Check out my new al-Wasat article: “Jabhah al-Nusrah and Jihad in Syria”

While debates ramped up over the past two weeks among Middle East specialists over the efficacy of a possible Western intervention in Syria (see herehere, and here), earlier this week, on January 23, the online global jihadi forums posted — in jubilation — a new video message ”For the People of Syria from the Mujahidin of Syria in the Fields of Jihad” from a purported new jihadi group named Jabhah al-Nusrah (The Victory Front) via its new media outlet al-Manarah al-Bayda’ (The White Lighthouse) Foundation for Media Production. Before this article discusses the video and reaction to it from Abu Basir al-Tartusi, a Syrian exiled in London, it is worthwhile to look deeper into the significance for why Jabhah al-Nusrah chose al-Manarah al-Bayda’ as the name of its media outlet. The answer is quite fascinating.

al-Fitan wa Ashrat as-Sa’ah

Although many do not look into it, there are many layers usually to why jihadis decide to choose names for their media outlets, forums, battalions, and titles for media releases. On many occasions they allude to historical figures, events, or places as well as allusions to Qur’anic verses and Ahadith. One area that is understudied is the role of millenarianism in jihadi thought. Ali Soufan covered aspects of it related to the black banners and Khurasan in his book The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda. Indeed, the name of Jabhah al-Nusrah’s media outlet al-Manarah al-Bayda’ alludes to a Sahih Muslim hadith #7015, which deals with the end of times. The whole hadith is long so I placed the entirety of it at the bottom of this article, but here is the segment that mentions al-Manarah al-Bayda’:

He (Dajjal) would then call (that young man) and he will come forward laughing with his face gleaming (with happiness) and it would at this very time that Allah would send Jesus, son of Mary, and he will descend at al-Manarah al-Bayda’ (the white lighthouse or minaret) in the eastern side of Damascus wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels. When he would lower his head, there would fall beads of perspiration from his head, and when he would raise it up, beads like pearls would scatter from it. Every non-believer who would smell the odour of his self would die and his breath would reach as far as he would be able to see. He would then search for him (Dajjal) until he would catch hold of him at the gate of Ludd and would kill him. Then a people whom Allah had protected would come to Jesus, son of Mary, and he would wipe their faces and would inform them of their ranks in Paradise and it would be under such conditions that Allah would reveal to Jesus these words: I have brought forth from amongst My servants such people against whom none would be able to fight; you take these people safely to Tur, and then Allah would send Gog and Magog and they would swarm down from every slope.

The ad-Dajjal figure mentioned in the above quote of the hadith represents a false prophet that comes during the end of times. It is similar to the anti-Christ, but somewhat different at the same time. Islamic tradition states that there are several ad-Dajjal throughout history, but during the end times it is considered the “big” ad-Dajjal (false prophet). According to Jean-Pierre Filiu in his book Apocalypse in Islam, “Throughout the whole of human history, from Adam until the resurrection, no thing or person will have caused greater turmoil than ad-Dajjal.” Additionally, al-Manarah al-Bayda’ or as local Damascenes call it the “Jesus Minaret,” refers to the eastern minaret at the Ummayyad Mosque, also called the Great Mosque of Damascus.

Click here to read the rest.