ISIS—False prophets of the Islamic apocalypse

Marko Joensuu         No comments
The beginning of our decade has seen the rise of ISIS—an Islamic apocalyptic movement,  not least because Al-Suyuti, a prolific Arab thinker and writer of the Middle Ages predicted that the end of the world would come latest by 2076CE.

In a 2012 Pew poll, half or more Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia believed that they will personally witness the appearance of Mahdi—the end-time Islamic redeemer.  This expectation is most common in Afghanistan (83%), followed by Iraq (72%), Tunisia (67%) and Malaysia (62%). And perhaps surpisingly to many Christians, the belief in the appearance of Mahdi is generally mirrored by belief in the imminent return of Jesus.

It is impossible to understand the action and popularity of ISIS that has declared itself to be a caliphate without the belief in imminent end of the world prevalent in the Middle East and the Muslim world. It is clear that ISIS has positioned itself to be the harbinger and accelerator of the end of this age and the final triumph of Islam in line with the many apocalyptic prophecies of the early Islam.

It is necessary to state right here that as these prophecies haven’t been birthed by the Holy Spirit, they are automatically false, as many Christian authors profiting from apocalyptic fears and prophecies in Christendom are incorporating many of the ideas of these prophecies into their thinking. This is no wonder, as, in fact, many interpreters of the early Islamic prophecies of the apocalypse today have also unashamedly borrowed from Christian apocalyptic speculation.

Speculators such as Joel Richardson and Perry Stone have already borrowed freely from Islamic apocalyptic thinking, taking the ideas about the Mahdi, an Islamic end-time redeemer, but making him into an antichrist—in an effort to make money and fame out of interpreting apocalyptic prophecies.

The apostle Peter said,

 “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Peter 1:20-21)

It follows from here that any “prophecy” derived from any other source than the Bible or the Holy Spirit is automatically false.

Outlining the Islamic apocalypse

Like in Christendom, apocalyptic thinking is divided and often contradictory in Islam. The Sunnis and Shias have radically opposing views on the precise steps towards the apocalypse, mainly as the apocalyptic prophecies were formulated in Islam during the early conflicts between the Sunnis and Shias. Being a Sunni radical movement, ISIS follows the Sunni predictions.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, professor of Middle East Studies at Sciences Po, the Paris School of International Affairs, has made an invaluable contribution to the study of Islamic apocalyptic prophecies in his book Apocalypse in Islam, and when presenting these apocalyptic theories, I am relying on his book extensively, but there are many other sources available. Published a few years before the rise of ISIS, the book says, presciently,

“Up until now, the jihadist fuse has not been brought into a contact with an explosive millenarian charge. No inevitability pushes humanity in the direction of catastrophe, even if the popular fascination with disaster may seem somehow to favor a sudden leap into mass horror. And yet, coming after the gold of Euphrates, widely interpreted in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq as a sign of the Hour, a fire in Hijaz may be all that is needed to set in motion a new cycle of eschatological tension, inaugurating an age of widespread fear and expectation that the end of the world is at hand. If an inflammatory an incandescent event of this sort were to occur, the chance that global jihad might undergo an apocalyptic mutation would give grounds for genuine apprehension.”

In ISIS, we can see that “apocalyptic mutation” from Al Qaeda that already promoted the idea of the apocalypse—but in some distant future—to full-blown terror designed to trigger the apocalyptic holocaust now.

Many mainstream Islamic scholars see that as a misguided strategy, as they don’t believe that the end of times can be manufactured or sped up. Obviously, the strategy of ISIS to trigger an apocalypse is misguided in a much deeper level, as, ultimately, the end times are in the hands of Jesus, and He won’t be following the Islamic predictions!

In the Islamic apocalyptic prophecies that have essentially used the Bible as their source material but twisted them, Jesus will descend on a minaret of a mosque in Damascus, Syria, and bring multitudes to Islam. These false prophecies have been generated in the first few hundred years of Islamic expansion after the death of Muhammad, and essentially, they are modified Bible prophecies, although many of them they are presented as hadiths—the oral sayings of Muhammed.

