ISIS: What's It All About?
Where did ISIS come from? What motivates it? What are its methods? What are its purposes? What will be its fate? What does the Bible have to say about it?
[read in Lamplighter (pdf)]
The mysterious group called ISIS seems to be dominating the news these days. It seemed to come out of nowhere and explode in growth overnight. Then, it began sweeping across the Middle East like a tidal wave.
Now it almost daily shocks the world with some new barbaric act. One day it's the beheading of a journalist, the next day it's the mass machine gunning of a group of Christians, and the next day they are burning people alive.
To answer the questions posed above, let's begin with some background information by taking a look at some fast facts about Islam.
1) Of the 7 billion people in the world today, 1.6 billion are Muslims, or 23% of the world's population.
By comparison, there are 2.2 billion Christians, or about 31% of the world's population.
What most people do not realize is that the vast majority of Muslims live outside the Middle East. The largest Muslim countries are:
- Indonesia - 209 million
- 2) India - 176 million
- 3) Pakistan - 167 million
- 4) Bangladesh - 133 million
- 5) Nigeria - 77 million
- 6) Egypt - 76 million
- 7) Iran - 73 million
There are 22 Arab nations in the Middle East and North Africa with a combined population of 422 million Muslims.
2) Islam began in the 6th Century in Saudi Arabia.
This is important to remember because Muslim leaders claim that Moses and Abraham were Muslims!
The religion originated with a man named Muhammad who started having seizures and visions. The words he spoke during these sessions were written down and collected into a book called the Quran. (Muhammad was illiterate.) The words in the Quran are considered to be from God.
At the time there were over 300 gods being worshiped in Mecca. Muhammad selected one of those gods — The Moon God, called Allah — and declared him to be the one and only true god. This is the reason the symbol of Islam is a crescent moon. Muhammad also declared that he was the prophet of Allah.
A second sacred book in Islam is called the Hadith. It is composed of thousands of sayings of Muhammad that were compiled by his wives, relatives and friends. There are various compilations, but the most respected contains nine volumes.
The teachings in the Hadith are considered as binding as those in the Quran — and it is full of bizarre sayings. For example:
- 1) Women are deficient in mind (2:541 and 3:826).
- 2) The majority of people in Hell are women (1:28, 301; 2:161; 7:124).
- 3) Women are a bad omen (7:30).
- 4) Drinking camel urine will make you healthy (7:590).
- 5) A fly in your drink can cure you of disease (4:537).
- 6) Fever comes from the heat of Hell (7:619).
- 7) If you speak badly about a deceased person, that person will go to Hell (2:448).
- 8) Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey or a woman if they pass in front of the praying person (9:490).
- 9) All dogs but black ones should be killed (4:540).
3) Islam is a religion of the sword.
Every nation where Islam is in the majority, the religion has been imposed by force and is maintained by force.
I have a friend named Mark Gabriel. He was born in Egypt and graduated from Al Jazeera University where he became a professor of Islamic history. He experienced a miraculous conversion and has become a Christian evangelist. I asked him one time to summarize Islamic history for me. His response: "The history of Islam is a river of blood."
Muslims believe they are compelled by the Quran to spread their religion worldwide by war, if necessary. Here are some of the relevant passages from the Quran:
Fighting is prescribed for you, and some of you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knows, and you know not (Sura 2:216).
Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war (Sura 9:5).
Fight in the way of Allah...and slay them [the unbelievers] wherever you find them and drive them out...and fight them until...religion is for Allah (Sura 2:190-193).
Muhammad is quoted in the Hadith as saying:
The sword is the key of heaven and hell. A drop of blood in the cause of Allah — a night spent in arms [war] — is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer. Whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven...(Sura 61:10-12).
4) Islam is totally intolerant of any other religion.
The very word, Islam, means "submission." The Quran commands intolerance toward all other religions:
Take not Jews and Christians for friends...He among you who takes them for friends is one of them...Choose not for friends such of those who received the Scripture before you [Jews and Christians] . . But keep your duty to Allah (Sura 5: 51, 55,57).
[For those who do not submit to Allah] their punishment is...execution or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet, from the opposite sides, or exile from the land (Sura 5:33).
The Quran also expresses an intolerant attitude toward any person who decides to reject the Islamic faith or convert to another religion.
Sura 9:12 commands that apostates are to be executed.
Hadith 9:57 says "Whoever changes his religion, kill him."
These commands are practiced in all Islamic Fundamentalist countries today.
Muslims in Western non-Muslim countries try to discount these commands by quoting verses from the Quran that sound very tolerant:
Sura 2:256: "There is no compulsion in religion."
Sura 5:82: "You will find that those who are nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] are those who say, 'We are Christians.'"
Yes, these verses sound wonderful, but what the Islam defenders do not tell you is that there is a rule for interpreting the Quran, called the "rule of abrogation," that says that later revelations to Muhammad overrule earlier revelations, if there is a conflict. They have to have this rule because there are a lot of contradictions in the Quran.
With regard to Jews and Christians, Muhammad's earliest revelations were all positive. He referred to them as "the people of the Book." He did this because he expected them to surrender their religions and join his. When they refused to do so, he received "new revelations" that demeaned them and ordered them to be killed if they did not submit. For example here are three of his later revelations:
- A command not to take Jews and Christians as friends (Sura 5:51).
- A command to fight against Jews and Christians until they either submit to Allah or agree to pay a special tax (Sura 9:29).
- A reference to Jews as "apes and swine to be despised and rejected" (Sura 2:65-66 and 5:60).
Of course the reality on the ground is more important than any denials by Western Muslims, for there is absolutely no religious freedom in any nation of the world that is ruled by Muslims.
5) Islam is divided into two major groups — the Sunnis and the Shias.
The split began in 632 AD when Muhammad died. Those who became Shias believed that a blood relative had to be Muhammad's successor. They wanted his cousin to succeed him.
The Sunnis did not think that was necessary, and they selected Muhammad's father-in-law.
The dispute intensified over the years, resulting in different religious practices, traditions and customs.
Today, 90% of Muslims are Sunnis. Only 10% are Shias. The main concentration of Shias is in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The animosity between the two groups is so great that it often manifests itself in acts of terrorism and wars directed at each other.
This is the reason for the great political instability in Iraq. The nation is 42% Sunni and 51% Shia, but Saddam Hussein was a Sunni, and his dictatorship greatly mistreated the Shia majority who now want revenge and who want to dominate the new government.
Incidentally, the inability of Middle East Muslims to get along with each other or anyone else is a fulfillment of a Bible prophecy. Speaking of the descendants of Ishmael, the Angel of the Lord proclaimed (Genesis 16:12):
He will be a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him.
6) Islam has twice before attempted to conquer the Christian West and still intends to do so.
In 710 AD the Islamic armies crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and quickly conquered three-fourths of Spain and Portugal. They then invaded France and took one-third of the nation. They were 125 miles from Paris when they were miraculously defeated at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD by a French army led by Charles Martel.
Their influence in Spain lived on for a few more centuries before they were slowly driven back to North Africa.
A second powerful attempt to subjugate all of Europe was made 900 years later in the 17th Century when the Turks began to expand their Ottoman Empire. They took Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and parts of Romania and Hungary.
By 1683 they had reached the gates of Vienna where once again the Western forces won a miraculous victory against overwhelming odds.
Following this second attempt to conquer Europe, Islam fell into a state of depression and stagnation until it was awakened in the 20th Century.
7) Islam experienced a revival in the 20th Century.
There were several factors that produced this resurgence:
- The amassing of great wealth — due to the discovery of vast reservoirs of oil in Arab lands.
- Their deliverance from colonialism.
- The re-establishment of the nation of Israel — interpreted by Islamic clerics like Khomeini as a judgment of Allah due to Islamic stagnation and apostasy.
- The positioning of U.S. Armed Forces — the placement during the 1990s of American troops throughout the Middle East in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
- The encroachment of Western culture into the Muslim world — due to the penetration of Western movies, television programs, and consumer goods.
- Satan's empowerment — as Satan is making one last effort to thwart God's end time plans.
The Origin of ISIS
Now, with this brief background of fast facts about Islam, let's take a look at ISIS, and let's begin with its origin.
ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group that has transformed rapidly into a full-fledged army.
The group was founded by a man named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There is little known for certain about him. He was born in 1971, making him 44 years old. He is believed to have a doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of Baghdad.
