Originally Published in The Huffington Post on December 17th, 2017
by Amer Aziz
Don’t blame just Donald Trump. It’s the irrational and untenable interpretations of prophetic religious beliefs that is making the world a very dangerous place.
Donald Trump, in his book The Art of the Deal, stakes his belief that playing to people’s fantasies can be a very effective form of promotion. The recent controversy of declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been widely speculated in mainstream media as pandering to prophetic beliefs held by certain Christian Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews. However, we can’t fault just The Donald here anymore than we fault the masses whose votes are underwritten by untenable interpretations of religious beliefs. This prophetic belief-system can be wrapped up as…
The Jewish people will return to Jerusalem where the third temple will be rebuilt ushering Jesus’s return and the Armageddon against the anti-Christ— possibly the Islamic Messiah.
Israel and Jerusalem
The Christian belief of the establishment of Israel in accordance with prophecy, known as Christian Zionism, stems from an Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah (66:8) that a nation will be born suddenly… as soon as Zion went into labor, she gave birth to her sons. Interestingly, though Muslim commentators tend to be mute on the point (with the exception of The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) there is a Quran prophecy (17:105) even more convincing than its Biblical counterpart: And after him We said to the children of Israel, ‘Dwell ye in the land; and when the time of the promise of the latter days comes, We shall bring you together (out of various peoples).
In certain Christian perspectives, the New Testament prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 speaks of the Anti-Christ… the man of lawlessness…who exalts himself above every god…and takes his seat at the temple. And thus we arrive at the idea that since Jesus is to return to fight the Anti-Christ who will bear a seat at the temple, it would have to exist when Jesus returns.
If people think declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may set the Mideast ablaze, it’s going to sound like a whimper compared to what may be coming next— those Jews and Christians engaged in this endeavor insist the third temple must be rebuilt at the exact location of the previous temples— believed to be where the historical Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today.
And that’s where, as they say, the plot thickens.
It’s not just Evangelical Christians that are wallowing in irrational religious speculation; Muslims have been just as busy. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is hallowed ground for most Muslims, based on certain passages of the Quran and hadith, as the spot from where Muhammad ascended to heaven for a meeting with Allah while taking greetings from former Biblical prophets as he passed through heaven’s tiers. According to The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, this popular belief is wrong: the mosque was not built and named till decades after Muhammad’s demise, Jerusalem is not mentioned in the source-texts which enunciate that the entire episode was a vision of heart, not physical. Nevertheless, a physical ascension is the popular sacrosanct belief and uprooting the mosque is near unthinkable for most Muslims.
Evangelicals, still, have further ideas— for decades now they have faithfully been crafting speculation that the Anti-Christ could be Islam’s messianic figure of end-times prophecy: The Mahdi. With Christianity’s fundamental doctrinal clash with Quran 4:158 that Jesus did not die on the cross, painting the Mahdi as the Anti-Christ tends to make sense to many Christians. Just drop the words Islam and Anti-Christ into search box and roll through the all the literature being consumed on this theory.
Evangelicals beware! Lest you be the ones to give the Anti-Christ his seat at the temple— per 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, if the Anti-Christ is given a seat at the temple it is inconceivable that he will be a Muslim. The son of lawlessness who exalts himself above every god is more befitting The Donald who is widely criticized as impulsive, unruly, narcissistic and… yes, un-Christ-like. If the temple is rebuilt in the near future, it’s hard to see how Donald Trump, who will probably be seen as its deliverer, will not be offered a seat there.
Unfortunately, irrational prophetic beliefs are just as much a phenomenon among Muslims as Christians, having reaped the monster of terrorism partly due to it. The extremist strains of the Salafist-Wahhabist ideology that bred under the auspices of Saudi Arabia with billions of petro-dollars at its disposal are also littered with irrational and fantastical interpretations of the return of the Messiah, the resumption of the Caliphate, cataclysmic events and a war against the Dajjal— the Islamic version of the Anti-Christ.
Pray Rationality Trumps Fantasy
It bemuses me that people spend a life time studying scripture and reflect such unfamiliarity with it. Parables and similes are the language of scripture. Prophecy is well and good as long as its interpreted sensibly. Trouble begins when people get overly excited, speculative and wholly irrational transmitting their zeal into the echelons of power.
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), claimed to be the allegorical return of Jesus Christ. He claimed that the prophetic dispensation foretold for this era will unfold in a historically consistent manner— just as Jesus reasoned that John The Baptist had come in the spirit and likeness of Elijah (whose literal descent from heaven is insisted upon in Jewish doctrine). No one has ever literally descended from heaven, and no one probably ever will. Armageddon is probably a battle between good and evil — between spirituality and materialism — between hedonism and restraint — between knowledge and ignorance — and, between reason and superstition. Whoever you believe the return of Christ to be, it will dispense as it always has in the past— someone born of a woman, treated as a heretic, mocked at and persecuted for making sense.
Ahmad’s fifth Caliph and successor— Mirza Masroor Ahmad— is the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In 2012, His Holiness wrote letters to the leaders of Israel, USA, Iran and others imploring them to focus on the fast eroding sense of justice in relations between nations, for without justice there can be no peace. It is difficult to see how demolishing a mosque or erecting a temple will bring any peace.