Some people who had watched the Netflix series Messiah, which aired 1st January 2020, were irritated. What happened?
Well, the main character, played by Belgian actor Mehdi Dehbi, calls himself the Messiah – he gives his name as al-Massih (الْمَسِيح). Muslims were reminded of the al-Masih al-Dajjal (الْمَسِيح الدَّجّال) – the False Christ or Anti-Christ. He is an evil figure in Islamic eschatology.
The Arabic word Dajjal and its meaning in Islam
- What’s the Netflix series Messiah about?
- The word Dajjal
- Why is he called the Dajjal?
- Why do people say that the Messiah in the Netflix series the Dajjal?
- What will happen to the Dajjal according to Islam?
- Calls for boycott and ban
- How did Netflix and the creators of the show react?
- What the Hadiths tell us about the Dajjal
What’s the Netflix series Messiah about?
When CIA officer Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan) uncovers information about a man (Mehdi Dehbi) gaining international attention through acts of public disruption, she begins an investigation into his origins.
As he continues to cultivate followers who allege he’s performing miracles, the global media become increasingly beguiled by this charismatic figure.
Geller must race to unravel the mystery of whether he really is a divine entity or a deceptive con artist capable of dismantling the world’s geopolitical order.
As the story unfolds, multiple perspectives are interwoven including that of an Israeli intelligence officer (Tomer Sisley), a Texas preacher (John Ortiz) and his daughter (Stefania LaVie Owen), a Palestinian refugee (Sayyid El Alami) and the journalist (Jane Adams) who covers the story.
The word Dajjal
The word Dajjāl means swindler, charlatan. It comes from the root d-j-l (د-ج-ل) which means to deceive, to be a swindler; in Classical Arabic it was also used in the meaning of to cover.
The Dajjāl will appear before the Day of Resurrection – in Arabic: Yawm al-Qiyāmā (يَوْم الْقِيامة). He will pretend to be the Messiah.
The Dajjāl is comparable to the Antichrist in Christian eschatology and to Armilus in medieval Jewish eschatology.
The Dajjāl will be a man from among the sons of Adam. He will have many attributes which were described in the Hadiths. So when he comes, the Muslims will know him and shall not be misled by him; they shall know his features because the Prophet has told Muslims about them:
- He will be a young man with a ruddy skin color; short, with thick curly hair, a wide forehead and broad upper chest.
- He will have a blind or defective (mamsūh) right eye. This eye will be neither prominent nor sunken and will look like a floating grape. His left eye will be covered with a thick piece of flesh growing from the edge of his eye.
- He will be dressed in robes of green colored satin.
- Between his eyes, three Arabic letters will be written: K-F-R (ك-ف-ر) or Kāfir (كافِر) with the letters joined. This will be understood by every Muslim, literate or illiterate. It means: disbelieve or disbeliever.
- The Dajjāl will be sterile; he will not have children.
Why is he called the Dajjal?
There are some hypotheses:
- The Dajjāl received this name because of the classical meaning of the underlying Arabic root: he will cover the earth (with his followers) like the tarp covers the body of the mangy camel. Or because he will envelop mankind with this infidelity.
- The Arabic root d-j-l (د-ج-ل) can also mean to mix. The Dajjāl is the one who acts in vagaries, who tells many lies and deceives many people – one who deliberately confuses matters.
- The word Dajjāl became a title given to the lying, one-eyed, false Messiah. The Dajjāl is called so because he conceals his disbelieve from people by lying to them, deceiving them, and confusing them. Scholars suggested that the reason why the Dajjāl is called (False) Messiah is because one of his eyes is smooth or abraded; he is blind or defective in one eye. In Arabic this is called mamsūh (مَمْسُوحُ), which comes from the same root as Masīh (الْمَسِيح) – the Arabic word for Messiah.
Why do people say that the Messiah in the Netflix series the Dajjal?
Signs suggesting the Messiah may be the Dajjal
- First of all, the Messiah in the Netflix series appears in Syria.