Acts 1:9-11 says about the ascension and the coming descending of Jesus:

“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’”

Zechariah 14:4 prophecies,

“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.”  

It seems evident that, initially, the Islamic apocalyptic “prophecies’ were a deliberate attempt to convince the Christians in the Middle East to convert—most of whom wouldn’t have access to the Bible and didn’t know every detail of the Bible. Rather than having Jesus descend in Jerusalem He now descended in Damascus which was then an important Muslim city.

Jean-Pierre Filiu makes a number of general points about the apocalypse in the early thinking of Islam in his book.

1) The Quran has rather little to say about the end of the world.
2) The apocalyptic narrative was decisively influenced by Islam’s early conflicts, campaigns against the Byzantine Empire, and recurrent wars between Muslims.
3) The figure of the antichrist, absent from the Quran, was authorised by the Sunni tradition, and his death in the hands of Jesus located in Palestine.
4) Shia tradition, for its part, granted a central place to the Mahdi, a descendant of Muhammed, who will triumph over the forces of evil. Like the antichrist, he’s not mentioned in the Quran.
5) The black banners, the insignia of the Mahdi, on his westward march from Khurasan (modern-day Afghanistan or Pakistan) were initially associated with the messianic perspective of Shiism; later on they came to be incorporated into Sunni Islam as well.
6) There is a tendency in Islam to interpret widespread impiety as a sign of the end of the world, and to hold that it must precede the ultimate revenge of faith.

ISIS especially has emphasised the apocalyptic purging of Islam, and in their worldview the hundreds of millions of Shia Muslims should all be killed as heretics.

Sunni apocalyptic prophecies

Almost two centuries passed after the death of Muhammed before a definitive selection was finally made from the immense corpus of traditions heavily attributed to Muhammad. This compiling of authentic sayings of Muhammed was made by two Islamic scholars—Muslim and Bukhari.

A famous “authentic” hadith links the worsening of unrest with the end of the world.

“The Last Hour will not arrive before two figures come to blows and a great struggle takes place between them; both will preach the same thing. It will not arrive until some thirty false messiahs appear, all of them pretending to be the messenger of Allah. It will not arrive until knowledge [of Islam] has disappeared, until unrest has spread, until the length of a day is near unto the length of the night, until unrest has spread and until murder has become frequent.”

The antichrist will camp by Medina, the city will tremble three times, and after that the infidels and hypocrites will join the Antichrist. He will rule for a time, and according to this false prophecy, this will eventually lead to a confrontation between the antichrist and Jesus who will destroy the antichrist and declare that Muhammed was right all along. 

What is alarming for the relations between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East is that “The Last Hour will not come until the Muslims fight against the Jews and kill them.” But it is important to understand that this is an apocalyptic false prophecy and not predetermined future.

There are a great number of slightly conflicting Sunni apocalyptic prophecies and multiple intepretations, and ISIS seems to be picking the ones that suit them best for their propaganda. And it is this apocalyptic propaganda that many young Muslims in the West are responding to. When they travel to Syria and Iraq, they are travelling to their Promised Land of inevitable Islamic victory predicted by false prophets.

Shia apocalyptic prophecies

According to Jean-Pierre Filiu, Shia Muslims have their own apocalyptic traditions that reflect their fights with Sunnis. In Shia prophecies, the return of the Mahdi is to be preceded by a series of cataclysms, including eclipses in the midst of Ramadan and swarms of locusts. The Euphrates will overflow and rise in the streets of Kufa, where the wall of the great mosque will crumble. A rain of fire will fall on Baghdad and Kufa. Syria will be laid waste by fighting between Arab rebels from Egypt, cavalrymen in Al-Hira, and the troops that will suddenly come out of Khurasan beneath black banners. The Turks will occupy the middle valley of the Euphrates while the Byzantines will attack Palestine. The infidels will seem to triumph and there will be false messiahs. 

Then Mahdi will appear in Mecca, and the Shia will come to him to pledge their alliance. Eventually, the Mahdi army of three hundred and thirteen faithful will attack the Arabs and destroy them, and conquer Iraq, Syria and Egypt and then attack Constantinople. At this point, with the appearance of the antichrist and the intervention of Jesus, Shia traditions come into alignment with the Sunni apocalyptic calendar.


