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A TALE OF TWO CITIES

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In his classic novel A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens penned the lines, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . . . It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness." In my opinion, this is an accurate description of the times in which we live. It is the best time to be a believer and it is the worst time to be a believer. God's purposes are coming to light for millions around the world, even as darkness creeps across the globe to enslave millions more.

It is the best of times in the sense that things the prophets could only foresee and see in vision and dream, we are experiencing, as the culmination and restoration of all things as we literally see end time prophecies being fulfilled and we know that time is growing short. It is the best of times in the sense that a true Messianic revival is gathering in anticipation of the Messiah's return to set up His throne upon the earth. It is the worst of times in the sense that corruption continues to fill the earth just as in the days of Noah and the cup of iniquity is again coming to the full, which will again require God’s judgment upon the earth. It is the worst of times in the sense that there is another deadly messianic revival on the rise in opposition to the true movement of God, coming from Islam, which is the fastest growing religion in the world today.

This false movement is finding renewed life in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's overthrow for since then, Shi'ite muslims have been permitted many freedoms denied them for over three decades. As a result, their own messianic aspirations have been rekindled and their expectations for the future of Islam and the world are making headlines. The message “The Muslim’s Final Prophet” gives complete details of what the Muslim’s believe concerning this prophet and their destiny for the end times.

The vanguard of this degenerate revival seems to emanate primarily from two Iraqi cities - Najaf and <Karbala. Over the last eighteen months, these two cities have been mentioned repeatedly in news reports, each classified as a "holy city." Yet almost without fail, each report filed from these cities brings news of tension, uprising and death. More recently, the news from Najaf concentrated on what was called the al-Mahdi militia under the direction of Muqtada al-Sadr. In essence this militia was organized as the "(Islamic) Messiah's" militia.

I realize that, as I write this, this militia is officially defunct. However, I predict we have not seen the last of this paramilitary group or its leader simply because a messianic fervor continues to grow among Islamic fundamentalists. They feel that this is their time to overcome the infidels. They believe that their messiah, the twelfth imam is soon to reappear.

The Twelfth Imam

In Shi'a Islam, the imams were descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali, the first imam. (Ali was killed by other muslims and later interred in the city of were considered to be infallible in his interpretation of the Qur'an and were also believed to be without sin (Wow! This sounds familiar). The imam is the highest rank in Shi’a Islam, not the Ayatollah.

Mainstream Shi'a Islam believes further that the known line of imams had come to an end with the twelfth, Muhammad, who disappeared in 874 AD. After his disappearance, legend has it that he communicated with his followers through a representative and then through dreams and visions. They believe he will emerge in the end of days to usher in a reign of Islamic justice; in this reappearance he will be al-mahdi, the guided one.

The expectation of the coming guided one, al mahdi, arose early in the history of Islam. There is reason to believe one of Ali and Fatima's sons, Hussein, decided to go into Iraq with a small group of followers seeking even more support from the inhabitants in present day Iraq. Apparently, he considered himself somewhat of a messianic figure. However, he was killed by sunnis (the more moderate sect of Islam) in the battle of <Karbala, his final resting place.

It is to <Karbala that tens of thousands of followers will flock to in an annual celebration that has special meaning for Shi'ites. It is called the 'ashura, and its the commemoration of the battle at <Karbala in which the Imam Hussein was killed. For Shi'ites this was one of the most significant dates in history. Hussein's death was seen as a martyrdom and in some way furthered the belief that some day, their messiah would come.

The Coming One

Shortly after U.S. troops liberated Iraq, Shi'ite faithful made a pilgrimage to <Karbala to commemorate this ancient battle and venerate their hero Hussein. It was during this pilgrimage that radical Muslims clashed with U.S. troops to the degree that orders were given for the U.S. troops to stand down. It was considered best to do this, rather than give these fundamentalists any provocation to grow even more violent.

Pictures of the scene show men, young and old, screaming at the Americans as blood poured from open wounds in their heads, staining their agitated faces. The blood did not come at the hands of American soldiers, however, but was the result of self-inflicted wounds in keeping with an ancient custom.

Tradition has it that when Hussein died, his followers cut themselves upon their forehead and, as the blood flowed, chanted allahu akhbar, "Allah is greater." By doing this, they were displaying their undying loyalty to Allah, to the Prophet and to belief that one day al-mahdi would come. By cutting themselves in this manner, they were also committing their very life - their soul - to the triumph of Islam over the unbelievers.

It is this mindset that many, if not most, of the insurgents our troops engage daily carry with them into battle. As a matter of fact, many of the insurgents are not even Iraqi. They are Jordanian, Iranian, Syrian, Saudi, Egyptian and Palestinian. The reason they are so motivated to leave their home and meet almost certain death is that they truly believe that Iraq will be the launching pad for this new Islamic empire under the leadership of the coming enlightened one.

First bin Ladin and now al-Sadr have accentuated this fervor by standing up to the U.S. It is no accident that al-Sadr chose Najaf, the final resting place of Ali the first imam, as his base of operations. He purposely chose this place to instill within his fighters the idea that Islam's time had come. Soon al-Mahdi would come riding out of the desert on his white steed to vanquish all infidels and establish the rule of Islam in all corners of the earth. There are many like al-Sadr who believe that Iraq, with its holy Sh'ia shrines, is the perfect place for their version of a messianic kingdom to take root.

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