David John has lived in the Middle East and shares insight on the Islamic understanding of the End Times which can help us in knowing how to pray.
Considering what is happening right now in the Middle East, very few secular media sources seem to understand what really motivates Hamas (and all other radical Islamic groups). Most Christians probably don’t understand what would possess Hamas to do what they did on October 7th (an attack that also included another radical group, Islamic Jihad).
I hope to shed some light on an important motivation for Hamas that many would not know.
We have a long history with Palestinians which included living in a Palestinian neighborhood in Amman, Jordan when we first moved to the Middle East in the early 1990s. From the time we moved there, we would hear a similar narrative that at the time we didn’t understand, but as the years passed by and our understanding of Islam grew we realized that all Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’ite, had beliefs about the End Times that were informing that narrative.
Most of the secular media naively bring their analysis in terms of the oppressed, an oppressor, and speak of the ongoing resistance against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This week alone I’ve heard numerous news reports explaining Hamas’ recent murderous attack and the taking of numerous Israeli hostages as not only understandable but even justifiable in their ongoing “struggle”. Even the Islamic media will echo these same talking points, which is somewhat deceptive because they know only too well what ultimately lies behind what is happening.
For Hamas, the Islamic End Times narrative motivates a lot of what they do. The same can be said of Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Islamic State (ISIS), the Taleban, the Muslim Brotherhood and/or any other fundamental Islamic movement.
This is not to say that they aren’t also motivated by other factors, but I am arguing that this is one of, if not the most important motivation for many radical Muslims.
What is this narrative? Muslims have End Times beliefs about a coming Islamic Messianic figure (especially important for Shi’ite Muslims) who will rid the world of evil, and establish through military victories a pure Islamic State, which will include Jerusalem. This narrative includes the eradication of the Jews which are their hated #1 End Times adversary. The details differ between the Sunni and Shi’ites but the overall narrative is essentially the one I’ve just described.
As I look back on those first years in the Middle East, the Palestinians (who were Sunni Muslims) we knew spoke of driving the Jews into the sea. A narrative that even their children would echo. The hatred towards the Jews was universal.
Later when we had Shi’ite friends, they would talk endlessly about one who would come in the future called the “Mahdi” (the Guided One). Who did the Shi’ites also hate? The Jews.
Their Islamic eschatologies (End Times beliefs) help to explain things. There will be no such thing as peace. The future is a prophesied war against a perpetual enemy, the Jews, in which Islam being aided by Allah will win.
One of the most famous Sunni Muslim Hadith (tradition) speaking of the End Times and the conflict with the Jews says it this way:
It was reported that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: ‘You (i.e. Muslims) will fight against the Jews and you will gain victory over them. The stones will (betray them) saying: ‘O ‘Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.’ Al-Bukhari.
Let us be crystal clear – Hamas believes this Hadith 100%. They are devout and this Hadith is unquestioned and authoritative to them. This Hadith is in fact quoted in Hamas’ 1988 Charter.
That being said, I know many Muslims who have Jewish friends and are not at all full of the aforementioned hatred, but that is IN SPITE of what their Islamic faith teaches them. The more devout a Muslim is, the more firmly they hold to the sentiments I have just shared.
As the entire world is now fixated on what is happening between Israelis and Palestinians, I think it is important to understand what would motivate Hamas to do what they did against the State of Israel whose armed forces have the power to annihilate them many times over.
In short, Hamas doesn’t care. They believe that if they die a martyr’s death, they will be eternally rewarded. And, if as I am sure many Hamas radicals believe their ‘End Times’ are upon them, then they actually believe they will ultimately win against the Israeli Armed Forces. They believe that Allah has promised this outcome!
Hamas named this latest offensive, “Operation Al Aqsa Flood”. That is the name of the mosque, Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They believe that it, and all Jerusalem for that matter, belongs to Islam and will ultimately be reconquered by an Islamic army and put once again under Islamic control.
Operation Al Aqsa Flood was/is a message to the entire Islamic World to pay attention and be willing to join in the Jihad. Muslims are also aware that religious Jews have been going onto the Temple Mount to pray and that they intend to rebuild a 3rd Jewish Temple on the very spot where the Al Aqsa Mosque currently sits. These are all interpreted as signs beckoning the Islamic End Times.
They know that even now the sympathy of the worldwide media, after initially being sympathetic towards the Israelis who were killed and/or taken hostage, has shifted back toward the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of the ongoing Israeli military response to Hamas’ October 7th operation. The Muslim world has been more and more divided in recent years, but Hamas believes that the current and future Palestinian suffering, especially that of the women, children, and the elderly, will serve to unite a divided Islamic world. It has already stopped the process of Saudi Arabia joining the peace treaty with Israel known as the Abraham Accords Declaration. Some believe the signing had been imminent.
