This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 41, number 4 (2019). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
Biblical hermeneutics is the art and science of properly interpreting God’s divine Word. Exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning from a particular text in accordance with the context and discoverable meaning of its author; whereas eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation onto the text. It’s a rare hermeneutical farce in which the eisegete in question attempts to impose an interpretation onto God’s Word that itself is based on, pardon the doctored paraphrase of an infamous quote, “Lies, damned lies, and Christian pseudepigraphal writings.” But such farcical misinterpretation of biblical eschatology (study of last things) is exactly what one finds in Islamic eschatology — and in much unbridled Christian eschatology that attempts to divine the meaning of present-day events based on Islamic eschatology.
End-times speculations are center stage in the promotion of an Islamic Antichrist theory among popular Christian thinkers such as Joel Richardson (Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah 1), even though, since its seventh-century beginnings, no other religion’s cumulative scholarly output more violates the hermeneutical process of biblical exegesis than that of the Islamic faith.
According to Islam, major signs will appear before the “day of judgment” or “resurrection.” The majority of Sunni Islamic scholars believe that (1) a ruler known as the Mahdi (“guided one”) will unite Muslims worldwide through conquest, (2) the Masih ad-Dajjal (“false messiah”) will appear to deceive people and draw the Mahdi’s armies into battle with him, and (3) Isa (the Muslim Jesus who is a prophet but not God) will appear just before the Mahdi’s armies battle the Dajjal. Isa will utterly destroy the Dajjal and all of his disciples, convert millions to Islam, and rule over a new heaven and earth, until his death forty years later upon which he is buried next to Muhammad.
Richardson and others who hold to the Islamic Antichrist theory subscribe to much of what Islamic eschatology teaches, except for several very notable differences — they hold that the Islamic Mahdi will be the actual biblical antichrist, that Isa will be the biblical false prophet, and that the Dajjal (the Islamic version of the Antichrist) is actually the real Jesus.
It can be confusing, to say the least! Fortunately, for the purpose of this column, I am not attempting to unravel the proverbial Gordian Knot of who’s who in either Muslim or Christian Islamic Antichrist theory but, instead, to focus on one specific aspect of Islamic eschatological hermeneutics — the origin of the Dajjal in false Christian apocalyptic literature, as an illustrative example of the general unreliability of Islamic theology.
Richardson and others purport that the future Dajjal, or Islamic antichrist, and the Christian antichrist spoken of in 1 John 2:22; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7, and multiple passages in Revelation are one and the same.2 Specifically focused on the Dajjal’s description in Islamic tradition itself, it is quite easy to show that this eschatological figure is drawn directly from Christian pseudepigraphal writings written long after the canonical writings of the New Testament. (Pseudepigrapha means “false name” and references ancient texts that are falsely attributed to biblical prophets or apostles.)
Physical Description of the Dajjal. Theologian Chris White notes, “In the Bible there is very little if any discussion about what the Antichrist looks like; however, in the extrabiblical Christian pseudepigrapha, physical descriptions of the Antichrist became a very common theme. He is often described as having an odd complexion, thick hair, one blind eye, one deformed eye, and elongated physical features, as well as having three letters that mean ‘deny’ or ‘reject’ written on his forehead.”3 These physical descriptions of the Christian antichrist mentioned here by White are incorporated into the Islamic description of the Dajjal.
The Dajjal’s deformed eyes. Consider the description of the Antichrist in the Christian pseudepigrapha:
“His right eye like the star that rises in the morning, and the other
without motion.” (The Apocalypse of Pseudo-Ezra)4
“He shall be bald-headed, with a small and a large eye.” (The
Apocalypse of Pseudo-Daniel)5
“His right eye like the star which rises in the morning, and
the other like a lion’s.” (The Apocalypse of Pseudo-John)6
Compare the Christian pseudepigraphal writings to the extra- Qur’anic Islamic hadiths 7 :
“His right eye will be punctured, and his left eye would be raised to
his forehead and will be sparkling like a star.”8
“Ad-Dajjal is blind in the right eye and his eye looks like a
bulging out grape.”9
Both Christian pseudepigraphal writings and Islamic hadiths reveal an interpretation of an antichrist figure with two deformed eyes, one blind and the other like a star, and it becomes glaringly obvious that the Islamic writers of the hadiths were borrowing from the Christian pseudepigraphal writings as they created the Islamic version of the Christian antichrist.
