“Iraqi air forces have bombed the convoy of the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while he was headed to Karabla to attend a meeting with Daesh [ISIS] commanders,” the Iraqi military announced last weekend. They reported that several senior ISIS figures were killed, and that al-Baghdadi was wounded. Yesterday, Iraqi security officials changed their position, admitting that al-Baghdadi was probably not in the convoy they attacked.
If the Allies had announced during World War II that they killed several of Hitler’s senior leaders and injured the German dictator, their report would have led the news worldwide and directly affected the outcome of the war. Why not the same for al-Baghdadi?
Because the Islamic State and other jihadist movements are so different from other enemies we have faced. The Nazis were defeated by military means. The Communists were defeated by military, economic, and political means. The jihadist threat requires all of the above in self-defense, but this is a generational conflict without a single leader. We are battling a movement that is motivated spiritually and must be defeated spiritually.
Take al-Baghdadi as an example. His followers view him as the eighth of twelve caliphs (leaders of Islam) that will appear before history ends. When he dies, his successor will continue their movement.
Islamic State militants claim that they will defeat the armies of “Rome” (Western civilization) at the Syrian city of Dabiq. They named their propaganda magazine after this town, and await a great battle there. They are convinced that, after several other conflicts, they will achieve global conquest.
Given the group’s apocalyptic vision, we should no longer call their movement “radical Islam,” but “apocalyptic Islam.” ISIS terrorists are motivated by an end-times theology that drives their radicalism. And they are not alone. The leaders of Iran are equally motivated by the belief that their messiah, a figure they call the “Mahdi,” will appear soon to establish his global kingdom.
To fulfill their vision, these jihadists must defeat and destroy our civilization. The Islamic State is clear about this. Spokesman Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.” (For more, see my The Islamic State: What You Need to Know.)
Let there be no mistake: the Islamic State and other jihadist movements threaten the world. Jordan’s King Abdullah II states that the West is engaged in a “third world war” against Islamic terrorism. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair warns that apocalyptic Islam is the biggest global threat we face.
Such a spiritual danger requires our best spiritual response. Please pray daily for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, and other jihadist leaders to have visions of Jesus and come to faith in Christ. Pray for spiritual awakening to continue in the Muslim world, turning would-be terrorists into gospel missionaries. Pray for Christians in the Middle East to be protected from persecution and to stand boldly for Jesus. Ask God what else he would have you do personally.
Ananias was willing to risk his life when he shared Christ with Saul, the persecutor of Christians (Acts 9:10-19). And Saul became the Apostle Paul, author of half the New Testament.