This Post was written and posted a brief time before the heinous attacks in Paris on November 13. I have added a postscript. — SA
With a number of nations now battling ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and with ISIL inspired loners occasionally attacking worldwide, it is vital that we understand what ISIL wants, ultimately, and why they do what they do.
It is not enough to write them off as just evil. They are evil, of course, but they are not stupid or random in their violence.
I urge everyone to read this very fine article from The Atlantic which lays out in clear terms ISIL’s strategy and purposes (they call them ISIS, while I use ISIL in deference to the Egyptian Isis), as well as its attractiveness to people all over the world.
My purpose here is not so much to restate the content of the article, although a brief summary will be necessary, but to highlight an aspect concerning ISIL’s endgame.
The 7th Century Redux
In essence, ISIL has turned the clock back to the 7th Century of our Western Common Era (or Anno Domini for Christians), which corresponds to the first century of the Islamic Calendar (AH), which begins in 622 CE, when the Prophet Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina, the Hegira. While there is no doubt that much of Islam over the last 1400 years has become a peace-loving and peaceful faith, there can be no denying that the Prophet led armies, and that early Islam was very militant. (Judaism and Christianity were too at stages in their histories; it seems almost inevitable with Monotheistic Faiths.)
The Atlantic article outlines the necessity for early Islam to expand, culturally, religiously, and if necessary, militarily. Which is ISIL’s strategy. However, ISIL manages to pursue that goal with two additions: 21st century savagery, and the destruction of ancient ruins.
Manufacturing Outrage and Presaging the End
In the almost 1400 years since the Hegira, human beings have learned a great deal about how to savage one another. Our ancient ancestors were cruel, to be sure, but our technology and blood lust have only grown during that time. ISIL is gratuitous, to put it mildly, in its savagery. Why? To outrage other Muslims, and especially the West.
I am convinced that they are destroying the historic patrimony of most places they occupy for a similar reason. We do know that they are disingenuously selling any artifacts they can remove to finance their war. However, the–again gratuitous–destruction of irreplaceable historical ruins has another motive: to outrage other Muslims, and in particular, the West.
While it is true the early Muslims destroyed “pagan” idols and Christian Icons, and sometimes built Mosques over previously used holy places, they also re-purposed these edifices as Mosques. I’m no expert in Muslim history, but I don’t think I have heard of early Muslims destroying older non-religious buildings. This is what leads me to believe that ISIL is doing this to increase outrage in the West.
Why would they do that?
In Hadith 6924 it is said:
The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them).
ISIL occupies Dabiq (near Aleppo, where hamsters originated). The Atlantic author, understandably, following authority, supposes that “the Romans” meant the Roman Empire ruled from Constantinople, and that was certainly true in the 7th Century CE / 1st Century AH.
The Hadith then says that the Faithful of Islam will rise up against the Romans, which will trigger the Muslim view of the Apocalypse. Like the Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. and elsewhere who are trying to breed the Red Heifer, and encourage Israel to destroy the Dome of the Rock and build the third Temple in Jerusalem, they want to End the World and force God’s hand.
The Atlantic author then goes on to say that since the Pope has no troops, it must mean Christians in general. In one sense he is right, but there is a broader picture here he (understandably) misses. The Pope is not the only Heir of Rome.
Children of Alexander and Heirs of Rome
As my faithful readers know, I see Western History as largely the legacy and later evolution of the Roman Republic and Empire from 753 BCE to 1453 CE. On my travels, I coined the term “Children of Alexander and Heirs of Rome” for this concept, in contradistinction to other world cultures.
It is through Rome (all of Roman Civilization–Romanitas and Romaiosune) that the Hellenized civilization of the Middle East, Central Asia and Northern India, Egypt, and Greece (Alexander’s Empire) was filtered to us in the West, with, of course, a distinctive Roman bent. That is why so many Western Countries (which includes Western cultural outposts like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.) often have classical architecture in their civic buildings, use the Eagle and the Fasces as Symbols, etc.
We should note, however, that in the 290s CE, the Emperor Diocletian created Western and Eastern administrations for the huge Roman Empire. It was still one Empire, but had two parts. It would be in 324 that the Emperor St. Constantine the Great would assume control of both parts again, and move the capital into the East, to Constantinople.
