While the world has recently fixated on the conflict in Gaza as Israel and Hamas exchanged rocket fire continue, a much more insidious event has been occurring in Iraq. The militant group that President Obama dismissed as a “Junior Varsity” team last January has quickly overrun a third of the country. Cities that American soldiers fought and died to defend and protect were quickly overrun. This group recently took control of the country’s largest dam that will allow them to control a substantial amount of the power in Iraq or cause significant flooding if they choose to destroy it.
The American trained and armed Iraqi military has collapsed upon confrontation by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also known as ISIS. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and this label is a bit misleading because many erroneously think that this group’s interests are limited to Iraq and Syria. The region known as the Levant generally refers to all eastern Mediterranean countries and could include the entire middle east.
So far ISIL has taken over large portions of Syria during that countries so-called civil war. They have recently expanded into Iraq. They have terrorized the Iraqi army and the people of northern Iraq who are literally lining up like sheep to the slaughter as they are summarily executed by this militia bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate throughout the entire middle east. ISIL is now in possession of significant amounts of American armored vehicles and weapons to assist them in accomplishing their task.
While the world stood idly by ISIL has swarmed across the country of Iraq instituting Sharia law. They are essentially regaining control of some of the key locations of the historic Assyrian and Babylonian Empire. The Kurdish Peshmerga, seen as one of the greatest fighting forces in the region, have even retreated against this assault and were close to loosing their capital city of Irbil prior to US intervention. Despite being a key US ally, their weaponry cannot compare to the newly inherited American weaponry is obsolete in comparison that modern weaponry and armaments that ISIL possesses.
The world perceives ISIL as simply a death cult consisting of sadistic individuals who enjoy indiscriminately killing Christians, minority groups and even fellow Muslims. While ISIL clearly includes those whose psychopathic tendencies have found a home in a religious movement, one must look deeper to understand the force behind this movement.
The question is: What is driving them? The answer is simple: jihad. While many moderate or western Muslims simply define “jihad” to mean “struggle,” ISIL views jihad as a holy war. They may seem to be a fringe Islamic group, but in their eyes they are doing the work of true Muslims. They believe that they are fulfilling their destiny of building the long awaited Caliphate that will usher in their messianic age. The bloody work that they are involved in is a cleansing of the infidels and their perceived idolatry. This includes eliminating Muslims who have strayed from the true faith.
According to Sahih Bukhari Hadith Volume 6, Book 61, Number 577: “I heard the prophet saying, ‘In the last days of the world there will appear young people with foolish thoughts and ideas. They will give good talks, but they will go out of Islam as an arrow goes out of its game, their faith will not exceed their throats. So wherever you find them, kill them, for there will be a reward for their killers on the Day of Resurrection.’”
In truth, Islam is a violent and bloody religion. That is why one of the most significant symbols of Islam is the sword. In many cases killing is required. It is not a religion of peace as some like to portray it. At the very core it is a system of submission, and submission often requires violence and brute force. Thus it is religious zeal that spurs ISIL on their killing spree and this makes them extremely dangerous and a force to be reckoned with. They embrace martyrdom because they are fighting a holy war and to sacrifice their lives is a good thing.
For centuries, the religion of Islam has been fractured primarily into two different groups – the Sunnis and the Shiites. One of the major differences between these two sects involves al Mahdi – the messiah. ISIL consists of Sunni Muslims who believe that the Shiite understanding in al Mahdi is sheer fantasy. The Shiites believe that al Mahdi has been living in a cave for over 10 centuries and will someday appear from that cave. The Sunnis consider this to be mythology similar to Greek and Persian mythology.
The Sunnis believe that we are in the fourth “reign” from the reign of Mohammed. They call this reign “The reign of the Tyrannical rule.” They seek to transcend from the rein of tyrannical rule to the return of the Caliphate that rules following the guidance of the prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam. The prophet, to them, is a man known as al Mahdi. He is an ordinary man living an ordinary life who will lead the final caliphate until the day of judgment.
The Sunni driven ISIL desires to unify Islam into one nation and they are preparing for their messiah, al Mahdi, to rule. Both sects of Islam are clearly “anti-‐ christ.” They vehemently oppose the notion that God had a Son, which is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. According to Sura 4:171: “The Messiah, Isa the son of Mary, was no more than Allah’s apostle; Allah is but one Allah. God forbid that he should have a son!”
This is why Christians are deemed to be infidels and they are specifically target by ISIL. As a result, part of their preparations for the Caliphate of al Mahdi involves the destruction of many Christian churches, shrines and venerated sites. One that they recently destroyed was the Tomb of Jonah located in Mosel – the site of the ancient city of Nineveh.
The significance of this should not be lost when we consider that Yahushua the Messiah said: “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” Luke 11:29. Jonah was a prophet sent to Assyria – specifically the City of Nineveh. Nineveh was a violent city and that may be why ISIL has chosen it as the capital for their Caliphate in Iraq.
Nevertheless, Jonah warned Nineveh that they were going to be judged and they responded. They repented, humbled themselves, fasted and prayed – some believe on Yom Kippur. They repented and as a result, the judgment was delayed.
Tradition holds that many of the people currently living in Mosul were descendants of those same Ninevites who heeded the words of Jonah and later the teachings of Thomas, the Disciple of the Messiah. These Ninevites who speak Aramaic, the same language as the Messiah, are currently being hunted down, displaced, tortured, mutilated, crucified and beheaded by ISIL. All of this is occurring while the world watches and does very little. Amazingly, they criticized the modern State of Israel for accidentally killing civilians during retaliatory strikes against the Muslim terrorist group Hamas, yet there has been a deafening silence as ISIL has mercilessly killed Christians in Syria and Iraq. There are dark spiritual forces unleashed upon this world as evil continues its violent and bloody rampage.
When the Tomb of Jonah was recently blown up by ISIL barely a voice could be heard protesting such an act. This world is currently experiencing incredible judgments and plagues – it is an evil generation that is falling under judgment. When the Messiah spoke of the sign of Jonah He was speaking of His resurrection that paved the way for His second coming. One can only wonder whether Jonah will once again be a sign to an evil generation.