End Times and Dystopia: An Islamic Perspective
From the Islamic perspective specifically, this world is not eternal but has to end at some point of time. While there is no explicit information in the religious text about the exact time of occurrence of the final day (Day of Judgment), there are prophetic traditions that talk of some events which would unfold before God almighty wraps up this world. Faizan Farooq briefs us about some eschatological events in the light of ahadith and suggests how to approach the study of this particular branch of Islamic theology.
‘Atheism will eventually take over the world’ read the title of a Shaikh Hamza Yousuf clip I recently came across on YouTube. In the video, Shaikh was referring to a Hadith (probably from Bukhari) which explains how the ‘last hour’ (Quranic phrase for the Day of Judgment) would come only upon the disbelievers and that there won’t be a single believer left on earth when the world would end. The detailed Hadith which mentions this event also highlights certain characteristics of these disbelievers whom the Doomsday would exclusively strike like, they would be ‘very fast’ (probably hinting at their unparalleled technological advancements) and that they would fornicate on streets like animals (hinting at the total collapse of moral worldview in future). According to many statistical-surveys, Atheism is the fourth largest adhered-to ideology in the world now after religions Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and its followers are increasing by each day.
Now, dystopia is the opposite of utopia and suggests a state of affairs that is farthest from perfection. And nothing can be as abhorrent to the ‘Islamic-Utopia’ than the eventual taking over of ‘disbelief’ towards the end-times. In this article, we will try to comprehend these eschatological events which tell us about, to our perturbation, the triumphing of both Islam and disbelief/Atheism in the world. Pertinently, we will also explain how certain Hadiths pertaining to end-times are susceptible to multiple interpretations.
Apart from guiding the common masses, the other primary function of Prophets is to inform people about certain future events, in so far as their Lord wants them to be explained. The very meaning of the English term ‘Prophet’ is ‘the one who makes prophecies’. As such, thousands of prophecies pertaining to future and end-times have been made by all the prophets of Semitic-tradition, including that of Islam. But since, no timeline has been given regarding the exact dates of the occurrence of these events; many eschatological-interpreters end up getting confounded.
The inability to connect prophesized events to certain time-periods has also led many Hadith-interpreters to ascribe a single Hadith to more than one event. For instance, the Hadith which prophesized a battle between two large groups following the same religion has been interpreted by some (early Hadith interpreters) to be referring to Jang-e-Siffin which involved Muslims on both sides while the more recent interpreters read it as a prophecy pointing towards the First World War in which mostly the Christian nations fought against each other.
It is also worthwhile to note that the prophecies made by the prophets are not mere eventualities but are almost certain to occur given their transcendental origins, though they should not always be read as if the Prophet via a particular prediction is exhorting people to act in a certain or a specific way. So, if any misinterpretation takes place then the onus falls on interpreters. Take, for instance, the Hadith in which the Prophet of Islam prophesized about the impending conflict between his two companions Ali Ibne Abi Talib and Zubair Bin Awwan. Can this Hadith be read as an incitement for the two to act against each other? No, the Prophet, being a seer, simply explained a future conflict that eventually was going to transpire. The same is the nature of many a Hadiths (like Muslim-Jewish conflict prophesized to arise prior to the end of the world) which talk about the coming conflicts. They are to be read as simple prophetic predictions, not exhortations.
Islamic-eschatological events, in my humble opinion, need to be divided between pre and post second coming of Christ events. All the events constituting the end-times like Christians forming the majority among the people (Sahih Muslim, 6926), their forming of a large military-force against Muslims, a conflict between Jews and Muslims, Gog and Magog, Anti-Christ, Imam Al-Mahdi, in short, all the events pertaining to the conflict between truth and falsehood are supposed to eventuate before or during the second coming. This would be followed by ushering-in of worldwide peace via the direct rule of the divine through Jesus and Al-Mahdi, a period of material prosperity in which, according to one Hadith, there won’t be a single taker for Zakaat or charity. It seems to be this period regarding which the Prophet foretold that Islam would rein supreme in the world, but certain sections would still preserve doubt in their hearts. After this, the material progress would continue but the concept of Religion and Morality would collapse once again (in fact according to one Hadith worldwide idolatry would be initiated) and eventually the world would come to an end.
Islamic-eschatological events, like those of other religions, demand great meticulousness in their interpretation and are very difficult to predict by a non-divinely-inspired figure, howsoever sincere he may be in his approach. But surely, these prophesized events, their study and when they come to transpire, boast up the faith of the believers. Increasing disbelief and atheism, in our times as well, as such would not dishearten a believer because he has already been foretold about it. For verily, even the rampant-atheism serves as increasing the veracity of Islam for him, not vice-versa.
The writer is a management student at Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions.