ESCHATOLOGY IN ISLAM

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The main aspects of Islamic eschatology are similar to the Judeo- Christian tradition. Since they were derived from the same source and so originate from Divine Revelation, many common points can be found: for example, the invasion of the world shortly before the end of time by the barbarous Gog and Magog (Ya’juj and Ma’juj) tribes, the appearance of Dajjal (the Anti-Christ) and then a Messiah and/or Mahdi who will bring justice and order after global chaos, and before a global apostasy just before the world’s destruction, Doomsday, Resurrection, the Supreme Judgment, the Bridge (Sirat), and Paradise and Hell as the final abode of conscious beings.

In this section, we will summarize the “last things” or the events to occur before the destruction of the world. Before analyzing this, it is necessary to explain the language of the main Islamic religious literature.

The Language of the Divine Books and the Prophetic Traditions

The Qur’an decrees: There is not a thing wet and dry but it is in a Manifest Book (6:59). The Qur’an contains everything, but not to the same degree, in the form of seeds, nuclei, summaries, principles, or signs. Things are explicit, implicit, allusive, vague, or suggestive. Each form is used to meet the Qur’an’s purposes and the context’s requirements.

The Qur’an pursues four main purposes: To expose and establish in human minds and hearts God’s Existence and Unity, Prophethood, bodily Resurrection, and the worship of God and justice.11 To realize its purposes, the Qur’an draws our attention to God’s acts in the universe, His matchless art displayed through creation, the manifestations of His Names and Attributes, and the magnificent, perfect order and harmony in existence. It explains how to worship and please the Creator, makes frequent mention of the other life, and explains how we can gain eternal happiness and be saved from eternal punishment. It mentions certain historical events, and lays down the rules for personal and social good conduct and morality as well as the principles of a happy, harmonious social life. It also gives news of important future events, especially those that will happen before the end of time. These have a prominent place in both the Qur’an and the Prophetic sayings.

The Qur’an is the last Divine Book and Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the final Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. Thus, both address all times, places, and levels of understanding. As the vast majority of people always have an “average” level of understanding, the Qur’an and the Prophet use the appropriate style and language to guide them to the truth and the Qur’an’s basic purposes. Thus symbols, metaphors, allegories, comparisons, and parables requiring interpretation are quite common. Those who are well-versed in knowledge (3:7) know how to approach and benefit from the Qur’an and the Prophetic Traditions.

Another reason why the Qur’an does not concentrate on future events explicitly is that the point of religion is to examine and test the individual so that elevated and base spirits may be distinguished. Just as raw materials are fired to separate diamonds and coal, as well as gold and soil, Divine obligations test conscious beings and encourage them to “compete” in doing good so that the precious “ore” in the “mine” of human potential may be separated from the “dross.”

Since the Qur’an was sent in order to perfect humanity through trial in this abode of testing and competition, it can only allude to future events that everyone will witness one day, and only opens the door to reason to a degree that proves its argument. If it mentioned them explicitly, the test would be meaningless. If the truth of Divine injunctions and Qur’anic and Prophetic predictions were clearly evident, everyone would have to affirm them, thereby rendering our God-given mental and spiritual faculties meaningless.

After this note, we may continue with brief mention of the last things:

The Last Things The Dajjal (Antichrist)

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, mentioned two Antichrists: the Dajjal, who will appear in the non-Muslim world and try to remove the religious belief and spread heresy, and the Sufyan, who will appear in the Muslim world and struggle against Islam, especially against its way of life.12 Both beings are the worst of all the Dajjals and Sufyans to appear in the world after the Messenger. Islamic sources report from the Messenger that more than thirty Dajjals will appear after him,13 and that the one or ones to emerge before the end of time will be the most harmful and destructive.

Another important point to stress is that the narrations of such beings are not exclusively about their persons. Rather, they are about their ideologies and committees, and the systems they will establish in all aspects of life. There are many reports from Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, about the Antichrist, with different degrees of authenticity according to the principles of Hadith science. Some of them are as follows:

• “The hands of the Sufyan will be holed,” meaning that the Sufyan will be a prodigal one and encourage prodigality and dissipation.

• “A terrible person will appear before the end of time. When he gets up one morning, he will find that on his forehead is inscribed: This is an infidel.”14 This means that the Sufyan will be an apostate and, in imitation of unbelievers, will compel people to wear the attire which is a symbol of unbelievers.

• “The dictators to appear before the end of time, including especially the Dajjal and Sufyan, will have a false Paradise and Hell.”15 This means that during their time, people will be addicted to amusement and worldly pleasures and the income disparity among social classes will increase. As a result, there will be rebellions against governments. Therefore, the places of pleasure and amusement, jails, and similar places of torture will stand side by side.

