Can Ramadan, Mahdi And Messiah Redeem Humanity? – OpEd


Ramadan this year starts at sunset March 10. A Hadith declares that the month of Ramadan was when the three Abrahamic Religions received their Books of Revelation. This Hadith, cited by ibn Kathir in elucidating Qur’an 2:185; states that Ramadan is a very special month because this one month in the Islamic lunar calendar was the same month when four of God’s books of revelations were sent down to four special Messenger Prophets: Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. 

Ibn Kathir states: Imam Ahmad reported Wathilah bin Al-Asqa` said that Allah’s Messenger said: “The Suhuf (Pages) of Ibrahim were revealed during the first night of Ramadan. The Torah was revealed during the sixth night of Ramadan. The Injil was revealed during the thirteenth night of Ramadan and Allah revealed the Qur’an on the twenty-fourth night of Ramadan.” (Ahmad 4:107 and Musnad 177025). 

So Ramadan’s revelation roots should stimulate Imams, Rabbis, Priests and Ministers to include in their sermons during Ramadan some positive thoughts that offer insight into each other’s Sacred Scriptures.

And Ramadan this year should remind Jews and Muslims about the challenges facing our world.  Both Judaism and Islam teach their followers to take care of the earth. Muslims and Jews also believe that humans should act as guardians and trustees (stewardship and khalifah) off our planet, and that they will be held accountable by God for their actions.

Last month was the world’s warmest February in modern times, the EU’s climate service says, extending the run of monthly records to nine in a row. Each month since June 2023 has seen new temperature highs for the time of year.

The world’s sea surface is at its hottest on record, while Antarctic sea-ice has again reached extreme lows. Temperatures are still being boosted by the Pacific’s El Niño weather event, but human-caused climate change is by far the main driver of the warmth. “Heat-trapping greenhouse gases are unequivocally the main culprit,” stresses Prof Celeste Saulo, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization.

Carbon dioxide concentrations are at their highest level for at least two million years, according to the UN’s climate body, and increased by near-record levels again over the past year. Those warming gases helped make February 2024 about 1.77C warmer than “pre-industrial” times – before humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels – according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

More than 90% of the world’s population is projected to face increased risks from the compound impacts of extreme heat and drought, potentially widening social inequalities as well as undermining the natural world’s ability to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere—according to a study from Oxford’s School of Geography.

Warming is projected to intensify these hazards ten-fold globally under the highest emission pathway, says the report, published in Nature Sustainability. In the wake of record temperatures in 2022, from London to Shanghai, continuing rising temperatures are projected around the world. And Antarctic sea ice shrunk to a record low at the end of February 2023 in the 45 years of satellite record-keeping. That exceeded the previous record low set in 2022

An international team of researchers has found that approximately 90% of all marine life on Earth will be at risk of extinction by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.

High-severity wildfire is increasing in Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascade forests and has been burning at unprecedented rates compared to the years before Euro-American settlement, says a study from the Safford Lab at the University of California, Davis. High-severity burns are those where more than 95% of aboveground tree biomass is killed by fire.

If humans will not reduce man made carbon magnification, not even the coming of Mahdi and Messiah may be able to overcome human unwillingness to reverse human pollution. God demands that humans fulfill their God given responsibilities.

The word Armageddon does not appear in the Hebrew Bible, and appears only once in the Greek New Testament, in Revelation 16:16 which makes no mention of armies being predicted to one day gather on or near Mount Megiddo in North Israel; but instead seems to predict only that “they (will gather) the kings together to … Armageddon”. 

The text does however seem to imply, based on the text from the earlier passage of Revelation 16:14, that the purpose of this gathering of kings in the “place called Armageddon” is “for the war of the great day of God” which is the ongoing battle against Global Warming.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam teach their followers to take care of the earth. Christians, Muslims and Jews also believe that humans should act as guardians and trustees (stewardship and khalifah) for our planet, and that they will be held accountable by God for their actions both good and bad.

The incidence of adult diabetes in the United States has doubled over the last 20 years, afflicting 37.3 million people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The total economic losses caused by natural disasters hit an estimated $72 billion in the first half of 2022, fueled by storms and floods, Swiss reinsurance giant Swiss Re estimated. And according to a 2020 Oxfam report, the richest 10% of the global population produce half of the Earth’s fossil-fuel emissions, while the poorest half contribute a mere 10%.

And for the first time in two decades, there are now more closed autocracies than liberal democracies in the world according to the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem Institute) at the University of Gothenburg. The democratic decline has taken place globally, and an increasing number of people are living in closed autocracies. 

The level of democracy enjoyed by the average world citizen in 2022 is back to 1986 levels. This means that 72 percent of the world’s population, 5.7 billion people, now live under authoritarian rule. Liberal democracies do not automatically overcome autocracies. Democracies must be supported and defended. 

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a powerful eschatological strand. Islam anticipates the end to the world as we know it, a final historical confrontation between the forces of good and evil; after which human life will be transformed in a positive way.

