Baby with cyclopia
Isis claims the one-eyed baby in this photo is 'Masih ad-Dajjal' - an anti-Messiah, whose birth marks the approaching Armageddon.Reuters

Isis militants are spreading photos of a one-eyed baby they claim is the Masih ad-Dajjal – the Islamic equivalent of the anti-Christ. The militants are using the images as a recruiting tool, claiming that the child's birth heralds the Apocalypse, and the end of the world.

The pictures have gained hundreds of thousands of views.

The posts show pictures of real children born with one eye, who were born in Bolivia in 2008 and India in 2006. The child in India later died.

Those disseminating the images claim that the baby is the ad-Dajjal who was born in Israel.

The children were born with cyclopia, a rare defect linked to the use of experimental anti-cancer drug Cyclopamine.

Apocalyptic propaganda

Experts said that apocalyptic imagery had been previously used by Isis in its propaganda campaigns, and there had been a sudden surge in its use.

"The ideological core of the Islamic State, they really believe this stuff," Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank based in Washington, DC told news website Vocativ. "It's definitely a part of outreach to new recruits."

Though there is no mention of the Apocalypse in the Koran, the Hadith, a book of saying attributed to Mohammed, claims that the end of the world will be heralded by the birth of the ad-Dajjal.

According to the text, the ad-Dajjal will appear near Iran and Syria at a time when homosexuality and drug use have become prevalent.

It predicts that he will lead an army of 70,000 Jews to war against an army of the righteous led by Christ and a warrior named the Mahdi.

The righteous are predicted to be victorious in the battle, and rule the world until Judgement Day, when they will ascend to heaven, and all others will be damned.

Islamic scholars point out that in the text ad-Dajjal is described as having one eye, but not being a cyclops.

Isis' religious justifications

Isis' mission to establish an Islamist caliphate across the Middle east is steeped in eschatological thinking.

"Issa (Jesus) will come down here, and al-Dajjal will come out here, it is the land of epics and the land of resurrection," said the leader of the Chechen Isis contingent In December last year, reports the Jamestown Foundation.

In a press conference recently chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff Martin Dempsey warned that Isis was an "apocalyptic" organisation.

"They can be contained, but not in perpetuity. This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated," he told reporters.

Though Isis has not yet proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the Mahdi, experts believe it is only a matter of time.

"Once the caliphate is firmly established, then the likelihood of a Mahdiyah being proclaimed increases," notes jihadism expert Timothy Furnish on his blog.

Other Muslims though have warned that al-Baghdadi is ad-Dajjal.

"One should also beware of the likelihood of a false messiah claimant appearing among them, who would in fact be the ad-Dajjal," writes the author of the Wahhabism Unveiled blog.