The curious case of Donald Trump: Is polling a useless predictor of outcome?

By Jamari Mohtar | Nov 10, 2016

The reliability of political polling to predict the outcome of an election is put into question when despite and in spite of most polls predicting Hillary Clinton as the favourite to win, albeit in a close fight because all polls are within their margin of error, Donald Trump against all odds clinched the trophy of the presidency.

Before we come to the conclusion that polls are a useless predictor of outcome, let’s hear some quotable quotes on statistics:

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” Mark Twain

 “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.”  George Bernard Shaw

 “Smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.”  Fletcher Knebel

I like most the quote by Fletcher Knebel because it hinted at arriving at something with no concrete substance as the aim of statistics, and to wit, we are all indeed “smoked” by the polls that said Hillary Clinton has a 90% chance of winning the presidency on the eve of Election Day.

Ignoring historical precedent at one’s own peril

 There are more than one ways to predict the outcome of presidential election other than polls.

A few hours before the results of some exit polls were announced on Election Day, I told friends through one of my WhatsApp groups that Hillary Clinton might not be elected as President, if we go by historical precedent.

Since term limit was imposed in 1947 – curbing presidential term to no more than two terms (eight years) – there has never been an instance where a Democratic presidential nominee won an election after eight years of incumbency by a Democratic president.

That is why Clinton lost after eight years of a Democrat Obama; Al Gore too (2000 election) after eight years of a Democrat Bill Clinton; and finally Hubert Humphrey (1968) after eight years of Democrats John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Whereas Donald Trump has a greater chance to win because there is one instance of history in which a Republican nominee won the election after eight years of incumbency of a Republican presidency. Who was he? None other than the one term President HW Bush who won in the 1988 election after eight years of Republican Ronald Reagan.

I am an ardent fan of history (and of ‘isteri’ too) although I’m aware that students pooh-pooh the study of history, one reason being it does not make you fabulously wealthy as compared to the study of law or medicine although I have come across poor lawyers and poor medical doctors. But as the outcome of the recent US presidential election, the Brexit vote and in fact most significant global events – even significant event at the personal level – have shown, one ignores history at one’s own peril.

This peril of ignoring history is famously encapsulated in the adage that history has a tendency to repeat itself. Even the natural phenomena of life have a habit of repeating themselves such as the repetition in the observable change in the days following the nights, of being healthy followed by being sick, of birth and death, and the boom and bust of the economic/business cycles.

Nonetheless, I’m not that naïve to believe that historical precedent is the only thing that matters. My view of history is as follows:

History seldom moves in a linear fashion. And that is why we don’t see new changes or new things everyday. Instead it moves in gradual non-linear twists and turns, giving us glimpses of an approaching historically repeating event in the making, where we feel things on the surface are the same as of yesteryears, yet with some qualitative differences in their essence. Once we get to feel this sensation of the same yet different, there will be many more non-linear twists and turns for years, before the full force of the repetition occurs.

At times history does not repeat itself at all but propels forward with a quantum leap as if in a three dimensional setting that demolishes every known assumptions with the onset of new inventions and discoveries or simply paradigm shift, heralding the emergence of a brave new world instead of the repeated old world. This then becomes a new normal and ultimately a status quo normal when it keeps repeating time and again before another quantum leap occurs.

Statistical disinformation or the fallibility of statistics

Now, let’s come to the crunch. Are political polls really useless as a prediction of outcome? One cannot blame those who say they are when the example of the Brexit vote is still fresh in our mind. Despite the narrowing of margin in polls as voting drew near in June, the majority of the polls were still predicting the Remain in EU would win, albeit with a small margin.

And last year in Askenazi Israel, despite exit polls had forecast a dead heat, Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party still won a surprise victory over its main rival, the centre-left Zionist Union.

But if you understand statistics in the context of the probability theory, you’ll be humbled enough to know that a poll which said that Hillary Clinton has a 90% chance of winning the election does not mean it’s a sure 100% win and that the 10% chance of Clinton losing is something that can take place in the realm of reality. In this sense, there is really no big deal in blaming polls for the different outcome than what was expected, as long as the different outcome is not a regular feature of the US election polls.

The last time the polls were dead wrong was in 1948 when Harry Truman was predicted to have lost the election, with one newspaper having circulated an early edition the day after election, which showed Thomas Dewey to be the winner as its page one lead story. The editors had had a hell of time in withdrawing that early edition.

Hence, the utility of polls as a predictive tool lies not so much in its accurate predictive power of the outcome ALL THE TIME, but rather a prediction that is dead accurate MOST OF THE TIME – giving credence to the notion of the working in the real world of the principle of an exception to the rule.

We can’t even predict with dead accuracy what’s going to happen to us in the next few hours, and yet we don’t want to eat humble pie in accepting that our prediction – the prediction of mere mortals – might go wrong when it comes to election polls. That is indeed arrogance of the highest order!

Of course there is nothing wrong in doing a sort of post mortem to get the answer on why and where did the polls go wrong, especially after the humble pie has been eaten. The least that this will result is in the lessons learnt to ensure that there will be a less frequent occurrence of the principle of exception to the rule, which it is meant to be for otherwise we would be living in a world of chaos. And then He who is in Heaven will smile approvingly at our action to learn from past mistakes and to minimize the exceptions!

And that is why I’m deeply moved when an intelligent and scholarly man says, “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.” (Ahem, ahem…)

A ‘new’ normal?

 So what went wrong? I’m in no position to tell what went wrong scientifically though I took statistics at the undergraduate level but didn’t do well in that subject (actually within a certain margin of error, I did well in the exam, hehe). Based on news reports in the US, it is not so much statistical error that is at fault but systematic error.

Statistical error has to do with the methodology the pollsters used which will lead to among others, the questions of the representativeness of the sample (sampling error), the sample size so chosen (size error) and the degree of freedom assumed which will impact the level of confidence in prediction.

Experts have all been unanimous that the statistical errors were all within the threshold of acceptability statistically. Remember that statistics is not a science that is about 100% accuracy all the time and if you perceived it as such and refused to accept the existence of acceptable statistical errors, you (the layman) are exhibiting arrogance of the highest order.

So it is the systematic error that is in question which in layman term can be phrased this way: “Yes, the sampling method was right, the sample size was right but what are the questions that you asked the voters? Is it leading questions such that the result of the poll is what you (the pollster) want to hear rather than asking objective questions that beget objective answers?

The systematic error could also be explained in the way the final consumers of the poll (not the pollsters themselves but the media and Clinton’s campaign staff who commissioned the pollsters) spin the pollsters’ analysis in accordance with their own agenda of supporting Hillary at all cost whether consciously or not.

In this regard, Trump actually made sense when he alleged during campaigning that the election was rigged but he was far off the mark when he said that these people (the pollsters) were interviewing each other rather than random voters.

Perhaps he gave this stupid reason out of desperation because the analysis of his own pollsters had shown him that he had a good chance of winning in the battleground swing states.

But instead of seeing all these in term of polling errors, I’m of the view that the 2016 US election is a watershed election because it sees the emergence of a new normal as exemplified in Trump getting away unscathed for:

  • Not showing his tax returns;
  • Speaking outrageously against women, the Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, China and Mexico, etc;
  • Mimicking the gestures of the handicaps and his opponents; and
  • ‘Brawling’ with his fellow Republicans including Speaker Ryan

Seeing the above as a new normal also implied that perhaps the Muslims and others too should ultimately judge him based on the policies that he will finally implement as a President, rather than based on his speeches during the heat of the moment when campaigning.

The fact is for about three months after winning the election he is not the President of the USA, Obama is. President elect Trump will be just as lame-duck as the real President during these three months until his inauguration in late January, and due to this, it does not make sense to be emotional about him during this period.

So how do we predict the outcome of a Trump presidency under this new normal scenario? Is there any historical precedent? There is, actually.

When Nikita Khrushchev succeeded Josef Stalin as the Soviet leader in 1954, his outrageous behavior at the UN Assembly in 1960 by repeated banging of his shoe in protest at a speech by the Philippine delegate, Lorenzo Sumulong, had made him a Soviet leader with a relatively brief reign as compared to his predecessors who ruled until their deaths.