Mark on the Dajjal’s forehead. Revelation 16:2 and 19:20 cite the “mark of the beast” as a sign that identifies those who worship the beast out of the sea (Rev. 13:1). This beast usually is identified as the Antichrist.10 This mark is first mentioned in 13:16–17, where it is imposed on humanity by the beast out of the Earth (13:11). This second beast is also called the false prophet (19:20), who forces the worship of the ultimate personification of evil and brands those who do so with the mark on their right hand or forehead. This mark is said to be equivalent to the beast’s name or number (13:17; cf. 14:11). This enigmatic number is announced in 13:18 as 666.
According to White, however, in both Christian postcanonical apocalyptic literature and Islamic hadiths, the Antichrist/Dajjal will have this mark that will consist of three letters and not numbers, and its meaning will be to “reject” or “deny.” He writes,
The fact that this tradition cannot be found in the Bible and that both Islamic and Christian traditions share almost identical views of this non-biblical teaching show that Islamic borrowing from the earlier Christian pseudepigraphical material is very likely.11
Consider the Christian pseudepigrapha and the three letters on the forehead of the Antichrist: “And he [the Antichrist] also has upon his forehead three letters: A, K, T. And the A signifies: ‘I deny’; the K: ‘And I completely reject’; the T: ‘The befouled dragon’” (The Apocalypse of Pseudo-Daniel).12
Compare the Christian pseudepigraphal writings to the extra-Qur’anic Islamic hadiths: “Anas b. Malik reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said: Dajjal is blind of one eye and there is written between his eyes the word ‘Kafir.’ He then spelled the word as k.f.r., which every Muslim would be able to read.”13
Note here similarities between both traditions regarding the mark of the beast as letters (not numbers) on the forehead of the Dajjal. Moreover, the letters are A.K.T. in the Christian writings and K.F.R. in the Islamic because in the varying languages of each tradition these letters mean the same thing — to “reject” or “deny.” Again, Islamic writers borrow from the writers of false Christian documents.
The Dajjal’s skin and hair. A further example, concerning the skin and hair of the Dajjal, is instructive. Consider the Christian pseudepigrapha and the appearance of the Antichrist: “The appearance of his face is dusky; the hairs of his head are sharp, like darts” (Apocalypse of Pseudo-John).14
Compare the Christian pseudepigraphal writings to the extra- Qur’anic Islamic hadiths:
“Ubada ibn as-Samit narrates that the Prophet [SAW] said… ‘
The hair on his head will be Aja’d (course and curly).’”15
“Dajjal is blind of left eye with thick hair.”16
“Red complexioned, fat, with coarse hair.”17
The coarseness of the hair of the Antichrist in Christian pseudepigraphal writing is described by the writers of the hadiths with the Arabic word for coarse: Aja’d. The variation of the skin color in the hadiths may be related to the original Christian sources being somewhat vague, using the word “dusky” to describe the Antichrist’s skin.
Description of the Antichrist’s Actions. There are many descriptions in Christian pseudepigraphal literature of the Antichrist’s actions and effects borrowed by Islamic hadith writers, too. Consider just one of these.
