The word Al-Fitan means trials, tribulations, confusion and conflicts and is quite often found in the books of ahadith pertaining to the subject of Islamic Eschatology or Akhiruz Zaman (end of times). In Al-Fitan era the world will experience many wars and global events that will significantly impact humankind especially the Muslim world. With Russian attack on Ukraine there’s a possible world war scenario unfolding in Europe which will most likely aggravate the already existing global conflicts. With the breakout of this war I believe we are at a junction where a bit of analysis can help us comprehend some aspects of a very famous hadith of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ which mentions 5 significant events that directly impact the Muslim world:
Narrated Muadh ibn Jabal (r.a) that Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The flourishing state of Jerusalem will be when Yathrib (Madinah) is in ruins, the ruined state of Yathrib will be when the great war comes, the outbreak of the great war will be at the conquest of Constantinople and the conquest of Constantinople when the Dajjal (Antichrist) comes forth.” He (the Prophet) struck his thigh or his shoulder with his hand and said: “This is as true as you are here or as you are sitting (meaning Muadh ibn Jabal)". (Sunan Abi Dawud 4294, Chapter: Signs Of The Battles)
As we enter ninth day of Russia-Ukraine conflict and observe the international reaction of various countries it is very important to notice the reaction of two countries: Israel and Turkey. This is because their reaction spells for us the following two scenarios may be happening very sooner than later: “…the flourishing state of Jerusalem…” and “…and the conquest of Constantinople”. The first possibly hints towards further expansion of Israel’s political power in the Middle East and the second hints towards a loss of Turkish and Muslim control of Istanbul and the seas around it. As a result of getting engulfed in to this new European war Turkey may experience this loss at the hands of either Russia or NATO, which will eventually result in the future reconquest of Istanbul by a Muslim army as predicted by the Prophet ﷺ in another hadith: “…You will fight Banu Asfar (the Romans) and those who come after you will fight them, until the best of the Muslims go out to fight them, the people of Hijaz, who do not fear the blame of anyone for the sake of Allah. They will conquer Constantinople with Tasbih and Takbir…” (Sunan Ibn Majah 4094, Kitab al-fitan)
Background of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
It is the Divine Wisdom of the Allah, the Al Hakeem (All Wise) that He does not allow a single political military power to remain unchallenged in this world because had He permitted, that power would have caused destruction everywhere: وَلَوۡلَا دَفۡعُ ٱللَّهِ ٱلنَّاسَ بَعۡضَهُم بِبَعۡضٖ لَّفَسَدَتِ ٱلۡأَرۡضُ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ذُو فَضۡلٍ عَلَى ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ - (Al Quran 2:251)..If it were not the system of Allah to drive back the evil of some people by means of others, there would be corruption on earth as the evil ones would gain authority. However, Allah is Bountiful to all of His creation.” - This ayah explains for us the tussle and the balance that exists between modern superpowers like US led Western NATO alliance vs Russia & China.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949, in the aftermath of World War II. The alliance was initially part of an effort by the US and its European allies to deter any expansion of the then-Soviet Union (USSR). After USSR collapsed and receded to modern Russian territory, NATO steadily expanded its orbit, bringing a swathe of central and eastern European states into its ranks surrounding Russia. NATO started its membership with only 12 European countries and by 2020 it has 30 European member states. The future of United States led NATO is at the center of the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine today. Moscow wants guarantees that its neighbor Ukraine, a former Soviet state, will be permanently barred from joining the alliance. It has also called for NATO to cease all military activity in Eastern Europe, blaming it for undermining security in the region. But Western leaders have rejected those demands. They have argued that Russia cannot be allowed to influence Kyiv’s foreign policy decisions and defended NATO’s “open door policy”, which grants any European nation the right to ask to join. After Russia, Ukraine is Europe’s second largest country by size and borders Russia. If they join NATO then a large territory bordering Russia will be part of NATO and an attack on any of its member is considered an attack on its entire military alliance. Russia acted in retaliation to the potential joining of Ukraine into NATO. Another major concern that irks Russia is the Neo-Nazi groups taking over Ukraine. The West supported and backed protests in 2014 which brought down Russia friendly government in Kyiv and a pro-US government into power. This paved the way for Azov, an ultranationalist far right pro-Nazi organization to infiltrate military and political circles in Ukraine, whose increasing influence threatens Russia who defeated Nazis in World War 2. The Azov leader has been known to declare in 2010, that Ukraine’s national purpose was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [inferior races]”. With Azov, Ukraine has emerged as a new hub for the far right across the world. Men from across three continents have been documented to join the Azov training units in order to seek combat experience and engage in similar ideology. Russian President Vladimir Putin referenced the presence of such units within the Ukrainian military as one of the reasons for launching his “special military operation … to de-militarise and de-Nazify Ukraine”.
