Dealing With Recurrent Claims About The End Of The World

Many may have heard of the cataclysmic event that goes by many names; The Apocalypse, End of the world, End Days. Let's explore what does the Quran say about The Hour. What about the predicted dates and messianic speculations made by people? Is it all true?
by Ustaz Muhammad Abdul Mateen Bin Hisham 2021-12-03 • 21 min read
Upon graduating from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Ustaz Mateen pursued his studies at Al-Azhar University completing his degree in Islamic Theology, specialising in Creed and Philosophy.
2021-12-03 • 21 min read

Listening to stories about prophecies of The Final Hour tends to frighten us and can sometimes cause a lot of confusion. How do we react to this? Is it already here? Are all these claims of predicted dates and messianic speculations true?

This cataclysmic event is often referred to by many names, such as Apocalypse, Armageddon, End Days, End of the World, 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.[1] Although it is mentioned that the Hour is near, there are no mentions of when it will actually happen.

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Today, there are predictions of The Hour that can come from religious figures, scientists, conspiracy theorists, and even from across various traditions, persisting on predicted dates. In Popular culture, the apocalyptic or dystopian theme tends to be sensationalised and draws a lot of attention and discourse, even in the entertainment world.

In this regard, recurring claims or predictions of The Hour are not as modern as we may think. Some of these claims can even be dated back to ancient times as well.

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 that 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 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.”

(Sahih Muslim)

Although the prediction of The Hour is unknown, its occurrence when the time comes is undisputed. From this hadith, the Prophet s.a.w mentioned two Signs of The Hour that apparently seem to have been mentioned ambiguously.

Scholars specialising in Islamic eschatology comments that the first sign being; “When the slave-girl will give birth to her master” means a shift (a form of deterioration) in the establishment of knowledge and faith.[2]

While the second sign, being; “and when you see the barefoot, naked, and dependent shepherds competing in the construction of tall buildings” means a shift in (political) power and economy.[3]

It is important to note that the Signs of The Hour (Amaratiha) and The Hour itself (As-Sa’ah) are not the same. Many tend to mistake its Signs as The Hour itself. The Signs indicate the preceding events before The Hour. Amongst the many Signs mentioned by the Prophet s.a.w, the two above mentioned in the hadith of Jibril are, as categorised by scholars, Minor Signs, in contrast to Major Signs which indicate the nearness of The Hour itself. 

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)

End of the world, time, apocalypse, Islamic eschatology

Why Is It Important To Learn About The Signs Of The Hour?

Learning about the Signs of The Hour is ever important. This is due to the following reasons:

1. To know one of the four ‘Pillars of the religion’. The other three are Islam, Iman and Ihsan which can be found in the hadith of Jibril. Some scholars view it as part of Iman, while other scholars see it as a distinct pillar of its own since it was the fourth question asked by Jibril a.s. in the same hadith.

2. To benefit ourselves from knowledge and to protect ourselves from ignorance. One of the biggest concerns is to refer to the wrong sources. With a large number of recurrent claims and predictions, this has led to a lot of confusion.

3. To prevent ourselves from being misguided and falling into such calamities (fitnah). 

4. To strengthen our belief in the divine message taught by the Prophet s.a.w by pondering upon the manifestation of these signs. 

It is important we remind ourselves that everything happens by Allah’s will and control. Therefore it is only obvious that we seek His protection and follow His guidance through knowledge taught by the Prophet s.a.w and our scholars.

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How Can We Respond To The Signs Of The Hour?

As we look into some of these Signs, such as the coming of the Dajjal and Prophet Isa a.s, some of us may develop a negative outlook towards life as if we are required to reject all the ‘worldly’ interactions. As if this is a binary world that is made up of Muslims and Non-Muslims, living constantly in a hostile state, whether it is being expressed covertly or publicly.

Does this mean that as Muslims, we can no longer live in the current state of the world? Should we reject living with disbelievers and prepare for the grand battle between good and evil?

There have been studies that identified apocalyptic narratives or messianic speculations being exploited for radicalist-recruitments that long to see the great battle led by the promised leader Imam Al-Mahdi.[4] 

The Prophet s.a.w. was sent as a warner, but he was also sent as the deliverer of good news. In light of the warnings that he has prophesied, he s.a.w. have also guided us on how to live as Muslims amidst the tribulations. 

Despite being the most insightful person of this matter, the Prophet s.a.w was not antagonistic, rather, he was known to be someone who smiled the most. He 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. He did not cultivate a life of exclusivism. This aspect of the Prophet’s life acknowledged tolerance and diversity in the creation that is embedded in Quranic verses, one of which is the verse:

لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِىَ دِينِ

“For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”

(Surah Al-Kafirun, 109:6)

Read: 5 Lessons of Compassion from the Sultan and the Christian Monk

In the modern world, this sense of social inclusion in Prophetic Guidance is reflected in many initiatives such as the Marrakesh Declaration which acknowledged the rights of people of other faiths and groups living in a predominantly Muslim land.[5] 

Read: The Importance of Social Cohesion in Islam

The default viewpoint for Muslims is hopefulness. To have guided optimism in the face of reality. This hopeful attitude of a Muslim can be seen in a hadith mentioned by the Prophet s.a.w:

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.”