- He speaks Arabic (later, he also talks in Hebrew).
- He calls God “Allah” and not “Rabb” or “Father”.
- He refers to Muhammad in the first episode and even says the Islamic Shahada.
- There are miracles. The Messiah brings a boy who is shot dead to life.
- The Messiah in the Netflix series does not share too many features of the Dajjal which are described in the Hadiths. However, according to the Islamic records, the Dajjal will appear first, and then Jesus will come back to fight him. Therefore, for many Muslims, the person portrayed in the Netflix series can only be the Dajjal – and not the returning Jesus.
- The real name of the main actor is Mehdi. He is from Belgium. In Islam, the al-Mahdi, the Islamic savior, will play a crucial role in the Final Hour. Some Muslims claimed that this may be a secret hint of the screenwriters that they had the Dajjal in mind when writing the script.
What will happen to the Dajjal according to Islam?
He will be killed.
The Final Days (the Last Hour, the Apocalypse) will be a fight between several figures: the Anti-Christ Dajjāl (الدَّجّال), the (Islamic) savior al-Mahdī (الْمَهْدِي), Jesus (عِيسَى), and Gog and Magog will appear.
A crucial role might play the sword al-Battār (الْبَتَّار).
This sword was taken by Muhammad as booty from the Banū Qaynuqā‘ (بَنُو قَيْنُقاع), the Jewish tribe of Medina which was eradicated by the Muslims. It is called the sword of the prophets, because the names of the prophets David, Solomon, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Zechariah, John, Jesus, and Muhammad were inscribed in it. It also has a drawing showing King David cutting off the head of Goliath. Length of blade: 101 cm (39″).
It is said to be in the Topkapı museum. Some people claim that this will be the sword which Jesus will use when he returns to earth to defeat the Anti-Christ, the al-Dajjāl (الدَّجّال).
Calls for boycott and ban
The Royal Film Commission of Jordan has called on Netflix to forbid the US drama series. Some Netflix users from Islamic countries have started a petition on change.org to ban the series.
How did Netflix and the creators of the show react?
In the Netflix series, it is actually not told to which religion the “Messiah” is associated.
Creator Michael Petroni insisted in an interview with AFP that they were “super careful” in portraying the story. Petroni said that Netflix was “nervous” when he came to them with his idea. He insisted that the show “doesn’t set out to offend anyone”.
Remark: Michael Petroni is from Australia; his father grew up in Egypt. Petroni does not speak Arabic. Petroni refuses to be drawn on his own religion. The Daily Mail writes that the show’s producers, husband-and-wife Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, have a background in Christian faith-based programming.
What the Hadiths tell us about the Dajjal
‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar (عَبْد الله بن عُمَر) narrated that the Dajjāl was mentioned in the presence of the Prophet who said: “Allah is not hidden from you; He is not one-eyed”, and pointed with his hand towards his eye, adding: “While al-Masīh al-Dajjāl is blind in the right eye and his eye looks like a protruding grape.” Sahīh
al-Bukhārī 7407 (قَالَ ذُكِرَ الدَّجَّالُ عِنْدَ النَّبِيِّ فَقَالَ: إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَخْفَى عَلَيْكُمْ، إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيْسَ بِأَعْوَرَ وَأَشَارَ بِيَدِهِ إِلَى عَيْنِهِ وَإِنَّ الْمَسِيحَ الدَّجَّالَ أَعْوَرُ الْعَيْنِ الْيُمْنَى كَأَنَّ عَيْنَهُ عِنَبَةٌ طَافِيَةٌ)
