OpinionIsrael at War

Israel’s war against Islamic messianism

Today’s Islamic eschatology demands Israel’s destruction in order to bring on the end of days.

Palestinians in Hebron protest in support of the people of Gaza as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, Oct. 20, 2023.
Photo by Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90.
Palestinians in Hebron protest in support of the people of Gaza as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, Oct. 20, 2023. Photo by Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90.
Dr. Arnold Slyper. Credit: Courtesy.
Dr. Arnold Slyper
Dr. Arnold Slyper is the author of the newly-released book The Struggle for Utopia: A History of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Messianism.

It is now very clear that Israel’s current war against Hamas in Gaza is only tangentially related to the Palestinian issue. Rather, it is primarily a war coordinated by the Iranian regime on behalf of radical Islam. The participants include Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Houthis. All of them aim to wipe Israel off the map. Iran cares little about the Palestinians, but is using Hamas as a tool in its messianic struggle against Israel and the West.

How did Islam get to this point?

Following the Islamic conquest of much of the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Jews as “People of the Book” were usually allowed to live their lives as Jews, though they were regarded as second-class citizens and forced to abide by special rules and pay additional taxes to maintain their protected “dhimmi” status. Muslim genocidal hatred of Jews is a recent phenomenon and very much related to Islamic eschatology—the branch of theology concerned with the apocalyptic end of days.

Early Islamic eschatological literature was not anti-Jewish. The Byzantines were regarded as the primary enemies of Islam, not Jews. The exception was a particularly odious hadith—part of the Islamic oral tradition—that even made its way into the 1988 Hamas Covenant before it was judiciously removed.

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews when the Jews will hide behind stones and trees,” the hadith states. “The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslims, O Abdullah [servant of Allah], there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

Since the 1967 Six-Day War, there has been a profusion of Islamic eschatological literature. Historically, such material was written by Muslim scholars, but has been brought up to date by non-scholastic writers. Their books are widely read and some are bestsellers. All are virulently antisemitic and often incorporate ideas from the infamous antisemitic work The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as the early hadith about killing Jews.

The precise details depend on the author, but a common scenario in Sunni literature is that, at the end of days, there will be a Muslim caliphate encompassing the entire world, representing the final victory of Islam over all other faiths. This caliphate will be led by either a messianic figure called the Mahdi or by Jesus, who has become a Muslim. Jesus will battle the anti-Christ, who is Jewish. Following Islam’s triumph, there will be the final Day of Judgment.

However, it is claimed, none of this can take place if there is a Jewish state in the middle of the ummah (the Islamic world). This can mean that the Jewish state is delaying the final triumph of Islam.

This leads inevitably to the belief that the State of Israel must to be eliminated in order to bring on the end of days. This belief is held by Sunni movements such as Hamas, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is a part. It is also part of the ideology of messianic Shiite movements such as Hezbollah and the Iranian regime. In fact, much of the raison d’être for Hezbollah and the Iranian regime is to engage in a messianic struggle against Israel and the Christian West so as to enable the ultimate victory of Shiite Islam.

What is unique about this period in history is that Shiite and Sunni messianists have set aside their differences and joined forces to bring about the first stage of their program, namely the eradication of the Jewish state.

Because they are not geographically close to Israel, this genocidal ambition has not been a major feature of fundamentalist Islamic movements such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. They view their main enemy as America—as shown by the 9/11 attacks.

This genocidal antisemitic messianism appears to indicate that radical Islam and Judaism operate within different ethical systems. One might even say they have a different conception of the one God.

There is a reason for this: Islam has never recognized the Jewish Bible as the final, authentic word of God. This status is accorded only to the revelations of Muhammad. Hence, unlike Jews and Christians, Muslims reject the concept of “imitating” God—often referred to as Imitatio Dei—as the basis of their ethics. Instead, their ethics are based on the Quran and the actions of Muhammad’s family and close colleagues, of which Muhammad would have approved.

What is remarkably monstrous is that Hamas and Hezbollah use Judeo-Christian morals against the West by using their own people as human shields, thus making the Israeli army guilty of killing civilians. In effect, they give Israel the choice between surrender or killing innocent civilians and thereby turning the world against the Jews. This is utter hypocrisy but a very conscious part of their plan.

Islamic eschatology is very powerful. Nonetheless, there is a spectrum of beliefs within the Islamic world and only a very small minority of Muslims are prepared to engage in jihad. A larger percentage, however, may be sympathetic to messianic ideology. This is especially true of Palestinians.

Unfortunately, a final, meaningful peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians will never take place until these messianic ideas are vanquished militarily or intellectually. This will not happen overnight.

In short, our current conflict is a religious war over Israel and the Jewish people’s very existence and the megalomaniacal ambition of creating of a single worldwide Islamic state.

It is astounding and indeed suicidal that non-Muslims in the West not only excuse but often actively support these aims.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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