So in light of a new normal and a historical precedent, the relevant question to ask about Trump in relation to predicting the outcome of his presidency is not so much whether he will be a one term president; rather the question is will he serve the full duration of his first term?

Only time will tell whether the latter outcome will see the light of day! So far since winning the election, Trump’s actions and sayings are presidential.

Askenazic Jews – the descendants of Yajuj Wa Majuj (Gog and Magog)?

Basmala-the-Bismillah-phrase-Arabic-islamic-Calligraphy-10

 

 

 

Islamic Eschatology

My sensitivity, sympathy and empathy were often aroused each time I saw video clips on Facebook which showed the brutal treatment of the soldiers of the Zionist regime of Israel on UNARMED, HARMLESS and HELPLESS Palestinian kids, women and the elderly.

Social media like Facebook has done a great service in creating an awareness of such brutalities of the Zionist regime. And people from all over the world and all walks of life greeted this absurdity of the most powerful military in the region to brutalise the weakest sector of the Palestinian society with deep disgust, judging from the comments to the video clips. But what amazed me is the elegant silence of world leaders, supranational bodies such as the UN, OIC, IMF, World Bank and the mainstream media on such brutalities. Are they part of the conspiracy too – a brutal one at that? I don’t think so simply because I don’t believe in conspiracy theories until the facts are proven.

Just a stone’s throw away is another episode of brutality, this time in Syria, where all parties to the conflict – the Assad regime backed by Russia, the Mujahidin backed by the US and the devilish ISIS army of terror who some say is the creation of the Israeli Mossad, locked in a battle to conquer Syria – were guilty of the most horrendous brutality in modern time.

Why does it have to come to this? My mind toys with the idea that could all these happenings signify a prelude to heralding that phase of time called the End of History.

Of course, I’m not referring to the End of History as postulated by Francis Fukuyama who in 1989, seeing the imminent collapse of the Berlin Wall, wrote an essay on The End of History that proposed the advent of western liberal democracy as heralding the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government,” said Fukuyama in his 1989 essay.

Oh, how off the mark Fukuyama was, as to this day Western liberal democracy is still not the norm in many parts of the world. It only gave President George W Bush an excuse to invade Iraq under the pretext of spreading democracy to the Iraqis, in addition to punishing Saddam Hussain for stockpiling non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

The End of History I have in mind is based on Islamic Eschatology in which the End of History will precede the End of Time. The End of History in Islamic Eschatology coincides with that time when the Truth (Haq) will vanquish Falsehood (Bathil) and reign supreme for a number of years. But before the Truth reigns supreme, the period preceding it will be filled with horrendous Falsehood, which will result in untold miseries and sufferings for humankind.

For the uninitiated, eschatology refers to the branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind. Specifically it is a set of belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind.

The End Time, which features prominently in the various eschatology of several world religions is a period in the future also known as end of days, last days, final days or eschaton.

From the Islamic perspective, eschatology or Ilmu Akhir Zaman is therefore the branch of Islamic scholarship that studies Yawm al-Qiyamah (the Day of Resurrection) or Yawm ad-Din (Day of Judgement). This is believed to be the final assessment of humanity by Allah, with annihilation of all life, resurrection and judgment.

But before this End of Time happens, falsehood in the form of wickedness, cruelties, betrayals and atrocities known as the Age of Great Temptations (The Age of Fitan) will mushroom on this Earth which will culminate in the End of History in which Falsehood will perish at the hands of Truth, and everlasting reign of peace and goodwill on Earth will prevail for some times. Finally, this too will come to an end with the End of Time.

So bear in mind the difference between the End of History and the End of Time.

One aspect of the eschatology of Islam that has riveted my mind is the coming of Yajuj wa Majuj (Gog and Magog) before the period of the End of History. They will work the worst kind of excesses and atrocities on the surface of the Earth. Who are these Gog and Magog? One interesting view has it that this could well be the Askenazic Jews who were instrumental in establishing the Zionist movement which led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

If this is true, no wonder they are so cruel, wicked and brutal. Read on…

p.s. There is at present a preponderance of the Askenazic over the Sephardic Jews. As late as 1960s the Sephardic Jews numbered only about 500,000, compared with the Ashkenazim of the same period estimated at approximately 12 million. Statistical figures for the contemporary demography of Ashkenazi Jews, oscillate between 10 million and 11.2 million, about 75% of Jews worldwide

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Askenazic Jews – the descendants of Yajuj Wa Majuj (Gog and Magog)?