(Musnad Ahmad)

The situation depicted in this hadith is no longer an ambiguous prediction but a clear event of The Hour itself, and yet, the Prophet s.a.w told us to plant a seedling wherever it is possible. It also means that we shouldn’t look forward to end life, instead, to cultivate life and do good in this world.

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What Is The Purpose Of The Signs Of The Hour?

The objectives of learning these Signs is mentioned in this hadith:

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 against seven afflictions. Are you waiting for such poverty which will make you unmindful of devotion; or prosperity which will make you corrupt, or disease as will disable you, or such senility as will make you mentally unstable, or sudden death, or the Dajjal who is the worst (currently absent) and is expected to appear, or the Hour, and the Hour will be most grievous and most bitter”

(Jami’ At-Tirmizi)

This hadith is not supposed to be read in a negative light, nor does it paint a grim and hopeless outlook of the future. Rather, it is a form of guidance for Muslims to avoid the curbs that lead to crisis and peril. Hence, it is a guidance that upholds the statement; “Prevention is better than cure”[6]

In the face of these afflictions, the Prophet s.a.w wants us to focus our attention in life to do good deeds and to hasten upon it. Good deeds are not limited to just acts of worship per se but it comprises both religious and worldly duties as well.[7]

When we are able to map out the journey of life, we will come to realise the purpose of our lives and thus, helps us to focus on our objectives instead of being easily distracted by hedonistic tendencies. Life will become more valuable and worthwhile.

Read: The Idea of Mortality in Islam

On another note, not all Signs are bad Signs. Some Signs are good in nature but they are mentioned as a form of prophecy. They are coined by scholars as “Bisyarat” (good tidings). For example, the appointment of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w as the last Prophet and the appointment of the guided leader in-charge of Muslim affairs (Khulafa’ Rashideen) are part of the Minor Signs of the Hour.

It is then important for us, in light of understanding these Signs, to respond by maintaining a hopeful view towards life, avoiding the curbs mentioned in some of the signs that lead to crisis and peril, and to hasten ourselves to do good deeds. These Signs act as guidance and a reminder for us to do good.

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Protection From The Tribulations And Trials

In facing these trials, our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w has clearly warned us against some afflictions and specifically against the Dajjal. Scholars have then advised us, as according to the Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w to seek protection through the following:

Recite Surah Al-Kahfi - The Prophet s.a.w have 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”

(Mustadrak Al-Hakim)

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 on a daily basis

“Whoever commits ten verses from the beginning Surah al-Kahfi will be protected from the Dajjal”

(Sahih Muslim)

Read Duas of protection - Another form of protection is to read the Dua taught by our Prophet s.a.w and to read it during the prayer, at the tahiyyat akhir just before giving the salam.

اللَّهُمَّ إنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِن عَذَابِ جَهَنَّمَ، وَمِنْ عَذَابِ القَبْرِ، وَمِنْ فِتْنَةِ المَحْيَا وَالْمَمَاتِ، وَمِنْ شَرِّ فِتْنَةِ المَسِيحِ الدَّجَّالِ.

“Allah! I seek refuge in You from the torment of Hell, from the torment of the grave, from the trials of life and death, and from the trials of Al-Masih Ad-Dajjal”

(Sahih Muslim)

Repentance - If we are aware of these trials and what it entails in the subsequent events, we will realise that it is there to remind us to return to Allah s.w.t.

The steps to repent 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 to build a strong resolution to not return to it.

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 will appear:

“The Dajjal will emerge at a time when religious commitment is low and knowledge has decreased”

(Musnad Ahmad)

Hence, it is important that we encourage our generation to seek knowledge backed with sound ethical principles and by the guidance of our scholars. Indeed, seeking knowledge is a lifetime commitment and it is nearly impossible to even attain all of the known knowledge.

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Therefore what we can do is to prioritise some knowledge over others. The priority then should be that which is appropriate and needed for our current circumstances (Wajibul Waqt).

Read: 3 Reasons Why We Should Seek Knowledge

As Muslims, we can start with something as minimal as knowing about the attributes of Allah s.w.t, the proper steps to observe purification and to do our acts of worship in an excellent manner. The above is commonly called Fardhu ‘Ain or Individual Obligations in English.

Read: 99 Divine Names of Allah s.w.t.

Read: What is Fiqh Awlawiyyat? (Fiqh of Priorities)

This article certainly cannot contain all matters pertaining to Islamic Eschatology which requires more reading and insights. In hopes that what has been shared have offered at least some beneficial points to takeaway from. May Allah s.w.t bless us with guidance and protection as we strive to cultivate life and make this world a better place. Ameen

This article is an edited and updated version of the article that was initially published by Wasat Online, Pergas. 

 


[1] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Al-Quran Al-'Azeem, Surah Al-Qamar (54:1)

[2] Abu Bakr Al-'Adni, Al-Usus Wal-Muntalaqat, Dar Al-Mueein Publishing and Distribution

[3] Ibid

[4] Mathew Henry Musselwhite, ISIS & Eschatology: Apocalyptic Motivations Behind the Formation and Development of the Islamic State

[5] http://www.marrakeshdeclaration.org/

[6] Abu Bakr Al-’Adni, Al-Usus Wal-Muntalaqat, Dar Al-Mueein Publishing and Distribution

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid
 

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