Here we go again. Another generation redeploying the same old tales as the last one, speaking of amazing prophecies being fulfilled before our very eyes. They don’t remember the exact same claims in the 1990s and 1980s, and back through the centuries.Continue reading “Khorasan”
At around the age of fourteen, I became enamoured with the supposed prophecies of the famous 16th-century astrologer, Nostradamus. Of course, not his purported prophecies precisely, but rather a late 20th-century interpretation of them, penned by an anglophone author invested in the paranormal. To be sure, given my rudimentary knowledge of modern French, there was no way I could access the original quatrains in their 16th-century French myself. Indeed, nor could those who dedicated their lives to pontificating on what his poems truly meant, for none of them had access to the original text either. But no matter. Continue reading “Conjecture”
Traditionalists and new believers everywhere love eschatology: it is the promise of the end times which keeps their faith alive. Whatever the Qur’an says about knowledge of the Hour being with Allah alone, the allegedly clear signs described in a multitude of others sources apparently being fulfilled before our very eyes are just too beguiling to ignore. So in circles of knowledge it is the chatter of students, as their teachers become animated with such tales. These are certainly the end times, they preach, oblivious to the same preaching of their predecessors in every generation for the past thousand years. Certainly the Hour will come — about that there is no doubt — but its timing is with God alone:
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, “Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. It lays heavily upon the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly.” They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, “Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most of the people do not know.” — Qur’an 7:187
Eight hundred and thirty years ago to the day, on 2 October 1187, Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi liberated Jerusalem from Crusader forces after an 88 year occupation of the city. Muslims everywhere rejoice, dreaming of such a hero for today. The world is awaiting another Salah al-Din, chant the masses: a great warrior; an honest leader; a brave Muslim!
And so, once more, the sheikhs and their followers are invoking apocalyptic traditions; the events of the day, they tell us, are the certain fulfillment of prophesy.
And so it seems, unless we put our cultural amnesia aside to recall the history of these sacred precincts.
So it seems if we forget that a group of militants who believed the Mahdi to be amongst them seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks in 1979 during Hajj, leading to the deaths of 250 people.
So it seems if we forget that the Kingdom of Hejaz in alliance with the British Empire laid siege to Medina, then held by the Ottoman Empire between 1916 and 1919, causing heavy loss to life.
So it seems if we forget that Medina was occupied and laid waste by the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab in 1806.
Indeed, so it seems if we overlook a millennia of history all the way back to Yazid’s siege of Medina and destruction of Mecca not even seventy years after Hijra.
But we are not supposed to familiarise ourselves with the past, to ask questions or seek context.
We are not meant to ponder on the long list of supposed saviours who came and went over a thousand years, each one the prophesized Mahdi to their followers.
We have been here before, over and over, but the sheikhs in their circles know better than last time. This is the time, they tell us. This is the time.
And the madness enfolds as prophesized.
Why do Tradtionalist Sheikhs insist on publicising the dreams of unknown individuals on Facebook as if it is certain proof of something? This evening it is the grandson of the Prophet, peace be upon him, telling an unnamed student that the coming of the Dajjal is near at hand. Perhaps it is so, but have some wisdom: stop causing despair and hysteria with these foolish Status Updates. Unchallenged apocalyptic eschatology has already laid waste to most of Syria and beyond. These teachers just need to stop and read some history: every generation has seen itself living amongst signs that herald the end of days. It has been thus for over a thousand years, since the earliest days. And every generation has been exploited by the tale bearers too. Won’t the Traditionalist scholars just desist?
Many religious folk, it seems, thrive on visions of the last days. The Church of England might be setting out a blueprint for a more compassionate nation here on earth [1. Who is my neigbour (pdf)], but Christian prophecy is a massive movement in the United States and across Africa. Many Muslims, meanwhile, are consumed by the impending arrival of the promised Mahdi, the return of Jesus and the onslaught of the Dajjal or Anti-Christ. One only needs to sit in the company of students of knowledge for a little while, before conversation turns to the imminent signs of the Hour. It is a cause of excitement for some — jubilation at the prospect of world-changing events.