By Jamari Mohtar | Aug 31, 2016

“There wasn’t one of them who had an ancestor who ever put a toe in the Holy Land. Not only in Old Testament history, but back to the beginning of time. Not one of them! And yet they come to the Christians and ask us to support their armed insurrections in Palestine by saying, “You want to help repatriate God’s Chosen People to their Promised Land, their ancestral home, don’t you? It’s your Christian duty. We gave you one of our boys as your Lord and Savior. You now go to church on Sunday, and you kneel and you worship a Jew, and we’re Jews.” But they are pagan Khazars who were converted just the same as the Irish were converted. It is as ridiculous to call them “people of the Holy Land…”

 – Benjamin Freedman, A Jewish Defector Warns America in a   speech at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. in 1961

The subject of Gog and Magog appears in the Quran in Surah Alkafh when Allah says:

“And they ask you (O Muhammad) about Dhul-Qarnayn. Say: “I will recite to you about him a report. Indeed, We established him upon the earth, and We endowed him with [the knowledge of] the right means to achieve anything [that he might set out to achieve]; and so he chose the right means [in whatever he did].”

[And he marched westwards] till, when he came to the setting of the sun, it appeared to him that it was setting (as if) in a dark, turbid sea; and near it he found a people. Allah said: “O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of goodness]. He answered: “As for him who does wrong, we will punish him. Then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with a terrible punishment. But as for him who believes and does righteous deeds, he will have a reward of Paradise, and we shall make binding on him [only] that which is easy to fulfill.”

[And then he marched eastwards] till, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found that it was rising on a people for whom We had provided no coverings against it: thus [We had made them, and thus he left them]; and We did encompass with Our knowledge all that he had in mind.

[And he marched on] till, when he reached [a pass] between the two mountain-barriers, he found beside them a people who could scarcely understand a word [of his language]. They said: “O Dhul-Qarnayn, indeed Gog and Magog are spoiling this land. May we, then, pay unto thee a tribute on the understanding that thou wilt erect a barrier between us and them?” He answered: “That wherein my Sustainer has so securely established me is better [than anything that you could give me]; hence, do but help me with [your labour’s] strength, [and] I shall erect a rampart between you and them!

“Bring me ingots of iron!” Then, after he had [piled up the iron and] filled the gap between the two mountain-sides, he said: “[Light a fire and] ply your bellows!” At length, when he had made it [glow like] fire, he commanded: “Bring me molten copper which I may pour upon it.” And thus [the rampart was built, and] their enemies were unable to scale it, and neither were they able to pierce it. Said [Dhul-Qarnayn]: “This is a mercy from my Sustainer! Yet when the time appointed by my Sustainer shall come, He will make this [rampart] level with the ground: and my Sustainer’s promise always comes true!” [Quran, Alkafh (18): 83-98].

Just a digression on the reason (asbabu nuzul) why the above verses was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). When the Prophet (pbuh) began his mission in Mecca, which lasted for 13 years, the questions uppermost in the minds of the leaders of Mecca were, “Was Muhammad really a prophet? Or was he just a convincing fake? How could we find out?” They finally decided to consult the Jewish rabbis in Yathrib (Medina) about the problem, since Jews had had more dealings with prophets in the past and the rabbis were knowledgeable in the scriptures.

The rabbis advised the leaders of Mecca to ask Muhammad three questions. If he knew the answers to those questions, then he was truly a prophet. The first question was about some young men of long ago, who had left their people and had had a wondrous experience. The second question was about a traveler who had journeyed to the ends of the earth in the east and the west. The third question was about the Spirit, and what it was.

