Faith and Beliefs
When will the Day of Judgement come? The Qur'ān has made it clear that no one except God has knowledge of this. Only He knows when it will come and He has not disclosed this matter even to any of His prophets and angels (7:187, 20:15, 41:47). However, the signs and portents which will signal its advent are mentioned in the Qur'ān and the Hadīth and also in previous divine scriptures. Some of these signs are very general and others are in the form of specific incidents and happenings. The signs of this first category are not mentioned in the Qur'ān. Only the Hadīth literature mentions them. Of the signs of the second category too, only one is mentioned in the Qur'ān: the onslaught of Gog and Magog. Therefore, this only is the certain sign. Other signs which are generally known in this regard are found in narratives which the scholars of Hadīth technically regard as sahih. Some of these signs have already manifested themselves and others, if their ascription towards the Prophet (sws) is correct, shall definitely manifest themselves in future.
The signs of the first category relate to the moral degradation that will appear in the whole world before the Day of Judgement. Thus it is reported that knowledge will be lifted, ignorance will increase, fornication, drinking and killings and lootings would become rampant so much so that innocent people would be killed; women will outnumber men to the extent that the affairs of fifty women will be entrusted to one man; only evil people will exist in this world and it will become devoid of people who take God's name.
Of the signs of the second category, the most important is the onslaught of Gog and Magog. The Qur'ān says:
حَتَّى إِذَا فُتِحَتْ يَأْجُوجُ وَمَأْجُوجُ وَهُم مِّن كُلِّ حَدَبٍ يَنسِلُونَ وَاقْتَرَبَ الْوَعْدُ الْحَقُّ فَإِذَا هِيَ شَاخِصَةٌ أَبْصَارُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا قَدْ كُنَّا فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَذَا بَلْ كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ (21: 96-97)
Until the time arrives that Gog and Magog are let loose and they launch an onslaught from every hill and the certain promise of the Day of Judgement nears its fulfillment then behold that the disbelievers shall stare in amazement; At that time, they will say: "Woe betide us! We remained indifferent to it; in fact, we have wronged our souls." (21:96-97)
Gog and Magog are from the descendents of Noah's son Japeth who inhabited the northern areas of Asia. Later, some of their tribes reached Europe and after that settled in America and Australia. In the book of Ezekiel, they are called the leaders of Russia, Moscow and Tobalsac (Rush, Meshech and Tubal are present day Russia, Moscow and Tubalsac):
The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him. (Ezekiel, 38:1-2)
Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north. (Ezekiel, 39:1-2)
It is evident from the revelation of John the Baptist that the onslaught of Gog and Magog will begin sometime after a thousand years have passed on the advent of Muhammad (sws) as a Prophet. At that time, they would be surrounding the earth from all sides. When the disorder they would spread reaches its culmination, fire will descend from the heavens and the tremors of the Day of Judgement will begin:
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. (Revelation 20:7-9)
This same period of time is ascertained by the signs which the Prophet (sws) mentioned in a question posed to him by Gabriel when he came to him in human form to instruct people. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
أن تلد الأمة ربتها وأن ترى الحفاة العراة العالة رعاء الشاء يتطاولون في البنيان(مسلم ، رقم: 8)
One sign is that a slave-lady will give birth to her mistress and the second is that you will see these indigent [Arab] shepherds walking about bare-footed, bare-headed trying to compete one another in making tall buildings. (Muslim, No: 8)
The second of these signs is very obvious. Every person can see how it has manifested itself in Arabia ever since the last century. However, people have generally found it difficult to determine what is implied by the first of these signs. It is very evident to us: its implication is that slavery as an institution shall stand abolished. Both these events have taken place simultaneously. Viewed thus, these two predictions absolutely determine the period of proximity of the Day of Judgement.
The signs which will manifest after these two have been mentioned by the Prophet (sws) at one instance and these include the onslaught of Gog and Magog. He is reported to have said:
إن الساعة لا تكون حتى تكون عشر آيات خسف بالمشرق وخسف بالمغرب وخسف في جزيرة العرب والدخان والدجال ودابة الأرض ويأجوج ومأجوج وطلوع الشمس من مغربها ونار تخرج من قعرة عدن ترحل الناس وريح تلقى الناس في البحر(مسلم ، رقم: 2901)
The meaning of this narrative is that these are the ten signs of the Day of Judgement and unless they appear, the Day will not come. These signs are:
1. The sinking of the earth in the East.
2. The sinking of the earth in the West.
3. The sinking of the earth in the Arabian peninsula.
4. Smoke; this could refer to a great atomic explosion also.
5. Dajjāl; This an adjective meaning "a great deceiver". It has also been referred to as al-masīh al-dajjāl. The implication is that before the Day of Judgement a person will falsely claim to be Jesus (sws) and while making use of the notion of the return of Jesus (sws) found in Muslims, Jews and Christians will deceive people through some of his magical powers. It is mentioned in some narratives that he would be blind in one eye and his deception would be so evident to the believers that it would be as if they would see disbelief written on his forehead.
6. A land animal which will be born directly from the earth, the way all creatures were created directly in the beginning.