As the centuries went on, it would be the emerging Slavic states, and in particular Kievan Rus’ and later Muscovy (now Russia) would become the successors to the Roman Empire in the East, in religion, culture, and by marriage into the Imperial Family. They inherited Romaiosune, the Romanness of the East.
The emerging nations of the West also inherited Romanitas, the Romanness of the West. Much later this was passed on to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the Western Cultural Sphere.
Although “divided” into East and West, there were never two Empires, only one. To take an analogy from Christology, it was One Empire with Two Natures, Eastern and Western.
Western History through a Roman Lens
Seeing History through this Roman lens, one can see the Cold War, and the current tensions between the West and Russia as a kind of Roman Civil War between the two side, who are both completely legitimate heirs of Rome.
Likewise, World War II can be seen as a time when the other Heirs of the Empire united to prevent an Heir, Germany, from using its status as a successor state to Rome to rule all in the name of evil. The propaganda title “Third Reich” sought to put the Nazi state in the line of, going backward, The German Empire (1871-1918) and the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806), which itself, as part of the West, was an Heir to Rome. “Fourth Reich” would have been smarter, but they might have been influenced by the Russian saying “The First Rome fell to the Barbarians, the Second Rome fell to the Turks. Moscow is the Third Rome, and a fourth there will never be.”
So all the wars of European civilization around the world can be seen as Roman Civil Wars.
The Romans Have Come to Dabiq
Back to ISIL. Who are the two primary nations currently bombing ISIL in Syria and Iraq? The United States and Russia. The Romans have come, and this is precisely what ISIL wants. All the Romans might not be Christians, as they were before, but we are still the Heirs of Rome. It would have been far better if all of the non-Roman nations of the world united to destroy ISIL, however, it looks like it’s the Romans who will do this.
Not being a believer in dire Fundamentalist Apocalyptic prophecies, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or otherwise, I don’t think a battle around Aleppo in Syria will trigger the end of the world. A Roman Civil War over Ukraine might certainly do so, but it will not be ISIL, as far as I can tell.
Thank you for reading!
Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant
PS after the horrendous terrorist attack in Paris, Friday night November 13, 2015:
Besides wanting to bring about the end of the world, ISIL clearly wants to take all of the lands of the greatest extent of Islamic expansion:
Further, the reason for choosing to attack at the Soccer Match was given that two Christian countries were playing one another. We know that we are not at war with Islam, and that there are very few officially “Christian” countries any longer. But ISIL is at war with Christianity, Judaism, all non-Muslims, and all Muslims that do not follow their religious line.
We must not, however, play their game. All of the peace loving nations of the world, of all religions and no religion must unite to end ISIL. One of the most important ways to do that is to discover and remove their funding.
This deadly provocation will most probably give ISIL what they want…war with Rome. By attacking Paris, they have attacked one of the clear heirs of Rome, and I doubt that France will not react.
We pray for the people of our nation’s first ally, France, for their protection and healing, and for peace in the world.
PPS: I just got off the phone with a Lodge brother who is a very keen observe of world affairs and history. He had some insights I wanted to share:
- All of the attack sites in Paris have some connection to France’s Imperialist past. Syria was under French a French mandate from 1920-1946 following the secret Sykes-Picot agreement. This was not random.
- Weapons are very hard to obtain in France. Someone with a long reach had to engineer their entry. The likely candidate is Putin, operating through his ally, Syria.
- We agreed that while an on-the-ground assault on ISIL in Syria and Iraq by France and other troops, together with the bombing will probably wipe ISIL out. However, until three key issues are solved, ISIL type terrorism will continue in the world:
- The Israel-Palestine struggle must end with an Independent Palestine which recognizes Israel and does not attack Israel. (As a side note: Independent and safe Israel and Palestine have every reason to be economic partners and examples of functioning democracies in the Middle East.)
- The Religious and Cultural civil was between Sunni and Shia Muslims must end.
- The Oil Kingdoms of the Middle East must be forced to become, at least, Constitutional Monarchies. (Due to global climate change, much of the Arabian Peninsula will be unlivable by 2070, with summer heat as high as 170 F. Planning has to start now.)