Dabiq is a small town, a village of 3000 people in Northern Syria, near Aleppo. Few people in the West have even heard of it. Why then would the Islamic State (IS) name its’ major online publication, it’s principal recruiting tool, Dabiq after this dot on the map?
To understand why IS named their magazine Dabiq you need to know about the hadith of Abū Hurayrah ad-Dawsī al-Yamānī, known as Abu Hurayrah. Abu Hurayrah was a Yemeni who accepted Islam and became a boon companion of the Prophet Muhammad, staying by his side for the final 2 1/2 years of Muhammad’s life, right up until Muhammads’death in June of 632 CE. Abu Hurayrah made it his duty to record his recollections of Muhammad’s sayings, deeds, prophecies, and actions: reminiscences known in Islam as hadith. Collections of hadith are the second most important source of Islamic theology, second only to the Koran itself. Abu Huryrah wrote down, largely from memory, over 5,000 hadith. Although the authenticity of Abu Hurayrah’s hadith in particular are questioned by Shia Muslims who point out that they are “aabah” – witnessed by only one person – and so, at the very least, questionable, Sunni militants, Salafist Muslims in particular, believe that Abu Hurayrah’s hadith are the actual word of God, revealed directly through the Prophet Muhammad. So the stories, and particularly the prophecy concerning Dabiq, have great significance for them. The story of Dabiq, a prophecy made by Muhammad in the last years of his life, has become especially important to IS. The story of Dabiq is the Islamic version of the story of the Apocalypse, the last battle before the end of the world, a prophecy attributed to the Prophet Muhammad himself.
According to this hadith recorded by Abu Hurayrah, Muhammad prophesied that sometime in the future the final Apocalypse will be ushered in by a terrible and fateful battle between the forces of “Rome”, taken by IS to mean “the West”, and a Muslim army. Briefly, during this battle Masih ad Dayyal – the Deceiver, the Islamic equivalent of Christianity’s “Antichrist”- will appear and almost succeed in leading the Islamic forces to defeat. He will lead them deceptively and ineptly, posing as a great prophet and leader, and as the battle rages Islamic defeat will seem inevitable. Just when all seems to be lost and the forces of Islam are threatened with annhilation, ‘Isa, the son of Maryam, known to Christians as Jesus, will appear to save the day and lead the Islamic host to victory. “Rome” – the “Crusaders of the ‘West’” – will be defeated and the world will become Islamic and, under universal Sharia law, Justice will be restored.
The promise of victory in the battle in Dabiq has become both a recruiting tool and a rallying cry for the jihadists of IS. In the initial issue of their colorful and expertly produced online magazine, Dabiq, the introductory issue announcing the re-establishment of the Caliphate, Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi, a leader of the insurrection until his death in 2006, writes “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify – by Allah’s permission – until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” In fact final victory cannot, according to Dabiq, be achieved until the battle at Dabiq is won. This is a theme that is repeated over and over again in the 13 issues that have appearedto date.
“The Hour will not be established”, Dabiq quotes from the original hadith, “until the Romans land at al-A’maq or Dabiq (two places near each other in the northern countryside of Halab). Then an army from al-Madinah of the best people on the earth at that time will leave for them.” The Islamic State is eager for this battle. The editors of Dabiq seem to taunt the “Crusaders” and dare them to meet them in Dabiq. In issue after issue the editors of Dabiq chide the West with the challenge: “See you in Dabiq, Crusader.” It’s clear that the Islamic State is not only certain that this battle will eventually take place, but that they are eager for it to happen. It has become, literally, an article of faith for them. It also incidentally, seems to provide an explanation for any military setbacks IS might experience. In the hadith initially one-third of the Islamic forces will die and one-third will run away before the final apocalyptic victory takes place, so an occasional setback isn’t that important.
Apocalyptic Visions in the West
Ironically, while many commentators point out the merciless attitudes and apocalyptic visions found in Islamic magazines and publications like Dabiq, there’s apparently not much concern for Western visions of the End Times that are proliferating on the Internet. Even a cursory search reveals literally thousands of mostly Fundamentalist Christian sites promoting Western apocalyptic predictions, many of them interpretations of passages from the Book of Revelations. These content on these sites varies widely, covering everything from “Why the anti-Christ is going to be a Muslim” to “Signs of the Coming End-Of-Days”, but it’s clear that the majority of the authors are eager for Armageddon to arrive and usher in the Christian Apocalypse, the final battle that culminates with the Second Coming of Christ, Christian victory, and the defeat of the Antichrist that brings about a Christian transformation of world.