Many Islamic traditions (Ahadith) say that Prophet Jesus, will return and will join forces with the Islamic messiah, the Mahdi, in a battle against a false messiah, the cruel one eyed Dajjal, called Armilos in Jewish tradition. Now would be a good time for one or more Messianic figures to get to work.

As a Reform Rabbi who believes that the world wide upheavals we see are part of the birth pains of the Messianic Age, I offer Christians and Muslims some positive insights from the Jewish Prophets and the Rabbinic Sages.

Many millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims believe the wars of Gog and Magog (Gog u-Magog in Hebrew and “Yajuj and Majuj” in Arabic) which started in the 18th to 20th centuries will come to an end in the 21st century. 

It is true that human society changed more rapidly, violently and fundamentally in the last 250 years than ever before in history. Doctors saved the lives of millions. Dictators sacrificed the lives of millions. Populations are exploding in Africa and populations are declining in Europe. Technology produces both worldwide prosperity and worldwide pollution at the same time.  

Should we look upon the future with optimistic hope or with fatalistic trepidation? Is the world and our society heading towards a wonder-filled new age, or toward a doomsday? Or are both occurring almost concurrently because breakdown is always a prelude to breakthrough?

Jews, whose Biblical prophets were the ones who first wrote about a future Messianic Age, recognize that the birth of a Messianic Age must be preceded by its birth-pangs. But the prophets of Israel also emphasize the glories of a future world living in peace and prosperity with justice for all. 

Ancient Jewish prophecies did proclaim that there would be an end to the world as we know it. But they did not prophesy that the world will come to an end, nor did the Prophets of Israel offer an exact date for the transition. 

The exact advent of the Messianic Age is not knowable because humans have free will and thus the exact time and manner of redemption cannot be determined in advance. Much depends on what we humans do. 

The beginning of the Messianic Age is a time of transition from one World Age into another. How we move through this transition, either with resistance or acceptance, will determine whether the transformation will happen through cataclysmic changes or by a gradual reform of human society; which will lead to a world filled with peace, prosperity and spiritual tranquility.  

The Prophets of Israel conceived redemption as a transformation of human society that would occur through the catalyst of the Jewish community. This transformation, which will take place in this world at some future time, is called the Messianic Age. 

The transition to the Messianic Age is called the birth pangs of the Messiah. The birth of a redeemed Messianic world may be the result of an easy or difficult labor.  If everyone would simply live according to the moral teachings of his or her religious tradition, we would ourselves have helped bring about the Messianic Age.  

But, if we do not do it voluntarily, it will come about through social and political upheavals, worldwide conflicts and generation gaps and most obvious of all climate change which will affect both nature and the economy-society. The Messiah (Mahdi) refers to one or more human agents of God who help bring about a non-destruction positive transformation.  

The Jewish tradition teaches that this agent of God (together with several forerunners and many disciples) will be a human being, a descendant of Prophets Abraham and David, with great qualities of national leadership similar to Prophet Moses and Prophet Mohammed. 

The arrival of the Messianic Age is what’s really important, not the personality of the agents who bring it about, since they are simply the instruments of God, who ultimately is the real Redeemer. 

The Islamic 1400s we are now living in, is the age of the coming of Hazrat Mahdi. Prophet Jesus  will also return to Earth in this century. As Prophet Micah states: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; and exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.

“The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD GOD has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we (Jews, Christians and Muslims) will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Prophet Micah 4:1-5) 

One of the signs of the End of Days is the arrival and defeat of Gog and Magog (Ya’juj and Ma’juj or Ajuj and Majuj). Gog and Magog appear in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and the Islamic Quran as individuals, tribes, countries and catastrophic acts of nature.

The Quran mentions Gog and Magog twice: “He said: “This (barrier) is a mercy from my Lord: but when the warning of my Lord comes to pass, He will reduce it to dust (and Gog and Magog—the Colonialist Empires, the Nazis, and the Communists would be released into the world); and the promise of my Lord is true.” (18:98)  So Gog and Magog are destructive groups like the Colonialist Empires, the Nazis, and the Communists, who near the end of days will penetrate into every part of the world.

The other mention of Gog and Magog in the Quran is: “But there is a ban on a town which We have destroyed: that they (the people of the town) shall not return (to reclaim that town as their own); until Gog and Magog are let through (the barrier), and swiftly spread out in every direction.” (21:95-96) 

This verse refers to Jerusalem, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and only reclaimed 18 centuries later as Israel’s capital, following the era of the defeat of the Nazis, the Communists, and the Colonialist Empires, who had been Gog and Magog for generations.

Thus, humanity has so far passed through the most devastating era of human history. However,  we have not yet reached the goal of the Messianic Age when “They (all nations) will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD GOD has spoken.” (Prophet Micah 4:2-4)

This era will come about when Israelis and Palestinians make a long lasting two state partnership of peace; thus fulfilling the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. On that day Israel will join a three-party  alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”… (Isaiah 19:23-5)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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