Turkey's Engulfment into Russia-Ukraine Conflict
Currently the most pressing concern for many Muslim countries is the disruption of wheat supply if the conflict persists longer. Russia and Ukraine are one of the largest wheat suppliers in the world and a disruption of their supplies can cause bread prices to soar. Countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Sudan are among the list of importers and depend on Ukraine and Russia for more than 50% of their consumption. But there's another aspect which is more important this. It is the spilling of this conflict into Middle East & North Africa region from the Turkish side which will bring significant changes to the heart of the Muslim world.
Turkey is part of NATO and controls Black Sea. Turkey shares the longest maritime border with Black Sea. But Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania also share maritime borders with that Sea. Romania and Bulgaria are also NATO member states. Russia has attacked Ukraine from all sides including from the Black Sea which resulted in Turkey using Montreux Convention blocking access to certain Russian naval ships that pass through the two Straits of Bosporus (Istanbul) and Dardanelles that connect Mediterranean and Black Seas. The 1936 Montreux Accord allows Turkey to cut off any vessel transit between both seas during wartime. It was an accord that was struck between Turkey, Britain and USSR after World War II giving Turkey complete authority over the passage of ships between both Seas. If Turkey is at war, Ankara has the right to do whatever is necessary, including closing the straits. If other states are at war and Turkey is neutral, the straits are closed for those belligerent countries. Shortly after Russia launched air, sea and ground assaults on Ukraine, Kyiv made an official request to Ankara to close the Turkish straits to Russian ships. So far Turkey seems neutral in this conflict with only verbal condemnation for Russia’s behavior. But Turkey has also begun limiting access to some Russian naval vessels. It is important to keep in mind that Turkish rivalry to Russia is not new, in fact they have been supporting opposite sides in Libya and Syrian conflicts. They were also on the opposing sides in Nagorno-Karbakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In future a successful Russian conquest of Ukraine will give Russia even larger share of the Black Sea maritime borders. If hostility between Turkey and Russia increases over access of the straits then we can expect a possible military engagement between both, and a Turkish defeat might result in a Russian takeover of Istanbul which lies on the junction of Black and Mediterranean Seas. This would be a strategic win for Russia. If Turkey resists to directly confront Russia but NATO decides to go to war, then as a NATO member Turkey will unwillingly get sucked into this conflict. Regardless of Turkey wanting or no and due to its strategic position, sooner or later they will eventually have to become part of the upcoming wars between NATO and Russia. A major defeat for Turkey in those wars will cause them to lose control of Istanbul and both Seas fulfilling the prophecy of a “Roman” control of Istanbul as prophesied in ahadith.
Israel's Role in Russia-Ukraine Conflict
In recent years Israel has unilaterally declared Jerusalem, a disputed territory, to be its new capital and USA even accepted it, many countries have also moved their embassies there. Several Arab states like Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, UAE, Sudan, and obviously behind the scenes Saudi Arabia, have also accepted Israel’s illegal sovereignty over Palestine which has definitely strengthened its regional position more than before. But with the beginning of Russia-Ukraine conflict we are seeing that Israel may be moving a big step forward towards strengthening itself even more.
Since the beginning of this conflict Israel has refused to out rightly condemned Russia like other European countries have. Israel has been very careful in choosing their words when discussing this conflict at the domestic or foreign level. Many Israeli news outlets such as the Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Haretz, are reporting that Israel even volunteered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine after the war started. Even though Ukraine is majority Orthodox Christian country yet its Western backed President Volodomor Zelensky, is a Jew who has strong ties to Israel and other Easter European Jews that reside in Israel, Ukraine and Russia. He is also known to have openly supported Israel's occupation of Palestine calling Israel a "victim". Since Ukraine’s President shares cordial ties with Israel we can understand why Israel volunteered to become a mediator. Additionally, Russian-Israeli billionaires such as Roman Abramovich, Alexander Rodnyansky and others that reside in Russia, at the request of Ukraine, are also assisting in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine as part of an effort to end the ongoing war. President Volodymyr Zelensky also admitted that his government has reached out to members of the Jewish community in Russia and asked for intervention to try and resolve the conflict. If Russian Israeli oligarchs are able to successfully mediate between Russia and Ukraine and give what Russia wants then in return they might demand concessions for Israel in Middle East especially in Syria whose airspace is under Russian control and where Israel often strikes Iranian backed forces in coordination with Moscow. Additionally, Russia also has a military presence in Syria backing Assad’s government. This behind the scenes concession may lead Israel getting a free hand inside Syria strengthening itself in the region as predicted by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ about “…the flourishing state of Jerusalem…”