(RNS) Muslim and Christian views of the Apocalypse bear remarkable similarities, albeit with a different ending.
As in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, Islamic tradition speaks of signs — unnatural disasters, wars and moral decay — that will portend the Last Days. And like Christians, many Muslims believe that Jesus, whom they call Isa, will return to defeat the Antichrist.
Contemporary Muslim apocalyptists have even borrowed from their Christian counterparts, such as Hal Lindsay, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to discern the dates of the Antichrist’s arrival, said David Cook, an expert on Islamic eschatology and associate professor at Rice University.
“There are Muslim apocalyptic readings of the book of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation,” says Cook. “The only difference is the `good guys’ are Muslims, not Christians.”
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The Muslim Jesus destroys the cross and the swine, symbols of Christian innovations, and converts Christians to Islam, said Abdulaziz Sachedina, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Virginia. Whether he does so violently or not is a matter of debate.
In Islamic tradition, Jesus is joined by a figure named the Mahdi, who helps subdue Satan and rid the world of corruption and injustice.
Some Muslims don’t like the idea of Jesus playing the messianic hero, and have thus assigned a larger role to the Mahdi, said Cook. That belief is strong among Shiites, particularly the “Twelvers” in Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often spoke of the Mahdi’s return.
Twelvers believe that the Mahdi is the 12th imam — hence their name — a descendant of Prophet Muhammad who has been hidden since the 9th century.
In addition to Iran, faith in the Mahdi’s imminent arrival is widespread in Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Tunisia, according to a 2012 Pew Research center poll.