The leaders of Mecca hurriedly sent messengers to Muhammad (pbuh) to ask him the three questions. The Prophet (pbuh) told them to return the following day and he would have the answers for them. However, he failed to add, “in sha Allah,” that is, “if Allah wills.” By the next day he had not received any revelation to help him answer the questions, and he had to ask the messengers to return the following day. This was repeated for fifteen days, while the people of Mecca laughed at Muhammad’s inability to answer the three questions. Finally Jibril appeared to the Prophet (pbuh), and told him the three answers. He also explained the reason for the delay. In Surah Al-Kafh (18: 23-24) is the warning that one should not plan to do anything in the future, without saying, in sha Allah. All that we hope to do is only accomplished by the will of Allah.

The first question was about some young men who remained steadfast in their worship of one God, while the rest of their people turned to the worship of idols. No one is sure of the number of youth involved. That knowledge is Allah’s alone, although many scholars have disputed over the number. To escape persecution, the young men hid in a cave, where Allah caused them to fall asleep for about three hundred years (only Allah knows the exact length of time). They had a dog with them, and to anyone who happened to see them they would have appeared to be awake, and the person would have been filled with fear of them. When they finally awoke, it seemed to them as if only a short time had passed. It was when one of them was sent down to the town to buy food that they learned they had slept for centuries. The account of these sleepers is in the Quran, Surah Alkafh (18): 9-25.

The answer to the second question was about a great traveler identified as Dhul-Qarnayn, “the owner of two horns.” He had great power and had been given the ways and means to do all things. He traveled to the setting of the sun, which set in a murky pool. Nearby there lived a people over whom Dhul-Qarnayn had authority to punish or reward. He chose to punish those who did wrong and then send them back to Allah to be further punished. Those who believed in Allah and were righteous would be rewarded. Then he journeyed to the rising of the sun, where he found a people who had been provided with no protection against the sun. Those people he left completely alone.

As part of his answer to the second question, Muhammad (pbuh) gave information about a third journey, which Dhul-Qarnayn made. He traveled to a place between two mountains, where the people understood scarcely anything about Allah. They asked for his help in building a barrier between them and two beings called Yajuj and Majuj. In return for his assistance they promised to pay tribute to him. However he did not desire tribute. He replied that the power, which he received from Allah, was better than any tribute, which they could offer him. And so he helped them erect a barrier of iron and lead, which Yajooj and Majooj were powerless to climb over or dig through. But the Quran warns that on a day appointed by Allah, they would break out of their place of confinement and cause great destruction. This would be one of the signs that the Day of Judgment was near. The story of Dhul-Qarnayn can be found in the Quran Surah Al-Kafh (18): 83-98.

The third question, about the Spirit, had the shortest answer. The Quran Surah Al-Isra (17): 85 says that the Spirit comes by command of Allah, and that mankind does not have the knowledge to fully understand it. The Jews disputed that they had been given full knowledge in the Torah, but Allah tells us that their knowledge is very small, in comparison to Allah’s knowledge, which could not be recorded even if all the trees on earth were pens and all the seas were ink.

Despite Muhammad (pbuh) having answered all their questions successfully, the rabbis did not recognize him as a prophet, and the Meccan leaders did not follow the rabbis’ earlier advise to follow him as a prophet. But many other people were convinced and the number of believers increased. As the numbers of believers increased, the opposition felt increasingly threatened and resorted to persecution of the followers of Muhammad.

So back to the narrative on Dhul-Qarnayn and Gog Magog – who was Dhul- Qarnayn and who were Gog and Magog?

Some Muslim commentators opined that Dhul-Qarnayn was the Greek King, Alexander the Great of Macedonia, hence the name Iskandar (Alexander) Dhul-Qarnayn was bandied about. But the way the Quran described Dhul-Qarnayn left no doubt that he was a monotheist who was endowed by Allah with power, knowledge and wisdom while Alexander the Great was a Greek pagan believing in the existence of a multitude of Gods.

Perhaps some of the mufasirins (Quranic commentators) who believed that Dhul-Qarnayn was Alexander the Great was influenced by the legend popularized by Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus (born Joseph ben Matityahu) who flourished in the 1st century CE (Christian Era). According to that legend, Gog and Magog were locked up by Alexander the Great behind iron gates in the Caspian Mountains, generally identified with the Caucacus Mountains (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, and The Jewish War). This legend must have been current in contemporary Jewish circles by this period, and maybe the reason why the Jewish rabbis of Medina included it in one of the three questions to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the hope of getting more details on Gog and Magog.