Three years of drought. White explains that in both Christian and Islamic traditions, three years of drought are associatedwith the Antichrist. In the Christian version, drought manifests during the reign of the Antichrist, whereas in Islamic tradition drought precedes the Dajjal’s presence.18 From the Christian pseudepigrapha:
Antichrist; he shall be exalted even to heaven, and shall be cast down even to Hades, making false displays. And then will I make the heaven brazen, so that it shall not give moisture upon the earth; and I will hide the clouds in the secret places, so that they shall not bring moisture upon the earth….And again I said: Lord, and how many years will he do this upon the earth? And I heard a voice saying to me: Hear, righteous John. Three years shall those times be. (Apocalypse of Pseudo-John)19
And, from the writers of the Islamic hadiths:
There will be three hard years before the Dajjal. During them, people will be stricken by a great famine. In the first year, Allah will command the sky to withhold a third of its rain, and the earth to withhold a third of its produce. In the second year, Allah will command the sky to withhold two thirds of its rain, and the earth to withhold two thirds of its produce. In the third year, Allah will command the sky to withhold all of its rain, and it will not rain a single drop of rain.20
When one brings in additional supplemental facts not discussed in this brief article, seeing all of these similarities between the Antichrist and Dajjal as mere coincidence becomes impossible. The Dajjal, or Islamic version of the Antichrist, is clearly adapted from unbiblical Christian pseudepigraphal material. Moreover, consider this article hasn’t even ventured into an explanation of the equally real borrowing from extrabiblical false teachings of the writers of the Christian pseudepigrapha by Islamic hadith writers concerning similarities between the Islamic Mahdi and the Christian antichrist, or the Islamic Isa and the Christian false prophet — with devastating implications for Islamic theology. —C. Wayne Mayhall
C. Wayne Mayhall teaches comparative world religions at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Limestone College, and LIM college. He is the author of Patterns of Religions (Cengage, 2005) and Religious Autobiographies (Cengage, 2003).
- Pleasant Word, 2006.
- The assumption of many popular Christian writers today is that the Antichrist is a yet future figure. Hank Hanegraaff cogently argues that the references in John’s writings (especially Revelation), insofar as they point to an ultimate personification of evil (the archetypal Antichrist), refer to an individual and an institution in the first century, rendering the futurist end-times speculations of Richardson et al. and Islamic hadith writers effete. See Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Says about the End Times…and Why It Matters Today (Thomas Nelson, 2007) and various short teaching videos at http://www.equip.org/eschatology/will-there-be-a-futureantichrist- 3/ and http://www.equip.org/bible_answers/who-is-the-antichrist-2/ and http://
- Chris White, Islamic Antichrist Debunked: A Comprehensive Critique of the Muslim Antichrist Theory (Ducktown, TN: CVM Publishing, 2014), 158.
- Apostle Arne Horn, The Apocrypha #2: The Old Testament (New Apostolic Bible Covenant Publishers), 79.
- Wilhelm Bousset, The Antichrist Legend (Evergreen Books), loc. 1926, Kindle.
- Alexander Roberts, The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages (New York: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1886), 582.
- Hadiths are reports of what Muhammad or his companions said or did.
- Sayed Tahir Bilgami, “6,” Essence of Life, A Translation of Ain al-Hayat by Allama Mohammad Baqir.
- Sahih al-Bukhari 3:30:105.
- See note 2 above.
- White, Islamic Antichrist Debunked, 160.
- James H. Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 1:768.
- Sahih Muslim, hadith Number 7009, chap. 41. Theologically, “kafir” basically means “disbeliever.” “SAW” basically means “peace be upon him.”
- Zen Garcia, Lucifer: Father of Cain (Lulu.com, 2015), 350.
- “The Dajjal (Anti-Christ),” Discovering Islam, n.p., n.d., http://www.discoveringislam.org/anti-christ.htm.
- Sahih Muslim, Book 041, Number 7010, reported by Hudhalfa.
- Sahih Bukhari, vol. 4, Book 55, Number 650.
- White, Islamic Antichrist Debunked, 163.
- Garcia, Lucifer, 351.
- Sahih Al-Jami’ as-Saghir, Number 7875.