While God’s judgement of the world hangs in balance during the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a battle is being fought in a small, dusty town in Syria that ISIS and many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims believe will usher in Mahdi, the Islamic concept of Messiah.
ISIS believes Mahdi will come after the final apocalyptic battle between “Rome” (or America, in its modern incarnation) and Islam is fought in Dabiq, Syria. Though the current has little strategic military importance and the outcome seems certain, as a small group of ISIS fighters face off against American-led troops, the Koran prophesies that this battle, win or lose, will set off a process resulting in all infidels choosing between conversion and death.
One expert sees this battle as a catalyst setting off intensified ISIS terror attacks around the world in an attempt by the Islamic State to fulfill the prophecy.
“ISIS believes quite strongly that the primary eschatological battle between the Muslims and the Christian forces will be fought there,” Dr. Timothy Furnish, an international media commentator and author on radical Islam, explained to Breaking Israel News. “They have been trying to goad the West, primarily the US, into inserting ground forces at that locale.”
Dr. Furnish cited a hadith (Islamic teaching attributed to Mohammed) which states that the “Last Hour would not come” until a vastly superior Roman army composed of “the best soldiers of the people of the earth at that time” came to battle Islam in Dabiq.
Islam’s vision of Messiah is the arrival of a Muslim Jesus, who will convert all Christians to Islam. Those who do not convert will be killed.
Dabiq is a small Syrian town with a population of 3,000, about 10 miles from the border with Turkey. Rebel troops, including 300 US Special Forces, are currently moving to take the town back from ISIS. Fighting has been fierce and casualties are already high on both sides. Despite its relative unimportance, Islamic State has been focusing all of its efforts on the city.
The battle began on Monday, when the Free Syrian Army – Syrian rebel forces supported by America and Turkey – captured Turkman Bareh, four miles east of Dabiq. The anti-ISIS forces predicted they would capture Dabiq within 48 hours, but their advance slowed after they encountered extensively mined areas, mortars, and explosive devices in their path. Fighting was reported to be especially fierce as ISIS reinforcements poured into the region.
ISIS has put great effort into attracting American attention to the backwater of Dabiq, naming its online propaganda magazine after the town of Muslim armageddon. The magazine’s front cover quotes former terrorist leader and killer Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who proclaimed in 2004, “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify – by Allah’s permission – until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.”
The small town was prominently featured in a video of Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen dubbed “Jihadi John“, who joined ISIS and murdered five Western hostages in 2014. He taunted American viewers with the severed head of American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, a former US Army Ranger, at his feet.
“Here we are, burying the first American Crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” Emwazi said in the video.
Their efforts to attract America’s attention seems to have succeeded, as the US-led coalition brings “the best soldiers of the people of the earth” directly to Dabiq. Nonetheless, it is not holding onto the city or even winning the battle that is significant to ISIS, but the fact of the battle itself.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, believes that ISIS will not relinquish its twisted version of Messiah, even if it is defeated in the prophesied Battle of Dabiq.
“No doubt, Dabiq carries a very heavy Islamic meaning,” Dr. Kedar told Breaking Israel News. “I think that the Islamic State will not turn Dabiq into a fight for eternity, and will withdraw eventually from Dabiq as well as from other parts of Syria.”
But Dr. Khedar believes an ISIS defeat in Dabiq will be even more catastrophic for the West than an ISIS victory.
“They will claim that the war on Dabiq can be carried out in the streets of Paris, London, Berlin, Washington DC and Jerusalem,” Dr. Kedar warned. “Meanwhile we can see a war between Russia and the US on Syria. Put simply, Gog and Magog.”