• “Before the end of time, there will be almost no people who worship God and mention His Names as an act of worship.”16 This implies that the places in which God is worshipped and His Names are mentioned will be closed, and that the number of believing worshippers will decrease considerably. Another meaning is that just before the world’s destruction, God will take the believers’ souls and the world will be destroyed upon the unbelievers’ heads.

• “Certain terrible persons will emerge before the end of time, such as the Dajjal, and claim divinity and make people prostrate to them.”17 This means that such persons will derive their force mostly from atheistic and materialistic trends and suppose themselves to have godly power. Their statues will be built, and people will be forced to bow before them as a way of adoration.

• “The dissipation and dissension to appear before the end of time will be so widespread and powerful that no one will be able to control his or her carnal soul against them.”18 This means the dissipated life will seduce most people, and that they will indulge in it willingly. The frightening dimensions of the dissipation and pleasure-addiction that the Dajjal will cause at this time have caused almost all Muslims, upon the Prophet’s order, to take refuge in God for fourteen centuries.

• “The Sufyan will be a knowledgeable one and fascinate many scholars.”19 This means that although devoid of such means of power and reliance as kingdom, tribe, wealth, and courage, the Sufyan will gain authority due to his intriguing capacity and political genius. He bans religious education. Mostly because of their attachment to this life, many religious scholars and educationists will support him and his regime.

• “The first day of the Dajjal is equal to a year, his second day to a month, his third day to a week, and his fourth day to an ordinary day.”20 This miraculous Prophetic tradition means that the Dajjal will appear in the north and proceed toward the south. As we know, in the places near the North Pole a whole year consists of a day and night, each of which lasts six ordinary months. Coming toward the south, there are places where a day lasts three months, a month, and a week, respectively.

Another meaning is that both the Dajjal and the Sufyan will have four periods of rule: in the first period, they will cause such destruction that normally could occur only in three hundred years. During the second period, the destruction they will cause each year will be equal to thirty years’ worth of destruction by others, and in one year of their third period they will cause seven years’ worth of destruction. Their fourth period will be normalized.

• “When the Dajjal appears, everyone will hear him. He will have an extraordinary mount and travel throughout the world within forty days.”21 This means that the Dajjal will appear when the means of communication and transportation develop to such an extent that an event happening in one part of the world will be heard in other parts, and that traveling throughout the world within around forty days is possible.

Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog)

According to the Qur’an 18:94–98 and 21:96, these are two barbarous tribes. Once before, a world conqueror known in the Qur’an as Dhu’l-Qarnayn went as far as their lands and, to protect neighboring peoples from their attacks, built a formidable wall. When the time comes, they will surmount this wall and invade the civilized world.

The forces that invaded the Muslim world and went as far as central Europe in the thirteenth century were considered to be Gog and Magog by the Muslims and Christians of that time. Said Nursi adds that a new invasion will come from the same direction.22 According to certain Prophetic Traditions, such great wars will break out that innumerable people will be killed in them.23

The Mahdi and the Messiah

This is perhaps the most important element of the last things. Both Jews and Christians expect a Messiah toward the end of time, and regard his coming as the sign of the final, worldwide triumph for each.

Islamic sources mention both individuals. Shi‘a Muslims give particular importance to the Mahdi, who they say is named Muhammad. He is the twelfth (and last) Imam of a series that began with ‘ Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s cousin and fourth Caliph. The Mahdi disappeared when he was seventy-four years old, and will reappear when the world is full of injustice to restore justice.

The majority of Muslims regard the Mahdi as one who will come toward the end of time, when the Muslim world is defeated and all Islamic principles are under comprehensive attack. Together with the Messiah, the Mahdi will defend the principles of Islam against atheistic and materialistic trends and revive the religious life. He will end the dominion of both the Dajjal and the Sufyan.24

According to certain contemporary thinkers and scholars, including Said Nursi and M. Fethullah Gülen, the Mahdi is not a single person but rather the name of a global Islamic revival. It has three periods, each of which will be represented by a person and his group. Its leaders will be well-versed in religious sciences, have the highest moral standards, know the sociopolitical and economic conditions of their times, and be equipped with the necessary qualities of leadership. Together with his followers, the leader of the first period will defend Islamic principles against materialistic trends and expose them in an appropriate way. In the second period, the revived Islamic principles will gain ascendancy in many parts of the world, and Islamic life will experience a significant revival. The third period will see the global revival of religious life.25