He was arrested by U.S. forces in 2004 during the Second Gulf War that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. At that time he was a member of a terrorist group. He was not considered important, and so he was soon released. It has been reported that when he was released, he told his captors, "I will see you in New York City."1
Al-Baghdadi became the leader of an Al-Qaeda related group called ISI — The Islamic State of Iraq. He launched terrorist attacks across Iraq, trying to consolidate power. One of his goals was to prevent the Shia majority in Iraq from taking over the government.
In 2013 he ventured into Syria and changed the name of his organization to ISIS, meaning The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He later changed it again to ISIL — standing for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (the Levant being the French word for the Middle East).
In 2014 he forcibly took over Al-Qaeda's operations in Syria, and Al-Qaeda disavowed him. In June of that same year, he declared the establishment of The Islamic State (IS), which he described as the beginning of a worldwide caliphate, or Muslim Empire.
This announcement electrified the Muslim world. The last Islamic caliphate was the Ottoman Empire that was formed in 1299 and lasted until it was dissolved in 1923. Ever since al- Baghdadi's declaration of the establishment of a caliphate, fighters have been streaming into Syria and Iraq from all over the world, with the hope of helping to expand the territory of the Islamic State to include all the Middle East.
The Motivation of ISIS
Let's consider for a moment what motivates ISIS. In February of 2015, a State Department spokesperson named Marie Harf proclaimed that those joining ISIS are poverty-stricken persons in need of jobs!2
Now, this woman is no dummy. She has a Master's degree in international politics and is a former analyst for the CIA. I have to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was just delivering the official line of the Obama Administration.
This perverse idea that ISIS is driven by a need for jobs is pure baloney. As one of my staff members observed, "I haven't seen one terrorist yet yelling, 'Jobs! Jobs!' Rather, they all seem to be yelling the same thing: 'Allahu Akbar!' meaning 'Allah is the greatest!'"
The real motivation, of course, is religion. And specifically, it is the commands of the Quran to fight non-Muslims until they exterminate all other religions, leaving Islam as the one and only religion in the world. (Suras 2:193 and 8:39)
Muhammad is quoted in the Hadith as saying:
I have been ordered to fight with the people until they say, "None has the right to be worshiped but Allah" (Hadith 4:196).
The Methods of ISIS
In addition to military force, ISIS is utilizing techniques of terror to advance its cause, and this is in accordance with the Quran's commands for Muslims to terrorize non-Muslims:
Strike terror [into the hearts of] the enemies of Allah and your enemies (Sura 8:60).
Allah then assures his followers that he will assist them:
I will instill terror into the hearts of unbelievers. Smite them above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them. It is not you who slay them, it is Allah (Sura 8:12,17).
Concerning Jihad, or holy war, the Quran guarantees Paradise to those who fight for Allah. (Sura 4:74) And dying for Allah is presented as better than living:
And if you are killed or die in the Way of Allah, forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far better than all that others may amass [of worldly wealth] (Sura 3:157).
Martyrs are promised a sensual and luxurious life in Paradise (Sura 52:17-22). In short, the Muslim Paradise is pictured in the Islamic Scriptures as one of eternal decadence.
Purposes of ISIS
There are three very specific purposes of ISIS that have been clearly defined:
1) To overthrow the "secular" rulers of Islamic countries (like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria and Egypt).
2) To take back the land of Palestine for Allah, exterminating Israel in the process.
3) To conquer the rest of the world for Allah.
It is important to note that the eradication of Israel is not the top priority. Nor is Israel viewed as the major obstacle to world conquest. I emphasize this because many Americans are saying that the key to winning the war against terrorism is "to dump Israel." More and more, on radio talk shows, I hear people saying, "Let's cut Israel loose. Let the Arabs have it. Then they will leave us alone."
That is utter nonsense. Israel is not the cause of Islamic terrorism toward the West. If Israel were to disappear tomorrow, Fundamentalist Islam would still be determined to destroy America as part of its plan to take the world for Allah.
And if we were to abandon Israel, the Muslim world would interpret it as an act of cowardice, proving our word is meaningless and that we truly are, as they say, "a depraved society devoid of values."
Our abandonment of Israel would only whet their appetite. Islamic Fundamentalism cannot be appeased. It must be defeated.
