Al Qaeda recently released a video of a large meeting in Yemen showing senior leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi preaching, “We must eliminate the cross” and explained that, “The bearer of the cross is America.”
Al-Wuhayshi was referencing sharia doctrine about the ultimate elimination of Christianity at the hands of the Islamist version of Jesus. It couldn’t be clearer: Their jihad is not about Western foreign policy. It’s about global conquest.
The Al Qaeda leader’s comment is important because it displays the end goal of even the “moderate” Islamists who insist that sharia governance is tolerant to Christians and Jews because it does not require a change in faith.
In truth, the system is designed to contain Christianity and Judaism and minimize their sustainability, but even this modicum of acceptance is not permanent.
Mainstream sharia doctrine holds that Jesus was not crucified or resurrected, but instead ascended to heaven. According to the doctrine, one day he will return to defeat the Islamic version of the Antichrist, which is called the Dajjal.
IslamWeb, a website that honors Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, states in Fatwa 82061 that “the first people to follow him [the Dajjal] will be the Jews.” The Antichrist will be on earth for 40 days and then Jesus “will come down from heaven and kill him.”
Islamist teaching about the Dajjal foments anti-Semitism and depicts Jesus as someone who — alongside the Muslims — will fight the Jews. Islamic scholar Imran Nazar Hosein preached in 2011 that the Dajjal will have an army of 70,000 Jews from Isfahan, Iran “externally appearing to be Muslims.” Egyptian Sheikh Mahmoud al-Masry says the same thing, adding that the Dajjal will be born to a Jewish woman in Isfahan and reign from Jerusalem.
IslamWeb Fatwa 124824 says Jesus will “break some crosses and command people to do the same” and will also “prohibit keeping them.” The objective is to make Christians accept that their interpretation of Jesus is wrong and to convert to Islam.
OnIslam.net, a website where Muslims can ask Islamic scholars questions, says Jesus “will declare himself as a prophet of Islam, coming to correct his message and to unite all the believers under the banner of Islam.” Jesus will then abolish the jizya, the mandatory tax paid by non-Muslims under sharia governance.
This prophetic absorption of Christianity into Islam is what is envisioned by the United Muslim Christian Forum, an Islamist terrorist front group, when it talks about bringing the two religions together into a single bloc.
Sharia will be the only government and Islam the only faith. The Reliance of the Traveller, an authoritative Sharia manual endorsed by Egypt’s Al-Azhar University (the highest school of Sunni learning) and the Muslim Brotherhood-linked International Institute of Islamic Thought, says in section 09.8:
“After his [Jesus] final coming, nothing but Islam will be accepted from them [Jews and Christians], for taking the poll tax [jizya] is only effective until Jesus’ descent…The coming of Jesus does not entail a separate divinely revealed law, for he will rule by the law of Mohammed…”
IslamWeb Fatwa 82052 explains that Jesus will “implement Islamic rules, and He will fight against the present Idolatrous Christianity. The most correct evidence shows that he is still alive, has not yet died, after Almighty Allah rescued him from the guilty Jews.”
Sharia doctrine further explains that Christians who convert at this time will go to Paradise. As for Christians and other non-Muslims who did not live for this prophetic time, they will be judged one day by Jesus. Anyone who ever lived and heard the message of Islam and did not convert will have Jesus as a “witness” against them on the Day of Judgment, according to Fatwa 82052.
These fatwas reference the hadith, or the collection of narrations about Mohammed’s life, as the source for their determinations. Muslims often disagree about the authenticity, interpretation and correct application of the different hadiths, but the top sharia scholars are united in their beliefs about Jesus’ role in prophecy and his destruction of crosses.
The Islamist offensiveness at the sight of a cross comes from these teachings about Sharia. Since they believe Jesus finds it so offensive that he will one day break the crosses, these Islamists believe they are commanded to likewise be offended by Christianity and the symbol of the cross in particular.
There is disagreement among Islamists about when Christians are acceptable targets, but Islamist terrorists like Al-Qaeda can cite authoritative Sharia rulings to show that attacks on Christianity are permitted before Jesus’ descent from heaven.
When Islamists destroy crosses or talk of destroying the cross, they are emulating the anger they believe Jesus has towards the cross. They are acting as they believe Jesus would if he were on earth today. This is the source for al-Wuhayshi’s statement that “we must eliminate the cross.”
This is also why Christian girls in Egypt are having their necklaces with crosses broken. It is also why Islamists in Libya destroyed a cross (along with the gravestones) at a gravesite for British soldiers who died there fighting the Axis powers.
Section o9.8 of Reliance of the Traveler states that a caliph (the leader of a caliphate) “makes war upon Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians” after first giving them a chance to convert or submit to sharia governance and agreeing to pay the jizya. Some Islamists argue that the resurrection of the caliphate is required for this war to commence, but that’s not exactly a reassuring qualification.
The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer by Ibn Rushd was published by the Qatar-based Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization and endorsed by a list of prestigious Islamist scholars including Qaradawi, members of Al-Azhar and the Qatari government. Section 101.1.7 of the Primer states, “The Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting the People of the Book, excluding the (Qurayshite) People of the Book and the Christian Arabs, is one of two things: it is either for their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizya.”
Islamist terrorists like Al-Qaeda who target Christians and Western civilization believe they are doing the work of Allah and, ironically, Jesus. A worldview that says “we must eliminate the cross” cannot be changed by political dialogue and foreign policy alterations.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.