The descent of Prophet Jesus as the Messiah

The third period of the Mahdi most probably will follow the invasion of Gog and Magog, which will interrupt the second period. During the periods, especially the third period, of the Mahdi, Prophet Jesus will descend to the world and cooperate with the Mahdi and follow him.26 According to the commentators, the hadiths concerning Jesus’ descent mean that before the end of time the basic problems of humanity will arise from rebelling against God and God-revealed Religion, from excessive worldliness, scientific materialism, and the ruthless exploitation of nature. The world will need peace more than at any time in history. Basic freedoms and rights of humanity will be violated, and especially the ties of family and society will be severed. Parents will no longer be given their due respect. Human life will be very cheap. People will pursue peace but they will not be able to know that peace lies in being at peace with the spiritual dimension of existence. So, during that time, Islamic faith, and spiritual and moral values, which constitute also the main aspects of Jesus’ Prophethood, must be given prominence in preaching Islam. These aspects are the following:

• Jesus, upon him be peace, always traveled. He never stayed in one place, but preached his message on the move. Those who will preach Islam towards the end of time, when the distances will be narrowed and the world globalized, must travel or emigrate.

• They must be penitents, worshippers, travelers (in devotion to the cause of Islam and to conveying it), those who bow and prostrate (to God only), command good and forbid evil, and observe God’s limits. For them there is glad tidings (9:112).

• Mercy, love, and forgiveness should have the primary place. Those who dedicate themselves to the cause of Islam must emphasize these characteristics and, never forgetting that Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was sent as a mercy for all the worlds and the whole of existence, must convey glad tidings to every place and call people to the way of God with wisdom and fair exhortation. They must never repel others.

• In the Qur’an, Jesus introduces himself as follows: “I am indeed a servant of God … He has commanded me to pray and give alms as long as l live. He has made me dutiful to my mother, and has not made me oppressive, wicked (79:31–32).” The Qur’an attaches extreme importance to observing the rights of parents (17:23– 24). Therefore, Muslims, especially those who spread Islam in our age must strive to show due respect to their parents and elders, in addition to performing their prayers correctly and helping the poor and needy.

• In the face of the violation of basic human rights, these rights, including, particularly, life must be given due importance. The Qur’an attaches great importance to life: One who kills another wrongly is regarded as having killed humanity; one who saves a life is regarded as having saved humanity (5:32). Those dedicated to the cause of Islam must attach the utmost importance to life and try to prevent wars, find cures for illnesses, and know that reviving a person spiritually is also very important. The Qur’an declares: O you who believe! Respond to God and the Messenger, when the Messenger calls you to that which will give you life (8:24).

The Muslim scholars who comment on Jesus’ descent at the end of time also maintain that Christianity will be freed from its borrowings from certain ancient religions and philosophies and draw closer to Islam. Christianity and Islam will cooperate to repel the attacks of Gog and Magog and free the world from their invasion. Sciences will realize their full development. Cities will be built in the sky, and it will be easy to travel there. Probably as a result of developments in genetics, one pomegranate will suffice for as many as twenty people, and its rind will provide shade for them. Wheat produced on a small house balcony will be enough to feed a family for a year.27

The final, worldwide apostasy and the world’s destruction

The unprecedented developments in science and technology will finally cause humanity to believe that it has so much knowledge and power that an authority above itself is no longer required or necessary. This will lead people to rebel against Heaven and indulge in debauchery to the extent that a worldwide apostasy will take place. Few believers will be left, and the unbelieving, rebellious forces will destroy the Ka‘ba.28 This will mark the end of the world. God Almighty will gently take the souls of the believers, and the world will be destroyed on the head of unbelievers.29 Some Qur’anic verses which describe this destruction are as follows:

When the sun is folded up (and darkened); and when the stars fall (losing their luster); and when the mountains are set moving; and when (highly prized) pregnant camels are left untended; and when the wild beasts (as also the domesticated ones) go forth from their places of rest (in terror of the destruction of the world); and when the seas rise up boiling… (81:1–6) When the heaven is cleft open; and when the stars fall in disorder and are scattered; and when the seas burst forth (spilling over their bounds to intermingle); and when the graves are overturned (and pour out their contents); everyone will come to understand all (the good and evil) that he has forwarded (to his afterlife while in the world), and all (the good and evil) that he has left behind (undone). (82:1–5)

When the earth quakes with a violent quaking destined for it; and the earth yields up its burdens; and human cries out, “What is the matter with it?” On that day, she will recount all her tidings, as your Lord has inspired her to do so. On that day, all humans will come forth in different companies, to be shown their deeds (that they did in the world). And so, whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it; and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it. (99:1–8)

Ünal, Ali. Living in the Shade of Islam. Somerset, NJ: Tughra, 2009.