The term ‘Antichrist’ is, according to some, misleading. A more accurate term might be, according to some, a pseudo-Christ, a false Christ. He will mislead Christians: will lead them astray. Strangely, this is the exact role that will be played by Masih Ad Dayyal in the Islamic version of the Apocalypse. He too will fool and deceive Muslims and attempt to confuse them and lead them astray.
I find it disturbing that extremist groups from two cultures – East and West – are both hastening with enthusiasm and delight toward Dabiq and Armageddon. Each are convinced that, according to the revealed word of their particular Prophet, Jesus, Son of Mary (or Maryam), is going to bring them each victory and life everlasting.
May the two sides never meet at Dabiq.
Information and Understanding
If, as Nietzsche wrote, “Knowledge is Power”, Dabiq Magazine is a fruitful source of both information and, hopefully, knowledge concerning the Islamic State, its’ goals, and its’ methods. It offers a first-hand source of information about the attitudes and perceptions of IS and its’ adherents. Dabiq outlines and attempts to explain jihadist attitudes and goals. It also offers videos – lots of them – depicting combat, raids, executions, and other war-related footage that reveal why many consider Dabiq to be the Islamic State’s most powerful and effective recruiting tool in the West, and why recent reports indicate that Western authorities are at last taking steps to try and interdict this and other IS online information/propaganda.
Though Dabiq is sprinkled with special Arabic terminology (romanized using a western alphabet), the terms are easy to define and understand. Wikipedia’s Glossary of Islam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_Islam) deals with most of them quickly and easily. Understanding this terminology is essential to interpreting what’s being promulgated in the magazine.
Even a cursory examination of Dabiq will provide the reader with thought provoking information, and even, sometimes, some understanding. I, for example, wondered what it was about the material in Dabiq that made it so effective in recruiting Muslim youth from Europe to immigrate to the Middle East to be part of the jihad. As I read issue after issue certain themes kept repeating themselves and I began to understand. I kept finding phrases that challenged Muslim youth to come and regain their pride, to hold their heads up once again. It promised that never again would Muslims be humbled before the West. Victory was at hand.
I tried to imagine how these kind of articles would affect me if I was a young Muslim living on the fringes of society in a Western city, frequently poor, and with little hope of succeeding, of gaining self-esteem. Then Dabiq calls me to come and serve Allah. To be part of something bigger than mself, to be a warrior. It shows me pictures of other young men brandishing weapons while riding triumphantly, victorious, atop tanks and military vehicles, black flags waving. It promises me a grand adventure. It promises to provide me with a living, a wife, and to restore my pride.
What’s to lose? The magazines pictures show “enemy” dead – Western troops, Kurdish Pesh Merga, Yazidis and so on – but never dead jihadists. (There are pictures of Muslim civilians, men, women, and children, murdered, according to Dabiq, by Western troops usingdrone strikes and artillery barrages, and air attacks. Revenge is a strong motive, particularly in Arab society. . It’s a powerful message.
There are now at least 13 issues of Dabiq that anyone with Internet access can read. Issues of Dabiq can be found on the Internet at The Clarion Project website: (http://www.clarionproject.org/news/islamic-state-isis-isil-propaganda-magazine-dabiq)
I’m sure that there will be many questions that will arise as you peruse the pages of Dabiq. Hopefully you will come away from your reading with a better understanding of the thought processes of the jihadists of the Islamic State. A final word: much of what you read in the pages of Dabiq may upset or dismay you. It’s vital that you remember two things:
First: The interpretations of the Koran and of various hadith that you find in Dabiq are the interpretations of only one segment of Muslim society. It’s no more justified to assume that those interpretations represent the attitudes or beliefs of all Muslims than it is fair to assume that the Apocalyptic visions of some fundamentalist Christian groups are believed or anticipated by all Christians.
Second: It’s important, in my view, to remember that knowledge and understanding is not the same as approval.
For access to Dabiq, go to: