The crisis happening in Gaza understandably causes us to feel rage and frustration. The helplessness of witnessing the ridiculous atrocities and the inability to make sense of the situation can leave many disoriented. Some have even begun to point out that it will be the end of the world to explain what’s happening.
Listening to stories about prophecies of The Final Hour can frighten us and sometimes cause a lot of confusion. How should we react? Is the end of the world already here? Are all these claims of predicted dates and messianic speculations true?
Read Khutbah: Exercising Wisdom in Understanding Religious Texts
The cataclysmic event in question is often referred to by many names, such as the Apocalypse, Armageddon, End Days, End of the World, and Doomsday, just to name a few. The Quran speaks of this event as 'The Hour' or 'The Final Hour'. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
ٱقْتَرَبَتِ ٱلسَّاعَةُ وَٱنشَقَّ ٱلْقَمَرُ
"The Hour has drawn near, and the moon was split (in two)."
(Surah Al-Qamar, 54:1)
Imam Ibn Kathir comments that ‘The Hour’ in this verse refers to the imminent end and demise of this world. Although it is mentioned that the Hour is near, the Quran does not mention when it will actually happen.
Today, there are predictions of The Hour that can come from religious figures, scientists, conspiracy theorists, and even from across various religious traditions, persisting on predicted dates. Even in popular culture, the apocalyptic or dystopian theme tends to be sensationalised, attracting significant attention and sparking discourse.
In this regard, recurring claims or predictions of The Hour are not as modern as we may think. Some of these claims even date back to as far back as ancient times.
Allah s.w.t. mentions in the Quran:
يَسأَلونَكَ عَنِ السّاعَةِ أَيّانَ مُرساها ۖ قُل إِنَّما عِلمُها عِندَ رَبّي ۖ لا يُجَلّيها لِوَقتِها إِلّا هُوَ ۚ ثَقُلَت فِي السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضِ ۚ لا تَأتيكُم إِلّا بَغتَةً ۗ يَسأَلونَكَ كَأَنَّكَ حَفِيٌّ عَنها ۖ قُل إِنَّما عِلمُها عِندَ اللَّهِ وَلٰكِنَّ أَكثَرَ النّاسِ لا يَعلَمونَ
They ask you (O Prophet) regarding The Hour, “When will it be?” Say, “That knowledge is only with my Lord. He alone will reveal it when the time comes. It is too tremendous for the heavens and the earth and will only take you by surprise.” They ask you as if you had full knowledge of it. Say, “That knowledge is only with Allah, but most people do not know.”
(Surah Al-Furqan, 7:187)
This verse makes it clear that the date of The Final Hour is only known by Allah s.w.t, and it will only be revealed when it eventually arrives. This can also be seen in the famous ‘Hadith of Jibril’, where the Prophet s.a.w and the companions r.a. were approached by a man who was later revealed to be the angel Jibril a.s, teaching the companions about the religion:
قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ السَّاعَةِ قَالَ مَا الْمَسْئُولُ عَنْهَا بِأَعْلَمَ مِنْ السَّائِلِ قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ أَمَارَتِهَا قَالَ أَنْ تَلِدَ الْأَمَةُ رَبَّتَهَا وَأَنْ تَرَى الْحُفَاةَ الْعُرَاةَ الْعَالَةَ رِعَاءَ الشَّاءِ يَتَطَاوَلُونَ فِي الْبُنْيَانِ
…The man then said, “Tell me about The Final Hour.” The Prophet s.a.w said, “The one asked does not know more than the one asking.” The man said, “Tell me then about its Signs.” The Prophet said, “When the slave-girl will give birth to her master and when you see the barefoot, naked, and dependent shepherds compete in the construction of tall buildings.”
Although the prediction of The Hour is not known, its occurrence when the time comes is undisputed.
From the abovementioned hadith, you will notice a distinction between ‘The Hour’ (as-sa’ah) and the ‘Signs of The Hour’ (amaratiha). It is important to highlight this difference to avoid conflating or confusing both terms or mistaking the ‘Signs’ as ‘The Hour’ itself.
For example, some believe that the appearance of Dajjal will happen at the end of the world. This is a statement that needs careful consideration because it can lead to different conjectures. Dajjal is a major sign but not the end of the world itself, as previously mentioned.
These signs indicate the events preceding the end of the world.
When asked about the ‘Signs of The Hour’, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w mentioned two Signs that seem ambiguous.
Some scholars specialising in Islamic eschatology interpret the first sign, “When the slave-girl will give birth to her master”, as a form of disorder or deterioration in the establishment of knowledge and faith.
The second sign, “and when you see the barefoot, naked, and dependent shepherds competing in the construction of tall buildings”, signals a form of disorder or deterioration in political power and the economy.
