If you go to YouTube and do a search for the terms "ISIS" and "prophecy," what you will get is several pages of material that has next to nothing about what the leaders of the Islamic State believe is their role in the future of Islam and the world.
Instead, what you will find is links to videos that examine ISIS in light of prophecies about the end times that some Christians see in the Bible. If you are looking for a likely candidate to ignite the apocalypse, ISIS is at the top of almost all of the lists.
But what about debates INSIDE ISLAM about what has or has not been revealed about the future and the end of all things?
That was the subject of a recent analysis piece at The New York Times that dedicated a refreshing amount of attention to a controversial issue in Islamic thought and tradition. The headline: "U.S. Seeks to Avoid Ground War Welcomed by Islamic State."
The starting point in this equation: ISIS elites want the United States to get involved in a ground war in the Middle East.
Why? That's the complicated question.
... When the United States first invaded Iraq, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the move was the man who founded the terrorist cell that would one day become the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He excitedly called the Americans’ 2003 intervention “the Blessed Invasion.”
His reaction -- ignored by some, and dismissed as rhetoric by others -- points to one of the core beliefs motivating the terrorist group now holding large stretches of Iraq and Syria: The group bases its ideology on prophetic texts stating that Islam will be victorious after an apocalyptic battle to be set off once Western armies come to the region.
Should that invasion happen, the Islamic State not only would be able to declare its prophecy fulfilled, but could also turn the occurrence into a new recruiting drive at the very moment the terrorist group appears to be losing volunteers.
This story contains precisely the kinds of details that your GetReligionistas have, for a decade, been asking journalists to seek out when covering radicalized forms of Islam. Once again, to understand the debates between mainstream Muslims and radical Muslims, it helps to cover elements of Islam, as a religious belief system.
This analysis piece even makes references to the S-word -- "scriptures." Consider this reference to ISIS and its take on end-times prophecies:
The specific scripture they are referring to describes a battle in Dabiq as well as in al-Amaq, small towns that still exist in northern Syria. The countdown to the apocalypse begins once the “Romans” -- a term that militants have now conveniently expanded to include Americans and their allies -- set foot in Dabiq.
Last year, when Islamic State militants beheaded the American hostage Peter Kassig, a former United States Army Ranger, they made sure to do it in Dabiq.
“Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” the executioner announced.
Dabiq is now the name of the Islamic State’s monthly online magazine, and each successive issue continues to hammer home the notion of the looming doomsday battle. Meanwhile, Amaq is the name the militants have chosen for their semiofficial news agency, which ... was the first to announce that the couple who carried out the attack on a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., killing 14, were “supporters” of the Islamic State.
However, I do have one question about this piece. Why did the Times have to deal with this crucial material in an analysis piece? What would it take to get editors to assign reporters to write a real, live, news feature on these issues, quoting voices on both sides of the debate inside Islam, as well as experts from other faiths?