Could ISIL Lose The Battle of Dabiq?
By James Hess, Ph.D.
Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Intelligence Studies at American Military University
According to the British media site The Telegraph, ISIL is preparing for an apocalyptic showdown of Muslim and Christian armies in the Syrian town of Dabiq. Furthermore, the article says that U.S.-backed rebels are within days of an upcoming battle in Dabiq.
Battle in Dabiq Appears in Muslim Apocalyptic Prophecy
The upcoming showdown in Dabiq is inspired by a Muslim book called “The Book of Tribulations and the Portents of the Last Hour.” In the book, there is a Hadith saying from the Prophet Muhammad discussing events indicating the “last hour.” The Hadith saying refers to the conquest of Constantinople:
“The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people at that time will come from Medina…and they would be conquerors of Constantinople.”
Apocalyptic Themes Popular with Al Qae’da and ISIL
ISIL, like al Qae’da, frequently makes reference to apocalyptic imagery in various propaganda and other sources. Bin Laden used to sign correspondence disclosing his location as Khorasan.
Khorasan is believed to be the birthplace for the Islamic messianic figure known as the Mahdi, who will reappear at the end of days. The historic Khorosan region is now located in parts of Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
ISIL’s online propaganda magazine is named Dabiq, an obvious reference to this apocalyptic prophecy. Apparently, ISIL chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi believes that he is filling the role of the prophet Mahdi. He has already declared himself Caliph and is leading his forces to Dabiq, preparing for the upcoming battle with the “Crusaders” (Christian forces).
Could ISIL Lose the Dabiq Battle but Win A Propaganda War?
Regardless of the outcome in any Dabiq battle, ISIL may be able to claim victory. ISIL will say that they met the Crusaders in Dabiq. according to their ideology. They will frame any future endeavors within the religious context that they have met the Crusaders and will now become the future conquerors of Constantinople.
About the Author
Dr. James Hess received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University where he studied improving analytical methodologies in counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism environments. He is currently studying the relationship between Islamic jurisprudence and terrorism as an International Relations Research Fellow with the University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.