the near future) during which a sitting person will be better than a standing one, and the standing one will be better than the walking one, and the walking one will be better than the running one, and whoever will expose himself to these afflictions, they will destroy him. So whoever can find a place of protection or refuge from them, should take shelter in it." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 92, Hadith 32)

 Ø The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Before the end-time comes, there will be tribulation like pieces of black night, when a man will wake up as a believer but be a disbeliever by evening, or he will be a believer in the evening but will be a disbeliever by morning. And the one who is sitting will be better than the one who is standing, and the one who is standing will be better than the one who is walking, and the one who is walking will be better than the one who is running. So break your bows, cut their strings and strike your swords against rocks, and if anyone enters upon anyone of you, let him be like the better of the two sons of Adam. (i.e. the one killed, not the killer).” (Sunan Ibn Majah: Book 36, Hadith 36)

 Ø Someone asked Allah’s Messenger, what is your opinion if I am drawn to a rank in spite of myself, or in one of the groups and made to march and a man strikes with his sword or there comes an arrow and kills me? Thereupon he said: He will bear the punishment of his sin and that of yours and he would be one amongst the denizens of Hell. (Sahih Muslim, Hadith no. 2887).

 Ø The Prophet (pbuh) said to his companions: “What will you do when killing befalls the people so that Hijaratuz-Zait [a place in Madinah] is covered with blood?” A Companion said: “Whatever Allah and His Messenger choose for me.” The Prophet then said: “Stay with those whom you belong to.” He said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, should I not take my sword and strike those who do that?’” The Prophet said: “Then you will be just like those people. Rather, you should enter your house.” He said: “O Messenger of Allah, what if they enter my house?” The Prophet (pbuh) said: “If you are afraid that the flashing of the sword will dazzle you, then put the edge of your garment over your face, and let him carry his own sin and your sin, and he will be one of the people of the Hellfire.” (Ibn Majah, Hadith no. 3958).

Commenting on the above hadith reports, several Muslim scholars and hadith exegetes explained that the Prophet’s command not to participate in war, violence, wanton killings, clashes or conflicts is applicable to each of the below-mentioned situations that Muslims may face anytime:

a) conflict between parties where there is no clear evidence to distinguish who is on the side of truth.

b) periods where violent conflicts are widespread and cause widespread harms and destruction,

c) when a Muslim believes his participation or even existence in such situations would cause greater harm than benefit to his faith and life, and

d) when a Muslim believes that he would not be able to deal with the situation in accordance with the Islamic rulings due to factors within himself or external to him, which go beyond his control.

Moreover, there are various hadith reports related to the End-Time which describe a portion of the region in Iraq and Syria, which is occupied by the ISIS today, as a place where a deviant group (the horn of Satan) will emerge. These hadiths could possibly refer to ISIS, as outlined in an article titled: “ISIS seeks legitimacy in Dabiq& its narrative” published by The Journal of Eurasia Review (11 December 2014).


A nuanced understanding of the above prophetic traditions clearly refutes the ISIS’ claim to fight the end-time war and exposes its misinterpretations of the Mahdaviat Doctrine, which are based on the selective use of the prophetic traditions about the End-Time or Yaum al-Sa’ah or al-Qayamah in Islam.


Previous Parts of the article:

ISIS’ Millenarian Theory and its Refutation: Perspectives from Several World Religions on Mahdaviat Doctrine and its Misinterpretations (Part 1),-new-age-islam/isis’-millenarian-theory-and-its-refutation--perspectives-from-several-world-religions-on-mahdaviat-doctrine-and-its-misinterpretations-(part-1)/d/107455

ISIS’ Millenarian Theory and its Refutation: Perspectives from Islam on Mahdaviat Doctrine and its Misinterpretations (Part 2),-new-age-islam/isis’-millenarian-theory-and-its-refutation--perspectives-from-islam-on-mahdaviat-doctrine-and-its-misinterpretations-(part-2)/d/10746


A Regular Columnist with New Age Islam, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is Comparative Religion & Classical Islamic Scholar, and Doctoral Research Scholar at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (JMI Central University).



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