A clear idea of who Dhul-Qarnayn was, was given by the great Muslim scholar Imam Ibn Kathir [born 1300 (701H), died 1373 (774H)] in his historical work, Al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah (The Beginning and the End) when he said:

“At the time of Abraham (peace be on him), there was a king called Dhul-Qarnayn. He performed Tawaf around the Ka’bah with Abraham (peace be on him) when the latter first built it; he believed in Abraham and followed him. Dhul-Qarnayn was a good man and a great king. Allah gave him great power and he ruled the east and west. He held sway over all kings and countries, and travelled far and wide in both east and west.”

Ibn Kathir, when discussing the origins of Yajuj wa Ma’juj – the people who traditionally inhabited the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, which was where the Khazar Kingdom was originally situated – specifically states that “Gog and Magog are two groups of Turks, descended from Yafith (Japheth), the father of the Turks, one of the sons of Prophet Noah (alahi salam).”

Dhil-Qarnayn’s Iron Wall

Somewhere near Derbend in Central Asia, Hissar District, about 150 miles southeast of Bukhara, there is a very narrow defile, with overhanging rocks, on the main route between Turkestan and India: latitude 38 degrees North; longitude 67 degrees East.  It is now called in Turkish Buzghol-Khana (Goat-house), but was formerly known as the Iron Gate (Arabic, Bab  al Hadid; Persian, Dar-i-ahani; Chinese, T’i-men-kuan).

There is no iron gate there now, but there was one in the 7th century, when the Chinese traveller Hiouen Tsiang saw it on his journey to India.  He saw two folding gates cased with iron hung with bells.  Nearby is a lake named Iskandar Kul, connecting the locality with Alexandar the Great.  We know from history that Alexandar, after his conquest of Persia and before his journey to India, visited Sogdiana (Bukhara) and Maracanda (Samarqand).  We also know from Al Maqdis, the Arab traveller and geographer, who wrote about 375H (985-6 CE) that the Abbasid Caliph al Wathiq (842-846 CE) sent out a mission to Central Asia to report on this Iron Gate. They found the defile 150 yards wide: on two jambs, made with bricks of iron welded together with molten lead, were hung two huge gates, which were kept closed. Nothing could correspond more exactly with the description in the Quran, Surah Alkafh (18):95-96

The Khazars – the first wave of Gog and Magog post Dhul-Qarnayn era

We can safely assume that after the Iron Wall built by Dhul-Qarnayn was in placed, the whole area of Gog and Magog in Central Asia covering an immense land area of over a million square miles extending from western Hungary/Austria eastward to the Aural Sea, north to the Upper Volga, and its southern region extending to the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas were free from the machinations and chicaneries of Gog and Magog. The place was so peaceful that this paved the way for the Silk Route to be discovered which in turn encouraged trade among nations.

Now, fast forward from the time of Dhul-Qarnayn to the 7th century. Out of the blue, there lived at the place where Gog and Magog had been quarantined by Dhul-Qarnayn, the Khazars who were a semi nomadic Turkic warlike people, ruthlessly brutal and exclusively belligerent. They lived between 650 to 1048 CE in a region near the Caspian Sea. For some three centuries (650 – 965 CE) the Khazars dominated the vast area (800,000 square km) extending from the Volga-Don steppes to the eastern Crimea and the northern Caucasus. In fact, an embryonic state of Khazaria began to form sometime after 630 CE.

It was around this time that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) got an inkling that the Iron Wall built by Dhul-Qarnayn had been breached by Gog and Magog based on a Hadith narrated by Zainab bint Jahsh (r.a): “… once the Prophet (pbuh) awoke from such a sleep that his face was red and he said: ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah. Woe to the Arabs, from the great evil that is approaching them. Today a gap as big as this has opened up in the wall of Yajuj and Majuj …’ and the Prophet (pbuh) indicated the size of the hole by forming a ring with his index finger and thumb.” (Bukhari)

According to Rutgers University Professor Peter Golden in his book, An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis And State Formation in the Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East, published in 1992, an embryonic state of Khazaria began to form sometime after 630 CE, when it emerged from the breakdown of the larger Göktürk Qağanate. The tribes that were to comprise the Khazar empire were not an ethnic union, but a congeries of steppe nomads and peoples who came to be subordinated, and subscribed to a core Türkic leadership.

