Al-Dajjāl or the Antichrist or False Messiah does not appear in the Qurʿān, but is a popular figure in Islamic eschatology. He will appear just before the Day of Judgment. The stories about him represent him quite gruesomely as blind in his right eye, with the eyeball swimming in the socket, and as the leader of a large group of Jews (from Khurasan, according to some accounts) who try to attack Mecca and Medina, but are repulsed by angels and turned north. Al-Dajjāl will impress many people since he will bring wealth and can perform miracles, but eventually he is killed in Palestine by either Jesus (according to the Sunnī tradition) or the Mahdī (according to the Shīʿī tradition). He is sometimes represented as a Jew himself, or a pagan Arab, and clearly the story has developed and has been elaborated over time.
In the large amount of literature that has grown up over the centuries, the concept of al-Dajjāl is used in a number of rather similar ways. The fact that he has only one eye is a symbol of how single-minded he is, how directed to achieving a particular end without regard to its cost and implications for others. His early success and miraculous accomplishments are a test for believers: they have been warned of his attributes and should not be won over by him just because of his apparent power. This power will soon be shown to be temporary since he is stalled by the angels defending the holy cities and finally killed. Given the emphasis in the Qurʿān on eschatology, al-Dajjāl accords well with the dramatic representation of the idea of the world coming to an end, of good finally triumphing over evil, and of the remarkable events that will prefigure the replacement of this mortal life with a more authentic form of existence in the next world.
Modern Muslim political movements use the concept of al-Dajjāl to comment on contemporary events, and often identify him with regimes with which they disagree, or with forces they regard as hostile to Islam. Al-Dajjālʾs early success and apparent miracles are a useful warning to the community not to be misled by the power and accomplishments of the enemies of Islam, since these are merely the precursors to their inevitable defeat at the end of time by the forces of God.
See also ESCHATOLOGY.
- Leaman, O.“Mahdi, Materialism and the End of Time.” Imam Mahdi, Justice and Globalisation: Conference proceeding, International Conference on Imam Mahdi, Justice and Globalisation, Islamic Centre of England. London, September 26, 2004.
- Parfrey, Adam. Extreme Islam: Anti-American Propaganda of Muslim Fundamentalism. Los Angeles: Feral House, 2001.
- Saritoprak, Z.“The Legend of al-Dajjāl (Antichrist): The Personification of Evil in the Islamic Tradition.”The Muslim World93, no. 2 (2003): 291–307.