Yesterday the first shots of the apocalypse were fired. This is a historical fact – if you believe the prophecy that drives much of the ISIS Islamic ideology. The shots were fired as members of the Free Syrian Army drew close to the strategically irrelevant city of Dabiq in northwestern Syria.
Although strategically irrelevant and hosting a relatively small population of only 3,000 people, Dabiq lies at the heart of much of the dark theology which ISIS has used to recruit and motivate its armies and religion of death since its inception. The ISIS recruiting and propaganda magazine which has distinguished this organization from its predecessors like al-Qaeda is named Dabiq. When ISIS released beheading videos in the past many of us were too distracted by the depravity of the murder being witnessed to notice the consistent reference to Dabiq frequently mentioned by the executioner.
Dabiq holds unique apocalyptic prophecy status among many Islamic jihadist groups including al-Qaeda but ISIS is the first organization to deliberately seek to fulfill those prophecies. They want the end of the world to come and are doing all they can to bring that about.
In March 2015 Graeme Wood published a well-known article What ISIS Really Wants in The Atlantic where he explains ISIS:
…their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.
A Medieval Evil
The religion of Islam was born in the middle ages. Its greatest advances militarily and geographically share that historical time period. As ISIS seeks a return to this golden age much of their theology and practice is rooted to the same medieval approach to the world and their mission. Islam for ISIS and its followers, pure Islam, is tied to the original vision and practices of these times. This includes slavery, crucifixion of non-Muslims, rape and sexual slavery and the sadistic violence that has become synonymous with the group.
It also includes an apocalyptic vision of Islam born from an Islamic prophecy in the hadiths. Islamic theology has a hierarchy. The Koran is at the top of the hierarchy as the words of Muhammad. The hadiths were not written by Muhammad himself and take a secondary but highly influential status in interpreting the Koran and the vision of Islam. It is here that vision of Islamic apocalypse was born.
The understanding of the foretold Islamic apocalyptic sequence is basically as follows: First Muslims will be oppressed. Then two prophets will return from the dead. The first will be the Mahdi, a Muslim ruler who will unite and empower the Muslims. The second will be Jesus. Muslims do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God but as a prophet. According to the hadith in question:
“The Son of Mary will soon descend among you as a just ruler; he will break the cross and kill the swine.”
In other words, according to this hadith, Jesus will return and abolish the false religion of Christianity and restore dietary laws that many Muslims still observe.
Central to the return of these “prophets” is a great battle that must take place in Dabiq where the armies of Rome are too meet the armies of Islam for an epic clash between good and evil. In the deranged ISIS understanding of good and evil, the good guys are the ones performing crucifixions, instituting sexual slavery, and murdering innocents.
Welcome to the End of the World
When ISIS took Dabiq several years ago this perspective of history and the pending apocalypse was the source for their disproportional level of celebration and excitement. Part of their strategy and vision is to deliberately fulfill these ancient Islamic prophecies and bring about the end of the world that results in Islam reigning supreme.
Some of the beheading videos were created with Dabiq clearly visible in the background. The idea was to inflame the anger of the west and lure the armies of modern day Rome (metaphorical for America, the west and any non-Islamic nation today) into the small city. ISIS wants a fight and they want that fight in Dabiq. They believe this is where the end times battle is going happen. This is what they have been fighting for.
The Battle Is Starting
That battle is about to start any minute now. Due to the ideological significance of Dabiq to ISIS we can expect an extremely bloody battle to unfold in the next few days. Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army expected that battle to begin as early today as they advanced onto the city. ISIS, for its part, has mined the area surrounding Dabiq and has begun reinforcing its troops there in the past few weeks. They are ready to fight to the death believing these are the final moments before the end of the world.
Some US experts predict that a defeat to ISIS in Dabiq will be a massive blow to the lure of their ideology. Whether this is true or not we will soon find out but we can expect a massive upsurge of air campaigns and artillery being launched into Dabiq.
Apocalypse and doomsday scenarios are not unique to Islam or ISIS but seldom is the specificity of a false prophecy so readily available for us view.
Even those who recognize ISIS for the depraved psychopaths that they are cannot deny this simple fact. Today and for the duration of this battle in Dabiq the forces of darkness are aligned and focused in this obscure geographic area of the Middle East. We seldom are offered this level of contrast between good and evil in the modern world but ISIS has made their role in that battle very apparent.