Islam And Judaism On Armageddon: Fear Vs. Hope – OpEd


The Greek word Armageddon is a transliteration of the Hebrew har magiddô which means a mountain near Megiddo, a hilltop fortification built by King Ahab, that dominated the Plain of Jezreel. Har Magedon is the symbol of a battle in which, when the need is greatest and believers are most oppressed, God suddenly reveals His power to of His distressed people and their evil enemies are destroyed. 

However, “Armageddon Time,” is a finely tuned new film of the past, and a strikingly modern and a painful reminder of how little we have progressed, and how quickly people forget. Anthony Hopkins, Paul’s grandfather Aaron Rabinowitz, is the boy’s guardian angel and moral compass. They have a pure, sweet, supportive relationship that he can’t quite find with his mother, who has placed too many of her hopes on the success of her children, or his father, who still favors the fear lesson of corporal punishment. 

Aaron tells Paul the story of why his mother had to flee Europe, why we can’t forget the persecution of Jewish people, and why he needs to always “be a mensch” and stand up to things that he might think are small offenses, like hearing classmates make racist remarks.

But the title Armageddon is misleading because Armageddon is in our future, not in our past. Armageddon is a warning of humanity’s need to change to avoid Armageddon. Because more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year – the vast majority were adults – but the fastest growing group to die of overdoses were teenagers whose overdose deaths have never been higher.

Because temperatures in the Middle East have risen far faster than the world’s average in the past three decades. Precipitation has been decreasing, and experts predict droughts will come with greater frequency and severity. And major wildfires in Europe are starting earlier in the year, becoming more frequent, doing more damage and getting harder to stop. 

Because the summer of 2022 was the hottest in Europe’s recorded history, with the continent suffering blistering heatwaves and the worst drought in centuries.

Because the Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world, according to this year’s Arctic Report Card, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration because; when the sea ice, which is white, thins or disappears, allowing dark ocean or land surfaces to absorb more heat from the sun, it release that energy back into the atmosphere. 

Because climate change is a prime suspect in a mass die-off of Alaska’s snow crabs, experts say, after the state took the unprecedented step of canceling their harvest this season to save the species; which fell to about 1.9 billion in 2022, down from 11.7 billion in 2018, or a reduction of about 84% in less than 5 years..

And because in worldwide data from 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, the WWF Living Planet Index (2022) shows accelerating declines of 69% since 1970. In biodiversity-rich regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure for animal population loss is as high as 94%. The index found that freshwater species had declined more than those found in any other habitat, with an 83% population decline since 1970. 

In Africa, where 70% of livelihoods rely on nature in some form, the report showed a two-thirds fall in wildlife populations.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a powerful eschatological strain. It anticipates the end to the world as we know it; a final historical confrontation between good and evil (Armageddon); after which, with God’s help, human life will be rewarded and transformed. 

As the Qur’an states: “Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews, Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and do righteous good deeds, shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62 and 5:69) Notice that the Qur’an specifically stresses religious pluralism applies on God’s judgment day. 

A Pew Research Center poll found that in South and Southeast Asia 55-60% of all Muslims believe in the Madhi’s imminent return; and in the Middle East and North Africa 51% do.

A hadith says that Jesus, will return to a place east of Damascus and will join forces with the Islamic messiah, the Mahdi, in a battle against the false messiah, the one eyed Dajjal, Armilos in Jewish tradition. 

After the death of both the Dajjal and the Mahdi, the Muslim Messiah Jesus will rule the Earth. Most important, the Hadith say that these events will come to pass when Islam itself is threatened by its own corrupt fanatics. 

As ibn Babuya writes in Thawab ul-A’mal, “The Apostle of God said: `There will come a time for my people when there will remain nothing of the Qur’an except its outward form, and nothing of Islam except its name, and they will call themselves by this name even though they are the people furthest from it. 

“The mosques will be full of people but they will be empty of right guidance. The religious leaders (Fuqaha) of that day will be the most evil religious leaders under the heavens; sedition and dissension will go out from them and to them will it return.” 

This sounds, and indeed is, terrible. But, those who trust in God know that the night is coldest in the last hours before sunrise.

Secularists believe that these apocalyptic visions of a future (Armageddon) are absurd, although many secularists themselves fervently believe that run away genetic modification of food and/or extreme climate change is going to doom human civilization in future generations. 

The basic difference between the pessimistic, humanist secularists and the religious optimists is that those who believe in the God of Abraham also believe that God’s inspiration and guidance guarantees that the spiritual forces of good, will overcome all the world’s evils at the end of days; and justice, peace and religious pluralism will prevail. Or as Prophet Micah envisions it: (4:1-5)

“In the end of days the mountain of the Lord’s Temple will be established as the highest mountain;
it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many (not all) nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob. who will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.

“Torah will go out from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. God will judge between many (not all) peoples and will settle disputes among powerful nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughs, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.

“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig-tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. All the nations will walk in the name of their gods, and we (Jews) will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.”

Thus, the Bible and the Qur’an’s final judgement is the self-destruction of violent, hate filled, religion twisted terrorism and narrow ‘my way or death’ philosophy (Armageddon); and the victory of kindness, love, democracy and religious pluralism. 

The Qur’an refers to Prophet Abraham as a community or a nation: “Abraham was a nation/community [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (16:120) If Prophet Abraham is an Ummah then fighting between the descendants of Prophets Ishmael and Isaac is a civil war and should always be avoided.

If all Arabs and Jews can live up to the ideal that ‘the descendants of Abraham’s sons should never make war against each other’ 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)

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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