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COMMENTARY: Keep doomsday religion out of the Syrian conflict

Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. He is a frequent lecturer about Islam, winner of the Presidential Service Awardan award, and the founder of Photo courtesy Dr. Faheem Younus

(RNS) As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons at the outskirts of Damascus and President Obama mulls a U.S. military response, some theologians hope for an alarming endgame to the 30-month-long Syrian conflict.

For these Christians and Muslim, the civil war in Syria heralds nothing less than the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Before you label the premise as a conspiracy theory, consider that there are a number of Muslim videos and several Christian websites — not to mention conservative talk radio shows — all making promoting versions of this unfortunate connection. And that’s wrong.

The Judeo-Christian and Muslim texts mention Damascus as an important landmark in the geography of the Second Coming. To some Christian and Muslim scholars it was only a matter of time before the conflict would reach Damascus. So keen are they to share their analysis that the moment you say, “Damascus,” they say, “Ask us!”

Ask my Christian friends and they quote Isaiah 17:1: “Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins.” Note the language. It does not talk about destruction. It suggests annihilation after which Damascus will cease to exist as a city.

Isaiah 17 then ends with a vision of Armageddon, which brings Jesus Christ on the scene. Jeremiah 49 and Zechariah 9 make similar violent references regarding the fate of Damascus.

Ask my Muslim friends and they quote Chapter 4 verse 159 of the Quran which indicates the Second Coming of Jesus. Prophet Muhammad prophesized “Allah would send Christ, son of Mary, and he will descend with the white minaret, east of Damascus, wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels,” thus directly linking Damascus with the Second Coming. Surprised?

While a majority of Muslims and Christians agree with the idea of a physical Second Coming of Jesus, they disagree on his job description and the exact sequence of events.

The Christian version requires Damascus to be annihilated before Jesus could return to establish the glory of Lord on Earth. The Muslim version requires it to be a flourishing city with enough infrastructure for Jesus to land on the minaret, lead prayers, gather people and then break the cross and kill the swine. The Christian version promises destruction first; peace later. The Muslim version promises peace first; destruction later.

Keeping these theological differences private was possible in the pre-social media world. But today, pulpits are selling doomsday scenarios and pundits are amplifying them in the blogosphere, generating a lasting visceral reaction.

Ask the Judeo-Christian world: have they forgotten Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment about erasing Israel from the face of the Earth? Ask the Muslim world: have they forgotten George W. Bush’s post 9/11 declaration of the war on terror being a “crusade.” Who’s to say that political decisions are immune from such eschatological yearnings? As the war engulfs Damascus, one wonders if our actions or inactions are partly motivated by religious beliefs.

At this critical juncture, where some religious leaders have issued an all-out warning of World War III, quoting the Bible to support the “annihilation of Damascus” is like poking at an inflamed appendix; don’t manage it promptly and it may rupture, triggering a much larger regional war.

I respect all religious texts. The idea is not to reject them but to reinterpret them. There’s got to be a more believable way to understand these quotes.

Christians should analyze Isaiah 17 in ways that spare one of the oldest cities in the world and its 2 million inhabitants. And Muslims should at least conjure the scientific challenges associated with the idea of Jesus physically descending on a minaret in Damascus in a world of drone surveillance.

Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. He is a frequent lecturer about Islam, winner of the Presidential Service Awardan award, and the founder of Photo courtesy Dr. Faheem Younus

Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. He is a frequent lecturer about Islam, winner of the Presidential Service Awardan award, and the founder of Photo courtesy Dr. Faheem Younus

Instead of praying for the annihilation of the Arab cultural center, why not try saying: we will not tolerate these human rights abuses. Instead of trying to “assist God” with our inaction, why not say that we are willing to help you in any way possible. Just ask us, Damascus.

(Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and the founder of He is a frequent lecturer about Islam and winner of the Presidential Service Award and the founder of Follow him on Twitter @FaheemYounus)


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  • “As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons at the outskirts of Damascus”
    This is probably false. Most likely Al-Qaeda did this to manipulate world opinion against Mr Assad. After all, these innocent civilians for AQ are martyrs for Islam who will be rewarded in Paradise.

  • Putting aside Christian, and Islamic Eschatology. The U.S. Government along with it’s Sunni Allies, IMO shouldn’t be exacerbating the shia-sunni schism, by Bombing Syria. Then there’s the claim of W.M.D, dubious at best. A few Hundred People were allegedly gassed, what about the Tens of Thousands in who succumbed to small Arms fire in Syria, now they care? Now in the current-social media world, depending on what news site you read, “Saudi/Qatar Invasion of Syria Could Dovetail Western Air Strikes.” It may not cause Armageddon, bringing about the return of the Mahdi, and Jesus Christ. But IMO cause W.W.W. III.

  • Not all Christians are conservative as you hear on Fox. Some of us are praying for the Syrian people asking God’s protection, comfort, and peace of mind. Jesus said there will be wars and rumors of wars and these will increase at the end. This is what we are observing by people who are godless and the godly. So please put the blame where it belongs. Jesus as God is a god of love and forgiveness of others, including “enemies”. Blessings!.

  • Thoughts can manifest, since consciousness precedes action – especially when we are convinced that the future is already ordained. Christians and Muslims on the more zealous side and all ideologically held positions must be very careful not to manifest what they wish for or believe will happen – since manifestation is possible. Instead, let them focus on their respective religion’s adherence to love and respect for life – and if something is to be focused on, let it be on those positive values.

  • Let us stick with the Hebrew and Muslim texts, Christian texts state nothing on Damascus. From the origins of Rome to the vatican, E.U. and U.N. makes the King of the North. The King of the South starts in Damascus, with Daniel explaining the King of the North comes south(Damascus), goes east(Iraq, Afghanistan) and even the beautiful land(Ishrael- southeast). So the U.N. is going to destroy the area, set up shop about Gaza and then be destroyed along with the wooden statue stick god they wear around their neck and staple to their walls.

  • Dr. Faheem Younus:

    I should think that your fears are a red herring. Any Christian who dares to interpret such local events as this as yet another version of a prelude to Armageddon should be simply labelled MORON and ignored.

    Christian eschatology has precise parameters, some of which are currently present, some are perceivable in the near future but a lot is beyond current conception. I don’t think we are there yet.

    To paraphrase Christ “The wingnuts you will always have with you”.

  • The author wants people to ‘keep religion out of the debate’


    There is a REMNANT in Syria that God himself is protecting from the US govt monster with its new found buddy, M’bro hood.

    ג וְנִשְׁבַּת מִבְצָר מֵאֶפְרַיִם, וּמַמְלָכָה מִדַּמֶּשֶׂק וּשְׁאָר אֲרָם; כִּכְבוֹד בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל יִהְיוּ, נְאֻם יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת. {פ} 3 The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Aram (Aleppo) shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts.

    SO, Jews, Christians etc, whoever–of course they have this burden in this time. It is called “The burden of Damascus”

  • How would Al Qaeda get chemical weapons? Obama says he has proof and time will tell whether he does. “Assad is a pathological liar. Putin has some serious evil going for him.

    Paradise/heaven is a frame-of-mind as is hell. Our eternal souls can only directly experience the present: ‘the everlasting now’. Reincarnation has been proven through the scientific method (including experimentation).

  • The Christ has returned to save Mother Earth, humanity (by “judging everyone according[74] to their actions”) and animal life. There is no “doomsday”, just the opposite! God the Creator of this plan-it has planned “heaven on Earth” from it’s mathematical conception.

  • The Christ has returned and with GOD’s constant help, has produced the “book/scroll sealed with 7 seals” (‘beyond Einstein theories’) – google that – prophesied in The Revelation 5:1-10:10.

