Inman Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, the head of the Muslim World League, spoke of the Muslim obligation to bring hearts together during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Known for visiting Auschwitz and for his involvement in interfaith dialogue, he gave the main sermon at the height of the annual Hajj pilgrimage after being chosen earlier in the week for the role by Saudi Arabia’s de factor ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Even more amazing the once-unthinkable coordination between Israeli and Arab militaries will be in the spotlight when US President Joe Biden arrives in the Middle East. Israeli-Arab security overtures have multiplied since the 2020 Abraham Accords negotiated under President Trump’s administration, normalized relations between Israel and four Arab League nations.
Encouraging Arab nations to strengthen security ties and overall relations with Israel is one of the aims of Biden’s travels to Israel and Saudi Arabia next week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation last month that would direct the Pentagon to shape a joint air defense system for Israel and Arab nations against Iranian ballistic missiles and drones.
Gulf Arab states allied to the U.S. have been wary of Iran’s support of militias and proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. While lacking American-made sophisticated weaponry, Iran has an unmatched arsenal of ballistic missiles, drones and other arms.
The U.S. hopes the coordination will mean that regional actors will take more responsibility for their own security, allowing the U.S. to ease its decades-long safeguarding of Arab oilfields and turn more attention to Russia and China.
Of course, our generation also saw that in Syria at least 350,209 identified individuals, civilians and combatants, were killed in the decade between March 2011 and March 2021, according to the UN, but a leading unofficial UK-based monitoring group put the death toll at 606,000+.
So are we headed toward more peace or more war?
It is true that various Christian sects have predicted the end of the world throughout the tumultuous 22 decades of the 19th-21st century; and in recent decades many Muslims have started believing that the Bible’s and the Quran’s war of Gog u-Magog in Hebrew, and “Yajuj and Majuj” in Arabic, will blow up in the 21st century.
As two Hadith Islamic traditions state “Among the signs of the Hour are that knowledge will be taken away, ignorance will be widespread, and wine-drinking will be widespread.” [Bukhari]. And “The Hour will not come until a man passes by a [another] man’s grave and says: Would that I was in his place.” [Bukhari].
Yajuj and Majuj are mentioned both in Qur’an and hadith. In Islam their appearance will be one of the signs of the end times. These events will transpire after the arrival of Dajjal, Mehdi and Jesus. Gog and Magog (“Gog u-Magog” in Hebrew and “Yajuj and Majuj” in Arabic) are names that appear in the Hebrew Bible, and in the Qur’an.
They are sometimes personified as individuals, and sometimes identified as nations or as geographic regions: but all references in Bible, Qur’an and Hadith (oral and then written tradition) clearly indicate that they are very numerous in number, and will appear from the north toward the end of times, before the Day of Judgement:
“They said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, indeed Gog and Magog are [great] corrupters in the land. So may we assign for you an expenditure that you might make a barrier between us and them?” (Qur’an 18:94) —[Dhul-Qarnayn] said, “This is a mercy from my Lord; but when the promise of my Lord comes, He will make it level, and ever true is the promise of my Lord. And We will leave them that day surging over each other, and [when] the Horn will be blown, We will assemble them in [one] assembly.” (Qur’an 18:98-99)
A Hadith transmitted by both Imam Al- Bukhari and Imam Muslim, on the authority of Zainab Bint Jahsh relates that Prophet Muhammad once came to her in a state of fear and said: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah. Woe unto the Arabs from a danger that has come near. An opening has been made in the wall of Gog and Magog like this,” making a circle with his thumb and index finger. Zainab Bint Jahsh said: “O Allah’s Messenger! Shall we be destroyed even though there are pious persons among us?” He said: “Yes, when evil persons greatly increase.”
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 often a prelude to breakthrough?
Jews, whose prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures 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 advent of the Messianic Age is not knowable because humans have free will and thus the exact time and manner of God’s redemption cannot be determined in advance. Much depends on what we humans do.
The beginning of the Messianic Age marks God’s promise of 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 religious reform of human society; which will lead to a world filled with peace, prosperity and spiritual tranquility.
In most religious traditions, redemption is defined in terms of individual enlightenment or personal salvation. However, the Prophets of Israel presented redemption as a transformation of human society that would occur through the catalyst of the transformation 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 will not do it voluntarily, it will come anyway through social and political upheavals, worldwide military conflicts and generation gaps. The Messiah refers to an agent of God who helps bring about this 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 Prophet 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 Messianic Age is usually seen as the solution to all of humanity’s basic problems. This may be true in the long run but the vast changes the transition to the Messianic Age entails will provide challenges to society for many generations to come.
For example, 2700 years ago the Prophet Isaiah predicted that someday there would be a radically new world in which Jerusalem would be fulfilled with joy for “no more shall there be in it an infant that lives only a few days.” (Isaiah 65:20)
Before the mid 19th century almost 1/3 of children born in any year died before their first birthday; in some subgroups, half died. Because childbirth was very hazardous, mortality among pregnant women was also very high.
A century ago, the infant mortality rate in Jerusalem (as in most of the world) was 25-30%. Now it is less than 1%. For thousands of years almost every family in the world suffered the loss of at least one infant; now it happens to less than one out of two hundred.
The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy has thus gone un-noticed and uncelebrated. But even when the events are rapid and dramatic, people rarely connect them to their Messianic significance for very long. The amazing rescue of 14,235 Ethiopian Jews in a 1991 airlift to Israel, lasting less than 40 hours, stirred and inspired people for a few weeks.
Subsequently, the difficult problems the newcomers faced (similar to those of the 900,000 Soviet immigrants) occupied the Jewish media. Now both are taken for granted. The miracle has become routine. But if you had told the Jews of Ethiopia two generations ago that they would someday all fly to Israel in a giant silver bird, they could only conceive of this as a Messianic miracle.
If you had told Soviet Jews a generation ago that the Communist regime would collapse, the Soviet Empire disintegrate, and hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews would emigrate to Israel, they would have conceived it only as a Messianic dream.
In our own generation therefore we have seen the dramatic fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “I will bring your offspring from the (Middle) East and gather you from the (European) West. To the North (Russia) I will say ‘give them up’ and to the South (Ethiopia) ‘do not hold them’. Bring my sons from far away, my daughters from the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:5-6)
Also taken for granted are the Abraham Accords signed on September 15, 2020. The Abraham Accords Declared: “We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom.
We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity..”
UAE diplomat Anwar Gargash said: “This is a positive counter-narrative for a region that needs positive counter-narratives.” He also said that the Abraham Accords would help efforts toward “the ultimate goal of a two-state solution” which most non-Orthodox Jews support.
If we can live up to the ideal that religious hope for a peaceful future is the will of God, we can help fulfill 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. In 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)