Regarding the ultimate goal of ISIS, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has perhaps summed it up best when he said, "The Nazis wanted to establish the Master Race. ISIS wants to establish the Master Faith."
The Fate of ISIS
Let's turn our attention to the ultimate question: Will ISIS prevail? This is something I can speak about with great confidence because the answer is clearly revealed in the Bible.
Psalm 83 indicates that Israel will be attacked in the end times by a coalition of Muslim states that share a common border with the Jewish state. The Psalm declares that their purpose will be "to wipe out Israel as a nation" (Psalm 83:4).
The nations involved in this coalition will be Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Gaza.
And although the Psalm does not reveal the outcome of the attack, other Scripture passages do. For example, Zechariah 12:6 says that in the end times Israel will be like "a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples." Continuing in that same chapter, Zechariah further declares:
8) In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them.
9) And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
It is this war that could easily lead to the complete destruction of Damascus that is prophesied in Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49.
This great defeat will likely prompt the Muslims to turn to their natural ally, Russia, and Russia will come to their aid with a great coalition of Muslim states located on the outer rim of Israel. This war, called the Battle of Gog and Magog, is described in detail in Ezekiel 38 & 39.
The Bible makes it clear that this coalition will be annihilated by God on the hills of Israel. Here's how it reads in Ezekiel 38:18-23 —
18) "It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel," declares the Lord God, "that My fury will mount up in My anger.
19) "In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel...
20) "...and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence...
21) "I will call for a sword against him [Gog and his allies] on all My mountains," declares the Lord God. "Every man's sword will be against his brother.
22) "With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone.
23) "I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord."
So, the Muslim armies of the Middle East are destined for overwhelming defeat.
Franklin Graham affirmed this analysis in a recent statement in which he said, "The evil of ISIS shouldn't shock us — it is fully in keeping with their ultimate agenda of hastening a final apocalypse."
He added: "God's Word tells us that there will be a final battle one day, but it will result in the defeat of Satan and all those allied with him." He concluded with this observation: "One thing is for sure — one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
In that regard, I am reminded of a presentation made last year by a colleague of mine, Al Gist, at a prophecy conference in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
He was speaking about ISIS, and he said that while he was doing his research on the topic, he shared with his wife how the organization had changed its name several times over the years from ISI to ISIS to ISIL and now to simply IS, standing for Islamic State.
Al said his wife, Sandy, thought about it for a moment, and then said, "I don't know much about all this, but I can guarantee you one thing: "The Great I AM is going to convert IS to WAS!"
- Islam is not a religion of peace. It never has been and it never will be.
- We are involved in a World War against Islam, and we need to face up to it.
- Our war is not against terror. That's like saying World War II was a war against U-Boats and Kamikaze planes. No! It was against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
- Our war is not against "Fundamentalists who have hijacked a peaceful religion." That is nonsense. The Fundamentalists are simply doing what the Quran commands them to do.
- Islam at heart is a religion of intolerance and violence. Consider this incredible sign displayed by a Muslim at a rally in London:
That's why President Obama's comment at the recent prayer breakfast was so outlandish. He said:
Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique [ISIS barbarity] to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.
That ridiculous statement ignores the fact that the Quran commands conquest, war, terror and murder, whereas the New Testament commands Christians to love their enemies and pray for them.
We live in perilous times, but we need not despair for the Bible clearly proclaims that "We will win in the end!" And that will occur when Jesus returns in majesty, power and glory to reign from Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
In the meantime, as we await the Lord's return, don't allow anyone to try to deceive you into thinking that:
- Islam is a religion of peace.
- Muslims believe in the Jesus of the Bible.
- Allah is the same God that Christians worship.
- Islam and Christianity can be compatible.
These are lies I hear daily, and they are straight from the pit of Hell.
As you look to the future, keep your eyes on Jesus, stay in His Word and trust in His promises. He will be there with you, constantly encouraging you and sustaining you.
And when you get up each morning, look to the sky, and cry out in your heart, "MARANATHA, MARANATHA, Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"
1) Mark Ellis, "Head of ISIS - "the new bin Laden" - was held by U.S. for four years and released," Godreports, June 13, 2014, http://blog.godreports.com.
2) Ian Hanchett, "Harf: 'We can't kill our way' out of war against ISIS," www.breitbart.com.