Islamic Eschatology: What is the Truth?

Islamic Eschatology: What is the Truth?

In the name of Allah, the Merciful to all, the Compassionate

In current times we hear a lot about what the fate of the human race is and how things will end. You can even find many apocalyptic versions of end-time in Hollywood movies. Virtually all of them depict a grim and dark picture of the future: a post-apocalyptic era in which only brutality and barbarism can prevail. Something that you can find in movies like “Mad Max” or “The Book of Eli”, among many other movies. You may have heard that in Islamic Eschatology described in the Hadith that in the end-times the population of the human race will be reduced by famines, pestilence, and wars. You may even find some decorated Islamic scholars that affirm such claims. But how much of it is really true?

For people outside of Islamic civilization, every single Hadith is treated as if all Muslims believe in it. The fact is, there is a vast spectrum of schools of thought in Islamic civilization. More informed people may know that there is a main branch of Islam, Sunni, and a minority Shiite that comprises around %15 of the total Muslim population. Qom city is the main academic center of Shiite. If you want to see the depth and breadth of the diversity, you just need to study how many schools of thoughts you can find only in Qom. I bet you will find hundreds of them, only in a minority faction of Islam. All of them consider themselves Shiite Muslims, but in actuality, many of them are under the influence of other religions and beliefs, to some extent. Some of these schools of thought can hardly accept the other Shiites as true Shiite.

What is said is just about a minority. The diversity in the whole Islamic world is much greater than that. The Islamic world is like an ocean, in which you can find a countless number of species. If one goes to the ocean and catches a single fish, then claims that the fish represents all the fish in that ocean, he is fooling himself. However, you can see many occasions in which someone is doing exactly that. They find a Hadith book, and regard that as Islamic beliefs. In reality some of these books are just collections of rumors and gossip, without any credibility. There are more credible Hadith books, which quote some of the sayings of Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, or other prominent religious figures. But none of the Islamic scholars can accept the veracity of everything written in those few books. There are only a handful of quotes everybody can agree on attributing those to the messenger.

So what is the official decree of Islam on the fate of the human race?

There is no mention of any apocalyptic story in Quran, and Quran affirms that there was no such story in original old scriptures.

The translation of the verse of 21:105 of Quran is:

In the scripture of Abraham, and after that in the scripture of David, we wrote that the earth will be inherited by righteous people.

What the Quran implies is that all the scriptures of former messengers of Allah depict a bright future for humanity. There is no godly mandate for doom and gloom, famine, pestilence, or world wars.

The verse of 24:55 says:

Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me…

The verse of 28:5 says:

And We are determined to confer favor upon those who were oppressed on the earth and make them leaders and make them inheritors.

All these verses imply that Almighty God created human for a reason and gave him a goal, and the Almighty is capable of guiding him to reach that goal with a happy ending. Only before that happy ending, the righteous is going to be oppressed, and that is exactly what we are witnessing right now. Wicked can thrive and righteous is oppressed everywhere. There is absolutely no mention of any type of doom and gloom before Judgment Day in the Quran.

In many verses, the Quran talks about Judgment Day, and how difficult it is. However, the concept of Judgment day is completely another story. Judgment Day starts when time stops.

So, official Islamic eschatology guarantees that the human race will progress into a bright future, and that the Almighty God created this system in a way that wickedness cannot survive forever.

The question remains: what are these end-time horror stories narrated in Hadiths?

I categorize all said about end-times in Islamic documents in four categories:

Category 1:

Our world is a causal system. Every effect has a cause, and if you have the cause, you will get the effect. If people do wrong things, there will be some consequences. If they commit sins, punishment is what they should expect.

Some of the end-time stories try to warn people and remind them that committing sins will bring on earthquakes, famines, wars, and so on.

Category 2:

Some of the sayings are about what Satan and his followers are planning to do. The intention is to inform people to prepare and not fall in their trap. Whatever is said about Dajjal, an Antichrist figure emerging in the end-times, lies in this category. Unfortunately, the version of the Bible we have today is altered and some these satanic plans are added as the word of God. Anything about Mark of the beast, Armageddon, or apocalyptic wars of the end-times are not authentic.

Category 3:

What we have is a long history and many creative individuals who took advantage of people’s gullibility and illiteracy. Whoever wanted to be considered as a prominent scholar devised some bizarre stories, which look like a horror movie in order to get more attention. The more horrific the story, the more widespread it became.

Moreover, such stories were passed down generation after generation, and grew more bizarre and horrific.

Category 4:

Throughout history, some kingdoms tried to pursue their propaganda, or counter other kingdoms’ propaganda, by creating some Hadith and assigning them to the messenger of Allah. So some of these stories are expired propaganda which has no relation to the current era.

At first, there were some authentic quotes from Muhammad (PBUH) about the rise and fall of the Umayyad dynasty and Abbasid dynasty after them. Obviously Umayyad rulers were aware of those Hadiths and tried to deviate it by paying fortunes to the scholars who could create tons of such fake Hadiths. People had a huge respect for Muhammad’s (PBUH) words, and if they knew that the Umayyad were not legitimate, they did not support them.

When the Abbasid dynasty was planning to topple the Umayyad, they hired many other scholars to write many books of fake Hadiths to pursue their own propaganda. They tried to imply that they are the righteous ones who defeated the Umayyad, and thus deserve to rule the earth.

These two dynasties lasted for nearly six centuries. The next eight centuries after that were no different. On many occasions, kings and emperors took advantage of people’s beliefs by faking such Hadiths.

Personally, I have had a huge interest in Islamic eschatology and end-time Hadiths from when I was very young, and I have reviewed most of them.

My conclusion is there is not necessarily any doom and gloom in the fate of the human race. All of these Hadiths can be treated like a heads-up, a warning to humankind about the consequences of their wrong-doings. There is a concept in Islamic beliefs named Badaa (بداء) which means that only the Almighty God knows what is going to happen for sure in the future and the Almighty can change a sanctioned fate at His wish. When the Almighty God does not promise a dismal future for humans, it means we as humans can change our fate based on our deeds, for better or for worse.

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