There are many more signs mentioned in other hadiths of the Prophet s.a.w. However, according to some scholars, these two signs indicate the general pattern of how other signs will appear one after another.
Although the signs are many and come in different forms and intensity, we can categorise them into three: Minor Signs (‘alamtus-sughro), Middle (‘alamatul-wusto) and Major (‘alamatul-kubro).
The Minor Signs have appeared since the time of Prophet Adam a.s. and will continue to appear until the end of the world.
The Middle Signs emerged from the time of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. until the occurrence of the Major Signs. The appointment of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as the last Prophet is considered one of the Signs of The Hour.
The Major Signs will appear in the latter days (akhir zaman), beginning with the appearance of Imam Mahdi and ending with the blowing of the trumpet.
There are different views about which signs are considered the Major Signs, but generally, scholars agree that they consist of the coming of Imam Mahdi, the Dajjal and Prophet Isa a.s.
لاَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى تَكُونَ عَشْرُ آيَاتٍ طُلُوعُ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا وَالدَّجَّالُ وَالدُّخَانُ وَالدَّابَّةُ وَيَأْجُوجُ وَمَأْجُوجُ وَخُرُوجُ عِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ وَثَلاَثُ خُسُوفٍ خَسْفٌ بِالْمَشْرِقِ وَخَسْفٌ بِالْمَغْرِبِ وَخَسْفٌ بِجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِ وَنَارٌ تَخْرُجُ مِنْ قَعْرِ عَدَنِ أَبْيَنَ
“The Hour will not come until ten (Major) Signs appear: The rising of the sun from the west, the Imposter (Dajjal), the Smoke, the Beast (Dabbah), Gog and Magog, the descent of Isa son of Maryam a.s, three land cave-ins: one in the east, one in the west, and one in the Arabian peninsula, and the fire that comes from the pit of Aden-Abyan”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
When we look into some of these signs, such as the coming of the Dajjal and Prophet Isa a.s, does this mean that we change our outlook towards a binary world of ‘us vs them’?
Given the numerous atrocities happening around the world, should we earnestly anticipate the swift arrival of Imam Al-Mahdi and actively prepare the stage for his advent?
Does this also mean that, as Muslims, we can no longer hope for peace in this world, especially among diverse faith communities? Should we reject living peacefully with those who reject our faith and prepare for the grand battle between good and evil?
Studies have identified the exploitation of apocalyptic narratives or messianic speculations for recruitments by radicals, particularly among those who long to see the great battle led by the promised leader Imam Al-Mahdi.
In reading hadith texts that describe these signs, we need to be careful not to directly link them to the events unfolding before us, especially when there is no definitive evidence. We should exercise caution and refrain from unnecessary speculation.
The Prophet s.a.w. was sent as a warner and as the deliverer of good news. He guides us on how to live as Muslims amidst the tribulations.
Despite his profound insight into these signs, the Prophet s.a.w was not pessimistic. Instead, he was known to be someone who smiled the most. It was also narrated that he loved to be hopeful.
The Prophet s.a.w also lived with people of other faiths and built the community in Madinah based on mutual rights. This aspect of the Prophet’s life underscored tolerance and celebrated diversity in the creation.
In the modern world, this sense of social inclusion in Prophetic Guidance is reflected in many initiatives, such as the Marrakesh Declaration, which acknowledges the rights of people of other faiths and groups living in a predominantly Muslim land.
The default perspective of Muslims is one of hopefulness. We have guided optimism in the face of reality. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said in a hadith:
إِنْ قَامَتْ عَلَى أَحَدِكُمْ الْقِيَامَةُ وَفِي يَدِهِ فَسْلَةٌ فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا
“If The Day of Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a seedling, then let him plant it.”
The situation depicted in this hadith is not an ambiguous prediction but the clear event of The Hour. Despite this, the Prophet s.a.w told us to plant a seedling wherever possible. It also means that we shouldn’t look forward to ending life; instead, we cultivate life and do good in this world.
This hadith serves as the guiding pillar for Muslims to always hope for the best and do good.
In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. describes to us the objectives of learning the Signs of The Hour:
بَادِرُوا بِالأَعْمَالِ سَبْعًا هَلْ تَنْظُرُونَ إِلاَّ فَقْرًا مُنْسِيًا أَوْ غِنًى مُطْغِيًا أَوْ مَرَضًا مُفْسِدًا أَوْ هَرَمًا مُفَنِّدًا أَوْ مَوْتًا مُجْهِزًا أَوِ الدَّجَّالَ فَشَرُّ غَائِبٍ يُنْتَظَرُ أَوِ السَّاعَةَ فَالسَّاعَةُ أَدْهَى وَأَمَرُّ
"Hasten to do good deeds before you are overtaken by one of the seven afflictions." Then (giving a warning), he said, "Are you waiting for such poverty which will make you unmindful of devotion; or prosperity which will make you corrupt, or disease that will disable you, or such senility that will make you mentally unstable, or sudden death, or Ad-Dajjal who is the worst expected absent, or the Hour, and the Hour will be most grievous and most bitter".
