By James Hess, Ph.D.
Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Intelligence Studies at American Military University
On the 16th of October, Turkish-backed rebels reported they took back the apocalyptic town of Dabiq from ISIL. Since the loss of Dabiq, ISIL has downplayed the importance of the town, mostly pointing out that this battle was not the ultimate showdown between Christians and Muslims, as foretold in a Hadith of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
ISIL Will Have Trouble Explaining Dabiq’s Loss to Public
Because the battle of Dabiq was fought between Muslims, ISIL will have problems tying this battle to the foretold end-of-days battle in “The Book of Tribulations and the Portents of the Last Hour.” Complicating the situation for ISIL is that the U.S. and Russia are involved, but they are on different sides.
According to the Hadith, a united Islamic army would defeat a united Christian army in Dabiq. Muslim forces would then go on to conquer Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey).
No Way for ISIL to Reconcile Loss with Koran’s Prophesy
ISIL had no choice but to abandon the apocalyptic association with Dabiq. According to the BBC, ISIL forces withdrew from Dabiq and went to a neighboring town to the south, Al-Bab.
It will be interesting to see and hear what propaganda ISIL puts out in reference to its recent loss of Dabiq. ISIL may dismiss the Dabiq battle and ignore the loss. ISIL’s ideology is essential to the organization’s relevancy and marginalizing the loss of Dabiq minimizes its recruiting impact.
ISIL needs to separate the loss of Dabiq from its rhetoric and periodic messages. ISIL has tried to use the prophetic site to garner more support from Muslims, hoping that a larger conflict between the West would ensue. Given that this idea has not materialized for ISIL, it is likely that ISIL will downplay, if they mention, Dabiq again in the near future.
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.
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