A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Now that Dabiq Has Fallen, Will ISIS Change the Name of its Magazine?

What with the launching of the campaign against Mosul and the US preoccupation with the election, many may have overlooked the loss by ISIS of a tiny town in northern Syria with only a few thousand inhabitants. But it did get some attention, because the town was Dabiq.

It looks as if the end times may be postponed for a while. You may recall that two years ago I did a post discussing the role pf Dabiq in Islamic apocalyptic thought, and quoted at length a hadith attributed to the Prophet to the effect that in the last days a great final battle between the Muslims and "the Romans" (that is, the Byzantines), which would lead to a Muslim victory the fall of Constantinople and the onset of the last days.

Yes, Islam conquered Constantinople back in 1453, but in the centuries of struggle preceding that, the boundary between Byzantium and Islam frequently ran roughly along the present Turkish border; as, later, did the boundary between the Ottomans and Mamluk Syria. Over the centuries two battles were fought at Marj Dabiq (the Meadow of Dabiq) near the town: one in 717 AD between the Umayyads and the Byzantines, and the other in 1516 in which the Ottomans defeated the Mamluks and opened their conquest of Syria and Egypt. Dabiq was in the sort of location where battles have occurred several times. rather like the hill and pass at Megiddo in Palestine has been the scene of battles from ancient times to World War I. Just as the biblical Book of Revelation places the final battle at Armageddon (Greek for har-Megiddo), so some Islamic traditions place a similar battle at Dabiq.

And of course, ISIS named its English-language magazine Dabiq.

Unlike Aleppo or Mosul, the loss of Dabiq by ISIS to the Sultan Murad militia (a Syrian Turkmen militia backed by Turkey) has little effect on the military situation, but it clearly undercuts ISIS' claim to be bringing the apocalypse.

For more on the subject, ISIS expert at Brookings Will McCants has a good piece at Jihadica, "Apocalypse Delayed,"  (also available from the Brookings website).

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