Hardly a day goes by without hearing something in the media about ISIS. Almost all that we hear is outrageous and heartbreaking. In recent weeks and months, we have heard about the looting and destruction of antiquities. Statues from the classical period have been smashed, some dating back to the seventh century BC; others have been stolen and sold on the antiquities black market. Not only that, but ancient books and manuscripts have been burned as well. These treasures from the past are irreplaceable. The ISIS vandals know no limits to the crimes against humanity that they are willing to commit.
Why does ISIS show such violence and depravity? Why do people who say they believe in God commit such vile acts against fellow human beings, even against fellow Muslims? General William G. Boykin recently described the Islamic State as “evil in its purest form.” Civilized people find the actions of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups horrifying and incomprehensible. But there are explanations, at least for some of it. While it is not possible to explain the dark hearts and twisted minds of humans who commit such depraved crimes, it is both possible and vital, to understand the history and theology that is behind such an ideology.
The story goes back about 4,000 years, all the way back to one man and one place. It goes back to a decision, a choice of one son over another. This man, this place, and this choice set in motion a series of events that shaped the course of history and almost certainly will shape our future:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2).
What we are seeing today in the Middle East is the direct result of a very old story, and, until it is understood, the leaders of the civilized world simply will not know how to deal with it. The truth is, rather than being an un-Islamic distortion of the Qur’an and Hadith, as some have claimed, the Islamic State adheres to and embodies the teachings of Muhammad and Islam at its core. In other words, ISIS is quintessentially Islamic, and an honest and close reading of the Islamic holy texts and traditions reveal that Muhammad would not only join the Islamic State, but he would lead it.
- Written by Dr. Craig A. Evans and Dr. Jeremiah J. Johnston, authors of Jesus and the Jihadis: Confronting the Rage of ISIS.