  • Johnny,

    Quite WRONG! Read my above posts and note the following fulfilled prophesies…

    The United States is the “New World”/”New Jerusalem” and “Mystery Babylon”.

    Israel became a nation through UN decree in 1947.

    Ronald(6 letters) Wilson(6) Reagan(6): the “666 1st Beast whose actions are the opposite of the Christ. He was ruler of the world, lied to all nations and was wounded yet lived”. Born 2/6, see Matthew 2:6 (KJV).

    George Walker Bush Jr. was/is the “2nd Beast who exercised all the power/authority of the 1st Beast. He made ‘fire come down from the heavens’ with the ‘destruction of Babylon’ (Iraq War)”. He & Nancy Reagan were born on 7/6, see Matt 7:6.

    United(6) States(6) Dollar(6): the “666 mark of the Beast that everyone must have to buy or sell with” – Revelation Chapter 13. On the back of the US $1 Dollar Bill, the #13 is encoded 13x.

    DO NOT misquote the Christ again, understand?! The Christ 2,000 years ago and today would NEVER refer to anyone as “wingnuts”. How ironic and hypocritical of you to promote “labeling the MORON and ignoring” those who correctly recognize the prophetic signs!

    Note: You need to apologize to all those you’ve incorrectly maligned and REPENT! There is a GOD, His Christ is talking to you and today could be your Judgment Day.

    Your move.

  • Ted, do you even have any clue about what really goes on in the world? Or are you just one of the majority general public who has been brain washed by the false tales of the media? Get real fella, and don’t believe everything you see or hear on the media, go find out for yourself and see, experience reality!!! May peace be with you and the whole of mankind.

  • …and today the Chinese are getting into the act. It appears that everyone wants to get involved in this melee except the country that started these problems in the Middle East, Britain. The Brits who know their history in the Middle East, know that but for their carving up nations by redrawing their borders and forcing tribes to try and coexist who were pervious war faring tribal states has engendered every war we have had over there except the war in Iraq. That was one that we took on ourselves because we wanted the Iraqi oil. But the Brits are bowing out on this one saying they were duped (lied to) into the Iraqi war on a bogus claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. So, Parliament voted to sit this one out. Hogwash!!! They should be involved in every engagement of war in the region. They took it upon themselves to mess in the economic and cultural lives of those tribal states and now to say they don’t want to help clean up their mess is beyond the fray.

  • “This is probably false”

    Umm…I was there. Those were 100% Syrian governmental planes. I actually got a good look as they were bombing the city I was in. Go on to youtube and you can find thousands of videos of the massacres that the government is doing against it’s own people.

  • while I admire your opinion, how is it that you suggest people see the ‘reality’ of what is happening in Syria?

    I’m from Iraq, and I can tell you that in 2007, Alqaeda terrorists used to blow up Chlorine-filled tanks in heavily populated areas. Albeit, Chlorine is no Sarin, but large portions of Syria are on and off under their control.

    I say both Bashar al Assad and Alqaeda would both not hesitate to use these weapons. There is seemingly proof that Assad did it, none that Alqaeda did, but both are evils the like of which the world has seen few.

  • Sadly, the Iranian president never actually said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map. He was intentionally misquoted to fuel western hatred. He actually said, “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” He was speaking about the government and leadership, not the Israeli people or Jewish religion.

  • “East of Damascus” suggests the minaret is NOT in the smoking crater Christians predict for that once-city.

    The two prophecies do NOT conflict.

    That said, the Quran is as much a holy book as Dianetics. Both were written by con men wanting to get rich. Both succeeded and many still live their lives by these best sellers. I’ve read the Koran. It’s garbage. I say that with no axe to grind.

    Now to see if my life insurance premiums are up to date.

  • i was in an area called bab-al-tanoor near the city when the bombings happened, my dad said he saw the planes and that they where Syrian military planes, i doubt Al-Qaeda has Syrian military planes.