I believe that Islamic eschatology will also play an important role during the last days, but not in the way many Christians today think it will. Most of the ideas we are going to discuss about Islamic end-times beliefs come not from the Quran, the central text in Islam, but from the hadiths, a word that means “tradition.” The hadiths are a collection of sayings attributed to Mohammed, compiled by his companions over the course of the hundreds of years after his death in AD 632. Even within Islam, many of these hadiths are considered spurious. By the ninth century, the number of these sayings had grown exponentially, some of them clearly contradicting each other. Islamic scholars had to decide which ones were authentic and which had been invented for political or theological purposes.1
I will briefly outline a few key points regarding Islamic eschatology and make some general comments on them. As in the section on Jewish eschatology, I will limit my overview of the subject to the most common and widely held beliefs about the end times in Islam.
The Mahdi is the central figure in Islamic eschatology. In the simplest terms, he will restore spiritual greatness to Islam and fight various wars with its enemies. He will unite Islam spiritually and militarily and have power for seven, nine, or nineteen years (according to different views).2 He is expected to come on the scene first.
The Dajjal is the bad guy in Islamic eschatology. He is a man who claims to be the Jewish Messiah and will gain many converts to this idea. In fact, that’s what “Al-Masih ad-Dajjal” means: “imposter Messiah.” Various hadiths have described him as a grotesque figure, often making mention of him as blind in one eye, though some say this is symbolic language used to refer to his singular focus on ruling the world. He will gain considerable control over the world, and will only be able to be stopped by the next character on our list, Isa.
This is the Muslim version of Jesus, who is believed to be a prophet but not God. Muslims believe, as do Christians, that he is coming back again, but they see him as coming back to be a subordinate to the Mahdi. The main thing Isa will do in Islamic eschatology is kill the Dajjal. It is said that he will return on a mountaintop outside Israel as the Mahdi’s armies are preparing to go to war against the Dajjal. Isa is said to kill the Dajjal during this battle. Also, Isa is supposed to be a great help in converting many Christians to Islam. He is said to rule the world after the war until he dies at a good old age.
Many wars are fought in Islamic eschatology, such as the defeat of Constantinople and many other cities by the Mahdi. However, no war is more important than the war that must be fought against the Jews and their false messiah (the Dajjal), because the Muslims believe the last hour will not come until they do. A very famous hadith says:
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.3
I believe this need to fight an end-times war against the Jews and the Dajjal will play a very important part of the Antichrist’s end-times deception, which I will explain in greater detail later in this book.
A view that has become very popular among Christians is that Islamic eschatology will come to pass more or less as Muslims claim it will, except the man the Muslims will call the Mahdi is really the Antichrist, the man they will say is Isa is really the False Prophet, and the man they claim to be the Dajjal is the real Jesus. I understand why they think this; in fact, I used to believe it, too, but I now think the view is wrong and even quite dangerous.
The reason I say it’s dangerous should be obvious to the reader at this point. If even half of what I am saying in this book is true, then I can’t think of a more dangerous teaching than one stating that Christians should embrace a man who fights human wars against the Muslims, defeats them, and declares himself to be the Jewish Messiah. In other words, if I am right, then this Islamic Antichrist view is essentially preparing Christians to embrace the Antichrist.
The reason the view is attractive to Christians is because it’s simple to understand. After all, the Muslims have a guy (the Mahdi) who looks just like the Antichrist in that he is supposed to rule the world and kill Jews and Christians. Not just that, he also has a subordinate sidekick who is claiming to be Jesus, which, with some tweaking, can look just like the biblical False Prophet. (For more on why I think these Christians are wrong about saying the False Prophet will claim to be Jesus, see the section in the appendix titled “Two Horns Like a Lamb.”) There is even talk of things like a seven-year peace agreement. It sounds like an open-and-shut case, but there are a number of logical reasons such similarities aren’t really as amazing as people think.
As I mentioned before, most, if not all, of these beliefs come from the hadiths, which are supposedly sayings of Mohammed recorded by his followers hundreds of years after his death; some of them were written closer to AD 1000. Most, if not all, of the men who wrote Islamic eschatology, therefore, were aware of Christian end-times beliefs. I suggest that for the most part, all they were doing was taking Christian eschatology, reversing the roles, and calling it Islamic doctrine. For example, as I mentioned, one hadith talks about a seven-year peace agreement in the end times. It reads as follows:
There will be four peace agreements between you and the Romans. The fourth agreement will be mediated through a person who will be from the progeny of Hadhrat [Aaron, Moses’ brother, i.e., a Jew] and will be upheld for seven years.4
This is seen as a peace agreement between Christians and Muslims, mediated by a Jew from the priest class. One hadith even says the Christians/Jews will break this covenant and attack Muslims despite the agreement, which is obviously a parallel to the Antichrist breaking the seven-year covenant.
