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Syria: Where are the Muslim Armies? Featured

Heavenly Armies ‘Can the Muslim armies not intervene?’ A rhetorical but burning question on Hizb ut-Tahrir website. Hizb – the party of liberation – is a transnational Islamist organisation. Banned in some Muslim countries but not in ‘infidel’ Britain, it agitates for a resurrected caliphate: a unified Islamic state spread over several Muslim nations, perhaps like the defunct, unmissed Ottoman Empire.

What do the Hizbies mean by Muslim armies? Armies composed of Muslims or armies fighting for Islam, i.e. jihad? Two things not at all identical. More cogently, which armies do they invoke? Turkey’s and Egypt’s, it turns out. Bizarre. Because, a) the Egyptian army has carried out a coup/purge against an Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and jailed its leaders. It sends out no signals that it wishes to invade Syria - quite the opposite.

As to b): the Turks are Muslims OK. Syria was once part of their empire. The Turkish army has a formidable array of modern weapons and high tech equipment. Further, Turks are a race of fighters, no doubt about their stamina and martial spirit. They could sort out wretched Assad very quickly. A wee problem: Turkey is part of NATO. A Western military alliance whose most powerful member is the US – not quite a Muslim state, yet. How could the Turkish phalanxes intervene in Syria without green light from America? And, if so, in what sense would Turkish troops be fighting qua Muslims, i.e. for Islam? As jihadi warrriors?

Sheikh Imran Hosein, an avuncular cove based in Kuala Lampur and one of my favourite Sunni ulama’, argues that the so-called jihad fought in Syria against Assad is Islamically invalid. His reason: it is funded, backed and armed by NATO and other Western nations. No such war could be termed an armed struggle ‘in the way of Allah’, the learned Sheikh contends.

As a poor Christian, I can’t legislate as to what constitutes jihad or not. A job for Muslim scholars. However, I observe that by Sheikh Imran’s lights the most triumphant of modern jihads would have been unlawful. Not valid at all. I mean the Afghanistan jihad, fought in the 80s by mujahedeen from all nations against godless Soviet invaders. Jihad massively supported by America. Had it not been for the weapons and aid provided by the Yankee kuffar - a nasty word, liberally used by Islamists to brand as dirty infidels over two thirds of the human race - the mujahedeen would have been exterminated. So, there.

Ironic, isn’t it? Taleban’s former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would never have existed, had it not been for America’s backing and arming. Similarly, Ghaddafi would still be lording it over Libya if Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy had not rained death from the sky to aid the warriors now tearing that nation apart. By contrast, jihads fought without Western assistance have collapsed. Consider Chechnya. America would not risk meddling into Putin’s backyard and so the proud Chechens were ferociously bombed into submission. An object lesson.

The Hizbies accuse the West of not wanting to topple Assad. They are wrong. Regime change is the real objective. Idiotic Cameron, Obumble and Hollande will not rest till that is accomplished. Ideology blinds the Hizbies. In reality, until Islamists craftily manoeuvre the dumb kuffar to fire off storms of cruise and tomahawk missiles into Damascus, Assad will soldier on. Jihad without Western firepower is hobbled. Fighters are fanatically determined, yes – they believe Heaven is their destination – but for earthly victory the hated infidels appear indispensable. Droll!

Still, Syria matters. Not purely a matter of geopolitics, as shallow analysts say, but as a matter of ouranology or heavenly politics. (The priest is on the side of Heaven, too.) Sheikh Imran indicates how. He is an eschatological thinker. Eschatology. Achir al-Zaman. The science of the end time. Within that sacred horizon Syria occupies a special place. And Damascus, Syria’s capital, is the key to the apocalyptic drama unfolding before your eyes.

In prophetic ahadith Syria is the launching pad for the assault on Byzantium, the Christian empire of Rum, the Eastern Romans. Muslim exegetes generally take as the fulfilment of that prophecy the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Turks. Sheikh Imran offers a fresh interpretation. That past event ‘had nothing to do with the prophecy’. Alternative scenario: an imminent NATO-Turkish attack on Syria, triggering off a Russian counter-attack. Russia, the spiritual successor to ancient Byzantium. Russia, whose capital, Moscow, became the Third Rome! And does not the Qur’an say that ‘The Romans have been defeated...but after this defeat they will be victorious’? In Surah Ar-Rum, the chapter of the Romans? (30:2-3) What is in the offing then is ‘the liberation of the city of Constantinople from NATO’s venomous control’, Shaikh Imran declares.

Fanciful? Certainly, original. It would be good to have Constantinople ‘liberated’. Erdogan’s regime is closely tied to Israel and America, hardly the best Islamic credentials. Anyway, I have lived there, young Turks like girl-friends too much. They are not going to swap them for the rigours of a stern, puritanical khilafa. That’s it.

Jean-Pierre Filiu notes that in scores of ahadith recorded in the authoritative Sahih Muslim, Syria is ‘the theatre of the struggle between Jesus and the Antichrist and the scene of the devastation of Gog and Magog’. Crucially, Jesus ‘will come down on the white minaret on the east side of Damascus’ and then terminate the Anti-Christ. Although this Islamic prophet radically differs from the Jesus Christians know and love, II Thessalonians oddly prefigures this clash. The Lord is shown slaying a mysterious Antichrist figure ‘with the breath of his mouth’ (2:8). A spiritual battle, surely.

In the Book of Revelation the Christian armies are led by the Archangel St Michael. The Christian battle is thus not against flesh and blood – not against any earthly armies – but essentially, as St Paul says, ‘against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’.

The best of armies and the best of battles.

Last modified on Thursday, 12 September 2013 07:54

Frank Gelli I am an Anglican priest and cultural critic and commentator. I have BA in Philosophy, MA in Christian Ethics, MA in Islamic Studies, PGCE in Religious Education and Oxford Certificate in Theology. I have been a journalist & drama critic in Italy and England.
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