Jalal al-Din al Suyuti (1446-1505) is one of the most important interpreters of the hadiths predicting the apocalypse.  He places considerable importance on one hadith: “The Hour will not come so long as groups within my community will not have joined with the polytheists, going so far as to worship idols. In my community there will be a succession of thirty imposters, each one pretending to be a prophet.”

It is because of predictions such as these that ISIS see Muslims that don’t receive their particular brand of Islam as legitimate targets for execution. They are seen as people who have left "real Islam" and are like apostates—doomed for death.

Al-Suyuti adopts the classical traditions concerning the antichrist and that he would be denied access to the holy cities of Islam—Mecca and Medina. According to Al-Suyuti, the trial because of the antichrist will be horrendous. But then the Mahdi will appear to restore true Islam for the period of seven years—according to Al-Suyuti, before Jesus, who will come to approve the work of the Mahdi. Jesus will descend on the white minaret in Damascus, chase the antichrist and kill him at the gate of Lod, before abolishing all other religions but Islam. 

Al-Suyuti says about Jesus: “He will destroy the cross, he will kill the swine, he will make harmony reign, and he will drive out enmity.”

We can see how the early Muslims incorporated Jesus into their teaching to make conversion from Islam to Christianity easier. If Jesus was one of the prophets, and with high position in Islam—in one sense even higher than Muhammed, you could argue, as it is Jesus and not Muhammed that will return—then it wouldn't have seemed like a large step for Christians of the Middle East to convert to Islam, as they wouldn't have necessarily perceived it as denying their faith in Jesus. As the Middle East was largely Christian before the spreading of Islam, incorporating Jesus into the story would have been a major conversion strategy.

Al-Suyuti forecast that the Hour would not come any later than 2076 C.E. As a consequence, his influence has never been greater than it is today. Because of Al-Suyuti and many other predictors of the apocalypse, the violence of ISIS is legitimised, as the world is supposed to be a violent and horrendous place before the end of days. 

Both Shia and Sunni apocalyptic thinkers predict that there will be a falling away from Islam—and brutal violence between the Islamic sects and also against the Byzantine—which is interpreted to be the West. Also, many of these apocalyptic prophecies predict a confrontation and wiping out of the Jews.

What makes ISIS particularly dangerous is that they are very aggressive of their interpretation of the practice of takfir–the Islamic practice of excommunication. Following their interpretation of takfir and apostasy, the ISIS is committed to wiping out hundreds of millions of Muslims to “purify” Islam.

According to ISIS: The State of Terror, a conscious effort to connect the apocalyptic narratives to current events can be traced to at least to the early 1980s, when Abdullah Azzam, the architect of the modern jihad, argued that Muslims should join the jihad in Afghanistan, which he considered to be the sign that the end times were imminent.

For years, al Qaeda invoked apocalyptic predictions by using the name Khorasan, a region that includes part of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and from which, it is prophesied, the Mahdi will emerge alongside an army bearing black flags.

ISIS has begun to evoke this apocalyptic tradition with actions and not just words. Thus ISIS captured Dabiq, a possible location for the apocalyptic battle. 

For ISIS, an important feature of the narrative is the expectation of sectarian war.  Hassan Abbas, an expert on jihadi movements observes: “ISIS is trying to deliberately to instigate a war between Sunnis and Shia, in the belief that a sectarian war would be a sign that the final times have arrived. In the eschatological literature, there is reference to crisis in Syria and massacre of Kurds—that is why Kobane is important.”

The logic of ISIS's action and message has everything to do with their understanding of prophecy, and they act as harbingers of these false islamic prophecies, intent on speeding the end of days. Or at least that’s how they want it to look. For in reality their operation resembles that of a feudal mafia.

Jesus' vision for the Middle East

Thankfully, I believe that God has a radically different vision for the Middle East than ISIS' vision of destruction before subjugating all under Islam.