This hadith is quoted by many Christian authors as proof that the Antichrist will be a Muslim. Such theories are overlooking the obvious fact that these writers were doing little more than reading what the Bible says about the end times, making the same claims with a few additions, and, most importantly, casting Muslims as the good guys and Jews and Christians as the bad guys.
The person who wrote this particular peace-agreement hadith was al-Tabarani, who died in AD 970, almost nine hundred years after the book of Revelation was written. He was a major student of Christianity; in fact, Christian doctrine was kind of his specialty. To put it another way, he knew all about the Christian belief in a seven-year covenant that would be broken by the Antichrist in the end times. All al-Tabarani did was switch the roles and say that the people who will break the covenant, which in the Bible is the Antichrist, will be the Jews and Christians. He just switched the roles.
Any student of Islam knows that taking Bible stories and switching the roles to benefit Islam is a major aspect of Islamic doctrine. For example, Islam retells the story of Abraham taking Isaac to Mt. Moriah for a sacrifice by saying that it is Ishmael (the father of the Muslim nations) rather than Isaac whom Abraham takes. The official position of Islam is that the Bible, while still containing the basic truth, has been corrupted by the Jews and Christians. Muslims feel this gives them a license to make these role reversals consistently in order to make themselves out to be the good guys and the Christians and Jews the bad guys.
So you can see why the end-times scenarios of Islam are so similar to Christian beliefs. Christians believe that in the end times, the good guy (Jesus) will kill unbelievers and set up a world government. Simply changing the roles has the good guy being a Muslim, killing unbelievers (who, in this case, are Christians and Jews), and setting up a world government. That sounds like the Antichrist, right? That’s what happens when you reverse the roles; it’s not rocket science.
This modern Islamic Antichrist view held by many Christians today, which I will address in more detail in later chapters, is primarily based on the belief that the Muslims know better about how the end times will play out than the Bible does. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. For instance, Christians who hold to this view are accepting as a fact that there really will be a fake Jesus who will come back and be the sidekick to a Muslim king, as the hadiths say. They then have to force this notion on biblical concepts. For example, in their view, the False Prophet will pretend to be Jesus. The Bible certainly never says this, nor do I believe that the False Prophet’s actions imply it. But they have forced this doctrine on the Bible. This is what I mean when I say that in a way they are giving more stock to what the hadiths say about the end times than to what the Bible says.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, I do think that Satan plans to use the end-times beliefs of Muslims to his advantage in the last days, but not in the way that most Christians think. I believe he plans to use the belief that Muslims must unite to fight a war against the Dajjal (the man who claims to be the Jewish Messiah). In other words, regardless of whether a Mahdi or Isa figure shows up, a kind of Dajjal (the Antichrist) certainly will. This obvious appearance of a Jewish Messiah figure, who they will no doubt interpret to be the Dajjal, will trigger the Muslim war the Antichrist needs, regardless of whether nothing else they believe will happen comes to pass.
Daniel 11:40–45 makes it clear that the Antichrist is attacked first by the Muslim world. His defeat of the attacking Muslim armies is the major catalyst that will propel him to his unquestioned acceptance as the Messiah—certainly by the Jews, and, I fear, by some Christian groups as well. All Satan needs from the Muslim world is to provoke it to attack him en masse. The Antichrist is said to be empowered by his “god of fortresses” specifically to fight wars, so he is not worried about the military threat from the Muslims at all, but he needs them to attack him so he can look like the savior of Israel. Islamic eschatology regarding the Dajjal, all by itself, is the eschatological time bomb that will give the Antichrist the war he needs to look like the Messiah.
I suppose it is possible that those in the Muslim world will choose from among themselves a Mahdi figure during this time to lead the war against the Antichrist, but I don’t think it is biblically necessary. In fact, based on Daniel 11:41, the Islamic attacks come from at least two different kings—the kings of the north and the south. So, I doubt the kind of unification of the Muslim world under one military leader such as the Mahdi will happen. If a man does claim to be the Mahdi, though, he will be defeated by the Antichrist, whom they see as the Dajjal, almost as soon as he shows up, and the Muslim world will realize it has been deceived early on. I do think that the Antichrist would find a lot of use for a type of patsy Muslim Antichrist to defeat, especially if he plans on using such a notion to deceive Christians who need an Antichrist to be defeated before they will accept anyone as a candidate for Jesus. For that reason, I don’t dismiss the idea of a patsy/Antichrist/Mahdi figure altogether, though it’s not something the Bible talks about, from what I have seen.
The Islamic Antichrist idea that has become so popular is based on a number of other factors besides Islamic eschatology, and I will do my best to address most of those ideas in later chapters. In the next chapter, however, I will try to make some sense of all these eschatological beliefs among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and will try to lay out a possible scenario that will show how they will all work together to further the Antichrist’s goals.