Earlier in 627 CE, the Roman Emperor Heraclius, formed a military alliance with the Khazars for the purpose of a final defeat of the Persians, marking the first time the Khazars were involved in an international relation with a superpower. Upon the first meeting of the Khazar King Ziebel with the Roman Emperor, the Khazars displayed, in full array, their skills at diplomatic flattery – skills that would serve them well and would not disappear with their kingdom. Gibbon recorded this in his Fall of the Roman Empire:

He “with his nobles dismounted from their horses,” says Gibbon, “…and fell prostrate on the ground, to adore the purple of the Caesar.” So enamored was the Byzantine Emperor with this display of obeisance that it eventually led to the offer, along with many riches, of the Caesar’s daughter Eudocia in marriage. That union never took place due to the death of Ziebel while Eudocia was en route to Khazaria. However, in 730 CE, a marriage between a Khazar princess and the heir to the Byzantine Roman Empire resulted in an offspring who was to rule Byzantium as Leo the Khazar. Thus the “King of the North” had skillfully managed to place himself on the throne of the Roman Empire.

Back to the 627 CE Byzantium-Kazar alliance, the Byzantium managed to be victorious in their final battle with the Persians despite a treachery from their ally, the Kazars, who left them at a crucial time during the battle. Although the Sassanids were defeated, it was the Muslims under Caliph Umar al-Khattab who finally finished off once and for all the Sassanian Empire.

It seemed that these traits of being ruthlessly brutal, exclusively belligerent and skillfully talented at flattery and treachery were so successfully passed on to their descendants when the latter managed to convince Britain not to surrender to Germany during World War I in 1916 because they (the descendants) will convince the US to enter the war on the side of the British… oops I’m jumping the gun, more on that later.

In the early part of the 7th century, Islam came northward through the same Kasbek Pass the Khazars had used, and began a long war with the Northern Kingdom. The major attempt of the Muslim armies to take control of the Transcaucasus came in 622 CE while Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was still leading Islam. The Muslim armies soon conquered Persia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and surrounded the Byzantine heartland (present-day Turkey) in a deadly semi-circle, which extended from the Mediterranean to the Caucasus and the southern shores of the Caspian. This began a long series of incursions by both sides (Khazaria and Islam) that lasted for another thirty years. In 652 CE, Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (r.a.), sent a Muslim army led by Abdal-Rahman ibn-Rabiah to the Caucasus. This army was routed by the Khazars, with the death of four thousand Arab soldiers, including their commander.

Later, there was a brief period of Muslim incursion into Khazaria where Caliph Marwin II, in a surprise, two-pronged attack, drove the Khazars as far back in their own land as the Volga region. His only terms for peace were that the Kagan (King of Khazar) convert to Islam, with which the Khazar king complied, but apparently only long enough for the Muslim Caliph to withdraw back across the Caucasus. This incident preceded by only a few years the Khazar monarch’s conversion to Judaism. Most historians agree as to the motivation behind the Caliph’s withdrawal. The Muslim ruler apparently realised that, unlike the more civilised Persians, Armenians or Georgians, the barbaric Khazars could not be kept under military rule at such a distance.

This first wave of Gog and Magog which began after the Dhul-Qarnayn’s Iron Wall was breached, ended when the Asiatic Rus from Kiev ransacked Kazaria which by then had become a Jewish kingdom. The remnants of the Khazars fled to nearby Hungary, Southern Russia and Bulgaria where the second wave of Gog Magog appeared in European soils, wreaking havoc to Europe in the form of World War I and World War II.

According to Benjamin Freedman, himself a Jew and an apparent long-time associate and confidant of presidents and statesmen, in an address presented in 1961 at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., the Khazars were so belligerent and hostile that they were eventually run out of Asia and scattered amongst the nations of Eastern Europe. Heinrich von Neustadt, around 1300, wrote of them as the “terrifying people of Gog and Magog.”

More on the reasons for the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism, and at what stage of the Gog and Magog wave we are in now, in my next post. Stay tuned.

Wallahu’alam bi sawab