In 2009, I saw a vision that the Holy Spirit clearly connected to the Middle East. This was a few years before the Arab Spring and the resulting chaos, but I have drawn encouragement from that prophecy ever since. It was published in my book Five Movements: Winning the Battle for Your Prophetic Gift.

I was in prayer on Sunday night in September 2009 when the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “I’ll show you the throne room and you will see why we’ll win the war. There are certain rules. What matters is who wins.” I was eager to see the throne room of the Lord. “Please Lord,  show me the throne room!” I said. Then I fell asleep. When I woke up, I saw a vision but not about the heavenly throne room I had expected.

“This is a mountaintop vision so that you will be able to see what will happen,” the Lord said.

I saw an arena for gladiators. There were no fighters alive. The arena had a circular form and no exit or escape routes. It was surrounded by stalls.

I stood in the arena, the blood-soaked sand touching my feet. At the centre of the arena there was a large floating sword created from indestructible material. It was the heaviest of all swords but also the lightest. I understood that anyone wielding that sword would be able to crush any resistance, and that nothing could withstand its power.

It was the most powerful object in the whole universe.

I looked around. All around the arena, there were little thrones with all kinds of disgusting figures seated on them. These were the demons and principalities responsible for attacking people with sins such as paedophilia, adultery and sins of the deepest darkness.

Further away, sitting on the stalls, there were golden pharaoh-looking figures sitting on their larger thrones. They observed me. They were the ones that controlled the demons on the little thrones. These figures were covered with gold and wore the death masks of pharaohs.

“Two things unite all these principalities,” the Lord said. “They all spread filth. They all spread fear.” I could feel the filth and fear oozing from them.

“The fear that they spread will paralyse and immobilise the fighters so that they will fall in the trap that has been set before them. The fear emanates from their leader, the devil, and spreads right through the ranks, to the smallest of them.”

The vision ended.

Some weeks later I was taken back to the arena in another vision. Two massive angels, around fifteen metres tall, entered the arena and began wielding their mighty swords. The heavy enemy thrones were crushed as if they were made of paper.

No one had taken the indestructible sword. The angels’ swords were smaller and less shiny than the indestructible sword. “Who will take that sword?” I asked.

Suddenly, a huge figure, dressed in a white robe, descended into the arena. It was Jesus.

“I’m the Warrior King. I’ll take this sword,” He said. “I’ll fight this war. When I fight a war, I never lose.” Then the Lord, the Warrior King, picked the sword. I realised that the sword had been there for centuries, waiting for Him.

The sizes of angels, demons and Jesus in the vision aren’t realistic but illustrate their power in relation to each other.

The angels that went to war were larger than the demonic principalities but Jesus was a lot bigger than anyone else. No one could stand against him.

The vision relates to the spiritual shift that has begun to take place in the Middle East. Jesus has gone to war and He will bring millions of Muslims to Him.

The devil has a vision for the Middle East and it is drastically different from the vision that Jesus has. Looking at the brutal violence, lies and sexual immorality that the ISIS presents, it is easy for anyone—even for most Muslims—to see that their vision is not the vision of God but originates from the devil. It is so important to understand that this is not a battle between Islam and Christianity, and that as much as ISIS is attacking Christians, it is also attacking Islam and Muslims.

Yet, because of the false Islamic prophecies, even after the fall of ISIS, other radical groups will rise up and attempt to trigger the apocalypse. 

Unfortunately, many Christians are taking the words of ISIS leaders and apocalyptic Islamic writers as “truth”, attempting to merge them with the apocalyptic writings in the Bible.

But what did Jesus say of the devil? When He spoke to some Pharisees, He said,

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

I don’t think that the devil would be able to tell a truth even if he wanted to! He would somehow twist it. As Christians, we must reject the apocalyptic Islamic writing as source for any ideas about the end times. We must believe only what comes from the right source—the Bible and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

And we must believe that in the end, the vision that the Bible gives about the end times—the gospel will be preached to all nations, including the nations of the Middle East, and then the end will come.
Published by Marko Joensuu

Marko Joensuu has worked for over sixteen years in the publishing and media ministries of Kensington Temple. He is an author, publisher and screenwriter.
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