This hadith mentions a few Signs of The Hour. Yet, the Prophet s.a.w wants us to focus our attention in life on mending our ways and hastening good deeds. Good deeds are not limited to ritual acts of worship per se; they comprise religious and worldly duties.
When the signs eventually appear before us, they call us to remember the valid and truthful words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, strengthening and deepening our faith and guiding us amidst the tribulations.
In light of understanding these signs, it is important for us to respond by maintaining a hopeful view towards life, navigating the tribulations by recognising our reality and hastening to do good deeds.
In facing these tribulations, our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w has clearly warned us against some afflictions and, specifically, against the Dajjal. Scholars have then advised us, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w, to seek protection through the following:
1. Recite Surah Al-Kahfi - The Prophet s.a.w taught us to read Surah Al-Kahfi every Friday, for it entails light that protects the reader from one Friday to another.
“Whoever recites Surat al-Kahf on Friday will have a light between this Friday and the next.”
In another hadith, the Prophet taught us that reading the first ten verses will protect us from the trials of Dajjal. Some scholars have even encouraged us to read it daily.
“Whoever commits ten verses from the beginning Surah al-Kahfi will be protected from the Dajjal.”
2. Read duas of protection - Another form of protection is to read the dua taught by our Prophet s.a.w during the tahiyyat akhir (in solat), just before giving the salam.
اللَّهُمَّ إنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِن عَذَابِ جَهَنَّمَ، وَمِنْ عَذَابِ القَبْرِ، وَمِنْ فِتْنَةِ المَحْيَا وَالْمَمَاتِ، وَمِنْ شَرِّ فِتْنَةِ المَسِيحِ الدَّجَّالِ
“O Allah. I seek refuge in You from the torment of Hellfire, from the torment of the grave, from the trials of life and death, and from the trials of Al-Masih Ad-Dajjal.”
3. Repent - If we are aware of these trials and what they entail in the subsequent events, we will realise that they are there to remind us to return to Allah s.w.t.
The steps to repenting start with leaving that which is prohibited by Allah s.w.t, followed by having a sense of remorse over our bad deeds and finally building a strong resolution to not return to it.
Read: Repentance in Islam
4. Seek knowledge - One of the Signs mentioned in the prophetic tradition is that the establishment of knowledge will shift and deteriorate until the antichrist Dajjal appears:
“The Dajjal will emerge at a time when religious commitment is low, and knowledge has decreased.”
Hence, it is important that we encourage each other to seek knowledge backed by sound ethical principles and with the guidance of our scholars. Indeed, seeking knowledge is a lifetime commitment, and attaining all known knowledge is nearly impossible.
Therefore, what we can do is to prioritise some knowledge over others. The priority should be knowledge which is appropriate and needed for our current circumstances (wajibul waqt).
As Muslims, we can start with learning about Allah s.w.t, the proper steps to observe our religious obligations, and to rectify the condition of our hearts. This is commonly called Fardhu ‘Ain or Individual Obligations in English.
This article certainly cannot contain all matters pertaining to Islamic Eschatology, which requires more reading and insights. I hope that what has been shared has offered at least some beneficial points to take away from.
May Allah s.w.t. bless us with guidance and protection as we strive to cultivate life and make this world better. Ameen.
This article is an edited and updated version of the article that was initially published by Wasat Online, Pergas.
 Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Al-Quran Al-'Azeem, Surah Al-Qamar (54:1)
 Abu Bakr Al-'Adni, Al-Usus Wal-Muntalaqat, Dar Al-Mueein Publishing and Distribution
 Abu Bakr Al-'Adni, Nubdhatus-Sughra (The Minor Sample), Dar al-Turath al-Islami Publication
 The blowing of the trumpet indicates the end of the world itself. The Quran describes this event: “(Beware of) the Day the Trumpet will be blown, and We will gather the wicked on that Day blue-faced (from horror and thirst)” - (Surah Ta-Ha, 20:102)
 Mathew Henry Musselwhite, ISIS & Eschatology: Apocalyptic Motivations Behind the Formation and Development of the Islamic State
 Abu Bakr Al-’Adni, Al-Usus Wal-Muntalaqat, Dar Al-Mueein Publishing and Distribution