Keep doomsday religion out of the Syrian conflict

RNS () — As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons at the outskirts of Damascus and President Obama mulls … Continued

RNS () — As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons at the outskirts of Damascus and President Obama mulls a U.S. military response, some theologians hope for an alarming endgame to the 30-month-long Syrian conflict.

For these Christians and Muslim, the civil war in Syria heralds nothing less than the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Before you label the premise as a conspiracy theory, consider that there are a number of Muslim videos and several Christian websites — not to mention conservative talk radio shows — all making promoting versions of this unfortunate connection. And that’s wrong.

The Judeo-Christian and Muslim texts mention Damascus as an important landmark in the geography of the Second Coming. To some Christian and Muslim scholars it was only a matter of time before the conflict would reach Damascus. So keen are they to share their analysis that the moment you say, “Damascus,” they say, “Ask us!”

Ask my Christian friends and they quote Isaiah 17:1: “Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins.” Note the language. It does not talk about destruction. It suggests annihilation after which Damascus will cease to exist as a city.

Isaiah 17 then ends with a vision of Armageddon, which brings Jesus Christ on the scene. Jeremiah 49 and Zechariah 9 make similar violent references regarding the fate of Damascus.

Ask my Muslim friends and they quote Chapter 4 verse 159 of the Quran which indicates the Second Coming of Jesus. Prophet Muhammad prophesized “Allah would send Christ, son of Mary, and he will descend with the white minaret, east of Damascus, wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels,” thus directly linking Damascus with the Second Coming. Surprised?

While a majority of Muslims and Christians agree with the idea of a physical Second Coming of Jesus, they disagree on his job description and the exact sequence of events.

The Christian version requires Damascus to be annihilated before Jesus could return to establish the glory of Lord on Earth. The Muslim version requires it to be a flourishing city with enough infrastructure for Jesus to land on the minaret, lead prayers, gather people and then break the cross and kill the swine. The Christian version promises destruction first; peace later. The Muslim version promises peace first; destruction later.

Keeping these theological differences private was possible in the pre-social media world. But today, pulpits are selling doomsday scenarios and pundits are amplifying them in the blogosphere, generating a lasting visceral reaction.

Ask the Judeo-Christian world: have they forgotten Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment about erasing Israel from the face of the Earth? Ask the Muslim world: have they forgotten George W. Bush’s post 9/11 declaration of the war on terror being a “crusade.” Who’s to say that political decisions are immune from such eschatological yearnings? As the war engulfs Damascus, one wonders if our actions or inactions are partly motivated by religious beliefs.

At this critical juncture, where some religious leaders have issued an all-out warning of World War III, quoting the Bible to support the “annihilation of Damascus” is like poking at an inflamed appendix; don’t manage it promptly and it may rupture, triggering a much larger regional war.

I respect all religious texts. The idea is not to reject them but to reinterpret them. There’s got to be a more believable way to understand these quotes.

Christians should analyze Isaiah 17 in ways that spare one of the oldest cities in the world and its 2 million inhabitants. And Muslims should at least conjure the scientific challenges associated with the idea of Jesus physically descending on a minaret in Damascus in a world of drone surveillance.

Instead of praying for the annihilation of the Arab cultural center, why not try saying: we will not tolerate these human rights abuses. Instead of trying to “assist God” with our inaction, why not say that we are willing to help you in any way possible. Just ask us, Damascus.

(Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and the founder of Muslimerican.com. He is a frequent lecturer about Islam and winner of the Presidential Service Award and the founder of Muslimerican.com. Follow him on Twitter (at)FaheemYounus)

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

About

Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland. He is the founder of Muslimerican.com. He can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @FaheemYounus
  • tony55398

    They want our help in the form of guns and bullets, to kill the infidels, Sunni, Shiite, Jew or American, depending on whom they hate the most.

  • 3vandrum

    “I respect all religious texts. The idea is not to reject them but to reinterpret them”

    Why are we wasting our time in reinterpreting all these outdated scriptures? How would we get it correctly this time. These are all interesting mythologies to read.

    I am happy to see that both Muslims and Christians agree on the Second Coming of Jesus, only thing they disagree is the job descriptions of Jesus and the exact sequence of events. I am surprised then, why Christians and Muslims are fighting all over the world?

    It looks like 21st century will be a century of religious wars, this is in spite of scientific advancement.

    Science education has not done anything in getting rid all these madness. Very sad. state of affairs.

  • akaDarya

    With all due respect to the writer of the above article … The Quran reference that you mention here from 4: 159 states ” And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness. ”

    There is no talk of white minaret and the rest of stuff that you mentioned directly below it . As a muslim I should say that the fight in Syria ia anything but religion related . It is all politics ! Petrodollars and Banksters are at it again , fishing from muddy water that they have generated in Syria . If Jesus was alive he would once again fight with the money changers ! If Moses was alive today he would once again throw the ten commands on the head of the golden cow worshipers … wake up and see the root of evils .. Thank you : )

Read More Articles

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

shutterstock_186686495
The End of Surveillance for New York Muslims — For Now

How American Muslims modeled the right response to systematic injustice.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.