’Anas ibn Mālik further reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The Dajjāl will be followed by seventy thousand Jews of Isfahan and will be dressed in robes of green-coloured satin.” Sahīh Muslim 2944 (أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ: يَتْبَعُ الدَّجَّالَ مِنْ يَهُودِ أَصْبَهَانَ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفًا عَلَيْهِمُ الطَّيَالِسَةُ)
’Anas ibn Mālik narrated that the Prophet said: “The Dajjāl will come to Medina and find the angels guarding it. So Allah willing, neither the Dajjāl, nor plague will be able to come near it.“ Sahīh al-Bukhārī 7134(عَنِ النَّبِيِّ قَالَ: الْمَدِينَةُ يَأْتِيهَا الدَّجَّالُ، فَيَجِدُ الْمَلاَئِكَةَ يَحْرُسُونَهَا، فَلاَ يَقْرَبُهَا الدَّجَّالُ قَالَ وَلاَ الطَّاعُونُ، إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ)
’Anas ibn Mālik (أَنَس بن مالِك) reported that Allah’s Messenger said: “The Dajjāl 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. Sahīh Muslim 2933 (قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ: “الدَّجَّالُ مَمْسُوحُ الْعَيْنِ مَكْتُوبٌ بَيْنَ عَيْنَيْهِ كَافِرٌ . ثُمَّ تَهَجَّاهَا ك ف ر يَقْرَؤُهُ كُلُّ مُسْلِمٍ)
’Umm Sharīk (أُمّ شَرِيك) reported that she heard Allah’s Messenger say: “The people would run away from the Dajjāl seeking shelter in the mountains.” She asked: “Where would the Arabs be then on that day?” The Prophet replied: “They would be small in number.“ Sahīh Muslim 2945 (أَنَّهَا سَمِعَتِ النَّبِيَّ يَقُولُ: “لَيَفِرَّنَّ النَّاسُ مِنَ الدَّجَّالِ فِي الْجِبَالِ. قَالَتْ أُمُّ شَرِيكٍ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَأَيْنَ الْعَرَبُ يَوْمَئِذٍ قَالَ: هُمْ قَلِيلٌ)
’Abū Sa‘īd (أَبُو سَعِيد) recounted that one day Allah’s Messenger told to them a long narration about the Dajjāl: “The Dajjāl will come and he will be forbidden to enter the mountain passes of Medina. He will encamp in one of the salt areas neighbouring Medina and there will appear to him a man who will be the best or one of the best of the people. He will say: ‘I testify that you are the Dajjāl whose story Allah’s Messenger has told us.’ The Dajjāl will respond [to his audience]: ‘Look, if I kill this man and then give him life, will you have any doubt about my claim?’ They will reply: ‘No!’ Then, the Dajjāl will kill that man and then make him alive. The man will say: ‘By Allah, now I recognise you more than ever!’ The Dajjāl will then try to kill him [again] but he will not be given the power to do so.” Sahīh al-Bukhārī 7132 (قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ يَوْمًا حَدِيثًا طَوِيلاً عَنِ الدَّجَّالِ، فَكَانَ فِيمَا يُحَدِّثُنَا بِهِ أَنَّهُ قَالَ: يَأْتِي الدَّجَّالُ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْهِ أَنْ يَدْخُلَ نِقَابَ الْمَدِينَةِ، فَيَنْزِلُ بَعْضَ السِّبَاخِ الَّتِي تَلِي الْمَدِينَةَ، فَيَخْرُجُ إِلَيْهِ يَوْمَئِذٍ رَجُلٌ وَهْوَ خَيْرُ النَّاسِ أَوْ مِنْ خِيَارِ النَّاسِ، فَيَقُولُ أَشْهَدُ أَنَّكَ الدَّجَّالُ الَّذِي حَدَّثَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ حَدِيثَهُ، فَيَقُولُ الدَّجَّالُ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ قَتَلْتُ هَذَا ثُمَّ أَحْيَيْتُهُ، هَلْ تَشُكُّونَ فِي الأَمْرِ فَيَقُولُونَ لاَ. فَيَقْتُلُهُ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيهِ فَيَقُولُ وَاللَّهِ مَا كُنْتُ فِيكَ أَشَدَّ بَصِيرَةً مِنِّي الْيَوْمَ. فَيُرِيدُ الدَّجَّالُ أَنْ يَقْتُلَهُ فَلاَ يُسَلَّطُ عَلَيْهِ)