7. The onslaught of Gog and Magog; this has already begun and is gradually going towards its culmination.
8. The rising of the sun in the West.
9. A fire that will rise from a pit in Adan (?) and drive the people from behind.
10. A wind that will blow people away into the sea.
Besides these, the advent of Mahdī and that of Jesus (sws) from the heavens are also regarded as signs for the Day of Judgement. We have not mentioned them. The reason is that the narratives of the advent of Mahdī do not conform to the standards of Hadīth criticism set forth by the muhaddithūn. Some of them are weak and some fabricated; no doubt, some narratives, which are acceptable with regard to their chain of narration, inform us of the coming of a generous caliph; however, if they are deeply deliberated upon, it becomes evident that the caliph they refer to is 'Umar Ibn 'Abd al-'Azīz who was the last caliph of the early history of the Muslims. This prediction of the Prophet (sws) has thus materialized in his personality word for word. One does not need to wait for any other Mahdī now. As far as the narratives which record the advent of Jesus (sws) are concerned, though the muhaddithūn have generally accepted them; however, if they are analyzed in the light of the Qur'ān, they too become dubious.
Firstly, the personality of Jesus (sws) has been discussed in the Qur'ān from various aspects. The Qur'ān has commented on his da'wah mission and his personality at a lot of places. The cataclysm that will take place on the Day of Judgement is also a very frequently discussed topic of the Qur'ān. The advent of a celebrated prophet of God from the heavens is no small an incident. In spite of the fact that there were many instances in which this incident could have been mentioned, we find that there is not a single place in which it is mentioned in the Qur'ān. Can human knowledge and intellect be satisfied at this silence? One does find this hard to digest.
Secondly, the Qur'ān has recorded a dialogue of God with Jesus (sws) which will take place on the Day of Judgement. During the course of this conversation, the Almighty will ask him about the real sphere in which the Christians had gone astray: the divinity of Jesus (sws) and Mary. He will ask Jesus (sws) if it was as per His instructions that he had told people to deify himself and his mother whilst leaving aside God. In response to this question, among other things, Jesus (sws) will say that he instructed his people in the very manner he was asked by God and that as long as he remained among them he watched over what they were doing and that after his own death he was not aware of what good or evil they did and that after his death it was God who watched over them. In this dialogue, one can clearly feel that the last sentence is very inappropriate if Jesus (sws) had also come in this world a second time. In such a case, he should have responded by saying that he knew what happened with them and that a little earlier he had gone to warn them of their grievous faults. The Qur'ān says:
مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلاَّ مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ وَكُنتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَّا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنتَ أَنتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَنتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ (117:5)
Never did I say to them except what You commanded me to do: Worship Allah my Lord and your Lord and I was a witness over them while I dwelt with them. When You gave death to me, You were the Watcher over them and You are a witness over all things.(5:117)
Thirdly, in one verse of the Qur'ān, the Almighty has disclosed what will happen to Jesus and his followers till the Day of Judgement. This was an instance in which the Almighty should have also disclosed his second coming in this world but we find no such mention. If Jesus (sws) had to come, why was silence maintained at this instance? One is unable to comprehend any reason for it. The verse is:
إِذْ قَالَ اللّهُ يَا عِيسَى إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ فِيمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ (55:3)
Remember when Allah said: "O Jesus I will give death to you and raise you to Myself and cleanse you from those who have denied. I shall make those who follow you superior to those who reject faith till the Day of Judgement.Then to Me you shall all return and I shall give My verdict in what you have been differing in." (3:55)
How would the Day of Judgement come about? The details of what will ensue at the advent of this day are mentioned in the Qur'ān at a number of places. What will happen to the heavens and the earth and what will befall the sun and the moon, the planets and stars and what situation will be faced by the creatures of the earth and how will people emerge from their graves to gather around their Lord is all portrayed in the Qur'ān. A study of pre-Islamic Arabic literature shows that Arabs relished parables more than similes. The Qur'ān while taking this into account has portrayed the picture of the cataclysm that will take place on that day in such a graphic manner that the reader feels and sees all these events happening before him. The sequence of the events which will take place as per the Qur'ān is the following:
1. People would be deeply involved in their life-routine. Some would be on the way, some in the market, some in a meeting and some at their homes and no one would have the slightest inkling that this whole world is about to be disrupted when suddenly the trumpet will be blown and the upheaval of the Day of Judgement will take place:
وَيَوْمَ يُنفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَفَزِعَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَن شَاء اللَّهُ (87:27)