Remember, Hamas has vowed to never have peace/make peace with their enemy. It is part of their foundational charter! They have and will fight against any and all attempts at peace with Israel by any other Islamic group or nation. If in fact, Saudi was about to sign onto a peace accord with Israel, then the timing of Hamas’ attack makes perfect sense. They may have well sabotaged it. If so, that will be part of their celebration.
I am convinced that Hamas REALLY believes what they have done is contributing towards the goal of reconquering Jerusalem – and all of their operations for that matter since their founding in 1987. I’m sure they also believe that their willingness to suffer, to die as martyrs, and to knowingly and purposely provoke Israel to do what they will do in response will only hasten their ultimate war and victory over the Jews, the return of the occupied lands to Islamic control, and the establishment of a regional and eventual worldwide End Time Islamic State.
All Shi’ites and some Sunnis would look to a coming heaven-sent Islamic savior/liberator, the Mahdi to help fulfill these prophecies.
I will end this post by summarizing a few more aspects and elements of Islamic End Times beliefs.
- For Shi’ites and (some?) Sunnis an Islamic Mahdi* will come at a time when the world is full of evil and chaos – rampant immorality, wars, droughts, earthquakes.
- This Mahdi will appear who will fight against a coming Islamic anti-Christ figure known in Islam as “Al Masih Al Dajjal” (which means ‘the Deceitful Messiah’).
- Jesus will return (All Muslims believe this). They believe he will return AS A MUSLIM and will fight alongside the Mahdi to liberate lands for Islam, including Jerusalem. Sunnis and Shi’ite have some differences with regard to these details. According to Sunnis, Jesus will kill Al Dajjal (the anti-Christ).
- This Mahdi and the ‘Muslim Jesus’ will ultimately conquer the world and set up an Islamic State. They will restore justice and correct theological errors.
- Muslims will rule the entire world in a time of peace.
- Finally, after a period, the Day of Judgement will come.
*The reason not all Sunni Muslims emphasize the role of a coming Mahdiis that he is not mentioned in two of the main Sunni collections of the Hadith. He is mentioned however in other Sunni Hadith.
If only the secular media would factor in these beliefs of Hamas and other Islamic groups as they try to make sense of what is happening!
I think the Christian media would do well to factor in the worldview of much of the Muslim world as they attempt to make sense of what is happening as well. While fundamental Islam does in fact teach these things, may we also remember that millions of Muslims are not like Hamas or other radical groups at all.
Let us pray that millions of Jews and Muslims will meet the Lord Jesus at this time. May we contend to keep God’s heart for the lost, whoever they may be. May we not succumb to any hatred as we remember what Jesus commanded, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those
who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
And I fully realize that the videos people have seen already and will see in the coming days (from both sides) will make it harder and harder to stay in that place of love. The enemy is working once again to divide people and it is working. May we truly be those who are being led by Holy Spirit in these days and not by any other spirits.
NOTE: I have purposely NOT entered into what Christians and Jews believe about the End Times. The Christian media and countless Christian leaders are giving endless commentary right now about what is happening and how they believe it fits into Biblical End Times prophecy. My contribution was to shed some light on the Islamic beliefs that are affecting what is happening.
FOR ADDED CLARIFICATION: Some would argue that while Islamic State (ISIS) and other modern radical Islamic Groups are motivated by End Times (Eschatology) aspirations, Hamas has not been. I would push back on that assessment at this time for the following reasons. First of all, there has been a growing interest/fascination among Muslims, especially Sunni Muslims, in the past 20 years with eschatology and it has been a stated motivation in radical Islamic groups. Secondly, the peace accords between Israel and several Muslim nations in recent years have fueled End Times thinking. (interestingly, not just Islamic but Christian thinking as well). Thirdly, Hamas is very aware that religious Jews in Israel aspire to build a 3rd Temple on the Temple Mount where Al Aqsa Mosque is. Jews have been visiting and praying on the Temple Mount in recent years (which violates an agreement that was made). All of this is inflammatory to Hamas and provokes them to rise up in defense of Jerusalem. Finally, the End Times Hadith about fighting the Jews is part of Hamas’ foundational charter. Why would that be included if it wasn’t in the forefront of their minds? This current attack by Hamas (and Islamic Jihad) is unlike anything they have ever done in the past. They killed and took as hostages far more Israelis this time than in any other of their operations. Hamas knows only too well what Israel’s response would be. Such a death wish, such a suicide mission, can’t be adequately explained merely by other motivations of their cause.
Source: David John, Joel 2 Generation