The fighting in Syria is not as simple as a schismatic civil war. And there is more to the religiosity of the conflict than just Sunni vs. Shia. Theologists and other influencers, including U.S. lawmakers, see the coming "end of days" prophesies via religious texts, visions of the Apocalypse, and other theories that they claim support the notion of our living in a time when the curtain falls for good.
1. Isaiah 17
This message came to me concerning Damascus: 'Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end. The few left in Aram will share the fate of Israel's departed glory,' says the Lord Almighty Isaiah
The Bible warns a series of horrible events will take place in Israel and Syria. Central to this vision of the apocalypse is the destruction of Damascus as one of the finest cities in the world.
Joel Rosenberg is a Christian author, an expert on Christian "end times" discussions. He told MotherJones unidentified members of the U.S. Congress called him to Washington to consult on the biblical end of days. Yes. Congress is concerned about the End of Days, as if they could just pass the "No to End of Days" Act and go on with life. Other legislators interested in this verse include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Representative Louie Gohmert.
Hal Lindsey is an influential evangelist, something that should be an oxymoron but isn't, who believes the Russians will lead a "Gog-Magog Alliance" foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, which means this bit is in the Torah, the Bible, and Koran as well. Gog and Magog could be individuals, a person and his homeland, or basically whatever suits the theory you're peddling. In Revelations, Gog and Magog join Satan in the final battle.
Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle.
Guess who a lot of people think Gog may be.
2. Islam's 'Grand Battle'
Many fighters in Syria (on all sides) believe was a large battle was foretold 1,400 years ago in the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and anecdotes about things he said and did from his closest followers.
The "No sh*t, there I was" collection of Islamic religious stories.
Some Sunni jihadis and other militias aren't really even there to fight Asad. They're there for a Grand Battle the prophet talked about in the 7th century CE. According to Muhammed, two huge Islamic armies are destined to meet near Damascus, coming from the North and West of the area. Fighters are pouring in to various sides from all over the world because Mohammed promised this would happen. The goal is to establish an Islamic state.
In the hadith, Mohammed also said Syria is God's favored land and if not Syria, the faithful should go to Yemen, which is also not the first place anyone would associate with the phrase "God's favored land," as it is currently experiencing a civil war exacerbated by external aggression. Bringing the U.S. and NATO (especially Turkey) to Syria made some believe the U.S. aggression was deliberately planned by you-know-who to bring about the Grand Battle.
3. The Return of the Mahdi
What sounds like the worst Star Wars movie ever (or a new hymn by Mark Morrison) is actually also prediction mentioned in hadith. Shia Muslims believe the Syrian war is paving the way for the Imam Mahdi, a descendant of Mohammed's who disappeared a thousand years ago but is going to resurface to re-establish Islamic rule during a time of war, shortly before the end of the world. To them, the Islamic state foretold by the hadith was established during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Syrian Civil War is the war in question.
The hadith says fighters with yellow flags (see Hezbollah) join to fight anti-Shi'ites (read: Sunnis) in Damascus as a prelude to the coming of the Mahdi. Fighters believe if they are killed during the war, they will be reborn when the Mahdi comes, so they can join his army. This also works for Christians, because the return of the Mahdi coincides with second coming of Jesus. Christian religious scholars in the U.S. believe a document labeled the "Arak Codex #190001" in a museum in Tehran, says the Imam is already here, and it contains a description of the Mahdi. Guess who he supposedly looks like.
4. Nostradamus predicted ISIS
Believers in the 16th century French prophet Nostradamus believe he wrote poems which predicted the future, and he was eerily accurate about events even 500 years later. They believe he predicted Napoleon and Hitler, who were two of three "antichrists" whose rise foretold the end of the world.
500 years ago, Nostradamus wrote:
He will enter wicked, unpleasant, infamous,
Tyrannizing over Mesopotamia:
All friends made by the adulterous lady,
Land dreadful and black of aspect.
In the original French, it rhymed. Just saying. Anyway, adherents to Nostradamus translate this passage to mean ISIS' rise to prominence in Iraq and Syria, the black referring to ISIS' uniforms and flags. There's also a bunch of math involved which makes Common Core look reasonable. But who knows, there are so many tyrants to choose from in the Middle East, especially in recent history, "He" could be anyone. The adulterous lady could mean any coalition or Syria itself, no matter who might be in charge there. The verses devolve into a description of World War III, endless war, and the end of the world. More racist looks at the writings of Nostradamus predict the end of the world will be brought by someone special...
5. The Book of Revelation
Shortly before Russia intervened in Syria, there was a very large blood moon, visible in most of the world. John of Patmos (aka"The Revelator," aka "the Greek" aka "Bad Host from Patmos." [I made the last two up]) wrote in the Book of Revelation that the blood moon would appear when the sixth of seven seals are opened and then some bowls are poured, some trumpets sound, a bunch of other stuff happens. This theory doesn't really jive with Isaiah 17, because this is where Gog and Magog gather everyone from the four corners for battle at the holy city... after a thousand years. So, unless the bowls and trumpets and the seals did this 1,000 years ago, we don't have to worry about Gog and Magog.
Still others believe John foretold of a 200 million-man army. Since the entire world's number of active duty uniformed personnel add up to about 20.2 million (and don't all necessarily get along), it's unlikely this army would be a conventional army. Enter ISIS. Some Christian groups see the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as a potential source of manpower for the apocalyptic 200 million man army. Just 10-15% of the worlds Islamic people gives said army a potential strength of 160-240 million.
Good luck getting them all to fight together.