And remember the day when the trumpet is sounded and all who are between the heavens and the earth will be horror-struck except for those whom God will choose to spare. (27:87)
The word al-sūr has been translated as "the trumpet". What actually would be the nature of this trumpet of course cannot be determined and as such it belongs to the mutashābihāt category. However, one can have some idea of what it implies because the word trumpet does give us an idea of what it would be. In order to delineate the system and affairs of His world, the Almighty uses words found in the vocabulary of human beings which are akin to their own system and affairs. The purpose is to take us closer in our imagination to what is being discussed and the purpose is not to make us understand the exact nature and form of what is being discussed the way it is found in this world. In ancient times, the trumpet was sounded during royal processions or to herald an attack. It is evident from the Qur'ān that a similar thing would be sounded to announce the advent of the Day of Judgement. As the Qur'ān (81:4-5) portrays, this sound would strike panic and fear among the creatures of this earth causing people to even forget their dearest possessions and animals of the forest would gather together in utter confusion. Finally, all creatures of the earth would pass out because of this horrific sound:
وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَن شَاء اللَّهُ (68:39)
And the trumpet shall be sounded and all those between the heavens and the earth shall fall down fainting except those whom God shall spare. (39:68)
At various places, the Qur'ān has graphically depicted what will happen to the creatures of this earth when this commotion ensues. When after the first earthquake tremor the second tremor comes, the state of the earth will be much like a ship which is being swept by the tumultuous waves around it and whose inhabitants as a result will be trembling with fear with eyes horror-struck and they would be so overcome and stricken by the situation as if the horrific punishment of God has driven them mad. The Qur'ān says:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ السَّاعَةِ شَيْءٌ عَظِيمٌ يَوْمَ تَرَوْنَهَا تَذْهَلُ كُلُّ مُرْضِعَةٍ عَمَّا أَرْضَعَتْ وَتَضَعُ كُلُّ ذَاتِ حَمْلٍ حَمْلَهَا وَتَرَى النَّاسَ سُكَارَى وَمَا هُم بِسُكَارَى وَلَكِنَّ عَذَابَ اللَّهِ شَدِيدٌ (22: 1-2)
O People! Have fear of your Lord. The cataclysm of the Day of Judgement is very dreadful indeed. When you encounter it [you will see that] every suckling mother shall forget her infant and every pregnant female shall cast her burden, and you shall see mankind in a state of inebriation though they would be not inebriated but it would be because God's punishment would so grave. (22:1-2)
2. It will be at this time when great disruption in the physical world will begin. Such great commotion will ensue all over this universe that mountains will be crushed to grains, seas will burst forth and all galaxies and heavenly bodies will be displaced and will fuse into one another. So great will this all-embracing upheaval be that minds cannot imagine it and words cannot describe it. This turmoil will continue for a period known only to God:
إِذَا الشَّمْسُ كُوِّرَتْوَإِذَا النُّجُومُ انكَدَرَتْ وَإِذَا الْجِبَالُ سُيِّرَتْوَإِذَا الْعِشَارُ عُطِّلَتْوَإِذَا الْوُحُوشُ حُشِرَتْ وَإِذَا الْبِحَارُ سُجِّرَتْ… عَلِمَتْ نَفْسٌ مَا أَحْضَرَتْ(81: 1-6، 14)
At the time [O people!] when the sun ceases to shine, and when the stars are bedimmed, and when the mountains are set moving, and when camels, ten-months pregnant are left untended, and when wild beasts [forgetting all their enmities] are herded together, and when the seas burst forth … then [O people! each one of you] will know what he has brought forward. (81:1-6,14)
إِذَا السَّمَاءُ انشَقَّتْوَأَذِنَتْ لِرَبِّهَا وَحُقَّتْوَإِذَا الْأَرْضُ مُدَّتْوَأَلْقَتْ مَا فِيهَا وَتَخَلَّتْوَأَذِنَتْ لِرَبِّهَا وَحُقَّتْ(84: 1-5)
That day [O People!] when the sky is rent asunder, and obeys its Lord's command as is befitting for it. And when the earth is stretched out and casts out all that is within her and becomes empty and obeys its Lord as it should do. [That will be the day when you shall meet your Lord]. (84:1-5)
3. After this, the second phase will begin. In the Qur'ān this phase has been called the phase in which mankind will be re-created. Thus from this very turmoil a new physical world will emerge:
يَوْمَ نَطْوِي السَّمَاء كَطَيِّ السِّجِلِّ لِلْكُتُبِ كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُّعِيدُهُ وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ (104:21)
Remember the day when We shall roll up the heaven like a scroll wrapped in parchment. Just as We brought about the first creation, so will We do it again. This is promise liable on us and We shall assuredly fulfill it. (21:104)
In what manner will this next phase come about? The Almighty has told us that all heavenly bodies including this earth, sun, moon and galaxies made of billions of stars and planets will change into a earth and heavens having new physical laws: يَوْمَ تُبَدَّلُ الأَرْضُ غَيْرَ الأَرْضِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ (48:14) (Keep in mind the day when the earth is changed into a different earth and the heavens also, (14:48)). According to the Qur'ān, at this juncture, the trumpet will be sounded once again after which mankind will rise from their graves and will advance to the court of justice set up by their Lord for them:
ثُمَّ نُفِخَ فِيهِ أُخْرَى فَإِذَا هُم قِيَامٌ يَنظُرُونَ (68:39)
Then the trumpet will be blown again and they shall suddenly rise and look around them. (39:68)
وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَإِذَا هُم مِّنَ الْأَجْدَاثِ إِلَى رَبِّهِمْ يَنسِلُونَ (51:36)
And the trumpet will be blown and all of a sudden they will rise up from their graves and hasten to their Lord. (36:51)
(Translated from Ghamidi's Mīzānby Shehzad Saleem)